in Theology

Boots on the Ground

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At that most recent meeting, the board heard from LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who provided a report on the state of Synod and took time to present his study of Synod demographics and statistics through the years. Harrison shared his concern, noting that for the Synod, the demographic/statistics trend is downward. “Boots on the ground matter,” said Harrison, asking, “Are we actually inviting people to church, are we actually planting churches?”

When challenged, Harrison further explained. “It’s unconscionable that [there are] congregations who have no adult class, no attempt at outreach … that the LCMS is declining,” he said. “I know that numbers are not the end. But the Lord has hidden answers to questions of election in Himself,” Harrison continued, as he emphatically concluded, “He has given us the means to reach out. Are we doing it? As matter of the law, we can do far better at it.”

via BIM calls 10 career missionaries | LCMS News & Information.

SELC Newsletter #233

Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters on Christ,

In some parishes of our Church, the church festivals are occasionally transferred from weekdays to the adjacent Sunday. This happens for various reasons. Sometimes, it is because a parish is small and it is not so easy to get people to the church on a weekday. And sometimes, it is because a parish doesn’t have its own church building and the room for services is rented only on Sundays.

Therefore, in this year also, Bishop Vsevolod served the Nativity of the Theotokos (Mother of God) three times during last week.

The bishop says, “the Marian festivals are important for the Church, although many of the modern Protestants (and, alas, some Lutherans too) treat them with caution. Modern Protestants generally are “afraid” of the Theotokos. This is because they think that if they begin to talk about the Virgin Mary, their parishioners all at once will rush ​​to pray to her. But the main problem is that they do not understand that the role of Saint Mary in our salvation is huge: she gave birth to our Savior. From her He received His body and blood, which we take in the Holy Communion, which save us now.

After all, you know that the body and blood of Christ are not symbols or signs, it is reality, a Eucharistic reality. God comes to us — so close that we can touch Him. And these are His body and blood He received from His Mother — Saint Mary.”

In his sermon (actually, in his three sermons because he preached it in three parishes) the Bishop said: The Festival of the Nativity of the Mother of God is so important for us because it gives us an answer to one of the most difficult questions of theology — of the incarnation of Christ. How many false teachings have risen in history! How many heretics and apostates have appeared in the world, who denied the divinity or the humanity of Christ! But the Savior was born from an earthly woman. So what may prove His humanity more than this? He was not a kind of shadow that walked on the earth in the likeness of a humanoid. He had the same body, which we have. And for us, His real body was crucified on the cross and His real blood was shed.

Therefore, His body and blood, that we take in the Holy Communion, are not symbols but they are a reality. In Christianity, there are no symbols at all, in Christianity everything is real.

Humanity — that is why we celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos. It is the day when she was born in the ordinary way, to a terrestrial and happy mom and dad.

Mary was born, so the whole world would believe in her Son. <…>

The long list of human names that we read today from the Gospel of Matthew [chapter one] leads us to Saint Mary, and she leads us to her Son.

Humanity — our world is so lacking in humanity — because it is not only a theological but also an ethical term.

Humanity and “humanity” — have you ever wondered about how the humanity of Christ is associated with humanity in the sense of kindness and mercy? But it is so. Only a religion in which God is incarnate is humane.

Because where God is not Man, there he is infinitely far from people, there he does not live among them [see John
1: 14], and for them He did not die. In such religions, such a god does not love humans, but only gives orders; to deserve mercy from such a god, we must satisfy him, bringing him animals or even humans to sacrifice.

Religions where there god is not incarnate, are cruel and atrocious. There, their gods are seated on the heavenly (or even earth) throne and require their subordinates to hate and to kill “infidels.” Are the cults of the Roman emperors and the Soviet leaders, and all kinds of current dictators, not like this? Or look like Islam that literally turns men into beasts. Because it is beasts who cut the heads off of their hostages, who capture schools, who swathe themselves with explosives and blow up our women and children.

Christianity is the only religion that does not act by force, but by love. Our religion is the only one, where to imitate God means to love but not to hate.

Christianity is the only humane religion, precisely because for us our God became Man — became one of us — the same as we are. Our God was born, as we were born, from an earth woman. <…>

The world in which we live, will hardly be better. Rather, it will only get worse. So how can we survive? Where do we find peace and deliverance from the oppressive feeling of fear? There is only one thing that can save us — only Jesus, the Son of Mary. That is the main thing that Theotokos gave to this world, and to us — to you and to me — she gave us her Son. From her He received His body and blood. Only through Him shall we be saved.

Shall we? I do not know, really. Among us Christians there are so many of those who neglect the church and the sacraments. So many of those who do not go to church, and do not lead their children here. And how to bring the Gospel to unbelievers? I do not really know. How to lead people around us into faith in Christ? How to encourage the baptized to live as Christians? How to make our human society even a little bit better? I do not know. Not everything is in our strength. Sadly I’m not sure that the Church can change the world. But this does not mean that we can do nothing. One thing is needful: to tell people about Christ, to invite them to the church, to care for them with kindness, to show our Christian love. It is still not too late to do it.

Please pray for our Bishop Vsevolod and for all clergymen and laymen in Siberia.

“Faith and hope”

Please see attached photos.