Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do you remember?

Today's announcement of the death of Senator Ted Kennedy will, for many people, bring to mind the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. And the conversation that ensues around that other memory often includes a recitation of where we were or what we were doing when that traumatic news was announced to us. Yes, if you were living at that time, I am certain that you can tell me exactly what you were doing when President Kennedy was killed.

Those who are active in the Church actually have similar experiences with significant ecclesiastical events, not necessarily that they can recall where they were when they heard the news, but they can recall the high emotions, expectations, and hopes or disappointments associated with such news. Examples might include the rulings of Vatican II, the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran-Catholic Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification, and this week, decisions made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

The news about ELCA reminds me of a painful time in my childhood. One summer our family returned from a long and wonderful summer vacation, and when we went to church the next Sunday we learned that several families had left the congregation. These families included people that I loved and was close to... my Sunday School teacher, a girl in my confirmation class, others that I knew were special to my parents. Since we had been away when the families decided to withdraw their membership, the departures were a surprise ( Or at least they were a surprise to me, as a naive child). There was no opportunity to say goodbye and we never saw these people again, even in a social setting. Many years have gone by and I still feel the sting of that experience when it comes to mind.

There will certainly be some fallout from the controversial resolutions passed by ELCA. The more conservative Lutheran denominations are not happy about what they consider to be a deviation from Holy Scripture, as well as the reflection that such decisions have on the "Lutheran name. " In addition, there are many ELCA members who are disappointed and may be looking for new church homes. Wherever and whenever we intersect with ELCA people in the aftermath of their convention, let's remember to treat them with the love of Christ, to gently win them to correct thinking where needed, and to provide fresh ground for them to experience God's love in repentance and forgiveness.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Letting history go by, for the moment

Sometimes in the course of our lives there are a series of changes that are so dramatic, and sometimes so shocking, that we become sort of numb and refuse to engage in any meaningful discussion about the subjects involved.

This sort of reaction can happen when someone close to us dies. When children leave home for college. When people that we love choose to end their marriage. When our family and acquaintances are without jobs; lose their homes; become bankrupt. When an illness comes on suddenly and threatens to worsen or at least pester us for the duration of our time on earth.

And then there are historical events that can make us feel numb to the very core of heart and soul. Church denominations voting on issues that God has already clearly spoken about in His revealed Word. Misuse of the Bible that triggers a heaviness of heart and an inability to pray anything more than the plea, "Lord, have mercy on us all, and show these people the error of their ways."

God IS merciful, and so sometimes we just let the changes go by, assimilating them as we can with the passage of time; steeping ourselves in the Word of God and in prayer, receiving God's gifts as He administers them to us in Word and Sacraments; and last but not least, preparing ourselves once again to be ready to give an accounting of the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Blog by President of English District LCMS

Here is a first of what I hope will be many more guest blogs. Please go to the Woman of the Week link and then click on Dolores Jean Hackwelder. Rev. Dr. David Stechholz has written an article in honor of the memory of this deaconess, who was once a member of his parish in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

NEW Concordia Historical Institute MUSEUM

On July 27, Concordia Historical Institute opened its new state-of-the-art museum at the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod International Center (1333 South Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, MO).

Designed to celebrate the "Heritage of Lutheranism in America," museum displays cover five periods in LCMS history:

1. Luther and the Reformation – describing the origins of the Lutheran church in mid-16th-century Europe and providing insight into the life of Martin Luther.

2. Colonists and Missionaries to America – tracing the travels of the Saxon immigrants to the United States and missionaries who helped form the LCMS in 1847.

3. Growth of a Synod – illustrating the growth of the LCMS in the 19th century as the young church organized under its first president, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, to reach the people of America with the Word of God.

4. From St. Louis to the World – demonstrating how from its founding near St. Louis the church's mission work has expanded domestically and internationally.

5. An Unchanging Message for a Changing World – indicating how the LCMS has worked to meet the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in the 20th century and into the future through the use of new media, an expanding system of higher education, and outreach to all parts of society.

The museum is open on every weekday except for holidays and is free to the public.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

RECORDING HISTORY - Good, Bad, or Neutral?

I hope that as many people as possible take time to record the "history" of their lives and the communities around them, particularly within the church. One of the reasons that multiple records are valuable to (church) historians is that no two people see or record the same event in the same way. We know this to be true about the four Gospels, for example, even as the apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It is also interesting to see that the same event can be reported as inherently good, bad, or neutral in its value to individuals, society, or the church. Before I started writing In the Footsteps of Phoebe, and old friend asked me, "What are your presuppositions?" I was rather taken aback, and stated that I simply planned to report historical events, rather than color them with my own presuppositions. Now that the project is finished, I understand what my friend meant. All of history, when reported, is seen as either good, bad, or neutral - and years down the road whatever is painted as neutral will be reassigned to good or bad in light of its long-term effect in a continued history. And so we are sometimes caught saying things like, "the jury is still out on that decision."

Of course, years down the road, not everyone will agree about whether today's current events have had a positive or negative effect on our lives - particularly in relation to our faith and the and our goal to be true to God's Word and to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.

We should be praying fervently for God's guidance now, that the history we live and influence lands on the side called "good;" that someday when they is reported in newer history books, our decisions and actions as individuals and as "church" will be viewed as well-informed, wise, and God-pleasing.