The LCMS President, Matthew Harrison, made a good presentation on Lutheran “Diakonia” (service) – meaning acts of service and love toward our neighbor. In it he traces his own history and thinking on the subject. It’s a good read!
I got out in the parish and in my first parish, a rural parish, I worked hard, visited people, was in the lives of people, did the best I could preaching and caring for people and catechizing, but something nagged at me. I was in an area with a lot of rural welfare, a lot of hurting families, a lot of alcoholism, a lot of young people addicted to alcohol and struggling with all that, a lot of marital problems, live-in situations. And I came away from that first parish after four or five years thinking, “You know, there was something missing.” Certainly not the Gospel. Certainly not the Sacraments. But yet, there was something missing.
A congregation in America is incorporated. . . . And a corporation is a public citizen and I became convinced that you know, if in my neighborhood, everything is going to hell in a hand basket, I wouldn’t simply be quiet and allow that to happen. Matters of justice were involved, too, because for every dilapidated home next to a homeowner, they were robbed of virtually the entire value of their home. Unjust. All kinds of racial issues were swirling about. And so, I was dragged into this realm of diakonia with no real theological intent.
I would assert that you cannot deny diakonic love. You cannot turn away from your neighbor without rejecting the holy trinity. Diakonic love reflects the very being of God.