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Devotional for June 3, 2018 based upon 2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

“We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus. We are afflicted, but not crushed. Struck down, but not destroyed. Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

This coming Sunday, June 3, I will be preaching at a Lutheran church in southern California. Whenever I hear or read the above words from the apostle Paul, I think of the pastor of that congregation.

This pastor is very solid in his theology, very bold in his witness, and very strong in his holding to the authority of Scripture, the historic Christian faith, and traditional Biblical views on human sexuality and marriage. The congregation had been a very liberal Anglo congregation for many years, but then called this pastor after their community became increasingly Asian. Through the hard work of this pastor and the blessings of God, this congregation has experienced a major turnaround from liberal Anglo to increasingly orthodox Chinese.

After this pastor took a very strong stand for traditional views of marriage and human sexuality, a few members of the congregation complained to the bishop of their ELCA synod. The bishop used their complaint as an opportunity to intervene in the life of the congregation. That intervention resulted in that pastor being told that he would need to serve under the supervision of another pastor in order to learn how to be less divisive in his ministry.

The congregation council responded by informing the synod that the group of members who filed the complaint were acting on their own and did not represent the council or the congregation. The synod backed off and told the pastor that he would receive a letter stating that there were no charges against him. That letter has never been received.

In the meantime a couple seminarians from that congregation were told that they would need to leave that congregation or their ordination candidacy process would be cancelled. They refused to leave the congregation. Their ordination candidacy process was cancelled, so they are now pursuing ordination through another Lutheran church body.

The pastor continued to be very strong in his ministry, but through the process suffered a debilitating stroke. He is doing much better now, after more than two years of therapy, but he is still carrying in his body the marks of death because of his bold witness for Jesus Christ.

He is only one example of people who have paid a great price because of their bold witness. Not all have suffered major health setbacks, but many have endured major financial setbacks. Others have experienced severely broken relationships, major conflict and divisions in their congregations, bullying from their synod, and horrible accusations.

These words of the apostle Paul are an encouragement to all who have been faithful during this time of major upheaval within the Lutheran community. If that includes you, may you experience the blessings and love of God as you proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have been afflicted, but you do not need to be crushed. You may have been struck down, but you do not need to be destroyed. As we carry in our bodies and in our spirits the death of Jesus, may the life of Jesus be made visible in our bodies and through our ministries.

Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE