Simply put, because Jesus lives, because Jesus gives His Spirit in His Word.
We are more than half way through the season of Pentecost, the “time of the Church” in the Christian year. The Gospels this year are all from Matthew: the confession of Peter; the cost of discipleship; the need to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us; the last will be first and the first last; the parable of the vineyard, and so forth. Sunday after Sunday the Word of God brings Christ to us, Christ and all He does for us.
For the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word, is the source of the Church’s life – nothing more, nothing less.
Yet there are times when the Holy Christian Church looks neither holy, nor Christian, nor even like a church. We’ve all experienced this disappointment when people have failed us, or when we have failed others in the church.
Even as the Church proclaims repentance, the Church herself is ever called to repentance. Even as the Church seeks to tell the story of Christ, she is called to hear again the voice of her Master, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
The Church’s holiness comes from the fact that Christ is holy and daily washes His Church in the water of baptism, daily forgiving and restoring her to Himself. The Church is Christian because Christ puts His name on her, and then calls her to follow Him. She is Church because He has called her His own.
Christ gives His Spirit in His Word daily to call the Church, and the world through the Church, to repentance and faith. This is why the Church remains, and ever shall remain.
Much to the surprise of those in every age who thought the Church would succumb to the prevailing “wisdom” of the day, the Church lives and thrives because Jesus lives to keep His promise, in response to Peter’s confession: “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Our task, then, our calling is to point people to this life that is really Life, to the living Lord Jesus. He walks among His churches, the Book of Revelation says, assuring us, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18).
This Sunday, when you go to church, take a new look at what is going on. Look past anything that annoys you about your pastor or the people and hear the Word of God afresh as it is: the Word of Jesus directly to you. Remember that Jesus gives His Body and Blood for you. Remember that He put His name on you in your Baptism. He is alive to give you life. Go then with His Life into your daily life. Go and bring to others this life that is the only real Life.
The Church remains because Jesus lives and, in Him, so do you!
+Herbert C. Mueller
LCMS First Vice-President
|Attendees of the Lutheran Theological Conference in Prague|
On 4 October 2011, the Lutheran Theological Conference in Prague, a.k.a. the Klaipėda Conference, began with attendees from twenty-one countries including England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Czech Republic, Hungry, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Norway, and the United States. This is the ninth conference in the “Klaipėda” series. The Lutheran Theological Conference is co-sponsored by the Office of the LCMS President, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations, and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Dean of International Studies of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. The theme for the Prague conference is Lutheranism in the 21st Century.
|Rev. James Krikava Presents on Lutheran Mission in Czech Republic|
Rev. James Krikava, an ELS pastor from Trinity Lutheran in Brewster, Massachusetts, presented on the history of both Christian and Lutheran mission to the Czech lands, focusing particularly on the Lutheran efforts after the fall of communism. Dr. Charles Evanson presented on Lutheran ecclesiology, while Rev. Michael Albrecht presented on Lutheran missions in India. After the lectures, the group returned to St. Michael’s for vesper service.
|Dr Collver Leads Vespers While President Harrison Prepares to Preach|
President Harrison preached on Matthew 17:1-8, “They saw no one but Jesus.”
After the service, the conference attendees continued with fellowship. The second day of the conference is a full day beginning at 8:45 AM and concluding in the evening. Some additional photos are below.
|St. Michael’s from the Balcony|
|Stained Glass in St. Michael’s|
|Jan Bygstad (Norway), Collver, Harrison|
Next Saturday, October 6 (German-American Day), brings to mind arguably the most important lesson I learned during my vicarage year, learned from an elderly pastor in the circuit. It is a single German proverb: Mann musz nicht nach jeder Fliege schlagen. “One should not swat at every fly.”
Applied to everyday life in close proximity with other human beings, the proverb renders daily service. Many are those times when, irritated by something or someone or other, grabbing the swatter can be tempting. But so often it is best to allow little things to buzz on by, Christian love and generosity covering the multitude of little details and faults that will always be part of life together this side of heaven.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are times, of course, that require setting the proverb aside, those times when a pesky “Fliege” hovers, as it were, over the proverbial German potato salad on our plates, and “musz nicht schlagen” is not an option. Not all faults can be overlooked. Action sometimes is required.
There other times when attention to pesky little details, however intrusive they may seem, is required. We are, in fact, finding our way through such a time as a Synod following the 2010 convention. Much attention to detail is underway here in St. Louis at our Synod’s International Center as the President’s staff and all of the employees work to move from the former to a new structure. This is an entirely different kind of “Fliege,” perhaps irritating at times, but warranting careful attention and offering a better way to function as a Synod.
And not all of this attention to detail is housed in the International Center. The 2010 convention adopted significant and detailed changes that involve the Synod as a whole, changes that beg widespread attention.
There is no shooing away or ignoring the swarm of detailed changes that are before the members of our Synod, especially its congregations and pastors, at the present time. These changes include
- new expectations of congregational membership and submission of parochial reports
- the requirement for circuit forums prior to 2012 district conventions
- a new process of selecting circuit counselors
- a new opportunity for congregations to be involved in determining mission and ministry emphases
- new attention given to visitation circuits
- new widespread involvement by congregations and parishes in the election of the President
- new attention to certification of district convention delegates
- a new process for the election of First Vice-President
- elections of other vice-presidents and some board members by geographical regions
To not give attention will be to miss out on some of the important privileges and responsibilities that come with membership in the Synod.
Attention Being Given
Every effort is being made through meetings with district presidents and circuit counselors, through a every-congregation postcard campaign, through email blasts of known pastors’ email addresses, and by postings on the Internet to get this important information out to the members of the Synod in a timely manner. Don’t ignore those postcards and emails. (Don’t swat at them either.)
No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:11)
A couple of years ago, my brother Tim and I became masons! Now before you call up the Board of Directors of Synod or the elders at St. John’s in New Minden, Illinois, let me explain. Actually I’m not talking about the lodge kind of mason, but the brick and mortar kind. I’ve done a little brick and tile and mortar work in the past, so my brother, Pastor Timothy Mueller, now in his 24th year as pastor of St. John, New Minden and St. Luke, Covington, Illinois, volunteered the two of us to tuck-point the foundation of the church building at Covington. I readily agreed! It’s actually become a stress-reducer for us and we do enjoy working together. We have no pressure, no restrictions, no deadlines and no guarantees. We’re just doing our best to help out a small congregation and occasionally enjoying a bit of a diversion.
It’s really not as big a job as it sounds. The foundation consists of three courses of broken field stone (Brechstein) topped by five courses of soft red brick. The structure is basically sound but the 100+ year old mortar is soft and crumbling on the outside. We dig it out to the required depth with a grinder and hammer and chisel, then fill it in with new mortar and finish it off. Don’t look for flaws – there are plenty, but that’s not the point. We want to help the building last another 100 years. Well, maybe another 50 anyway.
Working on the foundation of St. Luke’s church got me to thinking about the scripture above. As the hymn writer says it:
Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ, our head and cornerstone. Chosen of the Lord and precious, binding all the Church in one; Holy Zion’s help forever and our confidence alone. (LSB 909, st. 1)
Just as a building has to rest on a sure foundation, so the Church rests on Jesus Christ alone. He is our head and cornerstone. On Him alone we are built. His Word of Law exposes our death, but only so that His Word of promise can call us to life.
That’s why the only power in Christ’s church is the power of the Word of God. Only the Word of God forgives sins. Only the Word of Christ gives life. Only the Word of God shows the way, as the Word of God made flesh in Jesus said Himself:
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. (John 14:6)
There’s our foundation. So what’s the problem? What is happening in our churches? Could it be that for us the mortar between our bricks is crumbling a bit? (Here’s where my analogy breaks down somewhat, but bear with me.) Or perhaps it is more accurate to say we are slipping off the foundation at times.
What do I mean?
We say we believe in the Word of God. But do we truly believe the Word actually works? What would be evidence of a lack of faith or a weak faith in the power of God’s Word? When we…
- Let the world shape and form our beliefs and values rather than the Word.
- Assume that “everyone” in our community “goes to church.”
- Think that the Word of God works for me but it probably will not work for _________(you fill in the blank).
- Keep the Word of Christ for ourselves rather than speak it to others.
- Make excuses for our failures to plant the seed of the Word.
- When people blame the pastor or church workers blame the people.
- When the Word does not seem to work on our time table we think we need to add something to the Word to make it more effective.
- When we fail to do our best to communicate in ways people will hear and understand.
We in the Lutheran Church are the Church of the Word. I am writing today on the 1st of October, the month of the Reformation. The Lutheran Church is always reforming, refocusing on the Word. And is not reformation simply another word for repentance? It is significant that the first of Luther’s 95 Theses posted on October 31, 1517, reads: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” (AE 31:25).
Indeed, our Lord Himself began His ministry with the words, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Our Lord calls to us, His Church, “Turn away from the empty promises of the world and trust me! I have life, real LIFE for you, found in my death and resurrection.”
Here is the sure foundation for life: “This is eternal life,” Jesus prayed, “that they know You [Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). We in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod also need to hear our Lord’s Word to the church in Ephesus, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance… I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent…” But He ends with a promise, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:2-7).
Examining our lives by the Word, the Spirit of God leads to repentance. And when we hear the Gospel promises, the Spirit increases faith and forms our life in Christ. Only God gives life! Then renewed, refreshed, restored, forgiven in Christ, we live in faith and in obedience to Christ’s command to “go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel…” (Mark 16:15). With Spirit-given faith in the power of the Word, we seek to sow the seed of the Word wherever and whenever we can, all in response to the grace of God by which we are saved. Living in repentance and faith, we are led to say, with St. Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).
So… when it comes to tuck-pointing a foundation, Tim and I are easily seen to be rank amateurs. But here’s the eternal foundation for the Church, solid, sure, all tuck-pointed and firm forever – our Lord Jesus – for “Christ is made the sure foundation.” On Him alone we stand.
A blessed month of the Reformation to all!
—Herbert C. Mueller
First Vice President
LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison speaks to young people suggesting that they prayerfully consider service in a church work vocation and investigate the programs of preparation for these vocations at our Concordia University System schools.
Click here for Transcript of the video.
Click here to download this video file.
What a Way is a LCMS church-wide initiative to rebuild active recruitment and retention of church workers as an integrated part of the LCMS culture and lifestyle at the local congregation level.