Sunday, May 25, 2008

You Are Rich!

SERMON for The 2nd SUNDAY after PENTECOST: May 25, 2008

"You Are Rich!"

TEXT: Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

Dearly beloved of God,

You are rich! As we heard in last week’s sermon, with the words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," our heavenly Father opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. That means you have access to God and all His blessings – now and forever. Therefore, Luther says by this text our Lord Jesus Christ is saying, "If [one is] a true Christian [he] would say: ‘The [moment] the Gospel is received, there comes to me a hundred thousand dollars, and much more. For if I possess this treasure [of the forgiveness of sins], I have all that is in heaven and upon earth.’"

Of course, one hundred thousand dollars doesn’t go as far as it did in Luther’s time. But I hope you get the point. There is no one so rich as is the baptized child of God. That is why when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we know "God certainly gives daily bread – [that is, everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body] -- to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving."

And lest we forget that all this daily bread means nothing if we are separated from God by our own sinful desires for more than daily bread, our Lord has us pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," directly following the petition for daily bread. Indeed this forgiveness of sin is the daily bread from heaven of which Jesus speaks when He calls himself the "Bread of Life," apart from which no one knows the Father or will see the kingdom of heaven. "We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment."

Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the United States of America. It is a day set aside by order of our government to honor those men and women who have died in the service of our country, in service to you, in order that you can be free to live your life as you so choose – in the pursuit of happiness and able to partake in so many of Gd's creature comforts and worldly blessings. However, truth be told, how many people do you think actually take time to do that: to honor those who have given their lives and thank God for the sacrifice they made in order that you might live and be free to do such things as camp; and hunt; and fish; and go to ball games; and watch T.V.; and go to movies; and own a home; . . . . and to be able to gather and hear the precious Gospel of the forgiveness of your sins that keeps you with Christ Jesus in the one true faith that is the kingdom of heaven on earth?

The greatest gift you have as an American citizen is the freedom to worship. And the greatest gift that comes to you only in the right worship of God is the forgiveness of sins that grants you citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore, when Jesus says rather than worry about food and clothing and the pursuit of happiness like the pagans do, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" He is saying "above all things that a person should listen to Christ and accept the Gospel." [Luther]

This portion of Jesus sermon on the mount is in fact an explanation of the first table of the Law, the first three commandments. In telling His disciples not to worry about tomorrow and all the things they fear they might have to go without, Jesus is reminding them to have no other gods and to fear, love, and trust in none other than the One who daily and richly provides all the things unbelievers worry about and spend their lives pursuing. "Seek first His kingdom," means to "call upon His name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks." And to call upon His name we are to "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, that is, to not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it" – not in order to please God, win His attention, and persuade Him to help us in our time of need, but because by hearing and learning His Word we discover how we are the crown of God’s creation, whom He loves, and for whom He has given all – the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and even His only begotten Son -- that we might enjoy life and happiness forever as His good gift rather than our fruitless pursuit.

Interestingly enough, this sermon is given to His disciples. Why? In order that they might not give up the one thing needful for them and all who will hear and believe through their message out of fear for their bodily needs. Jesus, in telling His disciples to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," is extolling them always to be about studying His Word in order that they can faithfully deliver it to His people for their salvation and eternal life. He is telling the disciples and all whom He will call to be the bearers of the Gospel that if He cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field how much more will He not make sure that those who bring the good news of salvation and the kingdom of heaven are provided every earthly need so they can accomplish this work of God. He is warning them that if they become worried about and caught up in pursing their bodily, earthly needs, they cannot, indeed will not, faithfully serve as His called servants, for "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

In other words, the concern of His called servants of the Word is always to be strictly about serving up that Word of the forgiveness of sins to the baptized. And Jesus’ promise is that He will always provide daily bread for them while they are serving the Bread of Life to His people. Never mind the fund raising. Never mind preaching to the budget and collection plate. Never mind the incessant counting of heads other than to discover who might be missing that they might be sought after and brought back into the fold. The Lord knows we need these things and will provide them according to His means. No, the pastors are to be all about the delivery of the forgiveness of sins.

This means you can be all about what it is you have been given to do without ever worrying if you have done enough, well enough to be saved. Since the preaching of repentance and the kingdom of God is what delivers the kingdom of heaven to you and you into the kingdom of heaven, you no longer need to pursue happiness. It has been given to you, so that rather than fighting for your own life you can devote your life to such things as loving and providing for your spouse and children. You are free from the cares of the world so that you can serve the people of the world in your vocations in the workplace, in the neighborhood, as citizens, as baptized children of God looking out for one another’s welfare and making sure that your family and brothers and sisters in Christ have a place to gather around the Word of God and a servant to deliver and teach that Word in all its truth and purity.

Yes dear people of God, you are rich beyond measure. Pray God that you will always, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." For in the kingdom of God all of your sins are forgiven and life is yours in abundance – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Memorial Weekend Message: God’s Love Abides in Us

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:13-21 nkj

Dearly beloved of God,

Today’s epistle is a most difficult and dangerous text to preach properly. It is an exhortation to love one another as we abide in faith in Christ.

The difficulty and danger both lie in presenting the importance and even necessity of loving one another without making it appear that our loving one another in any way earns God’s favor or satisfies His requirements to enter heaven.

A recent episode of the Simpson’s presents this danger in a cynical and exaggerated example that may set our teeth on edge, yet captures the truly diabolical message that lies beneath looking to our own good works for salvation.

In this episode Homer poses as a missionary on a tropical island. As Homer enjoys the good life he brings “Christianity” to the native population and supervises the building of a mission church. His message – “Pick up a rock (to build the church) or go to hell.”

Of course the message is rarely, if ever, so crass in real life. It is more likely to be something like, “If you’re not nice, God will be mad at you.” Or, “Don’t you want to make God happy?” Or, “If you really believed you wouldn’t behave so badly.” Or, “If you had any faith and really loved God you would tithe and our church wouldn’t have any problems.” But the underlying message is the same, if you do not love and do enough things for God and other people God will not be pleased with you and you cannot get to heaven.

And certainly it is true, we cannot get to heaven unless God is pleased with us. But here is the rest of that truth – for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for us – God is pleased with us and we have already been taken to heaven in our Baptism.

Yet sadly, even preaching it rightly does not guarantee it will be rightly heard.

Decades ago, a comprehensive survey of active Lutherans showed that, even among a church body that is founded upon salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, 75% of her active members, when asked about why they thought they would go to heaven, responded with answers that relied upon their own good works to get them there!

Answers to the question, “When you die, are you sure you will enter heaven?” most often take the following form:
“I hope so. After all I was president, I tithed, I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday school, I never miss a Sunday unless I am sick.” etc.

As almost any Lutheran who has gone door to door in evangelism efforts over the years will confirm, this is not an unusual percentage. Sadly, even many within our own church body adopt evangelism and stewardship programs reminiscent of the Homer Simpson claim – i.e. if you don’t grow God’s church people will go to hell and the church will die.

All of this does not mean the message to love one another should not be preached -- only that the pastor be careful to do so rightly and leave the right hearing and reception of the Word to the Holy Spirit, who accomplishes all things according to the Father’s will by the preaching and hearing of the Word – How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Rom. 10:14-17]

Make no mistake about it, only God’s love for us in Christ received through faith worked by the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the Word saves anyone or grows His church– which is precisely the reason preaching today’s text is so difficult.

John’s words from last week’s epistle are helpful , and indeed necessary, if today’s epistle is to be preached, received, and applied correctly and faithfully: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” [1 John 4:10-11]

The words of today’s Epistle reading and text from 1 John remind us that our claim to love God (or as James says, our faith) is empty if we do not also love one another. The two go together. We love because He first loved us, and our love shows itself in words and deeds of kindness to each other.

Yet herein lies another difficulty, the world of unbelief is full of apparent acts of love and kindness. This is most especially evident as we observe Memorial Day and the lives sacrificed by patriotic Americans for love of country and fellow citizens. These great deeds are beneficial to people and society, and to be received with thanksgiving as gifts from God. Yet, as great and beneficial as they are, they do not identify one as a Christian or earn a place in heaven for those who do them.

The love and kindness of faith is defined by forgiveness.

Our text recalls John’s Gospel that Christ is the vine and we are the branches. He who abides in Him will bear much fruit. It defines the fruit by which branches of the true vine, Jesus, are known – that we love each other as God has loved us. And how has God loved us? By dying to forgive us.

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” [John 15:12-14 nkj]

Only Christ’s shed blood saves and gives eternal life. So Jesus is not telling us here to physically give up our life as a sacrifice for anyone’s sins. That would be blasphemy and denial that His death was and is sufficient for us. “It is finished.” Salvation is won! Eternal life is a done deal, a dead lock cinch, a certainty no one can take away from you or anyone who is kept by the Holy Spirit with Christ in faith.

So today’s text doesn’t tell us what to do in order to be saved. It tells us what the faith of those who have already been saved looks like. When we die to sin in Baptism we are raised to live a life of forgiveness toward our brothers in Christ, and even to all the world. This is the unique work of every Christian even as each of us is given differing gifts and vocations to perform.

And yet look at how we so often hold grudges against one another for the smallest of things.

Nothing will kill a congregation more quickly and certainly than lack of love toward each other – especially in refusal to forgive one another the grievances that are bound to occur wherever two or three sinners are gathered together. Even when the gathering is around Christ and His name, sinners still bring their own baggage along with them.

But though congregations may suffer -- as we see in the case of the Corinthians who are not loving one another even as they come to the Lord’s Supper, and even in our own case as we are just as likely to complain about how someone serves in their elected or appointed congregational offices or duties as we are to thank them for serving. And though individual congregations may even cease to exist because of such lack of love for one another, still the Church of Christ will never perish. Why? Because the church of Christ is built not on our imperfect love for one another, but on the perfect love of the only begotten Son of God.

So while loving each other means forgiving all kinds of behavior that hurts and offends us personally, any teaching or behavior in the congregation (that is, the localized gathering of believers around the name and Word of God) that would in any way point to any one or anything but Christ for our salvation is to be avoided, confronted and cast out from among us. As Christ’s apostle, Paul, tells Pastor Timothy: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” [1 Tim 4:16 NKJ]
It is no offense against love, which comes only from Christ Himself as delivered by the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament, for a pastor and/or congregation to insist upon pure teaching and the application of that teaching in the worship life of the church.

As Luther says of anyone who would claim offense at such faithfulness: “They accuse us of offending against love... We are surely prepared to observe peace and love with all men, provided that they leave the doctrine of faith perfect and sound for us. If [they will not listen], it is useless for them to demand love from us. A curse on a love that is observed at the expense of the doctrine of faith, to which every thing must yield–[even] love....”

Why? Because we cannot have the faith to love one another – to truly forgive one another -- unless we abide in the love and forgiveness of Christ that comes only through the teaching (which is what doctrine is) of His Word.

... This commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

We have this commandment not to save us from going to hell, but that we would serve each other and that the world might see a reflection of God’s love for us in the life of Christian faith.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dearly beloved of the Father, hear again the Word of God by which you are given the faith, as well as the power and the freedom to love one another -- all of your sins are forgiven and you have been given eternal life . . .

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen

+ + +

[Sermon first preached at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah for the SEVENTH SUNDAY of EASTER: May 28, 2006]

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Different Kind of Race

SERMON for The HOLY TRINITY: May 18, 2008

"A Different Kind of Race"

TEXT: Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Gentlemen! Start your engines! – these words send men and women wearing tons of very expensive metal hurtling around a track at 200+miles/hour in a race for a checkered flag, a pile of cash, hero status, and maybe a jug of milk or other refreshment.

Aaaaaand they’re off!– at these words gates crash open and tons of very expensive horseflesh begin hurtling around a track, whipped by the rather small men and women wearing rather colorful yet silly clothing who ride them intent on whipping them across the digital finish line for a pile of cash, hero status, and maybe a bunch of roses or other trophy.

On your mark. Get set. Go!– these words and the crack of a gunshot sends hundreds of pounds of well muscled men and women dashing around a track in short shorts, tank tops, and funny looking spiked shoes trying to be the first person to break the tape for screaming fans, points for the team, scholarships or future endorsements involving piles of cash, and a blue ribbon, medal, or team trophy.


I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen! With these words begins the human race. Countless people throughout the ages, as many as grains of sand on the seashore or stars in the heavens -- of all shapes, colors, sizes, nations, and tongues -- are sent forth into all the world, the world from which they came, already possessing all there is to have by the grace of God and restored through faith to be fully human and bearing the image of God once lost in sin. Yes, this race is much different, for it is a race whose outcome is never in doubt, whose champion is Christ, which is finished before it even begins.

Oh, the participants, the baptized beloved children of God, will certainly still experience the blood, sweat and tears of dedicated preparation, of unexpected twists, turns, and even fights and crashes. It may be seemingly far too short, or woefully long. But this race is different because it is a race where you do not compete toward the finish line, but the finish line is brought to you. Though the race remains to be run for as long as we are given to live on this earth, the outcome is never in doubt. The salvation from our sins that gives us eternal life was finished by Christ on the cross and has been delivered to us through the water poured over our heads, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

With these words, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words we are given the image of God which we were intended to be from the beginning, when God created the first man and woman. For in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the image lost -- as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12 NKJ), is the image restored to us – so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Rom 5:18 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Rom 6:4-5 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words we have been freed from the burden of forever trying to please God. And make no mistake about it, every other religion, every other worship of god apart from these words is a false religion and a false god, based upon an endless, fruitless, hopeless quest to please or satisfy some ambiguous, obscure god – or figure out which god one should be concerned about pleasing and satisfying today. For with these words of Holy Baptism, God the Father (the One and only true God) looks upon us just as He looked upon His only begotten Son at His baptism, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words God gives us the comfort and assurance that we are already among "they that have done good [and] will go into everlasting life," as we confessed earlier in the Athanasian Creed, for [by these words] we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words not only is the race begun, but it is finished. For with these words, heaven has come to earth. Where these words are spoken, we can join with Luther in saying, "This is surely God’s house, here heaven has been opened to you." Yes, here in this place where God speaks the words recalling your baptism, where God speaks His words of forgiveness to you when you confess your sins, where God gives you the very body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ, here heaven has been opened to you. Here, as in the word of God spoken through the Apostle Paul, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit [is] with you all. (2 Cor 3:14 NKJ)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
you can be sure that the finish line of heaven is always before you because the God who awaits you at the finish line to give you the crown of life says, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." For with these words, God forgives you all your sins – in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, May 10, 2008

UPDATE: Plug Pulled on Missionary to West Africa

The following is a report from Pr. James May regarding his mission work in West Africa.

Rev. Kurt Hering, Pastor,
Trinity Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
of Layton, Utah

I was sent to Ouagadougou to learn French. There are no Lutheran churches here. I was directed to take my family and worship at non-Lutheran churches. I was forbidden to plant Lutheran churches in Ouagadougou.

In my daily life I was often encountered by locals asking who I am and what I am doing in Burkina Faso. I explained that I am a Lutheran pastor and am learning French. Many people wanted to know more. In a country that is 80% Muslim and animistic, I was happy to confess my faith in the savior Jesus Christ. People wanted to know more.

I was insubordinate and started Bible studies, and the area facilitator said that the regional director would not be happy, and therefore, even though he was informed, he said that he would turn a blind eye. Later while in the language learning process a friend of mine named his first born son after me.

My regional director had expressly told me that if someone wanted to be baptized I should send them to the Baptist church and NOT baptize them. Again I was insubordinate and preferred to disobey that order rather than break a relationship by insulting him and refusing to baptize his son. The father, Etienne Sam, has used his tailor shop to publicize and distribute Good News magazines.

A second time a man came from Cote d’Ivoire and was very poor. He couldn’t afford to send his kids to school which costs about $4 per child. His youngest son became very sick with dysentery. During a two week span he ceased eating and we feared for his life. His father was a Catholic but had been attending our Good News classes. I asked him if his son was baptized and he said the Catholic Church demanded $15 per baptism and he didn’t have the money. The Baptist Church was not going to baptize the child. Again I was insubordinate and baptized him so that his parents would have the assurance that even if dysentery won, the devil would not because Jesus would make Victorien His child. Miraculously the day after his baptism he also began eating and the dysentery left.

Finally, Rev. Dr. Anssi Simojoki, the Vice President of LHF and director for the Africa region, was making a trip through West Africa and contacted me. His son is the godfather of two of our children. I offered our house for him to stay in. I received an email from Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller in which he stated that he had not given me permission to have Anssi stay in my house. I was not aware that my personal home is ruled by World Mission. Again I was insubordinate and allowed Anssi to stay at our house.

In my most recent conversation with Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller in Conakry, Guinea, he said it is due to these acts of insubordination that he has determined I am a detriment to the LCMS WM team in Africa and that I was directed to seek another call. He would not put this in writing, rather he stated that I am unwilling to live in a primitive village, and therefore should leave Africa. This is untrue. I was unwilling to move to a village where access to emergency care is unattainable during rainy season. I have a pregnant wife and four children, one of which already had a medical emergency and nearly lost her fingers. Planting of churches and visiting of those remote congregations could have been done from cities with hospitals. This request was denied.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

By His Grace alone,Pr. James May

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Walking in the Resurrection . . . Proclaiming that Good News!

With no intent to dismiss my concern or questions, and without trying to be secretive or evasive, the Regional Director – Africa, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod World Mission replied re pulling the plug on Pr. May's mission work in West Africa:

Rev. Hering,

Rev. James May will be concluding his ministry in West Africa. Upon completion of his term this month, we will be working with him to depart the field. LCMS World Mission will continue to support James and his family as he seeks to share his gifts in new ministry opportunities. The May family will receive financial support and benefits through the BFMS transition allowance. We thank God for all that has been accomplished to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in Africa through James’ involvement with LCMS World Mission.

We want you to know LCMS World Mission’s ministry in West Africa will continue. Many other missionaries in Africa and serving around the world need prayer and financial support. We ask that you prayerfully consider transferring your support to another missionary or consider continuing support of the ongoing work.

I am sorry that I am not able to share with you the reasons why Rev. May is leaving the field. I am certain that if Rev. May wishes to do so, you could contact him and he could share those with you. As a pastor, you have a desire and an obligation to protect the confidentiality of your members, staff, and lay leaders. I have that same obligation, in addition to the HR policies in place in our church body. I simply cannot discuss personnel matters, and I’m sure you understand.

I try desperately to understand how things can look from the outside. In mission, we are in the business of spreading the Gospel, not disrupting it. We make decisions prayerfully with much consideration and consultation. We work with complete, reliable information. We rely on our own spiritual gifts and on the wealth of mission experience that surrounds us here at LCMS. It is not my intent to dismiss your concern or your questions. I’m certainly not trying to be secretive or evasive. I’m sharing all that is appropriate. We both want the best for our church body, and we both want the ministries of LCMS to thrive here and abroad. Let’s pray for each other and support one another, recognizing the task isn’t always easy.

Please keep the May family in your prayers.

Walking in the Resurrection . . ..
Proclaiming that Good News!
Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost”, Luke 19:10.

Rev. Paul Mueller, PhD Missiology <’}}}><
Regional Director – Africa, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod World Mission

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Plug Pulled on Missionary to West Africa

LCMS World Mission

April/May 2008 Newsletter

Rev. James and Tiina, Maggie, Tristan, Sarai, and Sofia May

Serving the Lord and the LCMS in Burkina Faso & Togo, West Africa

Last Newsletter

I regret to inform you that due to programmatic and business decisions, World Mission has decided to cease employing me as a missionary in West Africa. This decision came as a shock to me and my family as it may also be a surprise to you.

World Mission has been pressuring me to move on and inform you as soon as possible. One reason is that I would be without a paycheck and insurance soon after we have a baby due in July. We hope that by the grace of God we could have another call in place when my salary and benefits terminate at the end of August 2008.

The decision leaves three newly planted churches in Burkina Faso without a theologically trained leader and also the Lutheran Church of Togo without a missionary which they had been awaiting for six years.

Please keep all these people involved in your prayers.

Last Project

Please check out our website ( as there is still a project that could be accomplished in Burkina Faso and West Africa. Judy Stroeh, a member of a supporting congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio and an environmental consultant, visited us during the last week of April. Working in collaboration with Proctor & Gamble, she brought out a product called PUR which purifies water. The product is very inexpensive, about one to two cents per 10 liters of purified water. One simply adds the contents of PUR to the river or well water and then it is stirred for five minutes. The PUR contents cause all impurities to congeal and sink to the bottom of the container. Then the water is filtered through a piece of cotton and 99.99% of all dangerous elements are eliminated.

The Work of God Will Go On

It is not me who convinced anyone to believe in Christ, it was the Holy Spirit who called, gathered, and enlightened others to come to the knowledge of the truth. He is the one who will take care of what has been started. Part of the continued care will come from the leaders that He raised up here in Burkina Faso. Three men; Leopold, Joseph, and Espoir, have been training with me to continue the teachings of Christ. Joseph and Espoir will depart for the Lutheran Seminary in Togo starting in August. The studies last three years after which they will return to shepherd these new congregations. Leopold, the elder, will lead the congregations in their absence. It is very important that you keep these infant congregations and young leaders in your prayers.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:7

Thank you for your support

As many of you know, our family endured many tribulations and struggles in our two years on the field. We had many health issues and struggled adapting to the extreme weather and culture differences. You have been along side us, praying for us and supporting us all along the way. Although there were many struggles, you can see from our newsletters and website that many successes and joys have been seen.

The majority of the family will be leaving in two weeks time to join Tiina's parents in Finland so that she can give birth in a comfortable and supporting environment. I will continue training the leaders and try to pack up the house during the month of June. We hope to visit a number of congregations this fall to present what God has done in these two years and also to thank those of you who we can in person. Our entire family wishes to thank you for all your love and support.
Your brothers and sisters in Christ,
The May Family (James, Tiina, Maggie, Tristan, Sarai, Sofia, and baby May)


We always need your prayer support. At this time we ask your prayers for;

Praise God for many conversions and baptisms. Pray that all may continually be strengthened in the faith that Christ has given them.

Our family in transition; it is not easy to pack up and move, especially so quickly and with a pregnant momma and four little kids running around.

Concordia Lutheran Church in Tingandogo, Sognaaba Lutheran Church, and the Refugee Lutheran Church as they grow in knowledge and faith.

Espoir, Leopold, and Joseph, as they prepare to become ministers of God's Word.

That others may be raised up as leaders of the church to lead the growing number of converts.

Those we know, that we may continue working with them and encourage them in the Christian faith.

Those we meet, that we may have opportunities to share the Gospel.

Our faith, that the Risen Lord and Savior would strengthen us.

For more photos of Concordia Lutheran Church inTingandogo, Burkina Faso, West Africa, go to:

Perhaps phone calls and emails to LCMS World Mission for explanation or expressing what you think about this situation would be in order.

Here is my request of the LCMS World Mission Regional Director for Africa, Paul Mueller:

Would you please explain why Rev. James May and family have been recalled from Pr. May's mission in West Africa? How does this square with the mission mindedness and concern for lost souls of ABLAZE!?

Pastor Hering

Rev. Kurt Hering
Trinity, Layton, Utah

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Unity of Confession: The Work of God in the Church


Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. John 17:11

In a conversation about church a pastor told one of his parishoners, "We should expect to find 3 types of people in the church: 1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken. 2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/’’rote consistency’’ 3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.

Let us take a look at them in reverse order:

3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.
Of this the Apostle Paul writes, "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." Col 2:18

There are those within the church who, either intentionally or unintentionally, re-arrange the teachings of God's Word in a way that takes Christ out of the center and replaces Him with self-centered or creation-centered teachings. That is, they would take things such as Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the church service in general and rearrange them so as to teach and practice them in a way that it is the people who are serving and being faithful to God in these sacraments when in truth it is first and foremost God who is serving and being faithful to us.

2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/"rote consistency."

Of this the Apostle Peter writes: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them__ bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." 2 Pet 2:1-2

There are those within the church who, again either intentionally or unintentionally, replace the teachings of God with more modern, enlightened thinking that, while supposedly used to "grow the church," "make it more relevant" and "spread the word," actually serve to introduce novelties which effectively replace God's Word and Sacrament that are the same power of salvation for all people through all time.

In both cases . . . "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator__ who is forever praised." Rom 1:25
How do they get away with it?

Paul explains it this way, "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations." 2 Tim 4:3-5

Such as these have . . .
lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Col 2:19

This connection is what Christ is praying for in Gospel lesson and text for today. And when we speak of . . .
1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken are those who keep connection with the head, Jesus Christ.
. . . We speak of the same thing for which Jesus is praying . . . that the Father would make and keep those who believe in Him as one even as He and the Father are One. For He is praying that the people of His church would be like those people of the church who would fix or replace bricks only when they are loose or broken, that is, they would keep their head in all situations and remain united by the ligaments of Word and Sacrament that Christ has provided for just that reason.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Rom 1:17
Which faith comes from hearing the message [that is, teaching], and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Rom 10:17
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey [that is, to observe and abide in] everything I have commanded [read, "taught"] you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" Matt 28:19-20
This being the case, until Jesus comes again, He tells His pastors via the pen of Paul to simply:
devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim 4:13-16

Dear people of TLC and the LCMS. This is the only way to grow a church. The ligaments, the mortar of sound teaching passed down by Christ through the Apostles and all generations of faithful Christians is how the body of Christ "grows as God causes it to grow." Col 2:19
This is the tradition that you observe and carry on. A tradition not based in the feelings, teachings or practices of men, but on the doctrine, or teachings, of the One Holy, Christian and Apostolic faith. Without these teachings that were passed on from Christ himself to His Apostles and thence to His church, there is no church -- for the church is Christ’s body, held together only as He holds it together.

This is no easy thing for us to undergo. In fact it is likened unto Holy warfare.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph 6:17
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double_edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Heb 4:12

Jesus himself reminds us of this very thing when He says,
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter_in_law against her mother_in_law– a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matt 10:34-38

Again, dear people of TLC and the LCMS. Dear baptized of God, this is indeed what you have been called to. For . . .
There is one body and one Spirit__ just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:4-6

Therein is the unity that Christ prayed for that day to prepare His disciples for His departure so they would not go astray and so He would not lose even one that had been given to Him by the Father.

Therein is the unity for which each of the Holy Apostles , save John, were martyred.

This unity is what Paul was upholding "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Gal 2:11

This unity is what the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were written for in the face of false teaching.
Athanasian – "This is the catholic which; except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."

This unity is what the reformation was all about:
FoC – "In order to preserve doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting and God-pleasing concord [unity] within the church, it is ESSENTIAL not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine [teaching] correctly, but also to accuse adversaries who teach otherwise." [It is only by such correction that adversaries are brought back into concord.]

This unity is what the LCMS was founded upon. The Saxons left Germany because they were being forced to worship with those who taught and practiced falsely, contrary to concord/unity.

This unity is what many of us in the LCMS are struggling for as others insist on unity born and held together by men and their desires, works and charismatic leaders.

This unity is what our own congregation emphasizes in her Constitution –
Whereas the Word of God demands that a Christian congregation not only conform to the Word of God in doctrine and practice (Psalms 119:105, Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:1-5), but that also things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40); therefore we, the members of Trinity lutheran Church, Layton, Utah, set forth by this present document, signed by ourselves, the Constitution and the By-Laws in accordance with which our congregation affairs, spiritual and material, shall be conducted.
The name of this congregation shall be:
TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH, in Layton, Davis County, Utah
and shall be affiliated with the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
The purpose of this body shall be that of a religious organization, more specifically that of a Christian congregation established and maintained for the expressed purpose of disseminating the Gospel truth according to the confessional standards of the Lutheran Church, the Book of Concord of the year 1580, and for the purpose of Christian training of the youth.
This congregation acknowledges and accepts all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God verbally inspired, and acknowledges and accepts all the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of the year 1580 to be the true and genuine exposition of the doctrines of the Bible. These symbolical books are: the three ecumenical creeds (The Apostolic, The Nicene, and The Athanasian), The unaltered Augsburg Confession, The Apology of the Same, The Smalcald Articles, Luther's Large and Small Catechism, and the Formula of Concord. All forms used for the rites of the sacraments, all orders of worship used in divine public worship, and all text books used for religious instruction must conform to the confessional standards of this congregation.
No one can become or remain a member of this congregation nor enjoy the rights and privileges of such membership unless the person:
a) is baptized;
b) accepts all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the only divine rule and standard of faith and conduct;
c) is acquainted with and accepts Luther's Small Catechism;
d) leads a Christian life and abstains from manifest works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21);
e) attends divine services faithfully and partakes of the Lord's Supper frequently;
f) submits, for the sake of love and peace, to the regulations already made or still to be made, by this body (provided they do not conflict with the Word of God) and accepts brotherly admonition when having erred or offended;
g) is not a member of any secret or other organization that conflicts with the Word of God.

Some accuse us of legalism. But legalism is false teaching that points to laws that we must follow, things we must do in order to be saved.

What we are talking about is a unity in teaching, unity that repeats only that which Christ has first given us, for in that unity is life and that is the farthest thing from legalism. That is a unity of Confession
"Whoever acknowledges [confesses] me before men, I will also acknowledge [confess] him before my Father in heaven." Matt 10:32

This may not be easy, but it is rewarding.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Rev 2:10

God grant that even as our Lord has prayed for us, so will it be done among us – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Laugh

Missional Minded: Follow the Money

A crusty old man walks into the local outreach/seeker oriented church office and says to the secretary, "I would like to join this damn church."

The astonished woman replies, "I beg your pardon, sir. I must have misunderstood you. What did you say?"

"Listen up, damn it. I said I want to join this damn church!"

"I'm very sorry sir, but that kind of language is not tolerated in this Church."

The secretary leaves her desk and goes into the pastor's study to inform him of her situation.

The pastor agrees that the secretary does not have to listen to that foul language.

They both return to her office and the pastor asks the old geezer,"Sir, what seems to be the problem here?"

"There is no damn problem," the man says. "I just won $200 million bucks in the damn lottery and I want to join this damn church to get rid of some of this damn money for the damn tax deduction."

"I see," said the pastor. "And is this %!+@# giving you a hard time?"