God's doing for us that gets done is Word and Sacrament stuff. Everything else flows from His speaking to us, baptizing us, bodying and bloodying us. Jesus sees our need. He fills our need with his faithful, loving, kindness. Then we mess that up. We own up to it, confess it to Him, then say sorry. We ask for grace and prayers when we need them (which is a lot). Jesus shows up for us. He gives us a pastor. He gives us to each other again and again. We eat. We pray. We sing. We mess it up. We confess. He picks us up. Repeat. Not that complicated.
In the Epistle of James, for example, he isn't saying, "You need to listen better, and do more." Instead, James is pointing at the reality that we don't listen at all. He points out that all our doing just leads to more craving, more sin, rushing more excitedly toward death. But, that fact -- the fact that there's nothing about us that makes us the right person to do something for God -- is exactly what Jesus is looking for.
Jesus doesn't help us escape from reality. Instead He places us where reality is given meaning by His being there for the unforgivable and unlovable. People who, like all of us, need to hear: “You are forgiven, and you are loved."
Hearing the Gospel, the good news about who the Father is for us, is the power of God who makes us doers: saintly sinners who Jesus works through (whether we like it or not) to run down and love drunks and prostitutes, the bloody and beaten down, the bullied and exhausted, thieves, adulterers, terrorists, and everyone caught up in horrible choices and failed dreams. The stutterers and stumblers whom Jesus calls and sends to announce His work to failures, to the sick who need healing, to the poor who need to be fed, and everyone who's dead tired, dead broke, or just plain dead in sin.
That's Christianity in a nutshell. That's our life in Christ. Our whole life secure, knowing that each of us is one in a long line of unforgivable, unlovable failures who Jesus chooses to forgive and love. We get from Him and give it away. The unforgivable forgiven and forgiving. The unlovable beloved and loving.
God forgives us wholly and so we forgive. Well, kind-of, sort-of, in our own half-hearted, 'what's in it for us' sort of way. God loves us without limit or boundary and so we love, but we're more than a little selfish about it. And yet, despite all our stuttering and stumbling, all of it's completely worth the getting and the giving because it's all the work of Jesus Christ for us, for everyone.
God speaks and in His speaking opens our ears to hear the truth about ourselves, that we live, and move, and have our being in Christ Jesus. All from Him for us today, in all our hearing and in all our doing, all from Him for us today and always.
Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.