This letter came across to my wife’s facebook, and then when I finally joined facebook (I held out until now) I was able to see it too. This is from a good friend (and distant relative) who has suffered alongside of me in a car accident, the Rev. Mark Preus.
September 14, 2011
Faith Lutheran Church – Wylie, TX
Dear members of the MN-South District Board of Directors,
It is with great fear and trepidation that I am writing this letter. It is a letter asking you all to repent of your recent sin against God when you obtained the property of ULC by a show of right and closed your hearts to their pleas for mercy and charity.
The Bible is clear that you should not covet your neighbor’s property. Luther explains the meaning very well, “We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.”
The building which you have voted to sell was built for University Lutheran Chapel. It has housed University Lutheran Chapel for more than sixty years and so it belongs to them. The congregation relies on this property and depends upon it. They have taken care of it and used it to extend God’s gracious call of forgiveness to poor sinners in need. To argue that the property doesn’t belong to them is to ignore the entire purpose of the property and the existence of Christ’s congregation there.
It is not yours to sell. Of course you can show us your right to sell it, but this would be breaking the 9th commandment, which prohibits you from getting your neighbor’s property “by a show of right,” or “in a way which only appears right.” The fact that so many of you, including pastors who teach the ninth commandment to our children, have neglected this commandment does not lessen your guilt in this matter.
I beg you not to minimize the severity of this sin against your brothers and against God. For all your concerns about money and for all your thought on how some 3.2 million dollars could be used to advance God’s kingdom, you have not listened to countless pleas from your brothers and sisters. You have closed your hearts to the poor when they cried to you. You have not had patience with them, who have even offered to raise money to buy the building from you. You have instead trusted in a model of ministry against which your brothers in Christ have protested because it places a greater emphasis on humanly devised ministry than the office which Christ established. You have taken from a congregation the house that was theirs, and you have taken from the children of the congregation and District the inheritance that was meant for them.
In short, you have not acted in love. This cannot go unpunished. Even if our synod and brother pastors are complacent in their duty to rebuke you, God will not forget this. I earnestly beg you to repent of this sin and try to make amends before it is too late. How will you render an account for these actions when you ignored the prayers and fervent desires of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Will you argue that you were not warned? Will you argue that you thought you were doing the right thing?
But we call the Law a guide for a reason. It tells us clearly what we ought to do and leaves us no excuse on the Day of Judgment; and for those who despise it, God will not be complacent in taking up the cause of his children. He is on the side of those against whom you have sinned, no matter what good intentions you think might make up for your coveting your neighbor’s property. I must have hope that his Word is a hammer and so is strong enough to break your hearts into repentance for this offense which you have committed among us.
I know that he can do this because I myself have experienced the unbelief of my heart broken by God’s constant requirement of me to love my neighbor. Finally, when I see in the light of God’s holiness how I have harmed not only my neighbor, but the God whom I am to love in the person of my neighbor, then I am terrified; I am left without excuse and all the excuses that others made for me and I made for myself crumble and leave me naked and ashamed before the God to whom I must render an account for the things done in my body, whether they be good or bad, including scheming to get my neighbor’s inheritance.
And so I hope and I pray that God would move your hearts to repent of your covetousness and neglect of your neighbor. I consider myself, lest I also be tempted, and acknowledge my own doubting and worrying about money, which is idolatry. But as we sing, “Cast every idol from his throne, / The Lord is God, and He alone,” so let us turn our hearts to God, asking him to forgive us for our sins against our neighbor and looking for ways to make amends to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sincerely your brother in Christ,
Pr. Mark Preus