Of what help is it to you that God is God, if he is not God to you?Martin Luther, A Meditation on Christ’s Passion
I thought about this quote recently when I was talking to someone about their concern for a family member, who is active in church but doesn’t seem to have a personal relationship with God. This person is blessed to be part of a loving church community, thankfully, but does not seem to live with a sense that Jesus is present in their life, that the Holy Spirit is guiding them, and that our Heavenly Father cares for them in a personal, meaningful, loving way.
In this quote from Martin Luther, he emphasizes the personal relationship that God wants to have with each and every one of us, a personal, meaningful relationship grounded in love. The God who loves us eternally, unconditionally, and completely, wants for all of God’s children to know and experience this love for themselves, and to find in this love an abundant, meaningful, and grace-filled life.
We can sometimes forget how important this personal relationship was to Luther, but he emphasizes it again and again. When he writes about Holy Communion, to give one other example, he writes that the most important words are “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
A story this brings to mind: In a congregation I formally served, we were blessed to have a retired Episcopal priest as a member of our congregation. I was surprised the first time he came forward to receive communion, though, because immediately after I said, “The body of Christ” he responded “The bread of heaven” at the same time that I was saying “Given for you.” The next Sunday, after I said “The body of Christ,” I waited for him to say “The bread of heaven,” which he did. And then I responded back with those words so important to Luther, “Given for you.” He smiled a little and learned to appreciate this new way of receiving communion. And so did I. It is the bread of heaven, of course. And it is the body of Christ. But it is also, in the mercy of God, given for you, and for me. This sacrament matters because it is “for you” and for me. The good news of the gospel matters because it means that God is for you, and for me, and for each and every one of us who live in this world that God so loves. But, as Luther would remind us, “of what help is it to you that God is God, if he is not God to you?“
You can read all of Luther’s “A Meditation on Christ’s Passion” online here: