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 to the second last section on C.F.W. Walther, founding father of our Missouri Synod and learn of his humility.
- [part 7] Dr. C. Ferd. W. Walther
Walther especially thanked God that also other synods that believed correctly—such as the Wisconsin, Minnesota Synod and others—had joined with the Missouri Synod in an agreement in the Synodical Conference. However, the struggle for pure teaching on the election by grace caused a split when the Ohio Synod left the Synodical Conference. The brotherly relations with the majority of Norwegians remained intact.
Walther saw his work blessed by the rich grace of God but this split brought much anxiety. In his old age he, then, also had to experience much distress in his heart. But this was the instrument in God’s hand to keep him in true humility. Another witness of his sincere humility is seen in the answer that he gave to his brothers in office in Chicago when they had congratulated him when he was awarded a doctorate by a faculty which at that time still stood with us in the unity of faith. Walther then thanked them by the following letter:
St. Louis, Mo, 09 March 1878
To the reverend Pastoral Conference in Chicago,
Pastor H. Wunder.
Honorable and beloved brothers in the Lord!
By God’s goodness, so many dear brothers have congratulated me on the occasion of my being awarded a doctorate, that I find myself unable to answer each of them with the thankfulness that is due. Such an extraordinary award was bestowed upon me that I cannot accept it in silence. It so penetrates my heart and conscience.
You, too, have all experienced that nothing works true humility as much as free grace does; and the greater the grace, the deeper the humility. Thus when I express to you my most hearty thanks for your completely undeserved love I can also report, for your comfort, that God has preserved me from misinterpreting your ‘sounds of rejoicing’ and attributing to myself, the most miserable among all sinners, even the least bit of the good that was celebrated with it. Instead, I am thrown into the dust and give Him all glory alone with hot tears and with the most vivid feeling that nothing but disgrace and shame is due me. I cannot and may not lie that the work and struggle of our beloved Synod, among which I was considered worthy to be able to stand at its forefront, has been extremely blessed. But as God has never let me forget, every blessing was pure grace. So by reading through your ‘sounds of rejoicing’ I very deeply felt: “if there is something good in this life of mine, it is truly purely Thine.” The Church is not really blessed through us, but rather through His blessing we are what we are, above all me. Had God placed any other believing Christian into the same situation into which He from His incomprehensible mercy deigned to place me, that Christian’s work and struggle would, if God had shown the same grace, have experienced the same blessing. I was only God’s mask. And, oh, such a bad and ugly one! What was truly my own was my sin, my foolishness and it would have spoiled and hampered everything, if God did not now at this time want to visit America in grace, had He not turned everything back by His wonderful rule. When I was still a student, mightily God brought me out of great blindness and from great sinful corruption and planted in my heart faith in His word and He daily worked on me in spite of all my unfaithfulness so that the little light of my faith could not and might not go out. Then God gave me opportunity and as a result of great error He compelled me either to seek the truth or to perish temporally and eternally. But I did not decide to do this rather God led me to decide to choose the first. I could not withstand. When He then called me into the work and pushed me into the battle against the opposition that arose, then again I could do nothing else: I had to hold fast the truth and ward off the opposite. I learned wonderfully. In my solitude, my heart continually wavered to and fro; it was full of fear, anguish, terror, and the feeling of sin; I was often almost seized by despair so that my prayers occasionally became almost only a mute ‘me-writhing’ in the dust before God. But whenever I had to speak or write publicly, God almost always gave me a confidence and a joy without which all my intention and doing would have been completely in vain.
“The cycle in which I have lived until now consists in God at times humbling me and at times raising me up so that I always knew that when an exaltation came that a deep humbling would quickly follow; but when I was in the midst of being humbled, always without my expecting it (in fact, as a rule, when I thought that I was done for) soon or even after a long time of deep darkness and when the divine face of grace was hiding itself, a raising or rather a consolation followed.
“The following was always particularly remarkable to me. I came away from school and university with very insignificant, exceedingly incomplete knowledge which could only minimally help in light of the necessities of the present conditions; my library collection was always only random, minor. But in the end I often had to see with astonishment that God placed me in such situations in which I could utilize all of the little that I knew and had. Oh, a faithful God! In short, God has done a great thing to me. I will rejoice in it, even when I feel, vividly feel, that in myself I am nothing but a lump of darkness and sin.
“Even to this moment God has kept my eyes open to see my misery clearly and therefore to remain untouched by the praise that my brothers give to the instrument, but which belongs only to Him, Whom he himself serves according to His unsearchable wisdom. But dear brothers, you certainly know from God’s Word, what corruption dwells in my flesh and that I therefore can fall at any moment into the most horrible delusion, into pride, sin and shame if God were to withdraw His hand from me. O, add to your evidence of love this one thing: that you also remember me before the Lord in your “Our Father;” and, in fact, in every petition, for I need them all, but especially in the last for I feel that I have completed my course and long to be out of this world full of nets and snares.
“Once again—my most humble thanks. May God repay you for what you have done for me, the most shameful member of our common body.
Your C.F.W. Walther”
The faculty of the Ohio Synod’s Capital University in Columbus, OH which had at one time honored him, later added ample anguish to the final years of his life by their opposition to the truth of the Lutheran doctrine. But whatever they and their like-minded companions did against the truth of the Gospel, Walther with, God’s help, remained with the good confession of Paul in Romans 8. 38, 39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So far Professor Krauss
REMEMBER OUR FIFTH SUNDAY DINNER AFTER SERVICE ON 29 SEPTEMBER, THE FEAST OF ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS. PLEASE BE SURE TO BRING A DISH TO SHARE AND JOIN US FOR A TIME OF FELLOWSHIP.
A NOTE FROM PASTOR: DO NOT BE AFRAID
On 08 September I announced my decision concerning the call from Faith Lutheran Church, Sturtevant, WI. As you know I accepted that call and will soon be leaving our church. I do thank you for your prayers on my behalf for guidance from our Lord. I especially thank the handful of you who offered their advice and counsel.
Please know this was a very difficult decision for me to make. I thank the Lord for these past 21 years He has given us together. We have together grown tremendously, you as a parish and I as a pastor. Because the Lord has brought us together we have a deep and lasting impact on each other. The hardest part of the decision was knowing that I would be leaving you who have been such a blessing over the years to me and my family.
This decision, though, could not be made on sentiment alone. If it was, I would be staying. Nor am I accepting this call to Wisconsin because it is nearer to family. To be sure, it was in the “plus” column but it was not a deciding factor; it was simply one of many factors to consider.
When it came to the deliberations, the first question I had to answer for myself was if this was indeed a call from the Lord of the Church. Yes, it was. There were no human machinations involved; no one but the ones involved had their hands in it.
The other question I had to consider is where I could best serve the Lord; where could I best use the gifts and talents He has given me for maximum impact in His kingdom. It is not always the larger church. Those of you who were here when I came will remember that I left a much larger church to come to Faith—and for that very reason.
Tied in with this is the question: what else could I do or offer here at Faith? Having served here for 21 years, yes, we have become very comfortable together and have much love for each other, but what gifts could I offer that I haven’t already? After that long a period of time, perhaps another pastor with other gifts would be a better instrument for the Holy Spirit to use here for the growth and future of Faith.
I have been pastor of Faith for about half of her existence. But the church is more than just a man. No one is irreplaceable. Here we must rely on Jesus, the Lord of the Church, the Lord of the Harvest. The whole Christian Church, including our congregation, is in His hands—His gracious, loving, nail scarred hands. He will continue to be with us and bless us as we continue to rely on Him. Let us live up to our name and carry on boldly in Faith.
Yes, there are changes, great changes, ahead for Faith. How we need to hear His word [Mt. 14.27]: Do not be afraid! It is absolutely vital that you not only continue on as before in attendance in church and in giving of your time, talents and treasures but that you do so all the more. Continue to give your offerings generously to Faith. Even with paying a supply pastor, we can build up our funds to take care of necessary maintenance of the church, like a roof; these are things we could not afford to do while still having a full-time pastor.
Yes, it is a difficult time, so pray all the more fervently for your church and your congregational leaders. They are good, strong individuals in the Lord. They have a lot of extra responsibility now. Step up to help; give them your encouragement; pray for them. We have fine, godly men from the district who have lots of experience and will be a tremendous help and resource.
Especially now the devil will try to attack and scatter the flock at Faith. Don’t let him! Strive to show and outdo each other in humility and love. Don’t let the devil stir up factions and discord. Study, take to heart and apply St. Paul’s words in Philippians 2.1 ff. Don’t listen to the negative voices of despair—that’s not the voice of Jesus but the devil. Jesus says: Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.
There are great changes and challenges ahead for me and my family and my new parish. Please keep us in your prayers. Though we may not see each other this side of eternity, we are part of the communion of saints. We join together in worship of our God and Savior both now and in eternity. Let us keep each other in prayer. God’s richest blessings be upon each of you and Faith Lutheran, Corning.
Do not be afraid!
Can you spend one hour in silent prayer to witness for the dignity of human life?
Please join us for the annual National Life Chain, October 6th, 2019 between 2 and 3 PM, at the corner of Church and N. Main St. in Elmira (Wisner Park). We will stand for one hour, holding signs supporting the dignity of all human life, in silent prayer, in solidarity with groups across the country doing the same thing at the same time, rain or shine. For more information, call Steve at 607-739-9282 or John at 739-1011.
LUTHER AND COLUMBUS DAY
Thinking people in the days before Columbus did not think the earth was flat; they just thought it was smaller—which is why Columbus thought he was in India when he was really in the West Indies. Luther makes the comment about the round earth in his commentary on Jonah [emphasis added]: The Romans have different names for the seas, as Mediterranean, Indian, Red, etc. The one which goes around the whole earth they call Ocean. [AE, XIX, pg. 9]
Luther was born in 1483. 11 years later Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The time that Luther lived was an age of discovery. Luther, though, doesn’t mention the discovery of the explorers too much. In a sermon for Ascension Day, 1522, Luther said: “A question arises over this verse, ‘Go into all the world.’ How is this verse to be understood and taken since the apostles did not come to the whole world? No apostle came to us. Also, in our time many islands have been discovered on which there are heathen and no one has preached to them. Yet Scripture says, ‘Their voices have gone all over the earth’ (Rom. 10.18). Answer: Their preaching has gone out into all the world although they themselves have not come to all the world.” (St. L. XI 950).
IN HONOR OF THE WINEGLASS MARATHON:
Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:17 (ESV)
Whoever has run a marathon or half marathon knows exactly how long the stretch to the goal can drag on. Thus great endurance is necessary, not only in preparation but also above all during the race.
Hannah’s prayer life was like such a marathon, a prayer marathon. Year after year she prayed at home and at the tabernacle for a child. She endured the insults of Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah. And nothing changed. No goal was in sight. She remained childless.
How pleasant Eli’s words must have then been for Hannah—and not just like a refreshing at a water station. She is comforted. She sees the goal. God will fill her request. She believes it. She clings to it.
We know very little about the prayer life of others. That’s why it is perhaps difficult for us to comfort the other person with words. Nevertheless we can speak God’s word to them. To be sure, it won’t be as concrete as Eli’s but yet comforting words that speak of God’s faithfulness, love and mercy.
In the same way we can be comforted when we think: God does not hear me. Yes, it can sometimes become a “prayer marathon” for us, but we can trust that God does not lie, that He is faithful and stands behind His word, that He leads us on the correct but sometimes difficult path. Even when we do not see the goal of our prayer, we can, like Hannah, place it again in the ears of our merciful Father. How He answers our request, we can quietly leave to Him. He will certainly do it.
Dear Father, grant me enduring reliance on Your faithfulness and Your comforting words. Help me up when I become weak. Amen. [Pr. Uwe Klaerner in God Is For Us, 25 February 2019]
A COMBINATION OF A HALLOWEEN AND REFORMATION THEME:
[Martin Bucer] arrived the day after the evening when Dr. Luther had shot a bat in the heart, which came out of the body with the arrow when he pulled it from the target.
[Luther’s Works, Companion Volume, CPH, 2018, pg. 354]
WHY BE A LUTHERAN—OTHER THAN THE OTHER CHOICES BEING INTOLERABLE
I am Lutheran for the same reason that I am a Christian. It is not by choice but by grace. The teachings of the Lutheran Church place Jesus at the center because the teachings of the Scriptures place Jesus at the center. No other confession demonstrates such fidelity to the truth of God’s Word. No other confession so glorifies Christ by placing Him at the center of all it confesses and teaches. Being a Lutheran is truly all about Jesus. St. Peter says, ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ [Acts 4.12] –Daniel Preus, Why I Am a Lutheran—Jesus at the Center, CPH, 2004.
Beware of Reformation anniversaries!
“The great ecumenist and defender of confessional Lutheranism, Herman Sasse, once said, ‘Beware of Reformation anniversaries!’ He writes, ‘In view of the many Reformation anniversaries which we have celebrated…one might well ask whether we have now had enough of looking back to the past, whether we have heard enough speeches and read enough anniversary articles.’ The purpose of Reformation anniversaries rarely promotes the primary theme of the Reformation, which is encapsulated in Thesis 1 of the Ninety-five Theses: ‘When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” [Mt. 4.17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.’” [Albert B Collver, Director of Church Relations—Assistant to the President LC-MS, CTQ, vol. 78, January/April 2014 pg.157]
OUR CIRCUIT REFORMATION CELEBRATION IS SATURDAY, 26 OCTOBER AT HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH, CHENANGO BRIDGE. THE FESTIVITIES START AT 9 AM.
FALL IS THE TIME FOR BAKING: Jesus told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13.33
“The ‘woman,’ namely, the church, or the wisdom of God, ‘takes the leaven,’ that is, the Word of the Gospel, and ‘hides it,’ because the Word of faith thrives within the conscience, not in the outward works of the Law… For faith justifies spiritually in the sight of God. ‘In three measures of meal’ means in the definite number and measured sum of His elect….’Till it was all leavened’; that is…the faith by which we are spiritually justified is, so to speak, a hiding of the leaven and a sort of commingling of the Word of God with our soul. The effect of this is that it chastises the flesh, destroys sin, and purges out the old leaven, so that it alone holds sway in all members and leavens the whole person.” [Luther, AE, XXVII, 340]
STEWARDSHIP ARTICLE FROM OUR MISSOURI SYNOD
In the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 1546, Martin Luther closed his eyes forever. And the hand that hammered the 95 Theses into the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, penned its final words:
“We are all beggars. This is true.”
And this is the truth that our Lord says makes you free. Ironic, isn’t it? That, in order to be free, you must be a beggar; you must be utterly dependent and reliant upon God. This makes us uncomfortable – the way we’re uncomfortable when someone gets us a Christmas or birthday present when we haven’t gotten them one. We feel we owe them. And we don’t much like being in someone’s debt.
But what Luther would remind us is that we are all indeed beggars. But we’re not just anyone’s beggars. We’re God’s beggars. And this is His legacy to the Christian Church. Christ came for sinners. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to heal the sick and raise the dead. He came for sinners, and He dwells only with sinners.
And, if we are to be where He is, we must be willing to be counted among the lost, the sick, and the dead. We must be willing to be beggars. We must cry out for mercy, for grace, and for his undeserved love and kindness. We must be dependent solely on Him and what He gives.
And here’s the beauty: He gives us everything. Everything – forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and the devil, and eternal life. This is not because of any worthiness or merit in us, but it is because of His divine goodness, mercy, and grace.
On account of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Father forgives you, saves you, and is pleased with you. And you receive. You receive His love, His righteousness, His holiness, His acceptance, and His inheritance. We are all beggars. This is true.
This is the heart and soul of Christianity and the life-blood of the Christian Church. God justifies us, and He declares us innocent and righteous by His grace received through faith for the sake of Christ. This is not because of our works; this is because of His work on the cross. We, who once were enemies of God, are reconciled to Him and made to be His children.
This is what Luther would point us to when He took up his pen for the last time and scribbled “We are all beggars. This is true.” We are beggars. But we are beggars of the God who does not ignore us, who doesn’t pass by us on the other side. We are beggars of the One who descended from heaven to make His dwelling with sinners.
We are beggars of Him who deigns to dwell with us, among us, and – yes – even in us by grace for Christ’s sake. For in the bread and cup that we bless, we share together with Christ and each other the riches of God’s grace.
So inexhaustible are the riches of this grace – the Gospel in sermon and absolution, in Baptism and Holy Communion – that our cups overflow. We, who are God’s beggars, are not only inexhaustibly satisfied but have something to give back in thanksgiving and praise.
Reforming Our Ways
John the Baptist differentiated himself from Jesus by saying “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John’s purpose was to make straight the paths and encourage us to “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) Similarly, St. Paul proclaimed that “God wants us to turn to God and perform deeds in keeping with our repentance.” (Acts 26:20) Reforming our ways is not about outward alterations or a political viewpoint. Indeed, “God has granted repentance that leads to life!” (Acts 11:18)
In his famous 95 theses, Martin Luther wrote “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Repentance is not simply a recognition of wrong-doing but being set free from sin itself. Repentance is acknowledging that all we can find about ourselves is sin, and that our rescue comes from Jesus who alone could rescue us through His life, death and resurrection. The reformers discovered the Jubilee of forgiveness, and it caught fire.
Many in our times equate God’s kindness with prosperity, good looks, health or strong ability. However, if our ways aren’t reformed in the heart, where sin emulates, then it’s not likely to be a reformation that leads to Jubilee or eternal life. Paul asked the Romans, “Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4b).
Is repentance reforming your ways? When our ways are reformed by the Holy Spirit, we recognize our spiritual depravity before God. In the freedom of God’s grace received, we notice the things we manage are not ours to manipulate for our dark purposes, but are opportunities given by God so that we might show His Son Jesus through our lives. The way we plan to distribute the worldly wealth we manage for Him will characterize blessings rather than curses.
Contact Robert Wirth, LCMS Foundation Gift Planner @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-863-4427. You can discover that your congregation has a trusted charitable guide available to encourage you to plan and direct your passion to give to family and beloved ministries, so others might know that your own heart is reformed and wholly devoted to God.
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