Most of us live in subconscious denial of the shortness of life on this earth for much of our lives. Often the bathroom mirror is powerless, even when it is obvious life is passing by. Barring some unforeseen illness or accident, hardly expected, life for a long time seems to extend far into the future. Its shortness has a hard time registering on our minds.
But over time it begins to dawn on us that life on earth, in every case, always has its dusk, toward which our momentum seems only to increase as time passes by. What changes, of course, is perspective. And some events in life are important teachers that remind us not only of the brevity of our sojourn on this earth but also of the relative insignificance of much that we deem important during our earlier years. There are few better occasions to gain perspective than a church anniversary. I attended one a week ago Sunday as a former pastor.
It had been more than 25 years since I had visited the congregation and had seen some of the people (except in memories of long-past events) and they had seen me (except in the congregation’s collection of confirmation pictures). I expect we all gained some perspective that week-ago Sunday. Children whom I had been privileged to baptize introduced me to their children. Couples for whose weddings I officiated introduced me to their grandchildren. Patriarchs and matriarchs who were the pillars of the congregation now used walkers to stay erect. All provided a lesson in perspective.
It wasn’t necessarily a lesson that I hadn’t learned already before. It was just the latest lesson along the way. It is a lesson that we all can use and probably need to have repeated. Hopefully the young people present received it as one of their first lessons in perspective as well. There is a place for youthful optimism and exhuberance that moves this world along, but it has a comparatively unimportant place when the dusk of life approaches, when finally the only optimism that will really matter is voiced by trembling lips as they mouth “The Lord is my Shepherd…” and the only exhuberance that will be important will be anticipation of joining celestial choirs in thanking God for His grace.
Pentecost Greetings from the Japan Lutheran Church
The Japan Lutheran Church (NRK) held its 16th General Convention on May 5-6, 2014, in Tokyo, where I was elected as President of the NRK. I will be serving as president for the next three years. I would like to ask for your cooperation and good relationship in Jesus Christ.
We have just celebrated Pentecost Sunday, and we are now in the season of Pentecost. Acts Chapter 2 Verse 4 says All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
After Pentecost “other tongues” have been given to the churches by the Holy Spirit. However, the Church is One. I strongly feel this every time I read “Asia in Mission”. Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who live in many different countries share various information with this magazine. The language used in it is English. However, the “tongues” behind these English characters are various, and the various thoughts born there are fully respected. Nevertheless, all of us look in the same direction for glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Asia and also in some other areas in the world, we now see many serious political problems. Christ’s Church, which has many “tongues” from the Holy Spirit, is to serve the Lord for the settlement of these problems and also for the possible unity of the nations.
May God bless each of you in this Pentecost season
Rev. Shin Shimizu
President, Japan Lutheran Church
Today is the day of Commemoration of Rev. C.F.W. Walther who was the first president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and arguably one of the most influential and important theologians of our church body.
Here is a fantastic article about Walther excerpted from the November 2011 The Lutheran Witness. The article is written by Iowa District East President, Brian Saunders. Thought I would pull this article out today and read it again. Enjoy!
C. F. W. Walther: A Man for the Ages
by Brian Saunders
The Rev. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther and the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison have more in common than their love of music and singing. Both have filled the role of president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Indeed, Harrison sits in the same office that was held by Walther in the mid-19th century. It is good that we take this issue of The Lutheran Witness to pay homage and tribute to C. F. W. Walther, a leader who rose from meager beginnings but left behind the legacy of a faithful church body.
The cultural context
The conditions of Germany at the time of Walther’s birth in 1811 were chaotic. The Napoleanic Wars were drawing to a close, and Europe had been devastated by death, plaque and financial hardship due to those wars. By 1813, Napolean had been driven back to France, but the consequences of war had left Europe in ashes. It is amidst these ashes that Walther was brought into this world.
Born at a time of suffering, Walther was no stranger to difficult times and struggles, both in life and faith, for the remainder of his days on earth. From inner conflict with his relationship with Christ to his struggle to defend the orthodox faith from false doctrine and practice, Walther was labeled a “Servant of the Word.” According to LCMS historian August R. Suelflow, “Walther was a devoted scholar of Martin Luther’s writings and had mastered the Lutheran Confessions as well as or perhaps better than anyone in America during the 19th century.” It is as a student of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions that Walther’s voice articulated the clarity of the universal church here on earth for all the ages, including our church today.
The religious climate
The Lutheran Church in Germany at the time of Walther had many of the same characteristics as the religious climate in America today. The climate was and is a climate of Pietism. Simply defined, Pietism attempts to secure a Christian’s relationship with Jesus based on personal experience or an inner feeling. Pietism claims a dedication to the Bible but does not rest the certainty of salvation on an objective promise of God, such as Baptism, Absolution or the Lord’s Supper. Walther suffered a spiritual crisis in this climate of Pietism. He questioned whether he truly believed in Jesus, and worse yet, He wondered whether God truly loved him.
Walther’s college and seminary training were wrought with teachings of Pietism that eventually gave way to Rationalism. During the prevalence of Rationalism, Christ’s atonement, justification by faith, the fall into sin and related doctrines were rejected. Sermons became mere discourses on current events, science, hygiene and the necessity of planting trees. They were profoundly lacking in the comfort of the Gospel.
Walther found solace at the counsel of the Rev. Martin Stephan, a Lutheran pastor in Dresden, Germany. Stephan pointed Walther to the promise of God and encouraged him to take comfort in the work and merit of Christ for him rather than Walther’s efforts to create and identify an experience with God. This had a profound impact on Walther, such an impact that when a colony of Germans from Saxony, led by Stephan, emigrated to America, Walther sailed across the ocean with them.
But conflict soon plagued this Lutheran colony. When it reached a critical status, Walther was asked to settle the issue with the publication of what would become known as The Voice of the Church on the Doctrine of Church and Ministry.
Walther knew if he was going to produce a document concerning the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry, he could not rely on the scholars of the Americas, perhaps because he realized already what anthropologist Margaret Mead later noted. She characterized America as a place where first-generation immigrants strive to cling to old country traditions, the second generation is compelled to reject the old traditions and the third generation accepts the American way of David M. Potter’s “upward mobility” and “the pursuit of happiness.” Of these, Walther was more concerned about the pursuit of faithfulness to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. For Walther, it was not about achieving something spectacular but more about being Lutheran. That may very well be our challenge as Lutherans in America and around the world today.
The most important work of Walther was bringing a new understanding of what it means to be Lutheran to America. He located the origin of Lutheranism in the Word and found the explanation of the Word in the Lutheran Confessions (the Book of Concord). In an essay delivered to the Western District Convention in 1858, Walther said:
A subscription to the Confession is the church’s assurance that the teachers have recognized the interpretation and understanding of Scripture that is embodied in the symbols as correct and will therefore interpret Scripture as the church interprets it. If the church therefore would permit its teachers to interpret the symbols according to the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures according to its symbols, the subscription would be no guarantee that the respective teacher understands and interprets Scripture as the church does. (Matthew C. Harrison, ed. At Home in the House of My Fathers, [Lutheran Legacy, 2009], 128.)
Walther was making a point: that the Lutheran Confessions are a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the evangelical Lutheran Church for all time. He was very careful not to elevate the Confessions above the Bible. Instead, he said that whatever the Bible declares to be true, that is truth, even if the whole world would declare it to be false. On the other hand, whatever the Bible declares to be false and erroneous, that is false and erroneous, even if the world would declare it to be true.
At the same time, Walther made it clear that Lutherans understand the Word through the Lutheran Confessions. Walther brought to the American Lutheran scene the ability for the Lutheran Church to say what is true and what is false. That declaration differed from others in his time because it was not founded on contemporary opinion but on the eternal truth given by God to His Church. As Walther once published in the Der Lutheraner, a Lutheran periodical:
The Bible is the question of God to man: do you believe My Word? The symbolical writings (Lutheran Confessions) are the answer of men: yes, Lord, we believe what you say! The Bible is the chest in which all treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God lies hidden. The symbolical writings are the jewel room in which the church has deposited as in a spiritual storeroom all the treasures which in the course of hundreds of years she has with great effort drawn and dug out of the treasury of the Bible. The Bible with its teachings is the handwriting of God concerning our salvation, which Satan always wishes to falsify and declare as unauthentic. The symbolical writings contain the records which have been laid down, from which one can see how the church has believed these teachings from time to time and has ever held fast to them. (Jan. 23, 1849)
Walther’s ongoing influence
Walther answered that very question in the same issue of Der Lutheraner:
Oh, let us, then be on guard against those who refuse to build on the building of the church’s past but would build something new. Consider what the apostle wrote in Ephesians 4 that there is one body, one faith, one baptism, hence also one true church and one correct doctrine, which does not have need to be found for the first time, but which always was and will continue unchanged until the end of days, so that all new doctrines and new churches are false doctrines and false churches . . . Thus we participate in the victory of all true contenders for the unadulterated Word of God and become fellow heirs to the full blessings of the Reformation.
Walther’s clear thinking and confessional, biblical focus remains vitally important for the church today. The path he followed in a culture that was not sympathetic to a confessional, biblical view also points the way for us.
When a church body such as the LCMS stays focused on Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions on a regular, daily, devotional basis, then a unity of confession is followed by a unity in practice. True unity is found only in the true Word of Christ. It is centered in and predicated on that which does not, will not and cannot change. It is the same in every period of history. Thanks be to God that He raised up a man like Walther whose intense focus on Scripture and the Confessions can continue to guide the church today.
 Lutheran Service Book, page xii. Read more about why we have commemorations and their meaning in the LCMS.
President Matthew Harrison (translated by Rev. Gerson Lindon — pictured above) gave the keynote presentation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil’s (IELB) 61st convention. The IELB is celebrating their 110 year as a church in Brazil. His presentation was titled, “The Challenge to Preserve Confessional Identity” based upon Martin Luther’s On Counsels and the Church. The Brazilian Convention of approximately 1500 delegates have President Harrison a standing ovation.
A significant moment of the Brazilian convention came when the IELB signed a protocol document with the Lutheran church in Uruguay for altar and pulpit fellowship. The IELB also
committed to doing church planting in Mozambique.
In between sessions of the IELB convention, the ILC conducted strategic planning. A significant part of the time was spent planning the next ILC World Conference to be held in South America in the fall of 2015.
Over 7,000 people who arrived by the bus load came for the worship commemorating the 110th year of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil. The choir alone numbered in the thousands. Last year the IELB had over 5,000 people attend a mission festival. This sort of attendance is reminisce of the sorts of crowds who came to events in the Missouri Synod 50 years ago.
- Posted on 4 May 2014 by Dr Albert Collver using BlogPress from my iPhone
ILC President Hans-Jörg Voigt talks to Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS Latin American Regional Director, about the situation of the church in Latin America. The ILC Executive Committee met in Acracuz, Brazil for the 61st Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) where Rev. Egon Kopereck was re-elected as President on 2 May 2014.
The ILC Executive Committee was interviewed by press for the IELB and brought greetings. (Pictured above in top frame: Dr. Albert Collver, ILC Executive Secretary and Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, President of the Lutheran Church Canada). Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, attended as a special guest of the ILC.
The ILC exists for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology and practice centering in Jesus Christ, both among member churches and throughout the world
▪ by providing opportunities for the joint study of contemporary theological issues.
▪ by giving mutual support and encouragement to the heads of member church bodies.
▪ by encouraging and assisting member churches in planning for mission outreach.
▪ by strengthening theological education through conferences of theologians and seminary teachers, mission staffs and those involved with human care.
▪ by facilitating communication between confessional Lutheran churches of the world through the publication of ILC News.
▪ by stimulating and facilitating the preparation and publication of confessional Lutheran literature.
The ILC Executive Committee containing representatives from around the world continues to meet in between attending the Brazilian convention. The ILC Executive Committee members (pictured above left to right): Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, ILC Executive Secretary; Archbishop Christian Ekong of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria and ILC representative for the Africa region; Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), Chairman of ILC; President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and ILC representative for Latin America Region, President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, ILC special guest; President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church Canada, ILC Vice Chairman and ILC representative for the North American Region; Rev. Jon Ehlers, Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and ILC representative of the Eurasia Region; Rev. Gijsbertus van Hattem, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) and ILC Secretary; President James Cerdinõla of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines and ILC representative for the Asia Region.
- Posted on 3 May 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone