November 27, 2023

LifeDate Winter 2023 – Just As … I AM

Photo above: My dad’s family. In back: my grandpa, Bob Bridges, Aunt Cheri, and my grandma, Mary Bridges. Front row (l-r): my dad, Michael, and my Uncle Larry.

by Michelle Bauman, Director of Y4Life

My mom, Mary Carlson (now Bridges), with her lamb, Tinkerbell.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of family photos, especially generational ones. Whether browned at the edges or shiny and new, family photos are valuable.

They provide a record of sorts, not only of who we are at a moment in time but also how we are loved, where we belong, and, in some cases, how we came to be.

In the visual record photos offer, we also see God’s life-affirming love: His gifts of sustenance over time, His work to sustain life over generations. Photos remind us of God’s longevity, His commitment to upholding life with abundance.

And that reality isn’t new. As Christians, we know that God’s commitment to upholding life started long ago—before photos—before the beginning of time even. From His ordered creation of the world to His ordered creation of you in your mother’s womb, God’s work has always been life-affirming. Grafted into His family through Baptism, we have become children of God and inheritors of eternal life. Our lineage, our family photo, traces back to and includes Him.

It’s easy to forget that truth though, isn’t it? Sinful by nature and enamored by self-sufficiency, we often opt to serve self over fulfilling obligations to others. Ephesians 2:1-2 reminds us of our old Adam, our fallen nature that, no matter how often he is drowned, seems to rise up. Paul declares,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience …”

Yet these verses are soon followed by the lineage God formed for us, one that traces back to Christ Himself:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us … made us alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

We died with Christ and rose with Him. In Him we now live.

That, my friends, changes everything.

The 2024 theme verse for Lutherans For Life is Ephesians 2:10:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

My maternal grandparents—Carl and Donna Carlson—on their wedding day.

As theme verses go, it’s a good one. It reminds us of our vocations, our purpose even. God did call us to good works through our vocations; even now He gives us opportunity to serve Him by serving and upholding the lives of our neighbors.

But Ephesians 2:10 finds its roots, its lineage, in the verse that comes before:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Our works are made both possible and good because they are a result of His workmanship in our lives. They have meaning because their lineage is found in Him.

Lineage matters. And no lineage is more important than the lineage God provides through His Son, Jesus. He shapes our yesterdays and todays, and He is already at work to shape our tomorrows.

My mom and her two older sisters. (l-r) Janie, Mom (Mary), Carla Carlson

I don’t yet know what it’s like to have grandchildren of my own, but I can imagine that seeing a little part of yourself being passed on to another generation is a gift. Surely, recognizing the shape of your eyes or the tilt of your nose on the face of a new grandbaby would be a reminder of God’s faithfulness. And watching a family mannerism or inclination toward a common hobby develop in a grandchild would make any grandparent proud.

But even greater than God’s work to pass on our genetic code is His joy-filled work to pass on His Son’s. And that most important work is carried out, by the grace of God, through Word and Sacrament and through you.

May you find many opportunities to pass along the lineage of Christ to those you love. And may you rejoice in the life-affirming work God has prepared in advance for you this day and in the year to come!