President Harrison in the Lutheran Witness — The Missouri Synod Needs Advent

December 17th, 2011 Post by

Found on The Lutheran Witness:

 

What is the single most critical issue in the life of the Missouri Synod? Is it evangelism? Church planting? Missions? Seminaries? Church-worker well-being? Theology? Congregational vitality? Finances? Education? Mercy?

I submit to you, dear reader, that the single most vital issue facing this church body today is our great need for individual and collective repentance–thorough-going sorrow over sin, and faith that grabs hold of the Savior of sinners, Jesus. The Missouri Synod needs Advent.

Advent is a matter of repentance. Repentance is a matter of eternal life and death. “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight!” (Matt. 3:3). Advent is about sinners recognizing themselves as sinners in the face of the coming Lord. The eternal Lord of the universe came as a babe at Bethlehem. He comes in His Word and Sacrament. He shall come again in the end. If you meet Him secure in your sins, whether at the Communion rail or on the Last Day, you shall die in your sins, eternally.

Just a month ago we celebrated the Reformation. There was a great deal of huffing and puffing about our heritage. But we miss the whole point of Luther and the Reformation if we fail to recognize that it was all about repentance. In 1817, Klaus Harms famously said about his times: “Before the Reformation, the forgiveness of sins at least cost something. Now its completely free, and everyone freely rewards themselves with it.” That statement perfectly depicts our times, too. But worse, it also sadly depicts our church in large measure. The Missouri Synod needs repentance. The Missouri Synod needs–as a matter of her life and death–the first word out of John the Baptizers mouth: “Repent!” (Matt. 3:2).

So much of our preaching lacks the textual fire and energy of our evangelical birthright! So often our laity have an inclination that preaching could be better but have no idea what Lutheran preaching should be! Pastors and people, repent! And bear the fruit of repentance! Read, mark, and inwardly digest C.F.W. Walthers The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.

Yes, your pastor could be doing a better job of preaching and visiting (he needs to repent, be forgiven and encouraged by grace), but you allow unhealthy and unchristian gossip, and even take part in it yourself! Perhaps you are in a congregation with generations of unhealthy behavior! This is no joke! The Lord does not leave unpunished the despising of His Word. Repent! The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Pastors! You head off half-cocked and do whatever you wish without regard to its effects upon your brother pastors and sister congregations. Some of you elicit little or no concern for the unchurched people who pass by your building daily. You grumble about each other and do everything but sit down and humbly resolve the issues, failing to realize that love not only covers a “multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) but also entails curtailing ones own freedom in order not to offend (Romans 14). Repent! This is the kind of sin of thanklessness that causes the Lord to move His Gospel, like a passing rain shower, away from us to others (Luthers Works, volume 45, page 352; see also At Home in the House of My Fathers, CPH, 2011, pages 776 ff.).

Friends, I may know a couple of your sins, but I know many, many more of my own. Under the Law, I too am nothing but a damned sinner. My prayer life wavers. I’m not what I should be as a father and husband. My love for God’s Word is often grown cold. I worry. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Grant repentance, O Lord!
Grant faith, O Lord!
Grant forgiveness, O Lord!
Grant us love for each other, O Lord!
Grant us zeal for the Gospel and those who need it, O Lord!
Renew our preaching and our hearing, O Lord!
O Lord, grant us your Advent!
Come quickly, and save us!

Pastor Matthew Harrison






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  1. December 23rd, 2011 at 17:49 | #1

    @Ted Crandall #49

    Pr. Crandall,

    I think you are right and I apologize to all involved for the confusion I created. Yes, we must confess Christ (Romans 10:9; Matthew 10:32).

  2. Carl Vehse
    December 23rd, 2011 at 17:57 | #2

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #43 : “As usual, “Vehse” pits laity against the clergy.”

    What?!? Where have I pitted laity against clergy? How are my comments above “entirely out of place”?

    I have provided excerpts from the Brief Statement (written by Franz Pieper), from C.F.W. Walther, from Martin Luther, and from Rev. Kalthoff. My brief comments are simply paraphrasing those excerpts.

    These excerpts were directed to a comment made by Mr. Pierce (Matthew 28:18-20 is not a personal “call” to you, or me, by God for personal evangelism) Unlike mediate calls pastors receive, all Christians have immediate calls that the provided excerpts explain.

    This is not to act as a pastor or to assume public preaching or to pit laity against pastor. I specifically selected excerpts from Walther, Luther, and Kalthoff that carefully explained the distinction between the public office of the ministry to which a pastor is called and the private ministry of the laity.

    Again, I would ask for substantiation as to where my comments or the excerpts above have pitted laity against clergy or been “entirely out of place.”

  3. Carl Vehse
    December 23rd, 2011 at 18:14 | #3

    @Ted Crandall #49 : Carl, some more confusion is created when you misapply good quotes to introduce the idea here that the pastors are trying to abuse their sheep”

    Rev. Crandall,

    How am I to respond to your accusations about my alleged motivation (introducing the idea that the pastors are trying to abuse their sheep) for misapplying good quotes on BJS?

    Or if not an attack on my motivation, then, Rev. Crandall, where did I state in my comments above, or even imply that I was trying to introduce the idea that the pastors are trying to abuse their sheep?

    My various responses containing the quotes were on the claim about the Great Commission (Mt. 28) stated by a person who is not a pastor.

    And the only evidence is the broad-brushed, and unsubstantiated claim, “long history” and “Even his pseudonym.” Is Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse to be slandered as well?

  4. Carl Vehse
    December 23rd, 2011 at 18:54 | #4

    @Jim Pierce #47: “Dr. Strickert provided this link to Luther’s sermon above which looks like Luther is dealing with the abuse of power by the Pope.”

    If it were to look like Luther’s sermon primarily dealt with the abuse of power by the Pope, then it would have been a very un-Lutheran sermon. But, in fact, Luther clearly states what he is talking about in the excerpts I provided starting in Par. 13., when he states in the preceding paragraph:

    12. Now follows the office of the ministry. The power of faith now develops love. For it does not yet suffice that I have the Lord so that he is mine, and that I find in him all comfort, peace and joy; but I must henceforth also do as he has done: for it follows thus in the text: “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

    Luther’s references to the pope and his claims serves only as a contrast to God’s Word.

  5. December 23rd, 2011 at 19:03 | #5

    @Carl Vehse #54

    Thank you for sharing your opinion, but of course I didn’t assert that “Luther’s sermon primarily dealt with the abuse of power by the Pope” (emphasis mine).

  6. December 23rd, 2011 at 20:45 | #6

    Carl, please accept my apologies for inadvertently introducing your motives. I can only infer why you do what you do. What I meant to say was, “Carl, some more confusion is created when you misapply good quotes that introduce the idea here that the pastors are trying to abuse their sheep.”

    Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr., 2nd Vice President of the LCMS: “The position that you have articulated in your articles, placing the pastoral office beneath the church by way of a voters’ assembly, is the position of Carl Eduard Vehse, a disgruntled layman of the Saxonite Emigration. It is not the position of Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther.”

  7. John Rixe
    December 23rd, 2011 at 21:17 | #7

    @Ted Crandall #56

    I’ve reread the thread pretty carefully and sure can’t find anything that relates to pastors trying to abuse their sheep.  Please explain.  (This can wait until after Christmas – Best Wishes, Pastor Crandall)

  8. Old Time St. John’s
    December 23rd, 2011 at 21:50 | #8

    @John Rixe #57
    I agree with you, John. It appears that something other than the posts in this thread is influencing the discussion and making it difficult to understand, sorry to say.

  9. December 23rd, 2011 at 23:06 | #9

    “Vehse,”

    Here’s your proof. You take Pierce’s true assertion about Matthew 28 applying to the clergy and you then start your usual rant about how the clergy have no authority except that which they receive from the church. The point being made had nothing to do with that and yet that is all you see and you cannot keep your mouth shut (fingers from typing) about how God has given all authority to the church. We get it. No one is disputing that.

    The point is that pastors have the authority from God (through the church) to preach, teach, baptize, forgive sins and place the body of Christ on the lips of those in the church. They do not receive that authority from the laity you moron. The laity does not have that authority. The church has that authority. I am a pastor and I am a member of the church. As a member of the church I have that authority. This is not about laity vs. clergy as you constantly make it out to be.

    If you can’t use a little self control and stop attacking where attacks do not apply then we will just ban your annoying comments from this site so that you can stop misleading people into a made-up power struggle between laity and clergy.

    TR

  10. Carl Vehse
    December 24th, 2011 at 01:22 | #10

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #59 ,

    Pierce’s assertion was that the Great Commission was only for called pastors through their office of public ministry and not for what the common Christian does privately, as his calling and circumstances call for. While pastors are obviously included in the Great Commission, the Great Commission also includes the laity, as noted in the provided excerpts.

    Rev. Rossow, you said that I started my “usual rant about how the clergy have no authority except that which they receive from the church.” But I did not say (or even rant) that. In his excerpt C.F.W. Walther stated that the mediately called pastors receive Word and Sacrament first “through the church”. You even parenthetically note that phrase.

    Rev. Rossow, you said that I cannot keep my “mouth shut (fingers from typing) about how God has given all authority to the church.” But I did not say that, nor did the posted excerpts state that, although one can find it in Kirche und Amt.

    Rev. Rossow, you told me that pastors “do not receive that authority from the laity you moron.” But I never said that pastors receive that authority [of the office of public ministry] from the laity. The posted excerpts from Luther and Walther indicate that it is the church through whom God’s call comes.

    Rev. Rossow, you claim that “this is not about laity vs. clergy as you constantly make it out to be.” But I have not made it out to be a “laity vs. clergy” issue. Furthermore, the posted excerpts, which have caused so much furor, are all from clergy.

  11. Carl Vehse
    December 24th, 2011 at 01:30 | #11

    Rev. Crandall,

    Your apology for inadvertently introducing motives is accepted, and I agree with your reply that my previous excerpts from Luther, Walther, and others were “good quotes.”

    I don’t understand your claim that I misapplied them or that the quotes in any possible way “introduce the idea here that the pastors are trying to abuse their sheep.” The excerpts were not taken out of context; they dealt with the issue of the Great Commission and the responsibilities and authority which all Christians have; and, they were specific in distinguishing the public ministry of pastors from what the laity are called to do in private.

    Your unreferenced quote from Vice President Wohlrabe actually comes from a letter Rev. Wohlrabe sent to Rev. Cascione in the late 1990s and reprinted in the article, “Dr. Wohlrabe and Rev. Cascione Discuss Walther and Voters’ Assemblies.” However, the quote has nothing to do with the idea of pastors trying to abuse their sheep.

    Furthermore in his Protestation document, Dr. Vehse never discussed voters’ assembly, much less any supremacy of the voters’ assembly. And Lutheran historians, such as Dr. Carl Mundinger and Dr. Walter Forster, as well as C.F.W. Walther himself, have acknowledged the close relationship and influence of the Protestation document with the position taken in Walther’s theses at the Altenburg Debate and later in Kirche und Amt.

    As John Rixe noted, any explanation you may care to provide can wait until after the celebration of our Savior’s birth.

  12. December 24th, 2011 at 07:16 | #12

    @John #57
    The context I was referring to is the long history of “Carl Vehse” (Pastor Wohlrabe called the original a “disgruntled layman”) trying to create animosity between pastors and their flocks. The alleged abuse in this thread is pastors telling their sheep not to usurp the pastor’s job — not to tell anyone what He has done, but leave that to the pastor who alone is called to spread the Gospel. (Note the lack of any distinction between the public ministry and privately confessing our faith in the course of other vocations.) This is false teaching. I can think of no greater abuse a pastor can inflict on his sheep than leading them away from the saving Word.

    Thank you, John, for your consideration of my time this joyous season.

    “See what kind of love the Father has given to us…”
    (I John 3:1)

  13. John Rixe
    December 24th, 2011 at 09:34 | #13

    I guess I’m another moron because I can’t find anyone around here who’s trying to create animosity between pastors and their sheep.  Anyhow, I’ve got to start my Christmas shopping.    :)

  14. December 24th, 2011 at 10:24 | #14

    @John Rixe #63

    Another guy just like me! I started and finished my shopping yesterday!

  15. Carl Vehse
    December 24th, 2011 at 10:38 | #15

    @John Rixe #63,

    If you are interest in the actual documented history (rather than recent revisionist versions) of the Saxon emigration and the events surrounding Martin Stephan, C.F.W. Walther, Carl Eduard Vehse, and other Lutherans, I recommend the following:

    Zion on the Mississippi, the settlement of the Saxon Lutherans in Missouri, 1839-1841, Dr. Walter O. Forster, CPH, 1953, 606 pages.

    Government in the Missouri Synod: the genesis of decentralized government in the Missouri synod Dr. Carl S. Mundinger, CPH, 1947, 247 pages.

    Stephanite Emigration to America: with documentation, Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse, tr. Rudolph Fiehler, 1975, 136 pages, which can be downloaded in rtf format. The “Public Protestation” document of Vehse, Fischer, and Jaekel begins on p. 33. Vehse’s book in German is also available on the internet.

    There is also The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America, by Gotthold Guenther (Dresden, 1839, 124 pages). Gotthold was the brother of Louise Guenther, who later confessed to being one of Martin Stephan’s kept women.

  16. December 24th, 2011 at 11:25 | #16

    Carl Vehse :
    Pierce’s assertion was that the Great Commission was only for called pastors through their office of public ministry and not for what the common Christian does privately, as his calling and circumstances call for.

    That is NOT my assertion and you obviously DID grossly misunderstand my point even after I clarified it and asked if my clarifications were helpful.

  17. Carl Vehse
    December 24th, 2011 at 14:30 | #17

    Mr. Pierce, you wrote:

    The Great Commission is about baptizing and teaching, things which you as a layman are not called by God to do in the world. Matthew 28:18-20 is not a personal “call” to you, or me, by God for personal evangelism. I have looked for Scriptures that support the teaching of personal evangelism and have yet to find them.

    I wrote:

    Pierce’s assertion was that the Great Commission was only for called pastors through their office of public ministry and not for what the common Christian does privately, as his calling and circumstances call for. While pastors are obviously included in the Great Commission, the Great Commission also includes the laity, as noted in the provided excerpts.

    BJS readers may judge for themselves whether my statements were a reasonable understanding of what you wrote.

  18. December 24th, 2011 at 15:03 | #18

    @Carl Vehse #67

    Dr. Strickert,

    You may appeal to the reader’s as you like, but certainly pulling a quote out of context and then attributing to it an assertion—namely, “the Great Commission was only for called pastors”—that I have not made is simply dishonest.

    What I have written above is that the Great Commission is given to the Church. You can read that I clearly state as much here and here. The statement that I asserted “the Great Commission was only for called pastors,” is absolutely false.

    Now, if you don’t understand something I have written and would like to ask questions, I will be happy to try to clarify my words for you. If you wish to continue to insist that I have asserted something which I have not, then we have nothing more to discuss.

  19. helen
    December 24th, 2011 at 15:39 | #19

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #59
    They do not receive that authority from the laity you moron. –TR

    If you can’t use a little self control and stop attacking where attacks do not apply then we will just ban your annoying comments from this site so that you can stop misleading people into a made-up power struggle between laity and clergy. –TR

    Looks like “a little self control” would be beneficial all ’round, don’t you think?

    @John Rixe #63
    I guess I’m another moron because I can’t find anyone around here who’s trying to create animosity between pastors and their sheep. Anyhow, I’ve got to start my Christmas shopping. :)

    I guess that makes two of us, John!
    (I solved the shopping problem, by not doing any this year.)

    The church is “Pastor and people”. Upon installation, the church assigns the power of the Keys to its called Pastor. I may certainly say to some repentant individual that God forgives them. (I don’t think it’s my vocation to tell anyone God will not forgive them.) Luther in the Small Catechism does not give the impression that I am speaking in the Lord’s voice. He does say that about the rightly called Pastor in his explanation of Confession and Absolution. That’s what we have Pastors for, with the Sacraments and “other duties as assigned” (my own job description’s catch-all convenience!)

  20. helen
    December 24th, 2011 at 15:46 | #20

    A blessed Christmas, all y’all!

    I imagine Rick will receive communion instituted by a Pastor, as will the rest of us, (though I won’t go bail for the distribution; he may be helping with that himself).

  21. Redeemed
    January 3rd, 2012 at 10:59 | #21

    Whew! So, what’s a layman to do or not do? According to Scripture, are we told to do ANYTHING? (Not according to Vehse, Luther, Walther, Mundinger or anyone else – only Scripture)

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