* TWO NEW SERIES
This month we are introducing two new series of articles which we trust the reader will find edifying. Both are intended to aid us in what is surely a highpoint of the Christian life–the worship of our Savior-God.
The series on “THE WORSHIP SERVICE” first appeared in the Immanuel Home Messenger (1993-94), the newsletter of Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minnesota when the Rev. L. Dale Redlin was serving as pastor. Pastor Redlin, now in semi-retirement, wrote the series for his congregation for the good reasons explained in the first installment.
The series on the Lord’s Prayer was first written for the members of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Corpus Christi, Texas by the congregation’s pastor, Daniel Fleischer.
Though neither series was written originally for the Lutheran Spokesman, with the writers’ permission we are adapting them for purposes of sharing them with a wider audience.
May we add that, together with the Lord’s Prayer series, we are printing Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism on the various petitions. There are a number of different translations of Luther’s catechism at use among us. For comparison’s sake we are printing the version Pastor Fleischer uses in his articles (the blue 1943 Concordia Publishing House version) along with the most recent version introduced among us (the red 1988 version of CLC Pastor [now Professor] Mike Sydow).
Ours is a day when church growth enthusiasts like to suggest that Christian worship services need to be enhanced by all sorts of special “draws” to bring people into church–and then even more to keep them coming back. We are among those who have resisted the trend. Having said that, may we add that as the first installment in “THE WORSHIP SERVICE” suggests, every change or variation in the “page five” worship service is not necessarily bad. (Speaking for himself as a pastor, your editor is thankful for the recent Worship Supplement 2000 made available for use in our CLC congregations by ILC Professor John Reim. It provides a few supplemental hymns and and alternative liturgies.) At the same time, there is much to be said for uniformity–that is, for maintaining a common and thus more familiar setting by which God’s people can worship Him “comfortably” in spirit and in truth.
* A THIRD SERIES
There is yet a third series beginning in this issue. Pastor Wayne Eichstadt of Immanuel, Mankato has, upon request, provided us with a series of four articles under the title “FACING HOMOSEXUALITY.”
This timely writing first appeared also in the newsletter of Immanuel congregation.
* ‘PRAYERS FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY’ WEEK!? (The comments which follow have been adapted from the January 23, 2000 bulletin of Grace Lutheran Church, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; Paul Fleischer is pastor)
This week is currently being celebrated. Evidence of it locally are the ecumenical services with pastors from the Roman Catholic, ELCA Lutheran, Methodist, and Community churches exchanging pulpits, no doubt bringing messages which contain little more than the shallow, watered-down theology so common to ecumenicists. There will doubtless be much talk about “love” and “building bridges over what divides us” and so forth.
We are among those who choose not to participate. On our part, we refuse for conscience reasons bound in the Word. Those who do participate can do so only by agreeing to disagree–say, compromise!–on Bible doctrine. As ‘prayers for Christian unity’ are offered, how can this be done with clear conscience before God who in copious passages in His Word is so explicit in His warnings against false teachers and teachings? (Yes, we know the answer to our own question. In a day when ‘truth’ is a relative thing, doctrine is no longer seen or considered as important [or even knowable!], and surely not as divisive.)
In addition, make no mistake who is behind all this call for unity. It is the Roman Catholic Church. We read that this week the pope welcomed “a significant representation of the world’s non-Catholic Christians” to the Vatican’s special ecumenical service marking the Week for Christian Unity. “Delegates from 23 Orthodox and Reformed churches and communions attended the Holy Door ceremony. . . . ” Also mentioned again is that the year 2000 has been dubbed a “Holy Year.” This calendar year the pope gives “Roman Catholic pilgrims plenary indulgences–or full remission of temporal punishment for sins–when they enter the Holy Doors of Rome’s major basilicas to confess their sins and pray for the church.”
In regard to all this we have read this assessment–in our view, a correct one–in a recent magazine: “The first doctrine that must give way for the Roman-led ecumenical movement to succeed is the doctrine of Scripture alone. Luther and other reformers risked life and property to maintain that all teachings and teachers must be judged by Scripture alone. Only because the teachings (traditions) of the Roman Church are made equal with Scripture can doctrines such as purgatory and indulgences be taught. Protestant leaders who reject the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God have little problem embracing the Roman Church” (Vine & Branches, Winter 1999, p. 10).
On the subject of unity, Luther one time put it like this: “Word and doctrine are to create unity or fellowship. Where they are one and the same, the rest will naturally follow; if not, no unity will abide anyway. Therefore do not speak to me of love or friendship when anything is to be detracted from the Word or the faith; for we are told that not love but the Word brings eternal life, God’s grace, and all heavenly treasures. We will gladly keep the peace with them in an external way, as we should do with everybody in the world, even with our worst enemies . . . but in doctrine and Christian fellowship we want to have nothing to do with them. Nor do we want to consider them brethren. . . . ” (What Luther Says, Vol. III, #4546, p. 1411).
In some quarters of conservative Lutheranism a call has gone out for a second Reformation. We are sympathetic with the call, but will not hold our collective spiritual breath waiting for such an event to happen. God alone can or will bring about such a movement if He deems it good and necessary. Our concern must remain with ourselves and our on-going stance on the Word.
That Word, for example, directs: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31ff). “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10). “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Rom. 16:17f). “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3ff–NIV).
Lord God, help us to speak the truth in love even as we stand fast in your Word of Truth which alone fosters true unity.
* LB – AAL UPDATE — (We print this article as one which is consistent with biblical fellowship principles endorsed by the CLC. It appeared in the November 12, 2000 Sunday bulletin of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minnesota; Pastors are Paul D. Nolting & Wayne Eichstadt.)
Immanuel congregation and our CLC have identified the Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans as unionistic bodies to avoid. These two fraternal benefit societies involve their members in supporting church work in false-teaching church bodies. Evidence of this appeared again in the November issue of the Metro Lutheran, where one headline proclaimed: “LB, AAL distribute $1.5 million to nation’s three largest Lutheran bodies.” The ensuing article explained that “LB/AAL funds provided $700,000 to the ELCA, $500,000 to the LCMS, and $300,000 to the WELS. ELCA leaders say their funds will go to 30 separate ministry projects . . . LCMS will spend its funds on 26 ministry initiatives . . . WELS funds will enable the synod to pursue an unspecified number of projects, and ‘will provide opportunities in ministry otherwise not open to us.'” Clearly LB/AAL are involved in church work and involve their members in the sin of unionism. Our God urges us to “beware of false prophets” (cf. Mt. 7:15), not to support them. He urges us to avoid those who “cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned” (cf. Rom. 16:17), not to provide financial help for their ministries. May the Lord continue to bless our efforts to sound a clear trumpet in a time when fewer and fewer people remain committed to a biblical confession!