Last month was a bit of a strange one for me. I made three trips to Arizona for family reasons. One was because Mom and step-Mom were beginning to fade quickly. The other two trips were for their funerals. In the middle of it all, our congregation and the community lost one of our treasured members – Mary Ellen Mock passed away on the 12th of September.
The current pandemic has also done a lot to bring the subject of dying to the fore. The mortality rate for human beings (with Jesus being the one exception) is 100%. But with the many seemingly new ways whereby our mortality might become true for us, it’s a bit more often on our minds.
St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Ephesus that while we are saved by God’s grace, faith is critical for our salvation. (Eph 2:8-9). There are a couple of important things about faith that we should remember as we hear about death and so think about our salvation as Christians.
First, there is always faith IN SOMETHING. R. C. Sproul quipped that we don’t believe in cheeseburgers. And while that’s a humorous way of getting to the core of the issue, it’s important that the “something” in which we believe is the One Thing that saves.
That is Christ. Christ’s life. Christ’s death. Christ’s resurrection.
Sometimes we can find ourselves having faith in our faith. My faith is strong. My faith saves. But that’s not what saves you. It is Jesus. An article I recently read rightly claims that we should be able to interchange “faith” with “Jesus” so that we say “My Jesus is strong. My Jesus has saved me.”
In all this we can find ourselves wondering whether our faith is strong enough. But your faith isn’t something that you pull together. Read that passage from Ephesians 2. Your faith is a “gift of God, and not of yourself, lest anyone should boast.” And that faith doesn’t have a volume knob – it has an on-off switch; a switch that is controlled by God. God throws the switch.
Sometimes our perception of our faith is lacking; but our faith varies. Jesus said that “if you have the faith of a mustard seed,” you can move mountains and uproot trees. Yet that faith is given to you by the Spirit of Jesus, through the Word and Sacraments. Some believers die with a great show of faith; others with very little. But our perception of our faith is not what is important.
When faith seems weak, the best thing to do is to remember what Luther said in the Large Catechism. “Make the sign of the holy cross and say “Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.” There is the promise that Jesus made to you through His Word. Leave your weak and little faith in Jesus’ hands and pray “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
Some of the last words on Mom’s lips were from the children’s song “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb.”
Your Jesus will save you.