Then Joseph sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45,24 NIV) and St. Paul writes: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4,3 NIV)
The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa is preparing its national synod to be held next week. All pastors of the church – young and old, retired or not are expected to be there plus delegates from every congregation and parish throughout the five dioceses right from Tutu up north in Botswana to Mafu down south in KZN, from Nhlangano in Swaziland to Ramathlabama in the NW. Four four days this synod is to convene. The greek “synodos” means the “same way” and has been used in the Church for its illustrious gatherings and confessional highlights like the Nicene synod in the past. Even in the Lutheran Church this name has not only been used to describe ecclesial conventions (Latin: “come together”), but also to titulate itself – illustrating the basic characteristic of the communion of saints sharing the same gifts of God in the same faith and hope. We are called to the one way to the Father – namely the one taught and shown to us by his only begotten Son Jesus Christ and to which we have been called, gathered, enlightened and kept daily by the working of the Holy Spirit through his holy means of grace – his truthful word in law and gospel and the precious sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s supper. It is not of such great consequence what language, tribe or nation we belong to – there are Indians, Swazis, Batswana, South Africans, Germans and Americans expected at this synod of whom most don’t have English as their mother-tongue – yet we are all Lutherans and that confession unites us together on the same way as we go in the same direction and future although we come from very diverse backgrounds.
Being part of one synod is not just plain sailing. It’s often a outright struggle to be sure, because again and again obstructions occur, deviations, detours and junctions come up. Lot’s of fuel for possible conflict and sometimes that’s what happens as people struggle to move forward faithfully on the path to which they have been called. Tribalism, political or ideological divisions tend to pop up now and again. That is not always detrimental or catastrophic, because such crisis can be overcome by the grace of God and lead the church to renewed cooperation, better understanding and deeper resolve in the confessional essentials of the Church and a return and firm setup in the truthful foundations on which we stand and cannot otherwise without loosing the Christian identity and base on which Christ himself has founded his Church. That is why such synods are always also a crisis in the life of a church. A good confession can be made. The opportunity is there and may the living God grant, that this is what is going to happen to his glorification and to the edification of the Church. However a Church gathering making dogmatic decisions binding for the churches way forward in its programatic teaching and congregational practice always also bears the option of denial, corruption, failure and departure of the divine truth and Christ’s institutions with it. This happened with the heretic Arius and huge areas in N.Africa, Asia and Europe were invested with this dreadful apostasy and denial of the truth. It happens again and again when churches deny basic truths of the Christian Church and pass politically correct issues thus loosing credibility by the weakening of Christ’s efficacious truth and wholesome teaching. Now at our coming Synod we don’t have anybody denying the ecumenical faith from of old. Everybody is going to abide by the Lutheran confessions and even in our personal relationships and public communications we’ll abide by the basic norms and values that connect us.
However we should remember that we today are called into a status confessionis (need to confess!) by the many current issues, which confront us and the church. Terrible attacks on the church are being made by false prophets and misleading spirits, who turn the people away from God’s institutions and clear manifestations of his holy will to policies, philosophies and ideologies of men. Therefore we can’t call for “Peace”, when there is obviously not peace, but things and ideas worse than bloodshed, injustice, unrighteousness and corruption, because they mislead us to forget God and his holy word with falsehood, idolatry, heresy and other dreadful stuff corrupting the divine truth and putting God’s light and words into the shadow. That means it is not just enough to confess the traditional truth in the words of the one holy Christian Church, but it is also necessary and required of us by the living God to deny and distance ourselves from the errors, lies, half-truths and false teachings, which rise up so readily in our communities here and throughout the world and not only to exert pressure on the church and its faithful believers, but also to actively corrupt, tempt and mislead our people and us into disbelief, error and other shameful sin and vice. This needs to be clearly seen and readily rejected. That is why this time is a serious time to be watchful and prayerful, we all need to join earnestly in intercession and prayer, so that all that we say and do will be faithful and edifying – and that we will not deny our Lord nor any of his teachings and not leave any of his most holy institutions, mandates and ways of faithful living in this world as his creations and sheep of his fold. We don’t want to do anything without his blessing, goodwill and promise – nothing against his command or institution – but rather follow the guiding of his Holy Spirit as it is laid out in Holy Scriptures of the old and new Testaments. Kyrie eleison + Christe eleison + Kyrie eleison.
That too is not all. The Church can’t be satisfied with just confessing the old truths and rejecting the ever new temptations and illusions by the evil begetter of all lies, Satan and his dreadful ilk and bunch of smelly orcs, which have such close allies even in our very own sinful and traitorous selves. No, we in the Church must also continue to profess, teach and preach the blessed saving gospel to the many, many people in this world, who don’t want to hear it anymore or have not heard it yet. We should not just face our more or less glorious past, not just get bogged down in rejecting the falsehood of evil, but continue to proclaim, praise and profess the glorious truths of God’s holy commandments, confessing all he has done in creation, salvation and sanctification, praying to him without ceasing just as his son has taught us in the Our Father and as the Church has been praying with the Psalms from of old, calling upon him in all need of all people and ourselves, expecting help and salvation from him alone and relying solely on his baptismal grace for the forgiveness of all our sin and overcoming of all evil finally at the hour of our death, when we proceed by the power of his supper, fed by his body and blood to overcome sin, death and devil and arrive at the eternal feast that he has prepared for his people in blessed eternity.
The call to us all, who walk in the Christian Church and Lutheran synod, is to abide in Christ, follow his commands and obey his guiding Holy Spirit, the comforter, who teaches and keeps us in God’s ways and words. Therefore not teaching different doctrines, nor quarrelling about silly myths and endless genealogies, speculations and conspiracy theories, vain discussions and empty promises, but rather learning and teaching the good word, the wholesome doctrine and the words of faith, training in godliness. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4,3 NIV) Not a false and evil pact with the devil even if he comes in the shining attire of an angel, but rather in the unity of God’s truth and his strong bond of peace, which passes all understanding and keeps us even in the biggest turmoil and strive. That’s what we should strive, pray and work for in the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace at the coming synod. May God grant it in his abounding love and mercy. Amen.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. Go in + peace. (1.Thessalonians 5:23-24) Amen.
God’s word is our great heritage And shall be ours forever; To spread its light from age to age Shall be our chief endevour. Through life it guides our way, In death it is our stay. Lord, grant, while words endure, We keep its teachings pure Throughout all generations.
Nikolai Fredrik Severin Grundtvig, 1783-1872