Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Don't get me wrong. I am a supporter and contributor to several organizations that speak of "doing missions" for the Gospel. Most Recognized Service Organizations for th Lutheran Church Missiouri Synod have a mission statement and, in one form or another, a promotion of their missions approach. It popular in the last few years to heighten the awareness of missions trips or missions boards. That all fine and good as long as the Church remembers that our Lord has given us one mission--proclaiming HIs Gospel to a lost and dying world, the Gospel that says, "Jesus Christ is Lord who has died to take away the sins of world." He offers eternal life free for the trusting in HIm alone. "Missions," as it we understand, puts a face or expression in place. WE fall prey to the lure of hyping this expression over the message. WE know the true preaching and teaching of God's Word is there, beneath the masks of whateve oranizational trappings. Yet, we so easily proclaim the organization or the work "we" do for the Gospel. Lord have mercy upon us! Thanks be to God, He does. He still lifts the veil of confusion to shine the light of His Law and Gospel in our eyes of faith. He stil puts in our mouths the words to speak to others on the street, at work, and anywhere else He places us. Mission is, after all, nothing more than the message of salvation in Christ alone He gives us to proclaim, be we laymen or pastors. That's why, Pastors, your seromons need to always preach the cross of Christ specifically, not by assumption. (1 Cor. 1:18, 2:5, Gal. 6:10, 14) Don't just tag your delivery with a passing mention of Jesus Christ to give an otherwise crossless pep talk the guise of Christianity. Too many lampstand have faded because they have failed to shine the Light of Christ's saving truth to the world and have turned to merely a social show of skin-deep piety, which can save no one. Rather, speak to us in the pew the same saving Gospel whose Light directs our human care, parenting, learning, and speech in His peace. The glory is Christ's alone, so let's keep it there. Then, all who believe in HIm through the words He gives us to speak may glorify our Father in heaven. Tab sheets on how many people attend a "missions" event are great for recording keeping. They are not status symobls or proofs of true effectiveness.Rather, the fruit of God's mission is a person's trust in and proclamation of Christ crucified and risen for us and our salvation. (Rom. 10:8-17) AS we look forward to celebrating our Lord's blessed Nativity, we pray that He will fill our lips and hearts with the same Word which the shepherds told abroad after worshiping the Christ the Lord, the newborn King in Bethlehem. (Luke 2:15-20) We, too, see HIm by trust when, though the hands of our called ad ordained pastors, He gives us His very body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Refreshed by this "fount and source of all godness," we proclam His death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:26)
Here's more Athanasius for Advent. This guy is great! "Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man's account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection." (Athanasius, ON THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD, 16)
Below you'll see a bit of casuistry. Before you think that finding it is my doing, well, think again. I normally don't comb the humor pages. But, when it's put right underneath my nose, on another blog, I can't help myself. So, I found Bach's Coffee musical of LCMS Pres. Matthew C. Harrison's bog, MERCY JOURNEYS, a fine daily read in itself. I saw the tag for "blog this." So, I did for you enjoyment.
December 24, 2011 The readings for Christmas Eve are Is. 7:10-14, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14, 15-20. Our Lord promises deliverance from evil. He assures us that He has defeated sin, death, and the devil’s work by His coming. He has taken away our sin and given us His lived-out righteous life. Yet, swallowed up by our circumstances and frustrations, we challenge God to really intervene. Our Gospel reading tells how our Lord has come to be born—God with us. And, when the grace of God appeared, He redeemed us from our doubt. In Him, we wait for Him to come again for us. December 25, 2011 The readings for Christmas Day are Isaiah 52:7-10; Heb. 1:1-6, 7-12; and John 1:1-14, 15-18. Merry Christmas! God our Lord has revealed His Word of promise—His life and Light to us who have wandered in the darkness of sin. We know the story so well we can almost recite its events with eyes closed. But, the Light of the Word become flesh still shines in the darkness of our sin. He opens our eyes of faith that, coming to us, declares us to be children of God, born of His salvation.
AT least the Packers lost and the Colts won. A few days beforehand, Albert Pujols got traded to the Angles. The Texas Rangers lost C.J. Wilson to the same team. Add the resurgent play of Indiana University’s udefeated men’s basketball team, and you have little room for overhyping yet another Tim Tebo story. We did n’t need to hear about how the Broncos’s now-famous quarterback took his normal knee in thanks to God for ability to play the sport he loves. In answering THE CHRISTIAN POST, yes, Tim Tebo still has his faith in tact after the Boncos loss to the New England Patriots. It was refreshing John Elway compliment Tebo, saying that was one of best performances as Denver’s quarterback. Nonetheless, we can be thankful that Tebo Teboed like usual. He was simply continuing his postgame prayer. After all, God’[s gifts to carry out daily vocation comes even apart from our prayer. Yet, whether working at home, at the office or at football field, we pray that God will bring His gifts to us also for benefit of our neighbors. Yes, sports is a vocation carried by athletes who possess anunusual amount of talent. They are entertainers as well as being competitors. We can argue over the water cooler or the dinner table about the high salaries these folks make. Nonetheless, our Lord does shower the ability on these American icons to compete while we look on. AS for the Tebo hype, I do hope it has simmered. I’m not holding my breath. This Sunday, however, I will not be watching football, not when New England’s guys in green known as the Boston Celtics take the court for this shortened season’s first regular season game.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Supplement your ADvent devotional reading with this selection From Athanasius ON THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD PAGE 12: “Wherefore, in all naturalness and fitness, desiring to do good to men, as Man He dwells, taking to Himself a body like the rest; and through His actions done in that body, as it were on their own level, He teaches those who would not learn by other means to know Himself, the Word of God, and through Him the Father.”
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Evangelism needs no committee. That may come as a shock to people. We are so used to getting a group of “dedicated” or “requested” folks together when something around the congregation needs done. Why do I say evangelism needs no committee? If we think about it, many of the programs out there are reactions to our culture. If we wanted to go right to the heart thirty years ago, the Kennedy method provided the questions for us and how we would respond based on someone’s answers. Questions: Where do you think you’ll go if you die tonight? Response: Hmmm. Who cares? Questioner (pondering) Oops. Didn’t expect that one. Then we made things conversational in the 80’s and 90’s and trained ourselves to coat the same question with a conversational approach and called it Dialogue Evangelism. My temptation was to get caught up in the conversation and, oops, miss that outline point by point where I could invite the man at the door to my church. For every incarnation of an evangelism method, a training module had to follow. That’s okay if the pastor or leader revs the troopps for hitting the streets in a good or bad neighborhood with the clear and simple message of Christ crucified. I can still remember my class at the seminary where we did this very thing. Great! And, what did we have for lunch? Cold turkey. Coincidence? I think not. Now, I’m not downing every mass-organized effort to canvass the neighborhood. I’m not trashing the idea of having a few set responses in your hip pocket you have learned to use when speaking the Gospel on the city bus. For every program, more questions and inadequacies fill people’s minds. Folks wonder if they’ve got the step by step guide in mind for presenting themselves and their witness of the gospel correctly. Others nod and say, “Its just not my gift.” After all, listeners to Christian radio hear all the time about certain people who consider themselves trained or called evangelists. In truth, our Lord has made us all evangelists, in the wide sense of the word. How? Through the lips of His called and ordained servants of the Word, He preaches His Law and Gospel to us. Hmmm. Faith comes by hearing the Word. (Rom. 10:17) Beautirful are feet of those who bring good news to us. And, yet, we who hear the same message rightly preached and taught to us are on equal footing as far as hearing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. The other thing that sets us Christians on equal footing is our Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19-20) That means Christ has marked us with the same cross, same salvation, adopting us into His same kingdom and part of the same body. (Eph. 4:4-6) Sure, we may have some experience to share with an unbeliever. But, we don’t have to worry about scaring ourselves stiff telling it. Why? We don’t proclaim ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord. (2 Cor. 4:4-5) He who made light shine out of darkness has shined the same light on our hearts. (2 Cor. 4:6) And, to borrow Issues Etc.’s counter to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life…”It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus for you.” So, when talking to someone concerning our Lord Jesus, we aren’t the hero and we’re not trying to play the part of hero. Now, granted, some of us may be more ambitious, articulate, or active than others. That’s why there are a ton of ways for evangelism. Notice I didn’t say “doing’ evangelism. Yes, it’s a good work, but not of us. It’s a good work because Christ works through us and He’s the one who converts, rebukes and encourages to the finish. (Phil. 1:6) So, if there’s no evangelism committee or board at your church, how are you going to get it done? I’ve already mentioned, you aren’t. Christ Jesus works through our hands and feet and lips and any other part of our bodies and brains. Most visibly but not most obvious is our daily vocations. He can put an opportunity, spur of the moment, for teacher or a nurse or dog scooper to converse. It’s on-the-job telling, and I mean plainly of Jesus. A Christian witness can begin by Teboing in public or grabbing the mic to “thank God for a great pass”. But, that’s just the start. Rather, real witnessing happens only when the name of Jesus Christ crucified is on our lips. Our vocations give rise to another good area—apologetics. No, it’s not saying “I’m sorry” for being a Christian. It’s removing those barriers folks have to believing. Want more info on that, check out New Reformation Press’s website—www.newreformationpress.com/blog—lot of good resources there. An avenue for evangelism is human care. That’s sometimes intentional like setting up a soup kitchen or outreach center. It could be spontaneous like when giving a homeless visitor to your church a gift card to buy food. These times may spawn opportunities to present Christ crucified amid showing genuine concern for people’s well-being. If you still want a way in which your congregation can do an organized and up front evangelism, try the internet. Post Bible study outlines. Get your pastor’s sermons onto podcasts. Find links to teaching opportunities through your church’s webpage. You could also follow up with visitors if they leave their name on the church’s guest registry. Maybe, your elders or social ministries boards already do this. Perhaps, folks you know follow-up with visitors in a less formal way, like that random encounter of the caffeinated kind at Starbucks. Ask how they are doing and say it was great seeing them worshipping with you on Sunday. In short, evangelism isn’t limited to a group of people better trained than others. It doesn’t have to have a line item in the congregational budget. And evangelism doesn’t have to be calculated and coordinated to make the effort count. Remember that in discussing the sheep and goats, the sheep don’t even rmember what they’ve done. (Matt. 25:35-40) Evangelism in its form and meaning is Gospeling—telling the good tiedings of great joy—Jesus born, crucified, risen, ascended, and coming for us.
Clicks, pops, white noise...be gone! Put away the secular and click on the sacred music for Christmas. Lutheran Radio for your family gathering!!! www.lutheranpublicradio.org Beginning on Christmas Eve, you will hear solid, full-body, sacred Confessional Christmas music--24/7 for your and your family's edification. And, to stimulate your dinnertime discussion, click over to Issues ETc.'s Christmas programming schedule. Talk Radio for the thinking Christian. www.issuesetc.org Once there, click the "listen" link and then the "listen on demand" link.
Hi, everyone. Here’s a teaching point of sorts for studying the Bible and seeing its total focus on Christ Jesus. Read Deuteronomy straight through. Then read Luke straight through. Ah, you’ll see the perfection Law laid out for the Israelites, how they would break it, and how the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, would fulfill it. Then Luke preaches Jesus by Name, and dispels any notion that the Bible is a book of rules. It’s a source and norm for learning of our salvation. Totally cool, if you ask me.
Monday, December 12, 2011
What is the reason for the season? We hear that phrase bantered about in supermarkets, social parties, sing-alongs, and soup kitchens. “The reason for the season” is a phrase on our lips as much as that of “merry Christmas” or in more PC lingo “Happy holidays.” Pardon me to be a cynic for a moment, no not a grench or Srooge—a cynic. AS we hype it up today, Christmas seems to have room for everyone. The reason for the season ramps up the publicity of charities that bust their tail year-round. It brings out the plight of homeless and less fortunate who are still in dire straights year-round. The financial pinch in which Toys’R Us and other stores find themselves did not begin hours before Black Friday, 2011. WE don’t start caring for loved-ones between December 1 till Christmas. So, what’s the reason for the season? Why so much attention on this bustling blitz of commercial hype. I, myself, love it as long as I can maintain my reputation as a last-minute shopper. I simply stop counting calories during this time of year. My scale doesn’t go up that high. The reason for the season is not an amped up increase of goodwill. It is not the decorations and tasty trimmings along with playing cards and watching football—or this year the start of the shortened NBA season. It is not an amped up charge to become more giving. All these things are wonderful results. I wrap myself in them, whether by proxy since before Thanksgiving or at the last-minute when I rush through Kohls with an arm-load sacks full of clothes for others. The reason for the season is Jesus. Our heavenly Father saw that we poor, miserable sinners can’t do a thing about our rebellious, self-centered sshow-me condition. So, He sent the only one who can. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” AS the old hymn puts it, “In a little stable, Far across the seas, Was a little baby just like you and me.” Jesus was and is god’s eternal Son who came to us out of love. Being God from everlasting, He is perfect and holds the perfect standard of the Law. He calls forth obedience, charity, service all year round, not just in December. He calls forth devotion, worship, and praise all year round, not just when Fox 4 snap its camera shots into some downtown congregation on Christmas Eve. Jesus became man—our sin excepted—to take on Himself our self-centeredness, our impatience, our sadness, grief, and showiness. The reason for the season is the reason for our whole lives. We celebrate Christmas in thanks to Him who gave Himself for us. He was born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem us. (Gal. 4:4-7) AS He once was born, so we celebrate His birth once a year. Believe me, I love the Christmas trappings—I always have and always will. Charities, soup kitchens, long lines at the store, gift exchanges are outgrowths of our response. Where do we find the reason for the season and our whole lives? In God’s Word, in His house of worship, in times of devotion. Merry Christmas. God is with us.
“But since the will of man could turn either way, God secured this grace that He had given by making it conditional from the first upon two things—namely, a law and a place. He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single prohibition. If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven.” (Athanasius, ON THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD, page 4)
Thursday, December 8, 2011
What is the reason for the season? We hear that phrase bantered about in supermarkets, social parties, sing-alongs, and soup kitchens. “The reason for the season” is a phrase on our lips as much as that of “merry Christmas” or in more PC lingo “Happy holidays.” Pardon me to be a cynic for a moment, no not a grench or Srooge—a cynic. AS we hype it up today, Christmas seems to have room for everyone. The reason for the season ramps up the publicity of charities that bust their tail year-round. It brings out the plight of homeless and less fortunate who are still in dire straights year-round. The financial pinch in which Toys’R Us and other stores find themselves did not begin hours before Black Friday, 2011. WE don’t start caring for loved-ones between December 1 till Christmas. So, what’s the reason for the season? Why so much attention on this bustling blitz of commercial hype. I, myself, love it as long as I can maintain my reputation as a last-minute shopper. I simply stop counting calories during this time of year. My scale doesn’t go up that high. The reason for the season is not an amped up increase of goodwill. It is not the decorations and tasty trimmings along with playing cards and watching football—or this year the start of the shortened NBA season. It is not an amped up charge to become more giving. All these things are wonderful results. I wrap myself in them, whether by proxy since before Thanksgiving or at the last-minute when I rush through Kohls with an arm-load of sacks full of clothes for others. The reason for the season is Jesus. Our heavenly Father saw that we poor, miserable sinners can’t do a thing about our rebellious, self-centered sshow-me condition. So, He sent the only one who can. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” AS the old hymn puts it, “In a little stable, Far across the seas, Was a little baby just like you and me.” Jesus was and is god’s eternal Son who came to us out of love. Being God from everlasting, He is perfect and holds the perfect standard of the Law. He calls forth obedience, charity, service all year round, not just in December. He calls forth devotion, worship, and praise all year round, not just when Fox 4 snap its camera shots into some downtown congregation on Christmas Eve. Jesus became man—our sin excepted—to take on Himself our self-centeredness, our impatience, our sadness, grief, and showiness. The reason for the season is the reason for our whole lives. We celebrate Christmas in thanks to Him who gave Himself for us. He was born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem us. (Gal. 4:4-7) AS He once was born, so we celebrate His birth once a year. Believe me, I love the Christmas trappings—I always have and always will. Charities, soup kitchens, long lines at the store, gift exchanges are outgrowths of our response. Where do we find the reason for the season and our whole lives? In God’s Word, in His house of worship, in times of devotion. Merry Christmas. God is with us.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
On Wednesday or Thursday I plan to post the readings and a summary of them for the upcoming Sunday. I don't know about you, but I like having time to view what's on the lectionary ahead of time. So, here's the first installment. The readings for the third Sunday in Advent are Is. 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thes. 5:16-24; and John 1:6-8, 19-28. John the Baptizer was a preparer—a voice to make his hearers ready for Christ’s coming. He pointed out Him who was coming to die for the sins of the world and give us His righteousness. Today, our Lord still sends preachers of repentance and forgiveness—for we often fail to take God at His Word of promise. Through the preaching of pastors and the admonition of friends, He returns our trust to be in Him alone.
For about a year now, the church where I attend has had a steady and active choir again. Our directors put a great deal of time into selecting the pieces we will sing and in considering how we will sing them. They also encourage our singing individual solos, duettes, and the like. What is the purpose of a church coir? First and foremost, its singing assists congregational worship. If the pastor wishes to introduce a new hymn, he may call upon the choir to sing a verse or two so that everyone gets used to the new tune or words. Many choirs lead the chanting of the introit (entrance Psalm selection) or may sing the gradual between the readings of Holy Scripture. At Holy Cross in Kansas City, we sing many selections from the hymnal along with a few arrangements our directors find and hand out to us. An arrangement may emphasize some phrase or theme the hymn wishes to drive home to us which ordinary singing may not always catch. AS we sung “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” on Sunday morning, we raised our voices to a louder volume on the chorus because the hymn bids us to rejoice that Emmanuel, God with us shall come as He promises. We sing in celebration of His first coming and anticipate His impending return. When a choir sings, it does so with discretion. It is not performing in worship as in a consert or added bit of Sunday morning entertainment. That is why churches have traditionally used choir lofts. The congregation needs to hear the Law and Gospel rightly divided and sung with as little distraction by the choral appearance. I understand that not all churches have choir lofts. This is sometimes due to their size or because of the architectural style. Nevertheless, the choir is not on stage, per se, when assisting the congregation in worship. It is appropriate in churches for the choir to sit and sing in the back. After all, its members face forward with the rest of the congregation toward the chancel with its altar, cross, lectern, pulpit, and baptismal font. Divine worship is when heaven comes to us in the Word and Sacraments. (AC VII, see also Ex. 19, 1 Kings 8, Is. 6, 1 Cor. 11:23-25, and Rev. 7) To worship, our Lord draws us, His people. The choir members participate in the presence of God with everyone else there gathered. (corum Deo) Now, permit me to tread on thin ice. For as a congregation worships, so its choir members take liberty when conducting themselves. I have already mentioned that the choir assists the congregation and should not draw attention to itself. I do well to follow this advice myself as I am quite expressive when I sing and admit I may at times fall short of this expectation. Solos have become popular in many types of services. The pace changes a bit when one person sings as opposed to a choir or a whole congregation. We are drawn to a person whom God has gifted with the talent of singing well. Even so, that man or woman does not become a star-studded icon when lifting his or her voice in praise. He or she still assists the whole congregation by enunciating certain themes or phrases that fit with the weekly readings and sermon for the day. With all that said, how should choirs prepare for assisting congregational participation in worship? I admit I enjoy the fun and laughter of practices. WE make oopses and mistakes as we acquaint ourselves to a new hymn or choral anthem. We do well, however, to remember our Lord is using our voices to sing His praise and to help our friends and neighbor to do the same. One professor of mine at the seminary suggested that choirs prepare for six weeks to sing a given hymn or arrangement. After all, we do have busy lives, so meeting more than once a week to practice may prove to be a challenge. Six weeks is an ideal but not always practical solution. Even so, we do well not to fall into a rush-rush haste into the last minute. Our manner of practice will, no doubt, affect the reverence with which we sing in church. Some of my favorite minutes of the week are those leading up to worship as the organist plays a prelude. Whether I am singing in choir or sitting with the congregation as a whole, I take this time to look over the hymns. Often, the prelude is an arrangement of something we will sing, so it provides an extra help when preparing to worship in the Name of our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our choir often sings at the beginning of the service—as a call to worship. Our director often reminds us to wait about three seconds after singing the final note to put away our music. While people are not usually looking at us, they can hear if a dozen or more members ruffle a page or cclose a binder afterward. Again, we do well to have discretion when assisting the congregation in worship. We do not proclaim ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as His servants. (2 Cor. 4:4-5) Our words, our singing, our music is not about us. It proclaims Jesus Christ who opens up our lips to sing His praise with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. In closing, I emphasize again this post considers choral participation in worship. Our Lord does use choirs in public conserts and soloists for entertainment in other settings. He gifts musicians of all kinds to go into the public square and reach today’s youth and adults in many ways. I pray that our Lord wil use such evangelism to reach the unbeliever and to encourage fellow Christians. He works through music as a means of drawing people to His house of worship for the forgiveness of our sins. Many of us will attend both midweek and Sunday services at this time of the year. Our Lord promises that His Word will dwell richly among us—in our songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Col. 3:16) Rejoice! God is with us always in His Word and Sacraments, in worship and devotion, till He comes again.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I just got done listening to Issues Etc.’s excellent discussion in the first half hour today. The question at hand dealt with people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what becomes of them? If we all wrack our brains, we can come up with generations in various parts of the world who never heard the name, Jesus Christ, let alone that salvation is found in Him alone. (Acts 4:12) Much speculation busies the faculties of Dinvinity schools, seminaries, and us. “Needless!” I cry. First, do we have any record of the Church Fathers’ speaking of a land or people who deserved to hear the Gospel? NO. Do apostles and prophets say anyone deserves to hear the Gospel? No. Our Lord simply calls us to preach it to everyone everywhere, as He calls us into our daily vocation. Are you a pastor? Your vocation is preaching where and when God puts you. Are you a missionary in another country, perhaps, training native pastors. God’s put you there. Are you a garbage man, a bus driver, a call center rep, a teacher? Pray that God gives you opportunities to speak His Gospel. Our Lord does not and will not dwell in speculative theology. Rather, He dishes out to us what is most certain. Isaiah was aware that through preaching the Word had gone out to all the earth. People got the Word they didn’t deserve to hear. And, God used him to promise the people—His Word will jnot return void but will accomplish that for which He sends it. (Is. 55:1-11) Folks, atheists and agnostics love to pose “gotacha” questions like, “What about those who have not heard?” They are trying to prove that our preaching means nothing anyway. In our politically correct era of fairness, many people focus on those who don’t get the opportunity to hear. So, off the mainliners go on missions to heal a social ill. AS much as they care for needs around them, that is fantastic. Yet, many of these mainliners have forgotten what the Gospel is-the declaration of God that, through Christ, He saves us free for the trusting in Him. As Romans 1:16 says—It’s the power of God for the salvation to all who believe. Many mainliners like to lessen the load of the cross by redefining the Gospel. It’s enough, they say, to just feed the hungry, build houses, demand social justice as an organized community. Many such individuals themselves have been falsely catechized into douting Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and impending return. May our merciful Lord continue sending His Word to them they may truly believe it between now and their next humanitarian show. Again, God does not deal in speculative theology. He’s all about certainty. So, what about that certainty? Paul is quite blunt in Romans 10. How can they believe who haven’t heard? They can’t. How can they hear unless someone is sent to them? By osmosis? They can’t. And how can they preached unless God sends them to those who haven’t heard? They can’t. We can’t. So, faith, says Paul and I paraphrase—faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The word does it all as our Lord guides us to speak it as His ambassadors. (2 Cor. 5:20) What should we speak? Our Lord makes this a certainty also—“repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 24:47) What, may we ask, becomes of those whose parents or grandparents or grandparents great-grandparents never got the Gospel? Take a look around where many will say this has happened? Christianity used to flourish in North African and the Middle East. But, with the destructive advance of Islam—which is not a religion of peace—the people fled, were killed, or forsook the Gospel. Their lineage is the legacy of unbelief, deserving the Father’s wrath repeated to the third and fourth generations. (Ex. 20:3-5) In short, no one is without excuse. I love how Pr. Wilken and his guest addressed Walther’s sentiments concerning the American Indians. Instead of robbing them of their land in expanding America from sea to shining sea—we needed to be preaching the Gospel to them. From his home in Neuendetessau, Germany, Wilhelm Loehe sent missionaries such as F. C. D. Wyneken to the Saginaw Valley in Michigan and to northern Indiana to preach and serve among the Indians. So they could have a better life? No. So they could be a trophy by which missionaries could pat themselves on the back? No. He sent Wyneken and others to preach the saving Word of Christ crucified, the same Word that kills us and makes us alive every day and, in His Church, richly forgives our sins. When Paul wrote to the Roman congregation, He spoke, in part, to those who might have wonderded what happened to those who died between Adam’s and the time the Israelites received the Ten Commandments. As far as the Law was concerned, they became a Law unto themselves since the Law was written on their consciences (Rom. 2:15 What about the promise? Those generations, particularly between Adam and the flood also had opportunity to hear the Word. Most, except for eight person in Noah’s day, rejected it. (Gen. 6:5, 1 Peter 3:19-20) But, receiving the Lord’s promise with trust, Noah and His wife and his sons and their wives endured the flood as a type of Baptism, which now saves us. (1 Peter 3:21) Does God hate those who have rejected His Word? NO. He loved them enough to send His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the whole world, that all who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, Rom. 5:6) Our Lord does not desire to burden us with speculating, “What about those who…?” He gives us His Word to speak in whatever vocation He gives us and assures us that it will not return to Him empty. It will accomplish, often unseen by us, that for which He sends it.
Monday, December 5, 2011
One of the opportunities I enjoy is serving the needs of Kansas City’s local blindness community. I help my local congregation host an outreach center for the blind. Each month, between twenty and thirty folks come join us for a free meal. I also enjoy being a sounding board during the month for some of them and writing periodic devotions for some email lists. Now, the statistics do not lie. Over ninety-five percent of blind and visually impaired people remain unchurched. This is because of the myths some have heard about the Church’s view toward people with disabilities. Because many see the popular healing shows and happy-clappy hoopla that passes for Christianity, they get turned off. They join many mainline liberals and pundits who poke fun at the Word of Faith antics and call them the real Church. Mainline liberalism has also had its damaging effect on the blindness community. Congregations claiming to center their teaching on social justice and gaining equal rights turn Jesus into the prime example of a community organizer who belts out the hope that his demands bring if people obeyed His liberation teachings. That’s not the Gospel. It’s class-warfare dressed up in the hip garb of Christian terminology redefined. I think and pray often concerning the challenges that confront Confessional Christian evangelism to the blindness community. One such challenge raises its head in the name of mission but is only a step away from the ills I described. That challenge is the thinking that evangelism and outreach are separate from the Church. Outreach centers or preaching stations are said to be “mission outposts” since Word and Sacrament ministry is not done there. But, what is evangelism without the Church’s active proclamation of the Gospel and a show of hands-on love for the neighbor. It is social justice that can be carried out by the Red Cross, United Way, Kiwanis, etc. To divorce the Gospel from the Church that proclaims it to those who like or like it not is to rob Christ of the means by which He makes Himself known and by which He daily and richly forgives our sins. So, as I help people who come to our monthly meals, I am not acting apart from Christ’s Church in mission. Rather, our Lord Jesus strengthens our faith in Him and fervent love for one another by giving us His body and blood in Holy Communion. He sends me and all believers forth with His blessing, that His word will not return empty (Is. 55:10-11) but will accomplish that that for which He sends it. Christ does not stop having Himself a people during our care for others. We do not stop being His body when tending to people’s needs. Christ's Word and Sacraments sustain His body in our daily interactions. After all, a conversation dealing with how someone is feeling can lead to a discussion of our Lord’s provision and sustenance during times of illness or emotional instability. We do not stop confessing the Creed when helping someone deal with discrimination or insults over their blindness. God has still given us all our reason and senses and daily takes care of them. He redeemed us not just skin-deeply. His shed blood keeps our whole body, soul, and spirit in His peace. (1 Thes. 5:23) We as the Church are not our own. Christ has bought us with the price of His blood. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Outreach centers, and relief efforts done by true Christians are not separate from the Church. Rather, through them, our Lord sends His Church in mission, bringing His mercy to the world in need of it. His Word will create in others trust in HIm and bring them into HIs body, the Church.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? This blog is titled LUTHERAN MESSENGER ONLINE after the name of the magazine to which I contribute and which I help edit. I will be reposting some of my original articles in the magazine such as weekly readings for the three year lectionary found in the Lutheran Service Book, features on current events, and snapshots of the Bible studies I write on a monthly basis.
This blog is titled LUTHERAN MESSENGER ONLINE after the name of the magazine to which I contribute and which I help edit. I will be reposting some of my original articles in the magazine such as weekly readings for the three year lectionary found in the Lutheran Service Book, features on current events, and snapshots of the Bible studies I write on a monthly basis. You will find articles on current issues that I do not write for the magazine. Being a freelance writer, I will also post on various projects which I am undertaking. If you have an ideas or observations, comment…comment…comment! I love interaction, so feel free to reply as you read. If you would like to contribute an article or an idea for this blog, please, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “contribution” in the subject line.