And for this reason He assumed our nature, that in that nature, which was under the Law, satisfaction and fulfillment might be made. —Martin Chemnitz
The Fall is a time to celebrate. Many say that Fall is their favorite season. (It is mine.) The leaves change from shades of green to vibrant yellow, red, and orange; cool afternoons have replaced the midday heat of summer and kitchens fill with the delightful aroma of dinners prepared with love and care. That is Fall at its best.
But, the fall can mean something entirely different; something much less appealing. The fall is a universal tragedy, and it has consequences for all humanity. Mankind’s fall is marked by sin, death, and separation. This fall is an ugly plague upon humanity, and unlike the season, it does not pass with time. It is an eternal reality.
Stuck in the grips of the fall, humanity attempts to cope by various means to assuage the reality. Most notably, they ignore it. They live in the consequences of the fall ignorant of the truth; yet, something very real pierces their fantasies. It is the law.
The law makes its presence known through ruthless and persistent truth telling. A glaring mirror provides a strong dose of reality. Standing naked before the law every man, woman, and child is condemned. They are hopelessly guilty. Every indiscretion, every evil thought, every malicious intention sinks the sinner deeper into despair. Their fantasy crashes into hopelessness.
The law has driven them to the end of their delusions. Thanks be to God that there is more to reality and truth than sin, death, and hell. There is hope in the Savior.
God brings another truth to the fallen. He brings forgiveness, peace, and eternal life. As St. Paul writes to the Romans,
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This message of hope in the atoning work of Christ is for all sinners.
There is cause for celebrating. Not a celebration of fantasy but of reality, a reality that proclaims liberty to those in the grips of sin through Christ’s atonement alone. They have been baptized and washed in the waters of redemption. In this they have comfort for theirs is the Kingdom of God, an eternal reality. Now every day, every moment is a cause for celebration for there is justification apart from works of the law. Just as St. Paul wrote,
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
What is the Kingdom of God? Answer: Simply what we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. To this end he also gave his Holy Spirit to teach us this through his holy Word and to enlighten and strengthen us in faith by his power. The Second Petition, Large Catechism
Another senseless tragedy. Americans awakened to another horrible outbreak of murders on Monday morning. Men and women went to the Navy Yard in Washington, DC to begin another work week, but instead, a lone gunman attacked and murdered them without an apparent motive. Law enforcement officers engaged the assailant, Aaron Alexis, in order to protect those under attack. Mr. Alexis was killed—either by law enforcement officers or by his own hand.
Over the next weeks, government agencies will sort through the events and produce a comprehensive report. The report, no doubt, will include the timeline of events, the murderer’s personal and professional histories, the security measures that are in place to prevent such attacks, and recommendations to improve personnel screening and methods to increase security. Lawmakers will conduct hearings and government executives will respond to questions and render their professional assessments.
Will such senseless attacks ever stop? Will men, women, and children no longer be safe in their schools, churches, work places, entertainment venues, and their own homes? People from across our nation are pondering such questions . . . again.
What can anyone do? Is it hopeless? Within the arsenal of governmental capabilities nothing exists to address the hopelessness of humanity’s condition. As Jesus said to His disciples,
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Yet, there is hope.
The nature of humanity is desperately evil and inclined to selfishness, indifference, and pride. Laws and ordinances do suppress evil acts; yet, they do not resolve the core problem. God addresses this matter, human depravity, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s intervention in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ addressed sin and gave humanity the only way of hope. St. Paul wrote to the Romans of humanity’s condition and the only hope of humanity. That way is the way of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says,
But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
St. Paul continues,
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
This hope the world will never understand. Only by the preaching of Christ will mankind receive hope to endure. Nations have ascended to unparalleled heights and sunk to great depths, but the Kingdom of God remains forever. This eternal Kingdom of God is the gift of hope for sinners through the grace of God in Christ. Be assured that no man can wrest it away from the baptized in Christ, be it in life or in death. Amen.
Rev. Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN
Having spent 26 years in the Army chaplaincy, I did not have the opportunity to engage in Synod’s conventions. So, this was my “maiden voyage.” I thought that I would share my thoughts about the convention with you from my perspective as a Lutheran who ministered in a religiously diverse environment often supervising and being supervised by folks who did not share a Lutheran worldview. What joy there was to be among such a great cloud of witnesses!
The past week was a pinnacle moment of life together as Synod. In convention, men and women from every district and circuit met to share in worship and prayer, engage in discussion and collaboration, and define processes and procedures to enhance walking together as one people united in baptism. This unity of so many is cause for celebration.
There is cause for celebration for we as Synod believe and confess that there is one Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He, alone, atones for sin and justifies sinners. There is cause for celebration in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. There is cause for celebration for the unity we share in the Confessions of the Church.
This unity is strength in time of suffering and persecution. As the culture rapidly moves away from traditional Christian values, the Church will find consolation in this unity. She will prevail standing united under the cross of Christ.
Some may suggest that the gathering of the Synod in convention was less than a perfect unity. If one assesses voting on resolutions as perfect unity, all resolutions passing or failing by 100%, no one may argue the point; however, this seems to lose sight of the Synod in the world and within Christendom.
There is not perfect harmony in the Church militant. After all, Synod is comprised of sinners redeemed by the atoning work of Christ. Sinners called to faith in baptism gathered together to do the work that Christ bids them—congregations, circuits, districts, Synod–one in Christ living together in this world of sin until that time when our Lord returns in glory.
There is cause for rejoicing. We who are many are one in Christ Jesus. This unity is a living testimony to the world, and this convention was a testimony to the Gospel that Christ calls, forgives, and loves sinners. Few in Christendom share such a profound unity.
St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of our unity. He writes:
For even as the body is one and [yet] has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. But now there are many members, but one body. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
Thank you for this moment to share with you as a member of the body of Christ, and may this be a moment for remembering who we are as one people—one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Sola Dei Gloria
Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
On June 14, 1985, Christian Zimmermann expected to perform his duties as Flight Engineer for a routine flight from Athens to Rome. Others had different plans for TWA flight 847. En route to Rome terrorists hijacked the Boeing 747. Terrorists, armed with a pistol and grenades, broke into the cockpit and beat Pastor Zimmerman, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, and commanded the pilot to change course. Ultimately, following 16 days of captivity, the hostages were released save one Navy diver who was murdered by the terrorists while negotiating to refuel the aircraft.
Throughout the ordeal, passengers were subjected to interrogation, beatings, and threats. Pastor Zimmermann’s father, who was very ill, died during his captivity. The terrorists reported it to him expecting him to lash out with rage. Rather than responding with anger, he shared the hope that his father had in Jesus Christ. His response baffled his captors and provided a further opportunity for him to speak to them about the saving work of Jesus.
Whether or not any of the terrorists ever came to faith is unknown. What is known is that during this most horrifying experience, God used His baptized servant to share the Gospel with men violently opposed to the faith.
This past Friday, June 14, 2013, was another day to remember in our Synod’s history. Thirty career and “GEO” missionaries were sent to the mission field to bring the Gospel to those who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church sends them to people in all parts of the world in order that those who live in sin and darkness may hear that Jesus has died for their sins and risen from the dead conquering sin, death, and hell.
Violence and hatred, so prevalent in our world today, will remain until our Lord returns. As our Lord tarries, the Church has the opportunity to bring the message of eternal peace to men and women who live under the oppression of sin and death. The Church sends Her missionaries to the oppressed that they may receive the Word that frees them, that they may receive the water of life that redeems them and the eternal food at the altar that sustains them.
Pray for our missionaries that God will bless their ministries and sustain them and that the lost will hear and believe the Good News of forgiveness of sin and life in Christ. Amen.
Rev. Greg Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
–1 Peter 2:9
Threats by North Koreans to attack neighboring countries and the United States prompted international debate about the rationality of North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un. Closer to home, the bombings in Boston prompted a similar discussion about the rationality of two young men, one a teenager, who attacked Boston Marathon participants–men, women and children. Senseless acts of violence.
Evil is senseless and afflicts society and confounds the Church. When evil produces outbursts such as those in Boston, Christians offer consolation to the victims, and more often than not, lament the acts as senseless and irrational. When evil afflicts the Church within, it often goes unnoticed. It grows and festers with impunity.
Less celebrated evil presents itself as sensible, even reasonable. This low-profile evil works quietly over time and finds a willing host where it can breed and grow. It may take years, even decades, to manifest itself. This evil, this evil that incubates within the host, is the most insidious and most dangerous.
The Church combats such evil by the faithful preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The Word and Sacraments offer life to the Church when afflicted by evil within. Without such means, the Church surrenders to evil and rots and decays until it is no more a Church but a spiritual corpse.
Preaching Christ’s atoning work is the Church’s life-saving message for the world; its special calling. Anything else accommodates evil; tolerates the discomfort, and leaves the world without hope. This accommodation is sin at its worst for it not only is self-destructive, it is the manifestation of hopelessness.
Evil will remain until our Lord returns in glory. Whether evil explodes on the world or resides dormant within, it is the Church that offers the sure and certain final victory. Let the Church carry out its work faithfully that sinners would be brought to life, delivered from evil, and from sin, death, and hell.
May God in Christ bless and keep the Church. Amen.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer