What is Suomen Luther-Säätiö?
Suomen Luther-Säätiö, or Luther Foundation-Finland in English, is a church body of 26 worshipping communities (koinonia’s). This confessional Lutheran church body exists because the Lutheran Church of Finland has fallen for liberal theology in both doctrine and in practice. Sadly, the LCF ignores the authority of Scripture and instead listens to the culture of the day. Thus, the LCF allows for both women’s and homosexual ordination. Those pastors who refused to acknowledge such ordinations were punished for their disobedience. (For more information regarding recent persecution among confessional Lutheran pastors in Scandinavia see this website).
Out of this darkness still shines the glorious light of the Gospel. The Lord has raised up a group of steadfast pastors and lay people in Finland to carry forth the mission of Christ. Started in 1999, Luther Foundation-Finland, like the Mission Province-Sweden, seeks to remain faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions in both faith and practice. While so many Lutherans in America are questioning our doctrine and our liturgy, deeming it no longer relevant, Luther Foundation-Finland remains unapologetic in their stance. They state on their website: “Can traditional, Lutheran forms of worship reach the young and the old alike in the postmodern, urban culture of the 21st century? Is confessional Lutheran theology suited for missionary work even in the midst of an increasingly pluralistic society? Yes, it can. Yes, it is.” Also they state, “Worship life in the divine service is the method of our work. No fads, no gimmicks. We believe that the Word purely preached and the Sacraments rightly administered are the tools Christ uses to build his church. Luther Foundation communities adhere to historic liturgy not because we have to, but because we want to.”
Luther Foundation-Finland has a connection to the United States through Concordia Theological Seminary. Several pastors have studied at the seminary in the last 15 years. The dean of Luther Foundation-Finland, Juhana Pohjola, received his S.T.M in 1999, and more recently Esko Murto (Pastor at St. Mark’s in Helsinki) and Markus Pöyry (Pastor at St. Luke’s in Seinäjoki, Finland) also received their S.T.M’s. Juhana Pohjola is also the recipient of the 2009 Sabre of Boldness honor. (To learn more about this award, one can click on the following link: http://gottesblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/rev-juhana-pohjola-receives-sabre-of.html). It should be noted that CTS does an excellent job of inviting Lutherans throughout the world to their campus. This serves to strengthen confessional Lutheranism everywhere!
Luther Foundation-Finland also has a church wide publication called Pyhäkön Lamppu (Sanctuary Lamp), a title which comes from 1 Samuel 3:3. This writer plans to translate articles from this magazine that would benefit the readers of Steadfast Lutherans. The following is a translation of the article “Me olemme koinonia – Kristittyjä!” by Juhana Pohjola, which was originally published in Pyhäkön Lamppu 4/2008. In this article, Juhana Pohjola, discusses ‘koinonia’, fellowship. So often we think fellowship is what takes place after the Divine Service. We don’t help matters by calling the place where we eat doughnuts and drink coffee, fellowship hall. Juhana is quite precise in defining fellowship as our connection to Christ and His Church, the body of Christ, as she gathers around Word and Sacrament.
We are a koinonia of Christians!
Koinonia is a Greek word that means a “connection” and a “fellowship”. This term appears often in Christianity, with emphasis on Christians being together, or some kind of work or witnessing. Luther Foundation – Finland and the Swedish Mission Province also use the name koinonia for our worshipping communities. Also our good works and activities are called koinonia. What does the Bible teach us about this rich word?
Koinonia is fellowship in Christ
Sometimes one hears Christian fellowship spoken of in terms of unity and of love in name, but with a lack of Church doctrine and differences. This word koinonia is understood as Christians being together. It is a mutual togetherness, decision to love others. Koinonia means then something man-centered and man-made.
The Bible gives a picture of something else. Koinonia is not something which we do, but what we receive as a gift. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship (koinonia) of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Koinonia is therefore a vertical connection in Christ. This fellowship in Christ is impossible without the Holy Spirit. He calls us to this fellowship by grace. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship (koinonia) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14. The Holy Trinity has fellowship of the same divine essence and a connection of love and oneness between them. The Holy Spirit joined us in Baptism to this godly fellowship. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Through this Holy Spirit comes Christian fellowship which joins us together as one body, and is concretely seen at the Lord’s Table: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation (koinonia) in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16,17). Thus, fellowship between Christians is based then on fellowship with Christ in Communion. Fellowship is a gift. This fellowship is unanimous support for Christ actually being in these gifts and for what He gives in them.
Koinonia is a connection of love
When we have received through the Word and Sacrament the gift of Christ, of fellowship, it creates a connection of love among parishioners. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). This ‘koinonia’ meant a family bond, which was seen in mutual care, which they took of their own for the needy. The connection of love was not just for their own congregation, but was for the entire church. St Paul’s joy was that the Corinthian’s were assisting the poor of Jerusalem. This was not help for just anybody, but for those of the same fellowship in the gospel of Christ. “..they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (koinonia) of your contribution for them and for all others.” (2 Corinthians 9:13). We need this connection, in which we support one another personally, as well as the body of Christ. For every Christian comes into the world with the same problems: “may share (koinonia) his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
Can then our worship communities be a pertinent name for koinonia? In the Divine Service we receive the grace of fellowship in Christ and we are sent in the fellowship of love. In this way, we are a joyful koinoia of Christians.