By now you have more than likely seen or heard of the study recently out in the New England Journal of Medicine seeking to show that women who have had abortions have no more psychological problems than other women who are pregnant. This article, by Danish researchers who followed a number of women who gave birth along with a number who had abortions, will probably be used by the pro-abortion folks to say, “See, it’s no big deal. You can have an abortion with no real consequences. The pro-life people are lying to you.”
For another perspective on this, go to an article by Dr. Priscilla Coleman at www.LifeNews.com. Dr. Coleman, a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, shows that not only is the Danish study biased, but she cites at least 35 recent studies that do show a definite link between abortion and increased threats to mental health. Check it out.
But while the scientists fight it out, if you are interested, go talk with any pastor with a little experience. More than likely he has dealt with women who have had abortions or are struggling with the question of abortion. In reviewing my own pastoral work, without breaking the confessional seal, I can personally attest to this. The problems are numerous and long lasting. After all, no matter how you spin it, an abortion is the death of a defenseless human being. No amount of cover up or ideological fulminations can change or soften that.
The scourge of abortion, however, is just one facet of our culture’s fascination with death. “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the saying in news rooms. Blood, death and scandal sell. What’s the death toll? We ask. Nine people dead in Kabul from a bombing by the Taliban. (Of course, it’s too “politically incorrect” to ask what is the death toll for abortion!) Let a famous person be shot, say a congresswoman along with a bunch of others, and the topic takes on a life of its own on the talk shows. Will the perpetrator get the death penalty? If so, what will that solve?
Yes, this “culture of death” (as Pope John Paul II called our society) even holds out death as a solution to problems – euthanasia, the death penalty, and especially abortion, are actions people think will take care of a problem. But when you really think about it, no death solves anything. It’s always ultimately a sign of a deeper issue, our estrangement from the God of Life (indeed, one big issue for a woman post-abortion is the question, “how can God love me now, after I’ve done this?”).
Our God lays out in His Word the way of life for us. Yet human beings in their sin choose to go their own way. We want what we want, not what God wants. And often what we want will come only at the expense of another. There’s the reason we die. There’s the reason we attempt to make death a solution.
In the midst of all this talk about death, Jesus has planted His church as a sign of life! Life here and life forever! We proclaim Him as the one who bled and died for us and rose again in victory over death. If you look into the tomb of every other religious leader, you will find nothing but bones and dust. Looking into the tomb of Jesus, they found nothing but some grave clothes. There was no body there, because Jesus lives!
“‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’” the angels asked the women. “‘Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words…” (Luke 24:5-8).
What the world sees as final, God has turned inside out. What our culture considers the end, in the hands of Jesus, becomes a new beginning. It is counter to everything we normally expect. When all is said and done, the only thing we have to give to God is our death. But in the cross of Jesus, God Himself received our death, and in the resurrection of Jesus, God Himself reverses the rule of death.
Now when we are baptized, the Spirit of God unites us with Jesus in His death and resurrection. That’s why, when you confess your sins, even the sin of abortion, you are bringing to God your death, but in the absolution, in the forgiveness of sins by His blood, Jesus gives you new life in place of your death.
Christ has destroyed death, our destroyer. “This is the will of my Father,” Jesus said, “that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). The whole world is headed for death, but Jesus promises life and the resurrection of our bodies. It is as if Jesus were to say, “Here, give me your death because in return I give you my life. Let me have even THAT sin,” says Jesus to the person wondering how God can love her, “for I have already taken it to my cross.”
When you receive the body and blood of Jesus in His Supper, this is also the sure sign of this resurrection life Jesus gives, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It takes faith to see it, but it’s there! Jesus promised!
Because He lives, I pray our churches can be sure signs of life in the midst of death, signs of the resurrection, signs of the mercy of Christ, signs of eternal hope for all. I pray that we speak loudly for life. I pray we are the arms of Christ’s love and care for people so desperate they are considering something as terrible as abortion. Much more can be said here, but baptized into Christ we are called to do everything possible to be sign posts for life – pointing always to the life that God gives in Jesus.
Jesus lives now, calling each of us to follow Him, and to believe that, in Him, despite all the evidence of death, we shall live also! By that life, He sends us into a world of death, to be On the Side of Life!
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President
The Word of God
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).
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 Corinthians 1:9-10).
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (Philippians 1:3-7).
…and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:9).
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
In Greek “Koine” means something “common.” “Koinonia” is the Greek word that describes the act of holding things in common. “Koinonia” is usually done into English with the words “fellowship,” “partnership,” “communion” or “participation,” depending on the context, as in the Scriptures cited above. In the broadest sense, we have “koinonia” with all who are in Christ by faith, living or dead, as we confess, “I believe in … the communion of saints.” When we speak of our unity in Christ, we “believe one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” for there is but one Christ, “one body and one Spirit… one hope… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6, selected portions). This one body of Christ is not The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, but encompasses all believers in Christ.
Where does one find these believers in Christ? Our confessions tell us we will find them wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and the sacraments are given out according to Christ’s institution. It is interesting, is it not, that in each of the passages listed above, when the word “koinonia” is used, what we Lutherans call the means of grace (God’s Word and Sacraments in Christ) are quite often also in view. So in our understanding of Scripture, “Koinonia” is not something we achieve by our efforts, but fellowship is given by Christ, given where He gives all His gifts, namely, in the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. These are the Church’s identifying marks, and the true source of our fellowship in Christ.
Unity, Concord and Harmony
The Task Force for Synodical Harmony identified three important aspects of our life together that needed clear definition: unity, concord and harmony. We observe here that our “life together” in the Gospel includes all three. Here’s how the Task Force summarized them:
Unity: The oneness that all believers in Christ have with each other through Spirit-given faith in Jesus created through the means of grace. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4). This unity cannot be seen by human eyes, but we confess it by faith: “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed).
Concord: The oneness that believers in Christ seek to manifest and express in their confession of the Gospel and “all its articles” (FC SD X, 31). The church’s unity as confessed in the Creed is a “given.” Concord in doctrine and confession is a goal that we “strive to maintain” (Ephesians 4:3) by God’s grace on the basis of his Word. St. Paul urges the Christians at Corinth—and us—to speak the same thing, to avoid divisions, and to be perfectly united in the same mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). The Book of Concord sets forth what we in the LCMS continue to affirm without qualification as a “single, universally accepted, certain, and common form of doctrine,” drawn from the Word of God, that bears faithful witness to the oneness of doctrine and confession that serves as the basis for true concord in the church.
Harmony: The oneness that believers in Christ seek to manifest and express in their life together as God’s people. Paul urges those who are united in Christ and who seek to manifest that unity through concord in doctrine and confession to be eager to maintain this unity “in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). He reminds the Christians at Corinth that Christ-like attitudes and behavior are crucial to their efforts to maintain doctrinal concord (1 Corinthians 13). Above all, says Paul in Colossians, “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14). “Paul urges that there be love in the church to preserve harmony…lest the church disintegrate into various schisms and lest enmities, factions and heresies arise from such schisms” (Ap. IV, 232).
In summary, unity focuses on our oneness with Christians everywhere by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Concord focuses on our oneness in doctrine and practice. Harmony focuses our life together in Christ to be characterized by Christ-like attitudes, particularly love. (Task Force for Synodical Harmony Report to the Board of Directors and Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, pp. 1-2.)
Why A “Koinonia Project”?
In light of these definitions, one of the goals we have in our “life together” as a Synod (developing the three-fold theme of witness, mercy and life together) is to seek, by God’s grace and Spirit in His Word, a greater sense of unity and concord in our Synod under the Word of God for the sake of our witness before the world. We pray that this will also help us toward a greater sense of harmony. There is no denying that we have several areas of disagreement and unresolved problems that plague our life together: questions of worship forms, communion practice, fellowship, church and ministry issues, to name the most obvious. Some would say the differences are usually only matters of practice, yet theology and practice cannot be separated. A pastor’s teaching will be reflected in his practice and a pastor’s practice is his theology in action. There may be varieties of practice that can carry the true teaching (adiaphora), but there are also practices that will negate the true doctrine.
We need to recognize as well that our internal fellowship is stressed and polarized not only by disagreements in theology and practice, but also by the resultant political movements and accompanying sinful personal behaviors.1 For years we have sought to solve theological problems by political means (voting), but this has only perpetuated the polarization to the point that, in the eyes of some, we are a Synod not in fellowship with itself. Others see our Synod as a collection of “aggrieved minorities,” each looking to grab what it can, whenever it can. And the relative anonymity of the internet makes it easy to write in the blogosphere things about people we would probably never say in person.
In contrast, spiritual health and life, unity, concord and harmony come when God, in mercy, works repentance, forgives sinful attitudes in the blood of Jesus, and gives faith, reconciliation and concord, all through His Word. We need to learn again how to deal with one another in terms of Christ and Him crucified and do the hard theological work to help each other hear the Word clearly so that our thinking, speaking and practice are more unified under the Word of God. In essence, then, the true goal of any “Koinonia Project” is repentance and renewal of faith together by means of the Word of God.
That is why this effort cannot become a political process, that is, something determined by close convention votes with winners and losers, but must remain a spiritual and theological movement. Faithful teaching, faithful practice, mutual repentance and forgiveness for the sake of Christ will only be God’s work among us. Our confessions tell us…
God is extravagantly rich in His grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sin is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel); second, through baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters” (SA III, IV).2
In other words, we are called to believe God is at work in our midst through His Word of Law and Gospel to draw us to Himself, not separately, but together in His “koinonia.” All of us constantly need the daily change of heart God works through repentance and faith. The problem belongs to all of us. None of us is exempt. We are each, every last one of us, called to examine our actions and attitudes toward one another so that we confess our sins, trust God’s promise and speak forgiveness to one another.
Repentance and forgiveness will give us what we need for our life together so that we address our theological issues by a thorough process under the Word of God where we come to clear agreement on 1) the points at issue, 2) what we confess together, 3) what we reject and 4) what we will therefore do together, on the basis of Scripture and our confessions. Material produced in this manner then needs to be studied and worked on together throughout the Synod over and over again so that the Word of God has its way with us in our life together, our witness to Christ and our service for the world. The effort to do so we have chosen to call “The Koinonia Project” because we pray God will build and strengthen our unity in the Word of God and our fellowship, our “koinonia” together.
Watch this space and others for more information (we know there is not much detail here – yet!) on the “Koinonia Project” as it will be developed through the President’s Office with the CTCR, the COP, the Seminaries and many others in future months. This is a long term project for which, we pray, this piece has only whetted your appetite! God’s peace to you in Jesus!
— Rev. Herbert C. Mueller Jr.
1 The Task Force for Synodical Harmony gave a preliminary report in the 2010 Synod Convention Workbook, pp. 74ff. In that report and in their report to the COP and BOD cited above, they identified seven aspects of disharmony in the Synod: 1) Inability to deal with diversity; 2) A lack of civility; 3) A politicized culture; 4) Primarily a clergy problem; 5) Poor communication across “party lines”; 6) Lack of accountability; and 7) Distrust. We note here that these are, for the most part spiritual problems – sins – that can be addressed only by repentance and forgiveness.
2 Kolb and Wengert, p. 319, emphasis added.
We believe that God is both almighty and that He is good. He created all things and we look to Him for every blessing. It all comes from God and God alone. That’s what we confess in the Apostles Creed when we say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
Well, if God is both all powerful and completely good, goes the atheist’s objection, why is the world He created full of suffering? Yes, we know that suffering comes from our sinful condition and is part of this fallen world, but our answer needs to say more. Could not God have created a world in which evil and suffering were impossible?
Actually, speculating as to what God might have done, or what kind of universe He might have created, is just not fruitful. The universe God did create is the only one we know.
In the movie Bruce Almighty, if I remember correctly, God “allows” a man named Bruce to have all power. For a while Bruce enjoys walking on water, doing miracles, etc. But then the prayers start pouring in (all by email!). At first, Bruce answers them all individually, but after a while he gets tired and just starts answering them all with “yes.” As a result, the world quickly begins to break down in chaos (as I remember the movie). When the laws of physics start collapsing, God intervenes and takes back control – thankfully!
Why is there suffering? God is not the cause of evil, but here’s the key. The world is full of conflicting wants, needs and demands, all by people who are sinfully turned in on themselves. It’s a condition from which we cannot free ourselves.
When we ask God, why am I suffering? we are usually protesting that we don’t deserve the treatment we think we are receiving. We don’t like to admit that we are part of the problem and that the evil we deplore runs right through each of us. Ah, there’s the rub. Evil is not just out there, it’s in here, in my heart and yours. That’s what we have to confess when we are honest with God.
But what does God do about evil and suffering? He comes. He does not give a three part, logical, reasoned out answer. God comes Himself. That’s what we believe when we confess with St. Paul, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). There is no greater revelation of God in our suffering world than this: God Himself up there in Christ hanging dead on the cross.
There God in Jesus went to the bottom of all that ails us, all the sin that kills us. It killed Him, too, but not for long. He lived again, rising from the dead in wonderful, amazing victory. God’s only answer to our question why? is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So then, also for us, the way to life is through death and resurrection. When we believers in Jesus suffer, we can remember that the pain is only a reminder that one day we will turn in this present mortal body, corrupted by sin as it is, and receive from the Lord Jesus a brand new body. “This perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality … thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 57).
And when the Spirit of God working through God’s Law reveals to us the depths of our sin, He calls us to repent, that is, to be honest with God about our condition and to die to sin so that God may forgive us and raise us to life. This daily dying begins with our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, continues life-long with confession and forgiveness, until we die for the last time and Jesus raises us to life forever (see Romans 6:1-11).
Apart from the cross of Christ, suffering is an unrelenting evil, but in the hand of God, and remembering the cross of Jesus, can we see our suffering as a tool in God’s hand to strip you and me of the things that don’t matter? So that we concentrate all the more on what He has done for us? On what He has in store for our future? On the things that DO matter? “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Oh, I know we still cry out. It still hurts. The pain and grief, both physical and emotional, can seem unbearable at times. But when we cry out, we are crying to the One who knows our condition. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). We look to Him because He will give us His victory, whether now or later.
There’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it! I’m going to hold onto His Word, receive His body and blood, remember His death and resurrection, and hear His promise, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).
This is the greatest thing our almighty creating Father ever did: to send, in eternal love, His one and only Son for us. JESUS is God’s final answer for us. In Him God’s Spirit now calls those who follow Him to reach out in mercy for all who are suffering. This mercy grows from Jesus giving us a life together through His body and blood given and shed for us. Alive in His name now and forever, we bear witness to all He has done for us by His suffering, death and resurrection.
Witness, mercy, life together – all from God’s final answer, in Jesus!
Has that question ever crossed your mind listening to the news? We know that Jesus is Lord of all for the sake of His Church and that nothing will happen outside of what He allows. Evil cannot have free reign, no matter what things look like. God is in control. The problem is, it doesn’t always look that way.
Perhaps more to the point, what is God up to in your life? Your congregation or school? What does the new year of 2011 look like for you? What will it bring? What’s going on in your personal life and family? Is there a plan? Does God know what He’s doing? We are tempted to ask, especially when everything is cloudy for us.
To find out God’s ultimate plan, of course, we have to turn to His Word. That’s the place where He lets us in on what He is really “up to.” Just after Christmas, in my church we read from Ephesians 1. Here are verses 9-10 (my translation, with comments):
“(He has) made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He put forward in Him (Christ), as a plan (an economy, a way of working things out) for the fullness of times, (a plan) to re-head all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth, in Him.”
What impresses us here? Three times in these two verses Paul uses his favorite phrase in Ephesians 1 – “in Him” or “in Christ.” God’s plans are always centered in Christ. His purpose is “put forward” only in Christ. Without Christ crucified and raised from the dead we cannot see or understand what God is up to.
Secondly, in Christ God reveals to us His ultimate goal, what He is really after, no matter what else we talk about. God is in the process of re-heading all things in Christ. If you say, “Wow, that’s cosmic!” You’re right. The NIV translates this verse, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, even Christ.” (1:10b). All things means the whole cosmos, everything that exists. “To bring together under one Head” literally means, “to put the head on again.”
There was a time, you see, when the whole creation knew and lived under its Head. All things were perfect and the whole universe showed Christ as Head. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
Then sin entered in and the world lost its Head and began running around like the proverbial “chicken with its head cut off.” There’s a graphic picture for the world without Christ: running franticly perhaps, but having no real direction (no head) and as good as dead (the life-blood spurting from the headless neck while the unfortunate creature runs aimlessly for a minute or so – excuse me for indulging you in my adolescent memory of butchering chickens with my brother).
Running aimlessly, as good as dead – what’s God’s plan to deal with this? What is God up to now? God aims to put the head on again! To re-head all things in Christ. How?
He gave Christ into death for us, gave Him up for us on the cross where He took all our sin and evil. He raised Him to life, and with Him raised also us. He now gives us His Word to bring life and to reunite us with Christ, our Head.
And THAT is what God is up to in your life, your school, your church, when you hear, read, ponder, study, pray and teach His Word. Cosmic? Yes, beyond your imagination. When a child grows in faith, when anyone is baptized, when people hear the Word of God and take it to heart, when they receive His Body and Blood – it’s a cosmic event! God is re-heading all things in Christ! God is giving Christ as Head for YOU.
But when God unites you with Christ, He also unites you and me with everyone else who believes and is baptized into Christ. We have a life together in Christ. From that life we are called to be a witness to everything God has done to unite us with Christ and with each other. And with Christ as our Head, together we reach out in mercy to a dying world so that we bear witness to this eternal plan of God.
So, no matter what else appears to be going on, take heart in this. God has given you the privilege of being part of His cosmic plan. You have your life from Christ, He is our Head. You are part of God’s purpose to bring life to many more, to unite “all things, things in heaven and things on earth,” in Christ.
And there you have it! Witness, mercy and life together in Christ for a new year! That’s what God is “up to” here on earth, and in heaven above.
A blessed 2011 to one and all!
Take a good look at the logo at the top of this page. witness, mercy, life together interlock around the cross. Our life together, our fellowship (koinonia), flows from Christ who received our sin and death on the cross so that He might give us His holiness and righteousness. Forgiven and made alive in His resurrection, we testify, bear witness (martyria) to all that He has done, confessing His saving truth before the world. Sent out with His name, we cannot help but show His mercy by serving (diakonia) others in His love.
If one is weak, the others shrivel as well. As each grows stronger, the others increase accordingly. However you may order witness, mercy, life together, each interlocks with the other two, and all of them flow from the cross and into each other. As witness grows, it leads to more works of mercy in the world and draws us closer in our life together. The Church’s work of mercy increases opportunities for witness and strengthens our life together. Our fellowship in the Gospel, our life together, draws us into God’s Word to forgive, renew, restore, and send us out in witness and in mercy.
witness, mercy, life together are helping us keep our bearings as we begin the work of restructuring the national office of Synod, for at the heart of each of them is the cross.
- Jesus speaks of giving Himself, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
- Peter declared that Jesus “carried our sins in His body on the tree in order that dying to sin we might live to righteousness. With His wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
- In speaking of the faith of Abraham, which God counted for righteousness, Paul concludes, “It will be reckoned to us who believe in Him who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead, who was handed over on account of our trespasses and raised again for our justification. Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 4:24-5:1).
These three interlocking themes, then, grow from our justification by faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The heart of our witness for Christ must be the proclamation of Law and Gospel—namely, that the whole world is dead in sin and in need of resurrection. But God has done what we could never do: declared us righteous on account of Christ, covered our sin, and raised us to life in Him. The real motivation for mercy, then, is that Christ died for all, that all are precious to Him. Our life together also flows from our justification, for Christ Himself is our peace and the connection between us, since we are baptized into His body. Now cleansed and fed by Him, we draw our life from His body and blood in His Supper, from His “flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
So everything radiates from the cross, more specifically, flows from the means by which Christ gives the bene-fits of His cross—the proclamation of Law and Gospel, the life-giving water of Baptism, and the holy meal of His body and blood. These are not abstract ideas but concrete realities, for God sends flesh and blood pastors into His ministry to preach and teach His Word. And God makes it all real, so that we can see it and touch it for ourselves when He gathers His Church around pulpit, altar, and font: real, living, flesh-and-blood people, washed and absolved and fed with the real Word of God in real water, bread, and wine. It happens in local congregations, where God sends His people into the world to bear witness for Christ, to serve others, and to live together in love. witness, mercy, life together are concrete realities.
What does this mean for our work as a Synod? We could do many things, but as our two new policy boards write policy for the future of the national office, we need to apply our limited resources to building (and helping districts build) the capacity of our congregations and our international partners’ congregations in these core values of witness, mercy, life together. Several basic assumptions and leading questions follow:
- Lutheran congregations engage in Lutheran missions in order to plant Lutheran congregations. This ought be self-evident among us. Lutheran congregations are the places where God is at work in the Means of Grace to seek and to save the lost, to send people in witness and mercy, and where the people of God enjoy life together in Christ. What are the best ways to help districts, congregations and our partners around the world plant new Lutheran congregations and refresh old ones? In world mission, what are we doing to plant Lutheran congregations? How are we helping our partners plant Lutheran congregations? In national mission, how does the Synod help districts and congregations plant Lutheran congregations? How do we prepare our people to witness in their daily vocations?
- Lutheran congregations reach out in mercy because Christ had mercy on us. We demonstrate mercy simply because there are people in need. As a Synod, how do we help districts and congregations grow in mercy? Internationally, how does what we do help our partners show mercy through their congregations? How are our people moved to works of mercy?
- Lutheran congregations live together in love because we are connected in Christ and share one confession of Christ. How will the national Synod work to build fellowship (koinonia)? How do we help our partners grow in their capacity and their life together? How do we strengthen our colleges and seminaries for the sake of our life together? How will the Holy Spirit through us recruit pastors and commissioned ministers for our congregations and partners around the world? We have the best confession in the world, bringing the greatest possible comfort to penitent sinners. How do we clarify and strengthen our confessional witness around the world? How will God use our efforts to conserve and promote the unity of the true faith among us?
- Everything God does among us to build capacity for works of mercy and to strengthen our life together will also increase our capacity for witness to the lost. We have many congregations that are focused inward. How will Jesus, through us, call them to be focused outward in witness and mercy, so as to be God’s means for drawing others into the life together we have in Christ? What will you do to ask all these questions and more in your congregation?
These are only a beginning, but the Board for National Mission and the Board for International Mission are both at work, together with your staff in the International Center, to work out the details of the restructuring plan adopted by the Synod in 2010 Resolution 8-08A. To be sure, many judgment calls still have to be made, but our guiding question is this: how will God through our Synod strengthen our congregations and our partners in witness, mercy, life together in the Gospel?
May God show us the way to “make it real”!