Posts tagged Repentance

ICCL2: Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing (Day 1)

ICCL2 Cover

The theme of the second International Conference on Confessional Leadership in the 21st Century. The conference comes on the tails of the dedication of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany. The first ICCL conference was held in November 2012 when more than 120 Lutheran leaders gathered around the world (see this WMLTBlog post). The theme for the second conference looks towards the celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Reformation. The theme of the conference (described more in a future post) is titled, “Celebrating the Reformation Rightly: Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing,” which comes from a sermon by Matthias Hoe von Hoenegg, the Electoral Saxony Court preacher in Dresden. In his sermon he described how to celebrate a Reformation celebration:

“First as a ‘remembrance festival,’ at which we remember a great historical event; second, as a ‘praise and thanksgiving festival,’ third, as a ‘miracle festival’ concerning God’s miracles; fourth, a ‘prayer festival’ at which we ‘desire to pray for the preservation of the divine Word” and fifth, as a ‘festival of repentance,’ at which we pray for the forgiveness of our sins in the despising of the Word of God,’ and that we should begin and strive for a new life with greater zeal for and devotion to his preached Word as doers of the same.’ Then the festival becomes a ‘festival of rejoicing and jubilation in heaven.'” (Luke 15:10)

The theme of the ICCL2 draws from this sermon and emphasizes “Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing” as a way to celebrate the Reformation in this ecumenical age.

MCH and HKV ICCL2

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President of the LCMS, and Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) introduce and bring greetings to the conference. President Harrison introduced the theme Remembrance, Repentance, Rejoicing and how every Reformation of the Church begins with repentance.

OLS Altar

Bishop Voigt referenced the newly dedicated altar at the Old Latin School. If you look closely at the altar, you can see that the table is bowed. It is bent, being pressed down because of the weight of the gifts of God. Bishop Voigt’s prayer is that this conference bends the table with the weight of the gifts the presenters bring to the table.

 

Rast ICCL2 Greetings

Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary and Chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), bring greetings, thanked the staff of the CTCR, and introduced the theme of the conference. We need to remember the Lord’s deliverance of his people, repent of our sins, and rejoice in forgiveness.

DSC_0430Conference participants came from more than 40 countries, representing over 20 million Lutherans worldwide.

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Worship took place each day in St. Mary’s Church, where Dr. Martin Luther preached over 2500 sermons.

The program for the conference is provided below.

 

 

The Life of God in Your Church

Every congregation exists to give away life. In worship and communion we receive the life Jesus gives. We feed on Him and live through Him who gives Himself for us in Word, and in water, bread and wine connected to the Word. But this life of God is not meant to be kept to ourselves. God has put you and your congregation where it is located in order to give life to your community and beyond. Baptized into Christ, we are called to grow in this life as well as to bring others into this life.

The life of Jesus does not come from a new program, but through repentance and faith. The life of God is not the result of moral instruction and moral living, but flows from God’s gift of a new relationship with Him in Jesus Christ.

This is the beating heart of your congregation – the life of Jesus Christ, His life lived for us and offered up for us on the cross. His life triumphant in His resurrection. His life freely given in His body and blood, in the forgiveness of sins, in the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.

You are alive because you are in Christ. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you and to all who believe. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you through your congregation, your pastor’s work and your fellow members’ witness to Jesus. You are alive in Christ because He has made you alive in His Spirit.

When we say that your congregation exists to give away life, we are simply praying for your parish to become more and more the body of Christ. We have received in Jesus Christ our true Head. “Now you are [together!] the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27). If Christ is the Head, and we the body, then we are sent into the world as members of the body to extend His ministry of love and service to the world. The Church then becomes the sign of Christ’s presence and Christ’s care for the world, giving away His life.

The life of Jesus given for us therefore implies that we take worship seriously. If Christ is our Head and we His body, we nourish ourselves at the font, the lectern, the pulpit, the altar, wherever the Word of God is found. Here Christ gives Himself to us that we may give away the life of Jesus by serving others and drawing them into the life we have received.

The new life Jesus gives implies that we are always ready to teach the Word of God, “ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hop that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). Led by the Spirit, we search the Word of God together to discover and to grow in the will of God for our life together. No one is too young or too old to be taught, but everyone is drawn into the Word.

The life of Jesus connects us to one another in love. We are not alone, but we receive His life – together! We are “thankful for your partnership in the Gospel, from the first day until now…” (Philippians 1:5). We stand together in a new relationship to God in Christ. We seek to strengthen one another in the faith by our words and our actions, helping each other enjoy the good gifts of God.

The life of God in Jesus means that we take prayer and family worship seriously. We teach families to pray together. We provide many opportunities for worship and prayer and study of the Word. We provide holy absolution and holy communion as often as they are desired.

Jesus gives life also in order to send us into the world, for the sake of the hungry, the needy, the lost, those who do not yet know Him. Jesus gives life so that we also present ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” in Him (Romans 12:1). We are a community of servants sent into the world and into our various vocations to serve God by serving others. We are the sign of God’s love in Christ for the sake of the world.

Then every week the Spirit pulls us back to the beating heart of the church’s life in the Word of God proclaimed and the body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. Christ Himself fills us, enlivens us, and sends us out again to give His life away. How’s it going in your locale? (Various thoughts in this article drawn from A.C. Piepkorn, The Church, pp. 116-118).

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President

“It All Begins With Repentance!”

 [Sermon preached in the International Center Chapel, December 9, 2011, on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, Mark 1:1-8.]

Mark 1:4 simply states: John appeared.  That’s it.  John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness, and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Suddenly, it seems, there he is. Sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  To point to Christ and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

The Baptism of John pointed forward to the baptism to come in the Lord Jesus, pointed forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, like the last Old Testament sign.  Our Sacrament of Baptism today both points to Jesus and actually brings Jesus to us today, in His death and resurrection.  As the Scripture says, you were buried by baptism into the death of Jesus, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also might walk in newness of life.

In both cases, it all begins with repentance.  That’s because the Church really has only one thing to give – the Spirit in the Word of God to work repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

But what does it mean to repent? And who are the ones who really need to repent?  Who need to turn around?  To turn away from sin?  Isn’t repentance really only for the ones who have been REALLY bad?  We understand the need for a criminal to repent and to show some kind of remorse.  In fact, we look for it, and are disappointed when we do not see it.  But for those of us who have been in church all our lives?  Do we really need to repent?

YES!  John proclaims.  YES! Jesus will say, just a few verses later. 

There is no other way to receive the forgiveness of sins or to enter into the Kingdom of God.  The Spirit of God comes to rule in our hearts and lives only in THIS way: bringing true repentance and faith.

Friends, in preparation on this text, I tried to look for a new angle on repentance, something to jazz it up, so to speak. But there is no new angle.  It is simply this same old thing of recognizing that, when we talk about the problems of the world, when we talk about the evils of our society, those problems and those evils are not only “out there” but also “in here,” in my heart, in your heart. 

Whatever your struggles or faults or failings, to repent is simply to admit, and to say to whomever needs to hear it, including God:   What I did was wrong.  I am sorry

I need to be forgiven.   I need what God gives in Jesus.  I need the mercy of God in the cross of Christ.  I cannot go on without it.

You have heard that, in the first of his 95 Theses, Martin Luther wrote that, “When our Lord Jesus said, ‘Repent,’ He willed that the entire life of the Christian should be one of repentance.” That means, we recognize everything we have, and everything we have ever done, has been corrupted by our sin.  And that we see the forgiveness of sins Christ has come to bring, and we say, YES!  I need that, because I am a sinner.

When Christ comes giving peace for our hearts and minds, to repent is to say, “YES, I worry lots of times. I need the peace He brings.”

When I feel weak, that I’m not going to be able to make it, to repent is to say, “YES, I need HIS strength.”  When I am sick, to say, “I need His healing.”  To repent is to say, “I know I am dying, so I need the only One who gives life.”

Actually, at it’s most basic, to repent is simply to live every day in our Baptism!   Every day to die to sin, and rise to new life with God in the Lord Jesus. 

It is to remember finally, and above all, that Jesus came for sinners.  He didn’t come for the good people, because there are none.  So we can stop pretending we’re better than others.

Jesus came for sinners.  Sinners like you, and like me.

The great joy of being a baptized believer, is the joy of of living with fellow repentant sinners.  The joy of telling one another and anyone else who will listen,   Here it is!   Here is the forgiveness of sins!  It’s here in the Lord Jesus! Here in the Word of God proclaimed to you. Here in the water of Baptism connected to the Word of God and poured out over you. Here also whenever you remember and return to your baptism, confessing your sins and hearing the Word of forgiveness and absolution.

The greatest joy of a pastor is to be able to say, as one sinner to another, “God has put away your sin.  You are forgiven!  Here it is!  In Jesus, God nailed up to the cross, it’s FOR YOU!”

I was only ten years old when I heard it, but it is a sermon I will never forget.  My father was preaching his first sermon in a new congregation.  How should he begin to work with that new parish?  What should he say?  His text was the story in 2 Kings 7 when the Syrian Army, the enemies of God’s people, had the city surrounded.  The people were starving.  The prophet Elisha one day received a promise from God that the very next day there would be food enough for all.

That night, there were four beggars, lepers sitting just outside the gates of the city, who were debating among themselves whether they should try to go into the city and die, or give themselves up to the enemy and die. 

When they decided to go into the enemy camp, much to their surprise, they discovered that the Lord had sent a great fear among the enemy soldiers and that they had all run away in the night, leaving behind all sorts of food and clothes and everything else.  At first the beggars were scooping it all up for themselves.  But then, they said to one another, “We are not doing right.  This day is a day of good news.  If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us.  Now therefore come;  let us go and tell [this good news].  (2 Kings 7:9).

So the theme and gist of my father’s message that day was this – As a pastor, I am among you as one beggar, telling other beggars where to find food.  That’s what a pastor does.  He’s one sinner, among other sinners, giving out the forgiveness of sins.  And he gets to do it publicly, on behalf of all, giving it out as he baptizes, as he distributes Christ’s body and blood, as he preaches and teaches.

But each of you, baptized into Christ, have that privilege in your vocation, wherever God has placed you, in all your relationships, to show people Jesus…  To be the beggar who tells people, left and right and all over: Here’s the food!  Here’s the greatest treasure there is!  Here’s Jesus!

And through it all, KNOW THIS.  If you are a sinner, if you know you are a dying beggar, to repent and believe the Gospel is simply to give up all your sins to Jesus, because He took them all, on the cross, to receive from Him forgiveness, because He rose from the dead.  And to know that you are washed clean in His blood every day, for you are baptized into His death and resurrection.

Because, in Jesus, it truly is all for YOU!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President

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