Archive for November 2011
This Advent, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison urges Christians to offer prayers of repentance as well as prayers of thanksgiving for God’s Word and grace.
- Advent is not simply pre-Christmas. Learn more about this unique season of the Church Year by reading the Rev. Hans Fiene’s “How to Escape the Christmas Madness.”
- How do we keep Advent and Christmas separate? Read up on the meaning of Christmas in Terence Maher’s “The 12 Days of Christmas: Unwrapping the Gifts.”
Recently, as First Vice President, I had the privilege of visiting both churches and presenting our theme of Witness, Mercy and Life Together for both groups. As indicated previously, I was also there to represent the Synod and to preach for the blessing of the first deaconesses in the LCSA. We also had the opportunity to preach in congregations of both synods – Katlehong in the LCSA and St. Paul, Fairlands (Johannesburg), in the FELSiSA.
The LCSA is mainly black (Zulu and Tswana, mostly) and the FELSiSA is historically German and white, though there are many English speaking people that have joined in recent years (both white and black) and some Afrikaans people as well. FELSiSA recently brought into associate membership a black congregation near Fairlands. Tentative efforts are under way to seek to bring both groups together, including perhaps also a third group of independent Lutheran churches founded by a graduate of our seminary in Fort Wayne now in Middelburg, RSA. I was privileged to be present for the first joint meeting of the Church Councils of both the LCSA and the FELSiSA in some years while present.
Pray that God draws both of these partners closer together and that the terrible legacy of apartheid may be overcome by God’s grace and forgiveness in the blood of Christ. We met many people, fine Christians one and all, seeking to serve the Lord faithfully where He has placed them. Pray for true unity in the Gospel that can be expressed in the coming together of these churches into one Synod. Already they are in fellowship with us and with each other, but pray that they are able, by God’s grace, to overcome the past and to unite in one confessional Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.
And after these things, I looked, and behold, a great crowd, which no one could number, from every nation (ethnic group) and every tribe and people, and every tongue, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and they were crying out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9-10).
God be praised for He makes it so even now!
The offering at the Mpumalanga Diocese (LCSA) Women’s League Convention at Mayflower, near Fernie, South Africa, on 29 October 2011. In the LCSA they sing and dance as they bring their offerings forward to the Lord. The women wear uniforms to identify themselves as members of the League.
First Vice President
For St. Louis Cardinals fans, it would have been a lot more pleasant if they had known two months ago what happened two weeks ago, when the Cardinals won Game 7 of the World Series. The dark days of August wouldn’t have seemed so dark. The disappointing losses of September wouldn’t have been so disappointing. And Game 6 of the World Series would not have been the nail-biter that it was.
Not knowing the outcome is the way it usually is in this world. We live day-to-day, hour-to-hour, breath-to-breath, except for one huge exception. That exception we celebrate each November 1st.
That exception to the rule of uncertainty in this life is the outcome of our Christian lives. Even though the home team makes plenty of errors, suffers countless injuries, and faces seemingly hopeless situations, the outcome is already known—this despite the fact that the other team can seem undefeatable, with a manager who is absolute ruthless, as Luther describes him:
The old evil foe now means deadly woe,
Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight,
On earth is not his equal.
The reality of their plight will strike home for many Christians on their deathbeds, when Martin Luther’s great funeral hymn will describe the valley of the shadow of death through which they must pass:
In the midst of earthly life, Snares of death surround us.
Who shall help us in the strife, Lest the foe confound us?
In the midst of death’s dark vale, Powers of hell o’ertake us.
Who will help when they assail, Who secure will make us?
In the midst of utter woe, When our sins oppress us,
Who will help when they assail, Where for grace to bless us?
Thankfully, the hymn is able to provide the answer to its own questions: “Thou only, Lord, Thou only!” Into this great contest God sent His Substitute, His Word, the embodiment of His grace. He provides the sacrifice, so successfully so that He comes all the way around to score. Again, Luther:
The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it.
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife—
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won.
The kingdom ours remaineth!
Christ our Substitute has picked up His whole team and carries them to victory and to the celebration to follow. The first lesson for the celebration of All Saints Day, from Revelation 7, speaks of the victors: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” And what a celebration will be theirs:
Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
For the St. Louis Cardinals fans who were in the stands, it was quite the celebration that followed Game 7 of the World Series. To actually have been there to stand, to cheer, to experience the fireworks and confetti-showered speeches must have been awesome. An Internet offer in the days that followed provided opportunity for fans to locate themselves in the stands via an aerial view of Busch Stadium, an opportunity always to be able to say “I was there.”
The Revelation 7 picture of the great celebration of all saints provides that same opportunity to all God’s people as true world champions, already to see themselves present, already to be able to say “I am in that crowd.” All we can say is what we will all say when it is our time to celebrate the victory: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
+ Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig
Secretary of Synod
Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor the men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces. It is a time to give thanks God for these brave men and women — many of whom returned home with grievous injuries and others who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
As we reflect on the service and selflessness of our military veterans, this is also a good time to give thanks for our LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces. Since the Civil War, LCMS pastors have served as military chaplains. Today, there are more than 200 LCMS military chaplains — some serving on active duty here in the U.S. and overseas, some serving with Reserve and National Guard units, and some serving as chaplains with the Veterans Administration, Civil Air Patrol and Federal Bureau of Prisons.
A special insert to the November Reporter introduces the church to some of the LCMS chaplains serving today. In the cover article, Chaplain Michael N. Frese writes about the “constant danger” he and the troops live with daily in Afghanistan.
“There is nothing like death to focus us more clearly on life,” he wrote. “In this dangerous environment, I am God’s mouthpiece to share with them the life that Christ has won for them on the cross.”
You can also watch and share video interviews with Capt. Frese and others here.
The special Reporter insert also provides information about Operation Barnabas — a network of care to military members and their families as well as veterans. Local congregation-based Operation Barnabas chapters are now forming throughout the LCMS to serve veterans and service families in their communities. To learn more, see page 2 of the insert.
Finally, Chaplain Mark Schreiber, director of the LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces, has written a special commentary in observance of Veterans Day.
Please pray for our veterans, chaplains and military personnel. In addition to Ministry-by-Mail, LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces provides “God’s Word of Encouragement” to chaplains for distribution to those they serve. Your gift will provide materials for chaplains, service personnel and veterans and for everything Ministry to the Armed Forces does!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last month, President Harrison wrote a “Pastoral Letter about Campus Ministry” to the church and signaled that the Office of National Mission (ONM) was prepared to take direct leadership once again in support of campus ministry. He mentioned that the ONM was at work coordinating a task force as well as initiating plans for a national campus ministry conference in the future. As the Executive Director of the ONM, I want to update you on our plans.
First, a President’s Think Tank on Campus Ministry has been scheduled for January 3–4, 2012, at the International Center in St. Louis, Mo.
The following individuals have been invited, and have agreed to, participate in the meeting:
- Mrs. Anne Bakker, Mt. Pleasant, Mich., ISM director at a full-time campus ministry
- Mr. Andy Bates, St. Louis, Mo., Career and Technology Education specialist, St. Louis College at Meramec
- Mr. Phillip Fischaber, Tulsa, Okla., college student, LSF Regional representative
- The Rev. Dr. Erik Herrmann, St. Louis, Mo., CSL representative
- Mr. Jon Jensen, Metro St. Louis, Mo., executive director, LCMA
- The Rev. Mark Kiessling, St. Louis, Mo., LCMS Youth and Young Adult Ministry
- The Rev. David Kind, Minneapolis, Minn., full-time campus pastor, Higher Things vice president
- The Rev. Dr. Paul Maier, Kalamazoo, Mich., COP, Praesidium (Third Vice-President)
- The Rev. Richard Manus, Fenton, Mo., LCMS campus ministry counselor (1998–2002)
- Dr. Angus Menuge, Mequon, Wisc., CUS professor, commissioned teacher
- Mrs. Martha Milas, Champaign, Ill., Board for National Mission
- Miss Shaina Mitchell, Muncie, In., full-time campus ministry deaconess
- Mrs. Marcia Mittwede, Round Rock, Texas, ISM, Inc. co-president
- The Rev. Max Mons, Iowa City, Iowa, full-time campus pastor
- The Rev. Ian Pacey, Tucson, Ariz., full-time campus pastor
- The Rev. Prof. John Pless, Fort Wayne, Ind., CTSFW representative
- The Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz, Huntington Beach, Cali., parish pastor
- Dr. James Tallmon, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Board for National Mission
- The Rev. Jay Winters, Tallahassee, Fla., full-time campus pastor, LCMA Board Member, former LSF Advisor
- Mr. Greg Witto, Charleston, Ill., full-time director of campus ministry, DCE, LCMA Vice President
- The Rev. Marcus Zill, Laramie, Wyo., full-time campus pastor, Christ on Campus executive, Higher Things
While we would love to have more participants, this geographically diverse and well-rounded mix of laity, commissioned and ordained ministers represents well those who are presently engaged in campus ministry (e.g., LCMA, ISM, LSF, CoC, etc.) and incorporates those with significant past campus experience and others who can contribute in giving input and direction to our office. The Think Tank also includes two representatives from the National Mission Board, one member of the Council of Presidents and representatives from both seminaries and one of our Concordia universities.
Second, I have also formed a steering committee to begin preparations for a future national campus ministry conference. That committee includes:
- Rev. Marcus Zill, Laramie, Wyo., Chair
- Mr. Andy Bates, Wildwood, Mo.
- Miss Shaina Mitchell, Muncie, Ind.
- Rev. Max Mons, Iowa City, Iowa
- Rev. Jay Winters, Tallahassee, Fla.
This committee will start work as soon as possible but will also have the opportunity to gain valuable input from the other Think Tank participants at the early January meeting.
Thank you for the tremendous amount of helpful advice and input that so many of you have given to our office in the last couple of weeks. We look forward to working with all of those above—and the many more whom they represent—as we give shape to this new direction for campus ministry in our beloved Synod together through the Office of National Mission.
We will do our best to keep the church up to date as plans continue to materialize. As always, we value your ongoing input and covet your prayers as we seek to strengthen our work on our nation’s college campuses for the sake of the Gospel.
Rev. J. Bart Day
Executive Director of National Mission