Tag Archives: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Walking/Working Together

I am a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I say that first because it’s very cool, I am very proud to be a minister of the Gospel and in the LCMS. This name might appear to be provincial, “Missouri”. I’m not from Missouri, was only there for seminary, I’m from Massachusetts very different from Missouri. The name may sound provincial but there is a national baptized membership of 2.1 million, a substantial number and fellowship with Lutheran churches all around the world. Other than Lutheran, named after Martin Luther who by igniting the Reformation and establishing the Christian Church that separated from the Roman Catholic Church, profoundly changed western civilization and the church of Jesus Christ. The other word I wanted to key on was “Synod”.

I never really thought about the meaning, assuming it was an arcane, otherwise out of use word. In the early times of the church in the United States there were a number of “synods”, there still is one other, Wisconsin Synod, an indication of the geographic center of the particular church. Despite the provincial, and old fashion sounding of the name, LCMS is rather compelling. Missouri indicating where the church started and Synod which is an interesting and has a rather contemporary usage. Since you probably don’t get the “Concordia Plans Magazine”, I going to share the article from Rev David Muench writing in the Concordia Plans Magazine he writes: “…’synod’ is take from the Greek words ‘syn (‘with’ or ‘together with’) and ‘hodos’, ( a going’, ‘a journey’, or ‘travel’). We have understood it within our denomination to mean ‘walking together’.” There were many ‘synods’ in the Acts and ancient church, so it is a very old usage and frankly I have a lot more confidence in the old usage of words, then in the pathetic literacy of today. But interesting enough, and since we know, as Gus Portokalos tells us “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek”.(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0259446/quotes) Gus is actually kind of right. English has a lot of influences, but Greek is definitely the biggest one. As Rev Muench points out, there is a Greek word used in the New Testament 13 times. “that word is ‘synergy’.” It’s from from ‘syn’ and ‘ergon’, which means ‘to do work, action, behavior or deed.’ Thus, ‘synergy’ is to ‘work together’ or ‘fellow workers’.” (Concordia Plans Magazine Summer 2016 p 4).

So while the church name may seem rather arcane, it is the basis of a very profound concept that has a very contemporary importance. Having worked in the corporate world and other parts of society for the twenty years, the word ‘synergy’ is still a very important and rather compelling concept. While a lot of the world seems to be losing this concept, and I’m going to say it, for those who are serious, want to genuinely accomplish things and know they have to pull people together to do it, the word ‘synergy’ has as important a meaning as ever.

Of course in this day and age, something so old and arcane would just be pooh-poohed, because we’re oh so busy abusing the language (like, you know, calling a man or a woman a male or female. Really? Female what? A Female human is a woman!) Yes, I kind of vent when I hear insipid usage of language. But to be a part of a ‘synod’, a one that dates back to antiquity, that means “walking together”, in the sense that I’m walking together with Lutherans today, but also Christians all through the past 2,000 years of Christianity. But that’s not all, so closely associated to a word that is oh so chic today, synergy, working together, a concept that while chic the practice is disappearing in society. It’s very inspiring that our church name has so much to do with walking and working together. So thanks Pastor Muench for giving me the inspiration for writing this and being inspired by our church name. Now, if we can actually walk and work together, led by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and being disciples of Jesus, let’s keep that in continuous prayer.

Freedom is only Jesus, Reformation 2015 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

This was such a great writing on All Saints Day and Reformation Day that I just had to add it to my blog site – Jim Driskell

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

October 31 at 4:00pm ·

HOMILY FOR THE FESTIVAL OF THE REFORMATION

By 1520 the storm he’d stirred up was threatening to become a tsunami engulfing all the Western Church. He still didn’t seem to have the first clue about the threat he’d proven to be to Church officials and he thought that if the pope himself just heard of this joy that was now his, all would come out okay. So he pens a little book and dedicates it, of all things, to Pope Leo X from his dutiful servant, Martin Luther. And as he thought how to encapsulate everything he’d been rejoicing in, it came down to two statements that sounded contradictory but were in fact completely complimentary.

The Christian is perfectly free, lord of all, subject to none.
The Christian is perfectly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all.

The opening lines of Luther’s monumental The Freedom of the Christian. And that work remains to this day the classic statement of the joyful “aha” that resulted in the Lutheran Reformation and which, I would suggest to you, people loved by God, is the reason why being Lutheran still matters and why almost five centuries later, the Reformation remains vitally important for the Church today.

It was and it is all about freedom. God doesn’t want slaves. He renounces the way of coercion. He seeks children who serve Him freely and in joy and not cringing in terror and fear. You hear it in today’s third reading. Our Lord says “If you continue or abide in my Word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom is what He came to bring! Freedom was His gift. Not like folks think of freedom these days, meaning: “I can do whatever I want whenever I want to.” Live like that and you’ll soon find out that it’s not freedom at all; it’s the way to end up a slave to your own passions, appetites and desires. Your Lord came to free you from that dead end way of living.

But to promise and deliver freedom, that requires owning up to bondage, and this is exactly what the Jews in the Gospel or even the Church in Luther’s day, couldn’t stomach. “Free? What do you mean set us free? We aren’t slaves. We are children of Abraham and have never been anyone’s slaves. What do you mean we shall be set free?”

Similarly the hierarchy in those days: We are the CHURCH! What do you mean blathering on about this freedom? What’s important is that YOU knuckle under and do as you’re told. Who do you think you are?

Luther’s joyous answer, of course, was “Me? I’m a perfectly free Lord of all; oh, and a perfectly dutiful servant of all. Sent to be a servant of other’s joyful freedom. In the service of the Master who came to make free children of God and no slaves.”
The Jews had their laws that they thought MUST be upheld, obeyed, and it was in the obedience to them that they focused their zeal and placed their hope of salvation. DOING the bidding of the God who had taken them as His own people through Abraham was their duty and their calling.

But the God of Abraham is the God of freedom and the God who desires children, not slaves. That’s why He had TAKEN them out of slavery in Egypt and why He had given them the divine worship and promises. And the Law itself. A gift given. A gift given to show them their real slavery from which they could never themselves free no matter how hard they strove.

They wouldn’t see it, though. And so Jesus speaks the hard word: “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave doesn’t continue in the house forever.” Sin isn’t something you DO, Jesus says. It’s far, for more insidious than that. Sin is a force. A power. A domineering power. A power that enslaves.

You know its path. You know how it goes. You know it entices you. Try it. It can’t hurt. Everyone’s doing it. No biggy. And how the very taste of it is seduction and the seduction becomes addiction. You fight. You pull back. But you also want. You want the experience again. And again. And even after it has long since ceased to satisfy. Still you go back. Like the dog to its vomit. The vomit it calls and you find yourself unable to turn away. Disgusting, yes. But isn’t it true, people loved by God? Isn’t that the path? The way it works? Sin snares you, and once it has you, you can’t break free by any effort of your will. You can try with might and main, but you know as surely as I’m standing here before you, it HAS you. You are slave.

And there is NOTHING so uncertain as the place of the slave. Sin wants to use you, to trample on you and torture you and then to hand you over to death. Eternal death. “The wage sin pays is death.” A taskmaster, no friend. A tyrant, no freedom. Do it again and again and again, as sin mocks your helplessness.

BUT into this world came the one in whom sin couldn’t get its claws. Into this world where everyone serves sin in some way or another, tortured and helpless, caught in the snares of their own desires, into this world came one who was truly FREE. And free because He was the Son. His place in His Father’s house didn’t depend for one second on what He did or didn’t do. His place was assured because of who He was. And because He was free and Son, what did He come to do?

He came to serve! No one is so free as the One who serves, whose delight and joy it is to be able to serve the captives by setting them free from their bondage, free from their chains, and inviting them into His relationship with the Father. So free that He could even take all the sins that master and torture and torment you and lift them off you and bear them in His own body. In His own FREE body where they could never bend Him to their will and so destroy them there forever.

Behold, the cross! Behold the blood of the free Son, freely poured out so that sin would lose its mastery over you and you be forgiven, adopted, brought into the freedom of the children of God.

He came forth from the Father one free Son, but He goes back to the Father bringing with Him the fruits of His labor. Not a pile of slaves. Not a pile of cringing and fearful hirelings who have no clue how long they’ll be tolerated before God finally is fed up with them and tosses them out. No. He comes back with free children of God. Freed by the Words He spoke. Free indeed. Sins no longer able to accuse them, to master them, to make them come when called. Sins blood covered and forgiven. Death no longer the fate to which their sin hands them over when it’s done with them. Death rather with a resurrection sized hole blown right through its stinking belly through which they will pass with Him. Free children. So completely free that all of the faith has come to them as GIFT. They see it all as GIFT. Nothing about what we earn or deserve. Only gifts given lavishly and freely. The Father gives the Son. The Son gives the Spirit. The Spirit gives you faith that binds you to the Son and the Son rejoices to present you to the Father. All gift.

And so Christianity to be seen in its true light must never be thought of as rules and laws and a frowning God just waiting for you to step out of line so He can wallop you one and torture you forever. Nor is it about the freedom to live in your broken shackles and sin’s crumbled prison holds. That’s not freedom! It’s the freedom to leave that prison forever and be a child. A child in the house of the Father. It is to realize that the standing you could never achieve for all your struggling against sin’s chains is the very gift God gives you in His Son that crushes those chains forever.

Easter triumph! Easter joy!
This alone can sin destroy!
From sins’ power, Lord, set us free,
Newborn souls in you to be.
Alleluia!

HERE is the Reformation gift to the whole Church. This is why Lutheranism stands and will continue to stand. We remind the world that the Son’s gift to us is freedom. And that our faith isn’t founded in, let alone shored up by, rules and regulations. Holy days of obligation and fasting from certain foods at prescribed times. Going to communion at least once a year and only after having made confession of your sins to the priest. Do you see what all of that is? Bondage! Not freedom!

BUT the Reformation was so free that it realized that what the law couldn’t guard or preserve, this was God’s free gift. “If you abide in my Word” our Lord said. Why Sunday? Why gather? Not to keep some law, but to receive the gift of freedom! Why receive the Sacrament? Not to fulfill a duty, but receive the gift of freedom! Why observe the Church calendar? Not to be religious, but to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as it gives its gifts of freedom and lifts you by the Spirit to the freedom of the children of God.
Reformation still matters because freedom still matters. It matters to God, who would have you not be a servile and fearful, simpering cowering slave, but would have you be a royal son or daughter, a true child of the King who fears nothing at all.

Late, late in his life, Luther reflected on this great joy. It was during an Advent sermon only a couple months before his death. He preached: “It is well with a man who belongs to an eternal kingdom. He can dance through life forevermore!” You and me too. We can dance through life. For we are children of the King, and sisters and brothers of the Son of God, and to us all, and I mean all, is gift. Happy Reformation, people loved by God, happy feast of freedom! You have been set free. Amen.

– William Weedon, Chaplain

Photo credit: The Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Wittenberg, Germany. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Wow, do we make the wrong choices! First St Johns April 19, 2015 Acts 3:11-21

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have denied Jesus for the ways of the world said … AMEN!

Peter, Peter, not known for his subtlety … I know, you always recognize in someone else the thing that is your own biggest issue. Peter was as subtle as a sledge hammer, like me. But I would submit that there is a time for tact and diplomacy and there is a time for up in your grill. Don’t hand me this odd idea that Jesus was always nice and comfy and tactful. He wasn’t! There were plenty of times when Jesus wanted someone to feel uncomfortable, He wanted the other person to know Who He is. Calling Pharisees white washed sepulchers, telling the Rich Young Ruler, “you go and work out your issues with all that wealth that you have, really show me who is God in your life, sell all that stuff, give it away to those who don’t begin to have enough and then we’ll talk. The Biblical talk might seem couched, but when Jesus was calling the religious leaders, snakes, vipers, He wasn’t pulling any punches. Neither is Peter.

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to you …” There is no one more debased, more sinful, vile, more of an affront against God than a murderer. God gives us life, there is no one permitted to take it unless it is specifically granted to someone as a public authority in the left hand kingdom. Let’s not get into these arguments about the capital penalty. The state is authorized by God to protect the citizenry and that includes putting to death those who would deprive another of life. As Christians we know we are made in the imago dei the image of God: “ESV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Every life is of value to God and yes that includes the whole discussion on abortion. Is this the “unforgivable sin”? No! Jesus died for all the sins of the world, including murder, yes. As Christians when we repent and lift up our sin for forgiveness to God He forgives, even murder, but remember, taking life, God’s creation, is grievous sin against the Creator of Life.

The issue is the terrible irony that Peter is pointing out, that when given the choice by Pilate, the people in the crowd chose to ignore all the proofs that Jesus had given, the incontrovertible evidence who Jesus was, is, who He said He is during the incarnation, the people still chose a murderer over Him: “ESV Matthew 27:17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ”?… ESV Matthew 27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” How do you justify that? How can you with any kind of honesty, given the choice of life “I am the way, the truth and the life.” chose someone who, with his own agenda, choses to kill? Jesus healed, gave people new life, healed them of diseases such as leprosy, an issue of blood, young people who died. He restored hope and promise in so many ways, how can you chose someone who arbitrarily decided to be judge and jury and deprived people of God’s gift?

Peter goes on to point out: “ESV Acts 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Remember who Peter is talking to, this is all very fresh in everyone’s mind, they were either right there on Good Friday and watched while they turned against this man who had given so much or they had heard about it. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead. Two ; the ruler of the synagogue and the “widow’s son of Nain”, it happened way out of the way, up in the north, you know what kind of crazy stuff comes out of there. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, the raising of Lazarus, happened just one and a half miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was getting right in the face of the rulers of Israel, for that matter everyone in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where it mattered, if it happened in Jerusalem, a statement ended with an exclamation point. “ESV John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,” Meaning as well as Jesus. John goes on to write: “ESV John 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Don’t try to confuse us with the facts, just because Jesus did this, doesn’t mean that we’re going to fall on our knees to Him, you can hear them saying, as too many of us often say; “There’s important things to do and we haven’t got the time to get into this Jesus stuff right now, we’ll do that when we have to. I seem to run into people who are obsessed over end times prophecy, eschatology, the study of end times prophecy. Those who are more concerned about maintaining their current life so that they can time it just right to come to Jesus at the end of time and be saved. Wow, that’s a gamble, for anyone who is like that, they are assuming they’re going to live that long and then be able to just jump right over and be saved. God is not mocked, and that makes playing with fire seem like a kiddie birthday party game.

We all play that game to an extent. Yes, we are human, Dr Luther says, the old man is constantly going to assert himself, steer us away from Jesus and to sin. Too often we make the wrong choices. It is not our choice that the Holy Spirit guides us to the church of Christ and gives us pastors and brothers and sisters in Jesus to minister to us. That is grace, that is God saving you. You do not make a choice for Jesus, He chooses you. We really have no choice, we either are led to Christ as our Lord, or anything else we do leads to destruction. The path to destruction is wide, wide enough to accommodate all the things that take us from Jesus. As Peter said, it’s not so much that the people on Good Friday made the wrong “choice”, as much as they denied Jesus. They denied the Lord, the Author of life, the one whom God raised from the dead. They were witnesses to that and we are as much today. Too often, we simply deny the Lord and turn to other things to worship. Sure we don’t turn to murders as such, but we do turn to things that clearly deny Jesus. Are we forgiven when we turn to the idols in our lives that deny Jesus? Yes, we are. Jesus died for all of our sins. As my good friend and brother pastor in Christ, Christopher Irelan writes: “”Have no fear, little flock. For the Father has chosen, to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You future is secured. “Lead me in good paths, for your Spirit is good.” (Psalm 143:10) Your present is secured. “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Philippians 4:4) You can rejoice.[1]” It’s not so much about how we deny Jesus, it’s about the fact that the Father has chosen us. We can start on the wide path to destruction, take the wrong course, deny our Lord, but He chooses us, He puts us on good paths, as Christopher says “Your present is secured in Him”, even when we deny Him.

Lift Him up and praise Him, ask the Holy Spirit to guide us around those things that turn us away from Him and as Peter promises the crowd: “ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Christopher Irelan FB devotional April 18, 2015