Español | This past Sunday I had the privilege of teaching about Lutheran missions at our fieldwork church for the quarter, Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Freeburg, Illinois. I was especially excited for the opportunity because I had recently stumbled upon a quote from Martin Luther which I think sums up perfectly the key to success on the mission field.
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [Mark 4:26-29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. (LW 51:77)
There you have it. According to Luther, the key to success on the mission field is drinking beer! As much as my Old Adam wishes this were the case, that’s not exactly what the good doctor is saying here.
What he’s really getting at is the power of God’s Word to accomplish the purpose for which He sends it out.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:9-10
Lutheran missionaries are able to carry out their tasks with confidence because they know that the fruit of their labor doesn’t depend on them. It’s God’s living and active Word of Law and Gospel that does it all.
Faith understands that the Gospel does the work of God as He intended it for this world: […] the proclamation and hearing of God’s Word are the Holy Spirit’s tools, in, with, and through which he wills to work effectively and convert people to God… (Schultz, Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission, 171)
In addition, as if the promise to “do it all” weren’t enough, God graciously reveals the means by which He does it, too. Through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, as through means, Article V of the Augsburg Confession says, the Holy Spirit produces faith where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.
The means of grace are the instruments which the Holy Spirit uses to give us the forgiveness of sins and to create and strengthen faith. God has promised to act through these things. Specifically, the means of grace are the Gospel, and those applications of the Gospel known as the Sacraments. – Mueller, Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess, 312.
The key to success on the mission field is the power of God’s Word to do it all through the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. The Lutheran missionary´s task, then, is nothing more than to have faith in God´s promise to accomplish His mission in the way He has specified, and to trust the Holy Spirit to provide opportunity to do this work through him. And, yes, I might have a beer or two while I’m at it. ¡Salud!