Experience Grace in Action

“Now what?” That’s a question that can signal either challenge and dismay, “Uh oh, now what do we do?” or excitement and anticipation, “This has been great – now what comes next?!”

Lutherans are sometimes asked this question with regard to our theology of grace. We are so focused on God’s free gift of love and acceptance in Christ that other Christians have sometimes wondered whether we are content simply to bask in God’s love or whether God’s grace ever really does anything, changes anything, makes a difference. Is there, in other words, a “now what” to our theology and life together?

For Luther himself, that was never a question. Grace, for Luther, was not an idea or proposition, it wasn’t a theory or doctrine. Grace – that feeling of being caught up in God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness – is an experience, an experience that shapes your entire life: your relationships, your work, the roles you play in your family, and your life in the world as neighbor and citizen.

This fall, we will explore Luther’s compelling belief that grace, if it’s really God’s grace, is always grace in action – grace that shapes our entire being and propels us into the world for lives of courage, compassion, and purpose. We will do this through a sermon series on the key elements of Luther’s theology that will run from Rally Sunday through Reformation Sunday. We will do this by offering a common reading experience that I’ve prepared to explore Luther’s theology. We will do this by lifting up the ministries of Mount Olivet that embody grace in action through our Stewardship dinners. We will do this by continuing our “95 Acts of Service” that also exemplify grace put to work for the benefit of our neighbor. In this and through a host of other means, we’ll walk together more deeply into the experience of grace that animated Luther’s Reformation and continues to enliven our faith community today.

I am writing this article from our beloved Cathedral of the Pines. It’s been simply wonderful to begin my ministry at Mount Olivet from this place that has meant so much to so many. The setting is incredibly beautiful, of course, and the facilities something in which to take great pride. But what I think makes the camp so special is the dedication, enthusiasm, warmth, and faith of the staff. They work hard to create an environment where kids (and those we no longer call “kids”!) can form meaningful relationships and through those relationships not only hear about but also feel the love of God in Christ.

What I love about COP is how everything is so well thought through in order to provide campers with things that are increasingly hard to find in our culture: a sense of belonging, authentic community, tradition, songs that span the generations and bind us together, the chance to read Scripture and pray out loud, an opportunity to form meaningful relationships, and an emphasis on kindness, manners, and civility. (We had a strict rule in my home growing up about “elbows off the table,” and it was nice to see the same rule in effect at COP!) These are the things, along with the beautiful view from chapel and amazing grounds, that invite a deeper relationship with God and a genuine and life-changing experience of grace.

As important as COP is in the faith development of our community and particularly our kids, however, it’s not enough. And our team that oversees COP knows that. Indeed, throughout their experience here, campers will not only experience God’s love for them along the shores of Caribou Lake but also be encouraged to be part of the year-round Mount Olivet community in order to continue to grow in God’s grace. For this reason, everything we do at Mount Olivet is intended to help us to discover – and be caught up in and transformed by – God’s grace once again. Camp, worship, Sunday School, choirs, youth ministry, circles, fellowship, adult education, outreach to the community, our preparations for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – everything we do is intended to help us see, feel, and experience God’s grace in action. Come and be a part of it!

Pastor Lose,
Senior Pastor