Is anybody else “mercied” out? I know I am.
I and the parish I serve embraced the three-fold ministry emphasis of synod (witness/mercy/life) when it was introduced and still do although we have a different take on mercy as I will explain below. Having said that I will also say that the emphasis on mercy coming out of synod is getting tiresome.
Four of the last five emails I received from the synod and district were about mercy efforts. The other was on missions. My synod and district have taken the time to connect with me on the following five topics: Refugee Sunday, the Korean ferry tragedy, typhoon Haiyan, World Malaria Day and missions in Asia. Am I wrong to say that something is out of whack?
The original constitution of the LCMS has 14 objectives and none of them, not a one, is about mercy. Even our current constitution (which is suspect since it is in part a product of the last forty-five years of conventions which includes eras dominated by liberalism and church growth-ism) lists ten objectives and only one of them is about mercy. It ain’t no four to one ratio like the last five emails I have gotten from synod and the obvious omission in those five emails is the number one objective of synod, conserving and promoting the true faith. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember ever receiving an email from synod or district on the topic of preserving the true faith.
The fourteen objectives of the original LCMS constitution are a thing of beauty. (Here is where I found part of the original constitution.) Ten of the fourteen objectives are about retaining pure doctrine, supporting the office of the ministry, giving theological opinions, and the sort. They remind me of Walther’s six duties of the church which are also dominated by the need for pure doctrine and the administration of word and sacrament.
We like the three-fold ministry emphasis. If you clicked on the duties of the church link above you noticed that we even included it in our most recent parish logo. It does need to be kept in the broader context of Scripture though. It really wouldn’t be so bad to dwell on mercy if all the false doctrine and practice was adequately addressed in our synod. But that is just not the case.
It also wouldn’t be so bad if Scripture supported it to same degree as the email barrage. Read the Scriptures on mercy. I did a few years back. I read the Bible cover to cover looking for everything on mercy. You will be shocked that 80% or more of what is said about charity is clearly spoken about believers supporting fellow believers. This is the reason the original LCMS constitution said nothing about charity. It is the work of each congregation, as Paul says in I Timothy 5, to care for its own members.
One of Walther’s six duties of the church is about mercy. That’s good. That’s one sixth and not five of six like the current string of synod/district emails I’ve received. But wait, there’s more to the story. Walther’s duty on mercy is all about caring for the workers in the church and the widows and orphans in the local congregation, just as St. Paul teaches us.
Mercy is a good thing. If you do not love others, you have not tasted the love of Christ. I am not “mercied” out of the love of Christ but I am getting a little “mercied” out by the multiplication of the signs of the end – hurricanes, floods, malaria, etc. I think we need a “five e-mail mercy rule” sort of like the old “ten run mercy rule” in little league. Synod/district email patterns should follow Walther’s six duties. For every one email on mercy, send out five on the other duties of the church and most of those emails on mercy ought to follow the dictates of Scripture and be about Christians showing mercy to their fellow members in need in their own congregation. Mercy!