Furthermore it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sins and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21–26] and 4[:5]. Augsburg Confession, Article IV, German Version
Likewise, they teach that human beings cannot be justified before God by their own powers, merits, or works. But they are justified as a gift [gratis] on account of Christ through faith when they believe that they are received into grace [in gratiam recipi] and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction [satisfecit or made reparation] for our sins. God reckons this faith as righteousness. Augsburg Confession, Article IV, Latin Version
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:4–8 ESV)
The Wilderness — the place where the angel of the Lord found Hagar and gave her water after Abraham expelled her from his household, also giving her hope and a promise of a blessing to her son Ishmael.
The Wilderness — the place where God led the Israelites after the terror and death of the Exodus, where Israel was given the teaching, where Israel whined and complained to God, where Israel was fed with manna, water from the rock, and where Israel made an idol of its creation, worshiping and dancing around that golden calf.
The Wilderness — where David fled from Saul and wandered, first alone and then followed by a small army of malcontents and misfits in the years before he became king of all Israel.
The Wilderness — where John the Baptist called for repentance, baptized in the river, and demanded to know of the crowds who made their way to him: “Who warned you of the wrath to come?”
The Wilderness — where Jesus fasted, was tempted by the Devil, and where he was with the wild animals and ministered to by angels. Where he fled to, again and again, ahead of the crowds clamoring and demanding to see, to hear, to touch him.
This is who we are, God’s people gathered in the wilderness, called out of sin, out of terror, out of suffering, out of slavery, into a new life by the grace of God in Christ. We are Christians because we believe we have met Jesus, been called by Jesus, to follow, to be healed and raised, to feed and tend sheep, to baptize and teach and make disciples. We are Lutherans because this work of calling, of forgiving, of redeeming, of raising, is God’s work alone, made real in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is ours in baptism, in faith, and in that calling to follow. The love of God is best shown not in sinless, pure, or even well-ordered lives; but in the lives, work, and love of people who know — truly know — that they have been forgiven and redeemed.
The Lutheran Church of the Wilderness is an unaffiliated Lutheran community based in Spokane, Washington, that seeks only to live out our calling — as individuals and as a community — to love our God with all our heart, our soul, our strength, and our mind; and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We believe in a God who calls and redeems sinners to preach, to teach, to lead, and to live this love, to make disciples, to baptize and proclaim grace because sinners are all God has.
We are the outgrowth of an online ministry to the most lost and vulnerable human beings in the world, and our commitment is grounded solidly in the knowledge that Jesus has come looking for us when we have been lost, vulnerable, alone, and abused. Even if no one else knew where we were, Jesus did. And Jesus does. He is still looking.
Because some are still lost.
Charles H. Featherstone is the pastor and founder of The Lutheran Church in the Wilderness. Armed with a fistful of degrees — a Master of Arts in Arab Studies from Georgetown and a Master of Divinity from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago — Charles and his wife Jennifer seek to form and shape a worshiping community around the encounter with a Jesus who seeks us and finds us in tough and difficult places. Charles knows something of that, having written about his encounter with the risen Christ on September, 11, 2001, at the foot of the World Trade Center in New York while death and terror rained down upon him. While not the best-seller Charles would like, The Love That Matters is a gripping tale of looking for God, and being found by God in some very dark places.
Right now, The Lutheran Church in the Wilderness is not a 501(c)3 organization, and so we cannot yet take your contributions and allow you to take a tax deduction. That will change, hopefully soon, but more than anything, we need your prayers (though we won’t say no to financial support either). Pray for us, as we settle in, look for work, a permanent place to live, and slowly start as a Bible study and worship service. Pray for those who come to worship with us, who seek sanctuary, the sheep of God’s fold who hear their masters voice. Pray for us as we continue this wonderful, amazing, incredible, heartbreaking calling of being the very human hands and heads and hearts who find and comfort God’s lost sheep.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:7–11 ESV)