One of my favorite classes in seminary was “The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Triune God”. This was the third in Luther’s basic sequence of systematic theology classes, and it was taught by the highly caffeinated Lois Malcolm. During that semester, my classmates and I discussed and learned about the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the proclamation of the Word, the institution of the Sacraments, and the life of the church. Throughout that semester, I was constantly aware of the third article of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Martin Luther’s explanation of this article from his Small Catechism has become profoundly influential upon my life and my call story. It says:
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life.
This is most certainly true.
There’s not much I remember of the Small Catechism, but this explanation is one that has stayed in my mind and burrowed its way into my heart. I am constantly reassured that there’s not a blasted thing that I could have done on my own to come to faith in Christ. I was called by the Holy Spirit through baptism, I affirmed that call when I was confirmed, and I am forgiven of my sins daily.
As a community of believers, we are regularly gathered together by the Holy Spirit. We hear the Word, we partake of the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Baptism, and we are sent out into the world to proclaim the story of Jesus Christ … and what a story that is!
Andrea Toven is a radio broadcast engineer and head of electronic component sales for Smiling Dog Systems. She and her husband Shane, a marketing manager for The Telos Alliance, live in Laramie with their four-legged children Callie, Leo, and Norman.