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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Worship – Liberia Day 3

Dr. Joel Lehenbauer stands outside Christ Assembly Evangelical Lutheran Church
This morning, 1 January 2012, we worshiped at Christ Assembly Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL) was the result of a merger between four groups. Some of these groups originally had roots in the Church of God or in the Assemblies of God. The remnants of this history is sometimes detectable in the name of congregations such as "Christ Assembly" Evangelical Lutheran Church. Yet having originated in a more Pentecostal background, the ELCL has a good understanding of its dangers and incompatibility with Lutheran theology. One of the ELCL pastors explained, "Pentecostalism teaches that God will do something for you on the basis of what you do for God. This is animism using Christian vocabulary. As Lutherans, we teach that God blesses us not because of what we do for him, but because he loves us and has sent his Son for us." Nonetheless, the ELCL recognizes that elements from its Pentecostal background remain and require slow, patient teaching.

Note the email address says LCMS2
As seen from the pictures above, the ELCL strongly sees itself as connected to the LCMS. The ELCL liberally makes use of the LCMS cross on its buildings and bulletins. The ELCL refers to the Lutheran Worship hymnal as "our Lutheran Worship." The congregation loudly and boldly received the Apostles' Creed during the service. Although the Divine Service in Lutheran Worship serves as the foundation for the worship in the ELCL, it would not be accurate to say the service is like a typical LCMS service. Between sections of the liturgy, various choirs sing in the pattern of tribal chants. Some of the songs were recitations of Scripture with congregational response encouraging the choir or cantor to continue to tell the story. The only musical instruments required were the human voice and drums. Occasionally, the choir and congregation would break into a dance. After the song, the service would continue according to the liturgy.

A Choir that began dancing during one of the songs
The service bulletin is reproduced here:
ELCL Bulletin 1 Jan 2012

Pastor Washington N. Gate preached a sermon based on Luke 2:22 - 38, titled, "Jesus is the foundation of the church. Time to Name the boy born of the Virgin Mary." The sermon, delivered in about 45 minutes and interspersed with "Amens" and "Alleluias," in Liberian English went something like the following.

Pastor Washington N. Gate Preaching
The Law proscribed certain ceremonies – one of them was circumcision. Why was circumcision so important to the Jews? It was a sign that the Lord had saved the Jews, that the Lord had separated them from the Gentiles. It was a symbol of dedication and of salvation. It was a symbol of separation from idols. What was circumcision to the boy? It was the giving of his name. It was a putting of the boy into the Lord's family. Once the boy was circumcised, there was no turning back; he forever was identified as belonging to the Lord. Circumcision was required by the Law. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

Circumcision set people apart. It set people apart in their morals. People are watching you in your community to see how you live. You have been set apart in Jesus.

The new circumcision of God's people is Baptism. it is a circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God. Salvation is by God through the death of Jesus. The Church is built on the foundation of Jesus, the name given to him not by man but from God.

At the naming of Jesus, the woman was purified. Purification came from the blood of animals. It is not the blood of animals that purifies us. The holy blood of Jesus purifies us. He is our priest. He entered the temple of God and shed not the blood of animals, but his own blood that makes us righteous. He used the blood of the Lamb of God to make us righteous. It is a gift.

Now we are clearly blessed by God because we stand on a firm foundation, Jesus. We are buy back, redeeming. The church belongs to God. Jesus redeemed us from the wrath of God, not with the blood of animals but with his own blood.

Simeon said, "Let us depart in peace. My eyes have seen your salvation." I assure you that Jesus is your salvation. Let's look at the name of Jesus and the name Christ. God himself selected the Name of Jesus. Jesus saves his people. Jesus is the only solid foundation.

Why is Jesus called Christ? Jesus is the anointed one. Jesus is anointed to be our prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is God. He is true man and was raised up as the true prophet, like Moses, but even better. As a prophet he proclaims and bears witness to the truth of God.

Who is a priest? A priest offers up intercession. All Old Testament priests are a shadow of Jesus. Jesus is God and our true high priest. Unlike Old Testament priests, Christ did not have to offer sacrifice for his own sin to enter into the holy of holies. Jesus had no sin. When he entered the holy of holies, Jesus did not offer up the blood of animals. Instead he offered up his own blood. He is the perfect atonement for our sin. The Old Testament sacrifice is a shadow of Jesus. It is like a check that is signed and put into the bank. Jesus, however, is the true treasure. Jesus is your treasure.

Who is a king? A king has power and authority. Jesus is the true King who has all the power and authority of God. Jesus is the true foundation.

Jesus was born, suffered, and died for you. If you do not believe this, you will remain under the wrath of God and die forever. You must believe for yourself that Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of Man. He is called Emmanuel, the Lion of Judah. Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Amen.

The Celebration of Holy Communion
After the sermon and before the Liturgy for Holy Communion, Bishop Amos Bolay offered instruction on the Lord's Supper. He said something resembling the following:

The Lord is in the business of unity his church. One way he does this is by giving his Holy Body and Blood to those who believe his teaching and are baptized. If you do not come from one of our Lutheran congregations, we ask you to remain in your seats during the celebration of Holy Communion. We believe that Jesus gives his true body and blood in the Lord's Supper. It is his body and blood. The bread and the wine do not represent or symbolize body and blood. Jesus gives his body and blood. If you are not Lutheran, or if you are not baptized and repentent for your sins, we ask you to stay in your seats. St Paul warns against improperly eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus; such improper eating and drinking leads to judgment. For those who believe Jesus' body and blood is forgiveness and life.

After Holy Communion and before the service continued, the pastors gathered at the front of the altar to consume the remaining body and blood of Jesus. 

In total, the service lasted about three and half hours.

Dr. Lehenbauer, Bishop Bolay, Dr. Collver
In the background between Bishop Bolay and Dr. Collver is the church's water pump.

Later in the day around the time of sunset, we drove up a hill that over looks the army barracks and the ocean.

The sunset.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 2 January 2011 in Monrovia, Liberia.