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  • Allison Wilcox

The Third Article

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.


Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God. ~ Revelation 2:7


I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me by his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; in like manner as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the true faith; in which Christian Church he daily forgives abundantly all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and will raise up me and all the dead at the last day, and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. ~ Martin Luther


If there was one thing in my Seminary years that I felt important to memorize it was this line from Luther's from the catechism: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me by his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.


That's it. I need the Holy Spirit. In the Creed the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing. It is what moves me to faith. It is what makes me see Jesus.


And it works in many and various ways.


And Luther tells us not just what the Spirit does, but how the Spirit does it: by calling us through the gospel.


It is as if that gospel works and works on us through the Spirit until it breaks open our heart for the Spirit to take root.


My Lutheran Confessions professor, Timothy Wengert, told the story of how this worked with a man in one of his congregations. Each Sunday for years on Sunday he would sit and worship and listen and then move on to the rest of his day, without giving it much thought. Eventually after many years, something shifted in his heart. It was as if his ears opened and he heard the Spirit's call through the gospel: Jesus Christ came for ME!


And that same Spirit works not just on us individually, but also on the Church. In another place, Luther called the Church the "Holy Spirit's workshop."


With my confirmation students years ago I told them the Spirit was like a roaring river working on the stones of our our hearts until they came out smooth and shiny.



A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Word through Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.


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