The Third Article

By Jay Bates

Twenty-five years ago, when Krista and I were bible camp counselors in South Central Minnesota, we performed in a musical that concluded each camp week.  The musical was called Catechism Cataclysm, and it was about the challenges that an innovative new pastor (he rode a Harley to church) faced while teaching confirmation classes to a collection of misfit teenagers.  The lyrics for all the songs were directly taken from Luther’s Small Catechism, while the music was as fully modern as a rock band—with electric guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums—could provide.  There was the “Baptism Rap,” a blues-rock explanation of all Ten Commandments, and soulful rendition of the Apostles Creed—including a Gospel choir spin on the explanation of The Third Article (my favorite).

Each Thursday night, Krista sang the song explaining The Third Article: “I believe that I cannot believe by my own understanding or faith.  I can’t believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Ghost calls me through the Gospels, enlightens me with good gifts, and has sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.” 

Luther was right.  This is most certainly true.

I confess that I learned more about the Lutheran doctrine and theology that summer while performing in that musical (I played electric guitar) than I learned in two years of confirmation classes.  I learned that there was no more to fear in Luther’s text than in Shakespeare’s—that the texts did not need to be made relevant to me because it already was relevant.  The music was simply the packaging of a text that is so often dismissed because it is considered old.

But like all great literature (Shakespeare, Homer, Hugo, Tolstoy), Luther’s words are always new.  We may need help from a translation that knows us, but in no way diminishes the content.

This year, our daughter Emma will be confirmed on Pentecost Sunday, the weekend of her fourteenth birthday.  She, along with her fellow confirmands, has been blessed by the Holy Spirit her entire life, has felt the breath of God pass through her, and has been kept in the one truth faith in Jesus Christ.  She may not fully understand, as I didn’t at her age, the doctrine we have raised her to believe, but she has expressed an interest in someday working at a bible camp where—who knows?—the gifts of the Spirit will continue to pour upon her, just as they are upon all of us.

Lift High the Cross

by Sonja Hobson

Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

As Jeff and I were talking about our plans for Super Bowl Sunday this year, you all might be horrified to hear that the words that came out of my mouth were “I cannot wait for this stupid football season to be over.” Now before you throw down this Pilgrim’s Progress in disgust and call me out on Hawk Country Beast Mode Blasphemy, just hear me out!

Whenever I think of the Seahawks super successful season of 2013-2014, it will always in part remind me of a very difficult and painful period of my life. Maybe some of you can understand. Maybe it’s not a football season that triggers the pain of a crisis or loss, maybe for you it’s a different season – the sound of Christmas carols or the smell of fall might remind you of a difficult time in your past that you would prefer not to relive.

I was thinking about this as I was driving Ellie to school that cold and sunny Wednesday following the Super Bowl. And God, in His grace, gave me a new perspective; a new vision to accompany the memory of this season. As we drove into the Puyallup Valley, we started noticing groups of people flocking towards the Sounder train station. Everyone was bundled up, but noticeably all dressed in their Seahawks gear. Green hair, blue scarves, 12th man flags flying – everyone was walking confidently with purpose towards their destination. They were headed to the train to ride to that victory parade.

The verse from Luke immediately came to mind as I watched those loyal fans congregate to the train. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Those Hawks fans were ready that Wednesday to ride that train and join in the celebration. They had got up early, cleared their schedules and prepared for a day of holding that 12th man flag high and celebrating the victors from their home state.
Now imagine for a moment if every number 12 displayed proudly on flags, signs, sweatshirts, fingernails, and skyscrapers was replaced with the symbol of our Savior – the cross. Imagine the cross displayed proudly from the top of the Space Needle, to the front porch of every home and business, to the cover photo of every Facebook profile. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Every day we have a choice to take up our cross and follow Him. That morning, it became clear to me that taking up our cross should not be a trudging death march of aching misery. When we take up our cross and follow Him, we have the blessing of congregating with other believers and taking that journey to the victory parade. The battle is being waged right now, but the victor has already been crowned. Your ticket there is bought and paid for and a front row seat is ready and waiting just for you at the party. Jesus carried His cross, so that you could join in on the celebration and meet Him face to face.

We must not forget that for us to carry that cross raised high, our hands must be empty and ready to hold it. Jesus demonstrated and called us to sacrifice. Our schedules must be cleared and we must be prepared for the journey and the calling. Jesus also stated in this Luke passage that His disciples must “deny themselves” in order to pick up that cross and follow Him. Seeing the loyalty of those football fans made me stop and ask myself: When was the last time I cleared my schedule for the sole purpose of glorifying God? When have I denied myself those creature comforts I crave to stand in the cold for the sake of the Gospel? When have I last proudly displayed the cross of Christ – literally or in my actions or words? What about you? What is keeping you today from holding the cross up high and joining the journey to the victory parade? Is it fear stopping you? Is it pride or the worry of what others will think? Are you holding too tight to your bitterness, insecurities, or your addictions? Are your hands busy creating the most perfect, comfortable existence for you and your family?

I encourage you during this wonderful Easter season to think about this whenever you see a 12th man flag on the car in front of you, or in the window of your favorite restaurant. Imagine that cross lifted high over every city in every country. Let go of whatever is filling your hands, and take up your cross. The train is waiting for you and the ticket is free. Don’t miss out on the Victory Parade.