ACELC — Tis the Season – for Repenting!

November 28th, 2012 Post by

Repentance is something the Lord means to be ongoing in the life of the Christian. But, repentance isn’t easy. Who wants to repent? Oh, we repent after eating too much at our Thanksgiving feasts, but that’s just our discomfort speaking. As soon as the pressure on the waist band subsides, we’re right back at it; left-over heaven!

Genuine repentance is different from wanting to be rid of discomfort so that we can get back to what put us in the discomfiture in the first place. Repentance is a gift from above. The Lord gives it in His Word, specifically, His Law – which reveals our love of sin and our hatred of God. It’s not very flattering to hear, is it? Maybe that’s why we have such a hard time with seasons like Advent or the Sundays leading up to it. All eyes are on the big shebang of Dec. 25! Who wants to repent? Who wants to die?

We did die, however! That’s the Gospel! We died in Christ, Who took our sins and suffered all they deserve! We died in Baptism and were raised in Christ, as He was. We still die – to sin and self and all evil – daily; and we daily emerge to arise and live before God in Christ and for our neighbor in love. We must even still go into the grave.

How shall we die this Advent season? How shall we die as individuals and as congregations of this Synod? Not by our strategies to self-preserve or self-indulge our desperate need to stave off that awful thing called death! It won’t be by forgetting who we are and trying to conform or adapt to the patterns of this world.

We have tried to swallow almost every trend that’s come along! Can’t you feel the pressure on the waistline?  We’ve thrown open wide the gates – not so the King of Glory may come in – but so that something else may roam about!

Faithful pastors are dismissed unjustly from their calls. Many are neglected on CRM. District Presidents do not discipline wayward congregations. Unfaithful pastors have Carte Blanche, as long as what they’re doing “works.” Lay ministers make financial sense, and people like it. Women increasingly assist in worship and some urge women’s ordination. Open Communion is practiced, and very few want to say something or do anything about this.  We are too afraid that it may kill us.

So, we tell ourselves that LCMS congregations which look less and less Lutheran are doing well because they are busting at the seams. We tell ourselves that pastors who are eager to consume the latest trend and fashion in order to capitalize on whatever this moth-ridden world is willing to flutter about aren’t doing our congregations any harm. Those same congregations learn many things – whatever the latest author, guru or transformational business is pushing – but they do not know the Catechism, Small or Large. They spend no time in the Confessions. They reflect what it means to be part of a fallen world, but reflect little of what it means to be faithfully Lutheran.

It’s time for Advent, people! ‘Tis the season to repent! That means the whole life of the Christian is one of dying to self . . . and Synod . . . and all the ways we’d like to shine and glitter before the eyes of a world that just wants to be soothed with visions of sugar plums.

We must learn to live instead from the cross!

No one wants that. It means death! It means admitting that we have let go of trusting Christ’s work through the Word and Sacraments.  It means facing the fact that we are in fellowship together, but we are not walking together, and to the degree that we have let error enter and remain, we are in fellowship with error!

Must we admit that? Yes! Even if that brings a cross? Even if it means death? Yes! Who are we, anyway? What is the Missouri Synod? Nothing, if She and we are not dying and then rising again.

If you would like some help in dying to the mistaken notion that our Synod is not in need of repentance, please consider our ACELC website, with documents and studies and Overtures which address our errors. Yes, OUR errors! We are all in this together. Please don’t be afraid to face that truth, ugly as it is. For in dying – to sin and self and all evil delusions and desires to self-preserve, we arise to live before God in Christ Jesus!

Merry Advent repenting to us all!

Your Servants For Christ Sake,
Rev. Rick Sawyer
Co-Chairman, ACELC Board of Directors






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  1. Jim Hamilton
    November 28th, 2012 at 10:52 | #1

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly. My pastor is very confessional and orthodox. To say he is great blessing to me personally and to our entire congregation would be an understatement. It angers me that LCMS pastors are departing from the liturgy, from closed communion, from a strict adherence to confessional orthodoxy, and so on. A pastor who departs from orthodox doctrine is a pastor who is introducing error into his church. As we all know, error begets more error and may eventually snuff out the Gospel entirely. If this departure from orthodoxy is intentional, such a pastor should be rebuked strongly. If the rebuke fails, he should be removed. Nothing is more important than maintaining doctrinal purity.

  2. jb
    November 28th, 2012 at 21:31 | #2

    Nothing is more important . . . than doctrinal purity?

    When, in the history of the Lutheran Church, since Luther banged his thumb with the hammer on Halloween, 1517, have Lutherans, or any other community of the Faith, ever had “Doctrinal unity, or purity?”

    Answer: Never. None.

    There are things wrong within the Church – there always have been. Wrong side of the veil for perfection. If one is Lutheran, or Waltherian, or just plain Christian, the solution is clear. Fix the home front! Make your flock the best they can be. Of course the LCMS is not perfect, no Confession is, but we do have the Gospel in its purity. Will we have those who deviate from the truth? Only as long as the devil can wreak his usual havoc – which will be till the end of time. Jesus Himself had to deal with the Serpent, are we somehow expecting to be immune from the wiles of the devil?

    We haven’t even conclusively decided (in the minds of many, anyway) whether or not “Synod is Church” . . . I am often reminded of St. Kurt’s question in class about “How can more Church be less?” . . .

    The moment our Synod is perfectly orthodox will mark the moment of the Parousia. The wheat and tares are destined, as Jesus Himself said, to co-exist side-by-side until the harvest. Am I saying we should not guard doctrine? By no means!!!

    But we should also back up, take a breath, and understand matters as they really are, rather than insisting upon some orthodox nirvana in this life.

    Won’t happen. Period.

    Being a zealot to rid the Church of the infidels will never gain an inch of territory for the Most Holy Kingdom. The faithful will be faithful as they know by faith they should be; those who reject such shall be known by their fruits.

    Sad to say, our Synod has perhaps its best in its offices in decades, and rather than encouragement and support, I read more and more of sense of Jean Cauvin demanding this and that and every damnable thing for which the Church most definitely does not stand, become some sort of standard.

    Hells bells, Luther fought the Pope himself to do better than that!

    If, as we in the LCMs insist, we are “bottom up as the church,” then fix your home joint. For those too young to understand, or too pure to get it, there are those of us who really saw the fecal matter hit the fan blades in the LCMS. We were there.

    Present matters are rather miniscule next to then. Truly.

    Chill out, brethren, and do the work of an evangelist where you are, and believe that the Lord of the Church, is still the Lord of the Church.

    He is.

  3. November 28th, 2012 at 21:40 | #3

    jb,

    I don’t get what you are saying.

    Would saint kurt tell me to look the other way if my fellow pastor in my circuit was practicing open communion?

    I think you have the wrong target in mind. The average readers and writers on this site and in the ACEL are focussed on administering word and sacrament in their truth and purity. Doctrinal purity must be maintained but for the average BJS’er it is a means that supports the end of Gospel proclamation,

  4. Jim Hamilton
    November 28th, 2012 at 21:51 | #4

    @jb #2

    You argue that we shouldn’t really worry so much about purity of doctrine, but focus on “doing the work of an evangelist where we are.” What do you propose we tell people when we evangelize? Shouldn’t we use the doctrine that God has given us? You’re free to adopt a Gospel reductionist attitude if you want, but not me, sir. Doctrine isn’t something that we worry about after we accomplish the really important stuff. Doctrine is life, as the wise man said. Pure doctrine is the fortress that protects the Gospel from error and ensures that, when we evangelize, terrified consciences find sure, certain, and complete peace.

  5. jb
    November 28th, 2012 at 22:19 | #5

    Pastor Rossow –

    Please – forgive me if I didn’t quite understand your response . . .

    We in the Missouri Synod have eaten our young, and our own, for decades. To what end? Of course Marquart would not say such a thing as you suggested, nor did I intimate such a thing. I am hopefully certain you garnered that much from my words – perhaps not. Your call.

    But the perpetual (and it has been perpetual) slams against everything “Synod” over the years, even as we as a Synod are beginning to recover our heritage, are hardly helpful in any way shape or form, and are in reality, tearing us down.

    And, to be certain, I am addressing “average readers” – I have read this site long enough to gauge that much.

    If the congregation is the core, then the only question I as a pastor need ask, is this: Are “we” all we should be. You must admit, Synod is only as good as “we” are out here in the trenches. Agreed?

    Tares and wheat – till the end of time. The faithful will persist against hell. We have that promise always from Christ Himself..

    As an aside – my statement regarding Professor Marquart was not directed at a fellow pastor in the circuit practicing open communion, but whether or not we, collectively, have even decided we “are.” Dealing with an errant pastor in the circuit, is the concern of the circuit first. We dealt with that very mater in the last year. Matter settled. The Brother was restored. We did not need the mechanisms of District or Synod to tell us how to do OUR task.

    In the 80’s and 90’s, and even beyond, I was embarrassed for my Church – I am no longer, and I do indeed wonder if there are not those so intent on a purity unattainable this side of glory, that every good thing, deed, and expression becomes yet another target for criticism on one miniscule basis or another.

    Are there the “those out there” who deviate? Of course! To be crass, call them “our job security!” The Synod is what it is from the “bottom up” – you have to agree that both Luther and Walther said so.

    Doctrinal purity we shall never have among us this side of eternity. But we can have a measure of peace and fellowship without denying our own failures. Which of us is purely orthodox in all things, Pr. Rossow? Answer: None of us. Not even you, or me.

    I don’t mean to be contrary by any means. But the constant drumbeat against my Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, by its own offspring – especially when its act is being very much cleaned up despite problems here and there, should be lauded, not continually degraded.

    My miniature flock has heard me speak of all of what I have written and they understand it, and I have a litany of reasons proving they do, so I would have to imagine that JTS readers have a clue as to what I am saying.

    Being married, and loving my wife, I know the limits of criticism of my bride on my part. I rather, do my part to fix things and encourage a happy household. Gospel sort of guy and all, as my good buddy Paddy Sean says, but we as a Synod need to be so supportive of the good we have, that those stepping outside the boundaries ought to be ashamed.

    Some will, some won’t. Not my call nor your nor that of the most devout LCMS’r. If I let one pastor having open communion be my judge of the state of my Synod, I would belong to a Synod of one – me.

    Pax – jb

  6. jb
    November 28th, 2012 at 22:42 | #6

    Jim

    I will shrug off the charge of “Gospel reductionism.” Too easy, all in all, to make such a charge. Luther would be guilty many times over of such a charge. Are you sure what the term means? I am, and what you said does not remotely qualify.

    Furthermore, I most certainly DID NOT SAY “You argue that we shouldn’t really worry so much about purity of doctrine, but focus on “doing the work of an evangelist where we are.” Those are YOUR words and YOUR interpretation, and quyite wrong.

    Re-read what I said, and read my response to Pastor Rossow. Doubling down, I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT SAY we should NOT worry about the purity of doctrine, my friend, and while I take no offense at your having said so, I would caution you to not shatter the 8th Commandment. I in no way said such a thing!

    Christ is life, doctrine is the everything of the Christ. I uphold both to the nth degree, so please, do not do yourself the dis-service of claiming I do not.

    You obviously misread my original post. If you wish to contradict me, please do so on the basis of the words I used, not your opinion. :-)

  7. Jim Hamilton
    November 29th, 2012 at 04:20 | #7

    @jb #6

    I guess I misunderstood your original post. I’m glad that you agree that doctrinal purity is of paramount importance.

  8. November 29th, 2012 at 12:20 | #8

    It is true that the church will never be perfect, but that should not be taken as an excuse to do nothing about it. My health will never be perfect, but I would also not use that as a reason to graze on nothing but junk food. Similarly, I know that I will never be sin-free in this life, but as God still commands the mortification of the flesh (Colossians 3), I must still make effort to say no to sin in my daily life.

    Our imperfections must always be dealt with while keeping the realization in mind that the church will never fully escape them. This is so that, on the one hand, we do not push for an impossible goal of perfection this side of eternity; while on the other hand being diligent to keep from falling into spiritual slothfulness.

  9. November 29th, 2012 at 13:42 | #9

    I totally agree with this article! Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who was best known for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, once angrily stormed out of church in London claiming that the preacher “insists that religion should actually be applied in one’s personal life!” The great British statesman William Gladstone (1809-1898), hearing this, replied: “It is a message that Christians should receive the most, but also what they get the least.” If even the Anglican Gladstone recognized this, how much more should we Lutherans do so! AMEN!

  10. Pastor Rick Pettey
    November 29th, 2012 at 17:03 | #10

    @jb #5
    Am I understanding your comments correctly? Are you saying that we, as a synod, are substantively different than we were prior to the election of Harrison? Please understand, I wholeheartedly support Matthew whom I know personally. We have not had a sp of his caliber for a long time. That said, the problems we had as a synod prior to his election are still with us. The departures from sound doctrine and practice common within far too many congregations (often with the support or at least tacit approval of the dp) is just as much of an issue as it was prior to Matthew’s election.

    The difference is that now we have a man with a pastor’s heart who is a theologian of the first order (as a sp should be). Rather than having an opponent to beginning the process of addressing these continuing issues within the synod, we now have one who (while not at all interested in beginning by taking heads) does acknowledge that the issues are real
    and must be addressed.

    The need to openly, pastorally and confessionally address the many issues that still plague us (i.e., open communion, unionism, syncreticism, ignoring the orders of creation, attacks against the office of the ministry, etc.) is long overdue. Is this all to insist on perfectionism? No. But we must always strive for it? Yes. Meanwhile we live by grace, trusting in the Lord of the Church to accomplish His good and perfect will through us, sinful though we remain.

  11. jb
    November 29th, 2012 at 18:56 | #11

    @Pastor Rick Pettey #10

    Pr. Pettey –

    Perhaps I should turn your question back upon you.

    Are we not substantively different? Of course, we are – I am not quite sure why you asked that, but anyway – it is not merely Matt, who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the month before last, but the whole changing of the “synodical guard,” as Scott Murray put it to me in February.

    There is no over-night solution. Not Matt, nor even the reincarnation of Walther, will rectify every doctrinal aberration in our midst. We have to do that as Synod – which means, really walking together. Every single one of us has a part in the correction, as well as the complaining. We are magnificent in our complaints, but more often, quite certain someone else should fix it.

    As I told my circuit very early this year about a specific problem we had – “We at the Circuit level need to fix this.” We did. Were every circuit to do so, matters would be quite different.

    I know, as do you, that we live by the sheer grace of God in our Savior Jesus Christ, so you will find no argument from me on that count. But the fact is, we do live in the Kingdom of the Left, and the devil has forever warred against God’s people.

    We need to know that, which will, till the end of the age, plague the Church, but also, to rejoice and be glad that there is a revitalization occurring within our beloved Synod. Each pastor needs to monitor and severely grade himself, and circuits and their counselors need to be about doing visitation in their capacity as we hod-carriers must do with our flock. Most issues, as I have viewed and watched matters since 1978, could be settled on the circuit level, with both the admonition and consolation of the brethren (L&G) – all without giving our Synod a black eye or griping and complaining at every turn.

    Reading the thread above . . . If we, on a mere website, are so fussy and picky about words or a turn of a phrase, then get yourself elected and you go fix it. I am not the one taking shots – I am looking for the positives – erring on the side of the Gospel, as the men we sent to St. Loo are working to fix matters.

    As one very wise old head told me this very day – matters and our Synod are in a fragile state. That Missouri has managed, despite tremendous obstacles these last 50 years or longer, to remain confessional, and actually begin to rebound from from the quagmire. If we spent as much time accentuating the positives, as many do nit-picking the life out of matters, we might find ourselves to be rather good company.

    Just a thought . . .

  12. November 30th, 2012 at 08:49 | #12

    @jb #11

    Pastor “jb,”

    I concur fully with you that we should celebrate gratefully and not lose sight of the good in the LCMS; for all her flaws, she is still the best option available. (During the Kieschnick Occupation, that was the only reason I remained in the LCMS – where was anything better?) I’ll even agree with you that the LCMS is getting even better still.

    But I do not concur at all with your charge that our beloved synod is being destroyed by those who sound the warning against what false teaching still persists. Division is caused by the one who departs from Scripture, not by the one who exhorts him to repent. Your view is apparently biased by being in a confessional circuit that properly exhorts pastors to faithfulness. We should all be so blessed!

    When was the last time you heard of a District President holding a Circuit Counselor accountable? When was the last time a Synodical President held a District President accountable?

    Until discipline is restored in the LCMS, your call for accentuating the positive sounds an awful lot like the Power of Positive Thinking – merely wishful thinking.

  13. John Rixe
    November 30th, 2012 at 09:11 | #13

    How about doing what Pastor jb suggests?  For every hour of nit-picking spend an hour of accentuating the positive.  I like it.

  14. Pastor Rick Pettey
    November 30th, 2012 at 10:03 | #14

    @jb #11
    Should fellow pastors address issues of concern regarding another pastor within a circuit? Most definitely! Been there, done that. There seems to be an attitude expressed here that by seeking to address theological issues within the synod it is nothing more than “nit-picking.” (As John Rixe states). There also appears to be an attitude that this approach means that any positive encouragement is missing. I would suggest that you are assuming facts not in evidence. Are there pastors in my circuit who I disagree with regarding various pastoral acts? Sure. Do I get all “hot and bothered?” No. I have no doubt that they might say the same thing about me. That is to be expected. They are still brother pastors with me whom I work with and meet with regularly and study God’s Word. I am also up-front with my concerns and share them with my fellow pastors, without anger or hubris.

    But there are times (too many unfortunately) when such fraternal admonition simply isn’t enough. Such is the case when a previous pastor in my circuit started a new mission based on Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Church” principles. Of course, the disclaimer was appropriately given “after it has been ‘Lutheranized.'” Nonsense! You cannot mix a theology that is contrary to Sola Gratia, that denies Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and all notion of the Office of the Keys with Lutheran theology (i.e., biblical theology). In spite of showing how it was contrary to Scripture it was started and remains a “new mission start” within my district.

    Is there much within the Missouri Synod that is commendable and faithful to Scripture? Of course. No one I know who shares my concerns denies that. We rejoice and celebrate how greatly God has blessed us. That, however, cannot be an excuse to turn a blind eye to the false practice and teaching that has infected our beloved synod.

    To confuse the two is to ignore exactly what Walther warned (somewhat like Moses) the synod not long after her formation:
    ““Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us–just so our Synod may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However, should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine, through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to the false church, then let our church body perish and the name ‘Missourian’ decay in disgrace.”

  15. John Rixe
    November 30th, 2012 at 11:32 | #15

    This is my positive accentuating comment for today.  It involves 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s tatoos:

    “The psalms tattooed on Kaepernick’s arms address his competitive instinct, according to Sports Illustrated. Psalm 27:3, on one arm, reads: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

    Psalm 18:39, on the other arm, says:, “You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.”

    Kaepernick asked his parents for help picking the passages to inscribe on his arms, according to the Nevada Sagebrush. “They are about asking God to help kick somebody’s butt,” his mother, Teresa Kaepernick, told the student-run university outlet. – Huffington Post

  16. Pastor Rick Pettey
    November 30th, 2012 at 11:48 | #16

    @Pastor Rick Pettey #14
    This is my “ps.”
    “Jb” who are you? Is that simply your “monicker” which others know what it stands for? Why do you not use your name? I ask this not to be derisive but I firmly believe that if one is truly convicted in what they say they should have no problem identifying who they are. On more than one occasion I have run into someone with whom I have shared comments with over the internet and was therefore able to came to speak face-to-face. If you are convicted by what you write (and I fully assume that you are) then it is nothing more than being respectful to those with whom you are conversing to reveal to them who you are. Again, I say this with no animosity whatsoever. File this under IMHO.
    Pax.

  17. John Rixe
    November 30th, 2012 at 12:21 | #17

    Church workers need to be careful about anonymity on blogs.  Just this week there were comments here (without challenge) talking about prayers for dissolution of the Council of Presidents.  Be sure whether or not you want your name to be associated with a blog.

  18. November 30th, 2012 at 12:37 | #18

    @John Rixe #17

    John, do you mean to imply that the Council of Presidents might seek retribution?

  19. John Rixe
    November 30th, 2012 at 12:42 | #19

    When processing call requests DP’s like all humans consciously or unconsciously take their knowledge of an individual’s background into consideration IMO. Probably it’s better to err on the side of caution when using your name.

  20. helen
    November 30th, 2012 at 13:26 | #20

    @Pastor Rick Pettey #10
    The need to openly, pastorally and confessionally address the many issues that still plague us (i.e., open communion, unionism, syncreticism, ignoring the orders of creation, attacks against the office of the ministry, etc.) is long overdue. Is this all to insist on perfectionism? No. But we must always strive for it? Yes. Meanwhile we live by grace, trusting in the Lord of the Church to accomplish His good and perfect will through us, sinful though we remain.

    Agreed that we have, by God’s grace, better leadership at the very top.
    We should be returning thanks for that, regularly.

    But the change also has to come “bottom up”. One way: congregations need to decline the offers of “TCN” and any other “change” agent who does not suggest getting back to Scripture and the Confessions, Lutheran orders of worship (preferably consistent; LSB has five DS options and more besides). I’d like to see a lot more encouragement and participation in Adult Bible study and BOC study.

    Circuits have to police each other, as someone suggested was happening in their neighborhood, but the “policing” has to result in a return to good order. Presently we have too many good Law&Gospel preachers marginalized because they won’t follow the latest fad. We’ll be better when nobody is pushing those non Lutheran fads!

    Someone will have to tell me what the DP’s office does, besides forward less money to Synod than it should, because I don’t honestly see what we couldn’t do without!
    Sorry if I’m “missing something”!

  21. helen
    November 30th, 2012 at 13:32 | #21

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #18
    @John Rixe #17

    John, do you mean to imply that the Council of Presidents might seek retribution?

    We really do need a sarcasm emoticon for comments like yours! = ;o

  22. jb
    November 30th, 2012 at 16:05 | #22

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #12

    Fr. Crandall –

    I do not disagree with a bit of your assessment of matters. In fact, given my years, I could probably trace the negatives way back in time. I understand all of that.

    When I was at the Fort, the “confessional” movement was just gaining its feet, so to speak. The previous 15 years had been a theological chaos in many ways. Not naming names, but there were those that had great animus against those Vicars and Pastors coming out of the Fort. Perhaps you know the history to know that. What the men teaching us had to endure from Synod (especially RDP), was simply out of bounds. Most of us “going” forth in the early 80’s, knew we were “collars wading into a quagmire.”

    SO I understand why you might say my view is biased by the integrity within my circuit. Let me respond to that in two ways.

    First, I believe in my heart of hearts that such integrity is present in virtually all of Synod’s circuits. That does not mean we as the Church Militant dare let down our guard – of course I do not advocate that.

    Second – I have former classmates/now/brethren who are in positions of responsibility all over Synod. They who, like me, were kinda sorta “lepers” back then, are now leading our beloved Synod. Of course they are fighting the same old foe dressed up as something yet a bit different, but we recognize him. He is always erecting a Mount of Temptation before us and for us.

    Now, perhaps I am lucky, so to speak – because my CC has his finger on the pulse of his circuit; the DP knows the state of our circuit, and I doubt there is much, if anything, that Fr. Harrison, as SP, ever hear’s in the negative. But I watch what is being done, our meetings about causistry are really about causistry, and Scripture’s prescriptions. I am by no means taking a mediating position, because I do not believe such a position is necessary.

    We have hod-carriers like myself and yourself and others in the present readership and far beyond, that are taking care of their flocks as they should. They work within their Circuits and even CC’s inclined to wander don’t have much of a leash. There is where the major battles are won, and where they have been won the last 30 years – down in the trenches.

    There will always be those at a District and Synodical level that get a bit too comfortable, or a bit too full of themselves. That is an inherent feature of bureaucracies. However, having essentially won congregations and circuits, and even making inroads into Districts, now we have a Synodical Prez and staff that is, for want of a better phrase, “on our side.”

    Heckers Beckers – let us rejoice and move confessionalism forward. I, like you and Fr. Pettey, decry and, yes, often despair of those among the brethren who wander off the spread. But they, like the poor, we shall have with us always. This is not a battle of the decade or decades or the century – this is “merely the usual.” I often joke about said wanderings as “job security” – but there is more than a small element of truth to saying so.

    But as I have learned over my years, erring on the side of the Gospel is not only the mark of a confessional Lutheran, but perhaps the most difficult task we backward collar wearers must perform. I am in no way advocating something other than the proper balance of Law and Gospel; to the contrary, we need to police ourselves to make sure that what converts and re-converts learn is pure, and comes from cheerful souls who wish to save another from error. The emphasis is not preserving pure doctrine “first” – that already exists! We need to use ALL of “pure doctrine” to win souls, or win them over again.

    I see a Synod with a huge world-wide outreach, yet I see Cheryl and Earl and any numbers of my miniature flock taking in their roles as part of something far larger than they are – with a devotion that comes purely from their own assurance that they are forgiven and their robes are whiter than snow. I see a Synod with men translating wonderful stuff and a publishing house putting out the best theology there is. I don’t care what those men are paid. Like me, they were “offered” – they accepted, and the matter is closed. Most would look askance at my salary as a full-time hod-carrier (you’re nuts, JB!), but it was me led by the Spirit to say “Yes, I will, with the help of God.” My student loans were paid off early despite a miniscule salary, early. That was, in addition to my tithe, “mine” given to the Lord. I knew what I was getting into – I did not do so blind.

    We are the Church “bottom-up.” Luther got that, Walther wrote of it all the time, Jesus said “two or three” . . . the Church is and happens when I commune my elderly member with inoperable cancer, or my Elder who just had 4 sections of leg veins attached to his ticker to keep it ticking, or 11 year old Joshua who wanted to be baptized and be a member and an acolyte and is slowly drawing his own parents into the faithful.

    If we are truly “Synod” – then “Synod or District” are not some separate entities, they are us. Long ago, we let that understanding get away from us. Now we are regaining it. Of course the progress can some days seem like slogging through knee-deep mud, but we are moving forward. Sometimes what we think is a wrong decision is made, but I always stop and recall the times I was faced with a lose-lose, and had to figure out how to win somehow. Sometimes I wasn’t always sure – the devil never gives us a break and God does not regularly sit down over a burger and fries and cold beer at lunch and let me know one way or the other.

    I am seeing a Synod that has, in many ways, and through the efforts of many men – most in congregations where they feed their flocks and lead them to the heavenlies – begin to claw its way back and be what it truly can be. Mistakes will be made (don’t ask me about my last week just yet – I need the Absolution that Sunday I will pronounce over my flock, as much or more than any of them do). But each Sunday all of us walk away from the Holy Altar, having partaken of the Lord Himself, CLEAN – we walk away clean. We do that on all levels, and it is showing more and more within the Church-at-large.

    If I credited Matt with all of it, he would hammer down on my head, because he knows far better. But as I consider the vast number of my brethren who are faithful to their task and Call, I find the negative something reserved for specifics, not generalities. Our Synod has, for better or worse, weathered all storms thus far, and is growing – if not in actual numbers (although I have seen a pleasant increase this last year), then most certainly in a Scriptural and Confessional sense.

    Sorry for being so long-winded – being Irish, it’s somewhat a genetic trait. I am sure that Missouri, despite the present areas to which Fr. Pettey refers, has reversed itself and is moving forward in a good and proper direction. We will always stub our toes in the journey, and if we lose sight of the Cross, we will indeed lose our way.

    But that is not what is happening. We are genuinely witnessing some minor, and maybe not so minor miracles, on every level of Synod. I very much dislike seeing brothers whom I know are orthodox and confessional, being criticized for emphasizing the positives over the negatives.

    Despite whatever efforts to the contrary, it is only the Gospel, and never the Law, that will ultimately overwhelm the sinner and draw them into the Church, which is . . .

    Into Jesus.

    “jb”

    Rev. J. Jeffrey Baxter
    Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
    Palacios, Texas

    p.s. Fr. Pettey – I have been called “jb” for so long by everyone I know that I almost sometimes forget my given name. I have, in other comments, posted my name. Your “IMHO” understood fully without the first offense. Jeff

  23. November 30th, 2012 at 20:24 | #23

    @jb #22

    “The emphasis is not preserving pure doctrine “first” – that already exists! We need to use ALL of “pure doctrine” to win souls, or win them over again.”

    Great point.

    “I very much dislike seeing brothers whom I know are orthodox and confessional, being criticized for emphasizing the positives over the negatives.”

    Shame on me for being one doing the criticizing. I thought you were crying, “Peace,” when there is no peace. (Ezekiel 13:9-11) Please forgive my mocking tone, as though you were just a naive optimist.

    “I find the negative something reserved for specifics, not generalities. Our Synod has, for better or worse, weathered all storms thus far, and is growing – if not in actual numbers (although I have seen a pleasant increase this last year), then most certainly in a Scriptural and Confessional sense.”

    Of course, you are right. Thank you for reminding me!

    Your brother, saint and sinner,
    Ted

    p.s.

  24. jb
    November 30th, 2012 at 20:47 | #24

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #23

    Father Crandall (Brother Ted) –

    I take no offense, please believe me! I am as much a sinner as you, yet like you, I get to pronounce absolution to my flock and myself and feed my flock the Blessed Body and Blood of Jesus every week, and starting next Wednesday, twice a week.

    Synod is “US.” Somewhere, back when, we gave up that understanding and fought Synod as if it were an enemy. It is not. It is still “US.” Thank God for that fact, eh?

    I agree with you and Father Pettey that we need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the ongoing war with hell. That SOB who once was the Angel of Light chose darkness, and plunged all of us into the hellishness of sin. But we are agents of Christ, agents of the Gospel that shattered the gates of hell and left the gates swinging in the wind on their hinges, and we WILL win the war. Our Lord Jesus promised us that!

    When asking if “Synod” will screw up, we are in reality asking if “we, ourselves” will screw up. That’s a pretty sure bet, were we betting men.

    We have a joint task, the most glorious this side of the veil – it seems simple, but it dang sure ain’t not easy, is it? But you and I and Father Pettey and all the other faithful servants signed on to get it right and, to the best of our abilities, do it right.

    And we really are all on the same page. I understand the frustrations doing what we do can bring into our lives and our hearts and our (Jesus lets us adopt it as our own) ministry.

    I appreciate your words – they shall send me into my weekend and the pulpit with a much greater sense of grace.

    Thank you, My Brother. That post meant much.

    The Hallelujah Chorus . . . Priceless! Pax, Jeff

    P.S. If we meet, first round is on me! Blessings on your sermon Sunday! “jb”

  25. December 2nd, 2012 at 03:07 | #25

    jb :Nothing is more important . . . than doctrinal purity?

    Doctrine is life.

  26. jb
    December 2nd, 2012 at 20:14 | #26

    Tim

    One needs not say that “air” is “life” to us . . . it is of its own accord.

    Likewise, as I said and Pastor Crandall noted – “pure doctrine” already is – so it is life as well.

    That was not my point. We need to do something with “doctrine” as “doctrine prescribes, or we minimize both doctrine and the work of the Church.

    jb

  27. December 3rd, 2012 at 04:00 | #27

    @Tim Schenks #25

    It was this line from Pastor Baxter that opened my eyes to what he was saying:

    “The emphasis is not preserving pure doctrine “first” – that already exists! We need to use ALL of “pure doctrine” to win souls, or win them over again.”

    It’s the other side of the coin of Walther’s quote about being concerned about good seed, if you want a good harvest: If you want a good harvest, don’t forget to plant that good seed!

    Here’s my favorite Walther quote: “Many say, ‘Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.’ But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.”
    — C.F. W. Walther, “Our Common Task: the Saving of Souls”

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