By Paula Schlueter Ross
With the words, “Read and take God’s Word to heart at all times, calling upon Him to uphold you in the ministry which is committed to you,” Missouri District President Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly began the rite of installation for the second three-year term of the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, 13th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
In a two-hour Service of Installation on Saturday, Sept. 14, in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Harrison, six vice-presidents, the Synod secretary and members of the LCMS Board of Directors and nine other boards and commissions promised to carry out their duties “with the help of God.”
The installation service, with Holy Communion, included the pageantry of dozens of red-stoled pastors and district presidents who took part in the entrance procession along with the leaders of Lutheran partner churches in Brazil, Canada, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Siberia as the congregation sang the processional hymn “Thy Strong Word,” accompanied by an organist and brass quintet.
“It was very good for us to be here and to join your joy,” Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church told Reporter after the service.
Carrying a processional cross and a Witness, Mercy, Life Together banner in the procession were Harrison’s two sons, Matthew, 20, and Mark, 17.
In his sermon (click here to watch video), based on 1 Cor. 1:22-25, the Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, president of Lutheran Church—Canada, called it “a blessing” that the installation service was on Holy Cross Day, since “Christ crucified [is] the heart of our life and our work,” even though preaching about Jesus “rubs an awful lot of people the wrong way” in today’s society.
Bugbee cautioned church workers not to get caught up in “aiming [God's Word] at just about everybody but themselves.”
Calling it a “blunt reality,” he said “no matter what kind of a high post you’ve got in the church, and no matter how much influence you might wield, and no matter how many other people look up to you, you’re a lost and hopeless sinner without this Rescuer [Christ crucified] Who brings you back to God again.”
Bugbee noted that Harrison signs his correspondence with “sub cruce” — Latin for “under the cross.”
“Under the cross is the only place to be if you hope to be saved,” he said. “It’s the only place to be, Synod leaders and district presidents, when you’re trying to stay clear about what sort of a message we have to take to the needy people of North America whom God loves and is aching to have. Under the cross is the place to be when you’re wading through tough times” and “when things sparkle and go very well.”
Bugbee urged those present to “never let up” on preaching “Christ crucified” to long-time believers, unbelievers and “to ourselves — so that we might be believable servant-leaders whose work has real significance and the help of God’s Holy Spirit.
“[St.] Paul had it right: ‘The foolish way of God is wiser than people’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than people’s strength.’
“And I think that’s just about the best launching pad that you can find at the beginning of another synodical triennium, and on just about every other kind of day God ever gives you.”
Scripture readings during the service were in German, Spanish and Amharic as well as English.
Following Harrison’s installation, the Rev. Mindaugas Sabutis, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, described how his “church of martyrs” — persecuted for centuries for their faith — had survived “only by Christ’s mercy.” But even when they had nothing, he said, they had “Christ, crucified and risen.”
Sabutis thanked the Synod for its work worldwide, particularly for its support of Lutherans in Lithuania. Without The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, he added, “it’s very hard to imagine our survival, spiritual survival, [as a] confessional church in this world.”
Also attending the installation, in addition to members of LCMS boards and commissions and their families, Synod employees, LCMS congregation members and others, were representatives of Lutheran Hour Ministries, Lutheran Services in America, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, Lutheran World Relief, Old Catholic English Rite, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
The installation-service offering of $2,230.50 will benefit the Synod’s Global Seminary Initiative, which helps provide advanced theological education for divinity and deaconess students through LCMS partner churches.
Following the service — under sunny skies and with temperatures in the mid-70s — guests were treated to lunch in the seminary quadrangle.
Joshua Makey, a first-year student at Concordia Seminary who attended the installation with some of his classmates, said he “really enjoyed it.
“I thought it was a really neat opportunity to see our Synod’s leaders and so many clergy in our Synod come together and really support one another as we move into the future and as we install our new leadership. And all [of us] coming together and praising God — that was an amazing thing to see.”
Click links to watch brief video interviews with the Rev. Yutaka Kumei, president of the Japan Lutheran Church; the Rev. Dr. Albert C. Collver III, LCMS director of Church Relations; the Rev. Bernhard Seter, chairman of the LCMS Board for International Mission; the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; the Rev. Charles Wokoma, professor at JEML Seminary in Nigeria, West Africa; and Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries, and Barbara Below, assistant to LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
To see more photos from the installation service, click here.
Updated Sept. 16, 2013 / Sept. 20, 2013