Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sermon for July 4

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 3-4th, 2010
Text: Luke 10:1-20

Dear Friends in Christ,
In the days leading up to the American Revolution, two things were very important. First was the sharing of accurate information about what was happening. Second was the education of the general public. Most Americans had little concept of governmental theory and individual rights. They hadn’t really thought these things through. So men were sent out throughout the thirteen colonies carrying news. Sometimes they would take it to newspapers. In places where the press was censored they might simply give the account at various locations - often taverns or churches. These men also carried with them pamphlets like Thomas Jefferson’s “On the Necessity of Taking Up Arm” and Thomas Pain’s “Common Sense”. Such men were not sent out to do their own thing. They carried a specific message. Part of their work was to educate people as to why it was necessary to separate from Briton. The common people didn’t always know this and needed to be taught. Without this education campaign, the American Revolution would have never happened.
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus sent out seventy-two of His follows to preach. They weren’t just to preach anything. They were to preach the words that Christ had given them. This is a crucial point in understanding their work and Christian preaching today. They were sent out to talk about Christ. They were to warn people that the Kingdom of God was already among them. The point here is that their preaching was to have a specific content. This is true today as well. Christian preaching is to be about Christ. It is to be drawn from Holy Scripture. And yet this idea is under attack. A recent letter put out by a liberal group called Jesus First was claiming that the vast majority of people in the Missouri Synod held certain beliefs, as though this made them right. This is nonsense. Majorities don’t determine what is right teaching. Only the Word of God can do this. Brian McClaran, one of the so called emergent church gurus, stated that doctrine is to be determined by observing the pagans on the mission field. It is hard to imagine that anyone who said such a thing would be taken seriously. Yet, McClaran sell tons of books and is in constant demand as a speaker. What’s wrong with his position? Well, first how would the pagans know anything about God? That’s what it means when we call them pagans or heathen. They don’t know anything about the true God. So observing them would not reveal God. It would reveal godlessness. Further human observation can only see the things of this earth. We cannot see the things of God. In addition humans will never agree. So if you base the content of Christian preaching on human observation, there won’t be one Gospel but many false gospels.
True Christian preaching is drawn from the Word of God. Only then will there be a clear message. Only then will that message have authority. You see, what we do not and cannot know, God reveals to us in Holy Scripture. It comes from outside of ourselves. This is crucial to understanding the Gospel. It comes from God, not from ourselves.
Now it is not odd that people get it wrong today. Notice how the disciples came back all excited at the miracles that they had performed. Christ is less than impressed. The reason for this is that the disciples were excited about the wrong thing. The Scriptures do not say that they said anything about their preaching or about people coming to repentance. In other words they should have been excited because people listened to their preaching and came to faith. Instead, they were excited by the miracles. It was the old “look at me! look at me!” syndrom. The day would come when the miracles were no longer there. But the Word of God endures forever. Even after this world is gone, the Word remains.
Even locally, in our area, we have pastors and congregations that want flash and glitz. They will not tolerate the Word. What is lost? It’s very simple, if you lose the Word, you lose the words “your sins are forgiven.” You lose the words “you have eternal life.” You lose the words “the kingdom of God is among you.” For us to have the forgiveness of our sins, it must preached from our pulpits and taught in our classrooms. In other words, Christian preaching must have a specific content. That content is that we are sinners. That we sin with every breath. That we incapable of pleasing God by our own power. But that Jesus Christ has died for our sins and gives us forgiveness and life. That’s a message of repentance. You won’t learn that by observing pagans. You can only learn that by reading the Word of Holy Scripture.
Christ sent out the seventy-two to preach to the people. They came back excited that they could chase demons. Christ warns them that this not important. What is important is what they preached - that we are to repent of our sins because Christ is here. Christ is here, not to condemn, but to give forgiveness and life.

July 2010 Newsletter

From the Disk of the Pastor July 2010

Dear Friends in Christ,
We’ve come to the moment when the future of our church body will be decided. I do not over exaggerate this. We are at a time when American Christianity is in crisis. Particularly hard hit are liberal mainline Protestant church bodies. Many of them are bleeding members so rapidly, that the date the last member leaves can be calculated - its close at hand. I’ve heard 2017 for one fairly large church body, in the 2020's for some others. Some of this is demographic. The members had fewer children, so as they die off they leave fewer behind. Some of it has to do with the fact that mainline liberal Protestantism has nothing to offer people who are truly struggling with issues of sin and death. It also has to do with the fact that people see their churches increasingly controlled by church bureaucrats, and they as members are blocked from having any influence on the direction of the church.
The LCMS in the one old mainline Protestant church that is not liberal. Lutheranism is unique in that it has two large church bodies. In other confessional families the conservative churches are secondary churches, that is a fraction of the size of the large, liberal one. So there is really only one large Presbyterian church body, one large Methodist church body and so forth. Up through the presidency of A.L. Barry, numbers wise, we didn’t look much like the liberal mainline churches. The average age of our members was quite a bit younger, and our membership was not moving too much in either direction. Since President Kieschnick has become president, the rate of decline in membership has increased sharply. A number of pastors and congregations have left the LCMS. Splinter groups like the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) have come into existence. Shadow synods within the synod like the Augustana Ministerium have been formed. The synod also shows increasing financial stress. (It should be noted that many pastors left the LCMS during the presidency of Dr. Barry, but most of them did not take their congregations with them and they did not remain Lutheran. These pastors most often became Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.)
The question then before us is whether we will follow our liberal brethren in the path of church body destruction or whether we will choose a different path. The proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force would make our church body look very much like a liberal mainline Protestant church in terms of our structure. It would take away many of the options of influence available to the grass roots of our church. This would only accelerate the decline. Funding of the synod would take a huge hit. This new structure would cause us to begin to eat ourselves. By that I mean that we would have to begin to sell off assets, such as college campuses, just to pay our day to day bills. Bankruptcy of the national church could come very, very quickly.
What are the answers? One is demographic and cultural. The Christian Church will likely be smaller in the U.S. in the decades to come than it has been in the recent past. So to a certain extent, declines are to be expected. But how can we minimize this or even counteract it? Focus the church body upon the Word of God. A church body in the Word and driven by the Word will have a message for a dying world. It will become the place to be. Keep it and make it even more to be a grass roots church body. Let the Word come down to the people and let the people respond to the Word. Their industry, creativity, skills, and talents can accomplish far more than we would ever imagine. But first we must make all these things captive to the Word of God. Then God’s work will be done among us.

Rev. Jody R. Walter

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:1204-105

Sermon for June 27

The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
June 27, 2010
Text: John 15:1-11

Dear Friends in Christ,
What a contrast we have before us in our church today. We celebrate the bold confession of God’s Word that was made at Augsburg by our forefathers on June 25, 1530. At the same time we wonder what will happen with proposals at our convention that would make the by-laws and rulings of commissions more important than the Word of God.
Let us review the facts of the matter. In 1529, Emperor Charles V was determined to end the religious controversies that had racked Germany for more than a decade. He had declared Martin Luther to be an outlaw, but his teachings continued to spread. Charles had been unable to act against Luther and his followers by a series of wars. Finally, defeating the Turks at Vienna, Charles had won the wars. He demanded that all the princes of Germany join him in a Corpus Christi procession - that is a parade through the streets of the city of Speyer following after a piece of consecrated communion bread. Several princes, led by Duke John the Steadfast of Saxony, refused to obey the emperor’s command. Finally, Charles ordered Duke John and the others with him to present their confession of faith. The document was prepared by Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s co-worker. It was presented on a steamy hot, June 25. It was read before the emperor by Wittenberg lawyer and scholar Christian Beyer. The emperor rejected the document, but Duke John and the others held firm. Soon many other leaders in Germany rallied behind the Augsburg Confession. The Lutheran Church was born.
The root of the conflict, then as now, was authority in the Church. Is the Word of God, the only authority in the Church, or is there something else. The Word comes from God. He inspired men to write these things down. These men were termed prophets and apostles. Prophets had to give signs and make predictions that came true. Often God even told people to ask for a sign. Apostles had to have seen the risen Christ and be appointed to their office by Christ Himself. We don’t know who all the apostles were, but we can name fourteen for certain - the surviving eleven disciples, Mathias who was chosen to replace Judas, Jesus’ brother James, and Paul. We cannot say if there were or were not others. These men affirmed the Old Testament and quoted from it frequently. The Epistle to the Hebrews is nothing other than a commentary on the Old Testament. They also add their own writings - what we call the New Testament. This Word of God is also termed the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures. We know of no word from God apart from the Bible. Martin Luther was emphatic on this point. We are not limiting God in saying this. Rather we are taking Him at His Word. Revelation 22:18-19 says: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” If I were to claim some other authority, whether it be a direct revelation or some church rules, would I not be adding to the Word of God? And if were to follow this other authority in place of the Bible, would I not be taking away from the Word of God?
Throughout the history of the church on earth, there have been all sorts of attempts to take us way from Scripture alone. It was claimed that the Bible is too hard for people to understand. They must listen instead to the church. Certainly, it is God’s will that His Children listen to faithful teachers. But they are to judge who is faithful and who is not by comparing what is said to Holy Scripture.
Why is this important? What does it mean to abide in Christ? What does it mean to be a branch connected to the vine? It means that we have God’s Word in us. God’s Word is really the sap nourishing us. This is why without Christ and His Word we can do nothing. Without the Word, we are dried up branches to be gathered for the fire. What Christ is saying in our text is really very simple. We must be faithful to the Word of God. That includes reading and studying that Word regularly. It means hearing that Word publically read and preached. It means conforming our lives to the Word of God. It means conducting the affairs of our church in ways that are in accord with the Word of God. It means that the Word trumps all constitutions, by-laws, Robert’s rules of order and other church rules. For these are rules of men. They must always be under the Word of God. And if the word of men is in conflict with the Word of God, the Word of God must rule.
Why do we say this? Why must God’s Word alone reign supreme among us? It is because we are sinners. Our perception of reality is warped and distorted beyond recognition. Even though we are redeemed by Christ, sin still destroys our reason. Being a redeemed child of God only means that we are in the thick of the fight with sin and Satan. We, of our own reason, will never understand the things of God. They must come to us from outside of ourselves. And no man could tell us. For what man is any less of a sinner than each of us? I have no natural knowledge of the things of God. Rather Christ gives us His Word. When that Word flows through us, there is abundant fruit.
The first fruit is forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. The Word convey’s Christ our Savior from sin and death to us. Without the Word we do not know who Christ is or what He has done. Without the Word we would not have the Sacraments, wherein we become participants in the events of salvation history. Without the Word we are lost and damned.
That’s a bad place to be. So forgiveness and salvation are the first fruits of the Word dwelling in us. This then changes who we are. We are no longer the lost and damned. We are the saved. The deed is already done our behalf. Christ paid our debt in full. The law still accuses us because we continue to struggle with sin. But it also now tells us what God’s will is. In short we are to serve our neighbor. We are to help others with their needs. It might be something as simple as two farmers working together to get their hay in. It might be helping an elderly person with errands or some such thing. For those in the Word, these are natural acts, often done without thought. It is impossible to not do them. Yet, these are quite properly the fruit of God’s Word flowing through us.
Christ said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.” We live because Christ, through His Word, lives in us. It is then the Word that creates and governs the Church. Five hundred years ago, our forefathers insisted that the Church be governed by Scripture alone. They were cast out of the papal church for this bold confession formed the Lutheran Church. We too need that same spirit of John the Steadfast. For we also are called to demand Scripture alone.

Sermon for June 20

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
June 19-20, 2010
Text: Luke 8:26-39

Dear Friends in Christ,
Romans 10:17 says: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This is also saying, by implication, that miracles don’t produce saving faith. We see this illustrated in the book of Exodus where the Children of Israel see great miracle after great miracle and they continually rebel against God. In spite of all the things that they saw God perform through Moses, they still didn’t trust in God. This then begs the question of why Christ performed miracles. Moses taught the Israelites that miracles authenticate the Word. A true prophet would perform signs to show that he was indeed from God. Of course no prophet had come close to the signs performed by Moses. Moses was the greatest of the prophets. He had performed the greatest miracles and given them the most important parts of God’s word. Miracles were also intended to teach. They were to teach that God is the One who saves. How could the waters have parted for the Israelites and closed in to drown the Egyptians? No human power could do this. Even if it were shown to have been a phenomenon of nature, the timing is too perfect for it to have been a coincidence. It must have been the hand of the God of nature. In addition miracles show that God has power over all things. Many of Christ’s miracles are intended to show that Christ has power over sin and the author of sin - the devil. And of course if Christ rules over the devil, then also His minions are under His authority.
Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ. That is the source of true saving faith. That brings us to our text. Christ traveled to a region on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Here the people were not Israelites. So Christ is preaching here to Gentiles. He is immediately confronted by a man who is possessed by many demons. It is instructive that the man lives among the dead. For the devil and his minions are the author of death. This man is in bondage to death, in a very literal sense. Jesus immediately commanded the spirits to leave the man. The demons know who Jesus is and beg Him not to torment them. By this we would say that the demons are asking not be shut up in hell, but that they be allowed to continue to roam the world. To that end they ask to be allowed to enter a heard of pigs. The pigs, tormented by the demons immediately drown themselves. It is interesting that the pigs will not tolerate the presence of the demons. One presumes that the demons then returned to hell, their plan to remain on earth thwarted.
The man then becomes a follower of Jesus and listens to Jesus’ teaching. The begs to remain with Jesus, but Jesus sends him away. He instructs the man to tell everyone what God has done for him. Now, Jesus is not telling the man to go around and give his testimony. He is commanding the man to tell people what God has done. So the message he is to proclaim is all about God.
There is much to glean from this text, and we will surely not cover all of it. The man is freed from the demons, then he sits and listens to Christ. The sign opens the man up to what Christ has to say. Miracles and teaching always go together. Christ here is confronting Satan’s kingdom head on. He is driving the demons from the world. But a more important cleansing happens whenever sins are forgiven. Certainly, here also Christ forgave the man’s sins. Forgiveness is ultimately what drives the devil away. For sin is the power of Satan. Where sin is removed, Satan’s power is broken. And so this miracle really is a picture of what happens when our sins are forgiven. God throws Satan out. He is the divine bouncer, tossing Satan out of our hearts by forgiving our sins. He new sherif in town saying to Satan, this world isn’t big enough for the both of us.
We also must take note of the nature of the change in the man. He no longer lives in death, but among the living. But the change is not one that the man made. He didn’t do anything. Things changed because Christ acted on the man’s behalf. This is true of us as well. Any change that comes about in our lives is not achieved by our efforts. Our efforts to reform our lives always fail. Thus St. Paul will say that the good works he does are not his work at all, but Christ living in him. American Christianity is filled with all sorts of Christian self help notions. The typical Christian book store is filled with this nonsense. We see numerous books that tell us: Follow this plan and you will make yourself a better Christian. All such books do is make us self righteous pigs rushing to destruction. That’s because we can’t cast out the demons. Only Christ can cast them out. He casts them out with the forgiveness of sins. The change comes because Christ declares our sins forgiven. Then we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We don’t make ourselves new creations. Christ creates us anew in the waters of baptism. And it is interesting that the pigs fled the demons by plunging into the water. Here we have a picture of the old man being drown and the demonic powers being driven out in the waters of baptism.
Christ cast out demons to show that He alone has power over sin, Satan, and death. He teaches us here that we are helpless before the powers of darkness. But Christ drives out the demons. He drowns the old man of sin, and raises us to life as His new creations. Yes, this is acted out in Baptism. But the power that works this, acting through baptism, is the forgiveness of sins.

Sermon for June 13

The Third Sunday After Pentecost
June 12-13
Text: Luke 7:36-8:3

Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the problems with the Gospel accounts is the fact that we have similar events recorded in the Gospels, that may or may not be the same event. In John 12 we have the account of Mary the sister of Lazarus anointing Jesus’ feet. Though the event seems the same, it probably is not. For that took place in the home of Lazarus, after Lazarus was raised from the dead. Here, in Luke 7, the event takes place in the home of a Pharisee who does not appear to be a follower of Jesus. Further, the event in John 12 clearly takes place in the week before Palm Sunday. This incident appears to be taking place much earlier in Jesus’ ministry. So Jesus has his feet washed with ointment or perfume and dried with a woman’s hair more than once.
Culture can be cruel. Part of the cruelty is that it is about what’s on the outside. In the 1920's a man wanted to criticize the lack of charity in the world. His name was Harold Grey. He created a comic strip about a little orphan girl. Often the strip lampooned the rich for their lack of concern for their fellow man. The strip was a hit and Grey himself was a popular guest at many parties. He met many of the real life wealthy. His own view of the wealthy began to change. And so did the comic strip. The girl was adopted by a wealthy man named Oliver Warbucks. Most people just remember him as Daddy Warbucks, the wealthy man who adopted Little Orphan Annie. What Grey learned is that reality is often different than perception. Many of the wealthy were in fact, kind, honest and caring people. But many did not see or understand this. Thus, to this day, we see the wealthy, as a group, pilloried in popular culture.
In Jesus day, there was a culture that then, like now, focused on the outward, and often ignored reality. Pharisaic Judaism focused upon ones place in the community. It focused on one’s outward piety and character. Reality was often different. It was a culture where the pillars of the community were often rotten to the core. They would make a great show of praying several times day. The would literally have Bible verses sown into their clothing. Yet, they would, behind closed doors engage in great debauchery and often would cruelly oppress the poor, whom they were supposed to be helping. The Pharisees would look down at those who were perceived to be less faithful than they were. In many cases, they looked down upon those whom they sinned against. This is true to this day. Research conducted in Israel has shown that the more orthodox a rabbi is the more likely he will visit a brothel. So here we have a proud Pharisee and a sinful woman.
Scripture does not tell us what this woman’s particular sins were. But the fact that she was publicly known as a sinner suggests that she was probably a prostitute. This was a culture that forced women into such a life. Often those who most railed against such women, were themselves the most guilty. It is likely that this Pharisee had himself sinned against the woman in one way or another, either by direct act, or by his indifference. Such women were often broken by their guilt and shame. They were desperate for some way out.
The woman anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. I think in any culture this would been seen as act of great humiliation. This woman was willing for humiliate herself before Christ. It was a way of approaching as a beggar, in fact less than a beggar. What does Christ do? He forgives her sins. Why was she forgiven? Because she trusted in Him. It is not her faith does the saving. It is the object of her faith. If her faith had been a rock, it would have been worthless. But she trusted in Christ. She was not disappointed.
This created a great stir among those at the dinner table. How could Jesus forgive someone their sins? Especially the sins of someone who was so great a sinner? The answer is simple. She asked. By her act of humiliation she was asking God’s forgiveness. But that doesn’t answer the first question. How can Christ forgive sins? Only God can forgive sins. This is because all sins are first and foremost committed against God. Thus David says in Psalm 51: “Against You only have I sinned.” Every sin we commit is a violation God’s divine law. Since all sins are committed against God, only God can forgive them. Not even a pastor can forgive sins of his own authority. Notice the words of the absolution - In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ. It’s like a judge who says by the authority vested in me by the state of Wisconsin... The pastor doesn’t forgive, Christ forgives through the pastor. But we are still dancing around the question voiced in our text. How can Jesus forgive? Only God can forgive. Well, who is Jesus saying that He is? Is He claiming to be a prophet. No. A prophet would speak like Nathan did to David - God has put away your sin. Christ says that He, of His own authority forgives sins. So what is He saying? Christ is saying that He’s God. Don’t let anyone deceive you with this nonsense that Jesus never claimed that He’s God. He’s making that claim right here. He can forgive sins because He is God.
Pharisees had a major problem with this. They didn’t understand sin. So I ask you, am I sinning while preaching this sermon? You would be tempted to say no, of course not. Preaching God’s word is a good thing. Indeed it is. But as a sinner, everything that I do is a sin. I can’t do anything good enough, perfect enough, with a pure enough heart to be truly good, of its own accord, before God. Everything I do is corrupted by sin. So the Pharisee speaks of this woman in our text as a sinner, but who were the sinners in that room? Everyone except Jesus. The problem was that the host and his guests did not understand that they were sinners. They all should have been groveling as Jesus’ feet begging for forgiveness. But they had lied to themselves, and convinced themselves that were without sin. Thus the woman is forgiven and the Pharisees at the banquet are not.
Jesus here shows compassion for this woman. He gives her exactly what she needs - forgiveness. It is significant to note that the early church, from the time of Pentecost took care of widows and orphans. Widows were, in essence, the first nuns. The purpose was two fold. First to help the women who were in need. Second, to remove the temptation from the men. This flows out of the reality that we are all sinners. We cannot escape from sin. But in Christ, we have perfect forgiveness. From this flows an empathy for others caught in sin. We understand the great good that Christ has done for us. This leads us to share that gift with others. So one of the ways the early church did that was by taking care of widows and orphans.
We live in a world that does not understand sin. The world thinks sin is a little thing. But sin is rebellion against God and a rejection of His law. It is not a small thing. Every person bears the curse of sin. No one is free from it. We are all sinners. Christ came to save sinners. Christ says to us, your sins are forgiven.

Sermon for June 6

The Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 5-6, 2010
Text: Luke 7:11-17

Dear Friends in Christ,
In America we tend to think in emotional terms. And in fact, for many, the reality is irrelevant so long as you felt the right thing. It doesn’t matter if the charity we gave to actually does what it says, it felt good to give. This allows groups like the Susan G. Kommen Foundation to survive. It parades itself as a women’s cancer organization when it is in fact a front for the radical pro abortion group Planned Parenthood. In fact many in our society see no relevance to the fact that Planned Parenthood was formed specifically to provide abortion services to Black, Hispanic and Catholic women. Their intentions are good, after all they just want to help women. So for Americans compassion is an emotion. It doesn’t matter if it leads to action or effective action. All that matters is that we feel the right thing. All that matters is that we feel sorry for others and that the feeling is salved in some way. That was in fact the real purpose of our social welfare system. It wasn’t intended to actually help people. It was intended give middle class tax payers the warm fuzzies. Oh, our tax dollars are helping people. Never mind that no one really, in the long run, is helped.
Alright, now its time to stop thinking like stupid Americans, put on our Biblical glasses and start to think the way the Bible thinks. Why is that important? Because the Bible is God’s Word. It reveals to us who God is, what God has done and still does, and what God’s will or law is for us. If we are thinking Biblically, we will be thinking in a radically different way than the world thinks. And many things that the world thinks are just grand, will be totally unacceptable.
Now, we come to a place called Nain. We don’t know exactly where Nain is. It is village somewhere in central Galilee. It’s not far from Capernaum. But then Galilee is a not a very big place - probably smaller than say a typical county in the U.S. Now it is not shocking that we don’t know where Nain was. There were many villages in Galilee over the centuries. Many times archeologists dig up a site and cannot identify it. And many more sites have never been uncovered. Further, as far was we know, there was nothing special about Nain. It was just this little place, like many others. You could think of many of our small villages in northern Wisconsin. There’s a lake, a bait shop in the gas station, a bar and few houses. They all are kind of the same. Nain was, for its time, kind of like that.
Jesus comes to Nain. He sees a funeral procession. Nothing unusual there. People die everywhere. Nor is it odd that it was a young man, probably in his early teens. (They were considered an adult at twelve.) Even today, many young people die. In those days, without modern medicine and such, life was often very short. It is very unlikely that Jesus raised every dead person He encountered. But what do we read? This was a widow’s only son. Now let me paint a word picture for you. I’m going to fill in some details that the Bible doesn’t tell us. But this is likely what Jesus encountered. Let’s just say the boy was thirteen. He was the oldest child. His mother is in her middle twenties, still quite young herself - still attractive, desirable. But widows are seen as subhuman in that culture. She would never attract another husband. She has some younger children - daughters. They must be fed and clothed. Her son inherited his father’s property, a house and a small field, a few chickens, and perhaps a goat or two for milk. It wasn’t much, but they had food and clothing. But with the death of her son, this woman and her daughters would be homeless and destitute. Another male relative would take ownership of all that she had. There were no jobs for women in that culture - at least no dignified ones. Most such women ended up prostitutes. It was their only means of support. This was wrong. Her family and neighbors had an obligation before God to support her in honor and dignity. But most would ignore God’s command. Most would see her as a helpless victim to be used as they willed. She was a widow. She was no longer human.
Christ saw this situation and He had compassion. But the compassion of Christ, in fact the whole idea of compassion in the Scriptures is not an emotion. Compassion is a type of act. It is something that is done out an understanding of the need of another. Compassion here is complex as well. Compassion on the women? Yes, certainly. On her daughters, if she had any? Yes. What about on the village as a whole? How was Christ being compassionate to them? He was removing their opportunity to fall into great sin with this woman. The men of the village would not be tempted to use her as the object of their lusts. They would not sin against her by failing to support her. Christ understanding all this, raised the young man from the dead and returned him to his mother. It is important to note that Jesus acted effectively to meet a need that He saw in front Him. It wasn’t enough to have said that He tried to help. It was not enough for Him to say that He felt her pain. Compassion, in the Bible, equals seeing a problem and fixing it.
We can’t do what Jesus did. We can’t raise people from the dead. But we can have compassion. We can see the need of another and fix it. Now it is not our vocation to fix all the problems in the world. Nor can we help those who will not allow themselves to be helped. It think of an alcohol abuser who refuses to work because then can’t be drinking. This is beyond our power to fix. For this there is only prayer. We pray for them. Nor does throwing money at a problem automatically help. Sometimes money is needed, but compassion money must be spent with great wisdom. It is easy to harm by throwing money at a problem. But when we see someone in need, and it is within our power to help, then we are to help.
Why don’t we help, as we should. Well the simple answer is sin. We are sinners. But that kind of generic answer isn’t really very helpful. What sin does is it makes the self the king of the universe. The universe exists to serve me. Why should I help someone else? What is in it for me? But didn’t that old Adam, that old man of sin die, when I was baptized. Well, he was drowned, but the old bugger is a real good swimmer and somehow seems to keep popping back up to the surface. Thus Luther talks of baptism daily drowning the old man by means of contrition and repentance. So it is a constant battle. We still tend to be focused upon ourselves and our own desires. As Christians we are in a constant battle over this. Am I the center of the universe or is Christ the center of the universe? Thus we are also in constant need of the Cross of Christ. Why should we fight if we have lost? Yes, we have lost this battle with our self. But Christ wins it. He sees our need and He does something about it. He puts in place an effective cure. He pays for our sins and gives us forgiveness as a free gift. That is what compassion really is.

June 2010 Newsletter

From the Disk of the Pastor June 2010

Dear Friends in Christ,
It has always struck me as odd that so many people don’t know about major events in the church that have happened in our life time. It is understandable that people don’t know about the Predestinarian Controversy, even though it was the thing that divided the LCMS from the ALC and its predecessors, particularly the Iowa Synod, for nearly a century. After all it took place way back in the 1800's. It’s in the days of our great grand parents or even great-great grandparents, in my case. Parish pastors long ago stopped preaching and teaching about it. You’d have to pick up a book and read about it. Knowing about this battle does explain a great deal about our church and its relationship with other churches, but we’ve long since moved on to other issues. But what about events that people have lived through - things that happened in their own life times? Let’s consider for a moment some of the major events of relatively recent LCMS history. These are things that have happened in our life times, which have shaped the church in a very crucial way.
Seminex, 1969-74. In the 1960's, during the presidency of Dr. Oliver Harms, concerns began to raised about what was being taught at our seminaries, particularly at St. Louis. Harms had no interest in addressing the issues. Things began to heat up in 1969, when Harms was replaced by Dr. J.A.O. Preus II. Preus was the son of Minnesota governor J.A.O. Preus I and was serving as president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. (Now in Fort Wayne, Indiana) Preus along with his brother Robert were transplants to the LCMS from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) also known as the little Norwegian Synod.
What was the issue? Many professors at St. Louis were teaching that the Bible had errors and was not, in its entirety, the Word of God. They taught that Adam and Eve were not real people, the global flood was a myth, Moses didn’t write the first five book of the Bible, and so forth. The name for this was higher criticism or the higher critical method of interpreting the Bible. Some of those trained by these men even claimed that the gospel has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins.
In the 1973 convention of synod, which met in New Orleans, the historical critical method was condemned as false doctrine and the convention ordered that this was not to be taught at our seminaries. In March of 1974, Dr. John Tietjen, the president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis was removed for promoting higher criticism. Forty-five of the fifty faculty members and a majority of the students walked out in support of Dr. Tietjen. The professors were summarily fired for abandoning their post. It should be noted however, that many would have been removed anyway, given time. The dissidents formed a new seminary which they called Seminex, short for seminary in exile. After the walk out a couple professors from Springfield were likewise removed. The Senior College, located at Fort Wayne, was closed because it too was a hot bed of liberal theology. The pre-seminary program was moved to Concordia, Ann Arbor because it was considered the most theologically solid of our colleges at that time.
The effect of this was a radical change in the training of LCMS pastors. This changed how pastors minister to you. The last of those pastors trained by the Seminex professors before the walkout, will reach retirement age in 2013. A few Seminex graduates did manage to come back into the LCMS, but those numbers are small. The other aspect of this is that men became professors at a younger age to fill the void. Thus, a whole generation of pastors was shaped by those young men who became professors at our seminaries in the late 1970's.
The Preus Controversy, 1989-1994. Robert Preus became president of Concordia Theological Seminary in the mid-1970's. He oversaw the move of the seminary from Springfield back to it original home city, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Through the 1980's he brought in many fine confessional theologians. He also tried to emphasize missions in curriculum. This brought in several professors who were influenced by Fullerism. Fullerism (after Fuller Seminary, a non-denominational school in California) basically teaches that missions is so important that anything is permissible in the name of missions. With the backing of synodical president, Dr. Bohlmann, the board of regents for Fort Wayne attempted to fire Dr. Preus. The intent, as far as can be determined, was to turn the seminary over to the Fullerite professors. There were even rumors that the seminary would be relocated to California, to a property adjacent to Fuller Seminary. This resulted in lawsuits and a great deal of legal and political maneuvering. Only two district presidents, Dr. A.L. Barry of Iowa East, and Dr. Robert Kuhn of Central Illinois, rallied to Preus’ defense. Tensions increased on the eve of the synodical convention when 32 students, who supported Preus, were not placed. Rumors circulated that they would never be placed because they had dared to speak in Preus’ defense. The 1992 convention, meeting in Pittsburgh, replaced Dr. Bohlmann with Dr. Barry. Barry immediately moved to reinstate Dr. Preus. All the ministerial candidates were also immediately placed.
However, further maneuvering followed by the board of regents who still opposed Preus. In 1993 Preus retired. Dr. David Schmiel became president of the seminary, further advancing the Fullerite camp. However, the members of the synod refused to financially support the Schmiel administration. There were memorials sent to the synodical convention demanding a formal investigation of the Schmiel administration. Schmiel retired before the convention, thus finally ending the sad affair. Dr. William Weinrich was made interim president of the seminary and immediately acted to remove the Fullerite professors. He also restored the trust of the people of the synod who again financially supported the school. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe was named to the post of president of the seminary by a new board of regents elected at the 1995 convention of synod.
The Death of A.L. Barry, 2001. Dr. Barry had announced his plans to run for one more term as synodical president. He remained extremely popular in spite of the fact that some thought him too cautious in handling some disciplinary matters - particularly Atlantic district president Rev. David Benke who was accused of unionism for participating in leading joint worship services with leaders other denominations. Without warning Dr. Barry died of pneumonia in the spring of 2001. Dr. Kuhn completed his term, but had already announced his retirement. This set off a mad scramble for the presidency. The result was the election of Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Texas district, in the summer of 2001. This was quickly shown to be unfortunate when Rev. Benke participated in the infamous Yankee Stadium service, not only with other Christians, but with non Christians. Far from disciplining Benke for this clear violation of our teachings and practice, Kieschnick came to his defense. The matter remains unresolved. Although Kieschnick was narrowly re-elected in both 2004 and 2007, he is regarded as the least supported president in the history of the LCMS.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force, 2007-2010. The 2007 convention endorsed the plan for a blue ribbon task force, which had been appointed by Dr. Kieschnick, to propose a new constitution for the LCMS. The proposal greatly centralizes power in the office of the president. It takes a great deal of power away from the grass roots. This will be voted upon at the 2010 convention. Any portion of it that is approved will then have to be approved by two thirds of the congregations. Strong opposition has arisen against the proposal. Also a strong opposition candidate has emerged - Rev. Matthew Harrison, the director of LCMS World Relief. Our convention will again be a battle ground of opposing forces.
These are some events that every member of the LCMS should know about. All but the young have lived through them. So there is no reason not to know of these events. Each of these events have had a profound effect on the local parish, particularly on how our pastors are trained. So these are not trivial matters. May God enlighten our hearts to issues before us.

Rev. Jody R. Walter
Psalm 119:104-105
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Sermon for May 30

The Feast of the Holy Trinity
May 29-30,2010
Text: John 8:48-59

Dear Friends in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It is the last high holy day of the church year. From now until November 27th, when this church year will end, we are in the time of the church. We usher in this time with one last major festival. But unlike the other major festivals of the church year, this one is dedicated to a doctrine, rather than an event in the life of Christ or the Apostles. It is dedicated to the doctrine of the Trinity, our confession that God is One, and yet is three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Many critics will jump up and say that the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible. There are many terms that we routinely use that are not in the Bible. It has become fashionable to blame all supposed insertions into the faith on the Council of Nicea. This is rather bizarre as the man who coined the term Trinity, and wrote extensively in its defense was a North African by the name of Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian. Tertullian died about a hundred years before the Council of Nicea convened. What happens throughout the history of theology is that people start talking about something that they can’t quite express, or the expression is very cumbersome. So they invent the language needed to communicate the ideas efficiently. So very quickly Christians knew what the word meant. It had a specific content. Now they could just say or write Trinity and everyone knew what was meant.
The doctrine of the Trinity appears throughout Scripture. In Genesis 1 we have the reference to the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the deep. Many Old Testament references are less useful, unless you are already clued in. But clearly, Daniel 7 speaks of the Father and the Son. In the vision the Father, that is the Ancient of Days, gives all authority to the Son of Man. The Ancient of Days also establishes that the Son of Man’s kingdom will last forever. This is later directly paralleled in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
The Gospel of John gives us the most grist for the mill in terms of the Doctrine of the Trinity. In John 3, while speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus tells us that He is the only One who has ever seen the Father. So then, who appeared, as God to the Israelites throughout the Old Testament? God the Son - the pre-incarnate Christ. So in a very real sense Jesus is Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, in that He is God who deals with man. It is Jesus Himself who speaks from the burning bush and give Moses the knowledge of the divine name - I AM, that I AM or Yahweh. This is pivotal to understanding our text.
Jesus went to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Booths. This was a Jewish festival commemorating the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness. Jesus would argue that they were still in a wilderness - just one of a different type. Jesus confront the Pharisees with their sins. He told them that they were of their father, the devil. Much like school children the Pharisees attack back with the same charge - you are demon possessed. Christ then launches into a discourse on His relationship with the Father. It is the Father who seeks glory for Christ. It is interesting here that Christ speaks of the Father as judge, yet, in Daniel and Matthew we see this authority transferred to Christ. By this we understand that the Father is the ultimate judge, but as judge, He can appoint another to act on His behalf. This One who judges on behalf of the Father is the Son. Christ also inserts the claim that anyone who believes in Him would not die. By this, Christ is speaking of eternal death, that is damnation.
From here we get into this whole business with Abraham. Jesus says that Abraham had seen His coming and rejoiced at it. What does that mean? It means that Abraham is alive and Jesus had spoken with him. This is a bold claim. Jesus can speak with the dead in heaven. The Jews are flabbergasted at this claim. Jesus obviously isn’t old enough to have walked the earth with Abraham. That was two thousand years earlier. Then Jesus says it: “Before Abraham was I AM.” Jesus here is making a clear claim to be the God of the Old Testament. He is saying that He is Yahweh. The Jews thought of God as being in heaven. Here God was right in front of them, in the flesh. The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was saying. It was either true or the most incredible blasphemy that could ever be uttered. We see the proof of their understanding by what they did next. They picked up stones to stone Jesus. They did that because the understood that Jesus had just told them that He is I AM, that is God.
Christ make a further claim in our text. Those who are in Him live. This was true for Abraham. Abraham believed that one day, God would come in our world to save us from our sins. Now just how fully developed Abraham’s understanding was, we don’t know. But He understood in a basic sense. He trusted in the promises of God, and God counted this as righteousness. The reason why this is so, is because Christ would die on the cross for the sins of the world. This where God wants us to see Him. This is why we call the crucifix the most perfect revelation of God. The Crucifix is where we see God, as God desires us to see Him. Nor is this just the work of the Son. It was the Father’s will that Christ die for our sins. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, that Mary conceived and Christ came into the world. So our salvation is in Christ, but Christ is simply acting out the desire of the entire Godhead. So Christ on the cross is where we see God most fully revealed. Why? Because there we see the complex nature of God. We see His love for fallen man. We also see God’s justice that could not pass over sins without the sins being atoned. Sin must be punished, or God ceases to be God. But God Himself bears that punishment on our behalf. On the cross we see God the Son. That is the person of the Trinity that we see, that we interact with. Yet, in the cross we see all the persons of the Trinity. For we see the Father’s will. And we see the Spirit’s moving of events to bring this about.
The Church itself is an expression of the Trinity. For God desires only to work with mankind through means. We do not limit God in saying this. God can do anything He pleases. But when God says, this is what pleases me, we do well to listen. God tells us that He will not deal with us except through the means He has established. So through these means, the Holy Spirit conveys Christ to us. The Holy Spirit uses to preaching of the Word to teach us about Christ. But in Lutheranism, we have always understood that the real thunder is in the Sacraments, where what we learn in the Scriptures is directly applied to each of us, individually, and personally, by name. So in Baptism, the Holy Spirit places us into the tomb with Christ. In Holy Absolution, the Holy Spirit places the very words of Christ into the mouth of the pastor and tells you your sins are forgiven. And when we do private confession and absolution this becomes just as personal as Baptism. In the Supper, we become participants with Christ in His sacrifice for the sins of the world. All these things take place in the Church. The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit so that His means can be implemented and Christ is therefor given to God’s people. All this is the will of God the Father.

Sermon for May 23

The Feast of Pentecost
May 22-23, 2010
Text: Acts 2:1-21

Dear Friends in Christ,
About forty-five hundred years ago, God destroyed the whole world by a flood. He did this because the whole world was filled with evil. It was quickly clear that man was just as evil after the flood, as before. But God had limited man’s life span so that he didn’t have time to accomplish such great evil. The people of that time must as felt as though they were mere shadows of humanity compared to those who had lived before the flood. So they purposed to show that they were just as capable and began to build a great tower. God at that time confused the languages of men and scattered them across the region and eventually around the globe. It was, however, not just the languages that were confused. The knowledge of man was divided. For example, the mathematics needed to build such a structure was lost to most groups of people. It would be a couple hundred years later, at the time of Abraham, that the Egyptians re-acquired the mathematical skill to build in that way. They immediately set about proving to the world that they had it by building the pyramids.
God divided man so as to frustrate the plans of men. One has to wonder if the current lust for a one world government isn’t our own Tower of Babel which God will ultimately frustrate. But on one particular morning, May 24, 33 A.D., Babel was reversed. For one brief moment, there was perfect communication between men of all nations. The account is familiar. The followers of Jesus, about a hundred and twenty in number, were gathered, presumably for worship. There is a sound like that of great rushing wind. Perhaps the ground even shook. But it was localized in the place where the disciples were gathered. The people of Jerusalem rushed to the sound. Now Pentecost is one of the great Jewish pilgrimage festivals. So the city was bursting with people. When they arrived at the site, they heard the disciples speaking. They heard the disciples speaking and they all heard what was being said in their own native language. Scholars debate whether the miracle was in the mouths of the speakers or ears of the hearers. But it doesn’t really matter. They heard and understood what was being said. No translation was needed. For that moment, all human language became one again.
There is something that we must not miss. It is easy to miss. But we must not. It’s at the end of verse 12 - “...We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Let me edit that verse to make the point clear: “...We hear them telling... the mighty works of God.” What were the disciples talking about? They were talking about what God had done. It was all about God. Peter was not up there giving his testimony. Thomas was not up there telling about his doubts. They were all talking about what God had done. Very specifically, we can say that they were talking about Christ. They talking about how Yahweh became flesh and dwelt among men as the Man Jesus of Nazareth. They were talking about how Jesus was indeed the Christ, God’s Anointed One, who fulfilled all the Prophecies of the Old Testament. They were talking about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins - the spotless Lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sin of the world. They were talking about how Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, victorious over sin and death. They were talking about how Christ had trampled Satan under His feet, rendering him powerless and helpless. This is what the people heard in their ears, in their own tongues, on that morning of May 24, 33 A.D.
This is instructive for us. American Christianity is often long on emotion and short on substance. You look at the music of popular evangelicalism and find that the words often say next to nothing. And in many cases the focus is on me - my feelings and my emotions. I overhead a lady in a waiting room talking with a friend about how she was going to give her testimony at her church the next Sunday. It was all about her. It was all subjective. It was all about her encounter with something. I couldn’t even tell what it was that she thought she’d encountered. Can such vague and undefined faith save? No. Of course not. Anything that looks in upon ourselves is turning us away from Christ. Remember what they heard on Pentecost - the mighty works of God. Why should we want to be focused upon ourselves? We find nothing there but sin and death.
Peter does show us how we are to be focused upon ourselves. He gets the crowd to focus upon themselves. Where you might ask? In the verses after our text. We read: [David] Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, " 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:30-36) So what is Peter telling them about themselves? That they crucified Jesus. That they are guilty before God. That is what we also are supposed to see when look at ourselves. We are to see our guilt and our sin. Otherwise, see a lie. We must see that we, by our sin, made Christ’s death necessary.
What follows is also instructive. “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37-41) Here we must say that many in the crowd would have had nothing to do with the actions of the priests. They were not literally responsible for Jesus’ death. But they saw their sin and their guilt. They understood it was for their sin that Jesus died. And so for us also. We must see our guilt. We must ask, as they did, what shall we do? The answer is repent and be baptized. Be placed in the tomb with Christ. Participate with Him in His sacrifice for the sin of the world. That’s what we do in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We find life in the mighty works of God. And that is where we must be focused today. God has saved us. We do not save ourselves. We must not listen to the babble of sinful man. We must listen to the mighty works of God. For those works were not done to make God look great. Those mighty works of God, were done for our salvation. This is what is to be in our ears.

Sermon for May 16

The Ascension of Our Lord (May 13)
May 15-16, 2010 -Text: Luke 24:44-53

Dear Friends in Christ,
This past week, while I was a cemetery for a committal service, the funeral director pointed out a head stone. There was only a head stone. No body. It was the grave of a young woman who had died at sea. Her body had never been recovered. No one even knows for certain just how she died. We don’t know if the body was destroyed or remains someplace at the bottom of the sea. There are many people, for whom we have no remains. Think of those who served aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis. When their ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine, they were left in the water for several days. Some died simply from being in the water. But a large number were killed by sharks. The character of the shark hunter played by Robert Shaw in the movie “Jaws”, was supposed to have been a survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
When we think of people who lived more than a thousand years ago, not having a body is more the norm than the exception. We did find the remains of Joseph Caiaphus, the high priest who condemned Christ. But basically we could say that we don’t have definitely identified remains for virtually all the people mentioned in the Bible. So it is not unusual that Jesus’ body has never been found. But what is different in the case of Jesus is that His body could never be found in a grave. I can tell you exactly where we can and do find the body of Christ, but it’s not in a grave. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and then die again. In fact, He could not die again.
Forty days after Christ rose from the dead, Jesus led His disciples out to the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem. From there He had made His coronation entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And from there He was about to make His coronation entrance in the heavenly Jerusalem. You see we don’t believe in a dead Jesus, but a living Lord. This is a crucial point for us. For if Christ is dead, He cannot fulfill His promises. But if He is enthroned as the ruler over all things, then all His promises are valid and reliable.
It should be noted that when Christ ascended, He was engulfed in a cloud. What does a cloud do? It blocks our view. Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh, that is Jesus, is the One who cannot be seen and cannot be rendered as an image. Yet, He is present. He is hidden within the cloud. We think of the pillar of cloud that led Israel in the wilderness. We think of the cloud that covered Mount Sinai. We think how that cloud descended from the mountain and took up residence in the Tabernacle. This was Christ present with His people. So Christ ascends into a cloud. That is to show us that Christ is still present with us, even though we don’t see Him with our eyes.
There would be implications to Christ’s ascension. It would mark a major change. The disciples would now be apostles. It all hinges around the words of Christ in our text. “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” The first half of this was completed. The second half was yet to come. They were to go out and proclaim this to all nations, in the name of Christ. What were they to proclaim? Repentance and the forgiveness of sins. You want a summary of the entire Christian faith? Here it is. It’s probably the best summary in the whole Scripture. The whole of the Christian faith is repentance and forgiveness of sins. They were to show people that they were sinners. That they were in violation of God’s law. Then they were to show people that in Christ, they had perfect forgiveness of their sins. They were to proclaim this in Jesus’ name. Don’t you dare miss this point. And if you are truly well versed in the Old Testament, you won’t miss this point. Throughout the Old Testament, wherever Yahweh placed His name, He was present. I have pointed out to you many times that Yahweh, the God the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ. So if repentance and forgiveness of sins is preached in Christ’s name, than Christ is present empowering that proclamation.
There are two major points that we should take from this. One applies to us personally. The second goes to the matter of missions and is directly in question in the Missouri Synod today.
First, this message remains in force for us today. I am a sinner. We are sinners. We examine our lives in the commandments, we see that we are idolaters, despisers of parents, murders, adulterers, thieves, liars and coveters. And if we examine our lives closely enough, we will see that we break each of these commandments every day, by thought, word, and deed. If we don’t see all this we have not dug deeply enough into our lives. But we must not get frustrated in such efforts. Most of the time, God, to protect us, doesn’t let us see all of our sins, lest we fall into despair. So rather we accept this as matter of confession - that is something we know to be true even though we don’t always see it in its entirety. Instead, God allows us to see enough of our sins so that we recognize our condition - that is so that we see that we are sinners. We must repent. In Lutheran theology, the word “I” is almost always used in connection to sin and repentance. I am a sinner. I need to repent of my sins. Then Christ, though Word and Sacrament forgives our sins. This message is first and foremost for us. It is the message we still need to hear.
This also then must shape our mission work. The mission is to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. We cannot substitute a message we think is more winsome. That’s not the message Christ has given us. So much of what passes for missions today is driven by some other message. This ought not to be. This is why we have so many tensions in our church. We had a missionary recalled from Africa for baptizing people. They actually told him that if people come to him begging to be baptized, he couldn’t baptize them. In our missions here in America we have many abuses. A church in Detroit used a series on sex as a mission outreach. We now have many of our “cutting edge” pastors plunging into the emergent church movement. This takes us right back to the theology of a German theologian named Jurgen Moltman. In other words, it’s Seminex liberalism coming back under a new banner. And we’re all supposed to swallow it whole because it is for missions. But this not the mission Christ gave us. That’s why we condemned such teaching at our convention in 1973. The true mission is to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name.
Today we celebrate that Christ is our living Lord. He rules over all things. And He is still present among us. He conveys that presence by His name, His word, and most especially by His Body and Blood. Luther said that when look upon the consecrated bread we are looking upon the body of Christ. So we can do find His body among us, every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And because Christ lives and rules, repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name is proclaimed to the peoples of all nations.

Sermon for May 9

The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 8-9, 2010
Text: Acts 16:9-15

Dear Friends in Christ,
In the book of Acts, these verses are a crucial hinge point. For the first time, we see the first person plural pronoun. For those who don’t remember ninth grade English grammar, that’s the word “we”. Suddenly, without warning or explanation, the narrative shifts from they did this or that to we did this or that. The implication is rather obvious. Luke himself has now joined St. Paul’s entourage.
We are in the middle St. Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul had intended to go into the northwest corner of Asia Minor. Luke tells us that God prevented him from going there. They waited in the port city of Troas. Here St. Paul now receives a vision from God, instructing him to travel to Macedonia.
This account is instructive for us today. They waited on the Lord. They didn’t force their way in where God was not sending them. The church of today applies this in what could be termed the called and sent principle. No one claims word and sacrament ministry unto themselves. No one goes out as an evangelistic minister unless they are sent. From the earliest days of the Missouri Synod men were called by the synod to do mission work. The church called them and sent them. Men were not sent out to do whatever. They were sent to specific places to do their work. So one of the early missionaries was sent to central Tennessee. His work resulted in the formation of a congregation in Murfreesburo, Tennessee. This practice reflects what we see in Acts. It also reflects what Christ says of the Shepherd. The Shepherd enters through the gate. The false shepherd crawls in over the wall. Those men who would appoint themselves to the office of the ministry are false shepherds crawling over the wall. Those who are properly called are the true shepherds.
Paul immediately goes to a major city in the region of Macedonia. We are told that Philippi was a Roman colony. What does that mean? Roman citizens were required to serve in the army. Jews were one of the few groups that were exempted from this. When they retired from the army, as part or their severance, they received a plot of land. The problem was that there was little land left in Italy. So they would set up Roman cities in other parts of the empire. In this case, they probably took an existing village, and turned it into a major city. So most of the residents of Philippi were not Macedonians or Greeks. Rather they were mostly Romans.
There was no synagogue in Philippi. It was the custom of Jews in such places to gather outside the city for Sabbath prayers. So they went to a place where Jews might gather. Sure enough a few Jewish women gathered in that place. Where were the Jewish men? There were no Jewish men. These women would have been wives of Romans. This was not unusual. Jewish women, particularly, diaspora Jews, often married non-Jews. Diaspora Jews are Jews not living in the Holy Land. Here they meet Lydia. It says that she was trader in fine cloth. From this we can deduce a great deal. She was probably a widow with a young son. She had the management of her husbands estate until her son came age. Thus she is the head of her household. She insists that they stay at her house.
The congregation at Philippi would flourish. It would be one of the more sound congregations in the ancient church. When Paul writes to them, he commends their faithfulness and does not address any specific problem. This would be very different from Corinth or Thessalonika which would be troubled with many conflicts and false teachings. Why did God want Paul to preach there? Was it because God knew that the ground was prepared for the Gospel? That was certainly true. But it would seem that God had something else in mind. These were Romans. They would have friends and relative scattered throughout the Roman world, particularly in Italy. If the people of Philippi came to Christ, word of it would quickly spread to the city of Rome and from their to the whole Roman empire. This would continue as Paul traveled down into Greece, in particular, the city of Corinth. Corinth was a port city. Ideas that reached Corinth were quickly spread through the Roman world.
All to often, in our world today, we think we have the answers. We can tell God how to do things. Fuller Seminary in California is one of the homes of such thinking. A professor there by the name of Donald McGaveran, started something he called the church growth movement. McGaveran believed that we can make the church grow by our own machinations. Before he died, he admitted that his ideas had not worked. His chief disciple, C. Peter Wagner, concluded that what was missing was the Holy Spirit. Thus Wagner latched onto the charismatic movement, staking one heresy on top of another. Yet, from the late 1960's until the present, the Fullerite infection has grown in the Missouri Synod.
The root of the problem is that we don’t grow the Church. God does. He may use us. He may use someone or something else. Japan was one of the most resistant cultures to the Gospel in the whole world. But they love the music of J.S. Bach. J. S. Bach, two hundred and fifty years after he died, has become the apostle to Japan. Bach has won more people for Christ in Japan than all the would be evangelists over the last few centuries, put together. When we think to do it, it fails. When God does it, it cannot fail. God brings people to faith when and where He wills - not where we will.
St. Paul had a plan for his missionary journey. God had a different plan. Unlike so many of our leaders today, St. Paul listened to God. When God had a Macedonian man appear to Paul and beckon him to come to them, Paul listened. Paul, Luke, and the rest of his group went to Macedonia, and their work was blessed. The Gospel spread like fire throughout that crucial region. And from their it spread to all people groups in the entire Roman Empire. We need to repent of those times when we try to do it ourselves. We need to stop and listen to God’s word and be conformed to that word. And we need to think about what that word is saying to us. We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot do anything for God. We might be privileged to be used as God’s instrument. For that we must listen to God and His word. We must repent for those times we don’t listen to that word. For before we can tell others of the forgiveness of their sins, we must have our sins forgiven. The forgiveness of our sins of self righteousness and pride are where evangelism starts.

Sermon for May 2

The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 1-2, 2010
Text: John 16:12-22

Dear Friends in Christ,
Back in Michigan, where I grew up, originally, there were two Lutheran congregations. They were about a half mile apart, around the corner from each other. St. John was formed in Germany by a group of immigrants. Originally they were served by Pastor Sievers from Frankenlust. For those of you whose history is rusty, Sievers was second greatest missionary in the history of Missouri Synod, second only to F.C.D. Wyneken. He started numerous congregations and traveled all the way across the state of Michigan, crossed the lake and continued as far as Red Wing, Minnesota. In his later years, Sievers would become the father of foreign missions in the Missouri Synod. However, St. John suffered a split. That led to formation of this other congregation. No one today remembers why there was a split. In fact no one even remembers the actual name of the congregation. It is simply remembered by the local slang - it was the “Arbeiter” church. This name however suggests a great deal. Arbeiter means “workers”. So this was the workers church. I suspect that they were German socialist who had slipped into the immigration group, fleeing Germany after the failed revolution of 1848. When the colonist discovered this, these people were considered outcasts. The congregation they formed was part of the old Michigan synod, which was quite loose. The Michigan synod pastor serving the Arbeiter church made a bet with his head elder that he could drink three glasses of beer during the sermon and no one would know it. The pastor lined up the three glasses of beer inside the pulpit and preached on this text. Three times during the sermon, to illustrate the point that in a little while they would no longer see Christ, he ducked down inside the pulpit. No one, other than the elder, knew the real reason he was ducking down into the pulpit. No one caught on to what he was doing. The pastor won the bet, he had drunk three glasses of beer during the sermon, and no one caught on. Let me assure you than I don’t have any beer in pulpit.
Our text was spoken by Christ in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. The term Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin “mandatus” which means law or mandate. It was on the Maundy Thursday that Christ told His disciples: “I give you a new command, that you love one another.” Christ, in our text is speaking in double sense. In a little while they would not see Him. He would be crucified and placed into the tomb. But in a little while they would see Him again because He would rise from the dead. But also, Christ is pointing forward to His ascension. This is why we place this text at this time of year. We will be celebrating the Ascension in just two weeks. In both cases they will be sad. They would prefer the Christ remain with them. But these physical separations are necessary. And both will result in great joy. Christ compares this to childbirth. They are in the time of labor, but soon their will be joy of new birth.
Christ also speaks of sending the Holy Spirit. This foreshadows Pentecost. Christ here also gives us great insight into the nature of the Trinity. We often speak of the will of God being located in the Father. Christ repeated says that the He came to do His Father’s will. The Holy Spirit here is also spoken as an agent of another. The Holy Spirit will speak of Christ. He will speak what He is given to speak. This is the error of the Pentecostals, that they would make the Holy Spirit a free agent who does as He pleases. Rather, Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit always points us to Christ.
It is often said that almost all churches are in practice unitarian. We struggle with the doctrine of the Trinity. The difference is a question of unitarian in which article. Unitarian-Universalists are unitarians of the First Article. That is they equate God with the Father. Most traditional Christians, such as Lutherans, are in practice, unitarians of the Second Article. That is we equate God with Christ. And Pentecostals are unitarians of the Third Article. They equate God with the Holy Spirit. In fact, Scripture speaks of the three persons of the Trinity interacting with one another. However, Scripture show us that God revealed is God the Son - Jesus Christ. It is the will of the Father that we see God in Christ. The Father points us to the Son at Christ’s Baptism and Transfiguration. The Holy Spirit is sent to glorify Christ. So if one is thinking Scripturally, they will primarily associate God with Christ. That’s where all three persons of the Trinity want to us to look for God.
Why is it good that we look for God in Christ? Because in Christ we see fullness of God’s will for us. This is especially true when we understand how Christ interacts with mankind in the Old Testament. Christ is the One who speaks to Israel from the top of Mount Sinai giving the Ten Commandments. Even earlier, it is Christ who pronounced the curse upon mankind on account of sin in the Garden of Eden. But Christ is also the One who became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ is also the One who came to earth as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ is the One who will return to judge the living and the dead. Christ is God who deals with man. It is for this reason that we are to look to Christ as God with us.
In little while you will see me no more, in little while you will see me again. Christ will return to His heavenly Father. Christ will return to heaven. But the Holy Spirit will come and convey Christ back to us. So through the Holy Spirit, Christ is still here. It’s not just that we will see Christ when we get heaven. Rather, through Word and Sacrament, which are the means of grace, the tools of Holy Spirit, Christ is right here among us, giving us all His gifts.

May 2010 Newsletter

From the Disk of Pastor May 2010

Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the conflicts that develops in immigrant communities occurs between the first and second generation. Part of what happens is that the parents still speak their native tongue, but children are now just as comfortable in English. By the next generation very few even speak the native language. With the new language also comes a new culture with new ways and new values. Numerous books and movies have examined this theme, including the Rogers & Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song.” We have the same problem in the church. But in this case it is not a literal language that is lost. Rather, Lutheranism speaks with a distinctive language all its own. Part of what we are teaching when we instruct children for confirmation is how to speak the language of Lutheranism. The Small Catechism is our Lutheran language primer. Conservative/Traditional Anglicanism speaks a language that is recognizable to us - a close linguistic cousin. Even the language of Romanism has a familiar ring to it. Orthodoxy speaks a foreign language, but it has little influence on the American Christian landscape. But that influence is growing. It is Evangelicalism that speaks with the most radically foreign language of all. And that foreign language has had a great deal of influence, most of it bad.
The language of Lutheranism speaks factually and objectively. There is no concern with how anyone feels about Jesus or any emotional attachment one has with Jesus. The sole concern is what Christ has done for us. When one speaks as a Lutheran there is no talk of experiences. Experiences are of no consequence. Some have them, some don’t. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose victorious over death. It is because evangelicalism speak with a foreign language, that pastors don’t want people just running out to the local Christian bookstore and grabbing whatever off the shelf.
We see this most clearly expressed in hymns. The evangelical asks if you were there or advises you to go to dark Gethsemane. The Lutheran counters by saying: A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, the guilt of sinners bearing. The evangelical says “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me”. Notice here it starts by talking about me, not Christ. Anytime a hymn starts out talking about me, myself, and I it’s a bad sign. The Lutheran counters by saying: Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.
This plays a very important part in the selection of hymns for a hymnal as well as the choice of hymns used week to week. Even those evangelical hymns which are doctrinally correct, such as ”Amazing Grace”, still speak a foreign language. And if all a congregation ever sings is emotive, evangelical hymns, they cease to recognize their mother tongue of Lutheranism. With this will come the deadly false doctrines of evangelicalism. Why is it that I keep getting asked to use that piece of heresy, “In the Garden”? It’s because for many of us this has become our native language. But “In the Garden” teaches us that we are sure of our salvation because we feel that Christ is with us. Anyone who believes this has stamped their ticket to hell. Lutheranism replies with what Holy Scripture clearly teaches. We are certain of our salvation because Christ has done it, Christ has promised it, and Christ has told us this in Holy Scripture. Lutheranism counters that we trust in Christ whether we feel that He is with us or whether we feel He is not with us. We as Lutherans say that Christ is with us regardless of what we feel. We can use those evangelical hymns which are doctrinally correct, but only occasionally, so that we do not forget our mother tongue, and with our mother tongue also forget the sound Word of God.
As Lutherans we must always be aware that we speak a distinctive language of our own. This is a precious thing. It must not be lost. Where it is lost, the truth of God’s Word and salvation by grace alone, is lost as well.
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Psalm 119:104-105 “Through your precepts I get under-standing; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Sermon for April 25

The Fourth Sunday in Easter
April 24-25 - Text: Acts 20:17-35

Dear Friends in Christ,
St. Paul, here at the end of his third missionary journey meets with the pastors from the city of Ephesus. This was a great and important city at the time. Paul had worked in Ephesus previously. But increasingly, Paul was finding Christians were already present in the places he was visiting. After this brief meeting, Paul would return to Jerusalem and be arrested. The book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome awaiting trial. However, later, when Paul is in prison in Rome he says he alludes being arrested in Ephesus or Troas. It is likely that Paul remained in Rome for two years. This would be the legal amount of time a citizen could be held under Roman law without a trial. It is likely that Paul was released in about 63 A.D., continued his travels and was arrested again about 67 A.D. The bulk of Paul’s work was behind him. The Church was flourishing throughout the Roman world. Paul was also no longer a young man. He was probably in his fifties and had been traveling for about fifteen years. He had earlier spent three years in Ephesus.
As he’s passing by, Paul asks the pastors in Ephesus to meet with him in Miletus. Miletus was the port city for Ephesus. So this was a short distance. But Paul is choosing to stay close by his ship. Perhaps he was ill or exhausted. Perhaps he feared being delayed if he remained in Ephesus. He makes it clear that it is God’s will that he return to Jerusalem.
I want you to take note of the words that are used here in our text for pastors. They are elders. This would be a continuation of the Jewish terminology. The elders were the leaders of the synagogue. The word itself implies older men who were considered wise. But another word is used later. They are overseers. The Greek word is episkopus. It could also be translated as bishop. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops...” Now these pastors served small churches which were converted from houses. In fact they might well have been mistaken for houses by those who passed by. This was because while they had not yet been persecuted by the Roman authorities, Christianity still had no legal standing. In other words it was illegal to be a Christian. So there was no effort to build very large, elegant buildings. So each congregation was about eighty people or so. There would have been a pastor or overseer for each of these groups.
The word overseer is interesting in a number of ways. It implies a ruling authority for pastors. This must never be denied. But it also must be understood. The pastor is not our prince. He does not rule over our lives in matters pertaining to the civil realm, unless he is also a civil official. This would be a rare thing, though not totally unheard of. The basis of the pastor’s authority is the Word of God. He has been given, by God, the authority to publically preach and to administer the sacraments. This what it teaches us here when it says that the Holy Spirit made them overseers. Dr. Walther confirms this in his book Church and Ministry where he states that the Church is ordinarily bound to the office of the ministry to the end of time. God gives the gift of forgiveness the to Church, but also gives to the Church stewards to administer that forgiveness on Christ’s behalf. So a pastor’s authority is the Word of God - Holy Scripture. His only sword is the Word. He cannot convert people to Christ at the point of a sword. He cannot compel anything in an earthly sense. A pastor must compel with the Word of God. This is done by teaching, preaching, exhorting, and admonishing. And yes, on occasion it also includes withholding forgiveness from the unrepentant as Scripture commands that we do. For the pastor’s ruling function is simply to teach and apply God’s Word.
What must be kept in mind is that this is the flock that Christ has purchased with His blood. Pastors are a gift from God to God’s people. But the people are also God’s people. He has bought them. Not the pastor. They belong to Christ. A pastor must respect this fact. We need to expect an attitude of love and respect from our pastor. It is also an attitude that we must have for one another. For we are not simply looking at other people when we look around. We are looking at fellow redeemed. We are looking at others whose sins have been forgiven by Christ. The fact of Christ’s forgiveness changes who we are. It also changes who other people are in relationship to us. Our lives and actions ought to reflect this reality.
St. Paul then gives us a warning. There will be false teachers among you. There will be those who are promoting themselves instead of Christ. These must be marked and avoided. We should pray that God would restrain false teachers. These men and women will try to make men into their disciples, rather then disciples of Jesus Christ. What is the defense? The Word of God. Remember what you were taught. Remember what is in the catechism. Remember what our good and faithful hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” teach us.
The Church properly speaking consists of flock and shepherd. In fact, Christ appointed pastors before their were local congregations. It is those first pastors, called by Christ, Himself, who established local congregations like those at Ephesus. We call those first pastors, apostles. It was the surviving eleven, Jesus’ brother James, and probably Mathias, who was chosen to replace Judas, and St. Paul. There may have been a few others. We cannot say for certain. These first pastors were given the task of organizing local congregations so that the Church could continue to function in each place. And so with the forming of each flock came also the appointment of a shepherd. Democracy, as we know it, was unknown to them. But there is a sense, even in those earliest days, that congregations along with the apostles and other clergy from the region, together selected the pastor for that place. The clergy assured the congregation that this man’s ministry would indeed be blessed by God. The congregation agreed to receive that man’s ministry. Two thousand years later, procedures have become more formal, but the same rules apply. A pastor is put in place by the approval of both the congregation and the clergy of Church. This includes theological professors who train and judge the fitness of the men. This includes church officials who oversee the processes of getting men to various places. This includes area clergy who bless the man’s ministry with prayer and Scripture at his installation.
The Holy Spirit has established men as overseers or bishops. Today we use the term pastor, which comes from the Latin word for shepherd. God gives these men to the Church as a gift. He gives them the authority to preach His Word and to administer the Sacraments according to His command. Such men are not free, but must do what God has given them to do. All of this is done, so that God’s gifts of forgiveness and life are properly distributed according to His command to His people.

Sermon for April 18

The Third Sunday of Easter
April 17-18, 2010
Text: John 21:1-14

Dear Friends in Christ,
Scripture does not record for us all of Christ’s appearances. In some cases full accounts are given. In others there is merely a reference. This would be the case with the appearance to the five hundred, the appearance to Simon Peter, and the appearance to His brother James. I would further suggest that there were likely additional appearances which are neither recorded or referenced. Why is that? The Bible is like a legal brief. It gives sufficient data to make the point. By the standards of a court of law, what is presented is sufficient several times over. Two is the number of adequate witness. If Christ appeared alive to two people, that would have been sufficient for a Jewish court. Yet, at least seven appearances are recorded in detail. Only one of those, the appearance to Mary Magdalene, is to a single person. All the others are to two or more people at once. In the case our text we have five of the surviving eleven present. Two others were present as well. We cannot even say for certain that these are part of the eleven. We can only say that they are followers of Jesus. Perhaps they are Philip and Andrew. That would make sense, as Philip and Nathanial are probably brothers, and Andrew and Peter are brothers. Perhaps they are Justice and Matthias. The book of Acts tells us that they were witnesses to everything that had happened. Nor does our text preclude the idea that others of the disciples joined them once they were ashore.
These seven followers of Jesus go fishing. We don’t know why they did this. Perhaps, they were thinking to return to their former lives. At least three of those named were fisherman by trade. Perhaps they were restless and needed something to occupy their time. We don’t know. What we know is that they went fishing and caught nothing. Fishing is like that. Some days you do well, but other days it is though there are no fish in the water at all. At dawn someone calls to them from the shore. They are to put their nets out on the other side of the boat. Now, one would assume that such a suggestion would be seen as comic. But there is some history here. Once before they had been told to put the nets out on the other side, with rather spectacular results. They follow the instruction and instantly find the net so full that they can’t haul it into the boat. It is John who first voices what they all must have been thinking. This was Jesus on the shore. In the repetition of the sign of the great catch of fish, they see their Lord.
There are several subtleties to this text. Jesus had told them that they would be fishers of men. Fishing for men would require some certain bits of understanding. There was more than finding the fish and putting the nets down. They could work forever by their own might and cunning and they would catch nothing. The nets would be empty until God put fish in the net.
This is instructive for us as well. For this is talking about evangelism. A great heresy regarding evangelism has infected our church body. That heresy has come to us from the Arminian Reformed churches - that is the Methodists and Pentecostals. This heresy is that by our own skill and cunning we can make the Church grow. We can find the fish and lure them into the net by our games and gimmicks. This is rank heresy and it leads people to hell. How so you ask? It starts with the notion that we are doing some thing for God. As Luther tells us, God doesn’t need our works, our neighbor does. As soon as we think we are doing something for God, we are in the realm of work righteousness. You see those who teach that we can make the Church grow by our works are also depending upon their own works to get them into heaven. We can no more make the Church grow than we can get ourselves into heaven. That’s not how it works. God fills the nets when and where He wills. God fills the nets, not on our schedule, but on His.
There is a friendly warning here as well. When God fills the nets - look out. It might not be a few well spaced fish, but a net full at once. This is in fact the second miracle of our text. It’s often over looked. They caught 153 large fish. That net should have just burst open. They should have lost all the fish. But the net did not burst open. It stayed in tact all the fish were landed. When God puts fish in the net, God also provides the means for them to remain. Again this is not by human means. We do not preserve people in the faith by our power. Rather Christ preserves them in the faith. If the net is the Holy Spirit, it will not break, in fact it cannot break - even if it looks weak and stressed.
In the verses after our text, Christ charges Peter with the task of feeding His sheep. This is instructive for us as well. Peter, wasn’t just to evangelize. He was to catechize and minister. In fact, it was in the course of preaching the Word and the administering the Sacraments that nets would be filled. And when we look at Peter’s ministry in the book of Acts we see an evangelist of opportunity. Peter doesn’t set out to evangelize, but at every turn the fish are in his net. But then what about Paul? He certainly was a more deliberate evangelist. Yes, but in Paul’s case, the congregation in Antioch, with instruction from God, sent Paul out to do that special work. In other words, God told Paul this is where I’m going to fill your net. You could say that God told Peter fish out of one side of the boat and Paul out of the other.
Christ, as He continues to appear to His disciples is also now instructing them on what they are to be about. They will be fishers of men - fishers whose nets are filled by God. They are not to worry if the nets are full or empty. God will fill them when and where He wills. Nor are they to be concerned if the net will hold them. The net will hold, because it ultimately is God’s net. They can take no credit for this. It is God’s doing. This is the same as in all things. We do nothing. God does it all. We are mere instruments in God’s hands. Christ died for our sins and rose to life for our salvation. It is Christ and Christ alone. We contribute nothing. The same it true with evangelism and outreach. God fills the net in His time. We do nothing. It is Christ and Christ alone.