Archive for July, 2012

FOEs

My contributions to this WMLT blog are often less than inspiring. While they address matters of our “life together,” in the minds of some they might better be called “blahgs,” for they usually have to do with life together according to bylaws.

But life together according to our Synod’s Bylaws is important, for this is how we have agreed to walk together. And this particular blog is particularly important for it is about FOEs. We often hear of FAQs. This is about FOEs, “Frequently Observed Errors” in the manner in which we prepare to send delegates to our Synod conventions.

Bylaws 3.1.2.1 and 3.1.3.1 provide very detailed processes to be used to elect delegates to national Synod conventions. Every detail has been thought by our Synod to be important to the process. Here following are seven frequently troublesome areas.

(1) “Each electoral circuit shall meet….” [3.1.2.1 (a)]

The bylaw requires a face-to-face meeting to provide opportunity for discussion of candidates and ballot votes for elections. This can create hardship for some electoral circuits with many miles to travel, but our Synod has determined that this is worth the effort once every three years.

(2) “…not later than nine months prior….” [3.1.2.1 (a)]

Circuit counselors, it is important to plan early for this meeting. It will be ideal also to establish an alternate date, in case unforeseen circumstances make the agreed-upon date for the meeting impossible. The bylaw offers no opportunity for exceptions to this date.

(3) “…one pastor and one layperson from each member congregation….” [3.1.2.1 (c)]

Representation at circuit forums is different from representation at district conventions. In the case of circuit forums, each congregation of the circuit is entitled to send a voting lay representative to the forum in addition to its pastor. This includes each congregation of a multiple-congregation parish.

(4) “All pastors who are not advisory pastors….” [3.1.2.1 (d)]

Sole or associate pastors of congregations are eligible for election as delegates—not assistant pastors or other pastors not in charge of congregations. Bylaw2.13.1 (b) (1) also adds specific ministry pastors to the list of those not eligible. While they are indeed pastors in charge of congregations, they are ineligible to serve as voting delegates to national Synod conventions for other reasons.

(5) “…each congregation shall nominate one layperson….” [3.1.2.1 (e)]

This is truly a FOE. Nominations of lay delegates may not take place at the circuit meeting. While each congregation should nominate a layperson from within the congregation or from another circuit congregation prior to the circuit meeting, these names must be provided to the circuit counselor prior to the day of the meeting. If there are no layperson nominees prior to the day of the meeting, there can be no lay delegate elections. Circuit counselors will want to make certain that they have received names of nominees well in advance of the day of the meeting so that a slate and ballot can be prepared for the meeting.

(6) …eligible for election as an alternate.” [3.1.2.1 (f)]

It is essential that circuits elect alternate pastoral and lay delegates. Each triennium, a goodly number of elected delegates are unable to attend the convention when the time comes. Only when an alternate delegate was elected who also cannot serve can the district president step in and appoint a replacement.

(7) “…selections must be completed at least nine months prior….” [3.1.3.1 (b)]

This final FOE pertains to the selection of ordained and commissioned minister advisory delegates. If such selections did not take place at recent district conventions, they will need to take place at official district ordained and/or commissioned minister conferences. Hopefully those conferences will take place on or prior to October 20, the deadline for advisory delegate selections.

In Summary

Call this a “blog” or call it a “blahg,” but call care taken to avoid these frequently observed errors very important to our life and walk together. Thanks for reading.

Ray Hartwig
LCMS Secretary

Sermon: The Final Word

The following sermon was preached this morning at the International Center Chapel by the Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, Manager of LCMS Disaster Response.

July 20th, 2012
Mark 6
The Final Word

John the Baptist wore sackcloth and ate locusts.  John baptized in the Jordan and spoke out against adultery.  In the end he was killed and his head ended up on a platter.  When we think of John’s life and all he did, it sure does seem that his story ended with his head on a platter.  It seems like the final word – but maybe not.

John spoke a faithful message and he paid the price, the ultimate price – his life.  The world did not like John’s message, and spoke out against John’s message.

And if you speak faithfully you also will face this yourself.  Whether we speak faithfully about health mandates or abortion, gay marriage or polygamy, adultery or idolatry; it doesn’t matter.  This world and our own sinful flesh will fight against you and try to silence you.  But you are just like John, called to speak and live the truth of Christ’s gospel, and to face the world’s anger against you.  This doesn’t necessarily mean your life will end with your head on a platter, although many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being martyred in the world today.  But what you can be sure of is that this world, and our own sinful hearts, will ridicule Christ’s gospel, say that you are out of touch, or try and have you believe that all people should just be left alone to live as they want.

But as hard as it tries, this world did not have the final say about John the Baptist and this world will not have the final say about you.  When we think of the story of John the Baptist we usually think it concludes with John’s head on a splatter.

But listen to how the scriptures conclude the story of John the Baptist, “When his disciples heard of [John’s death], they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”

After John’s death believers in Jesus came, took John’s headless body away from Herod’s palace and buried him.   And by lovingly burying John they proclaimed the greatest sermon ever preached, a Word this world could not speak against – they proclaimed hope in Christ’s future resurrection from the dead.  This world could cut off John the Baptist’s head a thousand times but it would never succeed in silencing the sermon proclaimed by those believers in Christ.  They knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, would also take away death.  This is a Word the world cannot conquer, cannot fight against and, no matter how hard it tries, cannot silence.

Remember that Word, because that promise given to John is also your promise.

No matter what you face, in this world or even within yourself, Christ will have the final Word.  No matter if we die in a hospital bed or like John, die at the hands of this unbelieving world – this world will not have the final Word on you.  Jesus will have the final Word and that final Word will be, “Welcome my child, welcome into my kingdom prepared for you before the world began.”  Amen.

 

Second meeting held between Missouri Synod Lutherans, North American Lutheran Church Second meeting held between Missouri Synod Lutherans, North American Lutheran Church

 

IMG 0054

(Pictured Back Row: Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Rev. Mark Chavez, Bishop Emertius Paull Spring, President Robert Bugbee;
Pictured Front Row: Bishop John Bradosky, Rev. Dr. James Nestingen, Rev. Prof. John Pless, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Rev. Dr. David Wendel)

ST. LOUIS—July 20, 2012—Representatives of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church—Canada met in Hilliard, Ohio July 19-20 at the NALC offices.

At the meeting, the NALC was represented by Bishop John Bradosky, Emeritus Bishop Paull Spring, Dr. James Nestingen, retired Seminary professor; Rev. David Wendel, NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism; and Rev. Mark Chavez, NALC General Secretary.  LCMS representatives were Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of Church Relations and assistant to the LCMS President; Rev. John Pless, director of field education and assistant professor in Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations. President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church—Canada attended as a formal observer.

One of the main focuses of the meeting was discussion of areas of practical cooperation, such as the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and disaster relief. The church bodies gave an update on recent developments within their churches. The group discussed a working agreement on Inter-Lutheran Consultation and agreed on a draft to be presented at the next meeting scheduled for December 2012. The draft identifies the goal of the consultation:  “to consider ways by which our churches may work together to make Christ known, and to strengthen the Lutheran witness by word and deed in the church and community.” The draft also proposes that Lutheran Church—Canada be a full participant in the consultation.

Plans were made for a series of five dialogues to be held over the next few years. The December 2012 meeting to be held at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne will focus on the relationship between the Gospel and the Scriptures.

Some Basic Questions on Witness, Mercy, Life Together

Some years ago I was working with a small congregation in a small town during a vacancy in the pastoral office. The congregation, never large, had been declining in recent years. The previous pastor had left for a more attractive position in another state.

When I asked them why they had no Sunday School, they told me there were no children in the congregation. When I asked them what their mission was, they insisted that just about everyone in town already had a church. They thought there was no mission field.

I decided to challenge them. “Go to every other church in town and find out what their average church attendance is, then add up those numbers for all the churches in town.” Several weeks later I heard their discovery. On any given Sunday less than half the population of the town was in any church, and many of the congregations also drew from the surrounding country-side. “There’s your mission field,” we said.

Every one of our congregations is surrounded by a mission field – even yours! I do not know of a single county in the USA where more than half of the population is found in church, and in many, many locales the percentage is far less than half or even 25%.

No, this is not the time for blame! Don’t be saying, “Well if these people were more welcoming or if our members were truly Lutheran, or whatever, we’d be able to do more.” Don’t be thinking, “Well, if our pastor were a better preacher, or more with the times, or whatever, then we’d…”

Instead, here are some other questions, some basic “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” questions, to ask together, and with God’s guidance seek positive answers, TOGETHER:

Witness:  Who are the people around us who do not know Jesus? Or have become disconnected from Him? How might we connect with some of them? Where are they? Who among us meets them as part of our various vocations? How might we get to know them so that we have the opportunity to confess the name of Christ? How might we find ways to baptize and teach them?

And we have seen and testify (witness!) that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God (1 John 4:14-15).

Mercy:  What are the needs in this community? Who are the “invisible” people in the community? The people no one else notices? How many folks in your community are hurting? Why? Who are they and what are their needs? What do we have to offer them in the name of Christ? How can we be the arms of Christ’s mercy for them? How can we find them?

We love because he first loved us.  If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:19-20).

Life Together:  What is the health of our fellowship? How are we connected to one another? More importantly, how are we connected to Jesus Christ? Are we regularly in the Word of God, remembering our Baptism, receiving our Lord’s body and blood, in which He gives life? How many of our people are? Does our congregation live in love with one another as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us?

If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7).

In other words, the things we do as the body of Christ in “Witness, Mercy and Life Together” are part of sanctification. That is, they grow from our justification. Christ has made us His own, forgiven our sins in the blood of His cross, and declared us righteous by His resurrection. Receiving these gifts by faith, we can revel in them, knowing our connection to Christ is sure. Living as His forgiven people, witness, mercy and life together are simply what we do as the body.

Our congregations are all outwardly different. The communities we serve vary significantly. The specific answers to these questions may also look different on the surface. But the purpose is the same – drawing people, by the Spirit’s work in Word and Sacrament, into the worship of the Holy Trinity, the only worship that gives life. We witness so that the Spirit might connect some to Jesus. We show mercy that hurting people may receive the love of Jesus. We live together in Christ’s Word, because

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9).

Well, what happened to the congregation I was visiting? The Lord sent them a pastor who helped them discover children in the community who needed a place to go after school. Their Sunday School never really revived, but their three hour program for kids Wednesdays after school regularly drew dozens, and even brought parents and families. People were connected to Jesus, and the Spirit grew the congregation.

How will you prayerfully ask these questions in your congregation?

+ Herbert Mueller
LCMS First Vice President

Sermon in IC Chapel

The following sermon was preached this morning at the International Center Chapel by the Rev. Dr. Dien Ashley Taylor of Redeemer, Bronx. 

Psalm 85:8-13

In the Name + of Jesus.

The folly of a “Facebook world” has people listening to the voices of others before decisions get made.

If people want to stay at a hotel, they not only look up the hotel but then look at what others say about it.

If they want to get a car, they get the opinions of everyone else first.

Although helpful, it can be paradigmatic of how we have been exiled, hearkening to the many disparaging voices of an ever-confused world.

Their voices have no authority.

They keep us crying hopelessly around Babylon’s sad waters reminiscing only about good ol’ days that were not actually all that good.

In rebellion with God and in disobedience to His Word, we have listened to the voice of the slithering serpent like our parents in Paradise instead of taking our cues from the One who has made us to be in perfect communion with Him.

We heard it this past weekend.

We seek the opinions of jealous mothers after we dance and gladly ask for the heads of prophets on a platter.

We imprison those whose words we wish to silence, hoping to mute their prophetic cry so that we can keep improper relationships in tact.

We care more about the people we invite to our parties and what they think instead of fulfilling our family vocations as the Lord intended.

It is the folly of a “Facebook world,” the “save face” world, where our identity is wrapped up in the opinions of the popular press.

But our Lord has called us to a different life by the power of the Holy Spirit—He has reached out to us in Christ Jesus to save us from a pitiful existence that seeks counsel from the wicked and instead gives us the chance as His sheep to hear our Shepherd’s saving voice.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people as the perfect righteous Son of God hung on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead to save us, forgiving us our sin and giving us new life as His strong Word bespeaks us righteous.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people at the waters of the baptismal font where He connects us with the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, putting us to death so that we may rise with Him.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people from the pulpit as His Holy Word is read and proclaimed, as Law and Gospel are properly distinguished, as sin is condemned and hope and comfort are offered in Jesus Christ.

This is the text message that is worth reading, hearing and sharing.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people as His called and ordained servant speaks to repentant sinners the word of freedom, release and forgiveness that cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

“I am forgiven in Christ Jesus.”

Now that’s a “tweet” that’s worth “tweeting!”

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people as His Spirit leads us to the Altar where the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthens us and keeps us in His grace.

At the altar where steadfast love and faithfulness meet and where righteousness and peace kiss each other, where faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness looks down from the sky, Christ Himself speaks and gives us what is good so that our land yields its true increase.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.  He is speaking peace to His people as the saints encourage each other, in mutual consolation, comforting one another with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God.

With hundreds of channels and voices clamoring in the invisible airwaves, our Lord invites us to tune into the station of our salvation—to hear what the Lord God has to speak.

Let us not return to our folly—it leads not to life but to death.

The opinions of losers never got anyone anywhere anyway.

The “dearest friend to me” Christ Jesus has befriended us.

Let us listen to Him this day.

Let us hear what God the Lord will speak as His righteousness goes before us and leads us to the Day of His return when the world will hear Him speak, fall on their faces and cry out what we are privileged to cry out today: “Alleluia!  Salvation and Glory and Honor belong to our God and to the Lamb.”

For on that day, God the Lord will speak peace to His holy ones forever.

Let the Church cry out with the Psalmist in these last days and proclaim with faith: Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, His saints.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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