William Shatner. Science and Faith. Ideology conflicts. Bill Nye and the end of Creationism. Straw men. Genesis 1. Context. Faith does not ask you to deny what you can otherwise see and know on your own. Heliocentrism. Lutherans and Science. Predictions. From above, from below.
Musical offerings: red balloons, One Toke Over the Line, and Bill Shatner. Listener voicemail about decision theology and cannabis. Medical marijuana. Houston mayor. Politics and churches. 2nd Commandment.
On All Hallows’ Eve 1517 a monk named Martin Luther posted a list of points for discussion and debate at the University of Wittenberg campus church. The campus church is named All Saints’ Church. The regular bulletin board for such announcements was the front church door. All Saints’ Church was the largest repository of relics of the saints outside of Rome. Many of those relics would be put on display on All Saints’ Day. Indulgences would be granted to those who came to the Church to view the relics of the saints on that day.
The location, the date, the practices: all of these helped focus the issue on and ensure a wide audience to the topic of Luther’s posted points.
The topic of the points for discussion: The Saints of the Church, and whether paying for a Papal Indulgence benefits the Saints, whether dead or living.
These points are called the Ninety-Five Theses . You can read them all at this link. As a sample we give points 27-37:
So, on the Eve of All Saints [Halloween], at All Saints’ Church, among the relics of the saints, during the veneration of the saints, and probably the reciting of the Litany of the Saints.
From late antiquity the cult of the saints grew within the ChristianChurch. It was lucrative–kind of like a circus side-show where the prize for the price of admission was not just to see the relic of a saint, but also to get some time out of purgatory or some grace to do good works to keep from going into purgatory.
In short, the Christian Church was a mess: plugged chock full of prayers to dead people that were declared by officials of the Church to be saints; overflowing with relics of dead people which were to be venerated, adored, and even prayed to in some cases; teaming with pilgrimages to these relics, artifacts of a nominally Christian Church that had abandoned God’s grace through faith in Christ and turned to salvation by other means.
The Church had adopted innumerable pagan practices. And no particular festival day showed the fact more clearly than All Saints’ Day. No particular church building could have been a clearer example than All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, the largest focal point for pilgrimage to venerate the relics of the saints outside of Rome.
So it is instructive to see what was done by Luther and the Lutheran Reformation.
All Saints’ Church was not torn down. Some of its statuary were removed, but not all. Some of its art was changed, not just to get rid of particular saints, but to add some as well. One in particular was buried inside the church with a visible sepulcher and an image of the deceased.
The Litany of the Saints was not abandoned, but cleaned of its false worship. In fact, the Litany of the Saints is the basis for the Lutheran Litany found in most Lutheran hymnals today.
The observation of All Saints’ Day was not prohibited. Rather, it was expanded to include the teaching of God’s Word on what a saint truly is through faith in Christ alone. The abuses imported by the Church for the worship of the saints through the ages were rejected. But the value of remembering them, how God preserved them, and what God worked through them is retained, celebrated, and taught.
The attitude of Luther and the Lutheran Reformers was not to throw away everything that the Roman Church had done. Rather the purpose was to retain as much of the historic Christian practice as could be without violating the central teaching of Scripture: that we are Justified by God by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as taught only in His Scriptures.
We retain All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Eve’, the honoring and remembering of the Saints who have gone before us–who pointed to Christ alone as their and our salvation. We confess in the Augsburg Confession of 1530:
Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.
1] Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. 2] For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1 : 4] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.
5] This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. 6] There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; 7] although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. 8] For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. 9] But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected.
We thank God not by trashing all the heritage of Christian liturgical practice, but by learning it, appreciating the lessons of those who have gone before to shape this practice into a reflection of the bare truth of God’s Word.
The Apology XXI states in part:
4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:21 , 23 . The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20 . The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary.
There are many today who, like the church of late antiquity and the middle-ages are tired of the testimony of the Saints who have gone before us. They also reject historical liturgical practice and with it the historical confession of the faith. All in favor of newness and a self-satisfied feeling of genuineness in their own expression of worship. So they add, they tweak, they abandon not for the sake of clear biblical teaching, but for the sake of the audience. Whatever gets them in the door. Whatever can attract them to keep them coming.
That is, in part, how the cult of the saints started and twisted the observation of All Saints’ Day off its course before the Reformation.
Blessed Halloween to you all.
Sermon Text: John 8:31-38
October 26, 2014 AD
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 8 th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
With the swing of the hammer and the pounding of a nail, “out of love for the truth and with the object of eliciting it,” Martin Luther made an assertion – 95 assertions to be exact, better known as the 95 theses. And so the reformation of the Christian church began with a statement, a stand, an assertion of the truth based upon God’s Word that God’s Word would have pre-eminence in doctrine and life, in church and state, in public, in the home, and in the heart. Like His Lord, Luther made an assertion.
That is exactly what Jesus does in our text this morning. He makes an assertion, a statement, a stand. He draws a line in the sand and causes all who hear to determine which side of the line they’ll be on. What is that assertion? Where is the line drawn. “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples.” Jesus hammers down what it means to be His disciple. He makes and assertion. “If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples.” Being a disciple of Jesus means abiding in His Word. Abiding in His Word means knowing the truth and the truth will set you free. As with every assertion there are results and there are consequences. Abiding in Jesus’ Word results in knowing the truth and therefore being set free. Consequently, if you do not abide in Jesus’ Word, you will not know the truth and you will remain bound.
Tolerating, Equating, Dominating, Desparing
Ours is not a society comfortable with assertions, especially these sort of assertions. Assertions make us uncomfortable because assertions attempt to call a thing what it is, to state the matter plainly, to see the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. We don’t talk that way anymore and we certainly don’t live that way anymore. Ours is a society burdened with tolerance. As Rev. Fulton Sheen once said, “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. IT IS NOT! It is suffering from TOLERANCE, tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and Chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the BROADMINDED.” Yes, beloved, ours is a society burdened with tolerance. Tolerance abhors assertions. Thus what is tolerated soon seeks equality. And what is considered equal not long after begins to dominate. Such domination leads to confusion. Knowledge of what is good and what is beautiful and fine and lovely and righteous and noble becomes a casualty of culture wars. Lost in the confusion we no longer have the veracity to call a thing what it is. Not only are we pressured to say gay marriage is right, but many are persecuted for saying Biblical marriage is good. We can no longer call a thing what it is. Having departed from the Word of Christ we do not know the truth and our ignorance has left us bound to the perversions of our hearts. We listen to our hearts. We follow our hearts. We indulge our hearts. All the while ignoring the Word of God which says: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Offense of God’s Word
But we, we are God’s children. We have the bible. We have the liturgy. We have baptism and absolution and the holy supper. And not only that but we have them rightly. We’re Lutheran! That’s what we say to ourselves. Like the Jews who believed in Jesus when He asserted the dominion of His Word, we respond with our own version of “But we are Abraham’s children. We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” Even we Lutherans take offense at Jesus’ assertions because Jesus’ assertions call a thing what it is. Jesus’ assertions leave no room for our works. Like the Jews we take offense at Christ’ Words – not because His Words reveal our sin – though that is often a shocker for us good Lutherans – but because Jesus Words reveal that we cannot do anything about our sin. We are slaves who cannot overcome our own personal pharaoh’s.
The Cosmic Assertion of Christ Crucified
Slaves need to be set free. Such freedom doesn’t come without a cost. But who will pay the cost? Jesus asserts: “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth liberates! Therefore truth will pay the cost, suffer the debt, offer the sacrifice. Truth will set you free not by your blood, the will of the flesh, nor the will of men. Truth requires Words. God, who desires all men, women, and children to be set free, to be saved and come to the knowledge of salvation, sends His Word. This word is not a whirling wind from the top of Mount Sinai. This Word is not a quaking, shaking, trembling earth beneath the feet of humanity. This Word is a gentle Word, a true Word, a Word become flesh for you. The Word of God, the Word that saves, the Word sent by the Father is the Word born of Mary, the Word cradled in the manger, the Word in the Water of the Jordan, the Word with Satan and his legions under His feet in the wilderness. The Word may be gentle but the Word is powerful. The Word, this Word, Jesus the Word become flesh is God’s cosmic changing Word for you. Jesus is the still small voice come to break Pharaoh’s neck and save yours. Jesus is God’s Word to the World that there is such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil, order and chaos, truth and error, beauty and ugliness.
There, beloved! Look there! Look upon the cross of Christ! There is the most beautiful picture of love you’ll ever behold! There all that is good, right and salutary is poured out for you. There evil is undone. Virtue is exalted. Truth is proclaimed. There with hammer and nail God makes His cosmic changing assertion of love for you and your children and for all who afar off. He stakes it in the ground! He covers it with Holy Blood and He directs all hearts to the voice of the one who cries “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This Word, from this Man, on this Tree, is for you today, tomorrow and forever more. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Disciples Abide in Jesus’ Word
It is this Word of Jesus in which you are to abide to truly be His disciple, to know the truth and to be set free. Through this Word Jesus forgives sins, your sins, the sins of your children, the sins of all who call on the Name of the Lord. Through this Word, the savior washes you clean in your baptism. He comforts you with absolution. He feeds the hungry with good things and He gives the thirsty to drink. Through these the Lord strengthens His disciples for service in the kingdom. Receiving these by faith Jesus’ disciples indulge themselves with His grace. Our own personal Pharaoh’s are drowned under the blood tinged waters of our baptism. We are liberated by one greater than our forefather Moses. Jesus, the eternal Joshua, leads us to the promised land. He leads with His Word. And through His Word he enables us to conquer our enemies: sin, death, devil, and hell. Through His Word He gives us to endure. Through His Word He teaches us the way of holiness. Through His Word we learn to walk on the path of righteousness. Through His Word He conforms us to Himself, crucifying us to the world and the world to us.
“It is not sufficient,” beloved, “to begin to believe but it is necessary to continue and persevere in adherence to the Word.” (Luther) It’s not good enough to say, “we are Abraham’s children” or “we are Lutheran”. Christ, this day, asserts the dominion of His Word. His Word is to have pre-eminence. “A person who abandons God’s Word sinks into a bottomless pit in days of temptation, poverty and other tribulations, such a person is driven to despair.”(Luther) Therefore do not retreat from the Word. Hold fast! Stand steady! Do not flee from your post when the enemy advances, when tolerance seeks domination, when persecution arises. Cling to the truth of God’s Word and the Truth will set you free.
Love, Humility, Servanthood – Peace
Set free from sin, disciples of Jesus are not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Where the world would impose tolerance, you who follow Jesus are given to love. Where the world would assert equality, you are given to humility. And where the World seeks domination. Christ sends you out like lambs amongst the wolves to be servants. How different Christians are to be from the World. Renewed in the Word we who believe are sent out to love with humility and to serve our neighbor. In so doing we enact the Word of Christ for those lost in the darkness. Knowing the truth we know what is good, and right and salutary and beautiful and righteous and noble. We see it in the Cross of our God and we hear it in His House. His Word echoes in our hearts and through our lives showing those around us the goodness of God and truth of His salvation.
Conclusion – This is most Certainly True
Beloved in the Lord, every reformation of the Church begins with repentance. Luther’s first assertion that fateful day was: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Repentance is a return to the Word of Jesus. Today, Jesus asserts His Word for our heart and for our lives. Repent and return. “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.” As with every assertion there are consequences. As with every line drawn in the sand there are sides. Therefore, “Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Horus Reads the Internet
Lutheran Satire schools Horus on the difference between the Ceremonial Law and the Moral Law with bullet lists and Venn diagrams.
Editorial Comment: Pastor Noland has been working on analyzing the Dispute Resolution Policy of the LCMS and this is a document that he recently generated. Feel free to download and distribute it widely per his instructions below.
NOTE: This document may be freely copied and distributed for the use of, and benefit of, members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It is not to be altered or edited in any way.
Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland
These flow charts are based on the original printed 2013 Handbook of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The synod is now using an updated version that is only in electronic form. See here for a free online copy of the original printed 2013 edition.
All page numbers and bylaw numbers refer to that edition. The following charts and their explanations are for illustration purposes only, and are not to be relied on for actual cases.
Definition of Dispute/Expulsion
1) Disagreement; 2) accusation; 3) controversy; or disciplinary action (see Bylaw 184.108.40.206, p. 39).
Definition of Parties to a Dispute/Expulsion Case
1) LCMS congregation or LCMS rostered church-worker; 2) national LCMS itself; 3) LCMS district or LCMS controlled and owned entity; 4) case of excommunication in a congregation; or 5) a layperson who works for the LCMS, an LCMS district, or an LCMS controlled and owned entity (see Bylaw 1.10.2, p. 40).
From the Evangelical Lutheran Synod …
Katharina von Bora was born January 29, 1499. Much about her life must remain a mystery to us, but some sources give us glimpses and insights.
Prayer and faith. As a young girl, Katharina von Bora was sent to a convent for education. Though it was an isolated life of prayer, schooling, and work, she had two aunts who were also nuns at the convent. When some of the nuns embraced Martin Luther’s teaching of the Gospel, Luther himself arranged to help them escape. Katie’s religious life continued outside the convent, as she eagerly read the Bible. Martin said: “ My Katie now understands the Psalms better than all the papists put together. ”
Hostess and diplomat. When Katie arrived in Wittenberg, she had to learn how to interact with men, women, children, families, peasants, merchants, nobility, and even royalty. In the Reichenbach and Cranach households, she learned how to host prominent visitors, a skill useful later with the many people who came to meet her husband and other Reformers.
Pastor’s wife. Many of the nuns who escaped returned to their families, and most of them married quite soon. Katie had a suitor early on, but it became impossible for them to marry because of his socio-political status and family situation. Eventually God brought Katie together with Martin Luther. Both had strong wills and personalities, but they respected and supported each other. Katie encouraged Luther in his theological work. Luther helped Katie in running the boarding house and in purchasing her precious farm at Zuhlsdorf. In his will, he designated her as sole heiress and guardian for the children, even though the laws of the time would not allow that.
Supporting the Gospel. Katie did not blindly follow her husband. Supporting him meant supporting the Gospel. She urged him to answer his critics, for the sake of the Gospel. One result was the famous Bondage of the Will in response to Erasmus’ Freedom of the Will. Katie did not change Luther, but added to who he was.
Mother and caretaker. Martin and Katie were loving parents, raising not only their own cherished children, but also several nieces and nephews, as well as many boarding students. Much of this responsibility fell to Katie, but Martin was active with the children and even played games with them, such as bowling. Martin and Katie grieved the loss of two children, but were comforted by the hope of the resurrection in Jesus Christ.
Household management. Katie Luther was an industrious businesswoman, managing the household while her husband preached and taught and wrote and traveled. She ran a boarding house for university students, tending them when they were ill. She provided for the family, managing the budget, farms, servants, and household staff. She had horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and geese.
Persistence in poverty. Katie is an example of persistence, bearing a cross that would crush most people, enduring unimaginable ridicule from friends and foes. After Luther’s death, she eventually lived in poverty, when only the King of Denmark–Norway gave reliable support. More than once she had to flee Wittenberg because of war and plague, the final time leading to her death. Katie jumped from the wagon, fell into cold water, and caught a chill. After lingering for three months, she died on December 20, 1552, in Torgau.
God blessed the Reformation through Katie Luther’s support of Martin’s preaching and teaching the Gospel, and her setting a model for the Christian family, her household, and Christian businesswomen.
Recent interest has resulted in Katie Luther: The Opera , which debuted in 2013. A play will debut in 2014. Learn more about Katie from these sources:
The Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther , by Ernst Kroker.
Katharina von Bora: A Reformation Life , by Rudolf K. Markwald and Marilynn Morris Markwald.
Katie Luther Facebook page: www.facebook.com/KatieLutherProjectMark DeGarmeaux is a professor at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minnesota, and a translator of Dr. U. V. Koren’s sermons.
Pastor Warren Graff and I are putting together a tour of Israel (with an optional extension to Jordan) for this June, 2015.
Download the Tour Brochure HERE (The brochure has all the details.)
YOUR INVITATION TO ADVENTURE
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee … and Jesus went out … to the villages of Caesarea Philippi … and they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house … and Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple.” (Mark 1:9, 8:27, 9:33, 11:11)
Our Lord has his own history. It’s wall-to-wall with real places, with dirt roads and stone walkways, with actual cities and the homes and hang-outs of real people with names. We all come from our own time, our own places—our lives trek from our home-town on to the other places we’ve lived, from events that happened when we were in school, to world shaking events we experience as adults. Jesus is the Lord over all, having created and now upholding the stars of the heavens and the crustaceans of the deep seas, who has bound himself to actual history and geography just as we are bound to ours.
This is the geography and history he entered in his work of going to the cross to save those who belong to every age, every topography. Join us as we visit some of these places, as we read and study his Word together on this trip, and as we contemplate and give thanks for his great work of salvation for us at Calvary, outside of Jerusalem, under Pontius Pilate.
Grace Lutheran, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hope Lutheran, Aurora, Colorado
If you are interested in joining us,
Comment #50 over on the Five Plus Two Makes Three post caught my eye. I think it is worth posting for all to read. It is from a BJS reader named Vanessa.
Unfortunately, when I called the synod office and asked what Pres Harrison was planning to do about the situation with FiveTwo, I was told he couldn’t really do anything. I was told the dispute resolution process needed to be used. When I asked how anything could happen when DPs are in line with the heterodoxy, the answer was basically that the process isn’t perfect but it’s all we’ve got. I was also told that we should handle this at conventions.
Basically the conversation was disappointing. I’m gearing up for my next phone call, though…
Good for you Vanessa. Keep calling. Maybe some good will come of it.
Her phone call raises some huge questions. What does it mean when an orthodox synod is not able to stop heterodox teaching and practice? You may tell me to be patient and wait until we fix the dispute resolution process. I am not buying that. I think it will help but it won’t solve the problem because there are other deeper problems and questions.
What does it mean that for at least fifty years we have elected District Presidents in numerous districts who show little interest in rooting out heterodox teaching and practice?
What does it mean when an orthodox synod president refuses to publicly speak out against heterodox teaching and practice? How hard is it for him or for District Presidents to speak and write publicly against false teaching and practice in the synod?
How hard is it for seminary presidents and professors to publicly speak out and write against false teaching and practice in the synod? Is there something restraining them? You can tell me it is Matthew 18 and I will believe you for two moments – the moment of one going to the brother and the moment of two or three going to the brother but then I will stop believing you because it never gets to the third and final moment – tell it to the church. I will give you your two moments. I am waiting for the third moment but it never seems to come. Do we not trust Jesus when he tells us in that same passage, Matthew 18, that once the two or three gather together in his name to rebuke sin He is with us.
Yes, that is what that passage means. Look it up. It is not a justification for Small Group Ministry. It is Jesus’ words of promise for President Harrison, all District Presidents and all Circuit Visitors that when there visits come to moment three He will be there to verify their action of excommunication.
What does it mean when a synod develops a process/procedure for addressing heterodox teaching and practice instead of just turning to God’s word? Do we submit the inspired, inerrant, holy Word of God to a procedure? What does it mean when a pastor or layman armed with the truth of Scripture meets with his Circuit Visitor, District President, or Synodical President to rebuke false teaching and practice and is not heard?
What does it mean that our so called orthodox synod refuses to accept the plain and simple words of Scripture captured in Walther’s Thesis #8 on the Church in his book Church and Ministry, adopted by the Synod in convention (as if that means anything) as pure doctrine. Walther says “…every believer must, at the peril of losing his salvation, flee all false teachers, avoid all heterodox congregations or sects and adhere to orthodox congregations and their orthodox pastors wherever such may be found.” This is not buried in the text of the book somewhere. This is one of the eight theses on the church!
What does it mean that it is more likely that I, the one who raises these questions, were I to go into our synod’s procedure for resolution, would be the one to get spanked in the end for being so mean rather than the practitioners of heterodoxy? What does it mean for our synod that there are more District President’s who look down on me for raising these questions than support it and actually do something about them?
Vanessa was frustrated by asking questions and so am I. Vanessa is going to keep calling. Good for Vanessa.
Rejected by FiveTwo: How I Failed My Sacramental Entrepreneur Aptitude Test
The first time I heard the title “sacramental entrepreneur” I’m pretty sure my brow furrowed with confusion. I know what a Sacrament is. I know what an entrepreneur is. Most of us can get that far on our own, but putting them together makes little sense. Do some googling and you’ll see it comes from the FiveTwo ministry .
Now, a lot has been written on them lately, after their Wiki14 conference – the first time they decided to grace social media with a deluge of their material – brought them and their mission to people’s attention. If you want a crash course on this organization, I highly recommend reading Jon Rodebraugh’s latest piece here . He does a great job of laying out the basics and pointing you to some of FiveTwo’s own words worth taking note of. So go read it. Really. It opens in a new window, so I’ll still be here waiting when you finish.
One of the posts he links to notes the following 7 marks of being a sacramental entrepreneur:
1. I’m burdened for Jesus’ lost people. Very simply, I love them; I want to reach them; I think the Church should reach them; and frankly, I enjoy being with them, oftentimes more so than being with followers of Jesus. They’re refreshing. I want them in heaven.
2. I’m tired of the status quo. I am frustrated by problems that go unresolved and practices that need reforming. Today is the day to start moving the ball down the field.
3. I see “beyond” today. I can see what the future would be like if we move beyond today’s changeable reality. And while that future might move through pain, it is full of hope.
4. I multiply growth. More people, more groups, more impact, more cities, more whatever. Somehow when God has me touch things, they increase. Especially disciples.
5. I see obstacles as opportunities. Change is a resource. Rules are made to be rewritten. Not God’s rules, but man’s rules, of which there are an abundance.
6. I attract like-minded, new-start people. People tend to say “yes” to my invitations to follow, and we tend to have a good amount of unanimity in the journey.
7. I start things without anyone telling me I should. I’m talking clubs, ministries, groups, businesses…. Everywhere I go, I’m the guy or gal that launches new initiatives. It just seems natural. This characteristic is probably the most telling of your SE-ness. And if this is really strong in you, years later those initiatives are still happening.
Now, I’ve spent the last month or more making phone calls, contacting fellow laity, and using social media to try and bring this to the attention of, well, everyone. You see, this organization is putting out some dangerous teaching. Dangerous, because first and foremost it’s confusing, and second it appears to directly conflict with the Lutheran confessions.
Why does this matter? Well, first, when salvation is at stake, we should never be confusing. Law & Gospel. Clearly preached. If there’s ever any confusion, we should be quick to set it right with the help of Scripture. Secondly, though, this organization was co-founded by a called LC-MS pastor, Pastor Bill Woolsey, and has the support of a number of other LC-MS pastors, including district presidents. (For more info on that, I recommend reading Tim Wood’s pieces, here and here ). Sure, FiveTwo isn’t an officially sanctioned LC-MS ministry or organization, but it is listed on the Texas District’s website (which also happens to link to LINC-Houston, run by the FiveTwo Vice President, Mark Junkans, who gave us this delightful little video making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper), and with an LC-MS pastor as the head honcho (and vice-honcho), well, you’d like to think they were bound to our confessions as found in the Book of Concord, at least somewhat.
To put it plainly, there are some troubling points of conflict between their message and our confessions, and some of our Lutheran clergy have sought to get FiveTwo and Pr. Woolsey to address these concerns.
Last week I discovered that several of these clergy had been heavily moderated by the FiveTwo facebook page . And by “heavily moderated”, I mean, every comment they had written on the page had been deleted, and they were banned from leaving any future comments. These pastors certainly weren’t tiptoeing through the tulips, and I’m thankful for that. Where the salvation of souls is at stake, the last thing we should be doing is prancing around as if this is a mere disagreement over whether the potluck should start at noon or at 1pm. I had, up until that point, ignored the FiveTwo facebook page, but once I perused it a bit, I realized just how confusing some of the material was.
Many of the posts were feel-good platitudes, happy words or out-of-context quotes slapped on a pretty picture. My favorite. Not so much, actually. Now, had this been any other ministry – say, an evangelical group or what-have-you – I would have just clicked away and perhaps hidden them from ever showing up on my feed. But, this isn’t another denomination. While the Lutheran ties aren’t obvious, they’re there, and I simply couldn’t sit back and ignore these church-growth, seeker-driven, works-based messages being possibly confused for Lutheran confessions.
So, I started posting. I asked questions. Like these…
And they responded. (Note: you can see their responses to me on their FB page)
I asked more questions. Like these…
And they were ignored.
And then the surprising happened. A message popped up from Pr. Woolsey himself. Now, as far as I knew no one had been able to get a hold of him, and he had never personally or directly responded to any of the questions. Why he contacted me, I’m not sure. But we spoke via Facebook message a few times. He ignored some questions. Answered others. Not to my satisfaction, but he at least answered, I suppose.
Our conversation made me a bit more brazen in my comments. I began commenting a bit stronger messages, like this one:
Note – apologies for not having the full comment here, but this comment mirrored almost word-for-word this status from my Facebook Page:
And tougher questions, like these:
I had his and the organization’s attention, after all, and I was hungry not only for answers, but to hopefully help others understand how some of the posts on the page were confusing to the point that they could mislead folks away from Christ. Apparently I was too hungry for answers and pushed too hard.
The next morning I woke up to a message from a friend “Are you banned?” I quickly went to the page, and sure enough, every one of my questions and comments had been deleted, and I no longer had access to comment on the page. I could like them, could see and share all their content, but my voice was not welcome or allowed.
That rejection confirmed my suspicions — there is an unlisted 8th mark, and I had failed my sacramental entrepreneur aptitude test.
To be a sacramental entrepreneur, you must not question or doubt the message preached to you by the leaders, but simply fall in line, obey and take their word for it when they assure you they’re not heretics. (Because, we all know heretics always proudly wear that label. Oh wait, they don’t?) And here I had dared to question their authority. I questioned the scriptural basis of their words and message. I questioned them. And like any good fascist organization, they will not tolerate being questioned.
Note: Since my attempted silencing and banning by the FiveTwo Facebook moderators, several others have endured the same fate, their words scrubbed, their voices banned. Oddly enough, you can still see FiveTwo’s responses to our deleted comments, as seen here:
If you’re curious to know what the LC-MS has to say about all of this, well, it sounds a lot like crickets chirping. I spoke to someone at the synod office, and left with the overwhelming feeling that we — the concerned clergy and laity — were mostly on our own and that synod leadership hoped to simply ride this out and let it die down like any other good controversy. After all, bureaucratic organizations are made up of elected officials, and we all know politicians don’t get elected by pissing people off. I understand that, to a point, but I think they underestimate that by doing nothing they are, in fact, pissing people off.
Now, I haven’t been an LC-MS Lutheran for very long. Not even two years now. But it doesn’t — or, rather, it shouldn’t — take a genius to realize what makes us Lutheran is not simply slapping that label on ourselves, but adhering and accepting our Lutheran confessions. Yet, it seems that some in our synod have forgotten that “concord” — that not-so-fancy word for “unity” — is built upon the sharing of these beliefs and confessions, not on our willingness and ability to hold hands, fake a smile, and turn a blind eye when a fellow Lutheran preaches something out of sync with those confessions.
The LC-MS supposedly lives by the phrases : Witness, Mercy, Life Together.
These phrases — Witness, Mercy, Life Together — illustrate how the church lives and works together to proclaim the Gospel and to provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our congregations, communities and throughout the world. And in all we do, Christ is at the center, leading us, sustaining us, keeping us focused on our mission. This will never change.
FiveTwo, though, is quite blatantly shoving Christ away from the center and telling everyone that it is us – you and me – who are the sacraments, the means by which people receive salvation in Christ. Jesus is still there, but now he’s shoved in between the lines of the “look at me, look at me” message. And yet the LC-MS, which claims “Christ is at the center” and “This will never change”, has decided it can change, and when it does it’s best not to make a fuss over it. Because we can’t let there be any indication that we are not “working together”, even if that together-ness is nothing but a ruse.
If our synod leadership doesn’t step up and address this soon, they might want to reconsider changing our slogan. May I suggest: “LC-MS — our doctrinal welcome mat is clean, because we sweep all the dirt under the rug.”
Whether you’re clergy or laity, get off your duff. Seriously. Don’t just look at this situation and decide “oh, that’s too big for little old me” or “meh, I’m just over here in my small congregation in the middle of nowhere and this isn’t my problem”. We shouldn’t be so willing to let heterodoxy or heresy infiltrate our church bodies. We have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have found refuge in our Lutheran churches after years of being broken by false teachers. They see what is happening, and they recognize it, because they’ve seen these same messages, movements and ministries affect their past churches. Souls are at stake, quite literally. False teaching is harmful. Heterodoxy is damaging. We don’t need to accept this as “just how it is now”, and we shouldn’t accept this as “someone else’s fight”.
Writing letters. Sending emails. Leaving comments on social media. These are great things to do, but as we’ve seen these can be ignored, deleted and even blocked from happening. Making phone calls is better — harder, I know, I hate calling people on the phone, but also harder to be dismissed and ignored. Beyond that, talk to others in the synod – laity and clergy alike. Build awareness about this situation. Rally. Brush up on our confessions, know what we believe and why. Ask questions. And above all, pray.
We have many obstacles before us here, but we have an opportunity to fight this and push back and protect our confessions and our synod from being overrun, distorted, and mangled.
Wait… obstacles… opportunity. That sounds familiar… Am I a sacramental entrepreneur after all?