The LCMS announced the candidates nominated for the office of President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod today. The three candidates are the current President, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, current synod First Vice President, Rev. Dr. Herbert Mueller, and Michigan District President, Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier. The convention this summer should prove interesting.
In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil. Smalcald Articles, III, VIII, par 9-10.
(This article was originally published on January 28, 2012. It has been updated and cleaned up a bit)
Earlier this week a church planting team from our LCMS District came to our congregation to talk about entering into a partnership with our congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. Situated smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, home to the Christian music industry, our congregation is centrally located along what many have termed “church row.” We are one of the smaller churches along this stretch of road in Nashville, but we are growing. Nashville and Davidson County boast a population of approximately 620,000 people, 600,000 12 years earlier. In 2000, there were approximately 591 congregations with 297,312 members. When the statistics are adjusted for children, the figure jumps to just over 400,000 (Source: Association of Religious Data Archives). In 2007, the estimated population was 620,000. The number of churches climbed to 853 and church membership saw a slight increase to 304,238 (Source: Social Explorer using ARDA numbers). You can throw a rock and hit a large, mega, or brand new church in Nashville and its surrounding counties. I may be a little color blind when it comes to distinguishing the colors on the demographic map, but the numbers show pretty close to 50% of the adult population claims membership in a church in Davidson County, the geographic home of the Music City, and more than 60% when children are factored into the equation. So why plant churches when 262 new churches yielded only a slight increase in claimed membership over a 7 year period in Nashville? The answer may surprise you. Read the rest of this entry
The Reformation of the Church, ignited in 1517 by Martin Luther’s posting of the Theses on Indulgences, is and always has been about the proclamation of the pure Gospel as set forth in sacred Scripture. The “Treasury of Daily Prayer,” from Concordia Publishing House had as part of the readings for today a paragraph from Martin Luther’s sermon on John 1:29 – Behold the Lamb of God. The pure Gospel, as Lutherans and orthodox Christendom proclaims it – we have strayed from time to time from this proclamation – is and always has been Christ and Him crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. It is not an intellectual concept that can be grasped by man with his own faculties. Instead it is something that can only be received by faith, for faith, through faith. For Christ draws us into His story of the cross. His story becomes our story. His life, our life. His death, our death. His resurrection, ours too. His freedom, our freedom. For if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed. It is our eternal hope, and a promise to which must cling. It is Christ Himself.
I give thanks to God for the faithful who have gone before us to pave the way for the freedom we have in Christ. He gives His saints the courage to stand before kings and princes, in the face of great persecution to bear witness to the hope we have in Christ. I give thanks to God that He used Martin Luther “to hatch the egg that Erasmus laid,” and I pray that you do too. If you have not read any of Luther’s sermons, you should. Do not form your opinions of Lutherans on any crass opinions you have heard about Luther’s physical infirmities, or other fantastic insights into his psyche. Instead, read what he has to say for he points to Christ.
In the Sermon on John 1:29, Luther reflects on John’s proclamation of the Christ who approached the river Jordan to be baptized: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Here Luther gives the Gospel, the pure Gospel proclamation of Christ:
May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.
Such benefactions of God might well provoke us to love and to laud God and to celebrate this service in song and sermon and speech. It should also induce us to die willingly and to remain cheerful in all suffering. For how amazing it is that the Son of God becomes my servant, that He humbles Himself so, that He cumbers Himself with my misery and sin, yes, with the sin and the death of the entire world! He says to me: “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.” No one can comprehend this. In yonder life our eyes will feast forever on this love of God. And who would not gladly die for Christ’s sake? The Son of Man performs the basest and filthiest work. He does not don some beggar’s torn garment or old trousers, nor does He wash us as a mother washes a child; but He bears our sin, death, and hell, our misery of body and soul. Whenever the devil declares: “You are a sinner!” Christ interposes: “I will reverse the order; I will be a sinner, and you are to go scotfree.” Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Jn 1:29). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House (1999).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16.
The is an absolutely fascinating and thorough review of the effects of post-modernism on the body of Christ and review of the the spiritual, but not religious movement in the church. Carol Geisler does a terrific job of summarizing the theological underpinnings of the so-called “Emerging Church” movement in Christianity. This is the movement that says historical Christianity, grandma and grandpa’s church, Cardinal John Henry Newman’s church, Pope Benedict’s church, Luther’s church, St. Augustine’s church, Christ’s church, is not for today’s modern, spiritual seeker. I may have more on this article after having the opportunity to thoroughly digest it, but for now it has been re-published in its entirety below:
by Carol Geisler
Carol Geisler works at Lutheran Hour Ministries and the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations. A former teacher and principal, she earned the Ph.D. in historical theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
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The emergent church movement is by no means a new conversation (the description preferred by its advocates) but the discussion continues to attract mainline denominations searching for practical ideas in ministry. Emergent interests such as social networks, personal stories, and “authentic” spiritual experiences are pursued to reach the unchurched or to encourage a generation of young Christians. Admiration between denominations and emergents is something of a one way street, however, as emergent advocates tend to regard the denominations (sometimes referred to as “tribes” or “villages”) with a certain amount of disdain. There are emergents from many tribes, including Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans, but emergent theologian Tony Jones comments, “In the end, the new definition of ‘Christian’ may not be what particular doctrines one believes or which flavor of church to which one belongs but whether (and how thoroughly) one is woven into the fabric of global Christianity.” The language and practices discussed in the emergent conversation also attract listeners from the Missouri Synod tribe eager for new ideas in evangelism. Before Lutherans join whole-heartedly in the conversation they may want to consider the discussion’s general direction because it is not an open-ended dialogue. What do its leading voices have to say? What will the fabric of global Christianity look like when the conversation ends and the emergent reweaving is complete? Read the rest of this entry
An interesting Post from Pastor Peters at Grace Lutheran in Clarksville, TN. It dovetails quite nicely with our discussion on the Lord’s Supper and close communion. The main thrust of the post is thinking about how we ought to treat the consecrated elements of the Sacrament. What should you do if there is a spill? What happens to what is left over? What should I do if I drop the host? And what about all those individual cups — do we just throw them out? Just as we need to consider why we practice close communion, we need to consider how we approach and handle the consecrated elements in the Sacrament. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — How we pray or how we worship, reflects how we believe.
Here is an update from Reverend Fisk’s blog on the work of Rev. James May in Africa under the auspices of Lutherans in Africa. African missions need our support as Christians on that continent suffer terrible persecutions including mass killings and genocide simply for being Christians. Religious chaos runs rampant, and many parts of the country are under siege from proponents of the prosperity Gospel and Left Behind theology. There are seminaries training pastors in Africa in the Sudan, Togo, and Sierra Leone. All need our support. There are also precious few Lutheran resources available to the people, including Bibles and hymnals. Lutherans in Africa notes the following particular needs for these areas of Africa:
ESV English catechisms with questions and answers
There are still many languages into which we have yet to translate the catechism but they do understand a good deal of English (at least among the educated). LHF does not have permission to print the catechism into English
The Lutheran Study Bible
Few Lutheran pastors in Africa have even one biblical commentary. It would be a great blessing for then to get a study bible with notes covering all of scripture. How can they study and prepare good sermons without any resources for study?
Theological books for the mission library and research center. Because books are so expensive to buy and ship over, most Lutheran pastors have no access to commentaries, dogmatic books, historical books, etc. If you have new or used books that you could donate or if you would like to support shipping some books over, that would be very helpful. We would like to offer a place to research and study in addition to our seminars.
West Africa (French speaking)
The new French hymnal published by Concordia
Very few of the Lutheran churches in French speaking West Africa have ever seen a Lutheran hymnal. As a result most now only know praise songs and are unaware of rich Lutheran hymnody. Now that a new hymnal has been produced in French we have been distributing these so Lutherans can see the difference between Lutheran hymns and praise songs. The interest is very large after the recent conference held in Togo.
There are currently 22 students at the seminary in Togo. It is not possible to get the clergy shirts in Togo and they would make great graduation gifts. There will be a graduation class in June 18, 2011. All sizes are needs. The seminary students are all different heights. The average would be around 5’8”. The average neck size would be 16”. Nevertheless all sizes are needed. Please consider donating used or new clergy shirts.
If there is ladies’ group that could make stoles for them, that would be great. Red on one side green on the other. They are expensive to buy but can be made for a much more reasonable price.
The Lutheran Heritage Foundation is sponsoring a hymnal for families project in Kenya. They can produce a hymnal in Kenya for a cost of only $5 ($10 to publish it in the Kisii language)! The cost for producing Luther’s Small Catechism is the same. A list of the cost for publishing some Lutheran resources in other parts of Africa can be found here: LHF Missions, Adopt a Project.
Consider supporting these mission projects. Information on each and where to send donations can be found by clicking on each link.