For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. (Ecclesiastes 2:21 NKJV)
As we, the heirs of the Reformation, celebrate this 500th Anniversary, we can do it with a true sense of thankfulness. As a church body and as individuals, we have contended for the faith. We have wrestled with challenges, even threats, from within as well as from without. As the years have passed, by God’s grace the Gospel and our Lord’s church have been preserved to this day.
Yet we have to admit much labor has gone into what we have in our Evangelical Lutheran Synod: our college, seminary, and world missions, not to mention our well-maintained churches and schools and home mission churches all across the USA. Think of all the work our pastors and teachers and administrators are enabled to do on a regular basis in order to proclaim and teach God’s Word in all its fullness and with great delight as we share the Gospel through Word and Sacrament. For this we are thankful.
Let’s not forget the hard labor of our members, who not only volunteer their time and talent in leading our churches, but also through their own labor and earnings have supported our churches, our synod, and its missions for 99 years with their gifts. For all these people, we thank the Lord. The church is blessed through their generosity as they in love give to the One “who first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
How important the love of Christ is to our planning. The reality is that our lives and time on earth are limited. Even though our eternal life is sure in Christ, soon all that we have on this earth will be another’s. As the wise Solomon points out, we “must leave (this) heritage to a (person or persons) who has not labored for it” (emphasis added) (Ecclesiastes 2:21).
Sounds kind of frustrating, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds almost futile. Solomon by inspiration says it this way: “This also is vanity and a great evil” (Ecclesiastes 2:21).
But what message was the Holy Spirit conveying through this writer? If you study Solomon’s frustration with life, you can easily see that he was saying, “What a pity to be thus blessed and to feel powerless to prudently direct our things, even our wealth, for good.”
You have to admit, he makes a valid point. How will what we have be managed by those who follow us? Will they have the same values, the same wisdom in their use? Will they support the work of spreading the Gospel, work to build up their congregation, start and maintain missions at home and around the world? As the Proverbs remind us, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways” (14:8).
As we celebrate our Reformation heritage, we can take this opportunity to help make a huge difference in our church’s history. It is a very critical time and your response can make a difference for a generation or more to come. Our need to focus on building ELS churches in our growing cities is evident in several ways. Not the least of these is that many of our own young people are seeking employment and starting families and will need a church home, often far from where they were born.
With this in mind, join many of us in the ELS in making a plan to pass on not just our family’s heritage, but the heritage of the Gospel as preserved in the Reformation and through our ELS. History teaches us that it takes ordinary people, much like you and me, to step up and do extraordinary things to make a lasting difference.
What role will you take in this greater picture? We’d like to have you consider not just planning, but joining others in promoting the missions of our synod as we seek to gather $1,500,000 in support of Home Missions in the coming months. Whether we want to support the vicar-in-mission program, our cross-cultural projects, or help to start and maintain new missions, all are vital to fulfilling our Lord’s gracious command to preach the Gospel to every creature.
The Anniversary Offering is all about passing on our heritage and the gracious inheritance that our Lord has granted us through the Reformation. It is worth our time and effort to plan for its support.
Do go online at els.org/donate to make a contribution today or make a request for an offering booklet and envelopes. Challenge yourselves to support this work by pledging your gift today and making plans for generous support in the months ahead. You can also call the Estate Planning Office of our ELS at 507-344-7311 today and plan boldly to leave your lasting legacy of sharing the Gospel during as well as after your earthly life.
Reverend Daniel A. Basel
Chairman, Anniversary Offering Committee
Evangelical Lutheran Synod