The church has got Justification by Faith down pat. Indeed, there is no one who is justified, except by God’s mercy and grace. There is no other way than belief. Having said this, going forward I see an often neglected practice: remembering. 2 Peter 1 reminds us that our faith is an active calling making us “participants in the divine nature” (verse 4, NRSV). The biblical writer accepts as his duty to remind the saints of their role in the divine nature (verse 13, NRSV). I’m in the same camp as the writer of James’ epistle, who fleshes out the believer’s divine nature declaring “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead (verse 2:17, NRSV).
The question, then, is simply, what is the divine nature? As Jesus’ divine nature is revealed to us, we know there is passion for healing the sick, giving recovery of sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk, making the deaf hear, filling the hungry with good things, practicing mercy, forgiving sins, declaring the good news, loving neighbors and aliens alike, befriending sinners, teaching justice and encouraging the saints in all righteousness, welcoming the children as beacons of hope, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow, liberating the enslaved and oppressed, making his life and death a sign of hope for the world. We cannot say we can’t do these things because they are of the divine nature – they are what God has made us by virtue of the gift of faith. This is the way of the calling to which we give ourselves in faith.
What does this have to do with the reforming church? Everything! It is the way the church is to be in the world. It is what glorifies God. It is more pleasant than the appealing architecture of soaring cathedrals or ornate basilicas, more pleasant than the neighborhood structures of covenant institutions where the saints gather to worship and serve. It is what God requires of us, we who believe.
In the Eucharistic liturgy, Jesus is recited, saying, “do this in remembrance of me.” It is not only his death and resurrection we remember, but it is all that he ever said and did that we memorialized. The memorial of the reforming church is to become the very thing it memorializes.
The next essay will consider church is as it orders itself around the divine nature.