Welcome to 2017—The Year of Faith
Faith’s 40th Anniversary Year!
85th Year of Lutheranism in our building!
The year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation!
Dear friends in Christ,
We continue our survey of Church History from the book of Professor E.A.W. Krauss from our St. Louis seminary of a century ago. This month we come across a character in Church History we met before—Count Nicholas Ludwig Zinzendorf. [Review January- March of 2016. This is also available in our newsletter archive on our Web site.] We again see the deplorable condition of Lutheranism in America. But God has not forsaken the Lutherans as He began raising up strong Lutheran voices in America.
43. MUEHLENBERG’S FURTHER ACTIVITY [part 1]
Even before the end of 1742 he visited His Excellency, Deputy Governor George Thomas, then also the English preacher of the Episcopal Church. He “was very friendly and said that he always cultivated a good friendship with our Lutheran brothers, the Swedish missionaries; he wanted also to maintain that with [Muehlenberg].”
The next day a man who had previously been an officer in the Philadelphia congregation came to him. He had gone over to the Herrnhuters but now wanted to be Lutheran again. The former Lutheran choir leader and brewer, had also gone over to Zinzendorf and had brought along a church register and a copper communion chalice. Muehlenberg wanted the two church officers to bring both items back. He was told that both had been handed over to the Count.
After lunch, Muehlenberg explains, the Count sent someone who politely asked whether Muehlenberg might visit him. Muehlenberg went and suspected nothing other than that he would speak with Zinzendorf alone. Muehlenberg was led into a large hall where he saw a large number of the Count’s weapons and the Count himself sitting at a small table as head. Muehlenberg had to sit at the same table opposite the Count and endure an Examen rigorosum. When it was over the Count said, “He will not preach in the Swedish church more than two or three times before they will cast him out, like they cast my aide, Pyrlaeus, from the old assembly house.” Muehlenberg answered, “I will expect it and wish you a happy trip back to Europe. Farewell!”
Afterwards Mr. Koch advised that our officers should work through the city government in asking for the register back. He began with the mayor, who sent a polite letter to the Count asking for the book. Two of Muehlenberg’s officers delivered the letter. The Count said to them, “O you poor people. You are very deceived with Muehlenberg. He is an arch-Pietist.” The Count’s answer was evasive. The mayor sent them a second time to the Lord of Tuernstein (as the Count called himself). This time they received the answer that Zinzendorf would hand over the book that night at 8 o’ clock. When two of our officers arrived at the appointed time, the Count said, “You dear men, I am to surrender a book, but I know nothing of a book.” When the mayor heard such a report, he said that the matter must be settled before the court. But the book and the copper chalice were not worth it and we let the matter go.
Very soon after that, at the beginning of 1743, Zinzendorf left America. On 29 January 1741 he had landed in New York. His daughter, Benigna Justine, had accompanied him and she also went with her father “on the three missionary trips to the Indians.” So we do not fail to mention laudable about the Count, it was the mission among the heathen Indians that was one of the reasons that had led this very gifted man to grace also North America with his presence. His first missionary trip extended from the Herrnhut settlement of Bethlehem to Meniolagomekah, a village of the Delaware. Almost everywhere he was welcomed in a friendly way. On 14 August he met a delegation of some Indian tribes among, whom were the Iroquois. He told them through his translator, Konrad Weiser, that he had God’s Word for them. They answered, “Brother, you have come this long distance across the ocean to come to us and to preach to the Indians. Come to us, you and your brothers. You are welcome among us. Take this wampum string as a sign that our words are truth.” At the end of August, Zinzendorf undertook a second trip to Indians who had already been baptized. His third trip went to the Indians on the Susquehanna, where he stayed three weeks.
Had he only been content with these mission endeavors and dedicated himself to them with true earnestness, instead of merely sipping at mission work and then writing a Method of Converting Savages and a Catechism for Heathen! But he also considered America to be the right land to set in motion his plans for gathering together the scattered children of God of all Christian confessions. He held religious conferences with Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Mennonites, Lutherans and Reformed in order to reconcile them. And if “Brother Ludwig,” as he liked to call himself, did not “draw,” then the noble Count again entered on stage. He had himself appointed as pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Philadelphia and even conferred on himself the title of an Evangelical-Lutheran General Inspector of Philadelphia and conducted himself as if the church everywhere had only been waiting for him to rouse it. Thus in Philadelphia he had, in his mind, “built the kingdom of God;” but in truth he had brought everything into a horrible disorder; and Muehlenberg came precisely at the right time to bring light and order again into this desolate chaos, and to lead what could still be rescued onto the Lutheran, churchly path.
No one has described Zinzendorf’s American work better than Konrad Weiser, his translator with the Indians and his careful observer of his churchly “institutions.” Weiser’s judgment was this: “I consider him as a man who in his youth had the chief misfortune of not having his strong self-will broken; in his student years, however, he was still industrious and was seeking the truth and in time was visited by divine light of grace. As a noble count being admired and praised for it, he may also have been partly hardened. Everything had the same effect on him. He was never had his knuckles smacked but rather he foundationally remained a noble count. He appears to have come out of the oven much too soon to be a reformer of Christ’s Church. He happily commanded par force. He is careless in his undertakings. Of the most important matters and events he did nothing except when he could dispatch a hundred royal representatives in a day, in an hour in fact. His ideas are quick, also frequently good, which he confirms by lot. The congregation must swallow the same. His people are called to be obedient to his absolute decrees: they must no longer to have their own will but must have given their will to the Savior. Thus the Count can chase them out into the whole world to risk body and life. When it is said: ‘You must go,’ no reasoning helps otherwise a person becomes ‘an enemy of the Savior,’ is excommunicated and finally has to hit the road. To achieve his goal, the Count does not bind himself to any rules, either human or divine. He considers everything that serves the congregation to be right even if it is saturated with untruths. He quickly orders about teachers and missionaries, even apostles. He does not have the slightest hesitancy to promise what he cannot give or can be logically given—such as positions like governor, knighthood orders, pensions, etc. One would think that he would listen to his reason, which would tell him by such promises he would only attract fools. He is very hot but also quickly cold. He does not carry hatred; he is soon reconciled. When brave and upright people privately come before him, he will also recognize an error here or there even promising to improve; but then he knows why. Otherwise, the Count, is an industrious man; he does not spare himself; he is never idle—either day or night; he is untiring in his work; he suffers under much hardship. I can also say nothing else but that he is by the troubles of Joseph a troubled man and had in general little bodily rest. I dare not to read separately his matters, especially the good and especially the bad. It is certain that both are very much mixed together in him. I also do not believe that he can again extricate himself from the tangled nature without the strong hand of God, which is something he would also gladly do, for his life is in It…. I know that my report is truth. What I have here written of the Count, I have done so sincerely. As much as I remember of him and also for the most part experienced, I have written. I am and remain…. Konrad Weiser.”
So far Professor Krauss
LWML NEWS: Hello All! We are in the midst of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I pray we all had a blessed day. And remember Christmas lasts until 05 January!
• Thank you to all who participated in the cookie exchange. We had a nice variety certainly enjoyed by all.
• We have the Epiphany Dinner on 15 January.
I pray everyone has a safe and merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. Carol , Pres
NEW YEAR’S DAY DEVOTION
ADDITIONAL DAYS OF GRACE FOR THE NEW YEAR --Dr. George Stoeckhardt
The close of the year exhorts us to thanksgiving. When we look back upon what God has done for us, we must cry out: Praise the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits!” [Psalm 103.2] Also for the cross a Christian must, even though not without sighing, still offer up thanks because God has helped him to bear it and time and again given him to understand that and why the affliction was necessary and wholesome. However, the close of the year also exhorts to repentance. When we look back upon everything we have done, we have to say: “Lord, have mercy upon me! Do not enter into judgment with your servant! [Psalm 143.2]”
The close of the year is a time for settling accounts. A smart businessman examines his books and checks to see how much profit he made in the old year, and he is happy when he is able to take a surplus with him into the New Year. So also a Christian at year’s end should seek a little quiet and open the book in which his works, both good and bad, are recorded, reach back into his memory and conscience and determine whether he has been as fortunate and successful in spiritual matters as he was in temporal; whether he in his Christianity has moved forward or gone backward. If we candidly examine our conduct in God’s light, then we shall no doubt slam the book closed and bemoan the fact that the heavenly treasure entrusted to us yielded so little gain, such meager fruit. Not just this or that moral lapse and failure but our laziness and negligence in fulfilling our heavenly calling, our inactivity and unfruitfulness will come home to our conscience.
The close of the year is a time set by God. The Lord God makes the days, periods, and years and allots us one year after another and every year He returns and observes how much fruit we have borne during the preceding year. During the changing times he exhorts the conscience. During the final hours of the year one senses and realizes to some degree how important a year is in a person’s life. Doesn’t daylight consist of 12 hours?—And we should work and do good while it is day. Think how much work a person is able to do in one day! And now 365 days have again gone by, and where is the fruit, the gain for these many days of work?
We must all today fall down before the King, who reckons with us, in order to pray for mercy, saying: Lord, have patience with me. I am in Your debt! However, we do not want to engage in such foolishness as did the unfaithful servant in the parable and add: “I will repay you!” [Mt. 18.26] We would from the very start spoil the New Year were we to take along with us the old year’s liabilities. No, we would rather today set everything right. But how is that possible? Well, we have a Friend and Companion who stands at our side as we enter the New Year, who travels through the years with us. It is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever [Heb. 13.8]. He is our Surety and Mediator. He foots the bill for us. He has settled accounts for us. He cancels the guilt-record of the past year with His blood. He asks that God will have patience with us and give us additional days of grace.
Extension, not so that we are able to make good the harm done—He did that!—but extension so that we might continue to work in the power of the Lord and take away with us from earth at least some fruit. And so we go, although with great trepidation, in the hand of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ comforted and cheerful out of the old year into the new.
A DEVOTION FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (ESV)
What is the meaning of Christmas? Why do we celebrate this festival? Is it to grant the retailers the necessary business? In our age one cannot often help thinking that Christmas above all has to do making others happy with more or less expensive gifts. On account of a guilty conscience people spend a lot at Christmas. But, really, why do we celebrate Christmas? Why was Jesus Christ born a man? St. John the Baptizer answers this question. At Christmas the Lamb of God was born, the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. The small Child in the manger, to whom the angels sang praise and glory in the fields of Bethlehem, is the willing sacrifice, that came into the world to bear the sin of the whole world. A sacrifice was killed on behalf of the one who committed a sin. An innocent animal died for the guilty person. So came the innocent Son of God to die for the guilty world.
For this reason Jesus was born, that He would take on Himself and bear the sins of the whole world—even yours. He carried them from Bethlehem to Golgotha on the cross. Christmas and Good Friday and inseparably bound with each other. Only because Jesus bore your sins and paid the price for them on the cross, can you celebrate a “merry Christmas.” Only for that reason could the angels sing: “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” The Child in the manger is your representative. In your place He took guilt upon Himself and bore it in order to carry it away so that you may be free. Merry Christmas!
Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for coming to bear my sins in my place and to endure the punishment for them. Amen. [Pr. Karsten Drechsler, in God Is For Us, 27 December 2013]
An Epiphany sermon by St. Leo the Great
The Lord has made his salvation known to the whole world.
The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ.
A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations. He was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. The father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above.
Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs. Let the children of the promise now receive the blessing in the seed of Abraham, the blessing renounced by the children of his flesh. In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judaea only, but in the whole world, so that his name may be great in all Israel.
Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, who has made us worthy, in the words of the Apostle, to share the position of the saints in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. As Isaiah prophesied: the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He spoke of them to the Lord: The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you.
This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the sons born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ. Believing that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised.
This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said: All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Lord, and glorify your name. Again, the Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.
Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to be of help to one another; then, in the kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
Responsory: The prophets foretold the coming of the Savior, the angels adored him when he came; today is the great day on which he was made visible. The Magi rejoiced when they saw his star, and brought him gifts.
A holy day has shone upon us: come, you peoples, and worship the Lord. The Magi rejoiced when they saw his star, and brought him gifts.
EPIPHANY IS A SEASON WITH AN EMPHASIS ON MISSIONS
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [Ephesians 3.8]
Many recoil in amazement when they are entrusted with a task. Their reaction is: “I can’t do that,” or “I’ve never done that before.”
The Apostle Paul was entrusted with an important task. God Himself in His grace was the one giving the task. And the task was the most important and greatest. Paul was to share the best news of all to people, to make it great and to shine brightly, even before kings and to other peoples. By it his hearers were to grasp the greatest joy: Jesus Christ redeemed you and reconciled you with God. God Himself furnished His apostle for it with His divine power. In light of this, Paul would know how unworthy, small, in fact how empty he is. He is not only insignificant but the most insignificant among all the believers. And nevertheless he is given such an honor. Inconceivable!
Don’t we fare similarly? Do we recognize the greatness of the assignment God has given us? Do we know how small we are in the face of the greatness of this task? And nevertheless God has bestowed His grace on you. To you He has granted faith in Jesus Christ. He has appointed you to share the most glorious news of all. Couldn’t we reply to God: “I can’t do that?” No, because He gives you, too, the power to tell the unsearchable riches of Christ to your children, parents, colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors. It doesn’t matter how significant or important you are. You can do it with God’s help!
Gracious God, You made me your instrument. Thank you. Daily grant me the strength to speak about You. Amen [Pr. Uwe Klaerner in God is For Us, 17 February 2014]
THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE: We find dignity in human life—all human life from the unborn child, to the handicapped, to the suffering, to the elderly—in the words of the Creed: “I believe in God the Father.” Luther comments: “‘That you should be children, and I, your Father. I wish not merely to create and sustain you, but I also want you to be My children and heirs, not to be turned out of the house like other creatures, oxen, cattle, sheep, etc., who either die or are devoured. But besides being My creatures, you shall also remain My children forever and live forever.’ …. As He is Father and lives eternally, as children we also are to live eternally and not die. Thus we are a higher and more beautiful creation than all other creatures; not only are we God’s creatures and workmanship, but we also are to live eternally with our Father.” [AE, LVII, 247]
LET 2017 BE A YEAR OF RENEWED ZEAL FOR THE HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR
When do we receive the Sacrament worthily? We receive it worthily when we have faith in Christ and His words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” [Synodical catechism question #301]
But what if I am weak in faith, should I still go? Our synodical catechism [question #304]: May those who are weak in faith come to the Lord’s Table? Yes, for Christ instituted the Sacrament for the very purpose of strengthening and increasing our faith.
Mark 9.24—I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.
John 6.37—Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.
What about: For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself [1 Cor 11.29]?
Luther comments elsewhere: There must be faith that relies upon and joyfully enters into such divine signs and promises. What kind of Savior or God would it be who did not want to or would not save us from death, sin and hell? What the true God promises and works must be a great thing. That’s why the devil comes and whispers to you: what if I had received the sacrament unworthily and by my unworthiness had deprived myself of grace? Here place the cross before you; do not let your worthiness or unworthiness trouble you. Only see to it that you believe that these are sure signs and true words of God; by this you certainly are and remain worthy. Faith makes you worthy; doubt makes you unworthy. How will you awaken your faith? How will you rouse your thoughts? Will you wait until it comes to you or the devil gives you space or something else urges you? Nothing will come of it. You must warm yourself and keep yourself at the Sacrament. It is a fire that can ignite the heart. You must consider your distress and wretchedness and hear and believe the blessing of your Savior, then your heart will become different and you will have other thoughts.
How are we to examine ourselves before receiving the Sacrament? We are to examine ourselves to see whether
A. we are sorry for our sins [Ps. 38.18, 2 Co 7.10-11];
B. we believe in our Savior Jesus Christ and in His words in the Sacrament [Luke 22.19-20, 2 Cor. 13.5];
C. we plan, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to change our sinful lives [Eph. 4.22-24].
A helpful examination is the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” in the catechism, as well as the abbreviated form we include in the bulletin on occasion.
HOLY LAND TOUR (April 26 – May 7, 2017) A Biblical tour of Israel & Jordan where Scripture is read and explained at each Biblical site – The trip of a lifetime! Contact Rev Darold Reiner, retired LCMS pastor & former LWML International Counselor, for a brochure: 406-890-1149 or email@example.com
PRAYERS FOR THE NEW YEAR—2017:
THANKS FOR GOD’S GOODNESS: Lord, You are great and greatly to be praised. Your power is great; Your wisdom has no end. Humanity is only a small part of Your creation. We became sinners and know that You oppose the haughty. And yet You desire that we praise You with a joyful heart for You created us to serve You. Our heart is restless until it finds rest in You. Amen. [St. Augustine, 5th century]
PRAYER FOR A FIRM FAITH: Father in heaven, I pray neither for health nor sickness, neither for life nor death, but rather that You order my health and my sickness, my life and my death to Your glory and my salvation. You alone know what is beneficial to me, You alone are the Lord; do what You will. Give to me, take from me, but make my will to be like Your will. Amen. [Blaise Pascal, 17th century]
AN EVENING PRAYER: I thank you, dear Father, that until now you have protected me and those dear to me. Also this night I commend myself to you and those dear to me near and far to Your protection. Keep me from sickness, accident and danger. Protect me from the evil forces of the world, from Satan and from war. Grant the sick healing or relief. Keep bad dreams far from me. Lord, stay with us with Your peace. Amen
FROM OUR SYNOD:
Celebrating New Years is a celebration of the past and the future. We take stock of the past with thanksgiving and sometimes even relief (that it’s over), and we look to the future in the hope and anticipation and perhaps even worry of what it holds.
The point is that New Year’s celebrations remind us of who we are as opposed to who we would like to be; what we have done in comparison to what we want to do. It reminds us of our accomplishments, but mostly it reminds us of our failures. What we’ve lost. Who we’ve lost. New Years is our own version of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. And we all play Scrooge. We are visited by the ghosts of our pasts, presents, and futures.
St. Paul writes: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:6–15).
St. Paul tells us that the Lord of all will both supply and increase what you need to give to the church for its work in and for the world. He tells us that this work that God is doing in us will enrich and bless us in every way and through this it will produce thanksgiving to God. With this in mind, here is some practical advice to help you take stock of your giving of years past, which will help you to change what needs to be changed, improved, or done away with altogether.
First, attend the Divine Service to receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. If you’ve not been faithful in attending worship to hear the preaching of God’s Word, to receive forgiveness, and feast of the rich food of our Lord’s body and blood for the eternal benefit of your body and soul, then repent and come to receive the gifts God freely gives. God doesn’t want your money. He wants you—all of you (Matt 22:20–22).
Second, pray for the Lord’s help. Your right as a Christian is to speak with your Father, the King of all creation, freely through His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Go to the throne of grace and ask for strength and wisdom to follow His bidding faithfully (John 15:1–16).
Third, consider what the Church is and what the Church does. The Church is a mercy place. It inhales the mercy of the Father by the death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son through the preaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments. It exhales this mercy in love toward the neighbor. You are a member of the Church, of God’s family. Thus, you are not only a recipient of God’s mercy, but a bearer of that mercy for the life of the world. You spread that mercy in showing mercy through the generous giving of your income to support the work of the Church in and for the world, as the Israelites did in the Old Testament (Lev 27:1–34).
Fourth, take stock of your current giving in light of the New Testament’s teaching on supporting the work of the Church. Are you giving of your first fruits, taking it out of your paycheck first, or does God get what’s left over? Are you giving voluntarily and cheerfully? Are you giving proportionally and generously? The Old Testament required a tithe, ten percent. The New Testament gives freedom to be generous, to give more for the Church’s work. Are you relying on God’s promise to provide and increase what you need to do His work? If your answer is no to any of these, repent. If God gave you His only Son, will He not provide for you all things, even physical things? Trust Him, His Word, and heed it.
So, don’t let your past define your future. Rather, commit for the year a generous proportion of your income, which is God’s gift to you for this body and life.
It’s the time of year when people’s frame of mind to start again is prevalent. A new year heightens the sense of hope that things will be different, things will be new.
God established the Jubilee laws in Israel’s early history. This provided a time when all things would be made NEW again. In the Lord’s appointed time, slaves were set free, debts were forgiven and land was restored to the original family. The land was to sit fallow for a year to regenerate. All people would be amply provided for. God wanted His people to remember that freedom, liberation and abundant newness is God’s desire!
Newness encourages accomplishment and overcomes despair. Newness causes excitement. Newness is discovered when new responsibilities are given with confidence in one’s ability to handle them.
We are all born with our fists’ clenched. This grasp reflex is a first sign of vitality that doctors identify in a newborn. Sadly, natural sin causes that criterion of health to enslave us as we navigate life. Never certain if we might need it all, we gather and accumulate wealth until we die. Luther once noted that, “The desire for riches stays glued to our nature all the way to the grave.” Most don’t even think about, much less plan, to transfer these blessings.
Yet, as God brings a sense of Jubilee to His people, so He also creates an understanding that, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation . . .’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Faith recognizes that the Jubliee has been ours throughout our whole life . . . that “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” For more information, contact Robert Wirth, LCMS Foundation Gift Planner @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-863-4427.
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