By Albert B. Collver
Pastor David Jurech, superintendant of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (EVAC) in Prague, recently wrote to the LCMS regarding the earthquake and subsequent disasters in Japan. He wrote, “About Japan it is very difficult to find an explanation. Only God knows why that happened, and we should not speculate about it, but rather repent . . .” (Luke 13:1–5). He went on to explain that his church is small but expressed how his church would like to provide some assistance to the Japanese. He wondered if it might be possible for his church to partner with the LCMS in some way.
Pastor Jurech’s message reflects two significant biblical themes: repentance, and care for the body of Christ and for our neighbor in need. Repentance because we do not know the Lord’s reason for permitting suffering in a particular place, but we do know that because of our sin we deserve judgment and punishment. So as Jesus said, we repent for our sin and pray for our neighbor in need. As the body of Christ we care for other Christians who are hurting. As Martin Luther writes, “This is obvious: if anyone’s foot hurts him, yes, even the little toe, the eye at once looks at it, the fingers grasp it, the face puckers, the whole body bends over to it, and all are concerned with this small member; again, once it is cared for, all the other members are benefited” (AE 35:52).
As far removed as Prague and the Czech Republic are from Japan, the Lutheran Church there hurts like you do when you stub your toe over the suffering of others in Japan. Because the Lord has given us a life together with Him and shown us compassion, we desire to have compassion on others in need both near and far from us. As a body works together for the well-being of the person, the church throughout the world (here in the United States, Prague, and also with gifts from our partner churches in Hong Kong and Korea) can work together to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan.
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Prague is not a partner church of the LCMS. In fact, the LCMS did not reach out to this church. Rather, this church found the LCMS as it sought out a church that believed the Holy Scriptures and confessed The Book of Concord. Lutheranism in the Czech Republic has a long and difficult history, beginning shortly after the Reformation. After Lutheranism was exterminated in Prague during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), it re-emerged in the 18th century as German Lutherans came to Prague. Under communism, Lutheranism all but vanished in Prague, only to emerge again in 1993. Currently, LCMS pastor Ron Stehr conducts English services in Prague.
The EVAC is not the only church the LCMS has engaged in conversations in the Czech Republic. In the fall of 2010, the LCMS signed a working agreement with the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession near the border of Poland to cooperate in externals and to work together where possible. The Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession continued to exist in hiding during the Thirty Years’ War and suffered much under communism. While the LCMS does not have fellowship with either church body in the Czech Republic, we continue in conversation, praying Jesus’ prayer that the church may be one, having a life together in Christ and with a common confession of faith.