Bishop and Christian*, October 2010

From the Pastor

With the election of a new president (Rev. Matthew Harrison), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has also introduced a new theme and emphasis (although it is very old). The new emphasis is “Witness-Mercy-Life Together,” or, in the old Greek terms, “Martyria-Diakonia-Koinonia.”

This is the graphic of the new emphasis, which you will likely begin seeing in a lot of places around the Synod. The Synod website (http://bit.ly/bGx2G1) says this: “These phrases illustrate how the church lives and works together to proclaim the Gospel and to provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our congregations, communities and throughout the world. And in all we do, Christ is at the center, leading us, sustaining us, keeping us focused on our mission. This will never change.” “Martyria” (bearing witness) is what God does by His Gospel in our lives. As you can see by the word which has come down to us through it—martyr—such witness can lead to death, as it has for many of our brothers and sisters around the world and throughout history. The verse attached to this is 1 John 5:7-8: “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”

“Diakonia” (service) is the form that faith takes in love for our “neighbor,” who is anyone God serves through us. As Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“Koinonia” (communion/life together) is the word that is used, especially by St. Paul, to denote what Jesus creates and strengthens, especially when God’s people gather to receive Christ’s body and blood in that great Meal of unity. It is also one of the four things that characterized the early Church, as Acts 2:42 makes clear: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship [koinonia], to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” And 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship [koinonia] of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

These are the three inseparable and interlocking aspects of our Synod’s life together. I pray that they would also mark and characterize our life together here in Northwest Minnesota. As you have time, you may want to spend some time searching out these terms in the Scriptures, because they are really at the heart of what the Church is.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

Quote for the Month

“More important than anything else is that in these small parishes, Christ Himself, through His blessed Word and Sacrament, dwells to give sinners life and salvation. That is a point C.F.W. Walther loved to drive home when he sensed any devaluation of smaller parishes by anyone in the Synod. Very important to me as executive director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care is that so many small parishes so well approximate the ideal Luther held up for the church, as we all are members of the same body, caring for one another. He spoke about the Lord’s Supper:

‘Christ said, I am the head, I will first give Myself for you, will make your suffering and misfortune Mine own and bear it for you, that you in your turn may do the same for Me and for one another, have all things in common in Me and with me, and let this sacrament be unto you a sure token of that all, that you may not forget me.’

Christ cares for us, gives Himself for us. We in turn give ourselves for the neighbor. This happens nowhere as well, as naturally, and as constantly as in the small parish. Where mistakes are made, we flee to the forgiving waters of baptism, confess our sins, and resolve in faith to begin anew in love, both ‘laying down our burdens in the midst of the congregation’ (Luther) and also finding the burdens of others there to take up. God knows that as we often know well the sins of our neighbors (and they know ours!) in smaller congregations, the need for forgiveness and grace as we work together is all the greater!” (Rev. Pres. Matthew Harrison, “Let’s Hear It For the Small Congregation!” [http://bit.ly/cwZuGi])

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