Letter from the Director from February 2017
LUTHERAN CORE: FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
We of Lutheran CORE have added something new. We have been sending out a more formal newsletter, CORE Voice, in the middle of every other month – January, March, etc. We will now be adding a letter from me which we will send out in the middle of the other months – February, April, etc. If you know someone that you would to see receive these communications from us, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also the option of receiving our communications by U. S. post office mail, so please notify us if you or someone you know would like to hear from us in that way. In these letters that will be coming to you every other month, I want to share with you what is on my heart as the president of the board and the director of Lutheran CORE.
In Christ, Dennis D. Nelson
IS JESUS CENTRAL IN YOUR PREACHING, IN YOUR FAITH, AND IN YOUR LIFE?
During these Sundays in the Epiphany season the second lesson has been taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he has made statements like these –
“The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1: 18)
“We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and wisdom of God” (1: 23-24)
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2: 2)
But how often do people in churches – even in Lutheran churches – hear about so many other things rather than “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? For example –
I attended a funeral at a Lutheran church. Jesus was never mentioned even once during the message. There were vague references to the love of God and the hope that we will all be together again, but no mention at all of how Jesus is the basis that hope.
I have heard a sermon on the feeding of the five thousand where the preacher said, “The miracle was not at all about Jesus. Rather the miracle was all about the boy who shared his lunch.” And then he challenged the congregation to do the modern day equivalent of sharing your lunch.
I have heard a sermon about the Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus where the preacher said, “The temptation to turn stones into bread shows that we need to fight world hunger. The temptation to bow down and worship Satan in order to regain all the kingdoms of the world shows that we need to study the issues and then vote for political candidates who will pursue peace and social justice.”
I have heard a sermon on Transfiguration Sunday where the preacher said, “As we (and then he listed several ways of serving within the congregation), we can help bring about the transfiguration and transformation of the world.”
I have heard a sermon on Christmas Eve where the preacher said, “You do not have to believe in Jesus to feel the warmth and glow of Christmas.”
And I have heard a sermon on Easter Sunday where the preacher first told of the women who came to the tomb looking for Jesus and then said, “Wherever you find people doing good, there you find Jesus.”
Pastors, if people do not hear from us about the cross and the empty tomb, how will they know the wisdom, love, and power of God? Is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” central in your preaching, in your faith, and in your living?
BEING THE SALT OF THE EARTH
We are very grateful for all of our friends who through their faithful prayers and financial support make possible the work of Lutheran CORE. There were fifty-seven individuals, congregations, and organizations who gave $100 or more just during the month of December 2016. I had the great privilege of calling all of those for whom we have telephone numbers to thank them and was able to reach the majority of them. It was a joy to hear how much they value and appreciate the work of Lutheran CORE. I want to share with you an outreach ministry that I learned about that was undertaken by the congregation of one of our friends – Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.
In 1976, the bicentennial of our country, cycling enthusiasts put together the Bikecentennial, a path that cyclists could ride on across the country with maps and a supporting guidebook. The year before Harley Phillips, a member of Zion congregation and an owner of a bicycle shop, received a phone call from a couple who were blazing the trail to create the transcontinental route. Their tandem bicycle had broken down twenty-two miles out of town. Realizing that the town of Hutchinson was only five miles south of the route, Mr. Philips approached the church council, who put a shower into the former parsonage and converted the upstairs Sunday School classrooms into accommodations for riders. Word spread quickly among the cyclists, and after Harley Philipps became president of the Bicycle Dealers Association, the church and its hostel was put into the guidebook that was part of the literature that riders received as they began the route.
Comments left by those who stayed there showed the impact of the congregation’s ministry of hospitality. One person wrote, “Greetings from India.” Another wrote, “Such an act of love proves the point on your door – ‘You will never know a moment when God does not love you.’” Other comments received were, “What you did for me, you did for the Lord” and “I have not been to church for a long time – it was nice to be back.” One person even said, “Many thanks for the way in which you fulfilled Martin Luther’s 96th thesis – ‘Be kind to cyclists.’”
I asked whether they ever had a problem with theft or property damage. Harley Phillips first replied, “Anyone lazy enough to steal would not get on a bicycle and ride across the United States.” Then he added, “If you steal something and ride for five days, they can catch up with you in a car in one day. And besides, why carry all that extra weight anyway?”
I thought it was very interesting that the town of Hutchinson is nicknamed the Salt City because of a nearby mine from which rock salt is obtained and then, after being crushed, is spread on the highways when the roads ice up. Bravo to Harley Phillips and the congregation of Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, for being what Jesus said – “The salt of the earth.”
WEEKLY DEVOTIONS AND SERMON STARTERS
Are you aware of the weekly devotions that can be found on the blog on the home page of Lutheran CORE’s website? Three members of the board are contributing devotions every week.
I am writing a devotional based upon one of the following Sunday’s readings – posted every Tuesday
Steve Gjerde, vice president of the board, is writing a devotional based upon one of the previous Sunday’s readings in the Missouri Synod lectionary series – posted every Wednesday
Brett Jenkins, another member of the board, is writing a devotional based upon one of the following Sunday’s readings or a timely topic – posted every Friday
A link to these devotionals is then posted on a number of different facebook and twitter accounts. Please help us get the word out about these resources. It is our desire that they be an inspiration to all who read them and also a source of ideas, thoughts, illustrations, and images for pastors as they prepare for the following Sunday’s sermon.
PLEASE BE PRAYING FOR THE PASTORAL SUMMIT
Please be in prayer with us for the Summit on Pastoral Formation, which Lutheran CORE will be holding on June 21, 2017 at Grand View University in Des Moines. Responding to the concern that we have been hearing from many pastors and lay congregational leaders, who wonder where their congregations’ next orthodox and outreach-oriented pastor will come from, we will be gathering ten leaders from four different Lutheran church bodies – ELCA, LCMC, LCMS, and NALC – to begin wrestling with the question –
How can we best raise up and support a new generation of Lutheran pastors who will be Biblical and confessional in their theology and missional/evangelistic in their perspective and practice?
The list of ten church leaders who have been confirmed as participants can be found in the January 2017 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, which can be found on our website, www.lutherancore.org.
In this first phase participants will be asking such questions as, What is the nature of twenty-first century culture and the twenty-first century church which contribute to this challenge?, and Why do approaches that have worked in the past not work today?
In Matthew 9: 37-38 Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The first thing we need to do if we agree that the Church in the future will need faithful, orthodox, and outreach-oriented pastors is to pray.
Many thanks to those who are supporting our ministry by designating their Thrivent Choice dollars for Lutheran CORE. If you are a member of Thrivent Financial and qualify for Thrivent Choice dollars, may we suggest that you consider designating those funds to support our work of being a Voice and Network for Confessing Lutherans. And may we also remind you of two things –
First, the deadline for designating your dollars for 2016 is March 31
Second, you will need to designate our full name, Lutheran Coalition for Reform, not our shortened name, Lutheran CORE
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We would love to hear from you. Please detach and return to us at
Lutheran CORE, P. O. Box 1741, Wausau, Wisconsin 54402-1741
_______My greatest concern for the whole Christian Church, my denomination/church body, or my own congregation is ______________________________________________________________________________