To: LMS-USA Pastors and Congregations, [and interested observers]
From: Pastor Roy A. Steward, Synod Convention Chairman
Our annual Conference and Convention meetings will be held in June this year,
and that time will be upon us very shortly. I encourage all congregations
to be represented at our annual time together and all of our pastors to likewise
be in attendance. Truly we have had amazing growth in this second year of
our life as a Ministerium and Synod. The dates are June 7, 8 and 9 at St.
Matthew Lutheran in Indianapolis, IN.
This year's Study Conference and Convention will be a very historic occasion for us as we will act to give final approval and authorization to the ordination and Call to Mission development of our very first LMS-USA Ordinand. We will also act to more than double the number of Subscriptional Pastors and also act to approve a significant number of new Associate Pastors and new Mission Congregations. LMS-USA is growing and we give praise to God from whom all blessings flow! The Study Conference will feature Dr. Marquardt of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synods Fort Wayne Seminary Faculty.
The list of items for our Convention business agenda are growing. Last year we were all amazed at how much business our little Synod needed to deal with and this year will be no exception. All the items for the agenda are important and we will deal with them each. If Pastors or members of congregations have items they wish to submit for the agenda please do not hesitate to make these known to us so that they can be included
All of the normal items will be included on our Agenda:
Although the agenda may not sound too exciting it is indeed all very important
business for us to deliberate. The Ordination of Jeffrey Iverson, the welcoming
of new pastors, and the Study Presentations will indeed be all very stimulating
and challenging to us. Hoping to greet many of you in person at our Annual
Conference and historic 2nd Annual Convention, June 7-9.
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by Pastor Mark Dankof
Pastor Dankof has examined the convergences (Pt. I) and the divergences (Pt.
II) of orthodox Lutheranism and American Fundamentalism in past issues of
Table Talk. Now he turns to examine their understandings in the area of
". . . Rejected, too, are certain Jewish opinions which are even now making an appearance and which teach that, before the resurrection of the dead, saints and godly men will possess a worldly kingdom and annihilate all the godless."
--the Augsburg Confession, Article XVII, "The Return of Christ to Judgment"
A major gulf between confessional Lutheranism and American fundamentalism
centers in their respective positions regarding the second coming of Jesus
Christ, the relationship of the church to Israel, and the nature of the thousand
year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation, chapter 20. Aside from the
smallest percentage of Lutherans representing the school of "Lutheran pietism",
mainstream Lutheranism, in keeping with the Augsburg Confession, has rejected
belief in a literal millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth subsequent
to His second coming. This rejection of millennialism during the Protestant
Reformation of the sixteenth century was shared by Lutheran, Calvinist, and
Anglican traditions alike, with John Calvin declaring those involved in
millennial, apocalyptic speculation to be "ignorant" and "malicious". The
Augsburg Confession's failure to affirm belief in a literal thousand year
reign of Christ on earth was joined by the Thirty Nine Articles and the
Westminster Confession. By contrast, modern American fundamentalism has been
profoundly influenced by premillennialism, particularly of the dispensational
variety, and the school of eschatological thought known as postmillennialism,
particularly through the lineage of English Puritanism.
Understanding the historical forces which assisted in the development of these respective schools of eschatological thought is critical, regardless of one's ultimate individual selection of a particular point of view in prophetic interpretation. Historic, non dispensational premillennialism, was the prevailing prophetic interpretive scheme in the first three centuries of the church age. It was characterized by an emphatic appeal to an apocalyptic understanding of history and the cosmos. Utilizing Jewish conceptions of numerology, angelology, and a radical dichotomy between ultimate good and evil which would end only with a radical intervention by God in history, historic premillennialism was shaped by the persecution of the Christian church at the hands of the imperial Roman Empire, and the comfort this view of the prophetic con- summation of the Kingdom of God gave to em- battled believers amidst the nefarious machinations of Nero, Domitian, and others. Its tenets can be found in the writings of many early church fathers, including Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian, while keeping in mind that the radical distinction between the Church and Israel characteristic of modern dispensational premillennialism, is a later historical development embodied in such theologians as Church of Scotland minister Edward Irving (1792-1834), John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), and C. I. Scofield (1843-1921), whose Scofield Reference Bible provided the ideological foundation for such American evangelical institutions as Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary.
Historic premillennialism was eventually supplanted from its original position as the prevailing interpretive school of prophetic thought in Christian theology, in favor of classic amillennialism. It was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, who produced the most influential exposition of this construct in chapter twenty of his fourth century magnum opus, The City of God. Augustinian eschatology dominated Western Christian thought in the Middle Ages and served as the foundation of the non millennial views of the Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican confessions in the sixteenth century. In contrast to premillennialism's tendency to emphasize a literal hermeneutic in the interpretation of the Jewish apocalyptic books of Revelation and Daniel, Augustine employed an allegorical methodology, which applied the truths of these volumes more to the Church and less to literal Israel in the New Testament era. This thrust was accompanied by the idea that the ultimate struggle between good and evil had already been won through the Cross, although the final implementation of the Kingdom was yet future.
What historical factors influenced Augustine? R. G. Clouse cites three factors which led to the increasing popularity of amillennialism and the waning of premillennialism in the Church, from the fourth century onward. First, premillennialism became linked with the fanatical second century movement in Phrygia in Roman Asia Minor (Turkey) known as Montanism, an early precursor of the worst elements of modern Pentecostalism. Montanus, and his female "prophetesses" Prisca and Maximilla, emphasized the importance of extra Biblical revelation, the "New Third Age of the Spirit", the "New Prophecy" which the Paraclete was speaking directly through them for the edification of others. Emphasis on ecstatic utterances, female prophetic leadership, and stern asceticism, soon removed these practitioners from the mainstream of the post apostolic Church. And their belief in the centrality of their own roles in the ushering in of the literal millennial reign of Christ had a discrediting effect upon the larger school of premillennial interpretation, a tragedy which was to repeat itself continually in the centuries that followed.
Origen (185-254), the greatest theologian of the early Greek church, was the second factor in setting the stage for Augustine's amillennial approach. The former emphasized the manifestation of the Kingdom within the soul of the believer rather than in the world, which shifted eschatological emphasis away from the historical to the spiritual and metaphysical. The third factor was the conversion of the Emperor Constantine the Great (312), and the subsequent adoption of Christianity as the favored imperial religion of the Roman Empire, which served to dampen the radical apocalypticism fanned by the Empire's earlier hostility and persecution of believers.
Apocalyptic premillennialism continued to be held after the fourth century, but continued its pattern over the centuries of attracting countercultural theological groups often characterized by demagogic leaders, political radicalism, and revolts against both ecclesiastical and temporal authority. Tanchelm of the Netherlands in the eleventh century, Joachim of Fiore's twelfth century teachings on the "Third Age of the Holy Spirit", and the utilization of the doctrine of the imminent, premillennial return of Jesus Christ by the Taborites of Bohemia in their fifteenth century struggle with Catholic Imperial forces in the Hussite Wars, were all precursors of an unfortunate event in the city of Münster in 1534 which may have solidified in cement, the opposition of mainstream Protestant Reformers to manifestations of millennialism. In that year Jan Matthys gained control of the city, declaring himself to be Enoch preparing the way for the eschaton of Christ. Matthys developed a legal system which featured a socialistic communal property concept, and declared Münster to be the New Jerusalem. Many Anabaptists identified with Matthys' cause, with residents of Münster not getting aboard the fanaticist train forced to flee the city or endure Matthys' authoritarian reign of terror. A combined Protestant/Catholic military force had to lay siege to the city, suppressing the latest excess in millennial enthusiasm, not seen since Melchior Rinck's prediction that the millennium would be ushered in during Easter of 1530!
It is these developments in history which undergird traditional Lutheran suspicion of all forms of premillennialism, both historic and dispensational. It is also important to note the ingredients and factors which underscore Lutheranism's concomitant fears of postmillennialism as well. During the Puritan Revolution in England, the writings of Johann Heinrich Alsted and Joseph Mede were used as a foundation for the activities of radical groups like the Fifth Monarchy Men, who desired the reestablishment of Old Testament Law in the context of a political reformation aimed at the English government and monarchy. Later, the writings of the Anglican scholar Daniel Whitby, in a similar vein to those of Alsted and Mede, had profound impact on Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), whose postmillennialism took on a specifically American character in its emphasis on the significance of America in God's eventual establishment of millennial conditions on earth. Edwards' brand of postmillennialism was developed even further by Hollis Read of Park Street Church of Boston, whose work, The Hand of God in History, articulated the view that the millennium was coming to America in the nineteenth century. The English language, Anglo-Saxon culture and political structures, and technological progress, would spread the Gospel to such an extent, according to Read, that the millennium would be simultaneously brought to manifestation. Curiously enough, it is Read's eschatology which undergirded the post-millennial tone of the Northern cause in the American Civil War, and later, in Woodrow Wilson's globally oriented crusades on behalf of "democracy" and the League of Nations. These causes, dear to the hearts of many on the American political left, are ironically related, because of their basis in postmillennial theology, to a burgeoning activism by the American religious right, as evidenced by movements like "Christian Reconstructionism" and individuals like R. J. Rushdoony and Pat Robertson, who seek to impose their interpretation of Old Testament Law and Christian moral revival on America through the capture of its political and societal structures.
By contrast, Lutheran eschatology retains historical and theological pessimism about any attempt on the part of sinful man and corrupt human structures to bring the Kingdom of God, which is "not of this world", to pass in a way which distorts the person of Christ and the nature of his other-worldly Kingdom, and lends opportunity for the manifestation of the misleading power of false Christs, who seem to resemble Christ and who pretend to represent Him. Lutheranism charges that it is the "glorious theocratic church" (Althaus) of both pre and postmillennialism, which forgets the cross and rejects Christ crucified. This is the heart of the objection of both Luther and the Augsburg Confession to both.
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The best laid plans.... Everything seemed to be in place. Then a phone call
to make some final checks... and... its back to the drawing board. Well,
not quite. Another speaker had been seriously considered. So... another phone
call... and... "Yes, I would be happy to come."
As previously announced, Dr. Carter Lindberg (School of Theology of Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts) was scheduled to be with us for our June Conference to critique the 'Church Growth' movement [the founding pastors of the LMS-USA had found much in his book, The Third Reformation, most helpful in thinking through, and putting into print, some of their theological positions in the days that lead to the formation of the LMS-USA] . When, at the 11th hour, this did not work out, a call was made to Prof. Kurt Marquart of Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne. He too has done work which has been found interesting and helpful in the area of modern Church Growth Movement but also in the area of the Lutheran Confessions. We are most happy that he was able to arrange to meet with us on such short notice and look forward to his presentations on Sunday afternoon and evening, June 8.
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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also known as "Penns Woods" has been the
setting for a good bit of Mission effort during the recent Lent and Easter
seasons. Faith Evangelical Lutheran, Duncansville/Altoona, PA, and Barley
Evangelical Lutheran, New Enterprise/Baker's Summit, PA, have funded the
Early in 1997 Pastor W. Stephen Fermier indicated his desire to make application to the LMS-USA clergy roster. His home is York, PA, an area well known to the LMS-USA Synod Chairman and Pastor of Faith and Barley Congregations, Pastor Steward. Pastor Steward's wife is a native of York and Pastor Steward had previously served a congregation in York County. It was thus decided that York with its relatively dense population of Lutherans would be a suitable Mission field for LMS-USA.
A Newspaper Advertising effort was launched and immediately produced interest in the media as well as from a number of neighboring Central PA areas and from the city of York area. An open public meeting for discussion of Lutheran Theological issues and for the introduction of LMS-USA was then held on March 16. It was truly gratifying to see over 60 persons of Lutheran background attend. The planners had hoped for 15-20 interested persons.
A follow up meeting was held on April 13 in York. This time there were just over 30 persons of Lutheran background in attendance. In addition a good number of contacts were received from persons unable to attend either of the meetings. The new Mission congregation is thus up and running. The name selected for this new LMS-USA Mission congregation is, "RESURRECTION LUTHERAN CHURCH".
A Steering Committee or Interim Council Board of 6 - 12 is in the process of being formed and it is hoped that public worship will begin in the not distant future. It is likely that one further meeting will be held as plans for the beginning of Worship and life for Resurrection Congregation are finalized.
It is anticipated that as a result of the York effort three additional LMS-USA Mission congregations with Pastoral leadership will develop within the next year in the Central Pennsylvania Region.
A special Mission Segment has been started on our LMS-USA Internet WEB site [http://www.aurorawdc.com/lms-usa/] and we will have individual segments for each of the various Mission Field settings. The members of Faith and Barley congregations as well as the Pennsylvania Pastors and other PA LMS-USA Congregations (Living Faith, Littlestown) stand amazed at how the Mission contacts so quickly and so widely are spread. We believe we are catching a glimpse of what happened in the first century of Christian Church Mission. While we don't agree with all of the theology behind the popular contemporary hymn "It only takes a Spark to get a fire going," nonetheless the opening line is very accurate. It only takes the spark of God's Word to get a mission going and pretty soon it spreads amazingly. It doesn't depend on our experiencing it, but when we faithfully seek to proclaim God's Word, then Mission will happen!
SDG. - Pr. Steward
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by Pastor Roy Steward
Our 2nd annual Ministerium meeting was held, April 16, 17, and 18, at Christ
Lutheran Church, Chetek Wisconsin. The First annual Ministerium meeting was
held in 1995 at Barley Lutheran, New Enterprise, PA and at Faith Lutheran,
Duncansville, PA. The 1995 gathering had 7 Pastors in attendance and this
years gathering of pastors recorded 8 Pastors and 2 guests in attendance.
The Easternmost PA. pastors started West in a rental Van and picked up pastors in Ohio and Indiana as they drove to Chetek. Lots of interesting discussion ensued during the 2,400 mile round trip from Harrisburg, PA to Chetek and back. The Ministerium meetings thus actually began in the Van and can be said to have been very moving. The PA Van left Harrisburg on Tuesday Evening at approximately 9:00 P.M.; stopped in Altoona at Midnight and then picked up our Ohio Pastor at 6:00 A.M. on Wednesday morning EST. At 7:30 A.M. (CST) our Indiana contingent was picked up and by 6:30 P.M. CST the Van stopped in Osseo, Wisconsin so that the pastors could break bread together at the renowned eating establishment known as "The Norski Nook". This was just an hour and a half distant from Chetek. All sampled the Lefse but no one among the eastern LMS-USA brethren were bold enough to try the Lutefisk. Arrival time in Chetek was somewhere in the vicinity of 9:00 P.M. CST. It was thus a one way trip of almost 25 hours duration registering almost exactly 1,200 miles. As the saying goes : "OOF DAH!!!"
As soon as the Van arrived we held an opening session and finalized our agenda for the meetings to be held on the morrow and then all went to various homes for a time of R & R.
Thursday morning dawned bright and beautiful and at 7:30 A.M. the Serving Committee of Christ Lutheran had breakfast ready and waiting. We began with Worship led by host Pastor, Rev. John Erickson.
A major item was reviewing our Constitution and making some recommended amendments to be submitted to the Synod Convention. After living closely with our constitution for two years we made changes which enhanced clarity and consensus understanding. This Constitutional review and reflection work took up a good part of our morning.
We next welcomed our Home Page Web master, Arik Johnson, who reviewed our efforts to date and made suggestions as well as fielding many questions.
Truly it was amazing to all the large number of contacts we have been receiving through the Web site and the new technology will enhance our communications. We decided to create a public chat page in conjunction with our Web site and also to arrange for conferencing for our Pastors who have the Computer Capabilities.
After a sumptuous luncheon served by the Christ Lutheran Serving Committee we returned to Constitutional matters and then spent time reviewing the Preliminary Statement on "the Holy Spirit and His Proper Work". Several amendments were adopted and recommended to the Synod Convention.
Later in the day we welcomed AFLC Pastor, The Rev. David Barnhart who shared with us his experiences: 1) as an LCA pastor, 2) regarding his decision to leave the LCA shortly before the merger, 3) concerning his present work as an AFLC pastor and Director of Abiding Word Ministries. This was a most informative and helpful time.
The Christ Lutheran Serving Committee provided a splendid supper and then all prepared for an evening event sponsored by Christ Lutheran as part of their Tenth Year Anniversary celebration. Pastor David Barnhart was the featured speaker for the evening. A time of general fellowship followed and during the evening hours the Subscriptional Pastors met with Associate Pastors desiring to become Subscriptional Pastors and with new applicants desiring to become Associate Pastors of LMS-USA. The Rev. Richard Barley was approved and recommenced to the Synod for reception as a Subscriptional Pastor at the June Convention. Seminarian Jeffrey Iverson who will become a subscriptional pastor upon ordination in June was recommended to the Synod for Special Call as a Mission pastor. The Subscribing Pastors likewise recommended approval of The Rev. W. Stephen Fermier as an Associate Pastor and recommended the Synod grant Pastor Fermier a special Call as Mission Pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Mission Congregation , York PA.
Additional pastors applying for Subscriptional membership and for Associate membership will be interviewed on Saturday June 7 for possible recommendation to the Synod Convention which meets June 7, 8, & 9 in Indianapolis.
Deliberations by the Subscriptional Pastors continued prior to breakfast on Friday morning and approval and recommendation to the Synod for reception as Associate pastor membership was made for one Pastor to remain unnamed and for the Rev. Brian Triller, Shady Grove PA.
When the Ministerium met in 1995 there were initially 3 member pastors of LMS-USA but as the Ministerium concluded its meetings at this 1996 annual meeting the Clergy roster had increased in one years time to 12 member pastors. Several additional candidates for Clergy roster membership are at various stages of consideration. At the Annual Convention of the Synod in June Subscriptional Clergy Roster membership is anticipated to increase from the 3 initial subscribing pastors to a total of 7 Subscribing member pastors.
A delightful breakfast was served by the Christ Lutheran Serving Committee on Friday and the remainder of our time together before the Van turned around and headed East was spent on sharing concerning the various ministries each pastor is engaged in. Pastor H. Richard Barley led us in opening worship. Report was given on our Mission efforts in the York County PA Area. This time was called the "Whatsoever is good in LMS, think on these things." We spent some time discussing the upcoming Study Conference as held in conjunction with the Annual Synod Convention. It was decided that Subscribing pastors would make brief presentations on Monday relating to the area of the Confessions. We also discussed the possibility of next beginning deliberations on the Doctrine of Ministry. Before we knew it time was gone. The Christ Lutheran Serving Committee provided us with a grand luncheon and packed sandwiches for the travelers. By about 1:30 P.M. CST after concluding with Prayer the Eastern bound Van was on its way. The Last of the Pastors arrived home at 1:00 P.M. EST on Saturday.
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June 7, 8 and 9, 1997
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
2837 East New York Street
Guest Conference Presenter - Prof. Kurt Marquart
Prof. Marquart was born in 1934 in Tallinn, Estonia. His family fled from
the Soviets, were displaced persons after WW II, and immigrated to the USA
He is a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1959. He was a parish pastor from 1959 through 1975 at which time he accepted a call as associate professor of systematic and practical theology in Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL and since 1976 at Ft. Wayne, IN.
He spent 1981/1982 school year in London, Ontario where he pursued sabbatical studies in the philosophy of science, earning the MA degree in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario. Prof. Marquart served several years as faculty rep. on the LC-MS's Commission on Theology and Church Relations. Of interest to us of the LMS-USA is his work in critiquing the modern "Church Growth" movement. In 1994 he wrote the book, "Church Growth" as Mission paradigm: A Lutheran Assessment.
The Conference/Convention Schedule For those not familiar with the structure of our church body, the Synod Convention deals with the business end of things, the Conference is the ongoing Forum for theological discussion that is central to who we are as the LMS-USA.
|Saturday, June 7||5:00 PM||Synod Convention - first session|
|Sunday, June 8||10:30 AM||Convention Worship Service (Ordination of Jeffrey Iverson)|
|4:00 PM||Conference convenes|
|4:00 PM||First presentation by Prof. Marquart|
|5:30 PM||Evening Meal|
|6:30 PM||Second presentation by Prof. Marquart|
|Monday, June 9||8:30 AM||Conference reconvenes|
|8:30 AM||Morning Devotions|
|9:00 AM||The Lutheran Confessions - Why all the fuss? [ Rev. John Erickson]|
|10:00 AM||The Wider Corpus of the Book of Concord [Rev. Roy Steward]|
|11:00 AM||Make a Joyful Noise [Rev. Ralph Spears]|
|12:00 Noon||Noon Meal|
|1:00 PM||Convention reconvenes|
|1:00 PM||Synod Convention - second session|
Conference Sessions this year will be held in a more informal setting in St. Matthew's All Saints Lounge
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From the article, Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis, by William E.
Concordia Theological Quarterly, vol. 56; num. 2-3, April-July 1992, p. 99ff.
Used with permission.
In the last two issues of Table Talk, William E. Thompson has presented his
argument to show that there is indeed a crisis in the Lutheran Church when
it comes to the matter of Catechetical Instruction and practice. In this
issue we are presented with the author's fifth and final reason for this
crisis as well as a look into Luther's thinking as to how the Catechism should
D. A Confusion in Ecclesiology
The fifth reason the author suggests for the catechetical crisis in our day is that today the church has been changed "from an article of faith to something in the visual sensorium." Luther, on the other hand, made "catechesis primarily an oral-aural exercise rather than a visual exercise."
"God always works through speaking. He spoke the creation into existence. The virgin conceived through the word of the angel. Faith is given through hearing. St. Paul says that, if we live by sight, we are no longer living by faith. The church is always believed to be where God's word is taught in its truth and purity and where the sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution. For Luther the words of the Catechism are to be memorized so that they can be heard rather than being seed. In this way God does His work in us. This truth does not deny the reality of the church in the world but anchors it in the oral sensorium of faith, not the visual sensorium of proof...."
A common ground of modern catechetical material is an emphasis on the textual word rather than the spoken word. The typical material is set out in a 'course' with lessons that are intended to be covered and passed with the assumption that the material has then been learned. Often worksheets and tests are used to corroborate satisfactory performance. Thus, 'confessing with the lips' has been supplanted with visually verifiable standards of performance. The visual is further emphasized in that these courses typically conclude with lessons on stewardship, evangelism, and other topics which emphasize the quantifiable, anthropological dimensions of the church. These topics are certainly significant to the life of the church, but they would be much better taught at appropriate points in the catechism. For instance, stewardship can be especially emphasized in teaching the First Commandment and the First Article. However, when these topics are taken up on their own as the climax of a course, it is easy to assume that the marks of the church are such quantifiable, visual human activity. We have been so conditioned by this procedure that most congregational members look to these visual criteria as the marks that the church is healthy. This approach is reinforced by constant synodical and district concern over such quantifiable, visual criteria, while concern over what is preached and taught and over how the sacraments are administered is rarely discussed. The church, practically speaking is no longer an article of faith, but is now something measurable and visible. One becomes a part of it through completion of a course centered in the visual sensorium and one is directed to a quantifiable human activity to judge its health. The result is an ecclesiastical life focused on the works of men rather than the gifts of the Lord.
The author shares with the reader his understanding of Luther's method of catechetical instruction as found in the Preface to the Small Catechism.
"In the first place, the preacher should take utmost care to avoid changes or variations in the text and wording of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Sacraments, etc., On the contrary he should adopt one form, adhere to it, and use it repeatedly year after year. Young and inexperienced people must be instructed on the basis of a uniform, fixed text and form. They are easily confused if a teacher employs one form now and another form - perhaps with the intention of making improvements - later on. In this way all the time and labor will be lost. This was well understood by our good fathers, who were accustomed to use the same form in teaching the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments... Begin by teaching them the text word for word so that the young may repeat these things after you and retain them in their memory. In the second place, after the people have become familiar with the text teach them what it means. For this purpose, take the explanations in this booklet, or choose any other brief and fixed explanations which you prefer, and adhere to them without changing a single syllable, as stated above with reference to the text.... In the third place, after you have thus taught this brief catechism, take up a large catechism so that people may have a richer and fuller understanding."
As the author points out, "Luther's method is simple. Teach them each part word for word. Teach the explanation word for word and expound the meaning of the words. Finally, take up the Large Catechism for a fuller understanding. Notice that Luther consciously honors the fathers in the faith by adopting their method. He does not ignore them and do his own thing. As cited above Luther examined the content of their materials as well as their method....
"Luther's method has tremendous practice advantages. The uniform text forces us to take the words and their meanings seriously. It brings continuity between generations and enables parents to fulfill their vocational catechetical duty. His method is primarily an oral one which centers in the shape of the baptismal life presented in the entire catechism as well as in each individual part. The words which become a part of the person form the basis for meditation, prayer, preparation for confession and absolution, preparation for eating and drinking the body an blood of Christ, and guidance for daily doing one's duty in the place where God has put him. It serves to teach the baptized how to hear the word of God and participate in the Divine Service in a salutary way. The method promotes a life of the church centered in the word and action of Christ rather than the word and works of men. It also fosters a confessional consciousness and provides a confessional base for the baptized. This confessional base provides the baptized with the hermeneutical tools necessary to study the Scriptures in further depth. Finally, this method gives the pastor a solid ground on which to deal with the erring and withering. Application of law and gospel can be made with the specific words of the Catechism."
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by Rev. Ralph Spears
One seminary professor delivered this line as the high point of his most effective lecture, gesturing dramatically with right hand pumping in vertical motions reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt. "As a fire exists in burning, so does the Church exist in mission."
This is a terrific statement, harking back to the last bidding of Jesus on earth to His rapt Apostles, in setting the course of what they were to do next and following on the steady course of acting out the Good News by teaching - baptizing and preaching. For the church as His Body was to be a proactive group "as the Father has sent Me, even so I send you!" "Go, therefore, into all the world...!"
Even though we noticed that the professor's notes were yellow with age, evidence that he had delivered the mighty line to scores of classes in Systematic Theology before us, the overwhelming truth of its message still held and we were treated to a bit of fiery passion in its hearing which was not all staged.
If the Church is sure about the importance of mission or as the professors of Practical Theology called it -- evangelism, they have not always been quite sure about what real mission is, at least today.
As with most all penultimate statements, there is always one more question that can be asked. Even to the statement of the incomparable First Commandment according to Jesus, "You shall love the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind and your neighbor as yourself," came the question from the lawyer, "and who is my neighbor?" (even though it was done to justify himself).
So then what is Mission that the Church should burn with it?
The word does not seem to hold meaning beyond itself today. Many congregations boast of missionaries in foreign countries as a way of holding up what mission is all about. The great missionary societies of the past are witness to this fond tradition in recent Christian history. Preaching the Gospel "to every living creature" as we used to repeat in Sunday School, meant going to foreign lands where ever they might be.
Then some forty years ago, outreach to the inter-city became fashionable as an expression of mission, especially before the riots. Books such as, Come Out The Wilderness, by C. K. Meyers about the work of the East Harlem Protestant Parish, and efforts such as Father Groppi in Milwaukee and Rev. Jackson's 'Operation Bread Basket' in Chicago, captured national attention and pointed to the enormous amount of work necessary in mission in our own cities.
To this I can personally attest, for as an intern pastor in an inner city congregation, my sense of mission was forever shaped by this church [and pastor] of my 'first call'. And a great part of this 'shaping' was in the understanding that it is to individuals in need that we minister in His Name, not to groups or locations which might seem more acceptable or relevant at the time.
It wasn't long before riots and issues that verged too much on the political began the process of drowning out any singular sense of mission in our inner cities.
Traveling about, speaking to groups about urban work, I soon discovered a very confused and diverse concept of mission in the church from the leadership of the synod on down. Everyone, it seemed, had their own idea of what that mission should be. For many good church people troubled by urban unrest-- the idea was to make them (those in our cities) behave and think like us the ones, after all, with the mission. And this found expression in many different ways.
The overall effect of the inner-city era was to cause great damage to what was perceived of, as the Church's Mission! [A very good case can be made for the point, that people thought foreign missionary work of the early part of this century was accomplishing the same thing. That is, that we were causing them to think and behave like us by ministering to them with the message of Christ.]
Likewise when they saw that this was not happening according to their expectations in the blighted cities - then inner city mission work became much less than popular and more political even in the church.
But other questions began to lead to less popularity for missions and therefore for Mission itself: did my dollars actually get to the place of need? Does the organization that I support have the right motives? And is the mission really Christian, that is, does it impart the love of Christ in any way?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Scripture Alone ! Actually Christ Alone IN Scripture is the beginning point
and the place of return in ANY discussion of MISSION !
When Our Lord speaks to us in Scripture, He speaks to us individually first. Even in the 'great commission' to the Church, He was speaking to the Apostles - the individuals and not just a mass. "GO YOU" - "And baptize all nations" (actually the word means foreigners in Hebrew or those not of your own group). He still means individuals, for there is no way of baptizing nations without baptizing each individual.
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Each individual Apostle including Matthias who replaced Judas, did just that.
They made apostles of their own in a Mission of (The ) Word and Sacrament.
Yes there were group mission efforts even in the early Church with offerings taken from each congregation to be distributed by the disciples to the places of need in Asia minor. This was very much in the spirit of sharing with those in need which came from Moses and the later writings of James (among others) in the way of Christ.
BUT Christ speaks always to us as individuals - first. The "you" of " Go you" is singular first and then plural. The directives that he gives us to LOVE and SERVE must be accomplished by each individual Christian hearing and responding in direct obedience to his or her Lord (even) so that the Body might respond "with one accord."
In one part of Matthew 10 - He says that even an individual who does nothing more than give a cold cup of water "to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, will not lose his reward!"
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There IS confusion today about the Mission of the Church what it is, and
what it should be. Appeals are made in the media and on special 'Christian'
programs for missions to this and missions to that with a decided emphasis
on the dollar amount. At least the giver is assured that they might 'feel
good' about the donation and at best, have their names mentioned 'somewhere'
for their noble deed.
There seems to be nothing of the directives from the Sermon on the Mount about "GIVING SO THAT THE LEFT HAND DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT HAND IS DOING" let alone the listening / reading audience. Do they not "HAVE THEIR REWARD ALREADY" in such a venture?
Such a person might settle back after this job well done and not even feel compelled to smile at the next person who needs it because his 'job' is done!
But remember, the person whom we are "feeding, clothing and freeing from prison" IS Christ in the disguise of our neighbor. ("So you have done it to ME"!)
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Much of the confusion about MISSION today, can be cleared up by putting the
emphasis where it should be -- On the response of each individual - you and
I, to Our Lord's command to Love one another and then act in response to
the need of that person in that same Love.
Much of the confusion about MISSION today might be made clearer by teaching that we (each) are 'His Body', His 'house of living stones' which BUILDS into the Church. That because we are responding to Christ Our Lord, we are responding in the right way to our neighbor.
Much of the confusion about MISSION to day might be defused by refusing to let our money alone represent US in any effort of mission, at least - not while we can pray.
Then the Church might reclaim the statement: "AS A FIRE EXISTS IN BURNING, SO DOES THE CHURCH EXIST IN MISSION!"
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