Monday, December 26, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas (Part 3)

And here's the third.

"...good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

In effect they are saying: It is our sincere desire that all men glorify God in the highest and that they live at peace with one another.  Unfortunately it is impossible for these conditions to exist at all times because many people pay no attention whatsoever to the Gospel.  They refuse to accept this Son of God.  Instead of that, they persecute both the Gospel and the Son.  May God, therefore, grant to the Christians a cheerful, joy-filled heart so that they will say: I have a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!  If people mistreat me and persecute me because of this Savior, I'll rejoice over that too.  I will maintain good cheer and joy in the midst of suffering.  That is the kind of heart the blessed angels desire for us Christians, so that we may have joy in the face of hatred and go on singing when the devil goes on a rampage.  The angels want us to be proud in Christ and in Him to defy all misfortune; and if the devil attacks us, that we mock and ridicule him by saying, Satan, you can only attack my body, my life, my property, and so on.  You might as well give up on that, too, Satan, for you cannot harm me since I have an eternal Savior, who will delight me with joy as a recompense for all my physical suffering here on earth.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas (Part 2)

Here's the second.

If there was nothing more for us in the newborn child than that our human nature had been highly honored in that God who created us is now our kinsman, our nearest friend, our flesh and blood (I'll omit for the present to speak of His suffering and resurrection), it would be little wonder, if we, believing it from the heart, would become so dear to each other that, as the saying goes, we would consume each other with love.  If our hearts really perceived the greatness of this honor and we could say with firm faith, God is become man, would it be a wonder if we no longer were enemies with any man and surrendered our lives for each other?  The fact is you could not even hate or harm anyone in effigy who has body and soul like your God and mine.  Should we not, therefore, because of such glory with which God has elevated human nature above and beyond the angels, also love and do good to all people?

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas

I sat down recently and, with a couple cups of coffee, read through a little collection of Christmas sermons preached by Martin Luther.  There were six sermons in all, preached between 1532 and 1534.  And I had an objective: to pick out three choice quotes and then to put them here for you to read.  Here's the first.  Check back next week and the week after for the second and third.

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy..." (Luke 2:10).

If you wish to define Christ correctly and portray Him truly, who and what He is, then note carefully how the angel distinguishes and portrays Him, namely, that He is and is called, "Great Joy."  I personally learned this the hard way under the papacy, for no one ever taught me anything else than that Christ was a stern Judge who would pass judgment on me according to my deserts and works.  I was used to thinking at all times, therefore, how I might produce good works that I might reconcile Christ my Judge.  In no way could this be termed "Great Joy," and "Unto you is born this day a Savior," but rather the preaching of hellfire.  What was missing for me was that I could not name Christ rightly with the name the angel gave, "Great Joy," as He most surely also is: great, sweet, precious joy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Repentance Is Imperative

"Repent" (Matt. 3:2).

"Repent" is the first great call of the Gospel.  It is the first word from the mouth of John the Baptist.  This could be why he wore what he did (camel's hair) and ate what he did (locusts and wild honey): to show and teach that there is something more important - vastly so - than food and clothing (Matt. 6:25).


Grammatically speaking, "Repent" is an imperative.  A command, an order.  Repentance is non-optional.  The only option is to disobey.  Grammatically speaking, "Repent" is a "present" imperative.  It means: "Be repenting, keep on repenting, don't stop repenting!"  It means a life of repentance.

Spiritually speaking, repentance is imperative.  If we are to "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33), we will find it only through repentance.

The 1530 Augsburg Confession contains a terse definition of repentance worth dusting off: "True repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ), and this faith will comfort the heart and again set it at rest.  Amendment of life and the forsaking of sin should then follow, for these must be the fruits of repentance, as John says, 'Bear fruit that befits repentance' (Matt. 3:8)."

Now I know that repentance may seem out of place a couple of weeks before Christmas.  Like John himself, repentance is never in vogue.

Yet only the repentant will truly "find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12) on Christmas Night.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

God in Three (Old Testament) Persons

"...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob....  This is My name forever" (Exod. 3:15).

In Exodus 3 God gives His name.  I wrote something about the "I AM" part of it.  See Finishing the Sentence.

But let me share a thought about this part of it: "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

These words are given twice in Exodus 3 and are quoted by Jesus in Luke 20.  And the thought is this: Could this be an Old Testament way of saying "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit"?  Think about it.

This name of God uses three persons and puts God with each one of them.  Moreover, Abraham is nothing if not a father.  Isaac is his son, his only son whom he loves - but is willing to sacrifice.

And what about Jacob?  He's a distinct third person, so to speak, but much-related to the other two.  You could even say that he proceeds from Abraham (the father) and Isaac (the son), the way we talk about the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed.

I'm convinced that God is revealing Himself as Trinity in Exodus 3.  And He adds, "This is My name forever."  Here in Exodus it has an Old Testament veil over it.  When, in the New Testament, the veil is removed, it sounds like this: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Unchained Melody

"If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

These words of Paul have a special look about them.  Chances are that in your Bible these lines are arranged differently from the rest of 2 Timothy.  That is because they are likely a hymn - a hymn composed possibly by Paul himself.  If so, my guess is that he wrote it as prisoner in Rome (from which 2 Timothy as a whole was written): "bound with chains as a criminal.  But the Word of God is not bound!" (2 Tim. 2:9).  And according to that, this little hymn is the true Unchained Melody.

There is a quite famous passage in Acts in which we learn that when thrown into prison in Philippi: "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25).  Now we have reason to believe that Paul may have composed some of the hymns he sang.  A further testimony to the joy of Christ that overcomes the sorrow of suffering!

The one before us in 2 Timothy is a gem.  It has four parts, each beginning with the word "if," and it has a very thoughtful progression.  The first part refers to Baptism and faith in the crucified, risen Jesus Christ.

The second part speaks to persecution for this faith and the prize to be won for enduring it.

The third part is a warning against falling away as a result of persecution.

And the fourth part is a pure Gospel and comfort that when we are weak, He is strong for us and will see us through!

So in just a few choice words, Paul touches every aspect of the Christian's experience, and his own.

Now sing with Paul and "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4) and forever!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Soundtrack of the Gospel

The book of Psalms functions as a "soundtrack to the Gospel."  Meaning, many of the stories contained in the Four Gospels are in turn sung about in the Psalms.  A good example is the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus pleading His help for her daughter.  She is famous for her reply, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (Matt. 15:27).

Now this woman was from the area of Tyre and Sidon, Mediterranean coastal cities north of the Sea of Galilee.  Hard to believe, but Psalm 45:12 reads according to the original Hebrew, "The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift."  Who is this "daughter of Tyre"?  Why not the Canaanite woman?  And what is the gift that she brings?  Humility.  It is her gift to Jesus, more precious to Him than gold, frankincense, and myrrh combined!

Ask God to give you the gift of humility.  Then give it back to Him in the form of your prayers.  "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David" (Matt. 15:22).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Christ Crucified

"...but we preach Christ crucified..." (1 Cor. 1:23).

What do you get when you cross God with man?

Christ crucified.

Jesus Christ is the Godman.  This means that He is both God and man.  Now, He is not half God and half man.  No, He is wholly God and wholly man.  And He is holy God and holy man - a man without sin.

This Jesus Christ gave Himself on the cross as a ransom for all.  He who knew no sin became the sin of the whole world.  He became all of your sins and mine, that we might become nothing but righteous before God.

All of this is contained in the words "Christ crucified."

Believe in the Godman Jesus Christ, and that through Him and His cross you have right now the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and an open heaven!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Labor Relations

Are you a person who, at your place of work, has a supervisor, boss, one to whom you are accountable?  Perhaps you are the supervisor.  Some of you are both at the same time.  The Small Catechism points to Ephesians 6:5-9 to show what ought to be the relationship between workers of all kinds and those who supervise.  I wrote the following two hymn stanzas in order to learn, and help teach others, the lesson.

To Workers of All Kinds

Your supervisor is a lord;
Obey him as you would the Lord;
Do more for him than what you must;
Be true to him and earn his trust;
The good you do for him today,
The Lord tomorrow will repay.

To Employers and Supervisors

The same applies: Do not be stern,
But for your workers show concern;
As is the Lord, impartial be;
For good, use your authority;
While diff'rent duties here remain,
To Him on high we are the same.

Now imagine what the workplace could be like if both worker and supervisor were to act in these ways!  God help you to be such a worker or supervisor, or both.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eleven Reasons to Love the Lord's Prayer

"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

1. It doesn't take long to pray.

2. It covers everything.

3. It's spiritual.

4. It's practical.

5. It doesn't matter if you're by yourself.

6. It fits any occasion.

7. It never gets old.

8. It makes promises.

9. It strengthens faith.

10. It strengthens love.

11. The Lord Jesus.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Death of Man

"...the life that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:1).

The president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the church body to which I and my congregation belong, has responded to the Texas abortion clinic ruling.  Although not easy to read and consider what he writes, we must.  Pray the prayer at the end from all your heart.

And peace of Christ, who is the Life of man!

Pastor Matt

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Walk On in Love

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us" (Eph. 5:2).

More than once I have turned to this song, "Walk On," performed by the band U2 shortly after 9/11.  I'm turning to it again in the wake of Orlando.

As Christians let us Walk On in the way of repentance, faith in the crucified-risen Christ, and love toward all.

Monday, June 6, 2016


On Sunday in Adult Bible Class we wrapped up a series on the Small Catechism.  People shared what they had learned, including one man who shared that as a result of the series he now knows the names of the Six Chief Parts and is also able to say the Ten Commandments.  I say, Alleluia!  I ended the class by sharing the following.

"...because He has anointed Me" (Luke 4:18).

The name "Christ" means "anointed one."  It is the Greek version of the Hebrew "Messiah."  A lesser-known fact, however, is that while "Christ" of course refers to the Son, it points also to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  How is this?

To be anointed requires another person to be "the anointer."  That is the role of the Father: to anoint the Son.  Also, to be anointed requires an oil or ointment with which to be anointed.  That is the Holy Spirit.

Thus in the single word "Christ" is a devotion about all Three Persons of the Trinity: the Anointer, the Anointed, and the Ointment!

And when you remember that Christ is crucified, risen, and the lover of your soul, it is safe to say that no other word contains as much of the Christian faith (indeed the whole of it) as the name "Christ."

Monday, May 23, 2016


Sunday, May 22, was Trinity Sunday, and the best illustration of the Trinity, at least of which I am aware, comes from Saint Therese of Lisieux, known as "The Little Flower of Jesus."  She lived only to the age of 24 (1873-97) and yet possessed very advanced spiritual insight.  All the while, her faith remained that of a child.  She referred to her approach as the "Little Way of Spiritual Childhood."

Therese pointed to a toy she had played with as a child.  It was a kaleidoscope.  I remember one of those, and maybe you do too!

"This toy," she said, "aroused my admiration and I used to wonder what could produce so pleasing a phenomenon; when one day, after serious examination, I saw there were simply a few tiny scraps of paper and of wool cut no matter how, and thrown here and there.  I pursued my investigation and discovered three mirrors inside the tube: I had there the key to the problem.

"This was for me the image of a great mystery.  As long as our actions, even the least of them, remain within the focus of Love, the Blessed Trinity, which is figured by the three mirrors, reflects them, and endows them with a wondrous beauty.  Jesus, looking at us through the little lens, that is to say, as it were through Himself, finds all our actions pleasing to Him.  But if we leave the ineffable center of Love, what will He see?  Mere straws...actions sullied and nothing worth."

Many books have been written about the Trinity.  Put them all together and they still would not surpass the understanding shown in these few words of Saint Therese.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Watch Over Your Soul

"...through slander and praise" (2 Cor. 6:8).

This Sunday, May 15, is Pentecost, which has been called the Birthday of the Church.  Pentecost is on the same level as Christmas and Easter: Merry Christmas, Christ is risen, and Come, Holy Spirit!

At Our Redeemer, the congregation I pastor, Confirmation takes place on Pentecost, and this year five of our young people will be confirmed in the Christian faith.  And my custom is to share with them, and the whole congregation, the following story.

A young king was quarrelsome and gave no peace to the wise old king of a neighboring country.  The old king entreated for friendly relations, but in vain.  The young king started a war.  The old king, remembering how many foolish things he himself had done in his youth, and that there is an age from which we cannot expect wisdom, gave orders to his officers to capture his young enemy alive.

So it was done.  He was brought in chains before the victor.  The old man pitied the youngster, but pretended to be very angry with him and sentenced him to death.  The young king begged for his life.  So the old man told him: "I will give you a chance.  Tomorrow you will be given a jug of water, full to the brim.  You must carry it from one end of the main street of the city to the other, without spilling a drop.  If you do not succeed, your life is lost."

The next day the procession started - the prisoner with the jug of water; around him soldiers to guard him; behind him the executioner with his axe, a terrifying reminder that he would be beheaded on the spot if he failed.  The old king had given orders that on one side of the street there should be a mob to boo the prisoner, on the other side a crowd to cheer him.

The prisoner succeeded.  He did not spill a drop.  The old king asked him: "When so many people were mocking you, did you answer them back?"  The young man answered: "I had no time for that.  I had to be careful about my jug."  "But did you thank the ones who cheered you?"  "What business had I with them?  Their acclamation could not help me.  I was concerned with my jug of water."

The old king set him free with this advice: "You have been entrusted with a soul.  You have to bring it back to the Lord whole and clean.  That is the only thing that counts.  If you do not succeed, you perish.  Don't seek the applause of men by cheap victories.  Don't worry if they mock you.  Watch over your soul."

In order to do this, may the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting!  Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Something Divine

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

The early Christians were described in the following way by the second-century Athenian orator Aristides, himself a Christian:

"The Christians know God and trust in Him.  They forgive those who oppress them, and make them their friends.  They are good to their enemies.  Their wives keep marriage pure; their daughters are chaste.  They love one another.  They do not refuse to help widows.  When they see a stranger, they receive him in their house, and rejoice at him as at a brother.  If any among them is poor or in need, they fast for two or three days in order to satisfy his needs.  They obey conscientiously the commandments their Messiah has given them.  Every morning and every hour they praise God and thank Him for His goodness.  They are the source of all that is beautiful in the world.  They do not speak publicly of their good deeds, but take good care not to be observed by any man.  They are in truth a new people, and there is something divine in them."

I wonder if the church could still be described this way.  No, I pray that it can be!  Yes, I pray that Our Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, the congregation I pastor, can be described this way, by God's gracious working!

Holding this description together is the new commandment.  And holding that together is Christ's love for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Micaiah's Motto

The odds were 400 to 1.  Not very good.  The wicked King Ahab assembled his four hundred prophets to inquire whether to go to war against Syria.  To a man, the prophets gave the king the go-ahead.  It was what he wanted to hear.

But there was one more prophet.  His name was Micaiah.  In spite of the consensus, Micaiah spoke strongly and warned the king against going into battle.  Not what the king wanted to hear.  So Ahab punished Micaiah and then went off to war.  He was killed in battle.

Micaiah had a motto: "What my God says, that will I speak" (2 Chron. 18:13).

Encourage your pastor to be a Micaiah.  We have enough of the other.  And when he says something you don't want to hear, thank God!  It may save your life.

For the full story of Micaiah, see 2 Chronicles 18 or 1 Kings 22.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

John's Way

"The Gospel according to John" (title).

John is the Frank Sinatra of the Four Evangelists.  He did it his way.  While Matthew, Mark, and Luke resemble each other in certain fundamental ways, John stands apart.  His Gospel reads a different way.

Perhaps the best example of this is the placement of Holy Communion.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke locate the giving of this precious gift on Maundy Thursday, just before the death of Jesus.  John is different.  He appears to omit the body-and-blood details of the Last Supper.  The truth, however, is that he covered them already in John 6:

"He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54).

These words of Jesus are a golden commentary on Communion.  John wants us to make that final connection and then to meditate on these words both in preparation for the Sacrament and afterward.

There is only one Gospel, but Four Evangelists.  They give us the one Christ and faith but in different ways, especially John.  Don't be afraid to share the truth in your own way.  God is leading you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Sundays

"Then the disciples were glad" (John 20:20).

With good reason, much is made of the forty days of Lent.  Not enough, though, is made of the fifty days of Easter.  To most, Easter is a notable day after which life returns to normal.  But the resurrection of Jesus means that life will never again be normal.

Normally life is followed by death and then a period of mourning.  Take the life of Moses, for example.  He lived a long life; he died; the people mourned for thirty days (Deut. 34:7-8).  Life, death, mourning.

But now in Christ something new is revealed.  The order is exactly reversed.  Lent, the period of mourning over our sin, is first but leads us to the Good Friday death of our Lord in payment for our sin, and His death leads to His Easter resurrection and new life for us all.  Mourning, death, life!

To underscore this complete turnaround, the church celebrates seven Easter Sundays: Easter Sunday followed by six more!  Then Pentecost (a word meaning "fiftieth") marks the fiftieth day.

This period of Easter is the happiest in the church year.  Let Christians greet one another with "Christ is risen!"  Let us continue to sing Easter hymns!  And let us treat one another with acts of joy and celebration!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Singing in the Darkness

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46).

Many things have been said about this fourth word from the cross.  But one I have not heard much is that here, on the cross, our Lord chose to sing.  The words are from Psalm 22:1.  And what is a psalm?  It is a song!  St. Augustine said that "the one who sings, prays twice" - once with the words, and again with the tune.

We make a mistake when we try to read and explain psalms as we would other texts of Scripture.  To sing the psalms is to release their real meaning.  If you cannot sing, then at least tap your foot.  Remember in your heart that they are songs.

Jesus finds a psalm that expresses how He feels.  He feels forsaken.  But what does He do?  He sings!  While in prison, Paul and Silas sang hymns to God at midnight (Acts 16:25).

We have a tendency to worry, grow discouraged, or try to solve problems that cannot be.  Instead we should sing and release the power and peace of "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19).  Do this especially at night, at the end of a long day.  "At night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life" (Ps. 42:8).

Keep God's name holy by singing in the hour of darkness.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Should Lutherans Consider Themselves "Born Again"?

Fun Fact: Many of the key New Testament passages about Baptism are found in a chapter three: Matthew 3:13-17, Galatians 3:27, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, and John 3:3-5.

Recently one of our young people, a confirmed Lutheran, was asked by a well-meaning Christian to share when and how she had been born again.  Through no fault of her own, she wasn't quite sure how to respond.

Lutherans hear the term "born again," but it's not used very much in our tradition.  What does it mean - "born again"?  Many fine Christians use the expression to describe the experience and even the moment they found salvation in Christ and made a decision to believe and trust in Him.  I myself have heard many beautiful accounts of people becoming Christians.

The idea of being born again comes from the Bible and is found most famously in John 3.  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

So should Lutherans consider themselves "born again"?  The answer, you might be surprised, is yes.  But more needs to be said.

Based on John 3:5 (note the mention of water) as well as other passages such as Titus 3:5 ("the washing of rebirth"), Lutherans believe that Baptism is when, where, and how they are born again.  Another word for "born again" is "rebirth" or "new birth."  That's why immediately after baptizing a person the pastor says, "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting."

One of our hymns, sometimes sung at an infant Baptism, rightly uses the term "born again":

Here we bring a child of nature;
Home we take a new-born creature,
Now God's precious son or daughter,
Born again by Word and water.

When I'm asked, I try to share in a gentle, humble way that I was born again on April 13, 1969 - the day of my Baptism.  I know that it's not always the answer other Christians are looking for, but that's okay.  I can love, encourage, and be encouraged by them just the same.

Monday, February 8, 2016


"When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name...'" (Luke 11:2).

The Lord's Prayer is not the most words - just the right ones.  In explaining the Lord's Prayer, Luther wrote: "The fewer the words, the better the prayer; the more the words, the poorer the prayer."

Matthew and Luke record the Lord's Prayer.  The version with which we are familiar is the one from Matthew.  It has a total of 70 words.  But understood theologically, each word should be counted twice, for a total of 140.

This is because when we pray the Lord's Prayer, we are speaking to God.  That much is clear.  But something else is happening too.  He is speaking to us.  Call it "doublespeak" - but of a good kind!  (Not the kind used by advertisers when, for example, they say: "Free with the purchase of....")

Every word of the Lord's Prayer is a Word from God to us through Jesus.  Yes, we are speaking to Him.  But underneath that, and over top of it, God is telling us who He is (Our Father), who we are (His children), what to ask, and what to expect.  And so the petitions of the Lord's Prayer are also promises.  God is promising in the Lord's Prayer to take care of us, forgive us, help us to forgive others, and at last deliver us from all evil.

We tend to think of prayer as our doing, our part.  True enough.  But in the Lord's Prayer, God is doing His part: revealing His heart.

Pray the Lord's Prayer, and in the same moment hear the Lord speaking to you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Other Holy Trinity

", hope, and love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

Christians who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit know also another holy trinity: faith, hope, and love.

The two trinities live in much the same way.  We know from the Bible and theology that the Father "begets" the Son, and that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son.  So too, faith begets hope, and love proceeds from faith and hope.  Paul put them in exactly the right order, because where there is faith, there is hope, and where there are faith and hope, there is love.

Father, Son, and Spirit are the Three Persons of the One God.  Faith, hope, and love are the three virtues of the one Christian heart.

Faith, hope, and love are given to us by God.  Is it any wonder then that they have a trinitarian character?  Yes, it is full of wonder!

Now remember your Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and the other holy trinity too.  Nothing more is needed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

the ten comMANdments

"...the commandments of people who turn away from the truth" (Tit. 1:14).

Engraved on his own heart of stone by the finger of modern man:

I. You shall be god.
II. You shall still, however, misuse God's name.
III. Forget old, outdated religious customs.
IV. Disrespect your parents, other authorities, and elders.
V. You shall not call it murder.
VII. You shall not get caught stealing.
VIII. You shall say what it takes to get ahead.
IX. You shall not be content.
X. You shall never be content!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Traveling Together

I have an uncle, Rev. Gordon Giese, who celebrates his 80th birthday next week.  He's a retired LCMS pastor, ordained in 1961.  I write this little devotion in thanksgiving for his faithful service to our synod.

"...but supposing Him to be in the group (Luke 2:44).

In the Greek original, the word for group is "synod," and it's worth a closer look.  (It is used only here in the New Testament, although a verb form occurs in Acts 9:7.)

And that's partly because my congregation and I are part of a church body called The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, made up of over six thousand congregations.  It was established in 1847 by German immigrants in search of religious freedom.

It's often said that "synod" means to "walk together."  But there's a little more to it, and the picture given in Luke 2 is perfect.

In traveling to and from Jerusalem for the Passover, Joseph, Mary, and twelve-year-old Jesus (at least on the way there) were part of a synod: a caravan made up of relatives, friends, and neighbors.  People did this because there was safety in numbers.  They could also help each other on the way.  They probably sang.  They shared the journey and its joy - and its challenges.

That's a synod.

And that, then, is the idea behind the Missouri Synod.  A caravan.  A people traveling together through a spiritual desert or dangerous country on the way to the Heavenly Jerusalem.  No one and no congregation travels alone.  We help and encourage each other!  We share the joy and the challenges of the journey, singing our way to the Feast!

"Synod," in the minds of many, is synonymous with bureaucracy.  Such a pity!  In reality, no better word for the church could be found than the one that means a caravan of pilgrims.  "Pilgrims here, our home above, full of faith and hope and love!"