19 July 2010

Wish List for New LCMS Prez - Item #1

Now that the 64th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod is concluded and entering the history books, official and otherwise, the dust is beginning to settle. And a great amount of dust there is to settle and to sift through: massive restructuring of the synodical bureaucracy (the effects of which we cannot even begin to fathom at this point), a new LCMS president (a faithful pastor and theologian whose responsibilities and burden of office have just increased exponentially), and by all accounts many other good and faithful officers and servants to help guide and steer the ship of the LCMS.

With the advent of a new LCMS president on the horizon the mood of many in the synod may very well be summed up as: "What next?" Perhaps we can even say that the mood leans toward: "What will President Harrison do to restore, guide, heal, etc. the Missouri Synod?" So with such thoughts in mind, allow me to be so bold as to make and publish my own personal "Wish List" for our new POTS (President of the Synod).

Before I get to Item #1 on my wish list for Pres. Harrison, though, please also accept a few points by way of disclaimer and qualification. In no way do I claim to set any kind of agenda for Rev. Harrison as he takes the reigns of a church body that desperately needs to be brought back on line with its own stated confession of doctrine and practice. I fully acknowledge that Pres. Harrison, by God's forgiving grace in Christ Jesus and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can figure out his own agenda for leading the synod.

In no way do I expect Pres. Harrison to read, consider, or ponder my wish list items, let alone acknowledge them in any way. After all, I'm sure that he has plenty to do just to transition into his new position, plenty to do once he's in that office, and will have many capable assistants and advisers who are much more apt at advising than I.

However, what I do want to offer here is simply a "view from the pew," as it were, some wishes from the vantage point of a simple parish pastor. Someone has called it the "highest office" in the Church, de iure divino (by divine right) for those of you know and like the Latin. Perhaps this "view from the pew" from a parish pastor might provide some benefit for one who has just been thrust into a high and lofty position, that is de iure humano (by human right) for those of you who want even more Latin. Or maybe it will just spark some thoughtful consideration and conversation in this forum (which is my real intent).

Now, disclaimers and qualifications aside, here is my Item #1 on my "Wish List" for Pres. Matthew Harrison.

Pres. Harrison, you said some pretty amazing things in your address to the LCMS Convention just moments after being elected. Most crucial and most refreshing were your words about sinners and forgiveness:
I wish to inform you that you have kept your perfect record of electing sinners as presidents of the Missouri Synod. I guarantee you I will sin and fail. I will fall short. I will sin against you. I wish also to say, that right now I forgive all who have in any way have [sic] sinned against me or anybody else, and plead your forgiveness for anything that I said or did that offended you. I beg of you your prayers, I beg of you your daily prayers and intercession (http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=11559).
The number one item on my "Wish List" for you, Mr. President, is that you keep this focus on sin and forgiveness, both for yourself and for us. I know it's easy to say so now, at the beginning of a new chapter, and, no doubt, an overwhelming one, in your life and the life of the LCMS. But I also know that the passage of time, the daily routines and the usual, laborious grind of churchly business, returning phone calls, attending meetings, and dealing with many and various crises can tend to overwhelm and take precedence.

Mr. President, please don't let the land of synodical bureaucracy - a.k.a. "synodocracy" - zap your sense of being a sinner who needs forgiveness from Jesus Christ. Please do not let strong winds of bylaw bureaucracy and convention-resolution-mania or the earthquakes of massive restructuring or the fires of urgent issues and crises muffle the sound of the Lord's low whisper of sins forgiven by the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, we need to hear that focus on sin and forgiveness, both for yourself and for us. We need to hear it because it is the Lord's very breath of life, both for you and for us. Bylaws and convention resolutions come and go, and ne'er a one gives life with our gracious and loving God. But the message of God's forgiveness in Christ? That makes all the difference in the world--all the difference between life and death, between heaven and hell, between the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ and a church body merely seeking to make a name for itself.

Keep reminding us, most genuinely and most humbly, that you are a sinner. We need to hear that! No, not to denigrate you or your office, but for other reasons. First, we need to be reminded that you are not our savior nor the savior of the LCMS. Many of us--myself included--trust that your pastoral heart and your theological mind will certainly bear wonderful fruits for confessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading that Evangel and living the compassion of Christ, but we also need to be reminded that you are merely a sinner, as are we, and simply serving at the behest and pleasure of our merciful Lord Jesus Christ, the real Savior of the Church.

Second, we need to hear that you are a sinner in order that we may follow your example. Yes, we need to learn to admit that we are sinners too. Please lead us by example. As a parish pastor, I need to admit my own sinfulness and failures. Not only do I need to do so more and more, but I also need to do so more publicly before my parishioners, just as you have admirably shown before the convention. Thank you!

Most of all, keep reminding us, most genuinely and most boldly, that we are all forgiven by the blood of Christ. We desperately need to hear that! Keep reminding us that without Christ Jesus, without His sacrifice on the cross, without His ongoing presence and His gifts given in the Gospel, in Baptism, and in the Holy Supper, we have nothing. Please keep reminding us of our forgiveness in Christ in order that His life-giving Word may bear fruit in our lives, especially the fruits of trusting Him for all things, of caring for one another, and of getting that message of forgiveness out into the world. Keep reminding us of the eternal Evangel, and then we will trust that the task of evangelism will, by the Spirit's guidance, fall into place.

Please, Mr. President, keep our focus and yours on sinners who need the forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can give. And since you have requested our prayers and intercessions, please know that you have them from me, a simple parish pastor.

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