Equipped for Every Good Work
Dear fellow disciples of Jesus,
I cannot help but get choked up when I watch “A Christmas Carol.” There’s something about the overnight conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge that gets me every time. Here’s a hard man who is forced to take a look at himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Come Christmas morning, he’s a changed man; a new man determined to spend his money and his life to help his neighbors.
Culturally, we see a yearning for change as we approach the new year. We reflect back and consider what changes we would like to see in our lives, our families, our world. Then we make resolutions, which in big or small ways attempt to make a course-correction.
Advent is a time ripe for making a change. In the set lectionary readings we hear John the Baptist’s call to repent, and when he sees the crowds coming to get baptized he insists that they “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). The change God wants in us is to be more than skin-deep, surface-level remodeling. God wants a complete overhaul.
To what degree is such change possible for us? New Year’s resolutions are notoriously tossed by the wayside by the Super Bowl (if they manage to last that long!). Scrooge’s conversion is inspirational, but it’s fiction.
Here’s the good news: God accomplishes in us the change He wants to see. He does this by sending His Word to us; first and foremost in the Word made flesh, Jesus, and by His Word spoken and given in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God’s Word is capable of accomplishing great change. God spoke and created all that is out of nothing! When God spoke His Word over you at your baptism, He brought life out of death and made a living saint out of a dead sinner by joining you to the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
God speaks His Word still today. St. Paul reminds the young pastor St. Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
How does God change us to live our lives doing good works for our neighbor? He speaks His Word.
As we approach the new year and you consider what resolutions you might make, I invite you to pray about making a resolution that will change your life: daily reading the Bible.
The Bible-reading plan I have put together for this year takes us through just two books of the Bible: Proverbs and the Gospel of Luke. Over the course of the year, we’ll read these two books six times each. The idea here is to foster familiarity with the text. Reading the texts multiple times will cause us to hear them differently.
As any member of a 12-step program will testify, change occurs where there is accountability and community. I encourage you to gather with a small group of others to reflect upon what you’ve been reading. I cannot promise an overnight conversion, but I can say with full confidence that as we read His Word, God will bless us, everyone.
The Lord be with you.