1956 Synod Convention Essay
In 1895 the Polish writer Henryk Sienkewicz, after lengthy study of the Latin writers of the first few Christian centuries, gave to the world an historical novel dealing with the Rome of Nero and the early Christian martyrs. Immediately it became a sensational seller, remaining popular to this day, and in this generation it has been filmed at least twice in America. Although it was written as a book of biographical contrasts between pagan and Christian personalities and philosophies, it bore the Latin title Quo Vadis, a question, these words coming from a scene pictured near the end of the book, and restated in the concluding paragraph.
In the Rome of this era Nero’s perverse and cruel desires for pleasure and revenge, prompted by his megalomania, filled him with much devilish planning for the extermination of Christians, like the cruelty by which he had dealt with previous political opponents. The holocaust of fiendish, inhuman cruelty and persecution certainly swirled around Christian heads in those days as recorded history and this fictional narrative vividly describe. But at the peak of this trouble, the author describes an unbelievable scene. The Apostle Peter is seen deserting the Roman Christians, walking out of the city away from the scene of trouble with a friend. But on the road Peter sees a vision, supposed to be the Lord Jesus appearing to him, who, in reply to Peter’s question “Quo vadis, domine?” stated that He was going to succor those same Christians in Rome whom Peter is supposed to have deserted. As the scene concludes, the reader sees an immediately changed apostle heading resolutely back to Rome, silent to his own friend’s similar question “Quo vadis, domine?”
Speaking frankly, about the only thing remotely commendable about this whole episode are those very words “Quo vadis?” which have been repeated and printed many times since as captions and titles of editorials, poems, and paintings, not in reference to this incident, but because of their meaning! For those words are exactly and simply the meaning of this convention essay. “Quo vadis” means “Whither goest thou?” It is our purpose at this time to ask ourselves, as we should have asked in the past, and ought to in the future, “Quo vadis, Norwegian Synod?”
That this is a pertinent question ought not be debated. For we are now at the end of a year of work which certainly had us wondering at its beginning — not necessarily that the outlook was completely dark, gloomy, foreboding, dangerous, or doomed to failure — but that in our wariness a big question mark was found in the thinking of many of us.
This wariness was due, of course, to the resolutions adopted last June in which our fraternal relations with the Missouri Synod were suspended for doctrinal reasons. It is no secret that there were those among us who were honestly fearful of the consequences of this action. On the other hand, there were those like the young pastor sitting in the back row of our hall on that day when the suspension vote was taken, who, in reply to the question “Do you think that this break will really hurt us?” answered very forthrightly “It can’t!”
Now we have finished that first year of a possible longer period of time, but a brief review of the twelve months gone by shows that it has not been such a bad year after all. True, there have been those whose love for the Missouri Synod prompted them to leave our Synod after its stand. But a congregational accounting shows that in several of our parishes we have gained back more new members than were lost, for the very same reasons! While there has been increased activity against Bethany College by former brethren, yet the flow of outside students at our school was not completely stopped. And last reports promise an enrollment from all sources already greater than last year. And while other Lutheran bodies in our land have had to sweat out real financial crises this past year, it is a fact that our own people have arisen to our needs, contributing thousands of dollars more for our budgeted needs than in any other year.
While one could arrive at all sorts of logical reasons for this, our Christian hearts will quickly supply the real reason. When His believers do what has to be done in accordance with God’s Word, acting obedient to it even in the face of possible dire consequences, He does not forget them, but extends His blessing hand. This is just another proof of the truth that “God never yet forsook in need, the soul that trusted Him indeed.” How our hearts ought to be strengthened in faith an hundredfold so that we continue to view and plan our future in God’s grace with boldness and confidence.
But, where do we go from here? Is the reason for our existence upon earth simply this, that splinter groups and minorities are necessary, that somebody has to testify to erring Lutherans and others, and we are elected? Or is there a definite task set for us upon earth in addition to these aforementioned activities? Where do we go from here, whether it be in the physical company of thousands of fellow Lutherans, or alone?
Again, Christian faith will not stumble in ignorance in answering. For there can be only one correct path ahead, regardless of how it is described. Let us put it this way. Our dear Lord Jesus gave all believers until the end of time their marching orders when He commanded “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matt. 28,19–20. This is not the time for us to signal the bugler to sound “Retreat,” for our continued march toward the promised joys of heaven shall be, and must be, down the road of obedience to Christ’s Great Commission to His Church, but in the enjoyment of Christ’s promise of grace and protection. You might say it differently. This is our way of saying it, and upon this we shall now elaborate. Putting it briefly however — it shall be our business to preach and teach the pure Word of God.
There are possibly quite a few present at this meeting who attended other Synod conventions during those ten re-formative years after 1918. But how many are there here today who were present at Lime Creek in 1918? When you study the faces, the churches, the entire work of our church today, you ought to he the best qualified to witness to the fact that the feathers have certainly grown back on the “plucked chicken!” Why? Because our re-building fathers, many of whom are still with us today, were not forgetful of Christ’s Commission, but immediately made provision for performing mission work among other things. And in acting according to Christ’s Word they lived to see their congregations blessed. Today our Synod exists as a very proof of God’s blessing, for by various rules of logic and the wishes of Satan, we really should not even be around. But we are!
Now we know that a state of relaxation or lethargy is not of the essence of true Christian living. And it is to the glory of God that we can happily say that forgetfulness of our Redeemer’s Commission does not describe our Synod’s work today. Through the activity of alert and earnest pastors, missionaries, congregations and Mission Board members, we have seen during the past few years an accelerated mission program which, speaking very frankly, has not been equalled proportionately by any other Lutheran church body.
Our own Synod has experienced that mission work in the Golden State is far from a fruitless venture. Pastors have gone out from their own congregations in a number of places in our Synod to found daughter congregations in nearby towns and areas. For various reasons already-established congregations have been attracted to our Synod, have desired pastoral service from us, and the number is still increasing.
And yet, many cities of the Pacific Coast states have countless blocks of homes without the shadow of a church steeple falling over them. In the Midwest we are surprised again and again by the areas into which our own work can be extended. And we haven’t tried western Canada or Alaska yet!
It is not enough to stop with affairs at home. Through the self-sacrifice of one of our fine pastors, whose efforts we shall probably never properly appreciate, God has blessed us with a foreign mission of our own. And a high point of last year’s Synod Sunday festival service was the commissioning of our first foreign foreign missionary to continue the work in Cornwall. This work is not insignificant, nor dare we become complacent in a disinterested, prayerless, payless manner. Now there are those among us who feel that the same type of program could be successful in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Is this impossible? The interest, money, and work expended in the past years on behalf of Nigeria and Cornwall has not been unblessed by God!
Call it whatever else you like, this business of mission work is essentially a task of preaching, isn’t it? And when we preach, or teach, God’s Word, whether it be from the pulpit, in private devotion or consultation, in school, or over the back-yard fence, the Holy Spirit’s promise accompanies it “It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the tiling whereto I sent it.” Is. 55,11. There is plenty of evidence that this preaching of the Gospel has not been fruitless. God has blessed us exceedingly more than we deserve. Now may the Spirit send to each of us personally the zeal to use this powerful tool.
A dozen years ago an older Missouri pastor, in a personal conversation, expressed himself mildly critical of our so-called “inept mission work” He was not however very well acquainted with our work But in that conversation he used an expression which I have liked ever since. Although he was not happy with certain tendencies developing in his church, he felt a great deal of happiness regarding a particular attitude he had noticed with many of the graduates of St. Louis and Springfield seminaries at that time. They were going out into the church, said he, with a “zeal for souls.” Now we know that a lot of so-called “zeal for souls” is not true zeal for souls. But the words do imply something, insofar as “zeal for souls” excludes personal ambition, zeal for acclaim, zeal for large churchliness, and other failings which have entered too much church work.
And isn’t it true that a measure of the success and blessings which God heaped upon good old Missouri was due to the sacrificial willingness of many of its men, both pastors and laymen, to spend hard years sometimes as pastors and teachers in order that souls might be served, even though uncertain financial and living conditions were also their lot.
Let us continue to grow personally in such a zeal for souls. A big boost in this type of development, in addition to a deeper study and realization of God’s love to us as shown in Christ’s atonement, could be a closer personal interest by every “old-time” Synod member in the “newcomers” — the nearby mission congregations and members. If there is a mission church near you, you would do well to visit it and take part in its activities often. Although this is not always as easy to do as advise, besides morally supporting them, the pep and renewed vigor for your own personal church life might be the biggest result.
Every visit that I have made to a young congregation has given me a big stimulus, especially one. Winter before last we had the pleasure of visiting our mission in Granada Hills, California. To describe that sensation or the potentialities of that area adequately is as impossible as trying to picture southern California at all! The hustle and interest in that group of new and old Lutherans in endeavoring to reach others, in taking active part in church affairs and its teaching agencies — even in keeping the church clean — would put a lot of us in typical midwestern settled congregations to shame! May God grant a continuation in that spirit to that mission and bless its school in its almost unbelievable growth.
But in speaking specifically of one group, we have described nothing other than that which is true in varying degree in all of our young churches and missions. But how easy it is for us to get stale. How grand it would be if a proper zeal for souls, prescribed in God’s Word and practiced by many, could rub off on us all when we slump into our sometimes periodic ruts, so that the interests in our lives include not only our families, our churches, our homes, our lawns and gardens, sports and entertainments, but also the souls of neighbors and other friends.
The effectiveness of the Lutheran Reformation lay not so much in the fact that good Germans of that day were told the simple message that Jesus was their only Savior, but that after they were told once, they were told again and again, and to that essential point were steadily added various other doctrines of Scripture, as individual spiritual diets permitted. Various means of catechetical and musical forms, plus the translation of the Word into everyman’s language, were used, so that through repetitive teaching and continuous instruction Scriptural truths were verily sung and memorized into German Lutheran hearts. The Lutheran Reformation was not a “fly-by-night,” revivalistic, evangelistic campaign which left the Germans high at night, but high and dry in the morning. Since then Scriptural Lutheran practice in building Christ’s Church has never been a “one-night-stand” affair noted for its brevity and the ease with which men become Lutherans, but a life-long task of growing up in the faith through Word and Sacrament.
This has not become our practice because it is a Lutheran opinion. For such is entirely in accord with Christ’s Great Commission again, for when He says “Make disciples” and “baptize” He continues His recipe for proper church work by adding “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” While teaching is the essence of good preaching, yet there is a specific part of our church work, methods and ways of instruction, which we usually list apart from so-called “mission work.” All of them promise God’s blessing upon us, if we are not forgetful but faithful.
There are many forms of instructive church activity, the center of which ought to be some study of God’s Word. But there is no better method for a bare study of Scripture than through the organized regular Bible Class. No congregation has ever gone broke because of the expenses involved in having one, but it is surprising that in a church body which wants to be so faithful to God’s Word there are so few classes for Bible Study in our congregations. We can not learn more about the things of God, a knowledge which ought to be most desirable among us, unless we look in the book in which the Triune God reveals Himself.
In all of our teaching activity, we can teach a lot of things, but unless the Word of God be our chief textbook, we do not teach essentials nor are we using the proper tools. This must be the trowel with which we add new and old bricks to the building of Christ’s Church. There are those who want to use other man-made religious philosophies and theories to do this, but any such spiritually empty conglomeration builds nothing of eternal worth.
As for the young, we can do more than just teach them about God in Sunday School and other part-time agencies. Christian parents or congregations provide, or might provide, total elementary education tempered by God’s Word through the medium of the Lutheran Christian Day School. It is not that we simply want to compete with the public education of our states; this is a matter of giving the blood-bought souls of Christ’s lambs something better than just secular education: i.e. an education whose heart and soul is God, His world, His created things, and His love and providence.
This summer it was reported in the press that one of the larger Lutheran bodies in our land went on record opposed to, and protesting, any and every sort of parochial education in the United States. Religious apathy and disinterest being what it is, it makes one wonder how the mouth of any church could be opened in discouragement, instead of encouragement, of any possible proper means of Christian education. A shaky future lies ahead for those Lutherans. Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, the cause of American education is not improving. Despite successful efforts at consolidating school districts, providing higher salaries so that better teachers may be held in the teaching profession, there are ever increasing problems in administration, instruction and discipline in the field of public education. The school then which adds Christ to its curriculum will always be miles ahead in the eyes of the concerned believer. The Christian school, on the elementary or secondary level, is a matter of faith as far as its operation and support is concerned. May the Holy Spirit therefore enlarge that faith in the hearts of those for whom the proper education of their young is a cherished thing.
This ought to be our prayer and confidence for our Bethany also. Not all of the things reported about our college’s future and student enrollment during the past year have sounded so very hopeful, even though we all must appreciate the bleak outlook which must sometimes appear for those who labor personally in its behalf. But the sun has been in the happy habit of rising after dark nights for many centuries now, and it shall continue. And that brighter sunrise is beginning to appear again as far as Bethany is concerned, for even the most gloomy soul ought to be cheered by the present promise of a fall enrollment this year decidedly up already! And when finances play such a big part of the picture in our Bethany attitude, what a cheering note that is!
Whether or not Bethany is needed is not debatable! It is a necessity for the spiritual life of our Synod in so many ways. Bethany’s doors have to swing open to any, and all, who desire good education and conservative Lutheran instruction. Our plans must be filled with a deeper realization of this, and in addition, with some plain old-fashioned, “horn-tooting,” personal campaigning for our college. God has provided the potential reward, but does not always reward before there has been labor.
We ought to consider the latest developments and plans at our school as a big forward step. During the coming months we can be helped, instructed, and led, in knowledge and advancement of Bethany by one of our most familiar younger faces in the office of a public relations man. We ought to have confidence that before very long this special work will prove its worth, even though it will not be an easy work. But the sad truth is that we are too often afflicted with an ingrained suspicion and critical disposure toward things new or different. May God grant to those who pass among our congregations in behalf of Bethany a gratifying work-successful promotion of our school and its needs, and pleasant cooperation from all who can be of help.
Bethany’s potential helpers are many. The properly enlisted support of the alumni could be a strong one with proper organization. Ten years ago the Alumni Association’s annual meeting devoted much energetic debate to the subject of a new Bethany fieldhouse. But because there was no orderly plan presented, some spoke in high financial figures and some low, the net result was not much of anything. Now any reasoning brain can see that any proportion of alumni members multiplied by a $5 or $10 pledge each year, multiplied by the ten years that have passed since, could have resulted in a sizable gymnasium fund. It is not too late for us who have profited by our education here at Bethany to show that in a definite way. Just as all of our people regularly supply our Synod’s needs through their Sunday contributions and other plans, the Alumni could by regular giving provide for much capital expansion on this hilltop.
But it is not only the big help which is help. Every parent who sends his children here and pays for their education contributes; Christian friends who help educate their friends and relatives contribute; teachers consecrated enough to serve for contribute; donors of special gifts of food or money, bequests, legacies; and every loyal Synod member who places his Synod Sunday offering on the church altar is a vital partner in this work as in all our synodical work. This partnership ought not be dissolved.
Several years ago one of our pastors announced to an older member that he had invited his brother in our synod to preach for him one Sunday. Immediately she asked “Is he a good ‘Synod’ man?” It is not too much to ask that same question of every one of the young men who graduate from our seminary in the years to come, for that is the very purpose for which it is maintained. It is an historical fact, however, that as the seminary goes, so goes the church. When liberalism prevails at any ministerial school, it can be expected to pervade the church later. But when orthodoxy reigns, it cannot but be felt in doctrine and practice. Great responsibility then lies upon the shoulders of those men chosen to prepare our future pastors. May a deep consideration of future consequences move us to wise choices in instructors and instruction at our seminary that all it does may never be a haphazard affair. Even though they might appear to be the most “cantankerous,” “bullheaded,” “narrow-minded,” and “stubborn” men in the world, let us never entrust this particular future of our church to any men but those most richly blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are enough temptations of a liberalizing tendency to be found out in the ministry without having them incipiently instilled in any seminary of this church.
There are many other labors in our church in which instruction is a chief part. The work among the servicemen is of extreme importance, exposed as they are to problems and temptations which are sometimes far away and unreal to us. Our church paper, the Sentinel, ought to rate particularly high as a medium of teaching as home after home receive the Bread of at regular intervals through its pages. Let us continue these tasks in a manner deserving of God’s blessing.
But there is one other work which we want to mention emphatically in conclusion, because it is too easily neglected among us all wherever we are. That is the work known among us as charity work or support work. It is interesting to note that the only definition of religion found in the whole Bible is one emphasizing this matter. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,” says James, “To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1,27. There is not a single man among us today who can properly feel the case of the widow, her fears and loneliness, and few among us who know the distress of the orphan. But we find that our Lord in His Word again and again reminds us of our obligations and proper feelings toward the widow, the orphan, and the hoary head. The early Christian Church members were not slackers in this care, nor should we be. There are those in the world today receiving apparently unusual blessings, understood only by the fact that throughout earlier periods of their lives a tender devotion to their elders according to the Fourth Commandment was their daily habit. Others are reaping the whirlwind of trouble because of dishonor in this same regard. Today our Kasota Valley Home exists to afford such Christian love and consideration in a special degree, and when the time is ripe to enlarge this work into other parts of our Synod, there ought to be no arguing about its desirability or value. Nor should we begrudge the minutes we could spend in each of our congregations each week in bringing personal cheer and Christ’s Gospel comfort to those whose lives are not always as bright as ours.
In these previous paragraphs now we have listed various kinds of work, not forgetting however that there are more things that could have been described, but for the sake of brevity, have been deliberately excluded. These specific reminders ought to be an incentive to us all. Let us continue our work reminded of our duties, but also realizing that not all of these possible endeavors can be accomplished with the same ability, to the same skill and degree, or with the same success among us. For there are diversities of people, their spiritual gifts and physical abilities, and the fields in which they work. Some of us engage in endeavors which seem richly and quickly blessed; for others the rewards come hard. But regardless of the size of work or success, let faithfulness to duty be the theme. Sometimes one of the hardest lessons for us to learn when we are younger is that our work in life may never be “big” work, but “small” work, in the sight of man. How easily we get dissatisfied, or discouraged, because we can not do big things. But there’s a good chance we might never do bigger things anyplace if we do not perform the small duties first. The words of Jesus “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” Luke 16,10, ought to show us what God expects of us all anywhere, and also hints as to why God has chosen the ones He has for particular earthly labor.
Now when we talk about “our” work, even though it is a commanded labor, how easy it is to inflate ourselves with a feeling of our own importance. It is not always good to the ego to speak too much of these things. For we must after all remember “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Psalm 127,1. No human being, no matter what exalted position he holds in the church, is anything more than an instrument of God. God does much, or little, through us; we don’t do it by ourselves. That thought held high will not be conducive to pompous pride.
We are to be excited and zealous about our work, but it must be with a zeal which is “according to knowledge.” There is only one source of true knowledge, the holy Word of God. In this Word we are told of the other Means of Grace which God would have us use in His Kingdom work. These are the only means by which the Church of God can be built among us or others. As we use them, God grant us the steadfast ability to preserve these precious things pure and unadulterated. The doctrines of any church called Christ’s dare not be anything other than those based upon, drawn from, proven and preserved by God’s Holy Word. Any teaching adulterated by the incomplete wisdom of man or emasculated by man’s doubt and unbelief dare never find lodging in our creeds. Only by such purity can we hope to receive the comforting assurance of our soul’s salvation and certainty of an heavenly inheritance.
Let our believing hearts say daily: “Don’t you dare do that which is contrary to God’s commands! Don’t you dare belittle the precious truths of God’s Word! Don’t you dare smirk at the plan of God’s gracious redemption! Don’t you dare deviate one iota, or tolerate any deviation, from any point of Scripture by which we might be robbed of precious grace! Don’t you dare pretend a public confession of faith with any who would not speak the things of God clearly!” “Rene laere” may still be a thing of ridicule to many people; it must not be so with us. God’s Word violated is God’s Word ineffective. God’s Word pure is God’s Word powerful. This was Luther’s doctrine, and it is ours. And “Christ’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure among us ever shall endure” ought to be a remembered motto. Then we are not forgetting Jesus’ words to his Church “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
We believe that this same Word of God supports every single doctrine in the Lutheran Confessions. Therefore we confess that our church is the true visible church of Christ on earth. This church, however, is not a perfect church. We must never forget that the old Adam lives with conservative Lutherans just as much as he does with liberalizing and Romanizing Lutherans. Our living for Christ must be tempered with this thought, lest we zealously operate in a manner, or with methods, which render blessed results improbable or impossible. There are certain temptations and dangerous pitfalls which beset the orthodox, of which they must be careful.
In certain localities of our Synod we often hear the charge “You Synod people think that you are the only ones who can be saved!” Usually this is a statement of hatred and spite. But if it is an honest appraisal or impression of a smug and overbearing manner by which we defend our teachings, then we are guilty of an arrogance which ought to be promptly corrected. We do not deny that there are those who never seem able to get a correct impression, but it ought to be a serious matter for us if humility is missing from our Christian life. We must reject the teaching, and never give such a proud impression, that God has set a fence around our church or any particular religious group upon earth, excluding all others from the hope of salvation.
We do believe that our church, true to the Lutheran Confessions, is the true visible Church of Christ upon earth. But at the same time we confess an additional belief when we say in the words of the Apostle’s Creed “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.” Outside of this Church of true believers, wherever they may be found, there is no salvation. Let us practise this confession also, looking always for evidences of the true Christian faith in those we know who are at present outside of our fellowship and rejoice when and if we find such evidences. Unless an unbelieving contempt for Christ or deliberate defense of error darkens it, every soul with which we come into contact must be looked upon as a potential co-heir with us of the joys of eternal life.
The pride and joy of possessing God’s grace and favor ought never degenerate into arrogant selfishness. But when Christians have to suffer abuse for the sake of the Word of Grace, it is sometimes very tempting for them to want to withdraw into a sinful shell of separatism away from everybody. “Scripture warns us clearly and emphatically against entanglements with errorists” Thesis VI, Unity, Union, and Unionism, p. 27, but never orders us into silent separation when we could be enjoying fellowship with true believers here on earth.
One other danger which is very real to the orthodox is the temptation to build conservative theology into a type of “ultra-conservatism,” in which, however, men say more than God says. It is an historical fact that some orthodoxy has turned into legalism when persecution became too heavy. It takes good balance to keep our reason in check when it would push us into saying more than God says about matters of doctrine and practice as they apply in our congregational life. We dare never legislate the Gospel or our Christian liberty into a set of rules. These sinful things, pride and indifference, separatism and legalism, are deadly temptations, and if they mold and fashion our use of Christ’s Word, they will certainly hinder any proper preaching and teaching of that same Word.
A consecrated Christian mother, a faithful Lois to her children, wrote her pastor-son stating that she prayed regularly for him. “I do not pray simply that you may become successful in the building of churches or the bringing of many souls to Christ,” she wrote. “I pray only that you may never say or do anything in such a way that it will keep somebody out of heaven.” How careful we all ought to be as we teach God’s Word, that we do not stand in the way of anyone’s salvation by any intemperate, unkind or unwise administration of the Means of Grace.
Last Sunday an 85-year-old son of Israel wished me God’s blessing on this essay, adding, “How good it would be if after we have proclaimed Christ, we would all live Christ!” Our whole life, not just those periods when we teach or defend God’s Holy Word, must be a life of sanctification.
“’Tis all in vain that you profess
The doctrines of the Church, unless
You live according to your creed,
And show your faith by word and deed.
Observe the rule: To others do
As you would have them do to you.” T. Kingo
We’ll never be worthy of the grace of God through Christ which covers our sinfulness. And the name Christian is a misnomer when applied to any person unwilling to turn his heart, his desires, his lips, his hands and feet, away from the service of sin. No person would buy Chevrolets confidently from Chevrolet dealers if all the Chevrolet dealers drove Fords! Unbelievers can not be easily sold on a Christian religion which does not seem to produce marked effects upon the lives of its adherents. Life is doctrine too!
May these elementary thoughts rule and guide us these days and in the days to come. Let it be our business to preach Christ, and teach Christ, a Savior delivered for our soul’s salvation, a Savior presented to us only in the pure Word of God. I am not going to be ashamed of a church body which considers nothing more important than the proclamation of this comforting message! I am not ashamed of the faithful souls in my parish and elsewhere in our Synod who had to suffer much abuse to help preserve this treasure for us today! I am not ashamed of pastors, teachers, and laymen who work faithfully together according to their abilities to spread this message of Gospel cheer in our various endeavors of work! I am not ashamed of a church body which has even seen fit to take a step of suspending fellowship relations with another church body in order that Scriptural truths might be preserved in its midst! I am not ashamed of such a church as is ours; you shouldn’t be either, but rejoice that God has shown His grace so gloriously among us.
Let us go home from this synod convention happily reminded of our possessions, our blessings, and our responsibilities in this great work. But should doubt sometimes dog our steps, let us never forget Jesus’ words of promise to us all “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” This is not an empty promise. Just as surely as Jesus is a witness of our discussions today, He shall remain with us through sunshine and rain until our end. When we “hunger and thirst after righteousness” He comes to us to satisfy our spiritual longings through the Bread of Life. As we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” He adds the physical blessings which we need. This is why we have had a blessed year past and ought to continue our work with great hope!
There is a piece of verse which contains the lines “Ours not to reason why, Ours but to do and die.” To be sure this expresses a kind of hopeless, military fatalism, but an element of Christian truth can be expressed in such words too. Our reason does not always fully fathom God’s grace, or why He speaks to us as He does in His Word both as to command and comfort. But we are to be assured that His words and desires for us are the kindest and best. And in His service there are certain things commanded us; do them we must, do them we shall. And finally, when we have done the things granted us to perform in our allotted time on earth, we shall die. These facts are as blunt and simple as that. But this work has reason, the proclamation of a Savior. And our death has hope, the knowledge of eternal life for that Savior’s sake. For some of us that day of joyful release from the sorrows of earth may be very close. But whenever it comes, let us each, praying for strength and mercy from above, devoted faithfully to God’s Word and work, continue our heavenward way.
Thats where we finally go from here — by the grace of God!
“Oh happy day when we shall stand
Amid the heavenly throng,
And sing with hosts from every land
The new celestial song.” W.A. Wexels