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Archive for August 28th, 2015

2014-11-03 07.51.00

All Saints Sunday, 2014: I am presiding at the Altar, the Preacher was Pr. Keith Beasley of our sponsoring Congregation, Good Shepherd, Roanoke, VA

Today is the 5th anniversary of  Concordia Lutheran Mission here in Rockbridge County.   On the Page on the top, you can read the history. The header photo is about five years ago, when were meeting at the Library.  Some of the folks pictured, moved, went to college and others have joined since that photo.

The first Divine Service was at Grace Presbyterian Church, August 28th, the Commemoration of St. Augustine (We did not plan for that day because it is was the commemoration of St. Augustine, but it is appropos since his faithful teaching influenced Martin Luther!)   We had left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Lexington, of which I had been pastor. For several months many of us sojourned down to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church/Roanoke.  In conversation with Good Shepherd’s Shepherd, Rev. Keith Beasley, we realized the need for a mission in Rockbridge County. Pr. Beasley and Vicar James Prothro presided and preached at that first service and did so until I was recognized as a pastor in the Synod. Good Shepherd/Roanoke became our sponsoring congregation. Within a year I was accepted as a pastor awaiting call, by a colloquy committee of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  We left Grace Presbyterian, as they were moving, and we began worshiping in the Lexington Main Library, in their community room.  One year ago, we found out about a good rental property in the other main town in Rockbridge County, Buena Vista and this is where the Mission is now located.

We have not grown exponentially, yet, we have some new members.  In many ways, as my wife pointed out, after losing my full-time income as a pastor, leaving a church body, thinking about the prospect of selling our house, and a mission that is still tenuous, never the less, we have our house and the House of the Lord, His mission is still here after five years.  But by the grace of God, go we! 

We  left a denomination purporting to be church.  We left because of it’s war against the Word of God. It rejected marriage, marriage between man and woman alone.  In St. Augustine’s day, Rome fell and before that, Nero fiddled on his violin while Rome burned.  While our Romes burn today, churches have fiddled around with the Word of God.  Many churches look  nice on the outside but as the Lord said about the religious leadership of His time, they are whitened sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones full of decay and rot.  It is profoundly sad.  Am I overstating the case?  I do not think so. The gates of hell are doing their best, but they have not prevailed.  Many, including myself, have chronicled the central collapse of Biblical Scriptures in so many areas of the Church. Now, one should not lightly and unadvisedly leave a church body.  By God’s grace alone,  I do not think we did. 

So!  Are we in the promised land?  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?  When I had my last interview for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Synod’s International Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of my three interviewers was a district president who warned me, “You know the Missouri Synod has problems and it’s not perfect.” I smiled and said, “If it were perfect, that would mean the Lord has come with His kingdom and I don’t think He has and there would be no interview”  They all smiled or chuckled.  The district president’s caution was a good one.  In Christ, he could admit sin because of our Savior. I do not think I could ever hear that from some other liberal protestant church bodies and their ecclesiacrats confessing their church is wrong, they can’t right now as they defend falsehood. The district president knows our church body is not perfect but it trusts and believes in the whole Word of God, the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions which teach, preach and confess the 6th Commandment and it’s meaning.   The district president, a pastor,  is obviously no Pharisee. Thank our Lord for His grace for us all!

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We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.              

(A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  St. Augustine was contemporary to the fall of Rome.  This is from a summary of Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God (Sparknotes: “St. Augustine: The City of God”) and what prompted the Bishop to write this book: 

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies.(emphasis my own)

One of the accusations that pagan Romans leveled at Christians was they were ‘atheists’.   The Christians were not worshipers of the gods, that, is non-believers or atheists.  As the quote above indicates, Romans considered the gods and goddesses as instrumental for Rome’s success, and so the further charge of not being patriotic, or  traitorous atheism.  God and the state were considered one, even to the point that the State was god in the form of the Caesars who proclaimed themselves deities.  Christians did not serve the State as god.  The revolution in Christ then and now is Christians prayed for Caesar but not to Caesar (Pr. Lou Smith).  The accusation that the Christians served God rather than the state is one we hope will be heard in our day as well.

We are living in Roman times. We are much afraid these days as I would guess the Romans were in their day, and when we leave the God we love, we flail about going after other messiahs, political and religious, who are not messiahs.  When God is removed from the public square then the State will become god, or the ‘church’ (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  We might be there and while the world burns, churches fiddle as Nero did when Rome burned.  Churches fiddling around with changing worship services, dumbing down doctrine to no doctrine at all, accepting immorality as ‘alternative lifestyles’ or identifying the Christian faith as an American value. Only through the Word and Sacraments of God, the Church if formed. If we were a Christian nation, then we would be persecuted.  St. Augustine, with the Church, out thought, out prayed and so by God’s grace alone, out lived the fall of an empire by God’s grace alone in His Son Jesus.  We see the shaking of the foundations in our day and time. We serve in the city of man as good citizens and as citizens in the Kingdom of God, the Reign of Christ through His Word coming into the world and finally when He comes in glory. The Lord’s Church can not be fooling around any longer, we do not have the luxury to do so.  St. Augustine, as Pastor and theologian, meant he cared for God’s people through the Word and cared for the Word as a theologian. We do not need mega-congregation super star pastors who write shallow best selling books of works righteousness, but those who loved the Lord in His love serve and care for that Word for all people in our earthly cities, who think things through, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ for us sinners.  

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and lovng You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jsus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, oneGod now and forever. Amen.

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