Pastor David Oberdieck, Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon, MO, submitted this piece to us — a reflection of where we in the LCMS stand at this point, a few months after the convention. He wrote this “to give my perspective on finding a measure of peace in troubled times. I have not arrived at a point where I am serene through all turmoil by far, but I have found some peace knowing that this world is always running to Hell. It always has, and it always will. I can expect no more from this world. My home is in the Jerusalem above.”
Pastor Oberdieck previously wrote our series on the Liturgy, a series of bulletin inserts to help the laity understand the various parts of the service. These inserts can be seen at steadfastlutherans.org/liturgy.
Ever since the election of Rev. Matthew Harrison as Synod President, I have been mulling over the question, “Is the long synodical nightmare over?” The nightmare I refer to was the intensifying of the division in the LC-MS after the death of Synod President Rev Al Barry.
Fiery fissures cracked open over the joint Christian/non-Christian prayer service at Yankee stadium and the ensuing issues of ecclesiastical supervision. Added to these two factors were also non-Lutheran influences in worship practice, evangelism, and revitalization of congregations.
Is the nightmare over? I would like to give a resounding “yes!” Instead I give a heartfelt, “I sure hope so.” Conservatives and liberals alike have put a lot of sweat and ink into electing their ideal candidates, but the answer is not found in elections as important as those are.
The divergence of method and practice among churches of the Synod is far too great to be harmonized in one election cycle (God save us from flipping back and forth!). If we expect Harrison to straighten out the Synod in the next three years we have made him into our idol. He doesn’t have that power.
Not only are there current issues in the Synod that divide us, but old issues are not entirely put to rest (E.G.: Battle for the Bible). They never are in fact. Ideas don’t really die. They wax and wane in popularity. They also get repackaged.
Thus, the Arianism of the fourth century is living in a new heretical package called the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They both deny Jesus’ true, eternal deity. So also, the spirit of Rome that desires to place the official edicts of the Pope above question are also manifest in some evangelical churches where the supposed God given vision/goals of a particular pastor become sacrosanct.
The church must be ever vigilant and militant in regard to false doctrine and practice. However, we do need to be careful how we treat each other. St. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be, “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We have not guarded that unity as we should (myself included).
We are the church militant because we must always contend against the schemes of Satan, the oppression of worldly philosophy, and the sin in each one of us that would drive us to false doctrine and unrepentance. We will always be the church militant this side of heaven. Nobody’s election to church office will ever change that.
Yet, we do rejoice in the selection of Harrison. He is a good gift from God. We thank Him for this fine theologian. Certainly, we bless the LORD for all His benefits to us. Chiefly we praise Him for giving us His Son over to death for our sins.
As difficult as the battle of the church militant can be, perhaps it need not be a nightmare when we rest in God’s grace. Perhaps the issues are easier to address when we apply a simple trust in God’s providence.
Moreover, there is a measure of peace to be had when we realize that we have no lasting kingdom of this world. Not even the “kingdom” of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will survive. Our hope is beyond this mortal plain.
All will give way to the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of time. His kingdom is eternal and incorruptible. When this happens, “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4 NASB).
Pastor David Oberdieck
Trinity Lutheran Church