Pastor David Nehrenz
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ during this Pentecost season!
Family reunions are always enjoyable. We are returning from seeing our relatives in Ohio. I am from a large family and with my parents, siblings and their spouses, nieces and nephews and their spouses and then all the great-grandchildren, it can be over 60 people.
We are all part of the largest family of all – the holy Christian Church. Our eternal family reunion will be in heaven, where our relatives await us. That joyful day of Jesus’ return will usher in the everlasting kingdom of God in the New Jerusalem – what a day that will be!
The month of July is a good time to remind ourselves of God’s institution of both the Church and the State.
The State: Independence Day is July 4th and then later came the founding of our constitutional, democratic, federal republic – the United States of America. It was and is a great blessing for temporal life and grants us our civic freedoms.
God established the State as His “minister (servant)” as it says in Romans 13:1-7 “The authorities that exist have been established by God…do what is right and he will commend you…he is God’s servant to do you good…he does not bear the sword for nothing…he is God’s servant (minister), an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer…the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”
(The State is called “The Kingdom of God’s Left Hand” – it has the office of the sword and rules by Civil Government)
The Church: Established by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, it continues today in Word and Sacrament – the holy, catholic, apostolic church – and gives great blessings of eternal life and spiritual freedom.
God established the Church as His “minister” as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:1 “Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry…we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord…” and in 5:18 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them.” Also in 1 Corinthians 4:1 “Men ought to regard us as ministers/servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things (sacraments/mysteries) of God”.
(The Church is called “The Kingdom of God’s Right Hand” – it has the office of the keys and rules by Word and Sacrament)
Thank God for His good gifts to us in our nation and in our church! They are all by grace, we deserve none of them! But God grants them to us as our merciful Heavenly Father! Therefore, let us pray for “all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim. 2:2)
In our Lord Jesus,
Pastor David Nehrenz
Vicar Keith Kettner
Over and over again we read about Jesus engaging the Pharisees and their traditions. Trying with good intentions to follow the law and obey God, the Pharisees missed the point. They added to God’s Word, making the joy of the Scriptures proclaiming a God who delivers into a law book that burdens sinners. The relationship between God and man was no longer a Father who naturally loves His son but a Father who demands His son do everything perfectly to earn His love. Every time, Jesus brings us back to the truth: God does everything out of love for His son out of grace, not because of works.
The Church has historically continued to struggle over matters of tradition, particularly in the time of Luther. Matters called adiaphora, “indifferent things,” caused all sorts of arguments. Neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible, how should the Church handle such topics? For example, how should the Church building be designed? How should we handle the teaching of children? How often should the Holy Communion be celebrated?
Much like some of the Old Testament laws, there is a lot of freedom to adiaphora. Luther kept many of the traditions of the Catholic church because he saw that the existence of traditions was not the problem. Rather, each tradition must be retained or changed according to the Gospel. Does this or that get in the way of Christ? This is the question the Church must always ask in assessing what she does. When a tradition warps the view of God into a Father who requires His son to earn His favor, that tradition has destroyed the fundamental truth of salvation by grace alone.
Jesus Himself spoke of such things. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) At the root of this statement is the rule by which we judge all traditions, what it teaches us about God. Now then, as we reflect on the practices and traditions of the Church, we thank God for the great freedom He gives us. We also pray that He guides us in wisdom as we use traditions to teach ourselves, our children, and the many people in our lives.
Vicar Keith Kettner