The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Something for nothing

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Have you noticed how much people like getting something for free? People will stand two and three deep at the grocery store to get a small taste of something in a little plastic bowl or cup—no matter what it is. We collect coupons that entitle us to “buy one, get one free.”

My husband, Brian, and I attended a baseball game this summer. People practically pushed each other out of the way to catch souvenir baseballs and cheap T-shirts, or to receive “thunder sticks.” And not long ago, people flocked to a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gas station to receive a free tank of gas as part of an appreciation day for the city’s safe drivers.

We humans love to get “something for nothing,” even when the taste fades quickly from our mouths, the T-shirt frays or fades, the trinket gathers dust in our home or the gas tank inevitably empties. There is just something satisfying about getting things free, and we often go out of our way to get it.

The love of God is free. The grace of God is free. The Good News of the gospel is free. As Martin Luther came to understand and teach us, these things are gifts, freely given to us out of God’s boundless and incomprehensible goodness. We can do nothing to earn them and no amount of money could purchase them.

Yes, these things come with the obligation of response to the gift in the form of intentional, active discipleship. But the gift itself is freely given by our gracious God.

How willing are we to go out of our way to make time for worship, prayer, Bible study, service—all ways through which God’s gifts are revealed? How eager are we to stretch out our hands, to open our ears, to open our eyes, to taste and see that God is good, that God offers us abundant life—a life that won’t fade or fray or ever run out?

Can you imagine what our times of worship and fellowship would be like if people stood two and three deep to hear the word and share the meal—freely given to all? Can you imagine what a difference it would make if those who were so eager to receive the gift then became eager to invite others to do the same? We are called to share freely with others what has been so freely given to us.

This week's front page features:

What's next for the Reformation: As a living tradition, it could guide our care for the Earth. (Photo at right.)

'Rabbi Jesus' controversial? Hospital asks artist to remove paintings.

Sudan: Bringing people together. 2.5 million have been displaced.

Coping with disappointment: Understand your feelings, then make changes.

Also: Halverson to lead Foundation, Development Services.

Also: Task force finalizes study text.

Also: Death sentence for Sjodin murderer.

Read these articles on our front page > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann (right) wishes everyone a Happy Advent.

Amber Leberman, on assignment in Cairo, Egypt, and Beirut, Lebanon, writes about visits to ELCA partners in both countries.

Julie Sevig sees RED ... Project Red, that is.

Sonia Solomonson asks what legacy you'll leave.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment) > > >

Discuss the October issue of The Lutheran:

Join the hearty conversation about The Lutheran magazine's coverage of evolution and intelligent design in our discussion forums.

Or tell us what you thought of other articles in the October issue.

Join the discussion > > >

Calling all pastors' spouses:

For a future story in The Lutheran about the changing role of the pastor’s spouse, we are asking for responses to these questions:

• What are the expectations on the pastor’s spouse today compared to decades ago?

• What can the congregation do to support the pastor’s spouse?

Please identify yourself and your congregation and city. Also, note whether you’re a pastor’s spouse, pastor or congregation member.

Send your comments to Julie Sevig by Jan. 15.

Or respond online > > >

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February issue


Embracing diversity