Issuu on Google+

Concordia Journal

Concordia Seminary 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, MO 63105

COncordia Journal

Winter 2012 volume 38 | number 1

Winter 2012 volume 38 | number 1

a partnership issue

The Catcher: Transitions in Faith of Older Adults Aging in Christ: A Life of Fruitful Labor and Service Senior and Older Adult Ministry in Our Times: A Conversation


COncordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233)

Faculty

publisher

David Adams Charles Arand Andrew Bartelt Executive EDITOR Joel Biermann William W. Schumacher Gerhard Bode Dean of Theological Kent Burreson Research and Publication William Carr, Jr. Anthony Cook EDITOR Timothy Dost Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Thomas Egger Jeffrey Gibbs Theological Publications Bruce Hartung Dale A. Meyer President

EDITORial assistant Melanie Appelbaum assistants

Carol Geisler Theodore Hopkins Melissa LeFevre Matthew Kobs Ryan Schroeder

Erik Herrmann Jeffrey Kloha R. Reed Lessing David Lewis Richard Marrs David Maxwell Dale Meyer Glenn Nielsen Joel Okamoto Jeffrey Oschwald David Peter Paul Raabe

All correspondence should be sent to: CONCORDIA JOURNAL 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105 314-505-7117 cj @csl.edu

Victor Raj Paul Robinson Robert Rosin Timothy Saleska Leopoldo Sánchez M. David Schmitt Bruce Schuchard William Schumacher William Utech James Voelz Robert Weise

Exclusive subscriber digital access via ATLAS to Concordia Journal & Concordia Theology Monthly: http://search.ebscohost.com User ID: ATL0102231ps Password: subscriber Technical problems? Email support@atla.com

Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1972) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in ATLA Religion Database/ATLAS and Christian Periodicals Index. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from National Archive Publishing (www.napubco.com). Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a Chicago Manual of Style. Email submission (cj@csl.edu) as a Word attachment is preferred. Editorial decisions about submissions include peer review. Manuscripts that display Greek or Hebrew text should utilize BibleWorks fonts (www.bibleworks.com/fonts.html). Copyright © 1994-2009 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $15 U.S.A., $20 for Canada and $25 for foreign countries, by Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. On the cover: Participants enjoy each other’s company at Concordia Seminary’s LutherHostel. (Photo: Lois Engfehr) © Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2012 www.csl.edu | www.concordiatheology.org


COncordia J ournal CONTENTS EDITORIALs 5 Editor’s Note 7 Gaudeamus Igitur 13

The Visit

14

A Letter to Our Pastors

15

Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go

16

What Part Do I Play Now?

19

Reflections of an Older Pastor Still in Ministry

22

Grandpa, Why Do You Love Jesus So Much?

23

Koinonia and Life Together in the New Testament

ARTICLES 35 The Catcher: Transitions in Faith of Older Adults Barry J. Keurualinen 41 Aging in Christ: A Life of Fruitful Labor and Service Robert W. Weise 50 Senior and Older Adult Ministry in Our Times: A Conversation Roger Nuerge and Art Litke 59

HOMILETICAL HELPS

83

BOOK REVIEWS Best Practices and Resources for Older Adult Ministry Winter 2012 volume 38 | number 1


editoRIALS

COncordia Journal


Editor’s Note We’ve all heard the demographics in one form or another. 2011 was the first year that Baby Boomers reached retirement age, as well as the first year Social Security paid out more than it brought in. According to the 2010 census, the median age in the United States is now nearly 37 years old, up from 35 years old in 2000, both of which are the oldest ever. Within the church, attendance in parochial schools and confirmation classes is declining while senior service agencies are expanding. We are an aging church, in an aging society. And we are only now coming to terms with what this will mean for life, society, and ministry. On the surface, we tend to see these trends in negative terms. We are conditioned, perhaps even hard-wired, to value youthfulness over old age. But perhaps this is simply a result of viewing the temporality of human life—its transience and finitude— in strictly linear terms. It becomes increasingly difficult to see the passing of time as a positive force in life when we experience it as one moment slipping ever so quickly to the next, one more X on the calendar, one more tick then tock of the clock. But “clock time” is only one way of viewing its passing.1 The way the human body changes, the way the seasons of nature change, the way the sun and moon interact with each other in dynamic syncopation, all display how time works in circles and cycles and spirals of moments revolving around the experience of life in all its forms. All of which points to the reality that often it is the narratives of our lives that become the most meaningful ways we mark time. Allow me to give a personal example. I can’t help but mark the fact that as I type these words, my firstborn son is experiencing his first day of preschool. Meanwhile my father has recently finished his first year of semi-retirement. If I wanted to, I could mark this day as simply one more date on the calendar, this day as homogenous and uniform as the next. Or I could mark it as part of the ongoing story of my life, a story that connects me to others in infinitely meaningful ways, a story that is always and everywhere a profound mixture of youthfulness and maturity, joys and sorrows, memory and expectation. And I could mark it as a day that more deeply envelopes my story within the everlasting story of God, the story of the One who was “there to hear your borning cry” and who will be there when “you shut your weary eyes,” to quote a contemporary hymn. We marked this story when we celebrated once again the birth of the Christ child. We will celebrate it again when we mark his death, and once again when we mark his rising from the dead, the firstfruits of all who belong to him. Within this story, we mark time the way God marks it. We mark it according to a promise. God marks time by and through the promises he both makes and keeps to his creation. Thus it was for Abraham. Thus it is for us now. This is the only reason that the passing of time can be a source of real hope. We hope because God has kept every promise he has ever made. We hope because God continues to make the promise of saving grace, promised freely to all in faith. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

5


Such is the hope that compelled us to partner with Concordia Lutheran Ministries, the vibrant Lutheran senior service ministry based in Cabot, Pennsylvania, to produce this partner issue of Concordia Journal. It deals with many of the complex issues surrounding older adults and the church’s ministry by, to, and with them. All in all, this issue of Concordia Journal grapples with these emerging realities of church and society, realities that we perhaps wish were different, but realities that are nonetheless suffused with hope. We are deeply grateful for the partnership with Concordia Lutheran Ministries, with Keith Frndak and his incredible staff, and for the expertise they brought to bear in collaborating with the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to produce this resource for the church. Further, John Kotovsky and the staff at Lutheran Senior Services of St. Louis deserve a word of thanks for their expertise as we worked on this issue. We work in this hope because, as the hymn reminds us, God is always there, and in the end, God always comes with “just one more surprise.” Just as it is for the baby at the font, so it is for the grandmother who holds her. The reality of an aging church in an aging society is ever still a baptismal reality, marked with the sign of the promise of God. And that is a story worth telling to our dying day. Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Theological Publications Endnote

1 My own thoughts here are indebted to the reflections of philosopher Espen Hammer in his essay “On Modern Time,” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/on-modern-time/.

6


Gaudeamus Igitur I turned 65 in January. Sixty-five is an artificial mile marker along life’s journey but still a marker. Time will tell how much this year and, Lord willing, subsequent years will speed up my slowing down, but one concern already occupies me, occupies me greatly. What kind of good news will I hear? I recall walking past the TV when one of the morning shows was interviewing Jane Fonda. She was asked about aging and said, if I caught her words correctly, “It looks different when you’re in it.” What does a young seminarian or pastor have to offer a person who is “in it”? Concordia Lutheran Ministries of Pennsylvania understands aging from 360 degrees. That’s why we invited them to partner with us in this special issue of the Concordia Journal. Thank you to President Keith Frndak of Concordia Lutheran Ministries for graciously accepting our invitation, and we pray this special issue will enhance awareness of and ministry to this growing segment of the American population. As a member of that demographic, I wonder what kind of good news we will hear. What gospel content will the clergy to come, the seminarians with whom I rub shoulders every day, share? Preaching, teaching, visiting, pastoral counseling—in short, ministry is both sacramental and sacrificial. It is sacramental in that God uses our stewardship of his ministry to bring his means of grace to sinners. The role of the pastor is also sacrificial in that the pastor offers up to God what people carry in their hearts. Joys and sorrow, hopes and fears, failures and achievements, vocations and avocations, sin confessed and thankfulness for sins forgiven, prayers answered and prayers answered in unknown ways. The pastor listens for these heart issues, asks questions about them, and then in sermon and Bible class and conversation, articulates them in such a way that people exclaim, “How did you know what I was feeling?” The answer to that question is that a caring pastor is curious about people. That’s the impetus for the sacrificial side of our work. Gospel ministry says more than, “I know how you feel” and, nota bene, does more than preside over the divine service. The sacramental side of our work is to apply the word of truth, the good news of Jesus Christ, in a way that fits the hearer’s condition. The Good Samaritan applied the healing balm to the place of the wounds; he didn’t spray-paint the poor victim! In listening to sermons on and off campus, I’ve become convinced that many pastors have only one message, that we’re sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Brother, I know that; it’s the only reason I can think of myself as justified. Absolutely, the necessity of Jesus Christ for salvation should be apparent in every sermon but, and as I begin getting “in it,” I wonder, why have we reduced the Gospel feast to only one course? Why do you limit your ministry to justification when so many of us are striving to “grow up in (our) salvation, now that (we) have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pt 2:2–3)? What happens if Christ’s atonement for our sins is all we present? Lest you misinterpret me, I am not saying that justification is just one article among many. Visiting a hospital or care center has brought all of us into contact with someone, often not a church member, who does not know the forgiveness of sins. You’ve probably seen Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

7


the welcome reception of the words, “Because of Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven.” Church members need to hear that too because we often can’t put out of our minds the sins we’ve committed, even though we’ve heard and do believe that Jesus died for us. When the pastor visits an aged person who spends a good portion of the day sitting alone with memories of the past, including guilt, the atonement should always be the center of the Good News we bring. But you can’t reduce pastoral care for specific, unique individuals to a simple sin/forgiveness tweet. “You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you describe the universal corruption of mankind so as to create the impression that even true believers are still under the spell of ruling sins and sin deliberately.”1 So, making that attempt to avoid being misunderstood, I ask, what happens if nothing more is served up than “You’re a sinner and Jesus died for your sins”? For sure, human wisdom will fill the spiritual void that we have created by limiting our pastoral care to only one article of faith. Human wisdom has a lot to teach about aging, and it’s not all bad. In anticipation of my 65th, what an older friend called my “coming of age,” I reread De Senectute, “On Old Age” by Cicero. Cicero presents his thoughts on age as a dialog between two curious younger people, Laelius and Scipio, and 84-year-old Marcus Cato, the “Censor.” Scipio opens the dialog by telling Cato that he and Laelius marvel “at the fact that, so far as I have been able to see, old age is never burdensome to you, though it is so vexatious to most old men that they declare it to be a load heavier than Aetna.” Cato lays down his basic principle: “I am wise because I follow Nature as the best of guides and obey her as a god.” After some talk about how others bore their advanced age, Cato lays out four topics about age that occupy the rest of the dialog: Indeed, when I reflect on this subject I find four reasons why old age appears to be unhappy: First, that it withdraws us from active pursuits; second, that it makes the body weaker; third, that it deprives us of almost all physical pleasures; and, fourth, that it is not far removed from death.2 Cato rebuts each reason for being unhappy with advancing age. He counters “that it withdraws us from active pursuits” by saying the aged have wisdom to counsel and guide institutions and the state. To the complaint that age “makes the body weaker,” Cato gives good common sense. “I do not now feel the need of the strength of youth…any more than when a young man I felt the need of the strength of the bull or of the elephant.”3 More common sense learned from nature gives Cato a response to the third complaint that old age is devoid of sensual pleasures: Nature—or some god, perhaps—has given to man nothing more excellent than his intellect, therefore this divine gift has no deadlier foe than pleasure; for where lust holds despotic sway self-control has no place, and in pleasure’s realm there is not a spot where virtue can put her foot.…Old age lacks the heavy banquet, the loaded table, and the oft-filled cup; therefore it also lacks drunkenness, indigestion, and loss of sleep.4

8


And to the last reason why old age is an unhappy time, the nearness of death, Cato is agnostic. O wretched indeed is that old man who has not learned in the course of his long life that death should be held of no account! For clearly death is negligible, if it utterly annihilates the soul, or even desirable, if it conducts the soul to some place where it is to live forever. Aging, getting “in it,” is obviously a perennial topic. Yale University recently published Losing It by William Ian Miller, a 60-something professor of law at the University of Michigan. I haven’t read Losing It, but part of me wants to because of the review by Henry Allen. From his review: The point, if I may dare to sum up: Old age is an annoying, ridiculous and pathetic decline toward the state of a turnip softening in a compost heap, if death is not kind enough to intervene first. [Old age is] “a desperate struggle not to be laughed at, sneered at, or looked down upon.” [Miller] provides no cheering statistics, medical reports, predictions of scientific miracles, or celebrations of wisdom and the joys of grandparenting, and he does not bother to refute those who do, except by insulting them.5 As I said, part of me wants to read Mr. Miller’s book. The other part of me says I don’t have the time and, based upon Mr. Allen’s review, the book is basically agnostic about what happens in old age and what comes after death. Whatever the century, Roman boys cut to the quick of human wisdom with their well-known song, “Gaudeamus Igitur ” : Gaudeamus igitur Iuvenes dum sumus. Post iucundam iuventutem, Post molestam senectutem, Nos habebit humus— Nos habebit humus. Let us rejoice, therefore, While we are young. After a pleasant youth After a troubling old age The earth will have us, The earth will have us. The adverb igitur is key. What is the reason we approach life and aging and death however it is that we approach it? Do we approach it with the agnosticism of Cicero, the cynicism of Miller, the pessimism of the song, the American narcissism that all roads lead to some kind of heaven, or the old biblical mindset? Igitur transitions us from some kind of belief system to the individualized, personal way we get into aging and to how pastors minister to us who are or soon will be “in it.” Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

9


Let’s be honest. Christians don’t know in some scientific or mathematical or logical sense that we can enter age with confidence because we have proof that there is life after death. That heritage of the Enlightenment was discredited by the events of the twentieth century with the result that the igitur, the “therefore,” is agnosticism about aging and death for many Americans, many Christians included. Christians do talk about knowing the truth but this is a different kind of knowing, knowing based upon belief, “faith seeking understanding,” as Augustine put it. For all its unwelcome aspects, postmodernism has created an environment in which we can gain a new understanding of faith and the certainty that flows from faith, or better said, has put us in an environment in which we can regain that confidence of believing that made first century Christians such a presence in society. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). “Faith” is a slippery word, meaning, for many Americans, whatever makes you feel good inside. That subjective element surely is a part of faith but we understand Christian believing to be based upon the external, objective promises God makes. Faith is trusting that we have been claimed by one particular story, the biblical promises of God that find their “yea” and “amen” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20). Baptism puts our individual stories under the story of Christ and his people. Although there are many stories out there, as De Senectute and Losing It and others show, it is this particular story of God entering our world, living and redeeming human life, and now—“now” is the little word that gets such short-shrift when we limit our good news to only Calvary— now God’s Spirit is working the efficacious word on our personal stories with the result that we grow up into the “stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). All the wisdom of this world, including all the volumes in a seminary library, does not change the fact that we enter age and eternity with our hope in some story…or despairing. Another reason occurs to me why I may not read Losing It, at least not now while I have so much to do and limited time to do it. Right now I’ve got to put as much time as I can into reading the book of my story, our story, the Bible. For all the good human wisdom out there about aging, I need more light as evening comes, and I need a lamp to guide me on this journey to the other side of the Jordan. I need the Bible to give me at this time of life, now, the igitur, the “therefore” that enables me to rejoice now as God’s Spirit grows my confidence and anticipation of what is coming. Early in his commentary on 1 Peter, Martin Luther wrote, “When one wants to preach the gospel, one must treat only of the resurrection of Christ. He who does not preach this is no apostle. For this is the chief article of our faith.”6 Christ’s innocent death was redemptive (1 Pt 1:18) and a substitutionary suffering for sin (1 Pt 2:21; 3:18), but must be seen through the prism of the resurrection (1 Pt 1:21) and ascension (1 Pt 3:22). It’s not just the promise of heaven that flows out of the resurrection but rather a wealth of ministry resources, a many-course feast for the aging and for all of us. For one thing, giving the resurrection more focus changes how we use the law. If we keep rehearsing the law to tell believers that they are sinners for whom Christ died, we’re saying something that is true but doesn’t fit our hearers’ situations as well as it might. Honestly, don’t they confess almost every Sunday that they are the sinners for whom Christ died and receive with Spirit-wrought conviction the Good News that Jesus died 10


for them? To keep pounding believers with the law is like doing a mass evangelistic altar call, over and over and over again. Martin Chemnitz writes: It is a true and correct statement of Pauline theology that the regenerate are not under the Law. But it absolutely does not follow from this that therefore the Law is not useful for the regenerate. We must explain in what way they are not under the Law, namely for justification, accusation, condemnation, compulsion, perfect obedience. But there is a second proposition, namely that the Law does have a certain use in the case of the regenerate.7 (emphasis mine) In other words, don’t use the law to keep accusing and condemning. I was asked recently to preach on Isaiah 40 to a congregation that has a good percentage of older members. As I was thinking about the text (“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. …The grass withers, the flower fades . . .”), it dawned on me that the aged know that very well, the mortality that comes from sin is very apparent to them, and children and teens could care less. Chemnitz certainly isn’t going antinomian. The regenerate should know…what kind of works are pleasing to God. … It is important that they know that the norm of the Law shows the imperfection and uncleanness which still clings to their good works. These weak beginnings must not only be encouraged by the earnest entreaties of the Gospel, but also fostered by the precepts, exhortations, warnings, and promises of the Law.8 When you want to gospel the baptized, there are more effective ways to minister the law than to keep repeating the altar call. In their sanctified lives, aged believers especially have experienced the presence of sin in their best, God-motivated efforts. The sacrificial side of pastoral ministry gives voice to their experience of simul iustus et peccator so that they are confirmed and edified in their belief. This kind of ministry happens in 1 Peter. Over the years I’ve studied 1 Peter more than any other biblical writing and find it apt for aging. To be technically correct, Peter wrote anticipating an imminent parousia but his encouragements suit Christians 2000 years later who are advancing into greater age. They do not need to be converted again but rather recall how they were redeemed, “knowing that you were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ” (1:18–19). The means that justified them was the word of God —“having purified your souls by obedience to the truth” (1:23)—and baptism—“Baptism now saves you” (3:21). Accepting the fact that they are no longer under the dominion, condemnation and judgment of the law, Peter spends most of his letter showing how to live the sanctified life with the end in sight. “The end of all things is at hand” (4:7). Yet this presentation of sanctification is related integrally and repeatedly to the dominant fact of justification (see, for example, 2:18–25). That means, among other things, that someone not yet converted but in association with the Christians to whom Peter writes will be exposed to the justifying word and will not assume that this new faith is simply a new set of rules for living. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

11


It’s not unlike you giving a devotion to a gathered group of your church members in the local care center. Won’t you encourage them in their aging in such a way that some other senior who wanders in and joins your group will hear the centrality of Jesus? It’s all oriented toward the future, a present, now, anticipation of seeing Jesus whom “though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:8–9) This fills us with hope (1:3) and grace fuels the exercise of this hope (1:13). What is this grace? It is the “revelation,” the seeing of Jesus Christ at the end of time. Grace in 1:13 is not confined to their coming to belief, past tense, grace confined to their conversion, but is a grace on their horizon. The prospect of seeing Jesus activates their hope, makes it “living” (1:3). How many times have we pastors sat with people who are ready to go to Jesus? Aren’t these saints inviting us to validate their forward-looking faith and make hope more predominant in our total ministry? About trials, Peter acknowledges that they certainly come (1:7). The trials he has in mind are some kind of suffering for bearing the name of Christ in a pagan culture (3:16). That’s not the same thing as the trials any person experiences because of aging, but whether they are physical challenges or challenges of remaining true to Christ, the devil lurks, seeking to devour (5:8). “Resist him, firm in your faith,” guarded by the promises of the story of Christ (5:9; 1:5). How privileged we are to be closer and closer to seeing Jesus, whether by the end of our days or the last day! The prophets researched the Christian story for our benefit, “things into which angels long to look” (1:10–12). Once again from Mr. Allen’s review of Losing It: “In 1981, five days before cancer killed him, the life-loving writer William Saroyan told the Associated Press: ‘Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?’ ”9 The answer of collective human wisdom is a lonely, resigned, “Whatever.” When Moses wanted proof, God told him, “This shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Ex 3:12). That is the challenge of faith, simply staking our lives on the faithfulness of God to his promises. We’ll know by sight when we enter the Promised Land. “Faith shall cry, as fails each sense: Jesus is my confidence!” Now what? Gaudeamus igitur! Dale A. Meyer President Endnotes  1

C. F. W. Walther, “Law and Gospel,” Thesis XVIII. Cicero, On Old Age, trans. William Falconer Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1923), 15. 3 Ibid., 27. 4 Ibid., 40, 44. 5 Henry Allen, “Raging Against Aging,” The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2011, sec. C9. 6 Martin Luther, The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 30, Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1967), 12–13.  7 Martin Chemitz, Loci Theologici, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), 807–808. 8 Ibid. 9 Allen, “Raging Against Aging,” sec. C9. 2

12


The Visit

I have been blessed to serve as the President of Concordia Lutheran Ministries, a continuing care retirement community in Cabot, Pennsylvania, for over 28 years. As I reflect on hundreds of memories, many of the most powerful are related to “The Visit.” You don’t need to study visiting, you need to do visiting. One of my memories goes back to 1984, when as a young executive I was racing down the hall to do something that I must have thought was important. I noticed an elderly woman positioning her wheelchair in the center of the hall, arms stretched out in front of her. She said, “Young man, can’t you stop for a few minutes to visit with an old woman?” She stopped me in my tracks—a stake into my heart. The business of the day had made me forget what was really important. That 96-year-old woman became my friend, and I will always remember her question, “Can’t you stop for a few minutes to visit with an old woman?” The question still haunts me, because at Concordia there is always an old woman or man who needs a visit. I bet the same is true in your church and in your neighborhood. My next memory is of another woman deep into her 90s who could speak English but preferred Slovak. Since I know four or five Slovak greetings, I always gave her a “good morning” in her native tongue—she enjoyed it. One day she said, “If you will stop to visit me for a few minutes every day, I will teach you some more of the Slovak language.” About a month later, as I left her room she said, “You are a poor student, but I appreciate your visits.” I was convicted again. My last story is about my senior aunt who lived alone. I visited her a few times each year. She was an active member in the little LCMS congregation where I grew up. Part way through the visit, she looked into my eyes and said, “Keith, I’m thinking about turning Catholic.” I said, “What are you talking about? I know you understand and believe the Scripture as proclaimed by the LCMS.” She said, “Yes, that’s true, but the priest visits your grandmother every month.” Ouch. At Concordia, I have seen residents glow with pride when their pastor visits. They talk about it for days. I have also seen many downhearted people because they never received a visit from their pastor. One woman told me that she taught Sunday school for over 30 years, but in the last 10 years, two new pastors came and went at her church. She didn’t know who the pastor was at the church she raised her family in. Visit. Visit, for the sake of respecting and honoring our older brothers and sisters in Christ. Visit—it’s the gift that gives back. Keith Frndak President & CEO Concordia Lutheran Ministries

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

13


to Our Pastors A Letter

Let me speak from experience at the age of eighty-four. The needs of the elderly are seemingly simple, yet turn out to be more than a little complex. Everyone over the age of 70 has a physical problem of some sort. If we’re lucky, we can bear it without it even showing. Don’t be deceived; it is still there and will become more apparent the longer you converse with us. We need three things which I call the three Cs, and these should be given in order. They are Concern, Compassion and Comfort. To be able to relate to my neighbors, I have to understand what their problems are and make it apparent that it really concerns me. Then I must try to put myself in their place in order to express compassion for the troubles they are having. Finally, if and when the hardest blow of all is given them, I can offer prayer, sympathy, a gentle hug, a special gift of flowers, a meaningful book or pamphlet, a favorite food, and best of all, a willing ear to hear all the feelings they have to express after recent hard days caring for a loved one or going through their own bad experience with sickness. Loneliness is in and of itself a sickness; so many feel this illness so strongly. It can be overcome by a friend who listens and sympathizes. We elderly folk are no different from you. We need someone to tell us that life here is not the end. You are trained to do that, and we are primed to hear it at this stage of our lives. May God bless your endeavors, Norma W. Laughner Norma W. Laughner is a resident of the Haven I apartments at Concordia Lutheran Ministries, Cabot, Pennsylvania.

14


Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go

Ministry by, with, and for Older Adults Chronological age is only one way to view the older adult crowd. Another way, more important, is to see the 65-and-over crowd as able pilgrims, on a journey, with a shrine in their heart—Jesus Christ, service in their hands—sharing their gifts, and a destiny as their goal—heaven. Still another way is to place them into three distinct groups. ­ (1) The Go-Go’s (independent people, active, maybe working part-time or fulltime, love to travel, eat out frequently, engage in sports, seek educational and spiritual opportunities, do hands-on ministry). (2) The Slow-Go’s (transitional people with energy levels and/or health issues requiring them to slow down, but still enjoying educational programs, worship services, ministry opportunities). (3) The No-Go’s (dependent people who are homebound or in a care center, seldom get to church, but still desire to fellowship with others and match their capacities to the needs of the community). In short, congregations need to develop and promote a ministry by the go-go’s, a ministry with the slow-go’s, and a ministry for the no-go’s. Matching spiritual, educational, and service opportunities with the gifts and capacities of the 65-and-over crowd in any congregation is a challenge in the midst of life’s changes. Congregations have the joy and privilege in assisting older persons to come to a new understanding of worth— not so much on who they are, but rather on whose they are by the grace of God. The mission of the local congregation is to become an advocate and ambassador for continued discipleship and spiritual growth toward maturity. Walter M. Schoedel Walter M. Schoedel is director of church relations for Lutheran Senior Services, St. Louis, Missouri. He is also pastor emeritus of Concordia Lutheran Church, Kirkwood, Missouri, and is regularly invited to Concordia Seminary classes to speak on the challenges and blessings of older adult ministry.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

15


What Part Do I Play Now? Statistics show that the average age of faithful churchgoers is increasing dramatically. This phenomenon is due in part to factors such as lower birth rates, longer life spans, and advances in medical science. Simply put, people are living longer and the face of the church is aging quicker. A startling statistic from the Census Bureau projected that the 1986 figure of 29.2 million people 65 and older would jump to 34.9 million by the year 2000. Nine years later (2009) there were 39.6 million seniors. A Gallup poll recently indicated that 40% of all U.S. citizens claim they have a regular worship life in churches across America. Of that group, over 50% are over the age of 55. This reality should cause many within the leadership of the churches to take notice. For pastors, figuring out how to care for this population is going to become a monumental task. How will you as a pastor take care of this aging population within your church, and how can you encourage these members to stay engaged in the ministries they helped build? For many faithful, participative, and dedicated members of the congregation across this great land, one simple question will be asked, “What part do I play now?” The stark reality for many churches today is finding ways to minister to their aging members in the local congregations. The statistics show that as this country is experiencing a rapid increase in the aging population, a parallel growth is occurring in service organizations directed at the elderly. This cannot be said about the churches throughout the United States. As church membership ages, the question is asked by many faithful children of God, “What part do I play now?” This question is a real question for a member who has held every elected position in the church and has been in leadership for 40 consecutive years. Trying to identify a new place of service in the church as the body fails, health weans, and energy depletes is a challenge. This reality becomes an ever-increasing problem for the church. For ages, the church has taught the Word of God concerning the gifts that the Father has bestowed on his people. In 1 Peter we hear these words, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This passage reminds us that our Father expects us to use the gifts that he gives for his glory and praise. Age is not a factor in following his commands. This reality does not change as we grow older. God the Father does not say to us that we no longer need to abide by this exhortation as we age. In fact, this reality becomes even more serious as we are forced to examine what those specific spiritual gifts are in our lives. Likewise, 2 Corinthians 5:15 points out, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” This is the call that all Christians face as we seek to live out the post baptismal life of Christ in our lives of service in the church. The fact is, we get older, and through sin we are not able to do the things we once did as faithful children of the heavenly

16


Father. It is important to note at this time that it is not a sin to get older. Aging is a natural part of the sinful condition, one that cannot be stopped and one that will continue until death overtakes us. This point is one that many faithful children of God face daily. As a parish pastor, I have been told by many of my beloved parishioners, “Pastor, I just can’t do what I used to do.” My response to them is, “That’s okay. What can you still do that adds value to the work of the church and the spreading of the gospel?” This is a question that we all must ask daily. This question is one that should be consistently evaluated within the healthy spiritual life of a child of Christ. Likewise, this question will naturally lead to adjustments and modifications in our Christian life and behavior. At this point, I wish to extend a warning to the older generation as it examines the question of, “What part do I play now?” Maturity and wisdom are gifts from our heavenly Father and should not be taken lightly. The tremendous gift of knowledge that has been acquired over many years is not something that can be kept to oneself or withheld from the next generation of leaders within the church. Becoming angry or rude in your elder years will not help to uplift the younger generations to be faithful in their service to Christ and the church. Finding a way to mentor a younger leader within the church can be the greatest gift that a wise and older former church leader can do for the new leaders in the church. By cultivating a deep relationship with the younger generation of leaders within the church, the wiser, aging leader has the blessing of passing his/her knowledge on to the next generation of servants. For some, this can feel like a loss of identity. For others, this will seem like a lifting of a heavy burden. By empowering the next generation of leaders in the church with the wisdom and knowledge which God has blessed you, you can help prevent the current generation from potentially making the same mistakes that you made at their age. Pride is an issue for mature Christians. As Christians age, they see their earthly lives shrinking and time in service to the Lord coming to an end at a rapid rate of speed. This can cause some to become prideful. Pride is feeling that what you know is earned through hard work and suffering. Therefore, you have no need to help the next generation within the church. Pride is feeling as if you are able to make judgment calls regarding all matters because you have been there before. Pride is what caused Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Pride is what caused Adam and Eve to cover themselves after they sinned before God. Pride is what consumes us all as we see our will in life supersede what God the Father’s will is for us. Simply put, many of the sins of our youth have been passed down from generations long ago. From our elders to the next generation of faithful Christians. One specific way that the elder generation can contribute and answer the question, “What part do I play now?” is to share their memories while they have them. Memories are important to a church and its culture as a people. These memories need to be preserved and shared with the next generation of leaders. Sharing the memories of the good old days is not simply a walk down memory lane; no—it is the preservation of the history of the church and service of God’s people to the nations. The older generation can become the storytellers of their church and remind people of what God has done through his people so all will know what God can do through them today. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

17


For some the transition could be to become more involved in teaching Bible class. For others they may become engaged in sending out cards to the sick and shutins. There are many forms with which a new form of service can look for those in the church who are being blessed with longevity. By taking all the knowledge that the Lord has given over the course of many years, an aged, wise person, can impart some of that knowledge to the younger generations. Another important function for someone who has less physical abilities today than they had in the past is to become a caller or a letter writer. The church at large is in desperate need of people to take the time to call and check on each other. The days are gone when you were as much a part of your neighbors’ lives as you were your own kids’ lives. The church must reclaim, through the aging generation, a dedicated focus on serving the neighbor through various care ministries. These ministries are all centered on the love of the neighbor and the modeling of good, spiritual love. To the pastors of congregations where people are getting older, love your people enough to talk to them about the transition from service into new forms of connectivity to the work of the church. Spend time speaking about the reality that our service in the church changes as we get older. This is not a taboo and should be spoken about to encourage and lift people up in their personal service walk with Christ. Secondly, engage your congregations to find a member who wants to take on the task of communicating regularly with the aging members of the congregation. As the speed of life increases, take the time to find out why certain members no longer participate as they did in the past. It is the shepherd’s calling to care for all ages in the church. Help your people to see the new form of service that the Lord has given to them at this stage in their lives. Jamison Hardy Jamison Hardy is pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, McMurray, Pennsylvania. He sits on the board of directors of Concordia Lutheran Ministries and is the eastern region vice president of the LCMS English District.

18


Reflections of an Older Pastor Still in Ministry Not unlike an increasing number of my peers and colleagues, after 41 years of pastoral ministry—32 of them at the same congregation—I retired. It was not a decision made lightly, but accompanied by much prayer and thoughtful discussion with my beloved wife and partner in ministry for, lo, those many years, as well as with other thoughtful people who love the Lord and the church. When I declared my intention to retire eight months earlier, I had no definitive plans, although some persons who had already begun that journey strongly encouraged me to make some! We had no intention or desire to move to another location or, for that matter, leave the congregation we had served, despite protestations by certain well-informed members of the clergy who were able to tell horror stories about retired pastors remaining where they served. I had had some experience with that, since the pastor I succeeded maintained his membership in the congregation that he had served for 23 years, and his presence and support were greatly appreciated by both the congregation and me. Each church family and each pastoral context is unique, to be sure. It is within that brief context that I am honored and grateful to write this article. Truth be told, this is not only a privilege. It is a gift, for it has enabled me to reflect upon several poignant questions, and I learned long ago that reflection is always a stepping-stone for moving forward into the future. Question 1: As a pastor, were there any changes in your pastoral care as you aged? Of course, since I believe pastoral care, like most wine, “ages well.” Oh, there were some things I didn’t do as energetically as I once did, most of them physical—play softball and basketball; participate in servant events; be involved with meetings that ran longer than anyone had anticipated. Because I had, indeed, led the congregation through several transitions, I also learned to “pick my battles” of what is important and what is not so important in the life of the church (which became my contribution to shorter meetings!). More closely related to the “care” aspect of pastoral care, it is absolutely accurate that I have watched dear friends grow older and, in the process, have come to the obvious realization that I was growing older with them and that life is fragile and sometimes frail and so more and more each day is seen as a gift of God’s grace. That provides the segue to the next question. Question #2: How did your view of aging and older adults change as you yourself changed? Besides older people no longer looking nearly as old as they used to, I came to the belated realization that growing older is not for “sissies.” I came to admire individuals who were blessed with good health, using their gifts and abilities in ministry through the church; those who have increasing physical, emotional, and mental issues still remaining steadfast and firm in their faith; caregivers of such persons, often a spouse faced with her/his own issues and still at the beside of their beloved with whom they have spent the majority of their lives. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

19


Question #3: How do you see the role of a “retired” pastor theologically and in relation to the church and brother pastors? When my wife and I began to think and pray seriously about the Lord’s direction regarding retirement, one of the recurring messages was that our congregation was ready for a new set of pastoral eyes and ears, heart and passion. My retirement would help to facilitate that, by the power and prompting of the Holy Spirit, before I lost my heart and passion for ministry. I had always dreaded spending my last years of pastoral ministry “counting the days.” The text for Peter’s great Pentecost sermon from the prophet Joel, is classic: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be,’ God declares, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS.’”  The older a person is, the more of life he has seen, good and bad and everything in between. That includes older pastors. Blessed are those whose perspective for the church’s life and ministry grows not dimmer but broader. Based upon our own life and pastoral experiences, it is invigorating to see what the future could be, not glorifying the past but using it as a classroom of learning. Among God’s great gifts to the church are grey-haired dreamers, laity and clergy, men and women, who know who they are—altogether members of the body of Christ, and who know where they have been when once they were called the “future” of the church and who know where they want the church to be and go by God’s grace, empowered by the Spirit. My hope and prayer is that younger pastors look and listen to their aging counterparts for vision and insight into pastoral care better than I remember listening when I was younger. My further hope is that we older pastors take the posture suggested by Dr. Bruce Hartung: We are connected to one another in the Christian community not simply by the bonds of human relationships and good will, not simply by the bonds of emotion and personal experience, but fundamentally, we are joined together in and through Christ. We celebrate the gifts Christ gives each of us for the good of all of us, and we work to help one another enhance and grow the gifts Christ has given. We want to see the Body grow as it ‘builds itself up in love’ (Ephesians 4:16).1 The congregation I served was never “my” church nor will it be my successor’s church, but rather it is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it behooves us older pastors to “hold up the prophet’s hand.” My sainted father, himself a pastor and greyhaired dreamer for the church, loved to quote the beautiful hymn: God of the prophets, bless the prophets’ sons; Elijah’s mantle o’er Elisha cast. Each age its solemn task may claim but once; Make each one nobler, stronger than the last. Question #4: How would you, as an older adult, best be served by your pastor? It was the week preceding Christ the King Sunday that I received the invitation to write this article. I was in the midst of preparing the sermon I would preach among the congregation whose pastor, a classmate and friend of mine, had also retired after twenty-five 20


years of ministry there. The title of the sermon was “Feast of Firstfruits,” based on the epistle reading, 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. I introduced the message by saying that “this sermon shall be about death, about resurrection, and about life in between.” In my final preparation, I decided to briefly refer to these questions and what might be my response. I wrote, and then preached: “This last question caught me squarely between my bifocal eyes—neither my family nor I have had someone whom we could call ‘Pastor’ for over forty one years. The more I pondered, the more I liked the idea, and so if given the opportunity, I would say, ‘Pastor and brother (whoever you will be), don’t ever stop reminding me of the power and the promise of the resurrection, for I really don’t need much reminding of my own mortality; and don’t ever assume that growing older is a walk in the park; and besides that, don’t give up on me and, no matter how frail or feeble I become, don’t ever stop treating me as a vibrant, vital, indispensable part of this body called the church. And, by all means, set before me the hope and promise that Christ is coming in glory as Christ the King, who reigns even now, and shall forevermore.’” Steven H. Albers Pastor Albers retired from his 32-year ministry at Glendale Lutheran Church, Glendale, Missouri, in 2011.

Endnote 1

Bruce Hartung, Holding up the Prophet’s Hand (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011).

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

21


Grandpa, Why Do You Love Jesus So Much? Thanksgiving week was winding down. Retirement from public ministry precipitated the visit of son and two grandsons. Thanksgiving prayers, night-night talks, and a week of meal prayers complemented the two hour retirement worship and celebration that began the week. Now playing with Jackson, age six, in the upstairs of the renovated 100-year-old grandparent home, he questioned clearly what he had seen the past week, as well as experienced from his birth in yearly, grandparent, reciprocal visits between California and Michigan over the past half-decade. This first grader’s thoughtful, inquisitive, timely question paralyzed grandpa for a moment, not knowing how to answer the most important question he had ever fielded in forty-two years of ministry. Without any prompting or God talk, out of the blue so to speak, his quick wit went to work, “Grandpa, why do you love Jesus so much?” What do you say to answer the most important question of life and faith? In retrospect a simple answer like, “Because he loves me so much,” would have better sufficed. But the grandpa plowed through a thorough answer, not wanting to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Beginning with Jesus’s role in creation and the promise of God for a better world, he wisely skipped from Abraham to Jesus and the Bethlehem story ending with the cross and empty tomb and his journey to heaven. Jackson soon interrupted, “How do you know all this, Grandpa?” This time the old sage was ready and quick to remind his prodigy of their many readings of the stories in the children’s Bible through the years. “Can I have a children’s Bible?” he asked innocently. Grandpa reminded him he had one at home back in California. But the avid reader and questioner desired it now. So when shown the worn copy used by all eight grandkids, he immediately asked, “Can I take it along and read it on the plane?” The teared-up-old man handed it to him with a smile, “You can read each story at a time and take it up to your mountain home, okay?” He put the book to his heart and left. A few hours later he came back and said, “I think I’ll leave it here, Grandpa.” Reflecting on this breakthrough moment of generational faith, he reluctantly took it back and breathed a prayer of thanks for the kairos of the Spirit’s moving in a little child. And later grandpa conversed more closely with his loving Savior than ever before. Bursting with thanks, he caught a glimpse of the panorama of his life story. Never before had the meaning of each little act of prayer and boggled opportunity of sharing faith loomed so large in his heart. Truly he had seen the fulfillment of those scriptures that guide our faith walk. “Unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom…” “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” “Consider the mustard seed…so is your faith…” “Seek first his kingdom, and all these things will be added.” Life is often too busy to notice the important things that matter. Church work has its down side on the family. Though God’s servants try to keep their priorities straight, the daily grind often blurs values. But every once in a while, a little ray of hope shines through. And that ray of God’s grace renews an old heart! Rodney Otto Rodney Otto just completed an eight-year retirement ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 22


Koinonia and Life Together in the New Testament In the Fall 2011 issue of the Concordia Journal, Erik Herrmann offered some observations regarding how terms like “mercy” and “service” might be heard—and, more importantly, shape our own behavior.1 This essay offers some exegetical observations on the third term in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s three-fold emphasis: “Life Together.” As the Bible study produced by Albert Collver notes, “Koinonia, fellowship, and life together are perhaps both the easiest and the hardest to describe in the Church.”2 Of course, neither “fellowship” nor “life together” are adequate translations of the Greek word κοινωνία, and the latter is really more an interpretive gloss than an English equivalent. But using the phrase “life together” helpfully emphasizes some New Testament themes that “fellowship,” as commonly used in American Christianity, gets wrong. First, κοινωνία involves all of “life,” not just the “fellowship hour” after worship or the activities that take place in the “fellowship hall.” “Life together” happens before, during, and after worship; on Monday through Saturday; in homes and workplaces; and even (in its limited way) on Facebook and the blogosphere. “Together” is not only an abstract concept, it happens in “life.”3 Second, the highlighting of “together” prevents us from viewing our life in Christ as an individual, personal “relationship.” You do not have your own, personal Jesus. Rather, together we share in something that is common: Jesus Christ and life in him. A third benefit of the use of “life together” is that it gives us the opportunity to think through old questions in new ways. For example, using “life together” and not “fellowship” as a gloss for κοινωνία helps us to recognize that the theological and ecclesial use of the word “fellowship” is informed by, yet distinct from, the individual occurrences of the Greek word κοινωνία in the NT. This allows us to hear the NT on its own terms and allow it to shape (perhaps even reshape) and invigorate our practice of “fellowship.” Fundamental to an analysis of κοινωνία in the NT is the recognition that it is an event word. For such words, “in the meanings they convey, a component of activity is, in fact, present, though that is not apparent to the ‘naked eye.’”4 In contrast to words like “tree,” “pamphlet,” or “σῶμα,” which are static nouns, every example of κοινωνία entails activity between and among actors. Take the word “handoff” as a parallel example in English. A “handoff” necessarily includes actors (a quarterback and a running back) and an action (handing the ball off). Were one to snap a photo of a handoff it would be an action photo of specific players, a ball, a field of play, fans, officials, etc. A handoff is never a static event. It is the same with κοινωνία. Every time it is used, it refers to an “event” that includes specific people who are doing specific activities with specific things.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

23


Greek uses a root system, with cognate words built from the same root. English also does this; for example, “teacher” and “teaching” are derived from the verb “teach.” The best way to come at event nouns in Greek is to look at the root upon which it is based. The nouns κοινωνία and κοινωνός and the adjective κοινός all derive from the verbs κοινωνέω.5 The root κοιν- is used in situations where something is common or shared. Kοινωνέω, or “participating together in something,” can be a positive or a negative event, depending on who is participating together and what those people are participating together in. For a negative example, look at 1 Timothy 5:22; Timothy is not to “participate together in the sins of others.” But “participating together” in the (financial) needs of the saints (Rom 12:13; 15:27; Gal 6:6) is encouraged and commended. Two points are critical. First, it is not possible to κοινωνέω alone. Just as it takes two to tango, it takes at least two to κοινωνεῖν. Second, the question of whether κοινωνέω is encouraged or discouraged in the NT depends upon several things: What is the “common thing” in which one is “participating together”? With whom are you “participating together”? In the example from 1 Timothy 5, “the sin of others” is the “common thing” in which Timothy is not to “participate together” with others. The phrase “participate together” is clumsy English, but this gets us back to the initial problem of what English words best render the verb κοινωνέω, and by extension the nouns and adjective derived from it. The verb “participate” captures many elements of the verb κοινωνέω. However, “participate” is frequently used in contexts where the “participation” of the “participant” is minimal, and the connection to other participants is tenuous. For example, if I “participate” in a national survey, my connection to the other participants is only via the short phone call during which the survey was taken. There is no sense of my connection to the other participants, except as a statistic. “Participate,” therefore does not correspond at all well with κοινωνέω, nor “participation” with κοινωνία. Hence, the NIV and ESV translation of 1 Corinthians 10:16 as “participation in the blood of Christ” is unclear, if not misleading; “participation together (or “co-participant”) in the blood of Christ” is clumsy, but makes clear the corporate nature of the participation being described by the apostle. More on this below. Now we can move from the verb κοινωνέω on to the nouns that are based on the same root, κοιν-. The adjective κοινός labels the “common thing” in which one participates together with another. Like the verb on which it is based, this “common thing” may be either positive (Ti 1:4 κατὰ κοινὴν πίστιν “according to the common faith”) or negative (Prv 1:14 LXX κοινὸν βαλλάντιον “shared coin purse”).6 The noun κοινωνός, then, labels a person who “participates together with another” in the “common thing.” Just as one, by definition, cannot κοινωνέω alone, so also one, by definition, cannot be a κοινωνός unless there is at least one other κοινωνός who is also “participating together.” A diagram may be helpful at this point.

24


At the center is the κοινός, the thing that is shared together in common. The κοινωνόι, circled around the center, are those who are “participating together” in the

“common thing.” The action of “participating together” is the arrow in the diagram; this is what the verb κοινωνέω indicates. Using this diagram, one may analyze individual NT examples of this word group. First, κοινός. In Titus 1:4, the “common faith” is that which Paul and Titus both have in common, or participate together in. This is “the thing in common” at the center of the diagram, and Paul and Titus, as the actors in the event, could be called “co-participants” in that common faith. Second, κοινωνέω. At 1 Timothy 5:22, Timothy is not to “participate together in the sins of others” (κοινώνει ἁμαρτίαις ἀλλοτρίαις). The “sins of others” is “the thing in common” (always in the dative case with this verb) at the center of the diagram—the “common thing” in which Timothy should not participate together with others. If he did commit the sins, then he would be “participating together” (κοινώνει) in them with others. The verb κοινωνέω is the arrow in the diagram. It is the action of participating—and thereby connecting to, the “common thing” with others. Third, κοινωνός. In the “Woe Unto You” passages in Matthew 23, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for claiming, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets” (23:30 ESV). The phrase “have taken part with them” in this translation renders the noun κοινωνόι; this rather cumbersome rendering demonstrates the difficulty of clearly conveying κοινωνός in English. However, reference to the diagram may again be helpful. The “thing in common” in the center of the diagram that the Pharisees claim that they would not have done is “shedding the blood of the prophets.” Had they done so, they would have been part of the circle of κοινωνόι who participated with other κοινωνόι in the murders. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

25


To summarize, each word in the κοιν- root is used in the NT to describe persons—always more than one person—and the things and actions that these people share in common. Now we can begin to discuss the actors and activities entailed in the NT examples of κοινωνία, or “life together.” Κοινωνία, like the other words in the κοιν- group, is a rather difficult word to bring into English. An excellent summary of the issues is provided in Anthony Thiselton’s commentary on 1 Corinthians. Most translations use “fellowship” to render the word (e.g., KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB at 1 Cor 1:9). However, as Thiselton notes, “the use of fellowship in church circles may convey an impression quite foreign to Paul’s distinctive emphasis. He does not refer to a group of like-minded people, such as a Greco-Roman societas.”7 Turning again to our diagram may be helpful at this point: “Participating together” (κοινωνέω), “the thing in common” (κοινωνός), and “those who participate together” (κοινωνός) in that set of situations and relationships, is κοινωνία. Put another way, κοινωνία is used in the NT to describe the entire event, the totality of all the elements in the diagram—it is the entire diagram:

κοινωνία is, therefore, that event that occurs when all the elements are in place; it is

the manifestation of the relationships that exist between people who share together in a common thing. Using this understanding helps clarify individual examples of the word in the NT. For example, the offering for the saints in Jerusalem is very frequently described simply as a κοινωνία (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; 2 Cor 9:13). Most translations use the word “collection” or “offering” in these passages. However, κοινωνία is not the offering itself, nor the act of giving itself. It is the entire event, everything from the 26


“thing in common” (the cold, hard cash), the “participating together” (the action of making the cash contributions) and the people of the church who participate together in the giving, collecting, and delivering of the gift to the saints in Jerusalem; all this is the κοινωνία event.8 In these passages, rather than describe the entire process, Paul simply uses the word κοινωνία to encompass all these people and activities; it is the “event word” that encompasses all these elements. It seems to be used the same way also in Acts 2:42, where κοινωνία is used to describe an aspect of “life together” in which the newly baptized in Jerusalem participated together. The use of κοινωνία in 2:42 highlights that together they participated in a “thing in common,” the κοινά (again, dative case) of 2:44. The κοινά are the funds generated from “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” So along with the teaching, breaking bread, and prayers among the early baptized, physical support for one another is in evidence. A new set of relationships is created, which results in a kind of new life together. Nevertheless, as with other words derived from the κοινstem, κοινωνία is not always a positive thing; it is to be avoided when it is between two things that, in God’s eyes, cannot share in a common thing. For example, in 2 Corinthians 6:14 there cannot be κοινωνία when “righteousness and lawlessness” and, metaphorically, “light and dark” are, so to speak, in the same diagram. Space does not permit an analysis of every example of κοινωνία in the NT. However, recognizing that κοινωνία is an “event” fleshes out some problematic examples. At Galatians 2:9, James and Cephas “gave the right hand of fellowship” (δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν…κοινωνίας) to Paul and Barnabas. The handshake symbolized the new set of relationships and activities to which the apostles committed: mission work among different peoples and financial support of the suffering baptized in Jerusalem. Κοινωνία is not some vague agreement but actual, concrete events and activities—things in common—in which the apostles participate together. Using this external entailments method to sort out κοινωνία helps to clarify and read in their proper context the individual examples of the word in 1 Corinthians, where the Apostle uses κοινωνία three times and κοινωνός twice. Indeed, among the most difficult examples of the κοιν- root are found in this letter, which are critical for understanding the nature of “life together.” In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is warning some of the baptized in Corinth who are over-confident in their “knowledge” and their ability to be faithful (cf. 10:13) in their religiously pluralistic environs. Some even seem to have thought that it would not harm them if they participated in the worship of what Paul calls “demons” – what other people worship as gods but are in fact not gods. But Paul argues that if the baptized participate in what “they (the non-baptized) sacrifice,” then even the baptized become κοινωνούς (“participants together”; 10:18, 20) with the non-baptized gathered around that table of sacrifice. To lay out the entailments using our diagram, the baptized Corinthian thereby becomes a “participant together” with those who are worshipping the idol because that person is “participating together” in the “common thing,” i.e., the table at which the sacrifice is being made and shared. Therefore, even though he has “knowledge” that the idol is not a real god and that the prayers made at the table of idols in fact are not heard because the idol is “nothing,” nevertheless it is not his Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

27


“knowledge” that defines what his participation in that table counts as. Rather, his participation is undeniably a κοινωνία with others who are worshipping the demon; he is defined by the κοινωνία he keeps. As noted above, not every κοινωνία in the NT is a good one, and one may indeed be a κοινωνός of the wrong thing with the wrong people. These examples of κοινωνός in 10:18, 20 help to clarify a grammatical conundrum: the use of the genitive case of a noun that modifies κοινωνία. 1 Corinthians 10:18 reads: οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν / “are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” (ESV). The genitive case of τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου is to be understood as an objective genitive, that is to say, the “altar” is the object of the verbal root (κοινωνέω) which is implied in the noun κοινωνός. By going to the place where the altar is set up, and being present when the sacrifices are offered, the baptized Corinthian (sinfully) participates together with others in the altar and everything that is happening there—the entire event—most problematically in the worship of other gods. The same use of the genitive is found two verses later at 10:20, though here the modern English translations are not consistent. The best rendering of οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι is “And I do not want you to be sharers [together with others] in demons ” (NASB).9 As at 10:18, the genitive case is used to denote the object of the sentence implied in the verbal noun κοινωνός: some Corinthians, by eating at that table with those who are not in Christ are in fact participants together with them in the event of worshipping demons. Therefore, these Corinthians, in spite of their “knowledge” that there is only “one God” (1 Cor 8:4–7), are in fact breaking the first commandment. Similarly, the genitives that modify κοινωνία at 1 Corinthians 10:16 (τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ and οῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ) are objective genitives, indicating the object in the sentence implied by the verbal noun κοινωνία: all the κοινωνόι who coparticipate in that eating and drinking participate together “in the blood and body of Christ.” That is to say, this manifestation of κοινωνία entails the entire event: when “we bless” and “we break” it is a participating together in Christ’s blood and body in which all together receive the benefits of his work of death and resurrection. There is no individual blessing and breaking, there is no individual eating and drinking, there is no individual receiving. It is, through and through, a very real manifestation of the body of Christ in action, a God-pleasing κοινωνία, because it is in Christ’s own blood and body.10 The other example of κοινωνία in 1 Corinthians comes at the letter’s opening (1:9). This passage concludes the proömium to the letter, the opening unit that sets up the rest of the discourse. Paul begins by addressing the Corinthian church as part of the larger “church of God,” which he further defines as, “all those in every place who call upon the name of the Lord” (1:2).11 The basis for incorporation into the church is, as always in Paul, the Gospel “call.” God’s external call is decisive for their identity and life together. The adjective κλητός at 1:2 and the related verb κάλεω at 1:9 frame the proömium, for without God’s “call” the Corinthians would not be church. From the Corinthians’ perspective, however, their experience of life in Christ as church has not been satisfactory. They seek after captivating leaders (1:12–4:21) who speak wise and

28


persuasive words; indeed they seek to become “kings” and to “rule” (4:8). The obvious problem is that there is only one ruler and Lord, Jesus Christ. The Corinthians, by seeking after human leaders, wisdom, and power, demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the gospel message. Rather than the “foolishness of the cross” they had “boasted” in what is merely human (1:12–31). This centering on human leaders and human teaching inevitably creates division, for “jealousy and strife” (3:3–4) result when the one Lord’s reign and message is replaced with human leaders and their teaching. This is made most clear in the verse that immediately follows the proömium, the theme verse for the entire letter: “I exhort you, brothers, by the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you (all) say the same thing and that there be no divisions among you (all), but that you (all) be made whole again with the same mind and the same way of thinking” (1:10). The problem in Corinth is that there are divisions or “tears” (σχίσματα) in the church, which can only be “mended” (ἦτε κατηρτισμένοι) through the one Lord, Jesus Christ. This goal for the entire letter, this exhortation to unity, is precisely where Paul ends the proömium with κοινωνία (1:9): “God is faithful, through whom you were called into participation together in his Son, Jesus Christ.” I chose “participation together” as the translation of κοινωνία in order to emphasize the entire event: the co-participants, the action of participating, and the sharing in the common thing, Jesus Christ. As in the previously discussed examples of κοινωνία modified by a genitive noun, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is the “thing which is shared in common” by all who participate together. The ESV, following the KJV, leaves the genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ untranslated (“the fellowship of Jesus Christ”), implying that the κοινωνία is a possession “of Jesus Christ,” a kind of static entity.12 However, recalling that κοινωνία is an event noun confirms that this translation is insufficient; Jesus Christ is that which is shared in, thereby shaping and defining the identity of the church in Corinth.13 As church (1:2), they have been incorporated into Christ (1:2, 4) and are now called upon to attest to the unity that they share by living in κοινωνία, sharing life together in him. They have been “called,” that is, placed into the church in which κοινωνία in Christ is expressed. This language of “manifestated” or, in the last sentence, “expressed” best describes what happens in κοινωνία. Clarifying the “event word” entailments of each occurrence of κοινωνία results in an important implication: κοινωνία is not created by the participants, nor by the act of participating. It is the inevitable result of the collocation—one might even say the collision—of people, actions, and a common thing. In the context of 1 Corinthians, the church does not create κοινωνία when she participates together in Christ, but κοινωνία is thrust upon her because all are in Christ. This is seen most clearly by looking closely at the subjects of the verb in 1:9: God called you (all), all who have been called are brought into relationship with Christ, and in this collision of people and the Christ in whom all participate, there is κοινωνία. Christ does not create κοινωνία, we do not create κοινωνία, God does, by connecting us all to Christ. Identical language to this way of understanding κοινωνία is seen at 1 Corinthians 1:29–30. There, at the end of the unit of thought, Paul writes that no one has a boast before God, and “from him you (all) are in Christ Jesus.” That virtual restatement of 1:9 clarifies that the κοινωνία of 1:9 is indeed “in” (not “of”) Christ, and that it is God the Father’s doing. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

29


These observations have profound implications for how we understand and seek to live out κοινωνία. First, we do not create κοινωνία. It is an event that God creates, including all the elements: the individuals called to participate, the actions by which the κοινωνία is expressed, and to the “common thing” in which all share; all of it is God’s doing. A practical implication may be seen in the way that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. “Participation together in the blood and body of Christ” (10:16) is not up to the individual, for it is God who calls us into this κοινωνία. The Lord’s Supper is not a means to create κοινωνία, it is an expression or manifestation of the already existing unity (the church) that has been created by God, through faith in Christ. The necessary corollary to this is that it is impossible for an individual who is not called by God14 to “participate together in the blood and body of Christ.” A second implication we may draw is that κοινωνία is not a vague, abstract notion. Because it is a concrete crashing together of people, actions, and a thing in common, several manifestations of κοινωνία are possible. We’ve seen this already in some of the examples cited: κοινωνία is manifest when the church sees to the needs of its members (Acts 2:42-45; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; 2 Cor 9:13); it is manifest when members of the body work together in support of the proclamation of the Gospel (Phil 1:5); it is manifest even when members of the body are persecuted (Phil 3:10). But it extends even further, as the entire letter of 1 Corinthians demonstrates. “Participating together in Jesus Christ” (1:9) concludes the proömium and sets up the letter’s thematic call unity in 1:10. The rest of the letter describes the various ways that κοινωνία is expressed among the people and situations in Corinth: avoiding factionalism (chaps. 1–4); exercising discipline in cases of gross sin (5); settling disputes without going to court (6); showing love when handling matters of Christian freedom (8–9); avoiding participating with those who worship idols (10); living as Christ’s eschatological community in the church’s worship, meals, and the Lord’s Supper (11); being a body, with Christ as the head (12); doing all things for the building up of that body in worship (12–14); and, ultimately, living today in the hope of the resurrection on the Last Day (15). As the church does all this, they demonstrate the “participation together in Jesus Christ” of 1 Corinthians 1:9 and live out the call to unity in thinking, speaking, and judgment. Our struggles will revolve around different issues, but the same Lord reigns in his same body, the church, into which we also have been called to live in κοινωνία with those who, like us, have been called into Christ’s church. Third, “church” and κοινωνία must be kept distinct. “Church” is a “thing,” an entity; κοινωνία is an event. The church exists even when it is not gathered together in one place, but the church expresses κοινωνία properly only when God gathers his people together to share in a common thing under one Lord, Jesus Christ. A key question that the church faces today is how to faithfully evidence God-pleasing κοινωνία: What “events” gather the right people doing the right actions around the right thing? What kinds of κοινωνία can occur among all the baptized? When is κοινωνία to be an expression only of the life together that exists only among groups who share the same confession? Fourth, κοινωνία is not fellowship between people; it is fellowship between people through sharing together in the same thing. In sharp contrast to a sociologically derived under-

30


standing of “fellowship” in which individuals relate directly to one another, in biblical κοινωνία individuals are connected to one another only through the common thing. Notice that in the diagrams of κοινωνία used earlier the arrows are not directly connecting one κοινωνός to another. Instead, the arrows are connecting each κοινωνός to the common thing and then through that common thing to the others. So also in the Body of Christ our relationships to each other are defined not socially, economically, racially, or on any other basis than Christ. As a result, the individuals who live in κοινωνία relate to one another through Christ. Hence the Apostle will describe his relationship to the Corinthians as one of “father” in Christ (1 Cor 4:15), not on any other basis. The Gentiles have now been brought near to the Jews into one body in Christ (Eph 2:13). In Christ (Phil 2:1, 5) the members of church relate to one another in a completely new way: by “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:2–4). Faithful κοινωνία in the church, therefore, will always be expressed with humility and self-sacrifice toward one another. “Strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy” (Gal 5:19) will never be in evidence in Christ-centered κοινωνία. And so we are called to life together in the church. “Church” is a given—it is one, holy, καθολική, apostolic. But Christ-centered, God-pleasing κοινωνία is not a given, for not all κοινωνία will reflect the unity in Christ that we have been given. Godpleasing κοινωνία is an event—any number of events and expressions of the unity that God’s people share in Christ. It is to be strived for constantly in all aspects of the church’s life together. Kοινωνία happens when we worship, share goods and resources, teach one another, carry out mission activity, and myriad other events carried out by the living Body. It happens when we demonstrate love to those whom we do not like. It happens when gather for meals, and for the Lord’s Supper. Every genuine expression of κοινωνία in the church is God’s creation. When it happens among us, we praise the God who makes us one. If it is not happening among us, the first question each of us must ask is this: What am I doing that is preventing me from living in κοινωνία with those whom God has called into this life together with me? Jeffrey Kloha Endnotes 1

Erik Herrmann, “Compassion, Mercy, and Diakonia,” Concordia Journal 37 (2011): 270–2. Albert B. Collver III, Witness, Mercy, Life Together (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011), 27. 3 Examples from the NT may be found in Jeffrey Kloha, “The Church in the New Testament,” Concordia Journal 34 (2008): 180–6. 4 James W. Voelz, What Does This Mean? Principles of Biblical Interpretation in a Post-Modern World, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: Concordia, 1999), 188. 5 Κοινόω is another verb based on the root κοιν-, but it is used exclusively in a negative sense, i.e., the action of making something common (not holy) or defiled (e.g., Mt 15:11) and does not inform the noun κοινωνία. 6 Most examples of κοινός in the NT refer to things that “in common” with gentiles and hence are “unclean,” often paired with ἀκάθαρτος (e.g., Acts 10:14, 28). 7 Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 104. 2

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

31


8 This is an example of what Voelz calls “external entailments”: “the related concepts [that] come along with the concept of the verbal root, when the noun or adjective related to that root is used.” What Does This Mean, 189. 9 The KJV, ESV, and NIV all use the prepositional phrase “with demons” (“devils” KJV). The use of with to translate the genitive case is ambiguous, for it could be understood as referencing eating “with demons” or “with others who are sharing in the table of demons.” The latter is most likely, given that the problem in 1 Corinthians 10 is the identity assumed by participating with others in the false worship. 10 The phrase κοινωνία πνεύματος (2 Cor 13:13; Phil 2:1) is likewise to be understood as an objective genitive: “participating together in the Spirit.” See Hauck, TDNT 3, 807. 11 See Kloha, “Trans-congregational Church in the New Testament,” 179. 12 The “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” resource page (http://www.lcms.org/emphasis) offers a download of the abbreviated edition of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary; this resource translates 1 Corinthians 1:9 as “fellowship with God’s Son.” The full article by Hauck in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 804 notes that “Paul uses κοινωνία for the religious fellowship (participation) of the believer in Christ … According to 1 Corinthians 1:9 Christians are called to participation with the Son … They are lifted up to be his fellows.” 13 See Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an die Korinther, I (1 Kor 1,1–6,11) EKK 7,1 (Zürich: Benziger, 1991), 123: »Gemeinschaft (mit jemandem) durch (gemeinsame) Teilhabe (an etwas)«. This participation together “in Christ” includes a life located in Christ, both in the present and in the future, as Schrage notes: “In the context of the proömium more likely [κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ] is a convenient summary [of 1 Cor 1:4–8] in which the immediately preceding futuristic and present-time statements are combined, so that in addition to participation “with Christ” at the eschatological consummation the “in Christ” existence of the present age is also in view, which includes, for example, κοινωνία in his sufferings (Phil 3:10).” 14 In the Pauline letters, καλέω and κλητός refer to the action of God to incorporate an individual into Christ, thereby granting salvation (e.g., the numerous examples of the verb in 1 Cor 7:18–24).

32


ARTICLEs

COncordia Journal


The Catcher

Transitions in Faith of Older Adults

Barry J. Keurualinen

Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin is not a name most of us remember. Yet in the early 1900s, he was one of the most powerful men on earth. A leader in the communist party in Russia, Bukharin was a part of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He was a man of influence in the Politburo and editor of the Soviet newspaper, Pravda. Some of his writings on economics and political science are still referred to in universities today. Years after the Revolution, in 1930, he traveled from Moscow to Kiev to address a large gathering. The topic—atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his verbal assault at Christianity, hurling one insult after another, offering arguments and proof against those foolish enough to profess faith in such a myth. This went on for an hour. When he finished his assault not only against Christians but Christ himself, he looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith in front of him and sneeringly asked, “Are there any questions?” A deafening silence filled the room. Then, just before the long silence was ready to declare atheism the winner, one man meekly walked to the platform and stood up to the podium next to the communist leader. He looked out over the crowd, first looking to the left and then to the right. Then he shouted the well-known and well loved greeting within the Russian Orthodox Church, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” His confession of faith broke the silence within the room and within the hearts of the faithful. What followed silenced Bukharin. The whole auditorium rose to its feet and as one voice shouted, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” In the face of much opposition and attack today, our cause for joy and certainty is also that every word of Jesus has been proven true by his resurrection. His resurrection shouts out to the world that he is indeed the way and the truth and the life. Whether the world believes it or not, his victory gives to each believer the certainty of life beyond the grave and peace with God right now. To all this we can boldly say, “He is risen indeed!” But what happens when uncertainty creeps in? Can faith and doubt exist together? We are assaulted not only by the world but by our own weak spirit and sinful nature. It matters little how mature we are in years or in the faith; questions of uncertainty or anxiety can arise. When they do, how is the church to minister to those who Barry J. Keurulainen is senior pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church, Cabot, Pennslyvania, where he has served for nearly 30 years, and is a member of the Concordia Lutheran Ministries board of directors.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

35


have been so faithful but are now faced with questions that are rooted in anxiety or even doubt? This is the question that I have pondered since a visit to the local nursing facility. It was meant to be a short visit during lunch. Leaving the church, the main campus of Concordia Lutheran Ministries is on my way home. I pulled in to the skilled care section of the facility to make one visit. I had done this many times before, but this visit was different—I was stopping to see my mom. Her health was failing but she was still very sharp and witty as always. This day, she was sitting up when I walked into her room. We chatted for a bit and then as I was getting ready to leave, she looked at me and asked “Barry, what happens when you die?” So much for a quick lunch-time chat. I saw in her eyes a look that I had not seen before. I had a sense that I was catching a glimpse of what John the Baptist might have looked like when he asked his disciples to find Jesus and ask, “Are you the one we are expecting, or do we look for another?” I don’t believe that his question or my mom’s reflected a lack of faith, but it carried with it a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety, maybe even doubt. So what do you say to a question like that? Personally, this was the woman upon whose lap I sat as she taught me how to pray and read to me out of Little Visits with God. How we respond to older adults going through these transitions in their spiritual journey is rooted in our understanding of the very nature of faith. Is there room for doubt or uncertainty and anxiety in our understanding of what faith involves? Michael Novak says, “Doubt is not so much a dividing line that separates people into different camps as it is a razor’s edge that runs through every soul.”1 Within those words, I hear the father of the demon-possessed son approaching Jesus. He had a faith that I relate to in my own life. He came to Jesus saying, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mk 9:24). Jesus called him on that right away: “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Give this man some credit; he doesn’t try to fake it in front of Jesus. “Oh I do believe, I just said it wrong.” He responds, “I do believe but help my unbelief.” There is that razor edge of doubt mingled with faith running through the soul of this father. Is that what I was hearing in my mom’s question? So what did I say to my mom? I swallowed hard. This was not a ball I wanted to fumble. I said a prayer for God to give me words of assurance and said something like this: “Mom, I am not sure, but when I think about dying, it helps me to think of it with the image of a trapeze artist. In a trapeze act, there are flyers, and there are catchers. The flyer climbs the steps of the ladder and takes hold of the two ropes and steps onto the little board called a ‘trapeze.’ Across the way is another person—the catcher who hangs from another trapeze with his knees. His hands are free, reaching out and ready to catch the flyer. As the two artists swing back and forth, there comes a moment when the flyer must let go, suspended in midair. The flyer can do nothing to help himself. It all depends on the catcher. Just as the flyer loses momentum, the catcher comes near and grabs the flyer with a sure and steady grip. Mom, I picture death kind of that way. When we die, we let go. We let go of everything we have been holding onto, even the precious gift of life.

36


Then, in that space of the unknown, sure and steady hands, nail-pierced hands, reach out to grab us. He is the catcher. We are the flyers. We can do nothing. He does it all. I don’t know what happens when we die exactly, but I have confidence in those hands that were stretched out on the cross for you and me and will one day take hold of us when we die.” My mom looked at me, smiled and said, “That helps me. Thank you. I have been wondering about that for a while.” Little did I know then that a month later she would let go of the trapeze of life and know the joy of being caught by nail-pierced hands. Luther once said, “Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God.”2 When you consider that quote in light of one facing death as my mom was, there is a truth in these words that resonates deep within my being and in hers. The only thing I knew to do was to hold in front of her the nailpierced hands that were ready to catch her. I think about that lunch time visit often. This woman of such great love and faith in Jesus had her moments of—call it what you will—anxiety or uncertainty or even doubt. She is in good company. Billy Graham was asked recently in his senior years if he believes that after he dies he will hear God say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He paused and thought for quite a while and said, “I hope so.” Martin Luther was approached for help by an elderly woman who was troubled by her doubts. Luther responded, “Tell me, when you recite the creeds—do you believe them?” “Yes, most certainly,” she responded. “Then go in peace,” Luther said. “You believe more and better than I do.”3 It would seem that the razor’s edge ran through these men as well. How then, are we to minister to folks in this moment of their faith journey? Especially with those who are older adults. They more than any other generation are at such a different point in life. We spend so much of our life taking hold and grabbing tight. First, there were our tricycles as we learned to ride. Then it was our toys as we screamed, “Mine!” and following this, was the steering wheel of a car as we learned to drive. Later, it was the hands of our kids crossing the street or our jobs as we climbed the ladder. At some point though, we begin letting go. We let go of a loved one in death. We let go of our home. We let go of the control of our lives and even our bodies. Then, when so much has been taken away, we face that question, “What happens when we let go of the trapeze of life?” At that moment one is keenly aware of the presence of both uncertainty and faith at the very core of our being. Some might say, “You just need to believe!” I fear however that such an approach will squelch the questions and the search that so often will lead one to a deeper faith. Doubt or uncertainty is not the antithesis of faith. Doubt, left unchecked or unexamined can be deadly, but doubt and uncertainty that is examined and pursued can lead to growth and conviction. Jesus in fact invites us to come to him with our doubts. Remember Thomas? The disciples were in a room with the doors shut tight. They were locked in, not by the door but by fear. Fear of the enemies outside who had done away with Jesus. They were also locked in by fear of enemies within—within each of them—that had Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

37


caused them to flee their best friend and their master. Everyone was there but Thomas. Jesus appears in their midst. It is an amazing moment. Now days later, everyone is brimming with confidence but Thomas. Do you know what it is like to be in the midst of a group, where you are the skeptic, the “doubter”? Into this group, Jesus appears again. Thomas is there this time. Jesus invites Thomas to examine the evidence. He invites him to come to him, with all of his doubts and questions. No scolding at this moment. No, “all you have to do is believe!” As the centuries bear testimony, the Christian faith is one that can bear the weight of scrutiny. In Fact, this can be one way in which we minister to those who know the razor edge of faith and doubt. We invite them to examine the evidence— the word itself and assure them that their doubts or their anxieties do not disqualify them as believers. In the shadow of the cross, we have the opportunity to invite them to embrace a faith that is as Luther said, “a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God.” In whatever way we can, we strive to hold before them the nail-pierced hands that are ready to catch them and in fact already have hold of them. What does it look like to hold nail-pierced hands before the elderly? How do we carry that out in the duties of pastoral ministry and among the priesthood of believers? Word and Sacrament Go back to that locked room for a moment. What calmed the disciples in the midst of their uncertainty and doubt? Jesus showed up. His presence was revealed in their midst! “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when he had said this, he showed them both his hands and his side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’…” (Jn 20:19b–21a). It is no different today. The Sacrament bears the very presence of Christ, speaking peace to those to whom we minister. It speaks peace whether it is in the sanctuary or the nursing home or the hospital. Here more than anywhere else, we are able to hold out before them the nail-pierced hands, through the bread and the wine. Hymns Long ago I made it a practice to sing the hymns of faith to the sick, the hurting, and to those confined for whatever reason. It began with one lady that could only communicate grunts and non-sensible words on any of my visits to her home. Months later when she was in the hospital, I struggled with what to say to her without her family around. As it was near Christmas, I began singing; “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” and she joined me, not missing a word. Jesus said “The Spirit will remind you of all things I have spoken” (Jn 15:25). I believe him. I have seen that time and time again. Hymns and songs of praise are the heart language of our lives. A hymnal is as much of a companion as the Bible on my visits to the elderly. Imagine the comfort of the Spirit to be found and received as you sing words from these familiar hymns:

38


Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. Come not in terrors, as the King of kings, But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings; Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea. Come, friend of sinners, thus abide with me. The Prayers and Liturgy The Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Morning Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the Offertory, the Kyrie—these are the language of faith that the elderly learned to speak when they were small. Time after time, I have seen a person confused or too weak to speak, mouth the words to the Lord’s Prayer or the liturgy when spoken by their bed. It is in the offering of these gifts that we can proclaim to those we minister the same news that the angel shared with the woman at the tomb: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mk 16:7). What a great word—“He is going ahead of you, there you will see him.” This word often gets overlooked in the Easter message, but it is one that is worth pausing on for a while. He is going ahead of you. Wherever you go—to the store, to the shop, to the hospital or to the grave—“He is going ahead of you and there you will see him, just as he told you.” It is in the word and the sacraments and in the hymns and liturgy that we remind on another, “He is going ahead of you, and there you will see him.” When we have let go of everything that we have gripped onto in life, it finally comes down to this—he is going before you, there you will see him. It is said that French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Paschal died with a piece of paper sewn in his jacket. He had written it nine years earlier on Monday, November 23, 1654. Prior to this date, he had been incredibly successful but deeply unhappy. After that date, people knew he had changed. One day he was angry. The next day he was at peace. However, no one knew the reason why. He never told anyone of his “night of fire.” Upon his death, they found this parchment that Paschal had sewn in his jacket, so he could wear it next to his heart. The words he had written; Fire God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob Not the God of the philosophers and of the learned Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ . . . Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God Grandeur of the human soul. Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy…4

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

39


He had let go of all else. Nothing mattered—nothing brought joy or peace but God—God of Jesus Christ. So it must be in our ministry. Caring for those feeling the razor edge of faith and doubt is nothing less and nothing more than holding out the hands, the nail-pierced hands, of Christ. We do this in the face of the world’s attacks and the assault of our own flesh, in joyous defiance proclaiming, “Christ is risen!” I did not find any words sewn inside my mom’s jacket, but her parting words as I left our little lunch time visit have been impressed on my heart. “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” She let go that day and found Christ’s nail-pierced hands holding her as they would a month later when she was the flyer, trusting that in the blackness of death he would be there as the catcher. He was! How can I be certain? He is risen indeed! Endnotes 1

Michael Novak, Belief and Unbelief (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2006), 7. Martin Luther, Sermon. July 25, 1522 W.A. 10.3.239. 3 John Ortberg, Faith & Doubt (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 24. 4 Ibid., 69. 2

40


Aging in Christ

A Life of Fruitful Labor and Service

Robert W. Weise

1 ­ Introduction Aging is part of this fallen world. Yet regardless of a baptized person’s aging status, there is ongoing fruitful labor and service. Dorothy is a 92-year-old retired special education school teacher, married to John who is 87 years old. Due to John’s health issues they live in separate housing quarters in a Lutheran retirement facility. Several times a day she walks, with cane in hand, about a quarter mile to visit and care for John. She believes that taking care of her husband who suffers from several medical conditions that keep him on oxygen and in a wheelchair is fruitful labor and service in Christ. This is a God-given privilege. For Dorothy, it is the “hand of the Lord” that provides this opportunity to be his helpmate. Dorothy’s married life is not about her age; it is about the Christ who came to serve so that she may live this privileged Christian life of service and dedication to her husband and family. While bodily aging does impact what she can and cannot do, her faith remains focused on being a child of God who has been given the gift of life for another day in the Lord. She has learned to pace herself from day to day as she continues to see and feel the physical, mental and emotional ravages of living in this sinful fallen world. Yet Dorothy remains physically active. She swims twice a week, and drives to the local grocery store, hairdresser, drugstore and retail stores. By God’s grace she remains steadfast and immovable abounding in the works of the Lord. She plays the organ at her church and she plays the piano for a local Missouri Synod chaplain when he conducts Lutheran worship services at her residency center. Her life is a life of daily repentance, prayer, and evening devotions ending with the Lord’s Prayer. Aging is part of this fallen world. All people grow old, yet those who are in Christ have received the blessed gift of being joined to the Christ by water, word, and faith in Holy Baptism and believing Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This blessed gift of being united in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ bears fruit in many and various ways throughout all of our lives.

Robert Weise is professor of practical theology and the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Life Sciences at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

41


Regardless of our ages and vocations in life as baptized Christians, our Savior assures us that we have value and purpose at every stage of our Christian lives, even in our “golden years” when all may seem purposeless and hopeless. As pastors stand in their pulpits and scan the congregation, they see Dorothys and Johns in increasing numbers. While the elderly come with their various ailments and concerns, they are God’s children who love to serve the Lord, his church, and one another. Romans 8 reminds them and us that while all the vicissitudes of aging that make life and living more difficult, they do not have the power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.2 To assist pastors, church workers, and laity in ministering to older adults in this fallen world, this paper will provide a brief overview of the physical and emotional characteristics of aging detailing how the secular world deals with aging in its quest for enhanced longevity and immortality in contrast to the biblical word to imitate Christ Jesus with fruitful labor, serving one another in love. Lastly, while Satan continues to beset the elderly with additional hindrances such as purposelessness, hopelessness, loneliness and isolation, etc., God’s means of grace deliver the life restoring gospel gift to aging Christians, strengthening their faith and assuring them of the hope that they have in Jesus Christ. Aging As a Baptized Child of God Physical and Social Characteristics As Christians age, their faith focuses on the value God has given to them as his children created for works of service to his glory. This is totally contrary to the world’s view wherein aging is a loss or decrease in value and worth in society to the point that the aged are burdens siphoning off our tax dollars and slowing down the lines at Wal-Mart. Regardless, the physical, social and emotional changes in lifestyle that aging brings about over time are approached through the faith-hope that God in the resurrected Christ has given all aging Christians through the blessings in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. According to Dr. Roger A. Weise,3 aging is change over time. Of course, there are positive and negative aspects to this change over time. As you grow older, you can learn “new tricks.” Adapting to change may take a bit longer, but, as we get up in our age, we can learn how to operate a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, a personal computer, a guitar, a piano, etc. Memory is not lost, it merely slows down, and hence the phrase that Dr. Weise and I hear frequently is: “My memory is good, it’s just getting shorter.” The same applies to problem solving, communication, and coordination. Personality, however, does not change over time. If you were a grumpy person or a mild-mannered person as a teenager, you will exhibit that same characteristic as an older adult. As we age we need more contrast in our lives because the eye lens becomes thicker and denser. Therefore, the eyesight of a 92-year-old should have a light source for reading and other activities that elicits the same power wattage, 92. If you are 60 you should have a 60-watt bulb as your reading light. Looking back in our age, if you are 15, you will need the equivalent of a 15-watt bulb. 42


If you are going to show slides or a PowerPoint, the presenter should use fall season colors that generate contrast. This should be considered when you are leading a senior Bible class as well as the lighting used in the sanctuary, the narthex and fellowship room. An electrical rheostat works well under these circumstances. Needless to say, large print hymnals, bulletins, and devotional material should be made available to those whose eyesight has been compromised either by age or disease. Muscle and joint use becomes more difficult with aging. Those of us who are older adults realize that the joints and muscles exhibit a greater and greater stiffness and lack of mobility with aging over time. Hence, there is a noticeable decrease with the size and strength of muscles and joints. Even though there is less elasticity, the muscles and joints are trainable at every age.4 Along with these changes comes a change in balance. And so, the elderly become slower to react to external stimuli. This reaction time, however, can be improved. For older adults and those younger ones who have various disabilities, all churches and their fellowship areas should be in compliance with the American Disabilities Act. In addition, installing Heat Tracing Wire in newly constructed concrete ramps and walkways into the church narthex, nave and fellowship buildings will give additional security to all, especially the elderly during tough winter months with a lot of ice and snow. One of the most important physical areas to be “tuned into” is the older adult sensory system or hearing. High-pitched sounds are lost over time along with the loss of hearing consonants in the English language such as “s,” “th,” “k,” “f,” etc. Therefore, pastors should make sure that their enunciations are clear and concise. Special portable transistor hearing devices may be incorporated into the church pews. Regardless, those with hearing concerns should be encouraged to sit in the front church pews. The pastor, church staff, and especially the Board of Trustees should be aware of the effect of aging on skin. Of course, this has everything to do with the environment, the ambient temperature, and the location of furniture within the church and its surrounding facility. As we age, skin loses its underlying fat layer. For some of us this is welcome; however, for the elderly it results in easier bruising and injuries. All of this causes the elderly to be more sensitive to temperature changes, especially extreme cold and hot temperature variations. As a result, you may find older persons wearing a shawl when the air conditioner is on or several layers of clothing even when the furnace is on. Sometimes, temperature will determine the best place to sit. Knowledge of the physical aging process assists pastors and church workers to help, befriend, and support older persons in all of their bodily needs. This knowledge includes the many social changes that occur over time, such as the death of a spouse, retirement, being confined to a nursing or retirement facility, living on a fixed income, and the loss of friendships. These changes can threaten the ability to live a life of service to Christ, that is, of doing fruitful labor according to his good and gracious will. The result is loss of purpose and value, and the sense that they are a burden to their pastor, family, and church community. They may begin to feel lonely and isolated. “How will I get to church?” “Will the pastor visit me on a regular basis?” “I am taking up too much of his [the pastor’s] time.” Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

43


Henri Nouwen writes that this sense of loneliness and isolation may lead to the feeling of desolation. In his book Aging: the Fulfillment of Life, Nouwen writes: Desolation is the gnawing feeling of being left behind by those who have been close and dear to you during the many years of life . . . . It means a rupture in one’s history, a cutting away of familiar ties, a social denudation. In this desolation the experience of loneliness breaks through to the center of one’s existence, a loneliness often expressed in fond memories of the time when one was still together with friends and relatives.5 By God’s all sufficient grace, his Spirit enables pastors to bear the burden in love and patience of those members of the body of Christ. He is their Father, and they are his children whom he promises to neither leave nor forsake. By God’s grace, they are reconnected to the community of faith with the help of their fellow members who visit them, keeping them informed about all the ‘goings-on’ in the church, as well as seeking their opinions and advice. This challenges the whole body of Christ to remember that even though some members are unable to attend worship and other church activities on a regular basis, they remain baptized members of the body of Christ in their local parishes. Having information on the aging process—including the manifestations of loneliness, isolation and desolation—is important for all church workers who minister to the aging population. There are no quick fixes to the sufferings and troubles that come and go with aging. God in Christ Jesus heals and restores. He kills and he makes alive. As St. Paul writes: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” 6 As a baptized child of God who receives his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life, all aging Christians, especially the older ones amongst us, are assured they are not walking alone through the hallways of a seemingly purposeless, lonely, and burdensome life. As Dr. Robert Kolb writes: “Baptism gives a special expression of how God regards human life as meaningful.”7 A Biblical Testimony on Aging The Biblical testimony on aging is very clear and very direct, especially regarding our senior citizens in Christ; they hold divine wisdom that God has gifted to them by his grace. As Job states: “I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’”8 Again, Job writes: “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”9 With aging, we gain wisdom and understanding. God gives wisdom and understanding for fruitful labor and service. This change, then, in the life of the aged is by God’s grace. The wisdom that comes from God is the saving message that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is our Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil, giving his life on the cross that we may have life and have it abundantly. This is true biblical wisdom. For example, the wisdom of the elderly pastor serves to mentor the young pastor who is beginning his ministry of the word and the sacraments. The wisdom that God 44


has given the elder pastor over the years comes by faith in the triune God. This wisdom runs true to the Lord’s words spoken to the tempting devil: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 10 In addition, this biblical wisdom of God in Christ is testified by the older generation in Lutheran churches. They have experiences in taking care of the church, setting budgets, running voter’s meetings, and assisting the pastor in getting to know the saints whom he serves. As the psalmist writes about the righteous elderly: “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green.” 11 And furthermore, God’s word assures the older adult that he will carry them as their creator and redeemer.12 The wisdom of the older adult in Lutheran congregations is to be honored and tapped into, not because of their head knowledge, but because of their long life of faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who has been their faithful teacher bestowing on them his wisdom. As I see gray hair, whether on the head of a pastor or the laity, this does not mean that I will receive a “gray answer” to my pastoral concerns and questions. Rather, I will receive the true wisdom of God from a seasoned veteran of the cross of Christ. The World’s Testimony on Aging Unfortunately, the world’s view of aging continues to be manifested in ageism: “any attitude, action, or institutional structure which subordinates a person or group because of age or any assignment of roles in society purely on the basis of age.” This attitude is creeping into Lutheran congregations as well. We have youth workers, pastors who are specifically called to serve as youth pastors, and adults who serve as youth leaders. While these vocations are meet, right, and beneficial, have we forgotten what the word of God tells us about the wisdom and honor given by God to the older adults that pastors serve? Ageism militates against the whole counsel of God and fosters a fragmented body of Christ, rather than strengthening and upholding the whole community of believers in Christ. Indeed, pastors and all saints in Christ should be concerned about the young persons in the church, but not at the expense of the older, wiser seniors. As re-created baptized Christians, we are called to make disciples of all people, young and old alike. God’s word is not a word that subordinates his people but gathers them together as the body of Christ, in worship giving thanksgiving for being the Savior of all people. In addition, while the word of God is clear on God’s view regarding the older adults amongst us, the current scientific community continues to debate the process of aging focusing in two directions. One helps develop ongoing treatments and cures for aging ailments so that an aging person may continue to lead a relatively active and healthier life, while the other seeks a disease-free, longer, and healthier life leading to immortality. While the former finds its construction in sound medical care and comfort, especially during the “golden years” as well as in dying and death, the latter seeks to knock out dying and death to achieve an earthly eternal life. Dying and death must be conquered and defeated. Life extension biotechnology is moving forward within specific Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

45


areas of the scientific community to bring about victory over dying and death with the result of immortality. This is coming in the form of regenerative medicine technology and the development of artificial intelligence via human cloning, genetic manipulation or engineering, and computer technology. Aging is not a disease, but the result of living in a fallen world. Yet those who seek to drink from the cup of an earthly, everlasting life will find that death respects no person; no genetic modification or immortality cocktail can bring about immortal existence. Disease, dying, and death came into the world through the original sin of Adam and Eve. They are here to stay until the Lord God comes to judge the living and the dead. God has given us the art of medicine with its various vocations, especially geriatrics, to help us take care of our bodies that are God’s created gift to us, redeemed and sanctified by his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Those who seek immortality on their own will die an eternal death, while those who have been reborn in baptism will rise to eternal life. Jesus’s victory over sin, death, and the devil on the cross is our victory by faith alone. Victory via biotechnology will never happen. For the older adult, this takes them beyond the “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy of life to the reborn fruitful life in Christ referred to in Psalm 92:14. Growing Older In Christ: A Life of Fruitful Labor and Service Aging is continuous change over time. This is the fact of all living persons in a fallen world: our existence is temporal. From conception to the time that we enter our eternal rest, the process of aging clings to us without abatement. The aging process impacts every aspect of our faith-life of fruitful labor and service to his glory. Aging isn’t passing the time of day, but “[running] with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”13 Mueller and Kraus write in Pastoral Theology: Aging is not merely a lockstep march toward death. It is primarily a remarkable opportunity under God to grow and mature in the faith as we serve our Lord, our church, and our community in new, meaningful ways… He [Jesus Christ] enables us to live this life to the fullest as he creates, nurtures, and sustains our faith by the precious means of grace.14 While this essay focuses on the aging process in our later years, we all suffer from the aging process to various degrees and results. While the struggles of immobility, loneliness, and despair beset many of us during our aged years, all baptized Christians, regardless of their age, know that God has made them and given them their body and soul and all of its members, and still preserves them from all evil. Dr. Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism at the end of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “For all this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him.”15 We are his re-created children “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared 46


before-hand that we should walk in them.”16 Regardless of our aging status in Christ, by his Spirit our life is a life of fruitful labor and service to one another and to his glory. We are not here to bide our time, but to live the time that he allows us according to his will and way that we have been gifted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ until we live with him in eternity. This fruitful labor and service, especially for the older, aging adults among us is lived by faith alone through prayer and worshiping as one baptized individual within the body of Christ, especially participating with this community of believers in the Eucharistic Supper of our Savior Jesus Christ’s body and blood. In addition, sharing stories of their lives in Christ with the younger ones in the congregation, daily devotions, and assisting the pastor with hospital and shut-in calls provide resources for the older adults to share their valued life given to them by the resurrected and ascended Christ. Even those older adults who are bedfast, need to be assured of their baptismal identity. While they may be confined to a bed and a room, God in Christ is not confined, but is with them in their suffering until their eyes close to heaven’s good morning. Their faith-filled fruitful labor in Christ—what they did in service for the church, family, and community—is the legacy that they bring and leave for all to know. As one older adult shut-in shared with me recently: “I don’t know what I would do without Jesus. He is my Savior. His word of forgiveness and the gift of baptism; see Pastor Weise, that is my baptismal certificate on the wall, his presence gives me peace and hope as I continue to struggle emotionally and physically with my current disabilities. This Bible (pointing to the one resting on her nightstand next to the bed), prayer and the Lord’s Supper keeps me in his strength and hope that I am to be with him at any time.” We are all part of the body of Christ, so that when one part hurts, or is in need of assistance or has a joy to share, then we all share in that experience. This eliminates ageism, ostracizing or stereotyping of the aged. As St. Paul writes: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . . God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.17 Herein, we bring those burdens and joys in aging into the care of the body of Christ. This helps bridge the generation gaps that exist within churches and seek ways to utilize the gifts that the older adults bring with their many years of wisdom and service to the Lord and his church. Equipping the elderly for their ongoing fruitful labor in Christ Jesus by faith alone requires the pastor and other church leaders to involve them in all aspects of church life. They are to be honored and their wisdom used, regardless of their age. Their involvement in Christian day schools as well as the Concordia University system, Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

47


that is, if a Concordia University is within close proximity to their church, is paramount. Gather the young and the old together so that the young can learn from the older adults about church life and witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ. As the older adult is equipped and used for service in the church, her Christian witness and life’s experiences may be passed on to younger ones who are beginning their faith-filled service to the Lord and his church. When these young Christians receive the wisdom and experiences of the older adults in their midst, they are enabled by God’s Spirit as they too age, to pass on what they have received to the next generation, and so on and so on. By God’s Spirit, his word accomplishes the purpose for which he sends it. His word never returns empty.18 The resources for equipping the older adult and all who continue to age in this fallen world are the word and the sacraments. God’s grace brings about change in our aging lives for fruitful service to his glory and for the good and well-being of our neighbors as we continue to live as pilgrims passing through this world to the new heaven and new earth. Conclusion Aging is part of this fallen world. Baptismal life in Christ assures us that we have value and purpose regardless of our age. God in Christ has gifted us with the means of grace for fruitful labor, doing his will as we imitate him who strengthens our faith and assures us of the forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life. Thus, as we age, we give ourselves in service to one another just as he gave himself in service for us. As Dorothy reflects with me on her 92 years, she knows that, by God’s grace he forgave her sins and brought her back to newness of life in Jesus Christ. She knows that ‘the hand of the Lord,’ as she puts it, has prepared her for fruitful service in her church and life by playing the organ, teaching Sunday school, praying, and caring for her family and husband. Even if she were bedridden, she would look to the Lord for he is her refuge and strength. Aging has no power over her. It has not stopped her from living a fruitful life in Christ, doing his will. She recently told me: “God is good to me. He has blessed me over and over again. Look at that cross on the wall and that picture of his resurrection. When I feel hopeless and lonely, I look at those pictures of his sacrifice for my sinful life, read the Bible and my evening devotional book, pray, and know that he is with me, and that he continues to give me his strength to serve, obey and honor him. Aging isn’t fun. But I know that with God all things are possible.”

Endnotes

1 Scripture quotations are form the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 2 Romans 8:31–39. 3 Dr. Roger W. Weise, MD is board certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. He is the Medical Director of Older Adult Health Care, the Alexian Brothers Medical Group, Elk Grove, Illinois. He shared the following information on the aging process with me. I have added a few practical comments within the context of older adult changes that he addresses in this section. 4 Regular, consistent aerobic and resistance exercise is a must for optimal aging and improving movement, slow but steady.

48


5

Henri J. M. Nouwen and W. J. Gaffney, Aging: the Fulfillment of Life (New York: Image, 1990), 36–37. Romans 6:11 7 Robert Kolb, Make Disciples, Baptizing: God’s Gift of New Life and Christian Witness, (St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Publications, Fascicle Series-Number 1, 1997), 72. 8 Job 32:7. 9 Job 12:12. 10 Matthew 4:4. 11 Psalm 92:14. 12 Isaiah 46:4. 13 Hebrews 12:2. 14 N. H. Mueller and G. Kraus, eds., Pastoral Theology (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1997), 140. 15 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Creed, The First Article: On Creation, in Handbook, The Small Catechism [of Dr. Martin Luther] for Ordinary Pastors and Preachers (The Book of Concord, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Fortress Press, MN, 2000), 354–355. 16 Ephesians 2:10. 17 1 Corinthians 12:12, 24–27. 18 Isaiah 55:10–11. 6

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

49


Senior and Older Adult Ministry in Our Times A Conversation

Roger Nuerge and Art Litke ­ institutional chaplain, Roger Nuerge, and a congregational pastor, Art Litke, talk An together about the challenges and blessings of older adult ministry, and the interconnections between congregations and older adult communities.

Nuerge: What does congregational ministry toward seniors look like from your perspective? Litke: The strength of ministry toward seniors is that they are relatively easy to please compared to a lot of younger people. What they ask for is really very simple— ministry of presence, hearing the gospel, having someone with them. One of the weaknesses, of course, is that you care about them and get close to them, and then they die. It’s a fact of life, but that’s the nature of any meaningful relationship. Somebody told me a long time ago that in order to have any kind of meaningful relationship with anyone, you have to be willing to take the risk of being hurt. It is frustrating for a lot of older members who have been active and did a lot of ministry themselves that they are not able to do what they used to do any more. It becomes a challenge for them. I have found that working with older people, particularly at the end stage of life, is probably the most difficult, but also the most rewarding aspect of ministry. Nuerge: As you were talking, I was wondering how you feel about people who you have ministered to for a long time and were active and then old age sets in and they can’t do what they used to. Is there a tendency to age gracefully and accept old age? Litke: It varies from person to person. I have one member who was very active 15 years ago. He made home visits to members. He’s 95 now and can’t come to church himself. But he handles it well and is grateful for my visits and doesn’t complain that he can’t do what he used to do. Others find it to be a struggle. They used to do so many things, but when they can no longer drive, eyesight fails, it becomes a frustration. They lose their independence. Nuerge: One thing I notice at Concordia Lutheran Ministries—there are times when old age makes them so weak they can’t move around and they fall a lot, and then there is a danger that they can’t stay home alone. Do you find decisions like that difficult? Roger Nuerge, left, is a chaplain at Concordia Lutheran Ministries, Cabot, Pennslyvania. Arthur Litke, right, is the pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Glenshaw, Pennslyvania, and is the first vice president of the LCMS Eastern District. 50


Litke: Yes, this is especially true when you are talking about a husband and wife who have spent their entire life together, and now there’s a separation. It becomes very difficult. The whole thing is independence. We value our independence—when we get up, go to bed, eat, where we go and when. When we no longer have the ability to make those decisions for ourselves, that’s frustrating. Nuerge: The mind is still willing but the body becomes too weak. They think they ought to be able to do it one more time; then they get in trouble, they do fall. I really sympathize. How do you see ministry taking place? I have always felt that ministry is best at a transition time. This is a transition time, but it’s so slow.  Litke: Find ways to have these people realize that they are still valuable and still have things to offer. Sometimes that takes adjustments. One of the things I did at my last church was set up a “Dial-a-Devotion” telephone line. I’m a technological moron, but 15 years ago you could do this with a simple answering machine. I contacted Concordia Publishing House to get permission to use back issues of Portals of Prayer and distributed those, together with a recorder and tapes, to members who recorded the messages. Sitting in their homes, they could read into the tape recorder a message, and it was something they could do to expand the ministry. All I did was just change the tape everyday. Nuerge: When they have to make a decision that they have to leave their home, what do you see congregational ministry doing to be an advocate and an aid there? Is there anything that you think you can do?  Litke: The main thing is to assure them that they are not leaving their family of believers, that there will still be contact from the pastor for sure, and that they are not going to be gone and forgotten. That’s important. They need to be assured that it’s alright. When the things that they have counted on to be there aren’t there any more, that’s a scary thing. One of the reasons why I am a traditionalist is because when I am on my deathbed, I will be thinking about the things that have carried me through life. When I visit shut-ins and those who are institutionalized, I always keep them up on the things going on at church so they still feel connected and know what’s going on. Nuerge: You take that ministry seriously. You are speaking my language. I have always felt that’s a really important part of parish ministry. That connection with their church is still really valuable, I have seen good examples of congregations that followthrough very well. I have seen the other side when congregations do forget. One of the things that happens is that people live so long in nursing homes—they can go in the facility when they are 80 and are still living at 95. There may have been a pastoral change—one, maybe two times or more, and they don’t know their pastor. That’s a real hard thing if succeeding pastors don’t have the dedication to follow-up. Litke: A real challenge—What about that person’s family who is making those decisions? I have one member whose wife died a few years ago, and every time he’s been in the hospital since then I found out because he called me himself. What would happen if he couldn’t make that call? Would his son or daughter make us aware if Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

51


something does happen? I have had one or two situations where someone actually died, and I didn’t find out about it until a couple of weeks later.  Nuerge: From your perspective, is there something that can be done on the part of a senior living facility like Concordia where a lot of our members are residents that would be helpful in informing congregations of their members’ status? Litke: That would be helpful but what do the laws say? When I first came to town, the local hospitals would call me when one of my members was admitted, but that doesn’t happen anymore. From what I understand, they are not permitted to share any patient information. Nuerge: Perhaps at senior living facilities it could become part of the admitting process. If a question like this was asked, “If a loved one is taken to the hospital would you want your church to know?” then we would be okay with the law. Litke: Any communications between a pastor and a chaplain are beneficial. Nuerge: The differences/similarities of ministry to older adults by older adults. Do you have a feel for that? What do you think? Litke: One of the similarities is what older adults need is pretty much the same. Those who are older understand better and are in a better position to pick up on those things. The ministry is the same—giving them the gospel. The difference is how they respond. I admire those who honestly say, “I can’t do this any more but I could do this.” They have a sense of what they are capable of and what their interests are.  Nuerge: Some of them continue to serve as long as they are able. That’s kind of a good thing but sometimes do they hold on too long? Litke: They don’t give it up because they are concerned about who will do it. For example, we have three elders—one is 93, one is in the Air Force, and the other is a doctor. Can you guess which one is hardest to schedule a meeting around? Nuerge: It is interesting to go on a shut-in visit and expecting to see them at home and have a hard time finding them. Litke: I always call ahead of time. When someone gets to a certain age, it gives us an opportunity to call on them regularly. Another example: A distant cousin of mine and her mother live in another state. They haven’t been to church in a long time, and they said the pastor is very cordial when he sees them in the grocery store, but can’t understand why he never comes to see them. I told them, “If he sees you in the grocery store, he assumes you’re up and around.” Nuerge: Ministry to older adults is also a ministry by older adults. Because they are involved, they are being ministered to. Litke: Everybody needs to be needed and it becomes more and more necessary as we become older. I am 57 now. I can remember 15 years ago going to men’s club, and those who were there were complaining about how things used to be and how young people just aren’t interested. I answered, “If you are doing something and can convince them that they are needed, they will come.” Now I get frustrated at the level of commitment by younger people. They will be there as long as there isn’t a hockey game or a football game or baseball game, or something else doesn’t come up.

52


It becomes frustrating even for me. I can imagine how that feels for people who have been involved in church work many more years than I have.  Nuerge: What’s not part of this—but maybe you see a ministry going another way—is older adults ministering to younger. What’s your perspective? Litke: How receptive are the younger people? I have always had respect for those older than me simply because they have lived longer than I have; they have seen more of life than I have, and they know more than I do. When you are young, you know everything. Nobody can tell you anything but…the old man might have sounded crazy when he said that, but it sure makes a lot of sense now. I can tell you another story here. A little girl really took a liking to an older woman and sat with her in church on Sunday. One Sunday the older woman wasn’t there. The little girl asked where she was, and I told her that she was having some trouble with her heart. “Well,” she said, “I hope she doesn’t die because she’s my best friend at church.” We live in a mobile society—younger people whose grandparents live in another state, and they don’t see them as often. An older member can be a surrogate grandparent.  Nuerge: You mentioned relationships—that’s something that little girl’s statement defined. Things that divide our generations. Technology, for example. Some seniors are astute with internet and computer, but a lot don’t really care for it. Email and Twitter, tweeting and Facebook is a big divide. Technology makes that divide bigger. The church can encourage new relationships that seem to bring them together. Litke: One of the sad byproducts of technology is what happened in a public library recently with the accessing of pornography. Like TV, the internet is a blessing but it can be a curse. Texting and e-mailing people in the same room rather than talking doesn’t seem right. It is a different world. One pastor told me recently that if you are a pastor today and want to reach young people, you have to be on Facebook. It doesn’t make sense to me that people are so concerned about privacy, and yet they put their entire life out there for everyone to see. Nuerge: Anonymity, even more than privacy, is what today’s world seeks. Litke: That’s why relationships are important. I conducted a funeral a number of years ago where the grandchildren of the man who had died were his pallbearers. One of the family members looked at them and said, “Look at them kids; ain’t one of them worth a nickel but they’re ours.” I have seen it in Pittsburgh more than anywhere else that people jump from church to church when something isn’t to their liking. Older members have more attachment. They feel, “This is my church. I will be here longer than the problems will.” Older people have that kind of identity. Nuerge: They come from a generation where that was the case—belonging over generations. One of the things that is prevalent in the lives of older people is loneliness. People can be okay, somewhat balanced in their health, needs are met, but there is a real loneliness. At Concordia Lutheran Ministries there are lots of people, but there are still a lot of people who are very lonely.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

53


Litke: I’ve experienced at least two cases where a husband and wife were advanced in years. One died and in a matter of weeks the other died. They had been together for so many years that each literally could not live without the other. Nuerge: What do you see as ministry to lonely seniors, older adults? What can the church do? What can retirement communities do? What is a way to address this? Litke: Being there for them, letting them tell the old stories. Get out the old pictures; those are the connections they have had. They have the old stories that you hear over and over. Just listen. People have a story to tell. Nuerge: I have tried to connect people with those who are lonely at Concordia. Sometimes it works, sometimes not as well. When it works, it looks beautiful. When it doesn’t, you don’t know if it will sour them for the next time. Litke: I have found that often those who have the most reason to complain and be depressed are the most optimistic. Nuerge: What about LCMS people who think they are not being ministered to unless there’s a pastor there? Is that real? Litke: Yes, I think that’s true. When my father-in-law was terminally ill and wasn’t able to go to church, he belonged to a church that had a pastor, an assistant pastor, and a deacon. In his mind, only the pastor could give him communion. It is important to see the pastor on a regular basis, but that should be in addition to other visits by lay people. I knew of a church where elders and the male school teachers had a rotation so that the pastor saw the shut-ins only once a year. A year becomes a long period of time when you get old. Nuerge: From your perspective, what should older adult chaplaincy look like? What is necessary for your people to be served? Litke: Support and reinforce people when they have to make that tough decision. Regular visits, contact with the chaplain—that reinforces the fact that they still have connections. Without the contact they are scared. I have been blessed that wherever I have served, those in nursing homes have been close enough that I could get to them on a regular basis. I have been asked by other pastors to visit some residents, who may have been located too far away from them. Or I have had other pastors who have visited my members for spiritual care. Nuerge: On the Concordia side, it is really good to see pastors visiting their people. There was a pastor some years ago that made the comment that they visited there and in hospitals and had church and communion. Why do I have to go up there and see my people when they are all being served? Going back to what you said before, it wasn’t their pastor doing the ministering. It’s good to see parish pastors doing their work on campus. Litke: Concordia used to have a rotation of parish pastors conducting chapel services. When I have done services there, it was a big deal for my members who were residents. It meant something that their pastor was going to be there. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to. Perhaps it should. Concordia has grown and changed and the percentage of LCMS people was larger in the past.

54


Nuerge: I have a friend of my dad’s who is in a nursing home, and I contact her and try to stay in touch with her. She is always glad when her pastor comes to do the services at her facility. Litke: They are used to a pastor’s style and voice pattern in preaching the sermon—it’s almost like they came back home. Nuerge: Even if there is a pastoral change, residents still like to see someone from their churches. Have we missed something that we should be talking about? Litke: Chaplains have the blessing of ministering to people all the time. A parish pastor has that but also has meetings and classes as part of the mix. Chaplains can focus on ministry and become much better at it. Nuerge: Having spent most of my time at parish ministry, there are blessings on both sides. There is that refreshing mix when you are a parish pastor. Litke: That kind of ministry, however, is the most important—it’s the thing you can’t put off. I once knew a pastor whose church was located right next to a nursing home, and he wouldn’t do services there because he felt it was not a growth opportunity. “You visit them a couple of times and then they die on you,” he explained. I have always considered it a blessing to be a part of people’s life at that time in their lives.  Nuerge: The blessing of chaplaincy—it is our total focus. When I first went to Concordia, there was an adjustment period. I was spending all of my time just listening to people; going from one room to the next trying to figure out what ministry would aid the resident. That part got weary. I had to build up myself. It is tiring when you invest yourself. It surprised me how tired I got. I have been able to build endurance. It is good not to have voters and council meeting. I don’t have to worry about whether this ship is going to continue, or someone will get angry and leave the church. Anything you think we can do for parishes and pastors from Concordia’s side? Litke: A line of communication and constant conversation are helpful. When we know our people are being taking care of—know that they are communing—it helps. Some people I didn’t commune over the years, because when I visited them, they were in a common area with others. I never felt guilty about that because I knew they were being cared for spiritually by the chaplains. Nuerge: Most of the time it’s okay to say if they are anticipating communion, “Is it ok to go to your room?” It is totally appropriate, and you are certainly welcome to do that. Litke: Pastors’ and chaplains’ ministries can complement each other. Sometimes people transfer their membership when they move to Concordia. I don’t know if it’s unique to Concordia. Nuerge: Understand ministry as a partnership. It’s good to have people around. Concordia still does value the parishes and the ministries and the pastors that are involved in the ministries in western Pittsburgh. The way things are going with people living as long as they are, with the infirmities they accumulate along the way, it makes it a challenge, but it is a great time to provide ministry there.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

55


Litke: In general, nursing homes have come a long way in the 30 years. The same stigma isn’t there—this is a place where you go to die. In terms of the activity level and the cleanliness, I had a lady who was over 100 and she was “out of it,” but the TV or radio was always on and people came in and spoke to her as if she knew they were there. A lot of times we tend to write people off. I was comforted by the fact that she was bathed, clean, dressed—that clearly she was valued as a person. I always said a prayer when I was with her. Nuerge: You bring up a good point because sometimes people do become so incapacitated that they don’t respond. Yet there is a ministry that goes on there. Just the fact that our Lord took on flesh and blood and became one of us, and when we come to visit our people who are coming as the present day incarnation, we come in the name of Jesus, we are Jesus, his connection with that person. That makes ministry worthwhile even though we may not see anything. Litke: My father died when I was a senior in high school. He was comatose for a while and when he came out of that he told us things that happened while he was unconscious. So I am convinced that when you are in a room with someone who is unresponsive, don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t say or do if that person were wide awake. Nuerge: I had an organist in my ministry who was in a coma, and she said she could hear and knew when people came and went. It taught me a lot about ministry to people who are unable to respond. Litke: During his hospitalization, my father’s symptoms were similar to those of President Truman. The President died, so we didn’t want Dad to know. My brother worked for the post office and someone asked if he would be at the hospital the next day, and my father said of course he would be as all the federal offices were closed due to Truman’s death. He knew even though we were trying to shield him from that fact. A lot of times people in that state are a lot more aware of things than it sometimes appears.  

56


Homiletical Helps

COncordia Journal


Homiletical Helps on LSB Series B—First Lesson Homiletical Helps are also online in the pulpit section of ConcordiaTheology.org.

Epiphany 6 • 2 Kings 5:1–14 • February 12, 2012 Allow me to introduce you to the University of the Poor as I was introduced to it. I was sitting in a classroom in New York City with fellow seminarians and some of the University’s instructors. We were learning of their mission and work, and I was sitting next to a homeless man. As he talked about the realities of poverty, I felt nobly inspired to be sitting there, part of the “growing movement to end poverty.” It wasn’t until I began unwrapping the turkey sandwich in my box lunch that he revealed to the group that he was HIV positive. I immediately felt my body squeezing in against itself. Didn’t I shake his hand when we walked in the room? Which water bottle on the table was mine? I could feel my face heating up, and my scalp itching. The air around me felt contaminated, and I was becoming again the grade-school boy who was petrified to catch my classmate’s flu bug. Except that this bug means death. I mention all this because the most dreaded disease of the Bible—the one that had no cure—was leprosy, and sometimes it’s hard to get our hearts within the dread of the disease. To contract it was a death sentence. To have it exposed to the community was to be banished to total exclusion. To be a leper was to be untouchable…untreatable…unclean. Unclean: yes, that’s how I felt sitting in that room in New York City. When we consider all the exclusions that happen—ritual, medical, or otherwise—to keep us clean from contamination, it is striking that the one to bring a word of hope to the leprous warrior Naaman is an Israelite slave girl. Overcoming such exclusions means crossing lines. And this is the first line to be crossed: that a slave girl, of all people, would have enough courage to offer the cure to the noble commander of the king’s court. The second line is crossed when “Elisha the man of God” interferes in international diplomacy with an audacity belonging only to prophets: “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8). But one detail cannot be forgotten. Elisha does not come out to meet the unclean Naaman. He only sends out a word, a divine word of power, promise, and healing. As it turns out, it is the only word that Naaman will need. The third line is Naaman’s to cross, and it is two-fold. First, to believe the word, and second, to do what the word says. “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times…and you shall be clean” (v. 10). He refuses the word at first. There are clearer waters in Aram. But his servants, who perhaps are taking their cue from the daring of the slave girl, convince him otherwise. As he steps into the muddy waters of the Jordan River, the word of promise does its work. The water washes off the dread death of the disease, “and he was clean” (v. 14). 59


Only after the pericope does Naaman meet Elisha face to face, in a striking scene where Naaman makes his profession of faith (5:15–19). (Should you so choose, it might not be a bad thing to add these verses to the reading, reference them in the sermon, or cover them in Bible study.) Yet, it would take nearly 900 years for the final line to be crossed. The final line is the border Elisha didn’t want or need to step over. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him” (Mk 1:41, from today’s Gospel reading). Jesus too speaks the divine word of power, promise, and healing. And the word alone—“I will; be clean”—would have been enough. But he chooses to touch the one excluded and unclean, the one who would make Jesus himself unclean. And because this prophet is like no other, the act undoes the taboo. The touch that would make Jesus unclean is, itself, the touch that makes the leper clean. It is the “happy exchange” of Christ at its most simple—to be made clean and healthy and whole by one touch from the Prophet’s hand. As the man next to me told the rest of his story, my body and mind eased in his presence. I knew enough to overcome my superstitions. When we departed, we shook hands again. As to who was made clean by the encounter, I think I know the answer. Travis J. Scholl

Transfiguration Sunday • 2 Kings 2:1–12 • February 19, 2012 Incredible Things Author’s note: Those who are familiar with my contributions to Homiletical Helps over the years know that I prefer to submit a sermon manuscript rather than exegetical notes and an outline. This approach provides some variety to the Helps and also gives preachers an opportunity to see how I try to make use of a variety of creative techniques to reach the whole person as created by God. With the continued development of Concordia Seminary’s excellent website ConcordiaTheology.org, however, a new approach is possible. The full manuscript is now located in the online Homiletical Helps, along with many other homiletical resources. Included in that full manuscript are suggestions for a PowerPoint type presentation and a possible visual aid. For the print Concordia Journal version of the Helps here, I will summarize the approach I have taken with some explanation for that approach. 1. The purpose of the text does not match the focus of the liturgical date. 2 Kings 2 is a succession passage, with Elijah passing the prophetic mantle to Elisha. It is chosen as one OT pericopal option because Elijah appears on the Mount of Transfiguration, but the two events are not immediately connected. If anything, Elijah being swooped up into heaven is more akin to Jesus’s Ascension than his Transfiguration. However, the connection to Moses, who is also present for the Transfiguration, is seen in the following parallels. • Like Moses parting the sea, Elijah parts the Jordan River. • Both travel through Bethel, Gilgal and Jericho.

60


• Moses is buried in a grave, but the location is known only to God. Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind. • Moses passes his leadership on to Joshua; Elijah to Elisha. 2. Elisha is to succeed Elijah. He will not leave him, despite Elijah’s request that he do so. He asks for a double portion. This request is not that he gets to be twice as powerful as Elijah so he can do more miracles. Rather, like a first born son, he wants to be the one who would carry on Elijah’s work. At the end of the reading, Elijah picks up the mantle and succeeds Elijah. In a way, Elisha’s faithfulness is highlighted more than any particular quality of Elijah. 3. However, since the text occurs on Transfiguration Sunday, the sermon moves to make the connection between Elijah and his appearance next to Jesus. It does so by stepping back from this particular text to Elijah’s life and ministry as a whole. Who is this man standing next to Jesus? What connection do the people in the pews have to him? Why is he there? Reference is made to the 2 Kings 2 event, but as only one event of many that reveal answers to these questions. 4. The homiletical approach makes use of a contrast and comparison structure. The sermon begins by showing the great distance between Elijah and the hearers (contrast), but as the sermon moves along it brings the contemporary hearers into closer contact with Elijah (comparison). However, Transfiguration Sunday (and every Sunday) needs to put Jesus in the center of attention. So the sermon moves to put the spotlight on Jesus because of what Elijah and Jesus were talking about—Jesus going to Jerusalem. The final portion of the sermon proclaims what Jesus has done for both Elijah and for us in Jerusalem. The key words that will hold the various parts of the sermon together as it progress along are “incredible things.” First, the incredible things Elijah did, but more importantly the incredible things Jesus did for us. 5. The contrast works by a distance metaphor. Elijah and the incredible things he did are so different, so far away, from the uneventful, ordinary lives we live. The sermon opens with descriptions of Elijah parting the Jordan River, the time spent with the widow and her son, the battle against the prophets, and finally, his glorious trip on a fiery chariot without dying. 6. The next section completes the contrast by depicting our everyday lives as so routine and forgettable. Even the exciting moments of our lives are quickly forgotten in contrast to Elijah’s incredible things remembered 2900 years. 7. The sermon next moves into the comparison section and works by identifying two emotions that are common to both Elijah and contemporary people: loneliness and fear. These emotions come out of Elijah’s complaint that he is the only one left who still believes and the threat of Jezebel. I attempt to draw the people into an experience of loneliness by describing a cartoon I saw of a teenager at a school picnic talking on her phone. Surrounded by classmates she says, “I’m so glad you called, I was so lonely.” For fear, I recount a sermon I had heard where the pastor had asked the people to write on a 3x5 notecard their greatest fears. While I list a few in the sermon, I also suggest doing the same activity with the people. This section is the law portion of the sermon, but not in a direct accusation of sinfulness so typical of Lutheran sermons. Law Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

61


proclamation is to convict and convince the people of their need for Jesus and can be done by careful depiction of that need for Jesus, which is the approach of this sermon. However, I do mention our sinful weaknesses and make use of the line from the wellknown hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus—“all our sins and griefs to bear.” 8. The comparison continues by jumping ahead to the Transfiguration which is the move to the proclamation of the gospel. While we are not there like Elijah is, the sermon emphasizes Jesus as the focus of attention, not Elijah. Elijah, in fact, is doing just what his earlier ministry had set out to do—call people back to God, to worship him and him alone. He does that by doing something that seems so uneventful—he is simply talking to Jesus. Unfortunately, the assigned Gospel account of the Transfiguration is from Mark and does not mention what they were talking about. Luke (9:31) has that information: “They spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.” But I still make use of that conversation content as the transition to Jesus as the one who does incredible things for us (and Elijah) by what he does in Jerusalem. 9. The cross is proclaimed as that which overcomes our fears. Burning the note cards of listed fears as a youth group activity and referencing to the sacrifice burned on the altar when Elijah did battle with the false prophets. The resurrection is proclaimed in terms of Jesus never leaving us alone. He is always standing next to us, talking with us, much like the image of Elijah standing next to Jesus at his Transfiguration. The application is that Jesus is standing next to us in the uneventful, everyday moments of life as well as when we are lonely or afraid. 10. The concluding paragraph thus reads: Think about Elijah. Even though Elijah did some incredible things, I’m sure he would tell us that the most incredible thing of all was standing next to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, talking to him about going to Jerusalem, going to the cross, and rising from the dead. Elijah would not want the focus on himself, as if he were someone incredible. No, Elijah would want us to focus on Jesus because today and every day Jesus is standing beside us. In resurrection glory, Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us. He is always ready to talk to us. And that is an incredible thing indeed! Amen. Glenn Nielsen

Lent 1 • Genesis 22:1–18 • February 26, 2012 A Test Case Preliminary Considerations Historically, the theme for the first Sunday in Lent is the “Temptation of the Lord.” The appointed Gospel lesson for the day, Mark 1:9–15, unlike the other Synoptic parallels, encapsulates Jesus’s temptation in one participial clause, “being tempted by Satan,” in the desert among wild animals and with angels attending him. On the other hand, the Epistle reading, James 1:12–18, alerts us to the truth that the tempter is actually the devil. Temptations have their bearing on the evil desires that 62


result in sin. Sin does not appeal to God. God by his very nature is holy and shows no interest in tempting anyone. Nevertheless, satanic forces come from the outside and drag us away from the Lord’s desire for us, causing to birth in us sin. No human being is exempt from such ongoing tests in their lives. Thus James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.” The verse of the day is the exhortation to outfit ourselves with the whole armor of God with a view to taking our stand against the devil’s schemes. In the introit, the Most High promises those who have found shelter in his shadow security and protection from the tempter. The Gradual is an encouragement to fix our eyes on Jesus who has himself overcome satanic and vile schemes, as he is the author of our faith as well as the one who perfects it. Reflections on Genesis 22:1–18 Abraham’s entire life had been a journey of faith. Trials were his constant companion on the voyage. This patriarch of faith was counting on God’s promises to sustain him throughout his pilgrimage. At God’s call, Abraham left behind his life in Mesopotamia and set out toward an unknown land. Throughout that expedition, he had nothing but the word of God to anchor his life. More than once his faith was tested through the refiner’s fire. The biblical accounts list many blessings that God promised Abraham, matched perhaps by no other person on earth. It included, for him and his future generations, ownership of a land as far as the eye could see. God promised to make his name great. A word from Abraham’s mouth would become a word of blessing to numerous others. In Abraham, God would bless all peoples on earth. Such a blessing would flow from him to all the families of the earth through his son that God would give him through his wife Sarah. God’s promises notwithstanding, his own old age and Sarah’s prolonged barrenness, cast strong shadows of doubt in Abraham’s mind. In their weak moments, Sarah would convince Abraham that not she, but Hagar their Egyptian slave woman would bear the child God pledged to them. Nevertheless, God would have no ancillary scheme for what he announced. One hundred-year-old Abraham was to become the father of many nations through his son born of Sarah’s womb. God had no plan B for saving the world from sin and its consequence, death. To be sure, God would make Hagar’s son into a great nation (Gn 21:13, 18) and let them possess lands of their own. Before Abraham’s only son would be born, in Sarah’s eyes Hagar and her son appear to be potential threats to Abraham’s inheritance. The unique blessing God pronounced in Abraham for the whole world would come through Isaac. Doubtless, the very birth of Isaac, Abraham’s and Sarah’s son of great expectation was a great miracle. Isaac prefigured God’s inimitable promise that in his Son, God would pour out his unique blessing on all nations (Gal 3:16). God vindicated Abraham as he persevered in faith in God through the various times of testing. Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Through this out-of-the-ordinary testing, God had for Abraham and for the whole world a precise Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

63


purpose which, as in the birth of Isaac, necessitated an unswerving faith. In the Lord’s presence, Abraham’s response “Here I am, Lord!” was a demonstration of the obedience that comes from faith. The author of Hebrews lauds Abraham’s faith as having substance. He was in the very act of offering up his son (to.n avgaphto,n o]n hvga,phsaj Genesis 22:1, 12, LXX ; monogenhj Hebrews 11:17) on whom rested the formation of a whole nation. According to Hebrews, Abraham ‘reasoned’ that God could raise the dead. In fact, God did give Abraham his only son back as he was shown a scapegoat to take Isaac’s place on the sacrificial altar. John the Baptist confessed that God’s ui`o.j monogenh/j (one-of-a-kind Son1) is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). Momentous is Abraham’s walk with Isaac to the sacrificial altar, he himself having in hand the fire and the knife and his only son carrying the wood for the burnt offering. The son’s query to his father, “But where is the lamb?” receives the reliable response, “God himself will provide the lamb” (22:14). As well as the father’s cautiously optimistic response to the son in verse 8, read in the original MT and the LXX as “The Lord will see (to it).” This reading is purposeful here especially during the season of Lent when the eyes of faith focus more on God’s most faithful Son. Just as it was for Abraham and Isaac, no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, no mind has ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2: 9). This is significant particularly because it is here, for the first time in the biblical account that a narrative is given in the substitutionary sense of one life becoming the ransom for another. Great Abraham’s Greater Son, God’s one-of a-kind Son, has become for all a one-of-a- kind sacrifice. Verse 8 is a graphic portrayal of Abraham’s obedient submission to God’s testing. A noticeable silence follows the narrator’s comment, “And the two of them walked on together.” Neither Isaac nor Abraham speaks as they walk or after they reach their destination. [God speaks!] While Wenham calls this vulnerable moment one of ‘oppressive silence,’2 Speiser has identified it as ‘perhaps the most poignant and eloquent silence in all literature.’3 Here lay hidden the mystery of God’s provision for mankind, and the miraculous way of God leading his people from doubt to confidence, from unfaith to faith. God has the final word, hidden though it may be from us even as we walk with him. His words endure through our testing, into the future, as they were first spoken to our fathers in the faith (Gn 12:1–3 cf. 22:15–18). The tempter spoke to Jesus and tempted him, supporting his arguments even from Scripture. Jesus’s words silenced the devil in each instance and caused him to leave, but Jesus went on serving, preaching and teaching. The Word of God is the weapon in our warfare of faith: A word of defense as well as a word of assurance. Victor Raj Endnotes 1

Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2004). Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1: Genesis 1-15 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987), 163. 3 E.A. Speiser, Genesis: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (The Anchor Bible, Vol. 1) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), 165. 2

64


Lent 2 • Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16 • March 4, 2012 We have all had some strange requests during our lifetime. Many pastors tell stories of someone in their life who once said to them, “You should consider becoming a pastor.” And at the time, they may have thought the suggestion made no sense at all. And everyone can tell a story of being asked to do something that, at the time, seemed strange or out of place. “You want me to be the head of this board at church? You expect me to take on this new position at work? You really believe that I could become an expert in the use of technology? Are you really asking me to marry you?” So now imagine Abram, age 99, no children with his wife Sarai, age 89, being told—not just asked—told that he would be the father of nations. Among other things, it simply helps to illustrate how God often works. He works in ways that, at the time, make no sense at all. He demonstrated over and over again that the laws of nature and what we would call “normal” and “expected” do not confine him. After all, he set everything in motion. He has the power, if he wills, to bring about the extraordinary. He is fully capable of the unexpected and the impossible. But he acts not just to demonstrate that he is the God of all things. He does so in order to carry out his plan for the eternal salvation of the children he has created. Imagine the range of emotions Abram may have had. “No way,” may have been his first thought. “How could that be?” And no doubt he had no inkling of what God was really saying. He could not have understood what God Almighty had in mind any more than an infant understands the significance of baptism. Practically speaking, it just didn’t make sense. But then it wasn’t Abram’s plan, it was God’s. And spiritually speaking, Abram, who was renamed Abraham, was ultimately lead to trust God’s plan. This was not Abram’s first encounter with God. The covenant God chose to have with his people had been earlier revealed, but Abram and Sarai were convinced that the time for the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise was long gone. The covenant was now becoming real, sealed, and intended as the sacred pledge that would foreshadow the gift of salvation God planned through Jesus Christ. Abram did not know at the time, but we know, that this God moment with Abram was the beginning of the gift of descendants that would lead to the birth of the ultimate descendant, Jesus Christ. Abram would come to be known as “Father Abraham.” It was the beginning of what would be remembered with great thanksgiving for all generations. The Apostle Paul says: They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 9:4–5) Abram was told by God that he would be the father of many nations, but he was told first by God to be “blameless.” That was as impossible for Abram as it is for us. Still, that is God’s will for all of us. We read in 1 Peter, “…as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1:15–16). Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

65


Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God actually declares us to be holy. That’s what salvation is about. That was the plan of God He was revealing in a dramatic way to Abram. While the newly named Abraham could not have known the depth of God’s plan for salvation, Jesus said that Abraham did “see:” Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad (Jn 8:56). Abraham did not earn or deserve the stupendous honor of becoming the father of nations. We don’t deserve to be part of God’s plan and to be declared holy because of the work of Jesus Christ. But we are made holy, nonetheless. Paul tells us this in Ephesians. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph 1:3–4) And that just doesn’t make sense. It’s so outside of what we might expect. We can almost identify with Abraham. What God has declared to us is hard to believe. It’s strange and out of the ordinary. But it is true. Through Abraham’s descendant, Jesus Christ, we can stand before God “holy and blameless!” Imagine that! Paul Devantier

Lent 3 • Exodus 20:1–17 • March 11, 2012 Introduction What do we do with the law of God? That is a question critical for human life since God’s law gives us his design for life. He is its creator. His design makes life work right. Because we, however, want to run our own lives, making decisions contrary to his law, we experience his commands as the enemy, interfering with our attempts to redefine what it means to be human. Creatures only create frustration and fear with our futile, fatal efforts to redesign our humanity according to our own foolish plans. It only makes sense to enjoy God’s gift of the true design for human living. Notes on the Text [1] Most of us read this text only through Luther’s eyes since he used much of it as his way of conveying the accusing or crushing force of God’s plan for human life. In 1520 Luther explained his approach to teaching the basics of the Christian faith, the catechism: diagnosis through the law, healing through the gospel, and a plan for living as a forgiven child of God. He chose the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) as the digest of God’s law, which brings sinners to repentance. Luther also put much of the introduction to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 to use as his “conclusion” to the commandments. [2] We should not exaggerate the importance of the precise wording of our English translation of the verb that expresses God’s design. The theological impact of 66


each translation is the same when our hearers translate our verbs into their own lives. “You are to” and “you are not to” clearly put a burden on me. “The Christian must,” “ought to,” and “shall” also clearly put the burden on me. So do “the Christian does not kill” or “the Christian will not steal.” These latter expressions may sound friendlier, but they also focus my attention on my own performance just as surely as the others. As God’s design for our actions, the law serves as the standard for evaluating our performance; it is all about what I do. The gospel, however, is about what God does for me. So the crushing or accusing force of the law will reassert itself whenever I think of my own life. [Paraphrasing James Nestingen: the law is like a wolf that you train as a guide dog. Good guidance, good protection, but you never know when it will turn on you.] Especially in a society that is losing its moral moorings, people need the guidance and instruction God’s law gives, for what was once obvious in a “Judeo-Christian” culture is no longer. However, the law that guides or protects today can easily slip back into its crushing role, and Christians must be sensitive to how the law is impacting their hearers. [3] God wove his design for human life into our being and daily existence, incorporating both freedom and responsibility. The law recorded in Scripture reveals much of God’s will for our lives, but believers in Christ are continually confronted by situations in which law must be applied responsibly without specific clues. Thus, the believer approaches daily decision-making with biblical guidance, prayer, and input from the community of fellow-believers, critically appropriated. [4] In Exodus 20 God did not call Israel to obedience on the basis of his creative act and design for human life. Here he called his people to the good life on the basis of his saving, liberating action in their redemption from Egyptian imprisonment through his mighty arm. We are able to live the life that fulfills God’s design for our humanity only through the liberating resurrection of Christ, which, in conjunction with his dying for our sins (Rom 4:25) and burying those sins in his tomb (Rom 6:4), has placed us on the path of walking in Christ’s footsteps as new creatures, whom the Holy Spirit has created anew through his word of absolution. Suggested Outline I. In Exodus 20, God was making his covenant with the people whom he had freed from slavery in Egypt. He had claimed them, giving them this gift apart from anything they had done to earn this freedom. With God’s gift came his expectations. These expectations were also a good gift, a plan for enjoying their identity as his creatures and his children. II. We who have received the gift of identity as God’s children through Christ’s sin-abolishing death and his righteousness-bestowing resurrection (Rom 4:25) also have been given new birth without any conditions fulfilled on our part. As parents who give life to a child have expectations for the child’s performance, so God has expectations. Our fulfilling them does not determine whether we are his children but does reflect our faith in his word that gives us our new identity. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

67


III. God’s law comes with the label “handle with care.” Our sinfulness has turned this good gift of God’s design for good human living into a killer that strangles the sinner. Seeking the guidance of the law for fulfilling our desire to be God’s faithful children can end up in shame or guilt when we focus on our sinfulness rather than recognize that Christ has claimed our sins for his tomb and placed us in his own kingdom, freed from defending ourselves with our sinful exploitation of others and our rebellious rejection of his love. Robert Kolb

Lent 4 • Numbers 21:4–9 • March 18, 2012 Numbers 21:4–9 is the appointed Old Testament lesson for Lent 4 in series B, where it is paired with John 3:14–21 as the Gospel lesson. It is also appointed for Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14) with John 12:20–33 as the Gospel lesson. Both Gospel lessons appropriately correspond with the Numbers 21 text. John 3 explicitly refers to the bronze serpent episode, while John 12:32 records Jesus’s allusion to it: “when I am lifted up from the earth.” During their wilderness wandering, ancient Israel would often murmur against Yahweh and Moses (Exodus 14–17; Numbers 11, 14, 16, 20). Here is another instance: “Why have you (plural) brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread and no water, and our appetite (“our nephesh”) loathes the contemptible bread” (Num 21:5). Notice what they protested. They complained about God’s gospel action of deliverance from Egypt and God’s sustaining provision for them in the wilderness. They would rather be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt than God’s own covenant people in the wilderness. God responded by sending poisonous serpents among the people. The snakes “repeatedly bit” (iterative Piel) the people and many died. Then the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede for them. God heard his prayer and told Moses to make a fiery serpent (a seraph) and set it up on a pole. “When everyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live” (v. 8). God’s means of healing them did not operate like magic. It was of benefit only to those who confessed their sin and trusted in God’s promise by taking him at his word and looking up to the bronze snake. In John 3:14–15 Jesus explicitly connects the bronze serpent with his cross, yet the antitype is even greater. The Son of Man is lifted up and exalted on the cross, and everyone who believes in him and his work has eternal life, not simply an extension of temporal life. It is fitting that the chapel at Concordia Seminary has a cross with a bronze serpent on it.

68


Sermon Thoughts In countless ways, the Old Testament helps us understand the person and work of Christ and our present lives as his new covenant people. Our text in Numbers 21 offers another example. In the Wilderness Look to the Cross The Christian life resembles ancient Israel’s time in the wilderness. By Christ’s all-sufficient work, you have been redeemed from bondage to belong to God. You have been baptized. But you can find your subsequent life a difficult journey, a hard road. When the hard times come, Christians can become disenchanted and complain: “I wasn’t expecting to suffer and be persecuted.” Many turn back to the ways of the world, away from the path of Christ. Our text condemns such complaining for it amounts to murmuring against God and his gospel, as if slavery were better than true freedom. Jesus did not sugar-coat the life of discipleship. Yes, hard times will come. But when they do, look in faith to the Son of Man lifted high on the cross. Apart from him there is only death. But with him there is life. Just as God provided life to dying Israelites by means of a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, so also by means of Jesus Christ and him crucified, God gives you eternal life, everlasting fellowship with your Maker. Follow Christ through the wilderness as he leads you to the new and greater Promised Land. And on your journey, come to the Lord’s Table and receive with thanksgiving his heavenly manna and his life-giving drink. Paul R. Raabe

Lent 5 • Jeremiah 31:31–34 • March 25, 2012 The Grace is in the Details “Have I got a deal for you.” No sooner do we hear those words than we stiffen and step back. Too good to be true? Probably. So often—too often—talk is cheap, and, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. So those who heard Jeremiah, God’s prophet, must have been stunned at the offer set forth, especially given their circumstances with the northern tribes gone and the south staring at the handwriting on the wall with Jerusalem set to fall. But they shouldn’t balk, for given what they heard from God who chastened them, there is now only one proper response: run as fast as they can and embrace the message of another covenant, of a new and better bond the likes of which they had never heard or seen before. This is no snake oil. This is balm for the soul, and, with God doing all the talking, there is no doubt it is true. Earlier God had made Israel his people and at Sinai had cut a covenant etched in stone. Following on his saving act, the Exodus, that covenant made clear both what God would do and how Israel would look as his people; they are asked to do nothing in holding up their end but are simply shown the path to walk. How could they fail? Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

69


They managed, as already in Sinai’s wilderness and for generations after, they wandered rather than walked. Logically God should, by rights, toss them aside; instead with but a remnant left, he promises a new covenant, one devoid of onerous fine print, one with no devil in the details, one instead with grace and love in abundance beyond even that which God had given before. “But” is such a wonderful word, a Gospel word. By rights, rejection, but…But, in contrast, on the other hand, on the contrary, nevertheless, God loves and saves. So that there is no mistaking the commitment, God is not satisfied simply to fill ears with words or even to write again on stone. Nothing less than words on hearts will do. It cannot get any more intimate and personal than that. There will be about as much distance between God and people as there is between wallpaper and wall: none. But don’t think God’s promises are cosmetic, mere decoration, or (to mix metaphors) simply window dressing. His promises remake his people from top to bottom. But things will get worse first, and Jeremiah’s hearers will need patience to hold fast in faith, trusting that God’s promise makes the future as good as a present reality. Yet that may be easier said than done with the kingdom in decline, Jerusalem about to fall, and their status as God’s chosen open to question. In times of stress, people often say they look for something to believe in, yet they act otherwise, fashioning a religion that may seem demanding but is actually within their grasp, within their competence, albeit posing a challenge. Theodore Adorno was one of the gurus of Critical Theory, a twentieth century approach to dissecting literature and learning. As Adorno and his Frankfurt School colleagues sought to find out what really made life tick behind the visible veneer, they first leaned heavily to the socio-economic but then broadened their critiques. Adorno, no fan of Christianity or theology in general, still understood that any theology worth its salt had to be more than a human concoction, no matter how demanding. “If religion is only human, and its form is man’s form, it follows that everything in religion is true,” he wrote. That is, human beings in effect will try to domesticate religion, talking in lofty terms but making it something they can finally manage or comprehend and so declare it true. But the message Jeremiah has for God’s covenant people is beyond mere intellectual comprehension. Sure, they can grasp the bare words, but the message is astounding: Why them? Why now given all they had done? Why to such an ultimate extent? It boggles the mind. It is peace and grace beyond human understanding. Luther knew why this happens: God’s love is fundamentally different. In his 1518 Heidelberg Theses, Luther noted that God’s love does not find its object but creates its object—human love finds its object. In other words, we love people or things because we find in them something loveable, something attractive. You marry your spouse not because you detest the person, but because that person is somehow attractive. But what does God see in his people in Jeremiah’s day or in ours? They/we are by nature sinful and unclean. Nevertheless—there is that “but” gospel word again—God does not find but makes that which he wants to love. That’s grace. Israel cannot really imagine it. Nor can we. Yet God continued to pledge his faithfulness all the way to the ultimate fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words that came in Christ.

70


Does he have a deal for us? Indeed! Don’t walk—run! Run to the font, to the rail, and to the place wherever those promises sound forth, sure to rest easy on our hearts. Robert Rosin

Palm Sunday • Zechariah 9:9–12 • April 1, 2012 I began this assignment thinking, “Zechariah 9:9–12 is such a beautiful passage, but who would ever preach on it?” Palm/Passion Sunday already presents the preacher with more Gospels than one Sunday can hold; including the Processional Gospel, there are four choices for this Sunday. Moreover, my σπασμωδική αντίδραση (that’s a Greek knee-jerk reaction) was to think, “Wouldn’t it be better to simply use Matthew 21:1–11 or John 12:12–19 (the Processional Gospel), where the evangelists quote Zechariah 9 and place it in the context of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem?” But, an assignment’s an assignment. There is neither the space here nor the need to review the historical and literary questions surrounding Zechariah. Thirty minutes with Hummel’s introduction will prove very rewarding and bring the preacher back up to speed on the most important questions.1 Zechariah the prophet-priest, carries out his ministry as the people of God, returning from exile, rebuild the temple and their hopes for the future. Chapter 9 marks the beginning of a new section, following the visions that begin the book and the subsequent discussion of fasting. Thus, the immediate context of our text stretches back only to 9:1. This first oracle deals with the kingdoms of the world, the nations surrounding Israel. The oppressors of God’s people will lose their power (9:8), and the coming of a king to Zion will usher in an era of peace. The description of this king presents the greatest challenge of vv. 9–12. Hummel notes, “The adjectives describing the Messiah are notoriously difficult to translate.”2 Although translations vary for the first adjective, most English versions and commentaries prefer the familiar “righteous” or “just.” The second adjective, however, is more on the notoriously difficult side. The versions range from “having salvation” (KJV, NIV, ESV) to “victorious” (NRSV); yet, neither of these reflects the fact that the word is a Niphal participle of [v’y:. One would expect a gloss “be saved,” and BDB lists this meaning, but with qualification. BDB lists our passage under the heading “Niphal,” meaning 2: “be saved in battle, victorious Zc 99….”3 Readers as far back as David Kimchi (RaDaK; 12th cent.) have questioned the move from the passive “be saved” to the very active sounding “victorious.”4 When commentaries as diverse in approach as those of Leupold in the 1950s and the Meyers in the 1990s agree that the word should be translated “saved,” it is difficult to disagree.5 Leupold summarizes: A very reasonable and acceptable meaning is conveyed by the simple passive nôsha ‘, saved. In His great work this God-man, as a man, requires help.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

71


He seeks it in prayer. When He is performing His individual miracles He appeals to God for aid; in the work of redemption proper He prevails in answer to prayer made in bloody sweat. The help He needs He receives. There is nothing unworthy of Him or unacceptable about regarding His work from this angle.6 Although the phrase “prisoners of hope” (9:12) is richly suggestive, I prefer to let a phrase from Hummel provide the theme: Matt. 21:5 and John 12:15 hail the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy in our Lord’s Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem. But in another sense it was only a beginning, as the traditional liturgical association of the pericope with Advent wishes to emphasize.7 A title “Only a Beginning” would allow the preacher to develop his proclamation of the “righteous and saved” King under three headings: I. Only a Beginning (for our Holy Week celebration) II. Only a Beginning (for Christ’s redeeming work, the King, that is, who enters, dies, rises—and returns) III. Only a Beginning (for our ultimate celebration of Christ’s passion, as we journey toward our own death and/or his return already justified and saved) Jeffrey A. Oschwald Endnotes 1

Horace D. Hummel, The Word Becoming Flesh (St. Louis: Concordia, 1979), 361–378. Hummel, 374. 3 BDB s.v. [[v’y:]. 4 David Kimchi, Commentary on the Prophecies of Zechariah (trans. A. M’Caul; London: Paternoster, 1837), 87. 5 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah (Columbus: Wartburg, 1956), 174. Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Zechariah 9–14 (The Anchor Bible, Volume 25C; New York: Doubleday, 1993), 126. 6 Leupold, 174. It is worth noting that neither Matthew nor John include these first two adjectives. 7 Hummel, 374. 2

Easter Sunday • Isaiah 25:6–9 • April 8, 2012 Easter on the Mountain of the Lord Easter! Begins at graveside. Mary and Mary Magdalene and Joanna to a burial plot. Heavy hearts, heavy steps. We know—death, burial—we have been there. Easter truth—verse 6 Fearful thought on the way— the truth is we all die. Steve Jobs to biographer, Walter Isaacson—life/death—like a light switch—snap on, snap off. The end, nothing, forever. Is this how it is?

72


Did the women Easter morning meet mortality? Go with them! What did they… see…hear…discover…believe? They saw an open sepulcher; they heard a divine word from God’s angel: “He whom you seek once dead, He is not here!” Then a grand discovery, He is not dead. Christ is risen! And they could only believe! That fearful truth is trumped by one greater truth; Christ lives, and, “…because [he] lives, we shall live also!” (Jn 14:19). Break out the champagne! Easter, festal day! Isaiah provides imagery. Yahweh present on his mountain, Zion, figure for the church. Yahweh prepares a feast—choice food (fat things, meat scored with fat and marrow) and drink (wine off the lees, the dregs) strong, clear wine, well-aged, refined. Figurative for God’s spiritual blessings— Easter specials, Christ is risen, the cross and his death for sins vindicated, victory over death, resurrection and life everlasting—all pro nobis, for us, and a feast for all peoples. Easter joy—verse 7 Not idle, Yahweh acts in Zion! Eschatological. In that day, Yahweh shall lift, remove a veil, a covering over all peoples—either a veil covering a face, sad, mourning the world’s condition; or is it a “veil” upon the heart, the sin, spiritual blindness? “The veil which keeps their hearts from God” (Gesenius). Hearts fixated on idols, the people diminished Yahweh from mighty Creator, to a god fancied to suit themselves—then a world, existence, their own. (See Is 2:8, 17b–18.) Our sin? Moderns dethrone God, fashion culture, world without God. “We’ll have God or not have God! Our decision!” The creator, no! We opt for Darwinism. Marriage—God-ordained sanctuary for sexuality, no! We normalize fornication, profligacy. Honesty and fairness? No, greed wins our day. David Horowitz—one time zestful leftist radical, 1960s—writes about consciousness of original sin—all born flawed with a capacity for evil lodged within, many with a will to evil, violence. Can anything, anyone, change this? God can, and God does. Yahweh could chastise, judge severely (Is 3:13; 9:17b, 21b). Instead, he does…Easter—God’s gracious doing through Christ! Once crucified and dead—bearing away all our sins in his body on the cross (1 Pt 2:24) he lifts that heavy, thick veil and pulls it away by leverage—the forgiveness of our sins. He is risen, guarantor—the veil, sin-covering, attending evils, removed, gone. What relief, joy! Easter victory—verse 8 Great Easter things in the Lord’s mountain! Veil and reproach lifted, Yahweh will swallow up death forever! (cf. 1 Cor 15:54) In that day—death conquered, death no more—forever! Hard to believe death has a terminus until Easter, until the last enemy goes down by the victory and finality of the Lord’s resurrection! (1 Cor 15:26). Christian funerals—often a pall, a covering placed over the casket. Reminds first of death. Look again! Embroidered atop and into that pall a huge cross! Striking! Comforting! The Scriptures—“…that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil . . .” (Heb 2:14–15). Bondage to death? No more! Christ is risen! Death has no dominion! (Rom 6:9). Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

73


Death and effects abolished! Isaiah: “God will wipe away tears from all faces!” Until that day, sorrow—but mingled with grief, sweet tears, in hope of resurrection, happening already out of our baptism into the Lord’s dying and rising and victory, the Lord who takes us to be where he is—no tears or dying or sorrow (cf. Rv 21:3–4). Easter hope—verse 9 In that great day! Doxology! Joy in his salvation! Waiting now, we hope! Grounded in the Lord’s rising (1 Pt 1:3–9)—our present hope, quiet steady confidence in the risen Lord who has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (1 Tim 1:10); then clear focus, blessed absorption in God, the God he is, the God of our salvation! Conclusion Easter! What a day! Morning journey to a graveside, the Lord’s tomb, empty! And he? Risen, alive! Death and sorrow, sin and reproach, tears—no more! Truth and joy and victory and hope—forever! Christ is risen! Richard H. Warneck

Easter 2 • Acts 4:32–35 • April 15, 2012 My children love to listen to the songs of Justin Roberts (a virtual “rock star” of the kid music world)—years of minivan rides have engraved most of the lyrics onto my brain. One of his songs is based on the story of the “Three Little Pigs.” Actually, it is sort of a postmodern deconstruction of the traditional story. Instead of inculcating the prudence of long-range planning, investment, and sweat equity, Roberts reads the fairy tale against the grain and turns the meaning on its head: Now the third little pig built a house of bricks And he got real old and he got real sick ‘Cause it takes a long time to build a house of bricks And while you build the house the clocks go tick…tick…tick Sure there’s a lot of strife, But I ain’t gonna let no wolf run my life. Perhaps I am making a silk purse out of a…ahem…sow’s ear, but such a radical reinterpretation of life and values reminds me of this text. That is to say, Easter—by definition—turns everything on its head. And it seems that what Luke gives us is a glimpse into what life can look like when you actually believe in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” It is a striking picture of fellowship and community—“the full number of those that believed were of one heart and soul…they had everything in common…there was not a needy person among them.” But lest we get caught up in utopian visions, remember that this passage comes on the heels of 74


violent threats and impending persecution. The rulers and elders of Israel, who, alongside the “Gentiles,” had “raged against the Lord and his Anointed,” were now turning their wrath against those who testified to the resurrection of Jesus. What is one to do in the face of such danger, in the face of death? Oddly enough…they share. They give to those in need. They sell their property and offer the money to those among them who are hungry and poor. But aren’t they paying any attention? Don’t they know what could happen? Shouldn’t they be stocking up for the storm, preparing for the onslaught, bracing themselves against the bloodthirsty? But they don’t do any of these things. Their actions are not governed by fear of death, but by freedom…the freedom of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. “Sure there’s a lot of strife”—but Christ is risen!—and the “wolf” can’t run my life. Notice how, contrary to popular opinion, belief in the resurrection does not require retreat from this life, but propels one into it. Putting to death the uncertainty of tomorrow, the resurrection frees us to love lavishly, even recklessly, today. Luke singles out Barnabas as an example of such faith and generosity. He is described as a Levite. It is a curious detail given the context. The Levites were traditionally without land. As the one tribe set apart for service in the temple, the Levites were given no particular inheritance in Canaan but relied upon the tithe of the other tribes to provide them with cities to live in and fields to tend. Thus, it seems like a remarkable reversal for Barnabas the Levite to be the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. But when we read why the Levites were not given land, it is perhaps not that odd: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel” (Nm 18:20). I am your portion and your inheritance…beautiful…a future found in God. That’s Easter. That’s actually believing in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Erik Herrmann

Easter 3 • Acts 3:11–21 • April 22, 2012 God Has Glorified His Servant Jesus This pericope recounts Peter’s speech to the crowds after he heals a lame beggar. There are at least two “big picture” questions the preacher needs to wrestle with in order to preach on this text. First, what are we to infer from the miracle? Unlike the Gospels, which often depict Jesus’s miracles with little or no explanation, Acts gives us a fairly detailed account of the meaning of at least this one particular healing miracle. Second, where are we to locate our hearers in the narrative? We may want to identify them with Peter, the lame beggar, or the crowds who killed the author of life. Or perhaps none of these identifications is appropriate. We begin with the question of the meaning of the miracle. When confronted with healing miracles, preachers often infer that the point of the miracle is to prove that Jesus is God. While that may be the case with some healing miracles, that approach Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

75


misses the point here. Peter’s speech focuses particularly on the fact that “God glorified his servant Jesus” (v. 13). Why is that significant? Since Jesus is God, and indeed Peter refers to him as the “author of life” in verse 15, why is it momentous or even interesting that God “glorified” him? It helps to remember that immediately after Jesus died, the disciples thought the crucifixion meant that Jesus had failed. In Luke 24, that is precisely why the two men are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are going home because their hopes had been dashed. Jesus appears to them, however, and provides an alternate interpretation of the crucifixion: it was part of God’s plan, which he prophesied long ago in the Old Testament (see Lk 24:25–27). In Acts, the disciples begin to apply this basic hermeneutical insight. Peter finds Judas’s betrayal of Jesus to be prophesied in the Psalms (Acts 1:20). At Pentecost, Peter argues that the resurrection is implied by a number of passages in the Psalms (Acts 2:24–35). Peter further presents the resurrection as the vindication of Jesus: “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). So there were two competing interpretations of the crucifixion: 1) Jesus had failed, and 2) it was part of God’s plan, prophesied in the Scripture. The resurrection is God’s proof that the second explanation is the true one, and so Jesus has the authority to speak as God’s servant. In the context of that line of argumentation, it becomes clear why, in the present pericope, Peter moves seamlessly from the healing miracle to the resurrection, and why he stresses that in the resurrection God glorified his servant Jesus. Peter’s healing of the lame beggar serves to confirm Christ’s resurrection because it was Christ’s name that effected the healing. Christ’s name has that power, Peter argues, because God has raised him from the dead. So Peter’s main concern is not to show that Jesus is God (he assumes that) rather, Peter wants to stress Jesus’s authority as the one whom the crowds must repent to and believe in. The second question we must consider is how our own hearers fit into this picture. It would be facile simply to identify the hearers with one of the characters in the narrative. For example, since Peter is preaching to the crowds, the preacher might be tempted to identify his own hearers with the crowds listening to Peter. In that case, the sermon might well take the form, “You killed the author of life, so you need to repent and believe in him to be forgiven.” The problem, of course, is that our hearers did not actually kill the author of life. Granted, Lutheran meditation on Christ’s passion often is predicated on the idea that we are complicit in the crucifixion because of our sin. But that is not the same as literally killing the author of life. We must recognize that, in one sense, Peter’s sermon is not actually addressed to our hearers. We are overhearing his sermon. (If we wanted to address Peter’s sermon directly to our own hearers, how would we apply verse 17: “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers”?) So the question becomes: What is the message we are overhearing? As we discussed above, Peter is using his own healing of a lame beggar in the name of Jesus to demonstrate Jesus’s authority as God’s servant. So we might ask: What influences might lead us and our hearers to overlook or ignore Jesus’s authority? What kinds of

76


things does Jesus say that we do not want to hear? Since each congregation is different, I will not attempt to provide universal answers to these questions. Once the preacher has settled on answers to these questions that are appropriate to his congregation, he might then structure the sermon as a comparison and contrast of competing claims to authority. This would include both law and gospel kinds of authority. In other words, the sermon could compare false claims of how you should behave with true ones. The sermon could also compare false claims of what rescues you and gives your life meaning with true ones. Hopefully, the law and gospel elements would be interwoven throughout the sermon rather than comprising two separate sections. David R. Maxwell

Easter 4 • Acts 4:1–12 • April 29, 2012 Notes on the Pericope The lesson from the fourth chapter of Acts relates events after Peter and John had been arrested after healing a lame beggar. Their actions provoked a response. Annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, the chief priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John. The Word of God, however, already had its effect: many who had heard believed, and the number of believers grew (4:1–4; cf. 2:41, 47). The next day Peter and John were called to account for themselves: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (4:7). Peter replied that, if they were being questioned about a good deed (euergesia) done to an infirm man—by what he had been saved (sesōtai)—then they should know that it was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man stands before you healthy” (4:10). Alluding to Psalm 118, he proclaims Jesus as “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone” (4:11), and then announces, “And salvation (sōtēria) is by no other, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (sōthēnai)” (4:12). “Salvation” is the theme, and salvation here includes wholeness. The crippled man received salvation when he received full health (4:10; see also 3:16). Certainly salvation includes more than physical health and strength, but it is nothing less than the “restoration of all things” (apokatastaseōs pantōn, 3:21). This understanding of salvation was not questioned (cf. 4:14–16). The question concerned the power or the name by which this deed had been done, and by implication, its nature. If it had happened by an evil power or in the name of another god, then it would be an evil deed and could not be “salvation.” But if it happened by the power of God of Israel and in his name, then it would be a good deed and would be “salvation.” The answer was the “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” God’s servant, by which this man had been saved, and the only name by which all would be saved. Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

77


Notes for Preaching I suggest a sermon that focuses on the question (“By what power or by what name did you do this?”) and its answer (“by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy,”) which gives attention to the concept of “salvation” in this passage. The sermon might begin by observing how the lessons from Acts relate how the first Christians proclaimed and believed in the risen Lord. The apostles testified to the resurrection of Jesus, and all the believers lived as one people who shared what they had with the rest (Acts 4:32–35, for Easter 2). They proclaimed Jesus as God’s servant and urged the Jews to repent and to receive forgiveness and blessing from their God through Jesus (Acts 3:11–21, for Easter 3). But just as Jesus encountered resistance, so also do his apostles, and it is with this that this lesson begins. Then the sermon could proceed to rehearse what had happened with the healing of the lame beggar, how it led to their encounter with the council in Jerusalem. Then focus on the question, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” The rulers know that something remarkable has happened. But was it a good deed or evil, godly or ungodly? Peter answers them that it was a “good deed” because it was done “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” It was a good deed because it was a godly deed, done through Jesus, God’s servant. They had rejected Jesus, but God vindicated him by raising him from the dead. This showed that “salvation is by no other, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12). After this, give attention to “salvation.” What did Peter mean when he said, “Rulers of the people and elders, if today we are being questioned about a good deed done to an infirm man, by what this man has been saved . . .”? His healing was “salvation,” and “salvation” is by none other than Jesus. Moreover, his name is the only name by which we will be saved. Then deal with the fullness of the notion of “salvation” for your hearers’ lives. Christians today frequently have a narrow understanding of “salvation.” Often it consists of no more than “forgiveness of sins” right now and “eternal life” after we die. Moreover, sometimes these are understood as “spiritual, not physical” blessings. But from Peter we learn that “salvation” is a matter of both “body and soul.” Accordingly, eternal life comes with the resurrection of the dead, not merely “dying and going to heaven,” and “salvation” involves healing, as we learn here; deliverance from evil; and the end of suffering and want. Being the Easter season, it would be fitting to explain this by reminding the hearers that Jesus brought this salvation in his mission. He was rejected and crucified for saving others; God raised him from the dead, and, in effect, he sent his apostles to proclaim this salvation and promise it to all who put their trust his name. An illustration about delivering and/or believing this promise of salvation also would be appropriate. In any case, it would be fitting to conclude by declaring to the hearers “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” that this salvation will also be theirs through faith “in his name.” Joel P. Okamoto

78


Easter 5 • Acts 8:26–40 • May 6, 2012 Textual Notes Verse 26: The pericope is framed by the actions of “messenger of the Lord” (v. 26) and the “spirit of the Lord” (v. 39). The “mal’ak yhwh” emphasizes the special presence and activity of God, giving witness to God’s plan and purpose in Christ. Like the commands to the OT prophets, Philip is told to “get up and go” (cf. 1 Kgs 17:9, Jon 1:2). Although most translations take μεσημβρία in the sense of “south,” it more commonly (and always in the LXX) means “noon” (Acts 22:6). If so, the incident may recall the visitation to Abraham in the heat of the day (Gn 18), another instance of an extraordinary meeting for special revelation. Verse 27: Philip “got up and went” and encountered what would seem to be the minister of the treasury under the queen (“Candace” is likely a royal title) of Nubia. If he was actually a eunuch, he embodied the fulfillment of Isaiah 56:3–5 as a reversal of the prohibition of Deuteronomy 23:1. Returning from worship at Jerusalem, he was most likely a proselyte, a “Jewish Gentile” who would also represent the transition from prophecy to fulfillment and from Israel to the nations. Verses 28–30: It was normal practice to “read out loud,” so the Spirit’s command to join him in this chariot would naturally engage Philip in the reading. His question represents wordplay in the Greek: γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις. Verses 31–34: Was it coincidence or divine providence that he was reading Isaiah 53?! The citation is the LXX rendering of Isaiah 53:7b–8 (stopping short of the final line). There are several deviations from the Hebrew, but the general gist is clear, even as the Hebrew itself is difficult. The point, however, is not in these details, but in the general referent: Of whom is the prophet speaking? For us, Isaiah 53 stands as one of the clearest and most important prophecies about the suffering servant fulfilled in the passion of Christ, but this is not necessarily obvious. Judaism of the time did not connect the messianic servant figure with one of suffering, but one can easily speculate that the officer in Acts 8 was simply reading what the text says and asking the right questions. Interestingly, the citations of Isaiah 53 in the Gospels relate to Jesus’s healing ministry (Mt 8:17) or the rejection of belief (Jn 12:38). Luke comes the closest to the context of Jesus’s passion (Lk 22:37), emphasizing that “this must be fulfilled in me” (τοῦτο τὸ γεγραμμένον δεῖ τελεσθῆναι ἐν ἐμοί), but the citation is from 53:12, “he was counted among the lawless.” One wonders, too, if the officer in Acts 8 was reading, or was confused by, only the verses cited. A few verses before (Is 53:4–6) or after (including the very next line in v. 8) clearly speak of his suffering, punishment, and even death on behalf of others, specifically the “us” of Isaiah 53. One could argue that a little better textual and contextual study might have helped the officer. On the other hand, he did not yet have the Christological reference points that we almost take for granted! And, indeed, that was the fundamental issue. Verse 35: In any case, Philip met the officer where he was in his uncertainties, and “beginning with this scripture,” he “evangelized Jesus to him” (εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

79


τὸν Ἰησοῦν). The clause could well be rendered, “proclaimed (or announced) Jesus as the good news.” In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is the subject with τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ as

the object (4:43, 8:1). The “good news” of the kingdom is a person, who embodies all that the righteous reign of God entails. One wonders what other prophetic texts may have been engaged, after beginning with this one. But this is not a textbook on dialogue evangelism, though it is a wonderful case study in how the Word of the Lord was going forth, not just by the thousands on Pentecost, but here by means of one enquirer at a time. Verses 36–40: The denouement of the story gets even better. Even on the desert road, there was water. There was also the Word, a young faith, and the evangelist Philip. There was also the Spirit of the Lord, certainly present all along even if in the background since the “angel of the Lord” sent Philip in the first place (v. 26). As a Gentile proselyte to Judaism, the officer knew of a baptism of repentance; now, Christian baptism marked him as a disciple of Jesus. That same Spirit then snatched Philip away (ἥρπασεν) on to his next assignments. The officer went on his way, rejoicing (χαίρων). The theme of joy is a major theme in Luke, now extended into the expansion of the Gospel into all the world. (Note: v. 37 is now almost universally omitted as a secondary, Byzantine reading (cf. KJV) as it “fills in” the dialogue: “Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with your whole heart, it is possible.’ He answered and said, ‘I believe that the Son of God is Jesus Christ.’”) Homiletical Application This is, of course, a wonderful example of an evangelistic encounter. Philip is sent to a pious Jewish proselyte, returning from a temple pilgrimage, well-educated and well-positioned as a government official, reading a significant prophetic passage (and still not understanding it), who then actually asks for help! And, of course, Philip takes the opportunity. But this incident is set into the larger context of the Word of the Lord going forth to the end of the earth (1:8) by the direction and power of God’s spirit. The “angel of the Lord” has sent a messenger of the gospel, and the kingdom of God came to one who was not far from it. But the key to the whole text is already stated in Luke 24:27. We often speak of a “Christocentric hermeneutic,” and here we witness it at work. As with a jigsaw puzzle that can boggle the mind and eyes, Jesus is the picture on the box. He is the lamb who was slain, the one who was deprived of justice so that God’s justification of sinners might be accomplished. And by the power of the Spirit, the Word of the Lord continues to go forth, even to the end of the earth. Andrew Bartelt

80


book reviewS

COncordia Journal


Best Practices and Resources for Older Adult Ministry

The Chaplains of Concordia Lutheran Ministries

Every ministry relies on resources. Of course the best resource for Christian ministry is the Word of God in Holy Scriptures and the Sacraments. Along with that resource is the individual pastor, chaplain or lay person who delivers the message of the biblical gospel and presents and/or represents Christ to those in need. Beyond that what resources can people in ministry use to bring the message of the gospel to the people to whom the minister? Here is a list of resources used at Concordia Lutheran Ministries (CLM). Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it can be helpful. Oftentimes, ministry to seniors doesn’t have to be too original. It is good to go back to basics, the basics of the catechism. Sharing the Apostles’ Creed and the meanings provide a lot of food for thought. They remind us of the God of our creation, the God of our redemption and the God of our sanctification. The God who saw to it that we had a beginning and provides for our needs through life also has provided all we need for our salvation in Christ as our Savior from sin and hope for eternal life. He also has provided all that we need for faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, who will lead us all through life and death into resurrection glory. There is a lot of fodder there for ministry. Also, Luther’s morning and evening prayers are well received by those who receive our ministry. Messages based on the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which are really based on the teachings of Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, have also been well received. Seniors seem to like to get back to basics when it comes to their faith, the basics of the catechism. At Concordia, we make initial visits to all new rehabilitation, skilled nursing and personal care admissions. We also follow our residents when they are admitted to the hospital. Resources for these visits are: • Care Cards from Creative Communications for the Parish, 1564 Fencorp Dr. Fenton, MO 63026. (800)325-9414. These cards are done with beautiful photography, well-chosen scripture passages and well-written prayers. There is space available for customized congregational or ministry information and contacts. • Another resource from Creative Communications is a 16-page booklet called “Healing Words” that we use when our residents go to the hospital. This resource provides devotions, personal prayers, songs and Scripture. • We also utilize “Portals of Prayer,” “Our Daily Bread,” and “The Upper Room” as daily devotion resources. Copies of the Bible are also made available. The preceding resources provide a “leave behind” for our residents especially when they are not in the room at the time a visit was made. For our regular and seasonal worship resources we use: • Lutheran Service Book, Lutheran Worship, The Lutheran Hymnal and Creative Communications as primary resources. We have also used “Moments of Grace” as a resource for some special devotions, prayers, hymns and suggestions for 83


services for prayer and healing. This resource is prepared by Wheat Ridge minis-

tries but published by Creative Communications. • Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan is excellent research for devotional hymn sings. After singing some hymns, we read about one of those hymns from Morgan’s compilation of hymn stories. • Sonshine Victory Edition songbooks are used for devotional hymn sings. It is a good collection of church songs that are familiar to our residents and in an easy to read large print. Accompaniment books are available as well as a CD set. When used with Then Sings My Soul, familiar songs are connected with their scriptural origins. • ElderSong Hymn-Sing sing-a-long books and CDs – ElderSong is an excellent resource for finding large print music written in lower keys for the elderly voice. CDs for individual editions are available and accompaniment compilation books are as well. This group has several sing-a-long editions of familiar secular tunes, but they have two hymn volumes and a Christmas volume. At Concordia we also have a hospice ministry. Some of the resources used for hospice ministry include: • Hard Choices For Loving People by Chaplain Hank Dunn which is published by A & A Publishers, Inc., 43608 Habitat Circle, Lansdowne, VA 20176. It addresses CPR, artificial feeding, comfort care, and the patient with a life-threatening illness. • Gone From My Sight by Barbara Karnes, RN. This 14-page resource describes the dying experience starting from a couple months out down to the final couple of minutes. For information go to www.bkbooks.com or bkbooks@bkbooks.com. • “Reflections on Psalm 23 For People with Cancer,” “Reflections on The Lord’s Prayer For People with Cancer” and “Reflections on the Beatitudes For People with Cancer” which is a video series by Ken Curtis on his personal journey. For questions or customer service, call 800-523-0226 or go to the web at www. catholicvideo.com. • Rabbi Earl Grollman authored helpful books on death with children and death and dying. • Lutheran Service Book, pocket edition, published by CPH 2006 is an excellent resource for individual visits. Many hospice patients have been sung to from the hymn book. Mark the more familiar songs with sticky notes so they can be found quickly. Music, especially familiar hymns is a good way to connect with a person and also to calm them. Resources for grieving that we find helpful are: • Journeying through Grief, a booklet series on the experience of grief through the first year written by Kenneth Haugk. • Grief Share which is a group experience led by a trained facilitator using video and group discussion. Some other general resources for ministry and pastoral care are: • Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue by Edwin H. Friedman published by The Guilford Press, 72 Spring Street, New Your, NY 10012.

84


• Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart how to relate to those who are suffering by Kenneth Haugk at www.stephenministries.org. • Pastoral Care Companion by Concordia Publishing House has many resources of scripture passages and prayers for many ministry needs. • Walter Schoedel’s Engaging the Aging newsletter provides helpful information and resources for ministry to the aging. His email is WSchoedel@LSSLiving.org. • Zondervan, Focus on the Family, and That the World May Know with Ray Vander Laan team up on a DVD series called Faith Lessons. This series provides geographical and cultural background for scriptural narratives. Each episode takes place at a Biblical site so that viewers can better understand the lay out of the Promised Land, the nature of the idolatry that surrounded the Israelites and the world in the time of Christ. There is always a faith lesson, a key point to be taken away from each episode. Typically, a video series would be a bad idea, especially for elderly who struggle to stay awake, but these videos are so interesting that sleeping during the activity occurs no more often than a live presentation. • Traveling Light by Max Lucado provides the reading for devotional activities. This particular volume is lessons in giving our burdens to God using the 23rd Psalm as an outline. Before reading the chapter (or parts of it), we say the 23rd Psalm together. It is amazing how a person who seems to remember so little can recite familiar words of scriptural comfort like the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. Occasionally, clarifications of “decision theology” language are necessary. However, those occasions are refreshingly few. Lutheran Service Builder – excellent for searching for hymns and psalms. • Bible Gateway (www.biblegateway.com) – excellent online concordance for scripture and a quick way to find a passage based on a phrase or a topic. • Concordia Commentaries have been helpful in preparing Bible studies and programs. • Apple of His Eye Ministries has great resources on Judaism and how to connect the Jewish faith with the good news of the New Testament and gospel of Christ.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

85


INSURRECTION: To Believe Is Human, To Doubt, Divine. By Peter Rollins. New York: Howard Books, 2011. 208 pages. Paper. $16.00.

Karl Barth famously said that one does not speak of God simply by speaking of man with a loud voice, and of Peter Rollins’s new book Insurrection we might say, in a similar vein, that one does not speak of the gospel simply by capitalizing our Existential Experience. Though Rollins effectively deconstructs the latent theology of glory that plagues many corners of Christianity, he undermines the only foundation that provides a true alternative. The expressed purpose of Insurrection is to sketch the shape of Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity,” engaging in what Rollins calls “pyro-theology” (alluding to a quotation he cites from Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti: “The only church that illuminates is a burning one”). For some, such an aim may be immediate cause for suspicion, but, its bombast notwithstanding, it need not necessarily be problematic. Even down to the familiar, if conventional, two-part structure of “Crucifixion” and “Resurrection,” Insurrection at first reads like something from Gerhard Forde’s canon (recognizing that Forde himself is not uniformly accepted among Lutherans). Rollins is a relentless critic of theology-as-therapy and Church-assecurity-blanket; in other words, the theology of glory. This is where the book has the most to offer. Rollins notes the contradiction among many Christians who consciously affirm the cross as central to their faith, yet promote a “Church structure” that

86

“enables us to say that we embrace the reality of doubt and see the value of acknowledging the sense of God’s absence while actually protecting ourselves from the psychological impact of these experiences” (47). Religion, as Rollins uses the term in this book, epitomizes all our attempts to avoid the cross: “It is only as we are cut loose from religion in the very depth of our being— experiencing an existential loss of God, rather than some mere intellectual rejection—that we are free to discover a properly Christian expression of faith” (62). Following from this, Rollins proposes that communities (presumably, though he does not say so, Christian congregations) “need to ritualize the full range of human emotions, bringing radical doubt, ambiguity, mystery, and complexity into the very heart of the liturgical structure itself” (73). This is salutary and necessary counsel. For pastors, Rollins challenges us to question whether we are making space—literally and metaphorically—for parishioners to express the doubts they no doubt have (pardon the pun); to have their experience of the cross affirmed rather than ignored. Fortunately, for those of us committed to making use of the rich repository of the liturgy and Christian calendar, we are outfitted with ample resources in this regard. I think, for instance, of the Litany (LSB, p. 288), which thrusts before our consciousness many of those things we would most prefer not to think about, and in just the right place to do so—namely, on our knees in prayer. Rollins is right to call for the Church to provide liturgical structures and spaces that faithfully accommodate and interpret the Christian’s experience.


that experience, while it may But mark the subjective shape of Christian faith, it is not its objective content—and here Insurrection is profoundly misled and misleading. Rollins routinely employs the weighty terms of the theological lexicon: Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and so on (invariably capitalized). What becomes apparent, however, is that he is almost exclusively employing these terms, not with their biblical and historical referents, but as shorthand for human existential experience. Perhaps the most egregious casualty of this linguistic sleight-of-hand is that most venerable of capitalized signifiers: God. Associating any personal or “objective” conception of God with “religion,” Rollins writes, “God is the name we give to the way of living in which we experience the world as worthy of living for, fighting for, and dying for” (123). And again, “Is this not the properly theological understanding of God? Not a being we directly love, but rather the depth present in the very act of love itself” (122). One wants to respond to his ouk interrogative, if you will, with a protesting me construction. “Resurrection” for Rollins is thus when—in spite of the experience of meaningless and forsakenness that he calls Crucifixion—“we continue to affirm God as we love the world” (129). Hence Rollins’s provocative (if not ironic) assertion that he denies the Resurrection: “For it is only when we are the site where Resurrection takes place that we truly affirm it. To believe in the Crucifixion and Resurrection means nothing less than enacting them” (180). As one who follows in the tradition of Martin Luther—to say nothing of the Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

Apostle Paul—I do not want to dismiss the existential aspect of cross and resurrection; this is a fundamental way that we conceptualize and indeed experience faith. But it is precisely because this existential experience is founded in and patterned by historical, temporal and spatial events, that those signifiers are at all meaningful; they are true theological confession and not simply linguistic convenience. For if, in the end, “Resurrection” is not the God-forsaken One reconciling the world by conquering the grave, but (as Rollins would have it) the soul reconciling itself to the experience of Godforsakenness, then—far from providing strength to love in a loveless world—it is just another of those security blankets that needs to be stripped away. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”: that alone can take us where Rollins wants to go. Ryan Tinetti Faith Lutheran Church Seaside, California DIVINE TRANSCENDENCE AND THE CULTURE OF CHANGE. By David H. Hopper. Grand Rapids/ Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2011. xiii + 262 pages. Paper. $35.00. Retired professor of religion David Hopper draws upon a number of thinkers, theologians and non-theologians, who at times in his career were influential in the debates of the time. These include prophets of progress, such as J. B. Bury, Charles Beard, and Carl Becker, and theologians such as H. Richard Niebuhr and Karl Barth. He uses them all to assess contemporary Western concepts of

87


public life and personal goals. The public ideologies and private yearnings of many in Western lands today are marked by materialism and individualism, consumerism and the idealization of a narcissism that prizes personal freedom above all other values. Hopper offers a detailed argument for an alternative worldview based on divine transcendence within the context of Luther’s theology of the cross, with its roots in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. He sees therein, and in Luther’s understanding of life ordered by God-given vocations, the basis for believers’ engagement in the world into which God calls his people to serve. Hopper elaborates Luther’s position with expositions of the thought of Martin Bucer and John Calvin, particularly their engagement in the social institutions which frame daily life. The basis for the Christian’s dealing with concepts of progress and the use of natural scientific discoveries and inventions, Hopper finds more directly in the work of Francis Bacon, a man grounded in the biblical faith, active in the political life of England at his time (the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries), and a seminal thinker in the conception of the Scientific Revolution, which his Puritan successors did so much to launch as they pursued the dominion under God’s creation to which they felt called. The volume sets forth Bacon’s positive engagement with human progress and with the quest for knowledge of how God makes his creation work. These ideas of Bacon indeed influenced and foreshadowed that Revolution in human knowledge of nature or creation which grew out of Christian engagement with God’s world. “Unlike Luther and Calvin . . . Bacon was concerned to energize the will by enlist88

ing human curiosity and engaging it in discovering the potential for good which God had vested in nature . . .” (203). Certainly Luther’s doctrine of creation could have impelled his followers in that direction, and the work at the University of Wittenberg during his own lifetime in fields such as astronomy and botany suggests that the Wittenberg way of thinking may have gone further in that direction than we usually recognize. Hopper notes how helpful Bacon’s deconstruction of the idols of this world—idols of the “tribe,” the “cave,” the “market-place,” and the “theatre”—remain as a model for Christian reaction to the world around us even today. For our readers Hopper’s use of Luther is of special interest. He translates fundamental principles of Luther’s theologia crucis effectively into the twentyfirst century world and shows how it can ground Christian attitudes and actions in the consumerist culture with which we are cursed. He leans a bit too heavily on Niebuhr’s flawed assessment of “Christ and Culture in Paradox” and could have profited from the recent work of David van Drunen, who demonstrates a much closer association of Calvin’s social thought and Luther’s. But Hopper nonetheless comes to a helpful critique of contemporary North American ideologies which ignore God and greater human community. His call for a life anchored in a conviction that the transcendence of God and his exercise of his sovereignty over his creation, linked with the cross of Christ as God’s means of deliverance and as a model for human participation in the life of the community, should provoke our thinking. He challenges us to look again at our own heritage for the stimulus to speak to our times. Hopper


offers readers a pattern for giving witness to God’s plan for human life to fellow citizens whose search for meaning drives them in anti-human directions. Robert Kolb

PERSPECTIVES ON THE SABBATH: Four Views. Edited by Christopher J. Donato. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2011). 420 pages. Paper. $24.99. How are Christians to honor the Sabbath commandment? The way we answer this question demonstrates, among other things, our understanding of worship, natural law, Christ, and the relationship between the testaments. Using a point-counterpoint format, Perspectives on the Sabbath allows readers to not only gain a greater appreciation for the Sabbath, but also refine their understanding on a host of related theological ideas. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University), Joseph A. Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary), Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary), and Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) represent the four different positions on the Sabbath commonly held today. The foundation of Skip MacCarty’s Seventh Day Adventist position is that the Sabbath is a non-negotiable doctrine for all time. This is based upon the following ideas: (1) while the first six days of creation end with the phrase “there was morning and evening” (e.g., Gn 1:5, 8, 13), the seventh day does not (Gn 2:2–3), (2) the Sabbath is the longest of the commandments Moses gives to Israel (Ex 20:8–11), (3) the Sabbath will continue in the new heavens and new earth (Is 66:23), (4) the Sabbath is the first thing God calls “holy” (Gn 2:3), Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

and (5) while the other days of creation are only mentioned once in Genesis 1–2, the Sabbath is mentioned three times (Gn 2:2–3). With these facts in hand, MacCarty consistently argues that NT texts like Galatians 4:10–22, Revelation 1:10, and Colossians 2:16–27 cannot possibly override God’s chief and enduring commandment regarding the Sabbath. His arguments on Romans 14:5 are representative. Paul writes, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike, each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” MacCarty observes that, in Romans 14:1, Paul begins the section by admonishing Christians against “passing judgment on disputable matters.” The Sabbath, therefore, cannot be in Paul’s purview when discussing days because the Sabbath would never be considered a “disputable matter.” Joseph Pipa is a conservative Presbyterian who, just like MacCarty, interprets the NT through an OT grid. He therefore argues from Reformed confessional documents that the Sabbath day is Sunday and must be a day of rest. Pipa is committed not only to worshipping on the first day of the week but also to ceasing from work and spending the entire day in worship and service. “The theology of redemption accomplished does not annul a continued Sabbath-keeping but requires it” (158). The only difference between Pipa and MacCarty is that the former transfers Seventh-Day Adventist theology from Saturday to Sunday. While MacCarty and Pipa center their attention mostly on contested biblical texts, Charles Arand offers an essay on Luther’s Christ-centered hermeneutic. He begins the discussion by quoting from Luther’s Large Catechism, “You are 89


the day of rest. What is this? to hallow Answer: We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s Word, but instead keep that Word holy and gladly hear and learn it.” Arand observes that the Reformer takes great liberty in his translation of the Third Commandment when he writes, “You are to hallow the day of rest.” Luther not only renders the Hebrew shabbat “day of rest,” he fails to indicate which day of the week it is. Luther also forgoes setting up specific regulations for the Sabbath; instead, he notes that being occupied with God’s Word is sufficient. In doing so, the Reformer connects the Third, as well as all of the commandments, to the First Commandment. Arand observes, “As the First Commandment sums up within itself all the others, the Second through the Tenth Commandments have become nine different ways of teaching the First Commandment” (247). Luther makes the Word of God the centerpiece of the Third Commandment. Arand concludes by noting that Lucas Cranach’s woodcut depicting the Third Commandment shows a congregation joyfully listening to the pastor as he proclaims God’s Word. Craig Blomberg, in his essay, points out that Sabbatarians MacCarty and Pipa do not account for Matthew 5:17 and Christ’s fulfillment of the Law, while Arand (and Luther) go too far in arguing that the Law has been abolished. Blomberg maintains a via media where the Law is neither preserved nor completely done away with. Spending a significant time interpreting Jesus and Paul, he concludes that in light of the Christ-event dietary laws, Sabbath-keeping and the like are turned from divine mandate to human tradition. 90

Perspectives on the Sabbath is a fascinating book that takes readers not only into a thorough study on the Sabbath but also into different approaches in biblical interpretation. In the end, Arand’s Christ-centered approach and Blomberg’s expertise in NT studies win the debate. The OT needs to be read in light of the NT and not vice versa; and the OT is fulfilled in Jesus, the Christ. The OT frequently employs theological truth to convey NT reality. For instance, the Messiah is called David (Ez 34:24), the church is called Zion (Heb 12:22), and the Savior is called a Lamb (Jn 1:29). The OT’s use of the Sabbath is no different. The day was changed by Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1; Rv 1:9). The Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in him (Mt 5:17) who alone gives us Sabbath rest now (Mt 11:28) and forever (Heb 4:9). Reed Lessing KEY QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN FAITH: Old Testament Answers. John Goldingay. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. 345 pages. Paper. $25.00. In this collection of essays, John Goldingay, a distinguished professor of Old Testament (hereafter OT) at Fuller Theological Seminary, takes up twentyfive important Christian issues from an OT perspective. He writes on topics like “Who is God?” and “What Is the People of God?” as well as more practical concerns such as “Should I Tithe Net or Gross?” and “How Does Prayer Work?” Nor does Goldingay shy away from hot subjects like sexuality, care for animals, and leadership in the church. In his essay “Who is God?” Goldingay corrects the notion that the


OT depicts a greater display of God’s wrath than does the New Testament (hereafter NT). In the OT Yahweh’s wrath is not against the world, and when aroused it lasts but for a moment (e.g., Is 54:7; Ps 30:5). On the other hand, in the NT unbelievers are continually under God’s wrath (e.g., Rom 1:18; Eph 2:3). Goldingay goes on to rectify the thought that the first time God suffered was on Good Friday. Rather, the pain that characterizes childbirth (Gn 3:16) and a man’s job (Gn 3:17) also fell upon Yahweh when he saw that humanity’s thoughts were only evil all the time (Gn 6:5–6). Goldingay’s discussion on the people of God is typical of his narrative approach to the theological task. Israel began as one of the families (mishpakhah) of Shem (Gn 10:31–32). In Egypt God makes them a people (‘am, e.g., Ex 1:9; 3:7), and they become a political entity (goy, e.g., Jdg 2:20). The monarchy turns Israel into a kingdom (mamlekah, e.g., 1 Sm 24:20) while in the exile they are reduced to a remnant (she’erit, e.g., Jer 42:2). When restored to Yahweh, the land Israel becomes a religious community (qahal, e.g., Ezr 2:64). And this group has a long history of welcoming Gentiles. A mixed multitude joins Israel in leaving Egypt (Ex 12:38; Nm 11:4) while Moses takes a Cushite for his wife (Nm 12:1). Jethro a Midianite priest, Rahab a Canaanite prostitute, as well as the Gibeonites, all acknowledge Yahweh’s greatness (Ex 18:11–12; Jo 2:1–11; 6:25; 9:9–10). I found Goldingay’s discussion titled “What Is a Covenant?” to be most enlightening. Compared with the OT and Second Temple documents like Ecclesiasticus with its emphasis on successive covenants in its review of “famous men” (Sir 44–45), the NT in like manner Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

employs covenant in a theologically rich way. Jesus arrived because God “remembered his holy covenant” (Lk 1:72), and the Savior says that the Holy Supper is “my blood of the covenant” (Mk 14:24). Christ’s covenant blood (see Ex 24:8; Zec 9:11) is shed not because he had been unfaithful (see Jer 34:18–20), but because humanity had rebelled against its Creator. This blood is shed “for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28) and links the new covenant with the one described by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31–34). It is the “blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20). Also helpful is the chapter “Was the Holy Spirit Active in First Testament Times?” Goldingay expands our understanding of the Holy Spirit in the OT when he points out that Israelite authors frequently discuss Yahweh’s hands, arms, face, eyes, breath, and the like. These body parts indicate God’s presence to act and this, Goldingay asserts, is the work of the Holy Spirit. A comparable set of texts in the NT illustrates the point. Jesus casts out demons by the finger of God (Lk 11:20) as well as by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28). These connections open up numerous possibilities for seeing the Holy Spirit present in the OT, though his action is articulated using a variety of images. John asserts, however, that at least in some way, until Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit was not yet given (Jn 7:39). This comports with texts like Ezekiel 37:1–14 and Joel 3 [2:28–32] which foresee a future bestowal of the Spirit. The first three-quarters of the Bible is not a ramshackle collection of incongruent books nor is it dominated by an obsession with the law. Rather, the OT offers Christians reliable answers to the numerous questions brought about by liv91


twenty-first century. For all who ing in the love the OT with its theologically practical diversity and depth, this is your book. Reed Lessing

SIN: A History. By Gary A. Anderson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. 272 pages. Cloth. $30.00. Anderson has two goals for this book. First, he wants to trace the origin of the metaphor “sin as debt,” back to the Old Testament and demonstrate how this metaphor replaced the metaphor of “sin as a burden” in early Jewish and Christian thought. As part of this task, he tries to show how the early church’s thinking about Christ’s atonement is connected to the Jewish metaphor that is behind it. Second, he wants to trace the emergence of almsgiving as an important practice among postbiblical Jews and Christians. He argues that almsgiving and the debt metaphor developed a back and forth relationship that other scholars have not seen. His book is divided into three parts. In Part 1 (three chapters) he introduces the problem and focuses on the two metaphors “sin as burden” and “sin as debt.” In Part 2 (five chapters) he elaborates on the debt metaphor, among other things dealing with some of the rabbinic and early Christian material. In Part 3 (four chapters) he explores in detail the idea of almsgiving as a way to receive redemption from sins and its place in the economy of salvation. He finishes by looking again at St. Anselm’s famous treatise Cur deus homo (Why God Became Man). Anderson’s book contains some interesting insights. For example, his examination of sin and atonement in early Syriac Christianity will introduce 92

many readers to an important body of literature with which they are probably not familiar. His account of the differences between the atonement theories of Narsai (d. 503) the leading theologian in the Church of the East (located in eastern Iraq and Persia) and Jacob of Serug, who represents the Syrian Orthodox Church of the West (in Lebanon and Syria) is thought provoking and insightful (122– 130). Also, his examination of the rabbinic material in chapter 7 provides a helpful corrective to those who “. . . assume that Jewish thinking about the forgiveness of sins was determined by rules of strict financial propriety” (110). Anderson presents strong evidence that Jewish teaching on this issue was more “complex and subtle” than sometimes thought. Though some of his arguments based on linguistics could be critiqued, my main criticism of the book centers on Anderson’s interpretation of the biblical evidence itself. Anderson’s thesis is that the metaphor of sin as debt replaced the earlier metaphor of sin as a burden. He argues for a chronological development of the idea. However, such a chronology only works given historical critical assumptions of the lateness of parts of Leviticus as well as “Second Isaiah” and Daniel. Without these assumptions (which are still debated), the chronological argument is difficult to maintain. Second, by focusing exclusively on the link between these two metaphors, his approach to the biblical evidence seems unnecessarily reductive. So, for example, his discussion of Isaiah 1:2–4 ignores the other metaphors Isaiah uses in these verses and further on in the chapter (19–20). Many scholars have written about the variety and richness of the metaphors, models and images


that the biblical authors use to describe the nature of sin and the meaning of the atonement. This is an important point because as Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker argue in their book, no one metaphor is adequate to explain the significance of Christ’s atoning work. And later Christian writers developed additional models and interconnected metaphors beyond and in addition to “sin as debt.” (Cf. Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts. [Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2000]; Jacob Preus. Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel. [St. Louis: CPH, 2000].) His argument tracing the rise of almsgiving as a means of atonement also does not interpret the biblical material in convincing fashion. He uses a verse in Tobit, for example, to interpret Daniel 4:24 as an early reference to almsgiving, and this is a key verse in his entire argument (137–46). But the resulting interpretation “over interprets” the difficult and vague Daniel passage. The conclusions he draws from his exegesis of these passages and a few others in Proverbs, leads him to interpret some of Jesus’s teaching in strange ways. So, for example, in his explanation of the story of the rich man who stored up earthly treasures for himself (Lk 12:13–21), he interprets Jesus’s concluding words (vv. 20–21) as follows: “So it is with those who store up treasures [on earth] for themselves but are not rich toward God [in alms]” (146). For these reasons, most pastors will not find much help in Anderson’s book for insight into important questions dealing with humankind, sin, our relationship to God, and the meaning of the atonement for us today. Tim Saleska Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

LIVING LUTHERAN: Renewing Your Congregation. Lutheran Voices. By Dave Daubert. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2007. 96 pages. Paper. $11.99. Just when you thought you had read all the church growth and purposedriven material that you could stand, a “Lutheran” approach to renewal is proposed. I’ve used quotation marks since the approach is more evangelical than clearly Lutheran. In the chapter “The Basics of a Lutheran Voice,” for example, the author states: “The three keys to finding our Lutheran voice for our work together will be Bible study, prayer, and dialog. Each of these provides an essential part of coming together and finding a Lutheran voice” (21). The same could be said for Baptists or Presbyterians or many protestant groups. What is decidedly Lutheran—the Confessions—seems to be avoided. While I agree with the author that “they [referring to the Lutheran Confessions] don’t give us the last word on what constitutes a Lutheran voice” (20), they certainly are formative of what that voice will proclaim—particularly the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation in him alone. That critique being voiced, I should add that Luther’s Small Catechism is quoted several times. Each of the nine brief chapters (it took me just a Sunday afternoon to read the whole book) provides helpful steps in developing and using guiding principles for a congregation’s renewal around its God-designed purpose with a vision for extending Christ’s “kingdom”—a prominent theme in this renewal process. Each chapter also concludes with group processing tools—a select reading from the book of Acts, a prayer, and then a set of 93


discussion questions. These diapertinent logue-stimulating questions underscore the emphasis upon the congregation as the people of God gathered around Word and Sacraments in a specific and important locale for God’s enterprise. Dave Daubert (DMin from LSTC) is a consultant with ARE: A Renewal Enterprise, in association with The Renewable Organization, which he helped form. He is presently serving as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Elgin, Illinois, with his wife, Marlene (MSW), a diaconal minister. His experience in the ELCA as a Director for Renewal of Congregations is captured in this booklet, and he shares it in an engaging manner. He winsomely reports both encouraging successes and humbling failures as he developed his biblical ideas and programmatic approach toward congregational renewal. His goal is to help congregational leaders “train [their] eyes to see the present as clearly as possible in the light of a future that has not yet come” (44). Missouri Synod pastors and congregation leaders will benefit from reading through this helpful, insightful, and inexpensive booklet as they seek opportunities to expand their connection with the world around their parish environs. As noted, there are several weaknesses in the approach—issues related to the centrality of worship and the sacraments seem to be ignored—however the method is worthy of emulation. While some congregations are ablaze for the mission of the church, others are not sure where God wants them to be—those that “whine and decline” (53). This booklet will help congregation leaders consider God’s plans for the life of the world without the church growth or purpose-driven 94

gimmicks of more elaborate exercises. Daubert concludes, “Renewal is not a goal—it is a way of life” (86). Timothy Maschke Concordia University Mequon, Wisconsin FINDING AND TRANSLATING THE ORAL-AURAL ELEMENTS IN WRITTEN LANGUAGE. By Ernst R. Wendland. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 418 pages. Cloth. $129.95. The first decade of the twenty-first century was a very productive writing tenure for Professor Wendland as he participated in several book-length publications. Each of them focused on Bible translation and exemplified the integration of current biblical and translation research with his decades of experience in the translation of Scriptures. Wendland’s Literary Functional Equivalence (LiFE) eclectic theory and method demonstrates a profound respect for the biblical language source texts with a pursuit of relevant communication to host audiences. Wendland’s most recent book continues his lengthy research of the “literary” nature of the biblical texts. (Literary has always been qualified by the author to include issues of orality.) Whereas earlier publications have looked at passages from the Hebrew Scriptures or the Gospel narratives, this monograph narrows in on the New Testament epistles of James, 1 John, Philemon, and 1 Peter. Whereas each chapter combines an exegetical study and translation application, with James’s epistle Wendland splits these activities into two chapters, with the second chapter focusing on the translation of two passages, 2:14–26 and


3:9–18. Given Wendland’s almost fifty years of ministry in the southern African country of Zambia, he demonstrates his intimate knowledge of the Chewa language throughout the book as exegesis is applied to a LiFE translation—oftentimes into Chewa (with a translation back into English). The book opens and closes with chapters of Wendland’s presentation and assessment of the recently developed model of Performance Criticism. Wendland utilizes this critical model in his broader LiFE approach to translation while also evaluating some of Performance Criticism’s presuppositions and articulations. Wendland is not arguing that all translations slavishly follow the procedures he proposes. A translation’s intended purpose should direct how one translates the Bible. If the purpose, however, involves an auditory reception of the Bible, Wendland offers many helpful insights. As stated above, the exegetical approach proposed by Wendland treats the Bible as God’s Word that has been presented in highly artistic and literary ways. Wendland demonstrates a keen understanding of the benefits of approaching the Bible from a genre and discourse (macro) perspective as well as the more detailed sound and syntactical (micro) levels. The book presupposes a knowledge of Koine Greek as its author delves deeply into discussions of literary figures of speech, such as metaphors and word plays. It is Wendland’s contention that an understanding of the dynamic or functional equivalence (à la Eugene Nida) that disconnects form from meaning is misled. “In other words, the form and the function of the message needs to be given as much attention as the semantic content, for these too are vital aspects of the text’s Concordia Journal/Winter 2012

overall intended—and realized—meaning” (368). Beyond a sound exegesis of the source text, Wendland demonstrates his commitment to exploring functionally equivalent forms and socially relevant discourse in host languages. Performance Criticism becomes the basic model for treating oral-aural elements of the New Testament. “Biblical Performance Criticism seeks to understand the performance of Christian traditions in the oral cultures of the early church, aspects of which include the performer, audience, context, and text.… [It] analyzes a biblical text through the translation, preparation, and performance of a text for group discussion of the performance event. Such a methodology seeks to foster the appreciation of performance for the appropriation of the Bible in the modern world” (4). Wendland demonstrates his sympathies to such an approach while holding firm to the textual evidence that remains of any such ancient performances. While open to the performative nature of biblical compositions, Wendland is more comfortable talking of “proclamation” of the text through aesthetically pleasing translation and readings. At the same time, Wendland’s African experiences help him appreciate the perspective of Performance Criticism that valorizes the dramatic and contextually appropriate liturgical expressions of the Bible to audiences that expect rhetorically effective and artistic performances. Throughout the monograph, Wendland poses some important questions for the reader to consider: “How can this ancient, culturally specialized, text-based data bank be accessed, even in part, by the silent (often ‘biblically illiterate’) readers of a translated text today?” 95


short, how can translators bet(20). “In ter provide an ‘ear’ for their audiences to actually hear more of the Bible’s beauty and power, including its captivating vocal qualities?” (146). One of the primary impetuses for Wendland’s pursuit of seeking to appreciate and translate the oral features of the New Testament is the considerable loss of these features in many of the translations available today—including those in English. This is an accurate assessment. With the pursuit of finding functional equivalents in host languages, there was little comment on what might be the benefit of translations. That is, what do the many African and other language translations contribute to our understanding of the Bible? Given the context of the twenty-first century, it was helpful to hear in this book some of the background and motivations of the author. However, one can imagine there being an interest in hearing more of the ideological (including theological) underpinnings of Bible

96

translation in the past as well as how Bible translation agendas are conceived in the twenty-first century. One final subject for further discussion is Wendland’s preference for understanding Performance Criticism as primarily an issue of orality. Nevertheless, Performance Criticism extends the discussion of orality to the embodiment of performance and the synergy of a performer, audience, and text. Dr. Wendland’s book on translating oral features of the New Testament demonstrates his expertise as a biblical scholar and translator. His high view of the Scriptures motivates him to discern the intended poetic beauty of God’s Word. His missiological motivation enlivens him to be involved in the proclamation of the Bible in authentic, attractive, relevant, and effective communication of God’s message of life. James Maxey Director of Program Ministries Lutheran Bible Translators


COncordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233)

Faculty

publisher

David Adams Charles Arand Andrew Bartelt Executive EDITOR Joel Biermann William W. Schumacher Gerhard Bode Dean of Theological Kent Burreson Research and Publication William Carr, Jr. Anthony Cook EDITOR Timothy Dost Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Thomas Egger Jeffrey Gibbs Theological Publications Bruce Hartung Dale A. Meyer President

EDITORial assistant Melanie Appelbaum assistants

Carol Geisler Theodore Hopkins Melissa LeFevre Matthew Kobs Ryan Schroeder

Erik Herrmann Jeffrey Kloha R. Reed Lessing David Lewis Richard Marrs David Maxwell Dale Meyer Glenn Nielsen Joel Okamoto Jeffrey Oschwald David Peter Paul Raabe

All correspondence should be sent to: CONCORDIA JOURNAL 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105 314-505-7117 cj @csl.edu

Victor Raj Paul Robinson Robert Rosin Timothy Saleska Leopoldo Sánchez M. David Schmitt Bruce Schuchard William Schumacher William Utech James Voelz Robert Weise

Exclusive subscriber digital access via ATLAS to Concordia Journal & Concordia Theology Monthly: http://search.ebscohost.com User ID: ATL0102231ps Password: subscriber Technical problems? Email support@atla.com

Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1972) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in ATLA Religion Database/ATLAS and Christian Periodicals Index. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from National Archive Publishing (www.napubco.com). Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a Chicago Manual of Style. Email submission (cj@csl.edu) as a Word attachment is preferred. Editorial decisions about submissions include peer review. Manuscripts that display Greek or Hebrew text should utilize BibleWorks fonts (www.bibleworks.com/fonts.html). Copyright © 1994-2009 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $15 U.S.A., $20 for Canada and $25 for foreign countries, by Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. On the cover: Participants enjoy each other’s company at Concordia Seminary’s LutherHostel. (Photo: Lois Engfehr) © Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2012 www.csl.edu | www.concordiatheology.org


Concordia Journal

Concordia Seminary 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, MO 63105

COncordia Journal

Winter 2012 volume 38 | number 1

Winter 2012 volume 38 | number 1

a partnership issue

The Catcher: Transitions in Faith of Older Adults Aging in Christ: A Life of Fruitful Labor and Service Senior and Older Adult Ministry in Our Times: A Conversation


Concordia Journal | Winter 2012