The divine service for the departed comprises the first point of emphasis for the month of July. Here we occupy ourselves with the matter of true life, a subject that is of equal importance for both the living and the departed. Access to true life—that is, to fellowship with God—is only possible through Christ. No one can attain or establish fellowship with God through his own efforts. Belief in Jesus Christ and devotion to Him are also necessary for the departed if they want to enter into life. Here the sacraments are of decisive importance because they are God’s works of life.
The new theme series that begins in July is Modelling our lives on the gospel.
The second Sunday in July explores the reality that God takes the side of those who, in accordance with His will, base their lives on the gospel. For us this signifies a great effort—indeed, we may even have to endure hardships as a result. It is the Holy Spirit who prompts us to do this and helps us move past our imperfections. Despite our many failures in these endeavours, however, it is comforting to know that God in His love is still with us. We can be assured of this love even when we at times conduct ourselves in an unkind or selfish manner. His love for us remains. Let us be like Him in our words and deeds because He desires to bless us!
The third Sunday in July centres on the theme of being generous, on having an open heart. Our encounters with God are to inspire us to bring about an inner renewal and reinforce our efforts to this end. In the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul appeals to the believers to acknowledge him as an Apostle and respect the commission he has received from Jesus Christ. We are all familiar with the feeling of having reservations about someone. For example, we see a person and—despite the fact that we do not know him—we already think we know what he is like. However, it may well be that he has already renewed his thoughts and actions as a result of numerous encounters with God! Let us give our neighbour the benefit of the doubt. He likewise wants to renew himself in God! In the process, the opposite question also arises. Will our neighbour actually be able to recognise that we have made progress in our own personal renewal?
The sermon on the last Sunday of July draws attention to our behaviour with regard to our neighbour: let us endeavour to repay evil with goodness. Our example in this is Jesus Christ, who did not allow the evil that befell Him to deter Him from doing good deeds and bringing salvation to mankind. Let us also speak to others about this goodness, because only those who are acquainted with goodness will be able to strive for it themselves.
Those who have experienced the love and grace of God upon themselves will also want their neighbour to have a similar experience, even if he only had evil thoughts toward them at first. Those who are credible in their faith will thus endeavour to make others aware of the good path in Jesus Christ.