Round 20 of Steadfast Throwdown has now been published! It includes the following:
CATECHISM SERIES, PART 8 ( link )
In this part of our Catechism Series with Pr. Joe Abrahamson, we discuss the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. According to the Bible, what is Baptism and what does it actually deliver? Why do some Christians actually make Baptism a work of us humans rather than God’s work of saving us? What is the role of faith in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism?
FARGO AND THE HIDDEN GOD ( link )
Pr. Timothy Winterstein sees Luther’s teaching of “the hidden God” on full display in the television show Fargo. For the producers and characters of Fargo, if God does exist, He must certainly have no good will for human beings. All things must be a matter of fate. However, God’s revelation of Himself in the cross of Jesus Christ gives us a different picture of God. In Christ, God has indeed entered this fallen world plagued by evil in order to redeem and restore it.
See the press release which mentions that Dr. Daisy Machado teaches at Union Theological Seminary, but fails to mention the fact that she is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Click here for her biography courtesy of Union Theological Seminary. Her biography also mentions that she is “ co-editor of A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology: Religion and Justice ” .
From the PR piece on this:
“Christians are being challenged to rethink and to grapple with what we mean by the terms “missions” and “missio dei.” In this lecture, Dr. Machado will explore what this increasingly popular notion of “missions” might entail today and will address the question: What does “missions” look like as the church faces the Latino reality in the United States in the 21st century?”
To this I can offer this from the Word of God (1 Corinthians 14:33-38):
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized .
This last sentence is most forceful about whether a person believing that women’s ordination should even be recognized.
Some questions to ponder (which I have asked the St Louis Seminary and had a very friendly conversation about):
Does lecturing at the seminary violate the above passage concerning women in the Church?
Why is an LCMS seminary promoting an ordained clergywoman and seminary professor to teach our people?
Were there no experts that would not bring the offense of the heresy of women’s ordination front and center?
How will our sister churches in Latin America receive news that an ordained woman and feminist theologian is teaching (even just once) at one of our seminaries?
I contacted our St. Louis seminary about these concerns and had a very good conversation with them. The main discussion was on the established tradition of letting others of even erring church bodies come and lecture at time on selected topics. The seminary was pretty good in describing their case and that having someone come does not endorse them in total. They have also in this case talked to Dr. Machado concerning our adherence to the Scriptures concerning men and the pastoral office. Here are some further discussion questions that have come to my mind since then:
Can a pastor be divorced from being a pastor when publicly teaching or lecturing at a seminary? (Can an ordained woman teach as simply a historian in the church or does she carry her ordination with her?) Even if I am on vacation I am still a pastor, the same way that as a pastor I still remain a husband and father, I am not so sure we can set aside vocations so easily.
If a member of an erring church body is given to teach at one of our seminaries, how do we faithfully handle making a Lutheran response? We cannot assume that all of the listeners are discerning the errors (that is an error of arrogance). Would having a speaker set to give a Lutheran response to the previous one be a good way to address this?
It would be good to have a discussion here about these questions as it has been noted many times that both seminaries often have lecturers from erring church bodies including ones which we condemn and mark as erring in our own confessions.
“Church Growthers, release your home spun creeds and liturgies, your felt needs, your sermons on ten keys to do this or that and your missional minded leader or we will unleash one million comments from a Confessionally Lutheran blog on you!” He raises his index finger to his pursed lips in the manner of Dr. Evil and says “Yes, I said one m-i-l-l-i-o-n comments.”
Of course it is not about the numbers but it is nice to know that we are just 40,000 comments shy of reaching one million. There may be Lutheran blogs with more than that but probably not more than you could count on your two index fingers.
Thank you to our readers, both pro and con, for your interest and for your support of this enterprise.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) blog is a part of the larger BJS enterprise. It is certainly our most successful effort. It was originally intended to be the tail of the dog, the actual animal being a collection of Confessions Reading Groups and local chapters of confessional men around the world. We have started and/or indexed over fifty reading groups and we have a couple of local chapters around the country but it is the blog that has really taken off.
We started in the wake of the debacle of Issues Etc. being taken off the LCMS airways. That has turned out nicely for Issues and for BJS. It was writers in the first couple of years like the now sainted Klemet Preus and notable columnist Mollie Ziegler Hemingway that put us on the map as well as some hard hitting editorializing against liberal and church growth practices in the LCMS, criticism of then LCMS president Jerry Kieschnik and open support for Matthew Harrison to replace him.
These days the success of BJS is due to the hard work of our Associate Editor Joshua Scheer and our computer expert Norm Fisher. We will continue to put out the latest news and commentary in Confessional Lutheranism and look forward to all of you taking us to the two million comment mark soon.
Simple Answer: Someone whose religion is in congruence with the canonical Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions found in the “ Book of Concord .” The adjective “confessional” comes from the noun “Lutheran confessions,” not from the “confessional” office, i.e., the Office of the Keys.
Historic Examples: Martin Luther, because he wrote three of the Lutheran Confessions: the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Smalcald Articles; and because our theology was originally his.
Philip Melanchthon, because he wrote three of the other Lutheran Confessions: the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.
Martin Chemnitz, because he was one of the primary authors of the Formula of Concord, and because it was his idea to assemble a “Book of Concord” (Latin: Concordia ) of confessions to settle the theological disputes of his day.
All of the “confessors”–such as John the Steadfast–Elector of Saxony, Philip–Landgrave of Hesse, and John Frederick the Magnanimous–Elector of Saxony–who put their signatures on the Lutheran confessions, and thereby confessed their faith before the Catholic emperor, the popes, the devil, and the whole world.
The orthodox Lutheran kings, princes, theologians, pastors, and laymen in Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries.
The pastors and theologians of the “confessional revival” of the 19th century in Europe, such as Claus Harms of Kiel, Johann Scheibel of Breslau, Wilhelm Löhe of Bavaria, Theodore Kliefoth of Mecklenburg, Adolf Harless and Franz Delitzsch of Erlangen, August Vilmar of Hesse, Andreas Rudelbach of Saxony, Heinrich Guericke of Halle, and Ludwig Petri of Hanover.
The founders of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, such as Martin Stephan, C.F.W. Walther, Friedrich Wyneken, and Wilhelm Sihler.
The members of the “Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference” and their theologians and church-leaders, such as Francis Pieper, Adolf Hoenecke, and Herman Amberg Preus.
All theologians, church-leaders, pastors, and laymen around the world who follow the theology of the above-named theologians and church-leaders.
Ecclesial-Political Answer: With respect to the matter of church government, confessional Lutherans are suspicious of monarchical and autocratic forms of church government. This stance should be expected among all Protestants, with churches in the Anglican communion being the exception.
People should not be deceived by Melanchthon’s concession to the papacy in his subscription to the Smalcald Articles, for he was the author of the subsequent “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope” which stated that in his day “the marks of the Antichrist coincide with those of the pope’s kingdom and his followers” (Tr 39).
Confessional Lutherans have accepted various forms of church government, including church-governance by bishops, but they have always preferred a collegial or a balance-of-power approach, e.g., Chemnitz’s three estates, Brenz’s consistories, and the American synodical-congregational structure. No single form of church government is mandated in the Lutheran confessions, although many abuses of church government are condemned therein.
Ecclesial-Theological Answer: Confessional Lutherans see the “Book of Concord” as a fixed constitution, which all church officers, clergy, and assemblies are obligated to follow. This obligation is known as “confessional subscription.” Confessional Lutherans reject ideas of “doctrinal development,” because the confessions are drawn from a fixed body of revelation, namely, the canonical Scriptures, and because these ideas undermine the principle of the confessions as a fixed constitution
Many people wonder why it is necessary to add the qualifier “confessional” in front of the noun “Lutheran.” This is because many so-called “Lutherans,” since the beginning of the 18th century, have not agreed with the theology of Martin Luther and his immediate successors. By force of political power and/or influence, these quasi-Lutherans have claimed the name of “Lutheran” without that term’s original intent and substance. How then do they claim to be Lutheran? Quasi-Lutherans simply claim Martin Luther as their ideological forefather without warrant, even though they disagree with all or most of his theology.
Today, the confessional Lutheran churches in the United States of America are chiefly the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). The first two were formerly German ethnically and linguistically; the third was formerly Norwegian ethnically and linguistically.
Today all three–LCMS, WELS, ELS–are English-speaking and multi-ethnic. All three are in fellowship–or some kind of association–with the other confessional Lutheran churches around the world. At the present time, WELS and ELS are not in fellowship with the LCMS or its affiliates. All three agree that the largest Lutheran church-body in America, the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (ELCA), is quasi-Lutheran.
Therefore, when we use the term “confessional Lutheran” today, it is a way of referring to the LCMS, WELS, and ELS, and all their members and synodical affiliates, with a single term.
For Further Study
For more on the history of confessional Lutheranism, see: Martin R. Noland, “Walther and the Revival of Confessional Lutheranism,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 75 no. 3-4 (July/Oct 2011): 195-217; available here .
For more on “confessional subscription,” see these four essays by C.F.W. Walther: 1) “Foreword to the 1857 Volume,” Lehre und Wehre; 2) “Foreword to the 1858 Volume,” Lehre und Wehre; 3) “Opening Address,” 1866 Synodical Convention; all three essays are in: August Suelflow, ed., Editorials From Lehre und Wehre, tr. H. A. Bouman, in Selected Writings of CFW Walther (St Louis: CPH, 1981). Also see: 4) “Confessional Subscription,” 1858 Western District Essay; in August Suelflow, ed., Essays for the Church, vol. 1 (St Louis: CPH, 1992).
For more on “doctrinal development,” see these three essays by C.F.W. Walther: 1) “Foreword to the 1859 Volume,” Lehre und Wehre in: August Suelflow, ed., Editorials From Lehre und Wehre, tr. H. A. Bouman, in Selected Writings of CFW Walther (St Louis: CPH, 1981); 2) “The False Arguments for the Modern Theory of Open Questions,” Lehre und Wehre 14 (1868), translated by William Arndt and Alexander Guebert in Concordia Theological Monthly 10 no. 4-11 (1939), available here ; and 3) “Theses on Open Questions” (1868), in: Doctrinal Statements of the WELS (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1997), available here .
When I was in seminary, I went to dinner with some family friends. The conversation eventually turned to what I was learning in school, and I went through my course schedule, which included one of the three dogmatics classes required by the curriculum in Fort Wayne. Because things were simple back then, I was a little blind-sided when one person made a comment that went something like, “Isn’t being dogmatic a bad thing?” In hindsight, this really shouldn’t have surprised me, because my wife and I were the only Lutherans at the table. Doctrine, to them, was akin to a four-letter word that Christians ought not be using.
Now, I won’t make the claim that all non-Lutheran Christians aren’t interested in doctrine. You just have to look at the internet to see that there are many doctrinally interested and literate folks outside of Lutheranism, many of whom are even lay people! But it’s also undeniable that there is a large strain of Christianity that will claim that doctrine is too divisive or that it detracts from a simple faith in Christ Jesus. However, the Scriptures tell a different story about this “dirty word.”
One place to which I often turn to remind myself of my ordination vows is I Timothy 4, where the Apostle Paul instructs the young Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” The Greek word Paul uses that is translated “teaching” by the ESV is didaskalia (διδασκαλίᾳ). In the Authorized Version and the NIV (both ’84 and ’11) both translate it here as “doctrine” (It isn’t very often you’ll find me rooting for the NIV, but I literally cheered when I discovered this). Both of these are acceptable translations, of course. According to BDAG (s.v. διδασκαλίᾳ), can be translated as “the act of teaching, teaching, instruction” or “”that which is taught, teaching instruction.”
Before I get too convoluted, I want to make my point clear: doctrine is simply another word for teaching. Teaching is doctrine and doctrine is teaching. They are one and the same. One of the reasons I love I Timothy 4:16 is that it shows us how important right doctrine is. Paul even goes as far as to say that it saves us! It’s not because Christianity is simply a list of propositions that one must mentally assent to in order to get eternal life. Doctrine, however, is the means by which our Lord makes us one of His disciples. In Matthew 28, Christ our Lord commands the Church to make disciples using two verbs: Baptism and teaching (the verbal form of doctrine). It’s significant that our Lord spends much of the New Testament Gospels teaching. The crowds in Luke 5 were pressing in on Jesus to hear Him teach them the Word of God.
Going back again to I Timothy 4:16, Paul tells us that right doctrine saves us. This must mean that Christ is present in His teaching. Think especially of the Lord’s statement in Luke 10: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” This means that the Church can be confident that they are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10), when those whom Christ sends speak according to that Word. That’s why the Lutherans have defined the Church as those gathered around the right teaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments rightly administered (AC V). Christ is with us even to the end of the age through the right teaching of His Word (doctrine) and His Sacraments. If we reject the Apostolic doctrine, we reject Christ and His Father. But if we hold the Word and the preaching of that Word as sacred and keep it holy, it is clear that Christ is present.
Doctrine isn’t a four-letter word. It’s simply the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be difficult to establish when and why Christians began to reject doctrine as important. Again, I’m not saying that this is true of all Christians, and perhaps we’d better admit that even some Lutherans don’t care much for doctrine. But in many circles, this is true. I’m wondering, though, if it’s related to the way the word didaskalia is translated in our Bibles today. I don’t know what the correlation between a disdain for doctrine and preferred Bible translation is. I also don’t know if disdain for doctrine has caused translators to avoid using the word doctrine, nor do I know if a translation’s avoidance of the word doctrine causes people to despise doctrine as a concept. I do, however, find it interesting that the King James Version renders didaskalia as doctrine 18 out of the 20 times it appears in the New Testament. I also find it interesting that the NIV ’84 uses doctrine only six times, and the NIV ’11 uses it only five times. The ESV uses doctrine 8 times. All three of those are a big drop off from 18.
On top of that, the only time Jesus uses the word didaskalia is in Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 (these are parallel passages), the ESV says, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” This use of the word doctrine is in a decidedly negative context. Now, I can’t read the mind of the translator. I don’t know if he thought that doctrine sounded like a nasty word, so it should be used in this place, but its use here surely has some sort of impact on ESV readers and hearers.
Add to this that the Church is often accused of “indoctrinating” impressionable children. Indoctrination, as you can probably surmise, is a pejorative term meaning to teach. According to the dictionary Steve Jobs put on my MacBook Pro, indoctrinate means to teach “uncritically.” Is this a fair criticism of the Church? That’s probably a topic for another article, but I think my point is made: doctrine has become a bad word for many. The archaic definition of “indoctrinate,” however, simply means to teach. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
So, what do we do? I suppose the easy thing to do is admit that language is not static. Words do take on new meanings. But I am a little bit of a stick in the mud. I think fathers should teach the catechism, remember? The word doctrine is a part of the language of the Church. It’s part of our “sound pattern of words.” I think the better solution is to indoctrinate—to teach. Teach that doctrine has a place in the Church. It’s distinguished from what a schoolteacher does in a math classroom. The doctrine of the Church isn’t simply about the effective communication of a body of knowledge to a student or a group of students.
The Apostle St. John writes the 21st chapter of his Gospel, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” If the point was just the communication of knowledge, there could have been more apostolic-era books written about Jesus. However, back in chapter 20, St. John writes this instead, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The aim of the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures is faith in Christ resulting in eternal life. After all, Christ promises to be with us, even to the end of the age by virtue of Baptism and doctrine (Matthew 28).
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Great Stuff found over on Pastor Matt Richard’s blog :
Are Christians who advocate for faithful church attendance and advocate to receive the Sacrament of the Altar more frequently, ‘better’ Christians than those who attend and receive less frequently?
It is important to note that a greater frequency in church attendance and greater frequency of partaking of the Sacrament of the Altar does not necessary make one a ‘better’ Christian than the Christian who receives the Sacrament less frequently or attends church less frequently. Otherwise stated, Christians who attend and partake more often are not elevated into a ‘Superior-Christian’ category, resulting in other Christians becoming meager minions. This is obviously a faulty conclusion. Rather, what is interesting is that many Christians, who promote faithful church attendance and faithful reception of the Supper, are typically coming at this issue from the exact opposite perspective. In other words, the reason why they advocate for frequent communion and consistent church attendance is probably best stated in the words of St. Aurelius Ambrose, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.”
I know for myself that it typically gets really bad throughout the week, as well as the majority of the parishioners that I have come to know. Daily I fail in my vocations of pastor, father, and husband. Add to that the 10 Commandments and I have run dry come Sunday each week. Thus, I go to church, along with others, as a beggar who is hungry and empty; I go to church with the week’s memories of doing the very things that I should not have done and failing to do what I ought to do. I come each Sunday to the Divine Service as a damned, weak, and tired sinner.
There is hope though.
In the Divine Service, as printed in the Lutheran Service Book, I get to go to church and receive not only the Word but also the Sacraments! Yes, all three! As we come into the Divine Service we confess our sins and hear the Word of Absolution. We even make the sign of the cross numerous times in remembrance of our Baptism. The Divine Service delivers to us lessons from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospel as well. Don’t forget the Sermon! Then, the Divine Service ushers us into the Sacrament of the Altar. Yes, the Divine Service in the Lutheran Service Book delivers all three means of grace. No stinginess at all! It is like combining my birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month into one incredibly fabulous event! We hear absolution and are reminded of our Baptism; we are pulled out of our man-centered narcissistic narratives into God’s narrative (i.e., the Word of Law obliterates the old Adam and the Word of Gospel grants us grace and faith); and we get to see, smell, taste, feel, and eat the body and blood given and shed for us. All of our senses are involved in receiving forgiveness! (And thank God for we surely need it every Sunday.)
Indeed, grace is found and delivered in: the Absolution and the remembrance of our Baptism, the proclaimed Word, and the Sacrament of the Altar. And get this, all of this is better than a birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month combined into one event. Yes, all three means of grace are given to us ‘every’ ‘single’ ‘week’ at the Divine Service—for the forgiveness of our sins.
It makes one laugh with elation to think that Sunday is abounding with gifts, gifts, and more gifts for us poor miserable sinners! So, the questions that arise now are, “Why exclude the gift of Communion from Sunday services? Why would one want to miss out on attending a weekly Divine Service?”
My friends, we do not go to church or promote more frequency of the Lord’s Supper in order to ontologically climb to a new Superior-Christian status, but we advocate for these things because we always sin and thus, we always need the good, free, and gracious medicine—poured, proclaimed, given, and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Indeed, gifts and more gifts—for us. They are freely given. That is the way it is with our Sunday Divine Service, where the Lord serves us.
What happens when Pastor Wolfmueller misses his Denver connection? He loses a bet. And what happens when he loses a bet? He has to do show prep for a month. And what happens when he does show prep for a month? The listener suffers. Sorry!
Tuesday Matins, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska
July 29, 2014: “Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People”—LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music
Psalm 3; Ephesians 5:14-21
“The days are evil.” St. Paul’s words could have been written yesterday. Churches are burned in Mosul, Christians driven from their ancient home: these days are evil. In the land of the free, religious freedom is threatened, the slaughter of children glorified and publicly funded: these days are evil. The devil got his renunciation removed from the Anglican baptismal liturgy: these days are evil.
Recognizing this, the temptation can be to despair, as the Psalmist seems to despair:
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Ps. 3.1f)
“How many are my foes!” Such disillusionment among Christians quickly turns to disillusionment with Christians, with the Church. Things are not as we would like them to be, how we think they ought to be. We can resemble the apostles more in their contention for power than their witness to Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that if we are fortunate, our disillusionment with other Christians will turn into disillusionment with ourselves ( Life Together ). We must say, “I have seen the problem in these evil days, and it is me.” I must repent. Then we are prepared to receive the promises of Jesus in faith – not a faith in our abilities to improve the state of the world or church, but a faith that abandons every pretension of superiority or intelligence or piety, every false gospel that says we will fix the church through our labor and skill.
The days are evil , but the Psalms comfort us by giving us words for every condition, words belonging to Jesus our true liturgist. It is Jesus who is confessing, “I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.” The greatest comfort is in Jesus who on the hill made holy by His cross cried aloud, “Father, forgive them.”
There we see in Jesus the thing we least want to do ourselves. Jesus completely submits to the will of the Father, thereby submitting also to the will of His enemies, allowing Himself to be abused and mocked, all the while petitioning the Father for forgiveness of His enemies.
Therefore, when St. Paul in this morning’s reading calls us to submit one to another, he is not giving us an etiquette lesson, merely calling us to politeness and civility. Submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ,” the One who submitted Himself to the Father’s will, the One who surrendered His life to win us, His holy bride, making us spotless and unblemished.
And yet you say, “I don’t feel spotless and unblemished – just the opposite! I not only look at the world and say, ‘The days are evil,’ I look at my own heart, and find there the worst kind of corruption and impurity. Arrogant and boastful, lustful and lazy; slow to study Scripture, slow to pray, quick to demand my own way. O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; indeed, these foes rise up within me, causing me to love what I should hate, and hate the things I should love.”
And then these foes turn on my conscience, saying, “There is no salvation for [you] in God.”
“I lay down and slept,” says the Psalm, signifying the weakness of our flesh. “I lay down and slept,” journeying through darkness and death. “I lay down and slept,” but I did not stay there! “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” That is the answer from the holy hill: Jesus woke again, and I shall awake too. The resurrection of Jesus and the delivery of His victory over sin, death, and hell is the content of every Psalm, Hymn, and Spiritual Ode the Church sings.
The song is one, the song is the same through every generation until the end: Jesus sings to us, “I have conquered all your foes,” and we reply with His own words back to Him: “I will not be afraid! Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
The days are evil – but my Jesus is good, and He prays for us, with us, and in us, “Deliver us from evil.” Therefore we will go to our death in peace, and when the new creation dawns, we shall together repeat this morning’s Psalm with Jesus our High Priest: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” +INJ+
I recently returned from Madagascar where I, Professor John Pless, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, and Rev. Evan Goeglein, taught a group of Malagasy pastors the theology of Dr. Martin Luther. I was privileged to teach them Luther’s theology of preaching. While we were there, we had the opportunity to have meals with the pastors, coffee with the pastors, and other times outside of the lectures to discuss theology and church practice. One of the most discussed topics was the pastoral vocation. While here in the LCMS, most pastors have one church to tend to, and some men have as many as 4. I myself am the senior pastor at a church where there is also an associate pastor. In Madagascar, the average pastor shepherds no less than 10 congregations. After hearing that there is such a pastoral shortage, we asked if they would ever consider licensed lay deacons or some other program to get more pastors quicker, such as we have in the LCMS. They answered with a confident and comforting, NO, because the preaching of the gospel is too important to hasten the education of the pastor. Only the pastor should consecrate the elements and distribute the sacraments they said.
How fat and lazy we are in the LCMS. We don’t work the devil to death in our study of God’s word, nor in the preaching of the Gospel. In the Large Catechism, Luther said, “Let them constantly read and teach, learn and meditate and ponder. Let them never stop until they have proved by experience and are certain that they have taught the devil to death and have become more learned than God Himself and all His saints” (Preface to the Large Catechism 20). Do we follow this exhortation of Dr. Luther? Of course not. Those who support the agenda of lay deacons or the fast track pastorate do not support this in that they do not see pastoral education as a top priority. They falsely place the LCMS in a state of emergency in order that ill equipped men may be the stewards of the mysteries of God. Until each pastor is tending to 10 flocks, and there are no pastors left, do we really need to act like the sky is falling here in the LCMS? The confessional group is not any better. Instead of tearing apart the Scriptures and the Confessions and letting God do the work of converting the heart, we take it upon ourselves to pass resolutions that would prevent further false practice in our Church body. We place our fear, love, and trust in the Whereas and Be it Resolved, instead of in the forgiveness of our sin purchased at Calvary and distributed in the means of grace. Preach you the Word and let the Holy Spirit worry about the weeds. Not that we should allow false practice in our Church, but we should do nothing more or less than proclaim the clear words of Sacred Scripture.
The main point is this. No pastor in the LCMS is tending to 10 congregations. So lets cut out the act and get with the program. let us hear the faithful proclamation of Holy Scripture that says that the pastor is the one who stands in the stead of Christ, forgiving and retaining sins. What does this mean? If means that he should know what the Scriptures say in order that he may be reading in season and out of season. It means that, as we confess in articles 14 of the Augsburg Confession, the pastor should be rightly examined, called and ordained, in order that he may publicly preach, teach, and administer the sacraments. Let those who are faithful to Holy Scripture and the Confessions continue to be steadfast in the one true faith and never stop preaching the truth, even while the chicken little’s chant that the sky is falling and we’re the last hope of holding it up. Preach you the Word, stop being so fat and lazy. Preach you the Word and take heart, Christ does the work for you, Amen.