Note: The following sermon was preached this morning, June 22, 2015, at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis by the Reverend Doctor Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director for the Office of International Missions, for the opening of Missionary Training for the current cohort of missionaries to be trained and sent into the worldwide mission fields of our Synod. By God’s grace, we are very close to the goal of doubling the number of missionaries sent into the field, a goal adopted by the 2013 Synod Convention. God be praised! + Herb Mueller
“God does not do things lightly”
God likes Words — He called creation into existence through Words. God loves water, because He destroys our flesh with it, while delivering us as newborn babes in Christ through it. He is very pleased with bread and wine because He cradles His flesh within His promise so we may taste and see how good the Lord truly is. But what God loves most, what He cares for most — is you.
God loves people. He loves you; made in His image, in His likeness, reborn in the likeness of Christ. Because through you, He still speaks His Word of salvation into this world. Through the mouths of preachers people believe, through the conversations of a wife over coffee with a neighbor tears of comfort can freely pour, through a simple child’s witness some of the greatest saints have believed.
And this brings us to some very special guests with us this morning. Welcome to our Summer Missionary class of 2015; our missionaries, spouses, and children. We are very pleased to have you join us here for the next two weeks during orientation.
It has been awhile now since you first started this process hasn’t it? But now the long deliberations are over. Your church has called you, God has called you, and you accepted that call. It is time to be like Abraham, and to follow where God has called you — not knowing everything, but knowing your God would never steer you wrongly. You go to minister and love a people you do not even know yet, all the while leaving people you already know and love — but don’t worry, God knows all and knows whom you are to love.
Big changes, lots of changes. But remember, your God is the One true God who does make big changes, who does do things greatly, and is the One who risks everything to go after that One lost sheep. That is your God. That is who He is. And so He has called you into a life that mirrors the very nature of God Himself — He does big things.
This morning God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to you. And He said to you, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel, I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Your God does not do things lightly. He doesn’t take the easy way out. He is a God who takes the long road, He is a God who stays the course no matter what, He is the God who is willing to go through for Himself a suffering and a death, so that there could be a resurrection.
God doesn’t take the easy way out. Whether He is cradling you and your life, or desiring to draw the whole world under His wing – God doesn’t do things lightly. God is not satisfied with staying in one corner of the world – that would be too light a thing. God refuses to close His mouth and speak to only one race of people – that would be too light a thing. Your God just doesn’t do things lightly. He never has and He never will. It is not in His nature. The whole world is His and all that is in it, and He desperately wants that world and her people to come back under His protective wing.
Each of you here have been called by name to also never live your lives lightly. Whether you are a missionary, or a spouse, a child, whether you are someone who is working here in this building in the International Center — you have all been called by name. God knows who you are. He knows how you are attacked. He knows who attacks you. And our God does not abandon you to be ravaged by your flesh — because that would be too light a thing — He gives us a new life in Christ.
Our God doesn’t abandon you to be a people who see no hope from day to day — that would be too light a thing — you have a lasting hope in Christ that no one and no thing can ever take away from you. When we sin, God does not turn His face away from us embarrassed — that would be too light a thing — He looks us square in the eyes and says, “I forgive you.”
And when we die, and after the memory of who we are has faded from our friends and families minds, after our tombstones themselves have turned to dust by rain and wind and time, even after our bones have reverted back to dust — your God will not forget you, He will not abandon you — your God will never, never forget you or the promise He made to you that whoever has been united to Christ in His death through baptism … will also be united to Christ in His resurrection from the dead.
Today is a day of celebration for all of us here whether serving as missionaries or working here in the International Center. Because today we see how our God acts — He doesn’t act lightly, He goes big, He goes for the whole world to bring His light to all the nations. And He goes really big by going really small; He knows your name, He knows your illness, He knows your sin, He knows what tempts you and who tempts you … and your God stakes His claim upon your life and your future just as much as He has staked a claim upon this whole world so that neither death nor suffering nor all the powers of Hell can ever pluck you out of His hand … because, let’s face it, we worship a God who does not do things lightly. Amen.
And now may the peace of our God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Watch the dedication service of the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany, on Sunday, May 3. The service begins at 8 a.m. Central Daylight Time, and it will be broadcast live on livestream.com/thelcms/wittenberg.
The project is a joint effort by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Independent Evangelical—Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany and the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) to establish a distinctly Lutheran presence in the very cradle of the Reformation.
The International Lutheran Center will provide the place, the opportunity and the inspiration for people to gather and learn about the Gospel Luther preached there. It will provide a unique venue, attractive to all of our existing and emerging partners worldwide, to help us share the Gospel that Luther rediscovered in the 16th century — the Gospel our world desperately needs to hear today.
Watch the service in real time with the live stream or later by accessing the archived version.
Learn more about The Wittenberg Project: thewittenbergproject.org
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is blessed with university leadership that seeks to reflect the confession and practice of the church. The presidents of the Concordia University System (CUS), meeting in Peachtree, Ga., in October 2014, and in Asheville, N.C., Feb. 9, 2015, have endorsed* the following identity statement and its protocols as a means to demonstrate their support for the Christian teaching, Lutheran confession and practice of the church. Pastors, congregations and parents are urged to support these faithful presidents and send students as well as financial assistance so that their mission as institutions of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod might flourish and display the truth that all true knowledge and learning is rightly ordered in relation to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.
While some have noted the drift of colleges and universities away from the churches that gave birth to them, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod can give thanks for such a clear and forthright expression of solidarity with the church. Such commitment by the presidents is distinctive and, by God’s grace, will recommend their institutions not only to members of the church but to those publics that are seeking such a full and transparent commitment to the integration of the finest in university education with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lutheran Identity Standards for CUS Institutions
As educational institutions of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the colleges and universities of the Concordia University System confess the faith of the Church. The Concordias uphold the teachings of sacred Scripture and its articulation in the Lutheran Confessions. This includes the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ — true God and true man — is the sole way to God’s mercy and grace; that at the beginning of time the Triune God created all things; that life is sacred from conception to natural death; and that marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred gift of God’s creative hand — over against the reductionistic assumptions of many in our culture who view men and women as only transitory and material beings.
As educational institutions of the LCMS, the Concordias are committed to providing an excellent, robust curriculum in the liberal arts and professional studies, which together equip students for various vocations of service to church and society. As C.F.W. Walther wrote, “As long as and wherever the Christian church flourished, it always and everywhere proved itself to be a friend and cultivator of all good arts and sciences, gave its future servants a scholarly preparatory training, and did not disdain to permit its gifted youth at its schools of higher learning to be trained by the standard products of even pagan art and science.[i] ”
Accordingly, the colleges and universities of the Concordia University System affirm and promise to uphold these identity standards:
1. Identity statements
The institution’s mission statement (and/or vision statement) clearly identifies it as a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) institution, as do the institution’s primary print and electronic publications.
2. Governing board
All of the institution’s regents are active members in good standing of LCMS congregations (Bylaw 188.8.131.52 – 4).[ii]
3. Senior leadership
The president and the senior leaders over academics, student life, admissions and athletics are active members in good standing of LCMS congregations, and all faithfully participate in worship and religious activities on campus and in their local congregations.
Each tenure track or continuing-level faculty search is given optimal exposure among members of congregations of the LCMS to identify faculty who are qualified in their respective academic disciplines and are members of LCMS congregations.
Ideally, all faculty members are active members of LCMS congregations. When academically qualified LCMS members are not available, faculty members will be Christians who affirm, at minimum, the content of the Ecumenical Creeds and are members of Christian congregations. All faculty members promise to perform their duties in harmony with the truths of Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the doctrinal statements of the LCMS (cf. Bylaw 184.108.40.206.2).
The majority of the full-time faculty are members of LCMS congregations. In cases where this standard is not met, the institution will develop a plan to reach this minimum standard and submit it to the CUS.
The institution has an ongoing faculty and staff development program required of all faculty, senior administrators and senior staff members that clearly explains the tenets of LCMS higher education and what it means to be a faculty, administrator or staff member at a CUS institution. Adjunct or part-time faculty members engage in a similar faculty development program that likewise explains the fundamental tenets of LCMS higher education and what it means to be a part-time faculty member at an LCMS institution.
5. Theology faculty
All theology faculty (full-time and part-time) are active members in good standing of LCMS congregations and fully affirm the theological confession of the LCMS. As the LCMS Bylaws indicate, all full-time theology faculty receive prior approval from the CUS Board of Directors before being appointed or called (Bylaw 220.127.116.11).
6. Academic freedom and responsibility
All full-time faculty acknowledge their acceptance of the CUS statement of Academic Freedom and Responsibilities. All faculty, both full- and part-time, pledge to perform their duties in harmony with Scripture, the Confessions and the Synod’s doctrinal statements (Bylaw 18.104.22.168.2).
7. Faith and learning
In accordance with the doctrine of the two kingdoms, all faculty strive to faithfully bring Lutheran theology into interaction with their various academic disciplines while respecting the integrity of those disciplines. Likewise, in other campus arenas, faculty, staff and administrators will seek to apply Lutheran theology within their campus vocations.
8. Required theology courses
The institution requires two to three theology courses for an undergraduate degree, typically in Old Testament, New Testament and Christian doctrine. Because these courses are directly related to the theological identity of CUS institutions and to the identity formation of graduates, these theology courses will normally be taken at a CUS institution. Exceptions to this will be approved by the institution’s called theological faculty.
9. Preparation of church workers
The institution provides resources to recruit, form, nurture and place students preparing for professional church work in the LCMS (e.g., pre-seminary, pre-deaconess, Lutheran teachers, DCEs, DCOs, DPMs, etc.). Specific programs vary by campus.
10. Campus ministry
The institution offers regular opportunities for worship that reflect the confession of the church. Faculty, staff and students are strongly encouraged to participate in these services. The institution calls a campus pastor or chaplain, who is a Minister of Religion—Ordained of the LCMS, who oversees the worship life of the community, organizes opportunities for Christian service and witness, and provides pastoral care for students.
Assessment of institutional commitment to Lutheran identity
Each institution will submit an annual written report to the CUS Board of Directors describing, with evidence, how the institution meets the 10 Lutheran Identity Standards. The report will be endorsed by each respective Board of Regents and will be shared with the campus community.
October 18, 2014
[i] Walther, C.F.W., “Forward to the 1875 Volume: Are We Guilty of Despising Scholarship,” in Selected Writings of C.F.W. Walther: Editorials from “Lehre und Wehre,” trans. August R. Suelflow (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1981), Pages 124-125.
[ii] For purposes of clarity, this document is using “member” inclusively to include both laypersons whose membership is in a local congregation and called ministers of the Gospel who are themselves members of Synod.
* President Dr. Viji George of Concordia College—New York, Bronxville, has requested that his name be removed until his Board of Regents can consider the statement at its May 2015 meeting.
Pictured, from left: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Belgium); President Egon Kopereck (Brazil); Archbishop Christian Ekong (Nigeria); ILC Executive Secretary Dr. Albert Collver (USA); Chairman Jon Ehlers (Great Britain); Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Germany); President Antonio Reyes (Philippines).
By Mathew Block
Originally Posted on http://www.ilc-online.org/2015/01/21/ilc-executive-meets-in-england-plans-for-2015-world-conference/
ENGLAND – The Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met January 15-16, 2015 at the St. Cuthman’s Retreat Centre in Coolham, West Sussex, just south of London, England. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, presided over the sessions.
The committee’s primary task was to make preparations for the ILC’s 25th World Conference, set for September 2015, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bishops and presidents of all 34 full and associate member churches are being invited. The chosen overarching theological theme for the gathering is Bringing the Reformation to the World. In addition, delegates to the conference will choose a chairman and other executive officers for the coming three-year term.
Chairman Voigt expressed his joy over the fact that five Lutheran church bodies from various continents have made inquiries about taking up membership in the ILC. The Executive Committee also spent time examining the financial status of this global organization, which needs to be further developed.
Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA), facilitated intensive planning sessions for the Executive Committee as they strategized for the future and analyzed both strengths and weaknesses of the Council’s existing form and function.
Summing up at the close of the meetings, Chairman Voigt commented, “At various times in history, the Church has been especially strong when in the midst of its limitations it focused on the primary thing—that is, the proclamation of the Gospel.” Bringing the Gospel to people is the Church’s main responsibility, he added.
The message of Christmas is huge, of eternal proportions and significance: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman….” (Galatians 4:4-5). This hugeness of Christmas is so important to bear in mind, its dimenions having been so diminished in our day, often reduced to mere tinsel and trappings.
No hymn captures that hugeness better than that of Prudentius of the 4th century, aided by the 12th century plain-song tune we have sung many times (TLH 98). We do well this Christmas season to devote a little personal time its proper perspective:
Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
Oh, that birth forever blessed when the Virgin, full of grace
By the Holy Ghost conceiving bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.
O ye heights of heav’n, adore Him; angel hosts His praises sing;
Pow’rs, dominions, bow before Him and extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent, ev’ry voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.
This is He whom heav’n-taught singers sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the long-expected; let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.
Immersed in and bombarded by a society and culture that have relegated Christmas to a cute little story in a faraway little town, we do well to join Prudentius in pondering the eternal dimensions of this holy day and its celebration:
Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion, and evernal victory
Evermore and evermore.