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Equal Service
Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

From the Word

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; 2 let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Romans 15:1–6, RSV

From Luther

All the good we can do to God is to praise and to thank him. This is the only true service we can render him. We receive all blessings from him, in return for which we should make the offering of praise. If anything else purporting to be service to God is presented for your consideration, rest assured it is erroneous and delusive. The distracted world attempts to serve God by setting apart houses, churches, cloisters, vestures, images, bells, organs and candles; the money for this expense should have been appropriated for the poor, if the object was to make an offering to God. Service to God is praise to him. It must be free and voluntary at table, in the chamber, in house or field, in all places, with all persons, at all times.

But how shall there be honor and praise of God, when we do not love him? How shall we love him when we do not know him and his blessings? How shall we know him and his blessings when no word is preached concerning them and when the gospel is left to lie under the table? Where the gospel is not in evidence, knowledge of God is an impossibility. Then to love and praise him is likewise impossible. True divine service of praise cannot be established with revenues, nor be circumscribed by laws and statutes. It emanates from the gospel, and certainly is as often rendered by a poor, rustic servant as by a great bishop.

Divine service must be rendered with “one mind” and with “one mouth.” One needs Christ as much as another. We render divine service when we are harmonious, and when we recognize our common equality and our common blessings in Christ; when none exalts himself above another, nor assumes special advantages. We all receive the same baptism and sacrament, the same faith, the same Christ and Spirit, the same gospel—in a word, the same God. Here in this wilderness the heavenly bread is impartially distributed. Then how can it possibly be right for one to exalt himself over his fellow? Since there is one common blessing for the weak and the firm in faith, for the strong in Christian conduct and for the weak, one should not esteem another more lightly than himself, nor reject him.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 386–87.

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