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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Witness, Mercy, Life Together Hymn "God's Redeemed, Beloved and Holy"

Steve Starke's Hymn, "God's Redeem, Beloved and Holy."

The hymn, "God's Redeemed, Beloved and Holy," used to introduce Witness, Mercy, and Life Together is now available for download from the Synod's Resource Page. (Here is the direct download link.) I hear that a full-color version is coming soon.

In the early days of planning, at the end of July 2010 and early August 2010, we thought it would be great to have a hymn reflecting the themes of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. Late one evening over Facebook chat, a conversation of Rev. Steve Starke ensued. The next day, he emailed the hymn above -- well not in this exact form but ... Apparently, in 2005, once again demonstrating that this "idea" isn't new, Steve Starke wrote this hymn. We were very thankful that he was willing to share it with us. The singing at the board meetings and orientation,  reported in Reporter October Online, was very robust. We hope you find it edifying in your congregation too. 

Also, at the Synod's resource page are word studies on witness, mercy, and life together from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT Word Study Link HERE)... more to come later.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zeno, Natural Law, and a Roman Catholic Professor

Recently, I have been studying the topic of natural law. The concept of natural law has been discredited more and more since the Enlightenment for a variety of reasons. From my earlier post on Adiaphora, it is apparent that I have been interested in Zeno, the Stoic philosopher who taught of natural law -- a noble pagan (well, no, I'm not Zwingli). While Zeno argued against adultery on the basis of natural law, he "euthanized" himself by strangulation (doesn't sound like a "good death" to me) after he fell and broke his finger -- his conception of natural law didn't rule out suicide, at least under the circumstance of an old man falling and breaking his finger.

Zeno in Fragment 244 wrote against adultery:

ἐκκλίνουσι τὸ μοιχεύειν οἱ τὰ τοῦ Κιτιέως Ζήνωνος φιλοσοφοῦντες … διὰ τὸ κοινωνικόν· καὶ <γὰρ> παρὰ φύσιν εἶναι τῷ λογικῷ ζώῳ νοθεύειν τὴν ὑπὸ τῶν νόμων ἑτέρῳ προκαταληφθεῖσαν γυναῖκα καὶ φθείρειν τὸν ἄλλου ἀνθρώπου οἶκον.

"Those who pursue the philosophy of Zeno of Citeus avoid engaging in adultery on account of ideas that are commonly held.  For [they say that] it is even against nature for the creature of reason to engage in adulterating a woman who is still legally married, and to engage in ruining the home of another man."

(For the record, Dr. Jim Voelz helped me revise the translation -- although the above translation is "looser" than Jim would render it.)

In any case, came across this video of Professor Charles Rice from Notre Dame. He is a law professor and in the video below he provides a brief overview of natural law. Other than his opening prayer to the Regina Coeli, I didn't have much to disagree about in his presentation. He helpfully described what natural law is and the shift that has happened since the Enlightenment -- relativism and individualism. It is worth the 9 minutes or so he takes to explain it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Grassroots Witness, Mercy, Life Together Video on YouTube

Tonight I stumbled upon this grassroots video that took images from the Synod's website along with the Witness, Mercy, Life Together emphasis artwork accompanied by A Mighty Fortress. Enjoy.

Friends of Issues, Etc.

This morning I received an email link to this great video by the guys at Issues, Etc. In their slideshow, musical video, they got a couple of pictures of President Harrison (and I even got in it too. Keep up the good work guys!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rebuilding a 747 in the Sky

Thanks to Dr. Larry Rast and his fine comment in my previous post, "Mount Everest By the Spoonful." In that post, I noted how President Harrison described the implimentation of 8-08A (restructuring) like the retrofitting of a 747 while it is in flight. Thanks to Dr. Rast, we have been alerted to a consultant who can help rebuild a 747 while it is flying in the sky. Now I know why seminary professors must be consulted regarding the best way to bring about 8-08A. Watch the video below. Perhaps, we can find an airline pilot who can describe for us what it is like to fly a plane as it is being rebuilt. Enjoy :)

Mount Everest One Spoonful at a Time

Barb Below, Jon Vieker, Herb Mueller, Kim Vieker
Yesterday afternoon, President Harrison met with his staff, 1st vice president, and secretary of the Synod to discuss Resolution 8-08A. Topics discussed included but not limited to: what actions are required to fulfill faithfully Resolution 8-08A, what are the expectations of the church; what timeframe is needed to bring Resolution 8-0A to fruition, financial concerns, how to integrate the former program boards into the Office of National Mission and the Office of International Mission, and the concerns people have about what this resolution means for them in the International Center.
Dr. Raymond Hartwig explaining updated bylaws to  President Harrison
In the meeting, President Harrison told Dr. Hartwig that figuring out how to implement restructuring (Resolution 8-08A) in light of the personnel, financial, and churchly concerns in addition to the regular duties that each person on his staff is entrusted is like tackling "Mount Everest one spoonful at a time." Dr. Hartwig replied, "I do not envy any of you in your task, but I am here to help in anyway possible." In the past, President Harrison has described the restructuring task as being like retrofitting a 747 Jetliner mid-flight -- rebuilding the engines, remodeling the cabin, and reconstructing the cockpit without crashing the plane. President Harrison plans to consult with people throughout the church as we move forward.

When there are monumental challenges, President Harrison's pastoral approach becomes particularly evident. After a couple of hours discussing what had to be done and creating some short term goals, President Harrison said something like, "The task before us is great, but doable. The Convention has mandated it, and restructuring will be a blessing to the Church. The Lord has put each one of us here at this moment for the task before us. Take comfort in the Lord who gives all strength." 

And while Resolution 8-08A has not been implemented throughout the International Center (please keep in mind that President Harrison has only been in his position for 22 days and it will take time), the church's work of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together continues as people hear the Gospel, as people are helped in their time of need, and as we continue to live together as the Lord's people joined together in Christ. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Web Discussions on Witness, Mercy, Life Together

Official Graphic of Emphasis Witness, Mercy, and Life Together
Imagine my surprise today when I received an email stating that Berthold Von Schenk invented "Witness, Mercy, and Life Together!" There is quite a discussion over at the ALPB (American Lutheran Publicity Bureau) on Witness, Mercy, Life Together -- as of today 22 September, there are 261 posts. (You can read about it here.) Apart from my blog, I am not a contributor to online bulletin boards, etc. and generally do not follow them much. But in Post #250, Rev. Dr. David Benke, District President of the Atlantic District, suggests that Von Schenk was the main source for the threefold emphasis of "Witness, Mercy Life Together" in his book Lively Stone.

Not being a student of Von Schenk, I cannot claim to be familiar with his book Lively Stone. His book does not grace my bookshelf, nor have I seen it in President Harrison's library. But then we never claimed to have invented anything new. In fact, new in the realm of the church in regards to her purpose and doctrine is not a good thing. Another word for innovation in doctrine is heresy. People turning up references to a similar threefold emphasis in other places might indicate that perhaps Witness, Mercy, Life Together is fairly good at describing what the emphasis of the church is.

Pastor Bill Weedon, someone familiar with Von Schenk, searched for a quote in Lively Stone stating the threefold emphasis. He found on page 97 "where Von Schenk speaks of Missouri's so-called doctrinal purity, moralism and legalistic ritualism (which outlaws the prayer of consecration with anamnesis and epiclesis) as false marks of the Church. 'These false marks are poor substitutes for the true marks of the Church:  Leiturgia, Missio, and Diakonia ('Liturgy, Mission, Service').'"

Indeed, Von Schenk mentions a threefold marks of the church: leiturgia (liturgy), missio (sending/mission), and diakonia (service). Doesn't seem that the "Witness, Mercy, Life Together" is precisely the same focus as Von Schenk's leiturgia, missio, and diakonia, but no doubt there are some similarities. In any case, I am glad that the "evangelical" catholic group on ALPB seems to have in general positive feelings toward "Witness, Mercy, Life Together" -- and if Von Schenk is the reason for that, great!

No doubt other similarities will be found between "Witness, Mercy, Life Together" and other Christian groups and writings. For instance the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) -- The Batak Christian Protestant Church -- has three departments in their church listed in the following order -- Koinonia, Marturia, Diakonia. Considering that the church's website is in Indonesian, apart from knowing the three names of their departments, I am not sure this helps us much in further understanding Witness, Mercy, Life Together.

However, you could help us with "Witness, Mercy, Life Together." Thus far, we have focused primarily on New Testament Scripture passages. You could help us by either posting in the comments or emailing us quotations or references from the Book of Concord that further elucidate the emphasis "Witness, Mercy, Life Together." Another area of help could be in the suggestion of quotations from Luther or Walther. How about some early church father references? Any takers?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Archbishop Obare's Sermon, Luther, and the Marks of the Church

Archbishop Obare Preaching 11 September 2010
Installation Service LCMS Presidents and Officers

The entire sermon can be listened to here in audio format and the text can be downloaded here.

Ever since Archbishop Obare preached his sermon for the installation of Synod Presidents, Officers, Boards and Commissions on Saturday, 11 September 2010, I have been pondering some of the comments people made to me after the service. In general, the comments I heard were positive. A few comments about it being hard to hear in the chapel with the echo, etc. One comment stuck in my mind, "Bishop Obare didn't really say the liturgy was a mark of the church did he?" Well, Archbishop Obare did say something about the liturgy being a mark of catholicity as you can see from the quotation below or watch in the video above:

The confessional church and a confessional church leader must keep the clear biblical stand in the teaching and preaching of the Word. He must also be an example for the sheep over which he is made an overseer. This is your call Matthew and all of you newly elected into your new positions. Bring the doubting, those who are not sure whether to follow the Bible or to follow the post-modern views of our day. Help The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod to remain a confessional church within the church Catholic. The catholicity of the church is known by these marks: 

  • The Holy ministry headed by the faithful ministers of the Word. 

  • The Holy liturgy as has come down to us through the ages. The so-called contemporary that I only compare with the spontaneous fashions in ladies dresses that appear in the market almost every six or even four months in Kenya deviates from it. 

  • The pure preaching of the Word - Law and Gospel. 

From the text here, it appears that Archbishop Obare has identified three marks of the church. If you watch the video, you will note that under the first mark, "The Holy ministry," he adds who "administer the sacraments." Now with the mention of the "sacraments" you have at least four (or more) marks for the church. The "marks of the church" might be unfamiliar language to some people. It is a term used in dogmatic theology (systematics) to describe how a person can identify where the church on earth is located. If certain things or marks are found in a place, there is the church on earth. As noted previously, Archbishop Obare in the quoted segment of his sermon listed at least four marks by which you can know that the church on earth is located.

Perhaps, the most controversial or confusing remark for people was Archbishop Obare's identification of the "Holy liturgy" as a mark of the church. Upon reflection, I can see why a couple of people asked me what he meant. Within the Missouri Synod, we are not accustomed to speaking about the "liturgy" as a mark of the church, as a way of identifying where the church is at. Indeed, congregations within the Missouri Synod have diverse worship practices. Among some pastors and congregation members, the mention of the "liturgy" evokes page 5 or page 15 from The Lutheran Hymnal, or at the very least a hymnal rather than some media seen as more contemporary. Yet Archbishop Obare's comments were much broader than liturgy as a hymnal. (I can say this with some certainty because currently the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya does not have a hymnal -- they are working on producing one now -- yet the ELCK has the liturgy.)

A good Lutheran question at this point is, "Was ist das?" "What does this mean?"

First, before going into what might be meant, is Archbishop Obare correct when he mentions the "Holy liturgy" or should we sic doctrinal review and the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) on the Archbishop?

To answer this question, I would like to turn to a work by Dr. Martin Luther. The work is called "On Councils and the Church," published in 1539, a few years before Luther's death. (C.F.W. Walther also was very familiar with this work of Luther's. We could go into a discussion on Walther's Church and Ministry and other writings are in agreement with Luther's "On Councils and the Church.")  Luther wrote this document in light of the newly appointed and about to convene Council of Trent. Toward the start of the Reformation, Luther had great hopes that a general church council could address many of the problems in the church. Later in his life, Luther lost hope that a council could solve the problems of the church. He wrote "On Councils and the Church" in three parts. Part I states Luther's thesis that the church cannot be reformed on the basis of councils and the church fathers because throughout history both the councils and the church fathers have deviated from the true source or spring, that is, the Holy Scriptures. In Part II, Luther examines the Apostolic Council (Acts 15) and the first four ecumenical councils —Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451). Luther recognizes the value of church councils (which today would include the Synodical convention) but concludes at best they can help protect the church from false doctrine by affirming the true doctrine which has its source in the Holy Scriptures. Councils cannot create or invent new doctrine. In Part III, Luther deals with the Scriptural marks of the church. It is Part III that we are interested in today. The English translation of "On Councils and the Church" can be found in the American Edition of Luther's Works, volume 41, pages 3 - 178.

In Part III of "On Councils and the Church," Luther identifies "seven marks of the church," of which the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church can be recognized:

  1. The Holy Word of God. Luther writes, "First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God. To be sure, not all have it in equal measure, as St. Paul says [1 Cor. 3:12–14]. Some possess the word in its complete purity, others do not. Those who have the pure word are called those who 'build on the foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones'; those who do not have it in its purity are the ones who 'build on the foundation with wood, hay, and straw,' and yet will be saved through fire. More than enough was said about this above. This is the principal item, and the holiest of holy possessions, by reason of which the Christian people are called holy; for God’s word is holy and sanctifies everything it touches; it is indeed the very holiness of God, Romans 1 [:16], 'It is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith,' and 1 Timothy 4 [:5], 'Everything is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.'" (AE 41, 148)
  2. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Luther writes, "Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance. That too is a public sign and a precious, holy possession by which God’s people are sanctified. It is the holy bath of regeneration through the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5], in which we bathe and with which we are washed of sin and death by the Holy Spirit, as in the innocent holy blood of the Lamb of God. Wherever you see this sign you may know that the church, or the holy Christian people, must surely be present..." (AE 41, 151)
  3. The Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Luther writes, "Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it is rightly administered, believed, and received, according to Christ’s institution. This too is a public sign and a precious, holy possession left behind by Christ by which his people are sanctified so that they also exercise themselves in faith and openly confess that they are Christian, just as they do with the word and with baptism." (AE 41, 152)
  4. The Office of the Keys Exercised Publicly (Confession and Absolution). Luther writes,"Fourth, God’s people or holy Christians are recognized by the office of the keys exercised publicly. That is, as Christ decrees in Matthew 18 [:15–20], if a Christian sins, he should be reproved; and if he does not mend his ways, he should be bound in his sin and cast out. If he does mend his ways, he should be absolved. That is the office of the keys. Now the use of the keys is twofold, public and private. There are some people with consciences so tender and despairing that even if they have not been publicly condemned, they cannot find comfort until they have been individually absolved by the pastor. On the other hand, there are also some who are so obdurate that they neither recant in their heart and want their sins forgiven individually by the pastor, nor desist from their sins. Therefore the keys must be used differently, publicly and privately. Now where you see sins forgiven or reproved in some persons, be it publicly or privately, you may know that God’s people are there." (AE 41, 153)
  5. The Calling, Consecrating, and Ordaining of Ministers (The Holy Ministry). Luther writes, "Fifth, the church is recognized externally by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices that it is to administer. There must be bishops, pastors, or preachers, who publicly and privately give, administer, and use the aforementioned four things or holy possessions in behalf of and in the name of the church, or rather by reason of their institution by Christ, as St. Paul states in Ephesians 4 [:8], “He received gifts among men …”—his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some teachers and governors, etc. The people as a whole cannot do these things, but must entrust or have them entrusted to one person. Otherwise, what would happen if everyone wanted to speak or administer, and no one wanted to give way to the other? It must be entrusted to one person, and he alone should be allowed to preach, to baptize, to absolve, and to administer the sacraments. The others should be content with this arrangement and agree to it. Wherever you see this done, be assured that God’s people, the holy Christian people, are present." (AE 41, 154)
  6. Prayer, Public Praise, and Thanksgiving to God (The Liturgy / Public Worship). Luther writes, "Sixth, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God. Where you see and hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed and taught; or psalms or other spiritual songs sung, in accordance with the word of God and the true faith; also the creed, the Ten Commandments, and the catechism used in public, you may rest assured that a holy Christian people of God are present. For prayer, too, is one of the precious holy possessions whereby everything is sanctified, as St. Paul says [I Tim. 4:5]. The psalms too are nothing but prayers in which we praise, thank, and glorify God. The creed and the Ten Commandments are also God’s word and belong to the holy possession, whereby the Holy Spirit sanctifies the holy people of Christ." (AE 41, 164)
  7. The Sacred Cross. Luther writes, "Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. ... Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there, as Christ says in Matthew 5 [:11–12], “Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them." (AE 41, 165)

At first glance, it seems that Martin Luther has outdone Archbishop Obare by having seven marks of the church while the good Archbishop only four marks. The tally is much closer in reality. Archbishop Obare used the shorthand phrase "word and sacraments" which include three or four items that Martin Luther broke out separately. By my count in that short section of the sermon quoted above, Archbishop Obare listed six of Luther's seven marks of the church. While I don't recall the Archbishop specifically mentioning the cross as a mark, the entire context of the sermon contained the cross, which are the things that prevent the church from being faithful to her calling to proclaim God's truth to a world that doesn't want to hear it.

So back to Archbishop Obare's comment about the holy liturgy being a mark of the church. We see that Archbishop Obare stands in good company with Martin Luther. Some might quibble that Luther didn't actually use the word "liturgy" but instead spoke of the prayers, praise, and thanksgiving of the church. Notice that Luther unpacked "prayers, praise, and thanksgiving" as the Psalms, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, etc. He is describing a structured worship, a liturgy. Neither Luther nor Obare mention a specific order of service or a particular hymnal. In short, if you want to sic the doctrinal reviewers on Obare, you need to go after Luther first.

This post has become rather long. We didn't have time to look at the Lutheran Confessions, or other quotations from the history of the church that could provide further explanation. Archbishop Obare's sermon has certainly provided us an opportunity to discuss many things and to become more familiar with parts of our church's confession that might have atrophied over the past century.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Glow in the Park

Bass Pro Shop Balloon "Glowing"

Last night, as a part of rest and relaxation from the past several weeks of preparation for the installation service, we went to the "Glow in the Park," held in Saint Louis' Forest Park. The "Glow in the Park" event is part of The Great Forest Park Balloon race. I do not know how many years this has been going on, but it has taken place ever since I first arrived in Saint Louis in 1993. According to The Great Forest Park Balloon FAQ, the race began in 1973 and has been on-going for the next 37 years.
Glow in the Park Logo

This is a 20 second video I shot of the event on my iPhone 4. I also edited the video on my iPhone 4. It is amazing how video editing can be done on a mobile phone. I used Apple's iMovie for the iPhone. This little video was my attempt to learn the program and see what it can do. Considering the application costs $4.99, it is remarkably capable.
Spot in Forest Park I dropped Terra and kids off
Forest Park was absolutely packed. The only place we saw parking was near the zoo. The kids were getting antsy and wanted to see the balloons. So I dropped Terra and the kids off, figuring we would meet up later. I asked Terra, "How will we find each other?" She replied, "We both have our phones." Well, that was a mistake. This was my first major experience of AT&T's overwhelmed cellular network. There were so many people in Forest Park to see the balloons, I couldn't even send a text message on my iPhone 4. Needless to say, after parking the car nearly 1.5 miles away from the location of the balloons and after walking to where the balloons were, it took me two hours to find Terra and the kids. In any case, everyone involved had fun.
Pepsi Balloon
All the Balloons Firing Up
A photo Terra took of all the balloons
Taking down the balloons at the end of the evening

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Official Witness, Mercy, Life Together Downloadable Resources

The crack communications team at the LCMS International Center has produced this page for downloadable Witness, Mercy, Life Together resources. This is just a start. Pastors and Congregations are free to use these materials for non-commercial use. Check out there link here:


Emphasis for the Church

Witness, Mercy, Life Together.

Actions of the 64th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod produced a number of changes for our beloved Synod, not least of which were the election of President Matthew C. Harrison and the adoption of a number of resolutions brought forward by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance.  While delegates at the convention made dramatic decisions that will affect the future of the LCMS, its congregational principle and scriptural foundations remain unchanged.  And as President Harrison assumed his new responsibilities for leadership of the church and began pondering how to fulfill the responsibility of implementing the restructuring approved by convention, he wanted to start by focusing on the church's work and the emphasis of: 
Witness, Mercy, Life Together.
These phrases 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.
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”
– 1 John 5:7-8
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
– Mark 10:45
Life Together
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:9
In Christ, for the Church and the World.


Witness, Mercy, Life Together Posters and Banner
Poster 1

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Poster 2


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Witness, Mercy, Life Together. - Logo Files

Witness, Mercy, Life Together.


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Life Together


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Church workers and congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod may use the "Witness, Mercy, Life Together." logos and materials for non-commercial purposes related to their work with the church.  All other use is prohibited.