While in Japan, I discovered, on the shelf of one of the missionaries' homes, a little gem of a book (with an unfortunate title): Where God Meets Man. The subtitle was "Luther's Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel". It totally revolutionized my faith, making me realize how radical God's grace really is, and that Christianity is so much more about God coming down than about us going up anywhere. Here's a little quote (ok a big quote) from his chapter "This World and the Next."
...."since that world (the world to come) is God's entirely free gift, since it comes by his will alone, we are freed to give ourselves entirely to this world, to set about seeing to it that his will is done "on earth" as it is in heaven....
"That is what it means to live in the hope of the world to come. It is an act of hope to marry and rear children when you think the end is near -- or to plant a tree. It is hope based on the trust that God wil not deny his creation; that the world to come does not mean the destruction of what is good in this world, but its fulfillment. The world to come does not therefore compete with this world for our affections. Because the hope of the world to come is sure we are enabled to enter into, rejoice in, and care for this world. This lies behind Luther's belief that everyone should enter into his worldly vocation in the confidence that it is pleasing to God, and look on it as a commission from God. Hope in the gift of the world to come is hope strong enough to enable us to turn from our fruitless quest for a heaven above and to look to God's creation, to receive it back again, to enter into it, and struggle to see that God's will be done -- that true peace, justce, and love are established." (pp. 97-98.)
"We ought to see that faith in the kingdom of grace frees us also from the fear of change and makes the future open. Grace ought to foster man's hopes (my note: also women's hopes!) for a better world, not crush them." (p. 110)
"Whenever man's presumption, his utopian illusions, his petty prejudices produce tyranny, discrimination, poverty, wanton destruction, hatred, and indifference there the church must mobilize for action...." (p. 115).