by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15). Remarkable! Paul says Christians are called to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
And even more, we are called “in one body,” collectively for the peace of Christ to rule us all together. Now, let’s be clear: “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth” (Luther’s Small Catechism).
The actor is God. He’s called and given us faith in Christ. Paul in Colossians is saying, “God has made you who you are. Now be who you are!”
Not too long ago, I dared to assert that I thought it possible for the Synod to be 85 percent united on even the difficult issues, which often divide us. Can this happen?
Coming into this summer’s LCMS convention, we worked very hard to bring unifying resolutions. When resolutions dealt with challenging issues where different parties were very much at odds, we worked even harder to bring people together and to come to reasonable and faithful compromise. Rather remarkable things happened, often behind the scenes. We were blessed with a very peaceful and productive convention.
It’s my conviction that the less time, energy and money we spend on internal disagreement, the more we can focus on our domestic and international opportunities, which are legion! But we can’t simply shout “Mission!” as a mere distraction for the work of living our unity. We need to be confronted with God’s inerrant Word, and that Word must have it’s way with us. I’m convinced that the historic and time-honored biblical positions of the LCMS are unifying. They are Gospel-centered and tested.
The convention was really remarkable in that the vast majority of resolutions passed with overwhelming majorities of 90 percent or more. Many passed unanimously! Very significant and potentially controversial resolutions on issues like visitation and close(d) Communion passed in the high 70s. We are blessed, truly blessed.
As this next triennium unfolds, our task will be to work toward reasonable consensus on issues that have continued to trouble and divide, such as SMP and the licensed deacon programs. We must work toward unifying solutions that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, solutions that are wise and that find the path of good order serving the Gospel, recognizing legitimate Christian freedom. By God’s grace, we can do it.
Standing in front of 1,500 LCMS delegates was a humbling experience. More than once I was reduced to embarrassment over my lack of parliamentary skill. The vice-presidents felt the same way, I’m sure. But more than anything else, I was profoundly thankful. The work of the floor committees was just remarkable. Those who felt negatively affected by this or that resolution carried themselves in Christian fashion and made their views known and felt heard.
The “Baptized for This Moment” theme galvanized the body as preacher after preacher and Bible study leader after Bible study leader drove home the biblical case for Baptisms extraordinary ramifications for our real lives. Delegates were patient with me and each other. They were gracious. They were in constant good humor. They demonstrated a deep love for the Gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus and for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. And when it all ended, the room was filled with deep joy and thanksgiving.
The Missouri Synod has her warts, to be sure. But she’s the best thing going. I will continue to do my level best to keep you informed about whats going on (mission, numbers, money, giving, program). As we continue into the future Christ has in store for us, I pledge you my prayers for all our pastors, church workers and congregations.
And I plead for yours, that Paul’s entreaty be true of all of us: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”