Archive for April 2013

On Holy Baptism in the Large Catechism

The following letter was sent to 2013 LCMS Convention delegates from President Harrison.

 

Easter Monday, A.D. 2013

Dear Delegate,

Luther wrote of Baptism, “It is, in short, so full of consolation and grace that heaven and earth cannot understand it. But it requires skill to believe this, for the treasure is not lacking, but this is lacking: people who grasp it and hold it firmly. Therefore, every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to do all his life.”

In the past weeks, I’ve been paying very close attention to the Supreme Court cases on gay marriage. What is billed as simply allowing people to love whom they please, in reality threatens to rule unconstitutional the divinely created mandate that marriage is between one man and one woman And we who hold to natural law and the Scriptures are increasingly labeled “bigots.” The assault on our religious freedoms will increase exponentially—and soon, as we refuse to capitulate to the world. Our world is slipping so rapidly away from sanity that I shudder to think what is just ahead. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

“Nevertheless,” writes Luther in the Large Catechism, “I am baptized!” These are times for us to get back to the basics and stand squarely on the firm foundation of Holy Scripture. Luther’s treatment of Baptism in the enclosed excerpt from his Large Catechism is precious. Luther lays out the scriptural teaching on Baptism with all its glorious “consolation,” “promise,” and “victory.” Baptism is the delivery of what was won for us on the cross.

Luther ends his treatment of Baptism with what Baptism means for our daily lives. “A truly Christian life is nothing other than a daily Baptism, once begun and ever to be continued.” “Repentance is really nothing other than Baptism.” “If you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism. For Baptism not only illustrates such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. For in Baptism are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old man, so that the new man may come forth and become strong.”

Baptismal strength is what we need now. We need it as we face a world gone berserk. And we need it as we face this world, together, as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. God grant us all a daily return to Baptism through repentance. God grant us all faith in his blessed Son’s cross. God grant us love for each other, and strength to stand as witnesses before the world, come what may. We are baptized for this moment.

Blessings in Christ,

 

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

P.S. With all the convention material coming your way soon, you are going to have to be “strong”!

Letter on the Augsburg Confession

The following letter was sent to 2013 LCMS Convention delegates from President Harrison.

 

Patrick, Missionary to Ireland, A.D. 2013

March 17, 2013

Dear Delegate,

Grace and peace in Jesus!

In this second mailing we are providing you with a copy of the Augsburg Confession (1530) with some explanatory notes, taken from the wonderful Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord (CPH, 2006).

I am asking you to carefully read this brief and basic confession of our Lutheran Church. The section, “Confessional Subscription: An Evangelical Act,” explains why we all subscribe to this confession. The Bible is God’s Word to us. The confession is our response to God, and before all people, regarding what we are convinced the Bible teaches about Jesus. “But you, who do you say that I am!” (Mark 8:27; cf. Heb. 4:14; 10:23; Rom. 10:10; 1 John 2:23). The thrust of the Augsburg Confession is about keeping the Gospel front and center. This confessional standard is enshrined in the constitution of all of our congregations, in our Synod’s constitution, and is solemnly subscribed to by all of our church workers when they are ordained, commissioned, and installed.

Luther claimed the content of the Augsburg Confession as his own work, even though his sidekick, Philip Melanchthon, wrote it. But in a real way it is the great layman’s confession, being signed by the Lutheran princes. It speaks to a context that was heavily Roman Catholic, as the European empire at the time was officially Roman Catholic. It does, however, also mention and reject some teachings of the more radical Protestants.

Herman Sasse often pointed out that in Lutheran churches where people said, “I don’t want to hear the Confessions, just give me the Bible,” the authority of the Bible, too, was soon lost. That is because our Augsburg Confession takes the Bible seriously. And as you’ll see, or be reminded (I’m re-reading it, too, pastors!), the Augsburg Confession is finally a very pastoral document, aimed at delivering the Gospel to people troubled about their salvation.

We must never allow the Augsburg Confession to be pitted against “mission,” or vice versa. The Augsburg Confession is a solid confession of the teaching of the Bible, and a great aid and incentive for us to share the Gospel and all its teachings with the whole world.

As you read the “Augustana” (as it’s sometimes called), you will no doubt recognize the very broad agreement we have in the Missouri Synod on many, many topics. There will also be areas where our confession will challenge us to improve our teaching and practice for the sake of the Gospel.

I hope you enjoy it! You remain in my daily prayers, and I covet yours.

Blessings in Jesus,

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

A Plea for Delegates to Be at Prayer

The following letter was sent to 2013 LCMS Convention delegates from President Harrison.

 

Ash Wednesday, A.D. 2013

Dear Delegate,

Grace and peace in Jesus!

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:4–10).

I have very intentionally chosen this verse from St. Paul as my first communication with you, the delegates to the 65th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. St. Paul reveals his constant prayer of thanksgiving for a church beset with challenges but blessed with gifts—very much like our Synod—encouraging them by the Gospel and appealing to them to be unified in Christ.

You, dear delegates, are “Baptized for This Moment.” You are born again of the Spirit (John 3:5, Titus 3:5). The same Spirit of God teaches us to pray and even intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray (Rom. 8:26 ff.) out of sheer exasperation (not uncommon in the case of Missouri Synod convention delegates!). Following the apostolic example, the place for all of us to begin in preparation for the convention this summer is prayer for the Church (Ps. 4:1; Prov. 15:29; Matt. 6:5 ff., 9:38, 26:41; Luke 11:1 ff.; Acts 1:14, 6:5; Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17; James 5:13). The Lord Himself invites us to pray for peace in the “house of the Lord” (Ps. 122). Jesus prayed for His disciples (Luke 22:32) and for us (John 17) and taught His disciples to pray (Matt. 6:9–13). As our precious Savior, He intercedes constantly on our behalf with the Father (1 John 2:1). And Jesus loves it when we pray and promises to hear us (Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, Introduction).

LCMS President H. C. Schwan (d. 1905) once made some remarkable observations on the importance of Jesus’ own directive for prayer regarding the Church’s mission to share the Gospel:

“Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Remarkable words! We would certainly have expected something else. He did not say, “Now go to it, My disciples. Run, go, grab hold of the work. Don’t wait. Everyone go out in any way he knows how or can do so! Only get to work now!” Not so. Nor does He say, “Put your heads together, make wise calculations, think through all sorts of means and ways! Any means is acceptable, if it only leads to the goal!” Rather, He says, “Implore! Pray! That is the first thing.” Thus our Lord held that that which is regarded as the very least is the most necessary, most important, and most effective. He himself prayed much; [He] spent many a lonely night in solitary prayer, began all His work with prayer. He Himself had also first prayed before he chose His apostles. Note this well! It is so easily forgotten! . . . Praying is not merely the first thing we are to do, but properly and actually, everything that we have to do. If we only pray as the Lord Christ wills it be prayed for, so all other matters come of themselves, or (in order to say it more correctly) everything that remains, the Lord does Himself. He promised indeed with clear words: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). (At Home in the House of My Fathers [CPH, 2011, page 559])

Indeed, Schwan goes on to say that as we “pray the Lord of the harvest, send workers,” we’d better get ready because the Lord may soon be sending us!

Friends, to help us all grow in the gift of prayer, I’m sending you a remarkable little document by Martin Luther: A Simple Way to Pray—For Peter, the Master Barber. As Luther sat getting a hair cut, his barber shared with him his struggles with prayer. Luther responded with this beautiful little booklet. Here, Luther reveals his own method of praying texts from the Bible and Small Catechism. There is always debate about whether prayers should be read or simply flow uncoerced from the heart, as the words come. It is Luther’s genius to say “yes” to both of these. Luther begins with a text. (In his booklet, he uses the First Article of the Creed, but any text can be chosen based upon the occasion or need.) Then he prays the text according to a four-fold pattern. 1. Instruction, 2. Thanksgiving, 3. Confession, 4. Prayer. (I call it “I.T.C.P.” to remember the pattern.) As you will note, Luther says that when the Spirit prompts through the Word of God, one must let the thoughts flow in prayer. Let me demonstrate with a verse applicable to our upcoming convention: “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

  • Instruction: Dear Heavenly Father, You instruct us in this Psalm that unity in the Church is pleasing to You and is Your heartfelt desire for us, Your children. We know that division in the Church grieves You, especially when it impedes the sharing of the Gospel.
  • Thanksgiving: We give You thanks that Your Word is very clear on the necessity of unity in faith and life in the Church, while also teaching us that we are not all the same, and there are varieties of gifts and vocations in the Church. We thank You for the unity we have enjoyed. It is Your doing, not ours.
  • Confession: We confess that we are by nature sinful. We often are cold and indifferent to Your Word. Our hearts are filled with jealously, envy, and anger at each other. Our pride causes us to fail to repent and seek reconciliation. Our many sins and failings embroil us in controversy in our homes, families, churches, circuits, districts, and Synod. Our lack of unity and love weakens our witness to Your saving Gospel. We deserve nothing but wrath.
  • Prayer: O Lord Jesus, forgive us. Renew us. Give us humble hearts. Instruct us together by Your Word. Give us unity in faith and love. We thank You for Your blessed and clear Word, and for the many blessings of our church (congregation, district, and Synod). We confess that we are nothing but sinners, and if this Synod depends on us and our doing, we are lost. Give us great joy in the daily renewal of baptism! Teach us that we are “Baptized for This Moment,” and that we have a sacred worldwide task of sharing the Gospel for the spread of Your kingdom. And cause us at this convention to realize in every way, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”

You will of course find many biblical texts that are helpful for your prayers. Our convention theme verse is rich with prayer potential! I.T.C.P.! “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” I’ll be praying the Litany (LSB 288 ff.; LW, pages 279 ff.; TLH, pages 110 ff.) constantly as we close in on July. Please commit to prayer today for this convention. The challenges before us are monumental.

That’s more than enough for today. I’ll be sending you something to study every few weeks as we head toward convention. I plead for your prayers for me, as this is the first convention I’ve chaired, and I have much to learn.

In the Name of Jesus,

 

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Ordination at Roppingi Lutheran Church


Roppingi Lutheran Church is located in midtown Tokyo. Roppongi (六本木) means “six trees.” A large number of expatriates live here and it is the location of a number of embassies and businesses.


Roppingi Lutheran Church was begun by Rev. Dr. William Danker in 1948. US Military chaplains identified properties that were located in prime areas at economical prices. As a result, the Missouri Synod was able to purchase the property that today resides in midtown Tokyo.


Today was a particularly joyous occasion as Tomohiro Fujiki was ordained as the youngest pastor (27 years old) in the Japan Lutheran Church. President Kumei ordained Tomohiro Fujiki on the 1st Sunday after Easter (7 April 2013).


The LCMS guests (Collver, Masaki, Golter) were invited to participate in the ordination, along with 12 other clergy living in Japan. Dr. Masaki, Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, is pictured above laying hands on Fujiki and quoting from Matthew 17:6, “Listen to him.” Rev. Randy Golter, Executive Director of the Office of International Mission, quoted from 2 Tim 4:2, “Preach the Word.”


Dr. Collver cited Titus 2:1, “But you publicly speak what accords with sound / healthy doctrine.” The Greek word for “sound” is related to the English word “hygiene.” The teaching or doctrine that is preached is clean / pure / healthy. This “healthy” doctrine keeps the body of Christ healthy, pure, and clean. Preaching pure doctrine is the task Pastor Fujiki was given.


After Pastor Fujiki was ordained, he celebrated the Lord’s Supper.


The congregation receives Holy Communion from newly ordained Pastor Fujiki and the other assisting pastors.


After the service, the pastors who participated in the service and the attending congregation gathered for a group photograph.


Rev. Kumei, President of the Japan Lutheran Church, talks with Dr. Collver and Rev. Golter at the reception. President Kumei indicated he was pleased with the visit and hopes that the Japan Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod could work together with renewed energy in Japan.

The visit between the Japan Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod representatives went very well. The people of the Japan Lutheran Church showed great hospitality and kindness to us. We look forward to what The Lord might work between us in the future.

– Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Fujimi 1-Chōme,Chiyoda,Japan

Holy Hope Lutheran HighSchool Opening Service


On Saturday, 6 April 2013, we attended the opening service of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School. In Japan, April (like September is in the United States) is the beginning of the school year. Also unlike America, the opening service in Japan is as important for the parents and children to attend as graduation.


Holy Hope Lutheran School is 92 years old. About 30 years after the school’s founding, the LCMS purchased the building to assist in the mission of the church.
This photo shows all the people attending the opening service.


For the 2013 academic year, there are 55 students in the junior high and 377 in the high school.


In 1972, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) contributed funds to assist in the completion of a building.


The educational policy of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School “bases its educational principles on Christianity, and strives to educate its students to revere God, love their neighbor, value righteousness, and pursue faith in Christ.


LCMS pastor, Rev. Michael Piescer, the chaplain of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School, opened the service with an invocation, prayer, and hymn.


It was impressive to see the children answer the roll call during the opening service. It also was good to see how the LCMS was working with our partners in Japan.


Riding on the subway to the high school.

Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Nakayama,Hanno,Japan