“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live; the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20

I’m writing to say thank you for a recent experience of renewal. The “Here We Still Stand Reformation Conference” was held in sunny San Diego, October 18-20. I could tell you about the creature comforts of eating brunch under palm trees at the bay marina. While gratefully enjoyed, these were not the greatest comforts this creature received.

The theme of the conference was the “Theology of the Cross.” A series of speakers and breakout sessions explored this central gift of the Christian faith: Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of your sins. This gift can be talked about in many ways. Even more important than speaking about the cross is actually having the benefits of the cross handed over to you by the mouth of a preacher (whether that is a pastor, a friend, or dear grandmother).

For this reason, Martin Luther argued that one does not become a theologian through speculation, but through suffering; not through contemplation, but through crucifixion. We are made theologians of the cross. The cross was laid upon me most strikingly this year while I groaned in an ER room with a rupturing appendix and received the terrible news that 14-year old Chloe had died by suicide that very night. My body and Chloe’s mind had become our own worst enemies. How long, O Lord?

When the cross is laid upon us, our only hope is the God who delights in nothing more than raising the dead. Our own death and resurrection is enacted in baptism as we are united once and for all with Christ’s own death and resurrection. Subsequently, Christ is most fully made known to us not in life’s triumphant glories, but in the Word of Promise delivered in the midst of hardship, hopelessness, and the hellishness of our bondage to sin.

This Word of Promise does not come out of thin air; it is always given from a creature to comfort a creature. From the lips of one sinner to the ears of another sinner.

Over the three days of this conference, I freely received and freely gave in this blessed exchange of the Gospel. I reunited with seminary classmates and professors and formed some new friendships. Your pastor had the opportunity to worship as one of many fellow sinners, waiting for a word of grace, singing with tearful eyes, and hearing the Good News of Christ for me and for us.

Thank you for your support of continuing education for your pastors. Some would call it professional development. I call it confessional deliverance.

Pastor Tom