Archive for January, 2012

4th Sunday after Epiphany: The One Authority and Teaching

January 29, 2012

Multi-Ethnic Symposium 2012 – Why? From your peers

January 28, 2012

In the days following the last Multi-Ethnic Symposium (MES2010)of 2010, a few of your classmates exchanged ideas and observations. One of the glaring observations was the lack of involvement, rather engagement by the student body while the MES2010 was happening. I say glaringly obvious because you could count the number of student participants on one hand, with a finger and thumb left over. It was during those discussions between students, that an article for Around the Tower was written and a Resolution from Student Association to the Faculty the importance of students being engaged in the MES going forward. The reasoning was simple, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod(LCMS) while it does not show at first glance is diverse. One of the many things learned at MES2010 is while there is divisions and misunderstandings between the numerous ethnic groups inside of the LCMS, they are all united in the belief of One Triune God, One Faith, One Hope, and One Baptism. It was the discussions that revealed this unity in the LCMS among the various ethnic communities that Student Association felt it imperative that going forward, formation students should be actively involved in these discussions. Why? This is one of the many ways that you are formed to serve in the ministry. In order to be prepared and informed about what is happening in our churches and within the various ethnic groups. Below I have included the article written in the Around the Tower following the MES2010. Those of us who were present then look forward to seeing the next step as the Concordia Seminary student body joins the Multi-Ethnic Symposium 2012 – “Gifts of Hope” by engaging, sharing, discussing, and above all else…learning about each other.

Here Am I, Send Me (to people who are like me)
By: Matt Behrens

OK – theologically we are sent to people who, like us, are separated from God by sin. That’s not what the title is getting at.
In 1952 the Mission Board of the Synodical Conference prepared a report encouraging the integration of African American congregations into the geographic districts of the LCMS. While gathering comments, the board received many letters from pastors and others within the Synod. Here is a quote from one of those letters:
“I believe it to be far wiser to encourage our Lutheran Negroes to establish their own missions and churches, even if they are but small groups, than to take them into the White congregations, where there will most likely be difficulties of various kinds for them to contend with – perhaps even open unfriendliness on the part of some. It is all well and good to insist on the equality of all races and nationalities before God. But the Lord still maintains important differences between different peoples, which should be taken into consideration in planning the work of His Church.”
Race relations in the United States have come a long way in the past 70 years. This is true of the wider culture as well as in our church. Christians have been influential in the positive changes which have come about, and our LCMS churches and church members have played their role. However, I wonder if the attitude underlying the above quote still finds its way into our thinking.
Our church body is composed predominantly of Caucasians of western European heritage. Even with this “heritage,” our ties to Germany and other parts of Europe are several generations removed. We are not an immigrant church anymore. Our church stands in contrast to the cultural mix of our country. Our nation’s population is increasingly non-white. Today’s immigrants are from all parts of the world. And, they are actually immigrants. This has huge implications as we consider communicating the gospel cross-culturally. At the very least, these are factors we, as future church leaders, should be thinking about. But, do we?
Less than one percent of our on-campus student body attended the multi-ethnic symposium earlier this month. It was a free event for students. Of course, classes were in session and as students we have jobs, homework, families and field work to balance. Still, only three students attended any part of this event? But, maybe this view is too pessimistic about the whole thing. Maybe that number should be encouraging. After all, to the best of my knowledge all of the church workers attending the conference were already working primarily with minority populations. I don’t know of any pastor who attended the event who was from a “white church.” The handful of Caucasian participants present were serving in specifically cross cultural or non-white ministry settings. So, the attendance of two white seminary students (the third student attendee was Eric Ekong) might have been a step in a positive direction for our Synod. It just wasn’t a very big step.
So, give it some thought. The majority culture of our church didn’t show much interest in issues of ethnic diversity. The majority culture of our student body showed a similar disinterest. Are the issues of ethnic and cultural diversity unimportant to ministry? Are there really no issues to speak of? If our churches “stay the course” will these relationships simply fall into place? Or, like the pastor who wrote to the Mission Board, would we rather not deal with the difficulties of cross-cultural relationships?

Credits: Around the Tower – March 2010 – Special Edition

“This 2012 symposium, Gifts of Hope, will build on that foundation and identify the gifts of cultural diversity that inform and enliven the fullness of the Body of Christ in a unity not bound to one culture but embodying the contributions of many cultures… The goals of this symposium will seek to address the critical questions facing our church in this multi-cultural world, beginning with the intersection of theology and culture. How do we express the unity of our faith and confession within the diversities of culture? How do we allow for different cultural expressions within a common bond of faith and practice? Is diversity something to be affirmed and celebrated or collapsed into a common “meta-culture” of the church? Is the vision of Rev. 7:9 something to be found only in heaven or already on earth, and if so, how is heavenly worship expressed within the incarnational realities of God’s people in space, time, and culture?

We will hear from those ethnic communities that remain a minority amongst us. What has the expression of our Lutheran theology and practice brought to these different cultures, and what gifts come to our Lutheran unity from the diversity of cultures?

Finally, we will work together toward the future. What will a truly multi-cultural LCMS look like in 2017, when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation together? What will it look like in 2037 and 2047? . . . or in the immediate future, in the 495th anniversary year, in 2012? And what do we need to do to get there?” – Andrew H. Bartelt

Sermon – The Baptism of our Lord

January 8, 2012

Sermon as preached at the 8am service

30 years since the passing of Jonathan Udo Ekong

January 6, 2012

May 19, 1928 Jonathan Udo Ekong (1881–1982) was sent to the U.S. by the Ibesikbos in Nigeria to seek missionaries for his country.

“In the history of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, Rev. Jonathan Udo Ekong is regarded as the patriarch. Ekong stands as living springboard between the Lutherans in the U.S.A. and the Lutherans in Nigeria. Ekong worked hard to bring a church and a school to Ibesikpo, his village in the present Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. So great were his efforts that by the time he died in 1982, not only were there churches and schools in every Ibesikpo village, there were also Nigerian Lutherans serving with distinction all over Nigeria, in virtually every occupation and profession. Ekong was the very first person in Ibesikpo clan to beat a log-bell for people to assemble for worship. In a very real sense, therefore, Ekong was a pioneer and a trailblazer.”
(Dr. Kemdirim O. Protus, 2005)

January 6, 1982 Jonathan Udo Ekong, founding father of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, died in Ibesikpo, Nigeria.

I was just short of my sixth birthday when word reached us in the U.S. that grandfather had died. At that point in my life I had only seen pictures of grandfather and heard the numerous stories from various people. For the men in my family and the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, grandfather really left large set of shoes to fill. His life story is simply inspiring to any man or woman entering the ministry. Try this on for size…

* He arrived in the U.S. looking for “the one true religion” (not my words, taken from the Log-Bell Ringer book) at the tender age of 47. At which point he had to begin his educational studies. Not like most missionaries that come from to our seminaries today. He had to start at the grade school level and work his way up at age 47.

* He would later return to Nigeria aided by the leadership of the late Dr. Henry Nau (President of Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, Greensboro, North Carolina)

* Longevity – He was 101 when he passed. His ministry even though it started late in life lasted 46 years. A ministry that included planting churches and schools among his people while using the a bicycle for transportation. A ministry that influenced his three children to excel; his oldest son Hosea serves as a pastor in the LCMS in Youngstown, OH and sits on the Board of Directors for the Ohio District, his other son Victor holds a Ph.D. in mathematics while teaching in Nigeria and in the U.S., and his daughter Dorcas who serves the Lutheran Church of Nigeria as a Deaconess.

* How many men have carried the weight of their people to go and bring back not only religion, but wherewithal to institute a educational system in each village to improve his people.

I am not big on recognizing the death of individuals, regardless of their impact on the world. We honor them back building off of the work during their time here. Yet, this one hits a little close to home, so I thought I would share. 🙂

To read more of Dr. Kemdirim O. Protus’ essay see the link below….

The book he makes reference to, I reviewed back in August of 2010. It can be found here:

Post Christmas and New Years Day thoughts….

January 5, 2012

I must say that was quite the busy month. There was weekend worship services, church leadership meetings, hospital/shut-in visits, weekly text-study (in the original language) with my supervisor and circuit counselor, and weekly bible studies which continued as a norm. Now, add children’s Christmas program practices on Saturdays, midweek services, and special services (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day). Now include any extra travel over the Holidays and/or any sickness you can picked over the course of the month. All in all, I loved every last moment of it all.

Yet, I am somewhat baffled about some events over the last few weeks. First there was the hint that closed churches on Christmas Day to observe Christ’s birthday. Seriously??? It what world does that make any sense? Let me see if I can make it sound logical. “I am going to not go to church on Sunday to celebrate/observe Jesus’ birthday.” Is this some sort of new special rule or tradition? I wonder what will happen for Easter since it ALWAYS falls on a Sunday. See, the logic does not compute on any level. Except it works in a sinful world that would rather stay home and play with new trinkets. A world that would use any excuse possible to happily attend “St Mattress by the Springs” church where Pastor “Pillow” will preach the soul wrenching sermon about “the sacrament of the holy; video game,couch potatoes, or insert toy name here.

Keeping in mind I am a bit bias on this subject, but I would suggest not take what I am saying with a grain a salt. Take it as large heaping spoon of “snap out of it.” I understand some churches were proactive in shrinking down the number of services on Sunday from multiple services to one joint service. Honestly, I have no problem with that setup. I am sure each church knows its people and were attempting to be faithful stewards of their time, money, and family.

I am more concerned about those people people who attend churches where their shepherds, leadership, and members all seemed okay with cancelling church on Christmas Day …on a Sunday. Those folks put this image in my head …

“Dear God, I want to thank you for all you have done for me. To show my appreciation for all that you have done, I want to take this time to put you on hold so I can appreciate you by sleeping in and opening the cool stuff I got for Christmas on your sons birthday. I feel that since He was given as present to me, I should follow suit and stay home and opening presents.”

Note: If you attended Christmas Eve service and didn’t leave church until Christmas Day or arrive home from church until early Christmas morning… This is only partly for you. 🙂

Admittedly so, we as sinners don’t and won’t always get it right. Actually, we very rarely get it right. However, some things should be common sense. Which leads me to New Years Day which also fell on a Sunday. Hoping that everyone would wise up after a week of skipping church. Attendance at large amount of churches was worse than the previous week. Hmmm, that logic about celebrating Jesus’ birthday does not work for New Years Day. Yet, I read online, “But it was New Years Day!” My response to that was yup and still Sunday.

One thing that constantly comes out of my mouth to youth in activities that can keep them out late at night, is this… Momma says, “No matter how hard you play on Saturday, there is no excuse for missing church on Sunday.” Tired, sore, hung-over, lazy, etc… None of those is an excuse for missing church. This only works if you start from the mindset that you actually recognize that Sunday is God’s day. For most people this is the starting point for faith. They set aside time on Sunday for God. Notice, I said this is a starting point… I would hope everyone moves from that starting point to every day, hour, and minute is for God. That happens through spiritual maturity and it takes time. Roman wasn’t built in a day.

The most difficult thing about the past couple of weeks of Christmas and New Years Day falling on Sunday is that the young children missed out on God’s Word and instruction. Follow that with parents, couples, singles, etc. all missed out on God’s Word and instruction. They missed out thinking they were simply celebrating Jesus’ birthday when they should be getting ready for His Second Advent. They missed out on Christ’s circumcision which His parents did according to the Law of God. Joseph and Mary presented their son Jesus in the temple out of love/fear for God’s command through Moses. Yet, we cancel church and rest from partying instead of attending a church service. We left our brothers and sisters to worship without us. The community of believers that Jesus reconnected… we attempt to disconnect.

Right there the point is proven… Jesus is not the Reason for the Season. You are the reason for the season. Christ is the Redeemer of our sinful acts against God. This is why we celebrate the Advent of His 1st coming in a Manager, His daily coming to us through His Means of Grace, and forward looking to His 2nd coming of Judgment Day.

As a wise man has said many times, “You are still baptized.”

Oh wait… Tune in as this Sunday is the Baptism of Jesus in the pericope = Mark 1:4-11. What does this all mean? Well, you are going to have to go to church after the two week hiatus and find out. Not to worry, while you stayed at home, God was still there patiently waiting with open comforting arms, ready to forgive you because of His Son he sent for us.

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