"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Shake It Up or Shake It Off?

IN A recent move, the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has voted to place certain redemption language on the shelf whenever they are communicating in the wider religious world. The Synod has approved a resolution for national discussion of this tact, to be presented and voted on at this year's nationwide ELCA assembly. This move offers the ecumenical thrust that when working with persons of the Jewish and Muslim faith expressions, the bringing others to the person of Jesus Christ shall not be mentioned. This stance is to be held in spite the clear biblical mandate from Jesus to preach, teach and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Obviously, this action now approved by the New England Synod, soft-pedals our faith and places the already apostate ELCA farther out of historic and traditional Christian heritage, and moves them closer toward cultivating a rampant religious universalism.

Here below is the text of the motion placed and approved ( I have noted in bold typeface the text that is in my opinion, the most contentious )

Resolution for New England Synod Assembly
 June 2017

Whereas the evangelical mandate of Christ to his apostles in Matthew 28:18-20 calls us to make
his teaching and presence known throughout this earth's nations
 1; and Whereas the discipleship and gospel entailed in that Great Commission is obscured and diminished if the dissemination of its witness is thought of as exclusively intended for or achieved in the conversion of others to Christianity; and… Whereas Christian discipleship and witness bids us reach out with a love that not only gives account of our faith but also genuinely values and respects our neighbors; and…

Whereas the current wording of the ELCA Constitution in C4.02b and its parallels in the model
synod and congregation constitutions ("reaching out to all people to bring them to faith in
Christ") can too easily be heard to narrow the definition and motivation of our outreach and stand as a contradiction of the good faith of witness; and…

 Whereas the ELCA has declared itself "committed to fostering unity among the children of God for the sake of the world;” 2 and, Whereas in the Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community (adopted by the ELCA Church Council, April 18, 1994) we officially expressed "our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people” and offered “prayer for the continued blessing of the Blessed One upon the increasing cooperation and understanding between Lutheran Christians and the Jewish community;” and, Whereas in the ELCA’s Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations we affirm that “encounter with living and faithful Judaism can be profoundly enriching for Christian self-understanding;” and..,

Whereas in the ELCA’s Guidelines for Christian-Muslim Relations we affirm that “the Gospel of
Jesus Christ calls Christians to mutual understanding and friendship with Muslim people in the
United States and around the world. By learning about Islam and seeking opportunities to know
Muslim people better, we bear witness to God’s saving love incarnate in Jesus;” and Whereas “the Scriptures have no single teaching about the relationship between the people of the

covenant and those who practice other religions;” 3 and Whereas "reaching out to all people to bring them to faith in Christ" goes beyond the previous C4.01 which states that "The Church is a people created by God in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, called and sent to bear witness to God’s creative, redeeming, and sanctifying activity 

1 “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3 Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World
in the world," we are called and sent to bear witness, not to "bring" which is the work of the Holy Spirit; and, Whereas Martin Luther teaches in the Small Catechism that we believe that we cannot by our own “understanding or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him, but that the Holy Spirit calls us through the Gospel;” and, Whereas Martin Luther’s theology of the cross calls into question all human efforts to speak with certitude about the pathways of God; and Whereas in the light of the growing positive and rich multi-faith engagement of the 21st century, we have come to a new humility about the question of God’s relation to other religions:

Be it resolved that the New England Synod memorialize the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to initiate a process to amend the phrase “bring all people to faith in Christ” in C4.02b and its constitutional parallels in order to achieve greater consonance with both our understanding of Christian witness and sensitivity to our interfaith contexts. And,

Be it further resolved that the resources of the ELCA enlist and consult its teaching theologians,
Bishops, and other leaders in the drafting of such an amendment for consideration at its
subsequent CWA.

Submitted by: Pr. Ross Goodman Pr. Donald Larsen Pr. John Stendahl

+ + +

 As an ordained clergy of the North American Lutheran Church, who formerly served in ELCA congregations, I find this memorial offering to be part of the demonic, liberal and progressive slide that has infected the ELCA for several decades We as the Church are not just called to rightly proclaim God's Word, but to baptize and teach. I ask, "Is it loving to cease evangelical declaration that leads to baptism, so that persons tend to continue in their scattered, lost and condemned state?"
 To offer others less than the Truth in ecumenical dialog is to shelf the exclusive righteousness of Jesus Christ and his deeds upon the cross for our salvation.  As well, to reduce the Holy Spirit's work as a category that can only occur after Christian witness is an absurdity and folly. The Spirit of God works as it wills. We cannot put Jesus our Lord on a shelf, only to call him down when convenient; and we cannot restrict his Spirit. We have been told by scripture that the Spirit will work for and with us through the Word and the Sacraments, but we cannot put the breath of God on a leash. I say to you that by grace, we of the Church were called by God through Christ Jesus... to witness in the world and work diligently in the Spirit to convert persons into the Christian faith. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Buck for a Buick!

OUR CHARACTER is inherited by those that come long after us. From the beginning then, we need to work diligently in teaching needed foundations to those who follow us on the roads of life.
 As a child born early in the years during World War 2, I sat making airplanes out of cigar boxes and brad nails while perched on a stone wall in front of my grandfather’s house. I waited each day for my father during the early mornings. I missed his laugh. He had been gone for far too long. I barely remembered his face as he served then with the US Navy in the Pacific.
 Many men in our family served back then. I missed them all… including my Uncle Carl. He was a very special uncle. I sat one day on my perch on the wall and admired that he’d driven home in a very special car. Uncle Carl had come home for several weeks on leave from the war in Europe. During his leave time, he had taken his car from storage and parked that bright yellow ’40 Buick convertible smack in front of my grandfather’s house on Shawnee Ave. in Plymouth, PA.
 The car glistened with its white soft top all ready and waiting to fall far back… so a young boy could stand too daringly up high... venturing firmly to face into the wind. Thus I sat on the wall guarding the wide-whitewall tires jealously, so that Skippy, our fox terrier, would not be able to lift his leg on them. By doing so I thought that he, heaven forbid, would stain the wide whitewalls permanently to match the pale yellow paint.
 I waited patiently on that wall. I waited building airplanes as I could until the mid-morning hours saw the sun rise high. My patience began to fade especially when I thought of riding in my Jodhpur shorts on the car’s hot, dark brown leather seats. I practiced riding with legs lifted, saying the name of the car. However, in my youth I kept saying “Buck” instead of “Buick”.
 My glee arose, however, when my uncle stepped out on the porch dressed in his army uniform. He grabbed up our Skippy and called for me to load up in the front passenger seat. Oh, the brightness of it all! A ride in the Buck was at hand. Even today I remember that scene humorously when I consider the matter. For you see… little did I know that the terrier and I were both riding as bait.., for uncle trolled through nearby streets looking for pretty girls.

 Tradition has its followers. Indeed, Buick automobiles were part of my household for several generations. You see, those cars were truly American. Buick holds the oldest active American marque for an automobile. The original Buick Motor Company was the cornerstone for General Motors in 1908. My grandfather had himself worked many years for a man who drove a fancy green roadster, one of the first generation of Buick cars in town. An elder in the Welsh Baptist Church down the street from the wall where I sat making airplanes as a boy, he was a man who had a faithful employee who took care of the car. A slightly-injured miner who’d retired next door to us, earned extra income as he washed the car regularly and polished the brass headlamps once each week. Unfortunately, having persistently leaked oil a bit because gasket technology was also in its infancy, the car eventually was replaced by a bigger, black four-door Buick Special.

 I remember that in the early ‘50s, after that war was over… the stone wall on which I’d sat echoed smooth sounds of many a Buick straight-eight cylinder engine, powering through a silent Dyna-flow automatic transmission. These were engineered far beyond the prideful boast of the first turn signals to ever to grace a car.
 The war was indeed over and cars became bigger. Returning warriors like my father had come home. Families whose men found worthy work could afford new cars and houses, and were soon motoring to the Welsh Baptist church in large cars like the Buick.

 Buick was a car that seemed to mean success. That car spelled upper-middle class. It meant that a family was growing. My father said that you could usually tell the income, family prodigy and social pride of a man based on whether he drove a Chevy, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick or Cadillac… and also where he sat in church on any Sunday morning. As well, he then warned that the quest for power and position are often the roots of prideful sin.
  Indeed power was hard at work for Buick. You could no longer get a new inline 8-cylinder Buick after ‘53. The car maker dumped the sturdy straight eight, and topped a V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor.
 The combo took its place beneath all hoods of newer models. Buick pushed the engine size to greater heights, as the 401 c.i.d. V-8 engine entered the struggle of engine vss brakes. A heavy weight in both pomp and circumstance, the late ‘50s Buick needed big wheels… and big, finned drum brakes to curb the engine power. Buick’s high performance models were soon tried out on the test track as prototypes from the division vied for attention against the Corvette. Finally, during the ‘70s, Buick got very radical by putting turbocharged V-6 power beneath the Regal hood. Painted in somber and threatening black, these cars boldly cast stones hard against the rock engineering wall that had believed that bigger was always better.
  I remember driving one of those dark beasts when I was still attending seminary part-time. The magazine for which I worked had garnered the car for a photography session. As I stepped on the accelerator pedal, the engine barely squeaked the tires, and then went “Whoosh”. I found out rapidly that a new generation had been born. The wind that had blown in a young man’s hair during WW2… had been engineered into a small engine in order to blow the mind.

  Now, both Buck and I have traveled a far way it seems. For as I accepted the graceful privilege of being a pastor within my Lord’s church, the dust raised by generations of family and cars carried me into the auditorium of the University of Rhode Island. And oddly while I knelt... like the sound of a big block Buick 455 V-8, the "whoosh" began faintly, almost unheard during many verses of “Amazing Grace” as sung by a large choir. I soon could hear no less. I understood then the gift of the Spirit of Pentecost as spoken in the biblical book of Acts.
 Was it a trick of my excited mind? In retrospect I don’t believe so. For weeks later, a parishioner from Stockholm, Maine gave me a picture that was taken at my ordination. Within it I was pictured as kneeling alongside another ordination candidate. She has become a good friend over the years. We were both ordained on steps that made a rock wall seem soft. What seemed to be a photographic anomaly... was present above us in the picture. Flames are clearly seen. Seeing the photo, some have said it was a defect in the self-developing film. Others have said it was a reflection. I rather think that, “Whoosh” said the Holy Spirit.

 As I consider this now, though a few generations have passed since my days of making airplanes on a rock wall, the sound I heard repeats that which I said loudly to chase our dog from lifting his leg on the whitewalls. “Whoosh” is yet said as the Spirit comes to us in baptism. That sound, often unheard by sinful ears, is divinely spoken to chase away evil demons. Its echoes speak softly to us at the communion rail when God is forgiving us our sinful ways of war and broken families.
 “Whoosh” is the sound that I feel which marks when God, through his Son... is preserving us… echoing across the ages in faith from one Christian generation to another. Thanks be to God for all that is in that wondrous sound... for especially today I thank our Creator… for loving uncles and old Buick cars that sat before me when I was yet a very lonely child.

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