The President and the Layman

I’m going to reprint here, word for word, a post from Steadfastlutherans.org.  It is a letter from a layman to former LCMS President Kieschnick about his blog post regarding Newtown.  I believe this it is a summary of our position at DearChristianFriends.com and an adequate response to the words of President Kieschnick.

A Layman’s Response to President Emeritus Kieschnick’s Position on Newtown, by Pr. Rossow

February 25th, 2013Post by 

LCMS President Emeritus Kieschnick had some interesting comments on the Newtown incident  in his Perspectives column. Curtis Christiansen, the Head Elder from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Lincoln Nebraska; Pastor Clint Poppe) took exception to many things President Kieschnick said and sent him the following letter.

The letter was written exclusively by Mr. Christiansen. The first his pastor heard of it was when he was copied on it. We have held on to it for several days to assure that President Kieschnick would have received it in the mail before seeing it here. (He probably doesn’t read Steadfast anyway. It is a common cry among district presidents and synod officials that they don’t have time to read the blogs. If only it was because they were too busy visiting their parishes and holding them to our stated synodical standards such as Article VI. B of the Synod Constitution on unionism and syncretism.)

It is a popularly held opinion that the strong LCMS laity of the 1970′s saved the synod in convention from the liberal, higher critical theology of the seminary professors. I believe it is true. My father was one of them. Mr. Christiansen’s letter to President Kieschnick suggests there is at least one laymen in the 2010′s who is equipped and courageous enough to rescue the synod once again. If you are a like-minded layman you may want to drop a comment on this post and show Mr. Christiansen your support. For that matter, Pastors are welcome to join in the edification as well.

Dear Pastor Kieschnick,

Recently you responded on your blog to the events in Newtown, Connecticut and the media’s response to events within our Synod.  In that article you stated “For them the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism, and legalism.”     As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran Christian in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your statement with a “YES”

Yes we are isolationist.  We believe that God has chosen us from the foundation of the earth, that he has called us out of darkness to his eternal light.  We believe in the words of St. Peter that we are “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences  of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” ( I Peter 2:9) .  So yes we are isolationists as those separated unto God.

We are isolationists, as said by St. Paul “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God: as God said I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2Corinthinans 6: 14 – 7:1)   So, yes, we are isolationists, as a temple of the living God.  Isolated in Christ, who as the light of the world, has isolated us from darkness, that we be the salt and light of the world.

Yes we are legalists.  We believe that the law curbs sin, shows us our sin, and is a guide in righteousness.  With the Psalmist we believe “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”(Psalm 119:69-72).  Yes we are legalists for we believe we are to have no other Gods before Him.

Yes we are sectarian.  For we believe we are one body, as the apostle Paul taught us; “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22). So I guess we are sectarians as well.

What was saddening to me upon reading your article was what you implied with your statement; for it seems that you were implying that we are Monastics, Aesthetics, and Pharisees.  As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your implications with a “NO”.

No, we are not monastics.  We do not hide out in monasteries.  We serve God in our vocations as parent or children, as employee or employer, as citizen, as church member, to whatever vocation God has called us, we serve Him.   In our synod we bring comfort to the hurting through our World Relief Mission, through our Lutheran Laymen League and Lutheran Women in Mission.  And we do all this as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, as the mask of God bringing the mercies of God to a troubled and hurting world.

No neither are we aesthetics.  We do not hold back from the world because we are afraid that it might defile us.  We understand the apostle Paul when he teaches us; “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, …… according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2: 16-23).  So No we are not ascetics.

No, nor are we are Pharisees.  We do not believe we are better than others, rather we have the humility of Christ to teach us as the apostle Paul said;  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).  We do not seek public displays of our righteousness as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:43).  Nor do we elevate bylaws and ecclesiastical supervision over the Word of God as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  (Matthew 23: 23)

Pastor Kieschnick, I have been a Christian for many years now and have learned that Christianity involves more than just telling people that Jesus loves them.  When we say publically, NO to things like adultery, abortion, and homosexuality we are doing this out of love for our neighbor.  For we know that these things are sin and death.  As the apostle Paul says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sin.” (Ephesians 2).  We do not say NO because we are pursuing righteousness through keeping the law, for we believe Christ is our righteousness, but rather out of love for our fellow man.  Even though these sins are the things of death; out of love for our neighbor, we proclaim another death, not a death in sin, but a death that unites us with Christ as Romans 6 teaches; “for all  of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.  We were buried with Him in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “

But I also know that when we say  NO (either individually as a Christian or corporately as a church body)  to things like adultery, abortion, homosexuality and even syncretic worship, we will be reviled by the public and other religious bodies, as unloving, uncaring, and intolerant.  But as a Christian, we understand these things.  For our Lord has instructed us; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19).  But with both the apostle Paul and apostle Peter we consider it a joy to share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice in His second coming.

Yes, Pastor Kieschnick, Elijah did pray in the presence of hundreds of prophets of false gods.  In fact Elijah said there were exactly 450 prophets of Baal.  And here is what Elijah prayed, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”  Then the fire of Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is Go.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.” (1 Kings 18:36-40).

And, yes, Paul preached in synagogues and taught in the presence of people who rejected Jesus; and, what did he say “….And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.”  Therefore he says also in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.”  For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.  Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.  Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about; “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.”  (Acts 13:34-41)

When a pastor is invited to pray at an interfaith worship, are you saying they should pray as Elijah and preach as Paul?

With the upcoming synodical convention in a few months, I assume many will see the recent media attention and public outcry, as an opportunity for political expediency.  It provides an opportunity to question some in our synod, to promote tension and discord.  Our convention will probably be filled with overtures on unionism and syncretism, there will be calls for investigations, there will be outrage and disgust, new bylaws will need to be adopted, new administrators will need to be elected, and all these trappings of political intrigue will swirl through our convention.

But before we as a church body get sidetracked with all this business of unionism, syncretism, and try to answer all these questions of legalism, isolationism, and sectarianism; I recommend our church body ask a much simpler question of itself.  Are we going to serve God or mammon?  For too long our church body has been deceiving ourselves into thinking we can do both.  We have been too worried about whether other denominations accept us, whether society considers us relevant or outdated or isolationists or sectarians, we have worried about how many members we have and how big of a synod we are or are not, how fast we are or are not growing, about lack of money, about how we can dress up ourselves so that we are inviting, entertaining, and attractive.  But our savior instructs us that we cannot love both God and mammon, for ultimately we end up hating one and loving the other.  And, so, if we decide we want to serve mammon let’s do it whole heartedly.  Let’s join the Lutheran World Federation and the Ecumenical Council of Churches.  Let’s pray to Allah or the great spirit.  Let’s bless each other in the name of the feminine trinity and let’s sanction abortion, marry homosexuals, and allow everyone to the communion rail.  Let’s draw the masses in with our entertainment and take as much money as they will give us.  For surely this will increase our wealth, our status, our relevance.

And if we decide we want to serve God, let’s just softly and simply say NO, I’m sorry but I can’t  do that ,  I must obey God rather than  men.

Peace be with you.

Sincerely

Curtis Christiansen

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Forgive the infant as Christ forgives you…

This evening my wife and I brought our new, infant son to church for Divine Service. We sat through the worship service, hearing God’s Word and receiving His gifts. When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, I carried my son to the Table and knelt at the rail with my wife and older boy. The pastor came down the line, passing out the bread and blessing the children. At my older son he said, “May God keep you in your baptismal grace.” At my newborn he stopped, looked down and forgave my 11-day-old of his sins by saying, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Interestingly enough, he thought it appropriate and necessary to forgive a newborn of his sins. And he was right. In Romans the need for salvation is apparent.

“As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no , not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We cannot save ourselves. We are not righteous, not a single one of us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. How then can even the child who is new to life outside the womb be saved? Through Christ Himself! The next verse in Romans 3 tells the sweet Gospel: “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor granted to my child forgiveness by his Office, the Office instituted by Christ and given the power of forgiveness of sins. John 20:23, “If you forgive the sin of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My wife and I made the decision to bring our child to the Table to be forgiven. He has not yet been received into Christ’s Church through baptism, so we know that the pastor, in his Office, can and did grant our son the forgiveness of Christ. And for that I am truly grateful. Thank you, Pastor.

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

We’ve all seen it, the wreath in the front of the church.  It’s brought out of the back or the downstairs storage closet every year right around Thanksgiving, dusted off, and put up by the pulpit.  The acolyte comes out and lights one or more candles throughout Advent, and it adds to the lighting and majesty of our preparations for the coming of Christmas.  But what do those four (or five) candles mean?  Why is a new one lit each week?  And what is up with the PINK ONE?!

From an lcms.org/faq document concerning questions about Worship/Congregational Life and the Church Year:

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Philippians 4:4.  

(“Rejoice! . . . the Lord is near”). Hence a “pink” candle was used to signify “rejoicing.” Some also included a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).

We light a new candle each week to signify the coming of Christmas, and the excitement of Christ’s birth.  It’s a countdown of sorts, there to remind us that He, Christ Jesus,our Lord and King, came into the world.  He was a baby, born of woman, grew, learned, ate, breathed, walked, talked, worked, taught, suffered, died, rose again, and will return.  Until then, we can still partake in Him in the Holy Supper, receiving from Him the forgiveness of sins bought and paid for on the cross, when He took on the weight of the sins of all mankind.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,” John 3:16-18a.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Blessings are wonderful, aren’t they? Warm, sunny days in the summer when the wind is just light enough to touch the sweat off your brow. The smile and heart-felt cheer of good friends and family as they surround you in the loving embrace of togetherness. Victory via new fencing over that long-suffered rabbit who keeps getting into the vegetable patch and stealing the carrots.

Our Lord blesses us in so many ways, undeserved and, many times, unfortunately, under-appreciated. But I can think of one blessing as I sit here that the Lord chooses to grant us that gives more wonder, hope, and love than all the others: children.

God chooses to bless us with children so that He can teach us and build our faithfulness. Luke 18:16b-17, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Jesus used the imagery of children to guide us toward faithfulness. It is not by the power of our own minds or the desire of our hearts that we receive His grace. Instead, by the simple faith of a child, an undeterred belief, placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, we know our Savior Jesus Christ.

He preaches His Word to us through the memory verses and prayers our children recite to us, giving us the ability to hear the Gospel even from those we are instructed to teach. Romans 10:17a, “So faith comes from hearing.” And not just our own children. God grants children to His congregation and to the world for the same purpose, to provide another outlet for His Word.

It is our vocation, as parents and guardians of children, both ours and our neighbors’, to protect them, reborn into the Spirit through Baptism, newly born into this world through the pains of childbearing, or as yet unborn from the womb but existing, for our Father knows them all. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5.

Zombie Church

One of the popular shows on TV right now is about the zombie apocalypse. Every week the zombies shuffle back and forth across the land, mindlessly continuing on, following whatever sound they hear or person they see.

The zombies don’t think for themselves. They don’t believe, teach, or confess anything. Herds of zombies wander to and fro every week, empty inside, like a flock of birds. If one zombie turns down a path, the rest follow.

Some churches are full of zombies, too. They blindly follow the will of the pastor, believing that HIS beliefs are what they need, that HE knows the right way, and all they have to do is show up, listen and do what he says, and then they are saved.

Belief is not a passive act. It doesn’t grow and take shape by the acceptance of what a pastor, church leader, or other people say. This is why the creeds begin with the word, “I”. The creeds are not just another part of the liturgy every week because somebody in the church decided hundreds of years ago to put them after the readings and before the sermon. Instead, they are our confession of our faith, a personal and true statement of what you and I believe as Christians in the Church of our Lord.

Romans 10:9-10: “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

What Romans describes is not an act of blind acceptance. It is an active statement, something we can do with a faith that is our own, given to us through Baptism by the Holy Spirit in the washing of our hearts.

Don’t think I’m eliminating the pastor’s role in the church. He is here to strengthen our beliefs and guide us. But his faith is not our own, and his beliefs will not save you or I. Instead, his words in the pulpit follow the creed so that we can use our confession to evaluate his, to ensure that he speaks of Christ and Him crucified for our salvation.

So, confess out loud with your whole heart your faith in our God. Don’t be a zombie in church. They usually miss out on the donuts and coffee, anyway.