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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation and 95 Thesis

95 Theses in Bronze 
The first these of the 95 Theses is the most important and most relevant for today, " When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Every Reformation begins with repentance. President Pfotenhauer in his sermon, "God's Word and Grace Are a Passing Rain Shower," reminds us to repent when we see troubles in the world:

"These are warnings that the weather will change and change suddenly. Behind the clouds of grace, unthankfulness and disdain are beginning to blow. Oh, let us then earnestly tremble, heartily repent, and admonish one another; so as long as it is day, God’s Word and grace shall not become for us a passing rain shower which does not return. Let us buy, because the market is gathered at the gate of the city. The sun is shining and the weather is good. Let us make use of God’s grace and Word because we have them! Let us grab hold of them and keep them!" (At Home in the House of My Fathers, Harrison, 798)

When we were in Wittenberg last week, Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Torgeson gave a walking tour through Wittenberg (photos below). He also spoke about the 95 Theses while we stood outside the Castle Door. (It was a cold day.) The video of his presentation is below... for a portion of the video it turns side-ways but it ends up right side up. Enjoy.

Here is a pictorial tour of Wittenberg.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

President Harrison's Autumn Greeting

Here is President Harrison's Autumn Greeting based on 1 Peter 5, cast your cares on him. Another thing I like about this video is the Witness, Mercy, Life Together animated graphics.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Russia Update

The LCMS group met with the Bishop and representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in St Petersburg.

Outside the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood.

Arrived in Novosibirsk early this morning. Now at the Lutheran Center in the Akademgorodok. Greeting many friends.

Location:бул. Молодежи,Novosibirsk,Russia

Monday, October 25, 2010

Treuenbrietzen Birthplace of Martin Chemnitz

Son of Our City, Dr. Martin Chemntiz
1522 - 1586
"He fought for Luther's teaching."
Portrait of Martin Chemnitz
While driving from Berlin to Wittenberg this afternoon, we stopped in a town called Treuenbrietzen, the birthplace of Martin Chemnitz. He was born 9 November 1522 and lived in Treuenbrietzen until he was old enough to go to school in Magdeburg. Martin's father, Paul, died when he was eleven years old. In 1545, Martin Chemnitz studied in Wittenberg under Melanchton and Martin Luther. After Luther's death, Chemnitz matriculated to several universities until he returned to the University of Wittenberg to lecture on Melanthon's Loci Communes in January 1554. By November 1554, Chemnitz was ordained into the Holy Ministry. In 1567, Chemnitz became the superintendent of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, where he remained the rest of his life. He was one of the primary drafters of the Formula of Concord. Martin Chemnitz is known as Alter Martinus, the "Second Martin": Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset ("If Martin [Chemnitz] had not come along, Martin [Luther] would hardly have survived"). It was a great joy to stop in the town where Martin Chemnitz was born and baptized. President Harrison gives a brief video overview below.

Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church)
Place Chemnitz was Baptized
Another view of Marienkirche

Parsonage for Marienkirche
Oldest Residence in Treuenbrietzen
Martin Chemnitz probably lived in a building like this
Walking down the streets of Treuenbrietzen, the wooden houses reminded me of the wooden homes found in Tomsk, Siberia, Russia. Tomsk was settled in the 17th century by Lutheran Germans; it isn't surprising that there are some similarities between the buildings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Worship et al in Berlin

Bishop Schöne, President Harrison, Bishop Voigt in
St. Mariengemeinde in Zehlendorf (Berlin) -- Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens Pastor
The Divine Service at St. Mariengemeinde in Zehlendorf, an area of Berlin, was a joy. The sanctuary was packed full. The service began with corporate confession and absolution; now this was not done in the typical Missouri Synod fashion (is there a typical Missouri Synod fashion? I haven't been to many congregations that use the Order for Corporate Confession and Absolution found in the hymnal.). In any case, after the general confession, the congregation was invited to the kneeling rail to receive absolution. Bishop Schöne and Pastor Martens then laid hands on every person's head and said, "Dir sind deine Sünden vergeben." ("Your sins are forgiven you.")

During the service, President Matthew Harrison preached on the text, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." (My brief summary follows...) He began by saying that the New Testament isn't primarily about morality or ethics. The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is not to teach ethics or morals. In fact, the ethical values found in the Sermon on the Mount are not much different from the ethics and morals taught in other religions. The purpose, he said, is to increase the law upon us. If you hate another person, you have murdered them. It is an increasing of the law. After expounding upon how heavy the law is from the Sermon on the Mount, he directed us to see Jesus. Jesus was perfect as his Father in heaven was perfect. The perfect Jesus sought out the imperfect. He healed the lepers. He sought out the sinner. The perfection of the Law is fulfilled when Jesus cried, "It is finished." There the perfect One redeemed imperfect people. Jesus only came for sinners. He came to save sinners and He has saved people like you and me.

President Harrison Presenting in the Fellowship Hall
After the conclusion of the service, there was a Russian style lunch and a presentation by President Harrison about the Missouri Synod. Just as many people in the Missouri Synod are not familiar with their brothers and sister in Christ in the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) in Germany, many people in the SELK are not familiar with the LCMS. One very noteworthy point President Harrison made was that the confession and theology of SELK gave birth to the Missouri Synod. You can read more about SELK here (the German page about SELK has much more information).

Bishop Voigt Presents President Harrison with a Gift
The history of the SELK
Bishop Voigt presented President Harrison with Quellen zur Geschichte selbstständiger evangelisch-lutherischer Kirchen in Deutschland (Sources on the History of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany). This book gives the history of the independent Lutheran Church in Germany since the Prussian Union of 1817. It looks like a great book. You can read more about this book on the publisher's page here.

Closing hymn, "Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ"
(Lord Jesus Christ Will You Not Stay)
The afternoon came to a close with the singing of Lord Jesus Christ Will You Not Stay. This was the favorite hymn of Hermann Sasse.

Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ

Nikolaus Selnecker et al., 1611.

1. Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ,
Weil es nun Abend worden ist;
Dein göttlich Wort, das heile Licht,
Laß ja bei uns auslöschen nicht!

2. In dieser, letzt'n, betrübten Zeit
Verleih uns, Herr, Beständigkeit,
Daß wir dein Wort und Sakrament
Rein b'halten bis an unser End'!

3. Herr Jesu, hilf, dein' Kirch' erhalt,
Wir sind gar silcher, faul und kalt!
Gib Glück und Heil zu deinem Wort,
Damit es schall' an allem Ort!

4. Erhalt uns nur bei deinem Wort
Und wehr des Teufels Trug und Mord!
Gib deiner Kirche Gnad' und Huld,
Fried', Einigkeit, Mut und Geduld!

5. Ach Gott, es geht gar übel zu,
Auf dieser Erd' ist keine Ruh',
Viel Sekten und viel Schwärmerei
Auf einen Haufen kommt herbei.

6. Den stolzen Geistern wehre doch,
Die sich mit G'walt erheben hoch
Und bringen stets was Neues her,
Zu fälschen deine rechte Lehr'.

7. Die Sach' und Ehr', Herr Jesu Christ,
Nicht unser, sondern dein ja ist;
Darum so steh du denen bei,
Die sich auf dich verlaßen frei!

8. Dein Wort ist unsers Herzens Trutz
Und deiner Kirche wahrer Schutz;
Dabei erhalt uns, lieber Herr,
Daß wir nichts anders suchen mehr!

9. Gib, daß wir leb'n in deinem Wort
Und darauf ferner fahren fort
Von hinnen aus dem Jammertal
Zu dir in deinen Himmelssaal!

Wittenberg ILSW

We spent the day in Wittenberg for the ILSW meeting. It was great to return to Wittenberg. We return to Wittenberg Monday evening, perhaps then there will be more opportunity to post.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Berlin -- Church Visits

President Harrison and Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens
Stand at the Baptismal Font at Mariengemeinde in Berlin
On Friday morning, President Harrison and I arrived in Berlin, Germany, for meetings related to the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), a project the Synod in the 2010 convention passed as Resolution 1-08 -- "To Encourage the 'Wittenberg Project' as a Gospel Witness Opportunity" and for a meeting of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The afternoon afforded the opportunity to visit several church sites in Berlin such as SELK's Mariengemeinde in Berlin, founded by Bishop-Emeritus Schoene. Dr. Martens wrote this excellent essay on the "Agreement and Disagreement on Justification by Faith Alone," in CTQ.

St. Marienkirche next to Fernshturm, Hermann Sasse's first parish
We were also able to visit St. Marienkirche, where Hermann Sasse first served as a pastor. Next to his parish now is the Fernshtum, a 365 meter tv transmitter tower built by the communist government.
St. Marienkirchen, Sasse's first parish
We also saw the Nikolaikirche, where Paul Gerhardt was pastor.

Nikolaikirche, where Paul Gerhardt Served
Berliner Dom
Nearby is the Berliner Dom, which became a Lutheran cathedral and later a Union church. Now Luther and Melanthon stand in front while Calvin and Zwingli in the back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Education Foundation

Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Dr. Christopher Barnekov, Dr. Bengt Birgersson, and Dr. Collver
The other day we had a pleasant visit with Rev. Dr. Bengt Birgersson of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Education Foundation. Dr. Birgersson discussed with us the challenges that confessional Lutheranism faces in the Scandinavian countries and how the Missouri Synod might be able to provide assistance. We look forward to working more with him in the future.

Today, President Harrison and I are heading to Wittenberg, Germany. More on that later.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

South Korea - Day 2 -- Luther Tower Dedication

Luther Tower in Seoul, South Korea
The dedication of Luther Tower was quite the event. It was the result of four years of hard work by President Um, his staff, and the Lutheran Church in Korea. It is a 24 story building with 5 underground levels (for a total of 29 levels). If the building occupancy holds, they hope to have the loan paid off in four years. The income from this building should be a great blessing for mission in the future.

Statue of Martin Luther Translating the Bible

Luther Tower Dedication
Greetings from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
10 October 2010

Greetings in the Name of Jesus and from your brothers and sisters in Christ in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. President Matthew Harrison sends his greetings to you on the occasion of your Synod Convention and the dedication of the Luther Tower. President Harrison sends his regrets that he could not attend and celebrate with you in person and asks for you understanding that other duties and commitments prevented him. Be assured that he and the LCMS rejoice with you and give thanks for you.

The dedication of the Luther Tower is a momentous occasion. Who would have imagined this day from the humble beginnings of a handful of LCMS missionaries in the late 1950s? That early work of proclaiming the Gospel, both in congregational settings and through mass media efforts such as the Lutheran Hour, and the theological training work of people such as Dr. Ji, led to the formation of the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) in 1971. Now forty conventions later, you are dedicating the Luther Tower to the glory of God.

The success of the Lutheran Church in Korea and the accomplishment of the Luther Tower is something to give thanks and praise to our Lord God, who brings all good works to fruit. You and your church leaders are to be commended for their foresight, vision, and dedication to be good stewards with the resources the Lord has given you. Your present accomplishment and future success as a Lutheran church in Korea rests on the foundation of Jesus Christ, his precious and life-giving Gospel, and his forgiving gifts bestowed in the sacraments. As Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthian congregation, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) May all your work remain on the foundation and cornerstone of faith, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

You may recall that the breakthrough when Martin Luther discovered the Gospel – rather, when the Gospel set Martin Luther free – has been called Luther’s tower experience. At Luther’s tower experience, the Gospel set him free from the tyranny, fear, and curse of the Law. He was set free from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He was set free to live in his baptism and to proclaim and confess the Gospel of Jesus boldly to the world.

Today is a “tower” experience of sorts for you as well. Not in the sense of the discovery of the Gospel – for you already know the Gospel, but in the sense of living in the freedom of the Gospel to boldly extend the kingdom of God in this place. With the Lord’s help, the Luther Tower will help the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) to extend the Lord’s kingdom by planting and forming congregations, to expand Lutheran education and theology at the Luther University, and to extend the mission of the Church to foreign lands.

The goals you have for the Luther Tower are built on the desire to promote Christ to the world. You have built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Luther Tower stands as a witness to the world. When struggles, difficulty, and the cross come upon you and your church (and they will) remain on the foundation of Jesus Christ, for from there nothing can shake or move you.

Today, we, the LCMS, celebrate and give thanks for you, the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK). We rejoice with you in the dedication of Luther Tower. May Christ continue to bless you and keep you steadfast on the firm foundation.

South Korea - Day 2 - Worship

Opening Hymn, "O God, Forsake Me Not"
This morning I attended church at Central Lutheran Church in Seoul, South Korea. The service was familiar and easy to follow along even though it was in Korean. The service was very liturgical. In fact, some parts of the liturgy used the same tunes (or same with minor variations) used in Lutheran Worship. On Saturday, President Um and I had a very frank discussion. I asked him some of the challenges facing Lutheranism in South Korea. He mentioned first off, "Our service is liturgical. The Protestants compare us to Roman Catholics and become confused what Lutheranism is about." He made no apology for the service nor did he suggest the service should change -- nonetheless, this is a challenge for his church, as it is for many Lutheran churches throughout the world, including the United States.
Entrance to Central Lutheran Church

The Vicar Conducting Part of the Service
Sermon on Luke 17:1-10 Preached by Rev. Mamoru Saito
From the Japan Lutheran Church
The sermon was preached by Rev. Mamoru Saito from the Japan Lutheran Church (NRK), a sister church of both the LCMS and the LCK. He preached on Luke 17:1-10. He is also a seminary professor at the Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary. This morning when Rev. Saito and I were speaking he told me about a fond memory 20 some years ago when he met the Bodes -- he proceeded to tell me about young Gerry and Erin. Then he said and now she is a famous jazz singer who came to Japan last year. Of course, he was speaking about Dr. Gerry Bode, professor at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, and his Erin Bode, who is well-known in LCMS circles for her music and her work on the Themba project where she recorded and produced the Themba Girls Album. Who would have thought 7,000 miles from Saint Louis, I would meet someone who knew Gerry and Erin Bode? What a small, small world.

President Um Presides at Holy Communion.

The Sanctus in Korean

This is a very brief summary of the worship today. In the evening, we celebrated the dedication of Luther Tower -- more on that in the next post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

South Korea -- Day 1

Headquarters of the Lutheran Church in Korea

After a flight cancelation in Toyko, I arrived at the headquarters of the Lutheran Church in Korea around 11 AM. The LCMS began doing mission work in Korea in 1958. In the LCMS' 1953 Synod Convention held in Houston, TX, the convention authorized mission work to begin in Korea. By early 1958,  the LCMS send three missionaries: L. Paul Bartling, Maynard W. Dorow, and Kurt E. Voss to South Korea. Dr. Won Yong Ji was sent later that year. The Lutheran Church in Korea formed as a church body in 1971. My trip to South Korea is to celebrate the dedication of the Luther Tower, which takes place at the beginning of the LCK's 40th Synodical Convention.

abc3+ and President Um at headquarter entrance

President Um received a copy of At Home in House of My Fathers
Poster of the Luther Tower
Photo of the Luther Tower, a 25 story building

In this short video clip, President Um explains that the renting of Luther Tower will help provide income for the Lutheran Church in Korea to provide funds for congregation start ups, the Luther University and Seminary, and for Mission work.

Olympic Park where the 1988 Olympics were held

After meetings with President Um and others at the Lutheran Church in Korea, I was able to spend the late afternoon visiting Olympic Park where the 1988 Olympics were held. The park was reminiscent of Forest Park, crossed with Central Park, with lots of activities. Many people were walking and taking photos. On the site is the Mochon Tosong Fortress. It is an earthen fortress and I walked its perimeter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Overnight in Tokyo

After landing in Tokyo, the connecting flight to Soeul, South Korea was cancelled due to mechanical problems. The airline rescheduled the flight for Saturday at 6 am. Because bad weather was moving into the area, the airline was offering $750 in vouchers because the expected the other two flights scheduled to Korea on Saturday to be cancelled. So ended up spending the night in Tokyo.

This morning we were to take the bus to the airport. So many people were headed to the airport that It took four bus loads. The line for the bus started at 4:30 am.

Rode the bus sitting next to an American. Amazing how in the States you would not necessarily talk to someone who sat next to you on the bus but overseas a fellow American is either somewhat of an annoying experience or a long lost brother. The guy I sat next to had travelled to a dozen or countries last year. It was a rather enjoyable experience. He also was a Christian. In any case an interesting experience. Long lines at the airport and Kutan.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Detroit Metro Airport

On my way to South Korea, I flew into Detroit. For some reason, the flight into Detroit provided a rather scenic route to the Detroit Metro Airport. Detroit is full of fond memories for me as I grew up in a suburb.

The Detroit Metro Airport is one of my more favorite airports. In between gates A38 and A40 is a very cool water fountain.

Next stop Tokyo, Japan.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Theses for Cooperation in Externals on the Basis of Natural Law

School of Athens in the Apostolic Palace in Rome by Raphael
The figures represent Philosophy, Poetry, Theology, and Law
The Greek Philosophers above wrote on Natural Law.
A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to present a paper at the Lutheran Theological Conference in Paulpietersburg, KwaZulu‐Natal, titled, “Works of Mercy and Church Unity: Does Service Unify and Doctrine Divide?” The paper examined the 1925 thesis from the ecumenical movement by Dr. Hermann Kapler, "Doctrine divides, but service unites." Ironically, what the ecumenical movement thought would unite them failed to do so. Fifty years later, Jürgen Moltmann would write, "Theology unites ‐‐ praxis divides." So it went for the ecumenical movement. Doctrinal agreements were "formed" but a multitude of practices remained. "Unions" and "Fellowships" were declared, but no real unity existed. My paper also gave an opportunity to look at Cooperation in Externals (which as a "term" came into existence at the end of the 19th century -- at least as best as I could tell).

Now cooperation in externals has been on the collective mind of the Missouri Synod for sometime now. Most recently brought to the fore due to the actions of the ELCA regarding human sexuality, i.e., the promotion of homosexual marriage, adoption of children by homosexual couples, and the acceptance of homosexual ordination. The LCMS Convention in July 2010 passed resolution 3-03, "Cooperation in Externals with Theological Integrity."

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about Natural Law and Cooperation in Externals. This is, in part, due to some research and writing I have been doing, but also due to circumstances regarding my position as the Director of Church Relations. In any case, I had trouble sleeping so I thought I'd try my hand at some Theses for Cooperation in Externals.

Theses for Cooperation in Externals

Premise: Cooperation in Externals can only occur on the basis of Natural Law. "Externals" are defined as areas apart from pulpit and altar fellowship, occurring primarily in the realm of the left-hand kingdom.
  1. Cooperation in Externals can only occur when there is agreement in Natural Law.
  2. Cooperation in Externals can also occur when there is agreement in doctrine and practice, because such agreement constitutes agreement in Natural Law.
  3. The area of cooperation itself (the task at hand) cannot violate Natural Law.
  4. In an area of cooperation, if there is not agreement in Natural Law, then cooperation cannot occur, because such cooperation would violate the Law of God.
  5. The means of accomplishing the task or area of cooperation cannot violate Natural Law.
(At 3:30 AM, I thought of a few more theses, but this gives the general drift...)

Natural Law
The "theses" seem to cover many of the challenges regarding cooperation in externals. For instance, if your neighbor asks you to come to his house and assist him by holding the laddar for him, most people would do so. Of course, it is the neighborly thing to do, but such "external cooperation" does not violate natural law. In some cases, depending upon the circumstances, refusing to assist your neighbor might violate natural law (perhaps there is a thesis in that?). On the other hand, if your neighbor asks you to assist him in external matters (outside of the realm of the altar and pulpit) involving theft, murder, immorality -- even if these actions are not against the law of the State, you would refuse because they are in violation of natural law.

In a similar way, natural law can be applied to "cooperation in externals" within the church. Is it permissible for the church to cooperate with such and such a group or church body? The short answer: will such cooperation result in the violation of Natural Law. If yes, then cooperation is not permissible. Can two church bodies cooperate in an area where they do not have agreement on how Natural Law applies to that area of cooperation? The Theses above would suggest not.

Perhaps, the real issue is not "cooperation" but confusion over Natural Law.

An Irrelevant Graphic From a Google Images
Search on "Cooperation in Externals"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guest from the Lutheran Church in Norway

President Harrison and Pastor Torkild Masvie of the Lutheran Church in Norway
On Friday, we had a visitor from The Lutheran Church in Norway, Pastor Torkild Masvie. His story is very interesting. First, The Lutheran Church in Norway is NOT a part of the State Church in Norway. Pastor Masvie came from a long line of Lutheran pastors in Norway, but could not accept the teachings of the Norwegian State Church -- he matriculated several places and for a time ended up as a member of an LCMS parish in Illinois. After some time in the United States, Pastor Masvie had an epiphany of sorts -- his children and future grandchildren would not have orthodox Lutheranism as found in the Missouri Synod backin Norway. He wanted to do something about it -- and The Lutheran Church of Norway was born. (Here is the official website of The Lutheran Church in Norway)His visit to International Center was to garner closer relations and to seek our support (not primarily for  financial support, although LCMS Congregations do provide financial support for church plants and for the Ad-Fontes theological training center) but support of this fledgling church body in Norway to remain strong in its confession and look for ways that the LCMS could help them to do so.

The Lutheran Church in Norway faces many challenges. One of which involves the liturgy. The "traditional" Lutheran liturgy of the State Church is under copyright protection -- and as I understand it isn't available to them (besides the fact the current configuration of the liturgy is not entirely acceptable to them). So The Lutheran Church in Norway has had to develop musical arrangements for the liturgy. Here is a version of the Our Father that is sung in the liturgy of The Lutheran Church in Norway.

UPDATE ON THE LITURGY FORM PASTOR MASVIE: "Our liturgy is actually going back to our Norwegian liturgy from before the 1970 and 1930 revision and using elements that go back, some of them to our first Lutheran liturgy in Norway. So our liturgy is more Lutheran classical than the state church. The copyright is not about wording, but about all the musicalliturgical elements of the liturgy made for the 1970 liturgy."

The main parish of the Lutheran Church in Norway is the MessiasKirche.

The Lutheran Church in Norway also has a pastor training program called Ad Fontes.

In any case, it was a delightful visit. I am sure that we will be having further conversations with The Lutheran Church in Norway. Stay tuned for more in the future.