Smoky Mountain Reflections #195
Every 3 years our church body holds a convention to conduct its business. This will take place next year in Tampa Florida when around 1200 pastors and laymen representing our 600 circuits will gather for that purpose. In preparation for that event a theme is chosen, and much important parliamentary correspondence will flow between our congregations and the Synod offices. In the year preceding the convention all 35 districts conduct their conventions for the same purpose. The office our synod president produced a report for those conventions to held everyone prepare for next years convention. This is a 45-page document with a lot of very valuable information so I am going to try to give you a reader’s digest version of this report over the coming months. Here is the first installment.
The theme of our Synod convention in 2019 is “Joy:Fully Lutheran” 1 Thess 5:16-24. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
“Rejoice always.” St. Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians, who had “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6).1 In the face of a world that moves from one tragedy to the next, and in a church body full of saints who happen every one to be sinners too, being “Joy:fully Lutheran” might seem a pipe dream. Not so. In what follows president Harrison makes the case for the beautiful nexus of being “Joyfully” and “Fully” Lutheran. The Gospel is a joyful message that takes sin away and produces joyful saints. This blessed Gospel of Christ’s free forgiveness enlivens every teaching, every aspect of being Lutheran. “Joy:- fully Lutheran” is not a program but a divinely wrought attitude, born of the Word of God, which brings repentance. A portion of this report takes up the demographic challenge of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The facts are elucidating. If we don’t know the facts — that is, why we face what we face — our response will not only miss the target, but we may also be led into unhealthy, unbiblical and negative attitudes that will only exacerbate the challenges, weaken our biblical Lutheran convictions and rob us of joy in Christ and each other. After describing the statistical material, I offer some “answers” along the way. We must focus on being biblical, on knowing the Scriptures and acting in accord with the Word of God. We must focus on being Lutheran, on knowing our own confessing documents and the fabulous strength and joy they afford us. Being Lutheran Christians is our gift, our witness and our vocation in this world — for the sake of the Gospel in the world! We have blessings aplenty. Seminaries, The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) and the International Lutheran Laymen’s League (Int’l LLL) are vibrant, The Lutheran Church Extension Fund, The Lutheran Federal Credit Union, The LCMS Foundation, Concordia Plan Services, Lutheran Schools, universities, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), We have some 15,000 people Synod-wide trained in disaster response. Our church is known far and wide for the excellence of its relief work. World Relief and Human Care continues to provide mercy far and wide. Much more could be noted. A multitude of congregations, church workers, mission societies and institutions of mercy serve millions in the name of Jesus. Our Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (LCRL), under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, is up and running in Washington, D.C.
However, in the coming months we will look at a number of challenging matters, presented by the office of the president. It is my prayer that these articles derived from that report will encourage and strengthen you as a spiritual priest. I pray, that as we face challenges with the Word of God, we will continue to grow together in unity, ever more “diligently joined in unity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, works of love and such” (SA II IV, 9).2 And all of this so that “our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4).
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison Palm Sunday 2018
Edited and reduced by
Pastor Porter Saint Paul Lutheran Church Sevierville TN