Maundy Thursday 2017

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“This is my body.”

“This is my blood.”

Praise the Father, who from heaven
Unto us such food has given
And, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death his only Son.

Then hold fast with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the souls who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

If your heart this truth professes
And your mouth your sin confesses,
Surely you will be his guest
And at his banquet ever blest.

— “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior,” CW 313:7-8.

He is the word made flesh given to us.

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Maundy Thursday 2016

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God’s presence filled the temple in Jerusalem.  The Lord entered the temple when the

priests brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim…  The temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud.  And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple.

— 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, HCSB.

The curtain of the temple separated the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the people.  Only the high priest entered that most holy place, and only on the day of atonement.

But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

— Hebrews 9:7, HCSB.

On Good Friday, God ripped that temple curtain in two.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary, was split in two from top to bottom…

— Matthew 27:50-51, HCSB.

God removed the barrier.  God removed the barrier of sin between us with blood.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

— Mark 14:22-24, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He gives us his spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  He also gives us his very body and blood.  This is his real presence.  The “body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC, article X).  (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is important to recognize the real presence of God.  Those who do not recognize the holy presence suffer judgement.  The “Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  (Exodus 34:14, ESV).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

— 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, ESV.

The Lord is merciful.

Kyrie eleison.

Maundy Thursday 2015

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The Lord was in the temple, but on one good day Jesus Christ tore the temple curtain in two, from top to bottom.  (Matthew 27:51).  Was it so we could go in to him?  Or was he coming out to us?

He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And where he is, is a new temple.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:26-28, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He puts his very real presence into us.

May the Lord bless your Maundy Thursday and Triduum.

In Flesh, In Us

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The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  The sky shown in through the blue stained glass windows, illuminating the chalice, and enhancing its silver tone.  The altar area was gently illuminated by amber track lighting, which caused the gold on the altar to glow, and gave the background a warm color.  The crucifix was illumined by purple lights inside the altar.  (St. John recently purchased, and installed lights around the crucifix that can change their color according to the season).  I used a time delay, and let the camera’s lens drink in the light.  The picture is still a little dark, but I wanted the photo to reflect the dark reverent stillness of Lent.

The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  An organist was practicing, but the place still felt quiet, silent, reverent.  The quietness of a holy place is a powerful solid stillness found in the whisper of God’s word and the awe of things sacred.  (1 Kings 19:11-13).

During our Lord’s first Supper, it was probably quiet.  The words He spoke were sacred: “This is my body.  This is my blood.  Given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”  The reality was quiet and hidden, but it was also no less momentous than at any other time the Lord was with His people.  He was with His people through the sea and in the dessert.  He was with His people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.  At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple

fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.  When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  [2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV].

The Lord was in the Temple, but on one great day, from one sundown to the next, Christ tore the Temple curtain in two.  Was it so we could go in to Him in Jerusalem’s Temple?  Or was He coming out to us?  He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And He puts His real presence into our bodies.  We, our very bodies are the new Temple of God.  We are God’s Temple/Church/Congregation.  When His Temple assembles in congregation, there He is in the midst of them.  There He is inside of us.

Take and eat.  This is my body.  This is my blood.  We are our bodies, and we are the physical Temple of God.  We are the physical place on earth where God can be found, where He puts His very real presence.  He is in human flesh, in bread, in wine, in us.

May you have a blessed Maundy Thursday.

Receiving Holy Communion in the WELS

Without warning, St. Peter Congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS as a persistent errorist.  This means that St. Peter Congregation has marked me as someone all WELS congregations and members should avoid lest my influence corrupt their faith.  (Please see the post entitled “Terminated from WELS Fellowship“).

In my letter appealing this wrongful termination of fellowship, I asked District President Engelbrecht to give me a letter allowing me to commune at other WELS Churches pending my appeal.  (April 30, 2011 appeal letter).  In a letter dated May 6, 2011, District President Engelbrecht responded:

In regards to your question about communion, I am seeking the advice of my brothers on the Conference of Presidents.  My own opinion at this point in time is that since the termination of your membership was because you publicly stated that you are not in doctrinal agreement with your pastors, your congregation, the district, and other leaders in the WELS, another WELS pastor would have difficulty allowing you to partake of Holy Communion … at least not without him consulting with your former pastors to get their blessing.  I know that you said those words were taken out of context, but they were made public and were taken at face value and bear consequences that may not be to your liking.

May 6, 2011 letter
from District President Engelbrecht
.

It has now been over a month with no new word.  That May 6th letter was the last communication I received from District President Engelbrecht.

Thus, as part of my submission of written materials for the Appeal Board on May 24, 2011, I asked Pastor Wenzel, the chair of the Appeal Board, if he would be able to provide me with such a letter.  (May 24, 2011 appeal cover letter).  His only response to date has been that the Appeal Board hopes to arrive at a decision regarding my appeal within a few weeks.  So far, I have not been invited to speak with the Appeal Board.

Nonetheless, at the invitations of Pastor Martin and Pastor Suhr, at St. John Lutheran Church (WELS), during the Divine Service I received Holy Communion on May 29, June 5, and June 6, 2011 A.D.  I have also been invited to receive Holy Communion at other WELS churches by other WELS pastors.  These pastors are not intending to despise the fellowship practices of the WELS, rather they are confident that I am in doctrinal fellowship with the WELS notwithstanding the bogus declarations of St. Peter Congregation.

I do not wish to be a catalyst for strife, but duly called and ordained servants of the Lord have offered and are offering me this precious gift, and what the Lord gives, I want to receive.

These pastors are also fully aware of my circumstances, and I am grateful to them beyond measure.  They stand in the place of Christ not only to distribute His gifts, but they also stand in the place of Christ because they are willing to potentially sacrifice a great deal to distribute His gifts.  Unlike some, these servants are not greater than their Master who sacrificed everything (John 15:20), but through grace alone as servants of the Word they share in His glory that is hidden in the cross.  And on the last day, they will also share in His triumph.

May the Lord bless and protect His true servants.

WELS Northern WI District Doctrinal Issues

The WELS Northern Wisconsin District Convention will be held in Appleton, WI at Fox Valley Lutheran High School from June 13-15, 2010 A.D.  The District President (equivalent to a Bishop) will be chosen at this convention, as will the District Presidium and numerous Circuit Pastors.  It is imperative that the Northern Wisconsin District choose its leaders wisely.

The Northern Wisconsin District needs leaders who will pay more than lip service to the means of grace, and who will promote and use the means of grace to change hearts.  The means of grace is the gospel in word and sacrament, and the first means of grace is God’s Word.

There are serious theological divisions in the Northern Wisconsin District, and there needs to be some serious theological discussion of God’s word to deal with these divisions.  From my perspective, there are at least four specific and serious doctrinal problems in the WELS Northern Wisconsin District:

The first problem is exceptionalism.  This is the belief that the WELS cannot be wrong.  It is a numbness that causes us to ignore the symptoms of unhealthy doctrine and practice.  Those who hold to this false and unhealthy belief sometimes express contempt toward those who raise concerns about doctrine and practice in the WELS.  Their opinion is: “How dare you question your WELS pastor!”

However, Paul warns us that even among the leaders of the church

men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!  Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

— Acts 20:30-31.

Does this warning not apply to the WELS?  If such stringent warnings were necessary in an age of living Apostles, then how much more do these warnings apply to us today?

The second problem is a lack of trust in the means of grace (Word and sacraments).  This is the belief that from our perspective, God needs our services in order to grow the church.  It is also a denial of God’s promises and omnipotence.  One example of this false doctrine can be found in the WELS produced songbook, Let All the People Praise You.  The first verse of the song “Ready Lord” states: “… show me Lord, the service you will need.”  I cannot count how many times my own congregation has sung that verse.

However, Paul says that God

is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

— Acts 17:25.

The problem here is not an inadvertent error.  The problem is a persistent adherence to an error even after the error has been pointed out.  Those who claim to believe God’s Word should repent of saying that God needs our services, and cease this blasphemy against the Almighty.  God says: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you.”  (Psalm 50:12).

The third problem is a belief in post-conversion works-righteousness/decision theology.  This is the belief that Christians (after conversion) can not only choose to listen to God’s Word, but can also choose to understand and believe God’s Word.  This also encompasses the idea that once God has “saved” us, it is now up to us to keep ourselves in the faith.  This theology causes at least four problems:  First, sermons to Christians become motivational speeches instead of proclamations of the life-giving Word of God.  Second, it creates two “gospels,” one for believers and one for unbelievers.  Third, it causes us to view God’s Word as a tool we use to improve ourselves, instead of as a life-line that we cling to in desperation and faith.  And fourth, it causes people to base their faith and salvation on their daily choices instead of on the firm promise of God.

In contradistinction to the belief that Christians can choose to believe God’s Word, Paul told the early believers:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead …  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this [faith & grace is] not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

— Ephesians 1:17-20, 2:8.

God’s Word alone creates faith, and causes it to grow.

The fourth problem is a variation of unionism.  Unionism is the belief that doctrine is not that important.  This unhealthy belief reveals itself in the form of a church council president who tells WELS members that if they have doctrinal disagreements with their pastor, then they should be quiet, or join another WELS congregation.  Those who hold to this unhealthy belief view doctrinal discussions as divisive and a waste of time.  However, the biblical solution is to discuss and study God’s Word until the issues are resolved.

For example, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke wrote that

the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

— 17:11.

Also, in the Revelation Jesus said,

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked…

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.

— 3:15-17, 19.

Most of the above listed unhealthy doctrines are not proclaimed proudly from the rooftops for all to see, but rather they are hidden and are mostly revealed by poor practices which are the primary symptoms of unhealthy doctrine.  Beliefs always affect what we do.  (James 2:18).

No doctor merely looks at a patient and says, “Well, I can see that you have cancer.”  Rather he looks at symptoms, and probes, and seeks to discover the true sickness, and then he applies the cure.  The cure is the proclamation of the pure clear Word of God.  When will the shepherds apply the cure?  (Ezekiel 34:1-6).  Unfortunately, some of the shepherds and over-shepherds are sick, and they resent the cure.

It is vitally important that the Northern Wisconsin District choose its leaders wisely.  The leaders of the districts are called to apply the Word of God.  This is their job.  This is their calling.  The Northern Wisconsin District needs leadership that, instead of squelching discussion and quashing dissent, will commit itself to promoting open discussion and the study of God’s word.

God’s Word is not a tool we use to make ourselves better, but rather it is a life-line that we must cling to in desperation and faith.  Therefore, dear delegates to the WELS district conventions, please pray and vote wisely.  We need, we need the clear pure truth of God’s Word!

Kyrie eleison.

2010 Report to the Twelve Districts

The June 2010 Report to the Twelve Districts has been posted on the WELS website.  The district conventions are being held this year.  (Click here to see a map of the WELS districts).

Here are some brief excerpts from the first part of that report, which is President Schroeder’s Report to the Twelve Districts:

There is a growing sense that WELS has an increasing number of opportunities to articulate and present its identity as a confessional Lutheran church body, in contrast to the trends and decisions of other church bodies that bear the name “Lutheran.”  We have maintained our commitment to placing our confidence and trust in the Means of Grace as the only way that God-pleasing and genuine growth—both outward and inward—takes place in the church.  Congregations are actively discussing the importance and relevance of worship and are working to plan and conduct their worship in ways that are biblically sound and Word-and-Sacrament focused…

With the world we live in changing so rapidly, there will be the temptation to alter our understanding of the very nature of the church and to adjust its message in order to be more “relevant.”  In the face of that temptation, we will need to articulate our conviction that law and gospel are always relevant to the lives of people, whether they are inside or outside of the church.  We will need to emphasize that even though we live in a culture that does appear to be changing, the message of the Scriptures does not change in its ability to bring sinners to repentance and assure repentant sinners of their full forgiveness in Christ.  In the face of trends in the Christian church today to adopt a theology of glory, we will need to maintain our commitment to a theology and practice that is centered on Christ crucified—the theology of the cross.  We will continue to strive for a unified understanding of and approach to matters of Christian freedom and to develop a common understanding of how practices in the realm of freedom can and should be addressed…

All of these challenges can only be met as we gather at the foot of the cross, rejoice in the grace of God, and equip ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, the unchanging and powerful Word of God.

Other organizations within the synod also submitted reports, and depending upon where one’s interests lie, there are interesting bits of information scattered throughout.  Here is one additional excerpt:

5.  The Commission on Worship leadership will continue to cultivate in WELS a “gospel optimism” that God promises to work though his means of grace.  This gospel optimism is not only a hallmark of being Lutheran, it’s also core to Lutheran worship.

—Commission on Worship, page 26.

The means of grace are God’s Word and sacraments.

The WELS Northern Wisconsin District Convention will be held in Appleton, WI at Fox Valley Lutheran High School from June 13-15, 2010 A.D.  The District President (equivalent to a Bishop) will be chosen at this convention, as will the District Presidium and numerous Circuit Pastors.  It is vitally important to the health of WELS Lutheranism that the Northern Wisconsin District choose its leaders wisely.

Kyrie eleison.

“Called to proclaim”

President Schroeder’s report to the WELS convention was, in a word, excellent.  All Christians would benefit from studying the first three sections of his report which were subtitled, “Christ’s love,” “Our calling,” and “Called to proclaim.”  All Lutherans would benefit from studying “Maintaining our confessional identity.”  And members of the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), would benefit from reading the entire report.

This post, “Called to proclaim,” is the second in a series dealing with Pastor Schroeder’s report.  “Called to proclaim” deals primarily with what we proclaim, and how we proclaim.  First, we need to get the message right, then we need to get the message out.  This is because what the message is will determine how the message is proclaimed.

Called to proclaim

by WELS President Mark Schroeder

Listen for a moment and tell me what I am describing:

  • A world that is hostile to God and to all that he stands for;
  • A world which seems to be sinking deeper into the control and sway of satanic influences;
  • A world obsessed with all things sexual, and in which unspeakable perversions are not only tolerated but glorified;
  • A society and a culture which is focused on materialism and the all-consuming desire for pleasure;
  • A culture in which traditional moral values are eroding, where families are disintegrating, where human life is devalued and where violence is rampant;
  • A society that embraces a belief system which denies absolute truth and which rejects any distinction between right and wrong, good and evil;
  • A culture in which people increasingly reject traditional religion in favor of their own self-generated concept of spirituality;
  • A culture in which the Christian church appears to be in retreat and decline, with congregations losing members and with younger generations abandoning the faith of their parents;
  • A world in which Christian beliefs and teachings are attacked and ridiculed and even persecuted;
  • A religious scene in which false teachers and false doctrines are enticing increasing numbers of people with their deceptions and lies.

What was I describing?  If you thought that this sounds like the world and the culture we live in, you would certainly not be wrong.  But, in fact, I was describing the world at the end of the first century—the very world in which God placed his first New Testament believers and into which he sent his church to carry out its God-given mission.

It’s tempting to look around us and conclude that the world we live in is far more wicked and sinful than ever before and that the challenges of reaching an unbelieving culture today are greater than ever before.  But in reality things today are no different from the Roman world and pagan culture into which the Christians of the first century were sent with their world-changing message.  Our world and culture are hostile now.  It was hostile then.  Our society’s values and philosophies and beliefs are godless now.  They were godless then.  The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing today just as it was when the apostles first proclaimed that message.

But consider what God did in that world of the first century.

pres report 210It was only a handful of disciples that gathered around their risen Savior on a hill outside Jerusalem just before he ascended.  Jesus was about to send that little group into a hostile world on what must have seemed like an impossible mission.  But armed only with the power of God’s Word and with the unbreakable promises that Jesus had given them, those first believers did not retreat from that challenge.  When Jesus told them to go, they went.  They went with joy to their families and friends.  They took the good news from town to town.  They carried that message with them when they crossed mountains and seas.  They proclaimed law and gospel to believers to strengthen their faith, and they shared that life-giving message with unbelievers to bring them to faith.

And God blessed their witness.  The book of Acts tells us repeatedly that, as God’s people proclaimed the gospel, “the Word of the Lord grew.”  As the Holy Spirit worked, the Word grew in the hearts of people.  It grew to fill the empire.  It grew to span the centuries.  It grew and spread to the point where, through the faithful witness of generations of God’s people, it came to you and to me.

pres report 220What we do conclude from that?  First, we are reminded wherein the success of our mission lies.  If we were left to our own strength, our own wisdom, our own resources, the task would be daunting.  We would surely either be compelled to retreat from that task or be doomed to failure.  But the strength of our mission and our witness does not depend on us, on our own cleverness, our own willpower, or on our abilities.  Its effectiveness is not to be found in slick programs or in effective marketing strategies.  The strength and success of our mission is found in one place: in the power and faithfulness and love of a God whose Spirit works through the preaching of his Word and the administration of his sacraments.  The success of our mission lies completely in the hands of the One who has promised us that his Word will not return to him empty and that the gates of hell itself will not be able to overcome his church.

The story of the early church not only shows us that God alone gives success to our mission.  It is also very instructive as to how we can best carry out that mission.  The New Testament model that guides our mission today is a combination of public proclamation of God’s truth as well as individual private witness.  When it came to public proclamation, we think of the apostles testifying boldly and publicly on the day of Pentecost.  We hear of believers in Antioch gathering regularly around Word and sacrament.  We recall Paul preaching to gatherings of believers and skeptics alike in towns and cities on his mission travels.  We listen as the apostles exposed false teaching and condemn those who depart from God’s truth.  Public proclamation of Law and gospel and corporate worship was a central activity of the early church.

And we also see individual believers sharing the good news individually as God gave them the opportunities.  We think of the woman of Samaria going back to tell the people of her village that she had found the Messiah.  We recall Philip leading the Ethiopian to see the fulfillment of God’s promises.  We watch Aquila and Priscilla carefully instructing Apollos.  We remember the apostle Paul, in chains and under house arrest, sharing Christ one on one with those assigned to guard him.

The early Christians certainly viewed the mission of the church as outwardly directed and mission-focused.  But it was not only that.  Once people were brought to faith in Jesus, the early Christians were clearly committed to serving the spiritual needs of every member and incorporating them fully into the life and work of the church.  They recognized their spiritual leaders as shepherds protecting the flock and overseers guarding their souls.  They instructed new members thoroughly.  They identified and discussed false teachings that could lead believers astray.  They taught their children faithfully.  They encouraged one another personally in regular worship and fellowship gatherings.  They shared the Lord’s Supper frequently.  They prayed zealously.  They showed love to one another generously and sacrificially.

For the early Christians, the mission of the church was always centered on the gospel in Word and sacrament in those two ways—eagerly sharing the Word with the lost and using the same means of grace to edify and strengthen those inside God’s family.  This Word-and sacrament-centered mission was not just a way of life for the early Christians.  It was their life.

pres report 260

As our synod carries out its mission of sharing the gospel with the lost and caring for the souls of the found, we dare never forget that our success will not be measured in terms of numbers or statistics.  Ours is a theology not of glory—striving for mere outward achievement or measurable accomplishments for their own sake.  Our success will be measured only by our faithfulness—to God, to his effective and powerful Word, and to the work he has called us to do.

pres report 230Rather than a theology of glory, ours is a theology of the cross.  Our theology centers on a message that came to us wholly and completely because of the love of Christ.  It proclaims a message that calls sinners to repentance, directs them to the cross, and that assures them that in Christ and his love, all of their sins find full forgiveness.

pres report 250Admittedly, the theology of the cross is not attractive in our postmodern, self-gratifying world.  Unlike the theology of glory, the theology of the cross makes no promises of instant relief for the ills of life in a sinful world.  It does not beckon people with the lure of financial or personal or professional success.  It does not seek validation of its success in terms of numbers.  It does not offer a practical “how-to” manual to achieve temporal happiness or to mine the depths of human potential.  The message of the cross cannot be packaged to be palatable and cannot be soft-pedaled to be acceptable.  It is a message that this world does not understand and does not desire.

pres report 240

In fact, our message—if we are faithful to it—will always be regarded as utter foolishness, just as Paul reminds us, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The unbelieving people in our world look for things that make sense to their own way of thinking; they crave a message that reinforces their own self-centered view of life.  They will not find that in the harsh preaching of God’s law.  And unless God changes their hearts, they will not appreciate the sweet message of grace in the gospel.  If we somehow make the message of the cross attractive and reasonable to those who are perishing, we will have changed the message—and will have failed in the mission God gave us.  God help us always to say with Paul, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  But to those whom God has called, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Man’s foolishness.  God’s wisdom.

WELS Convention

wels_logoThe Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) biennial convention convenes on Monday, July 27 in Saginaw, Michigan, and runs through Friday, July 31, 2009 A.D.  There are many important issues at stake that will affect the future of our synod.  Here are links to some important web sites and documents regarding the convention:

•  2009 Book of Reports and Memorials (BORAM).  This document is a summary of “the business that will come before the convention.”  It describes the activities, plans, and issues facing the synod; and also contains “formal requests from groups or individuals … to address specific issues.”

•  Final Report of the Ad Hoc Commission.  This commission was charged with evaluating the synod’s problems, and making recommendations to deal with those problems.  Here is a sampling of some of the recommendations along with my comments:

  • We recommend that the 2009 Synod in Convention appoint a group to bring a comprehensive redistricting recommendation to the 2011 convention.”  (Page 15).

Some districts are too large for effective pastoral oversight from the District President (bishop).  Shrinking the size of a large district should better enable the local District President to actively deal with false doctrine and practice.

  • We recommend that a flexible program of continuing education with standards and minimum requirements for all called workers be developed …”  (Page 24).

If implemented well, this could be very beneficial.  Not only would it continually stress the importance of ongoing education, but it could also help our pastors maintain their essential language skills in Greek, Hebrew, German, and Latin.

  • We recommend that the Conference of Presidents initiate a synod-wide review of key doctrines and practical issues … in an effort to foster and preserve unity in doctrine and practice.”  (Page 25).
  • We recommend that the … approach to study [of doctrine & practice] should incorporate insights from church fathers, Lutheran confessional documents, [and] insights from the history and experience of the Christian church through the ages…”  (Pages 25-26).

The above approach uses the Lutheran (correct) understanding of sola Scriptura that teaches that the Scriptures are able to be rightly understood, not just by our generation, but by all generations.  Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians, that in “reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.”  (3:4).  And Jesus promised that he would be with His Church “always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 27:20).

One of the areas of suggested study is “The Sacramental Life.”  (Page 27).  The report states:

Prior to the 1700s, the life of the evangelical Lutheran church was more immersed in and focused upon the sacraments as part of the Christian’s regular spiritual nourishment.  German pietism in the 1700s downplayed the sacraments, and the Lutheran church has never fully recovered from pietism’s detrimental effects.

First, this study will emphasize that the gospel is primarily nourishment for the soul and not mere information.  Second, this study will emphasize the very Lutheran understanding of daily baptismal awareness and Holy Communion as the tangible expression of the gospel.  Third, the study will emphasize a thirst for and appreciation of confession and absolution.  [Emphasis added].

•  Finally, Streams will be carrying live coverage of the convention streaming over the internet.

wels_logoIn a recent article entitled, “Counting our blessings at convention time,” President Schroeder expressed thanks, that unlike the ELCA, the WELS “is committed to the truth of God’s Word in all we believe and do.”  It is my prayer that God will guide the synod in convention and each congregation to make that commitment written on paper in the Book of Concord into a living commitment to do genuine Confessional Lutheranism in accord with God’s word and the best traditions of the historic Christian Church.

Kyrie eleison.

Martin Luther Quote – Lord’s Supper

This is a quote from the Large Catechism where Martin Luther addresses the frequency of holy communion:

IHS represents Jesus\' name in Greek.

[T]here is indeed need for some admonition and exhortation, that men may not let so great a treasure which is daily administered and distributed among Christians – pass by unheeded, that is, that those who would be Christians make ready to receive this venerable Sacrament often.  For we see that men seem weary and lazy with respect to it . . .

Some pretend that it is a matter of liberty and not necessary, and that it is sufficient to believe without it; and thus for the most part they go so far that they become quite brutish, and finally despise both the Sacrament and the Word of God. . .

And we have, in the first place, the clear text in the very words of Christ: “Do this in remembrance of me.”  These are bidding and commanding words by which all who would be Christians are enjoined to partake of this Sacrament.  Therefore, whoever would be a disciple of Christ, with whom He here speaks, must also consider and observe this, not from compulsion, as being forced by men, but in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to please Him.  However, if you say: “But the words are added, ‘As oft as ye do it;’ there He compels no one, but leaves it to our free choice,” I answer, “That is true, yet it is not written that we should never do so.  Yea, just because He speaks the words ‘As oft as ye do it,’ it is nevertheless implied that we should do it often”

– Dr. Martin Luther (Large Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar; paragraphs 39-47).