Mark Dankof's America

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Lutheran Ministerium and Synod—USA

Imputation and Declaration: The Links to God’s Grace in Jesus Christ

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

 

[Mark Dankof’s article will appear in the next edition of Table Talk, the national publication of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod, an affiliate of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The article is a condensed version of a presentation on the Lutheran version of the doctrine of Justification by Grace Through Faith in Christ made recently to a seminar of evangelical Protestant high school students in San Antonio.]

—————————————————————————————————————-

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed [δὲ οὐκ ἐλλογεῖται μὴ ὄντος] when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign [δωρεᾶς τῆς δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες ἐν] in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 5:12-19 King James Version (KJV)

 

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God [ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν] in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

– King James Bible “Authorized Version” Cambridge Edition

 

       Before we begin to cover the material in earnest, indulge me in a compulsive practice of mine that always characterized my time as an instructor in San Antonio at the former Texas Bible College.  It has characterized my time as a humble pastor in a small and struggling Lutheran parish in the Alamo City when I conduct classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, and in every other pastoral call I’ve ever had.

       That practice is to recommend some of the best books available in assisting believing pastor and lay person alike in the regular and deeper study of God’s Word.  Every one of these books I will briefly mention today has been penned by individuals more gifted than I in this endeavor.  I am thankful I can access their work.  I am thankful I can commend the repository of Biblical knowledge and insight of these men and women to you.

       Consider the following as lifelong resources to add to your individual libraries over the course of time.  The first resource is the newly released update of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE, ISBN 9780310276197) a 5 volume set of 3,552 pages compiled under the supervision and superintendence of Dr. Moises Silva, the Revision Editor who has blessed Westmont College, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary over time with his brand of painstaking scholarship in complete submission to the authority of God’s Word and the Gospel of Christ. Download a free primer on the NIDNTTE at http://www.bit.ly/nidntte.

       Several one volume introductions to the Old and New Testament will always serve you in good stead.  Try An Old Testament Introduction (ISBN 9780310263418) by Tremper Longman III of Westmont College, and the late Raymond Dillard of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Add An Introduction to the New Testament (ISBN 9780310238591) by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, both of whom were professors of mine at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

       Since the Charismatic Renewal movement is something one will encounter in so many places today, I will commend to everyone here the book entitled, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: 4 Views (ISBN 9780310201557). The contributors include my old friend and instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Gaffin; Robert L. Saucy; C. Samuel Storms; and Douglas A. Oss.  Another of my New Testament instructors from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is the editor of this critical book, Dr. Wayne Grudem.

       Finally, I have slavishly used charts as a student and as a pastor trying to plumb the depths of God’s Word.  The Zondervan Publishing Company’s series of charts on every conceivable subject is worth your acquisition for the subjects you are drawn to study and examine as the Holy Spirit leads.

     Every seminar presentation I make is based on a circle.  My reference recommendations are the beginning of the circle which will conclude with where we have now begun.

     Let’s begin in earnest.  I have been asked to give this largely Protestant evangelical, non-Lutheran gathering of fine young people, a presentation of the essential aspects of orthodox Lutheran theological and Biblical insight on the person and work of Jesus Christ and the implications of this Biblically revealed Christology for the plan God has established from all eternity for the salvation of the Israel of God.  By this latter term, I mean all those through the ages who have “confessed with their lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

     Put another way, the person and work of Jesus Christ and its centrality in God’s provision for salvation, is a fact in history if one accepts the Biblical witness.  But what are the implications for each of you?  Do each of you possess eternal life and salvation in the coming Kingdom of God, or not?  If not, the objective truth of the Biblical witness that “. . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . ” (John 1:14) is for you, an irrelevancy.

     Last summer, I made a presentation to the national gathering of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA entitled, “The Hands of Time and the Appearance of Logos.”  In turn, that address was based on a 1996 talk and subsequent article entitled, “Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy.”  The 1996 presentation underscored how the early Confessing Church had to wrestle with all of the ancient Christological heresies whose presuppositions and methodology provide the foundation for every modern Christological heresy which threatens the Confessing Church of the present age.  I stated then that:

      “Among many heretical movements of significance to the early church were Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism.  Out of orthodoxy’s clash with these came an increasingly systematized Christian theological rebuttal and the formulation of affirmative creedal statements. These statements may be seen not only as the voice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church staking out its position in challenges past — but as the bequeathed legacy to today’s church, which must turn, paradoxically, to the past, to understand the ideological lineage and connections of ancient enemies to modern antagonists, as well to recover its own historical memory as the key to the reestablishment of a previously possessed Biblical identity, obscured by compromise with doctrinal relativism and repristinated apostasy.

       In summarizing these papers of the past two decades quickly, let me simply say that the Biblical witness is clear in the rebuttal of all apostates and heretics in history:  Jesus Christ is True God and True Man.  His active and perfect obedience to God’s law; His passive obedience to God the Father in willingly suffering death on the Cross at Calvary as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish; and the reality in time and space of his Resurrection from the dead are the sole basis for the salvation and eternal life of all who believe (John 14:6).  For those who believe, the Apostle Paul underscores the truism that “. . . no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).

     Fair enough. But given the comprehensive sinfulness and rebellion of all of humanity described by Paul in Romans 3: 9-20, how is it that the Holy Spirit and saving faith are bestowed upon some and not others? How are some declared righteous by God and not others, since all have an equally and fatally corrosive inability to observe the law perfectly as a prerequisite for earning God’s declaration of righteousness (Romans 3: 20)?

       Put another way, the key question is this:  How is the righteousness of God in Christ, and the benefit of status as one of God’s redeemed through Christ alone for all eternity, transferred or conveyed to each and every comprehensively sinful person in Adam (Romans 5:12f) who is subsequently able to “confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead“? (Romans 10:9).

       Enter the ingredients necessary for the appropriate reception of believing faith in Christ through the Holy Spirit of God, and the accompanying priceless gift of eternal salvation in Christ, and Christ alone:  These are the Imputation of God to the believer of an alien righteousness inherently extrinsic to all of humanity impacted by the sin of Adam.  This alien righteousness has its center in the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ alone. The forensic Declaration of God that the Israel of God is righteous in Christ follows. The believer’s salvific status before God is the result of this process of Imputation and Declaration.  He or she can contribute not one whit to what has been accomplished by the Son of God on behalf of each and every Saint.  In a nutshell, the Protestant Reformational truth that we are justified by God’s grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, is absolutely and irrevocably linked to what the New Testament tells us about Imputation and Declaration.  The Lutheran tradition and the Reformed are in complete accord on this mysterious truth.

     As a pastor and theologian with but limited gifts, I never attempt to reinvent the wheel built by our best scholars and exegetes in time.  However, God has given me a special gift in enabling me to find, evaluate, and catalog for your use and mine some of the best Biblical scholarship available either now or in the past.  When it comes to Imputation and Declaration, I will summarize what I believe is one of the best recent presentations on the subject of the Evangelical–and truly both Lutheran and Reformed–position on this critical subject.

     I commend to you The Gospel Coalition’s relatively recent book entitled “The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices” edited by D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller (Crossway, 2012).  For purposes of this seminar conversation today, I ask you to zero in on chapter 9, written by Wheaton College President and Reformed Scholar, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken. Chapter 9 is simply entitled, “Justification.”

     My summation of that chapter will hopefully provide your own roadmap to future Biblical study of the link between Imputation and Declaration, and the Doctrine of Justification understood in the context of God’s mysterious and merciful provision for salvation in Jesus Christ.  My summation largely coincides with that of evangelical Armenian scholar Roger E. Olson, except my evaluation of Ryken is more favorable. Olson is certainly a believer in Christ.  But note that his tradition parts with Luther and Calvin on the subject of free will, and with Augustine, Luther, and Calvin on the issue of the semi-Pelagianism of Jacob Armenius.  I cannot deal with this at great length now.  But please do not miss out on the critical differences inherent in these respective interpretations. Here then is the summary of chapter 9:

     1)  Ryken calls Justification the Chief Article.” He says “This doctrine holds a place near the center of the gospel.” (153)

     2)  Ryken bases most of his exposition of justification on passages from Romans, especially chapters 3 and 5. According to him, these Pauline passages and other passages of the New Testament, taken together, propound the truth that in salvation God “does not simply clear a sinner of all charges; he declares a sinner to be positively righteous. Justification is God’s legal declaration that, on the basis of the perfect life and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, received by faith, a sinner is as righteous as his own beloved Son.” (155-156)

     3)  This chapter is, for the most part, a straightforward account of the classical Lutheran-Reformed doctrine of justification as forensic imputation of righteousness. The emphasis is on legal metaphors, on declaration and imputation and not on personal relationship, reconciliation or transformation (of the person being saved). Salvation is primarily a change of legal status in relation to God’s judgment.  While the emphasis is on legal metaphors and change of legal status, this fact does provide the foundation for subsequent sanctification and walking in personal relationship with the Biblical God who is a personal being in constant engagement with His chosen.

     4)  Ryken believes the very doctrine of God is at stake in his doctrine of justification. Anyone who thinks God can simply forgive a repentant sinner without imputing Christ’s righteousness to him or her (something else he makes clear in the chapter) is impugning the character of God.

     5)  The most fascinating portion of the chapter is the logical symmetry Ryken presents in “The Righteousness of Justification: A Triple Imputation.” Ryken argues that Adam’s sin (meaning guilt) is imputed to everyone; our sin is imputed to Christ (on the cross) and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us in salvation. The key verses he cites for this triple imputation are Romans 5:12-19 (imputation of Adam’s sin to us) and 2 Corinthians 5:21 (our sins imputed to Christ and his righteousness imputed to us).

     As I promised at the beginning of this conversation, we have come full circle at the very end.  Why do I say this?  Let me first ask two questions only you can answer for yourself: Are these Biblical truths appropriated by you and for you in faith? Second, is what has been the understanding of God’s mysterious provision for your salvation and mine articulated by the Lutheran and Reformed traditions historically, and in my presentation of the position of Dr. Ryken today, the correct understanding of the Word of God?

     This is where your journey only begins, as the Holy Spirit of God moves and directs you.  Get the newly released update of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE, ISBN 9780310276197), Moises Silva (ed.) as I directed at the beginning of the circle.

   And obtain Strong’s Greek and Hebrew concordances.  See the words below in Strong’s concordances.  Use Strong’s in conjunction with NIDNTTE.  And begin a journey with our Biblical texts cited when we started today, and a lifelong journey with the entirety of God’s prophetic and apostolic Word.  You will be glad you did.

     Thank you, and may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

λογίζομαι (logizomai)  Strong’s Number 3049

δίκαιος, ία, ιον (dikaios)  Strong’s Number 1342

δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune)  Strong’s Number 1343

δίκη, ης, ἡ  (diké)  Strong’s Number 1349

ἐλλογέω (Ellogeo)   Strong’s Number 1677

חָשַׁב  (chashab)  Strong’s Hebrew Number 2803

imputare (Latin)

The Hands of Time and the Appearance of Logos: Mark Dankof for the LMS-USA Conference 2014

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

[Mark Dankof’s presentation to the 2014 national conference of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA in June 2014 is reproduced in edited/abridged version below.  In response to specific requests, the 2014 message demonstrates the continued relevance to the Confessing Church of Jesus Christ of the Ancient Church’s fight to preserve the Biblical witness to the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ as pivotal to the reality of the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity, enacted in linear time in the physical cosmos.  Of primary relevance to this 2014 discussion is the 1996 presentation of Pastor Dankof to the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA in Indianapolis entitled, “Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy.”

“In the beginning was the Word , and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning [Genesis 1:1].  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  [λόγος: DNTT, vol. 3, pages 1081-1146, esp. p. 1115; B. Klappert, author; Colin Brown, editor ]

The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-5

“But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.”  [καιροὶ:  DNTT, vol. 3, pages 833-39; H.-C. Hahn, author; Colin Brown, editor]

2 Timothy 3: 1-5

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately.  ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’  Jesus answered:  ‘Watch out, that no one deceives  you.'”  [πλανήσῃ:  DNTT, vol. 2, pages 457-61; W. Gunther, author; Colin Brown, editor]

Matthew 24: 3-4

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.”

Plato (427-347 B. C.)

“One had to look very closely [in pre-war Germany] to see the cloven hoof beneath the angel’s luminous robes.  . . . If I read the signs aright, we are close to midnight.”

Pastor Helmut Thielicke

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

     On this beautiful day at the very beginning of summer at Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek, Wisconsin in 2014, we prepare to take a look back–and a look ahead–at time, and God’s revelation in time in the Logos [λόγος].  My assignment for the fine people of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA today, and for the entirety of the Israel of God, the Confessing Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, is to do so with reference to my message delivered to this gathering in Indianapolis in 1996, entitled “Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy.”  I am proud that the University of Dayton would later see fit to use this paper in a graduate theology course on the subject.  I am equally proud that my last couple of projects for our yearly gatherings have made their rounds around the world, thanks to the marvelous technology of our age.  These include “The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant” two years ago, and last year’s homily at the concluding worship service of our National Convention entitled, “The Chosen People of God:  Who Are They?“.

     I shall succumb to the temptation to begin with a story.  My colleagues in secular media and news commentary refer to me off-camera and off-the-air as The Storyteller. Stories have enabled me to survive in media and in pulpits for many years, because good ones illustrate timeless principles and truths that God reveals to us within time, as a means of understanding transcendent truths and teaching these truths to others who subsequently apply them to their own lives in this mysterious odyssey we call life, lived in linear time and space before our subsequent arrival in the Kingdom of God in eternity past, present, and future.

     This story only goes back in time to this past Father’s Day evening, June 15th, 2014.  I was walking the dogs in my local neighborhood of Northern Hills in San Antonio.  Our San Antonio Spurs NBA basketball team, which a year ago blew Game 6 of the NBA Finals–and then the title in Game 7–to the Miami Heat, had just won the rematch on Father’s Day evening by closing out Miami 107-87 in Game 5 at the AT&T Center in the Alamo City.  The core theme of this victory in both the national and San Antonio media is one of Redemption.

     I could hear the celebratory horn honkings, the group cheering of the neighborhood block parties, and the postgame firecrackers and fireworks, in the distant darkness. Although I was thrilled to see the Spurs win the NBA championship, especially after last year’s collapse with a 5 point lead and only 28.5 seconds to play in Game 6, I was suddenly overcome by a strange and overpowering sadness. My first thought was of my late Father, who passed away 5 years ago.  He had been a Spurs fan since 1977.  We had lived and died together through the fortunes of this storied pro basketball team, and through the ups and downs of the championship seasons of 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007.  I have many memories of those days with him, in his final years.  But now on this Father’s Day, the miraculous acquisition of a 5th World’s Championship for the Alamo City suddenly seemed hollow.  My Dad wasn’t here to see it, and to celebrate this San Antonio Spurs victory with his longtime Army Air Corps/Air Force golfing partners at the local Windcrest Golf Course.  These other boyhood treasures are now also gone, every last one of them.  Where did time in this cosmos go?

Colonel Karl E. Dankof (USAF, ret.) in section 54, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D. C., off Admiral Leahy Drive.

Colonel Karl E. Dankof (USAF, ret.) in section 54, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D. C., off Admiral Leahy Drive.

     There was a second thought in the night as I walked:  Thousands, millions of people can be engaged in an NBA Basketball Championship quest.  But where are these thousands, millions of souls when it comes to engaging in the study and painstaking search of God’s Word and its timeless truths, as the Holy Spirit of God directs?  

Coach Gregg Popovitch and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs after clinching a 5th NBA Title on Father's Day 2014.

Coach Gregg Popovitch and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs after clinching a 5th NBA Title on Father’s Day 2014.

     In this regard, in my brief lifetime, I have personally witnessed the demise of hunger for the Word of God in American culture and the accompanying demise of Christian morality that threatens our individual and collective survival.  It would seem that the Drug and Sexual Revolutions of the 1960s have won.  The Frankfurt School’s Institute of Social Research, and the gurus of higher Biblical criticism and impoverished American “Christianity”, have eclipsed the theology and personal piety of Lutheran and Reformed Protestant Christianity in our land, even as I speak today.  Our cherished American Republic would seem to have died, only to be replaced by an Empire taking on Beast-like characteristics.  Where are we going?  What does it mean?  Will the America many of us knew in the distant past be absolutely gone by 2025, as Pat Buchanan’s last book seems to predict?  Are we truly witnessing the Suicide of a Superpower, and the suicide of the Christian theology and culture of our forefathers?  It would seem so.

Pat Buchanan and Mark Dankof in San Antonio, Texas.  1995.

Pat Buchanan and Mark Dankof in San Antonio, Texas. 1995.

     It was not always so, either in the United States specifically or in the Western world generally.  Dr. C. George Fry’s essay on Helmut Thielicke for the Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (Baker, 1993, pages 219-233) documents the hunger of average Germans for the Word of God and the Gospel in the darkest days of World War II. I share this wonderful material with you now, in the firm belief that as the signs point to the impending arrival of an American midnight in these dark days of the 21st century’s advancing onslaught, the experience of German believers and Helmut Thielicke seven decades ago will be used of the Holy Spirit of God to speak to you and to empower you, as the circumstances of advancing time enshroud each and every one of us in the days and nights emerging.

Helmut Thielicke:  Preaching the Gospel near Midnight in the Stuttgart Cathedral.

Helmut Thielicke: Preaching the Gospel near Midnight in the Stuttgart Cathedral.

     Dr. Fry notes that when Thielicke was ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1941, it was not at all evident that he would become Germany’s “preacher for apocalyptic times whose teaching had a sense of eschatological urgency” (Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, page 219).  The Fry essay tells us that Thielicke’s ordination in 1941 was preceded by his 1940 removal by the State from his initial teaching position at the University of Heidelberg (p. 223).  His unemployment only ended due to the courage and grace of Bishop Theophil Wurm of the territorial church of Wurttemberg, who provided Thielicke a pastorate in the little town of Ravensburg in southern Germany, where the Gestapo imposed an injunction which proscribed Thielicke from traveling or speaking anywhere else in the country (p. 223).  It is noteworthy that in this time frame, Thielicke’s sole comfort was in absolute immersion in the study of God’s Word (p. 224). It was perhaps assumed that Thielicke would remain in a state of exile not unlike John at Patmos under Domitian (A. D. 81-96), for the duration of his life.

     But God had other plans.  Emerging from exile in Ravensburg, Thielicke was called to head the Theological Office of the Church of Wurttemberg (1943-45), and was inexplicably given permission by the Nazi authorities to deliver an evening lecture each week in the historic Stuttgart Cathedral.  Fry underscores (p. 224) that Thielicke knew that he “must prepare people for the terrible things that lay before them by giving them instruction–quite simply, just instruction in the mysteries of our faith.”

     As Dr. Fry chronicles this, Thielicke chose basic weapons in the fight to equip his listeners:  the Word of God itself and the Small Catechism of Martin Luther.  I know these have been my own basic weapons in the fight to equip a believing remnant in the United States since my ordination 30 years ago.  But like Pastor Spears, Pastor Erickson, Pastor Thorson, and other faithful teachers of the Word in the LMS–USA, I see no present larger-scale evidence of what I believe will yet come, a renewal of hungering for the Gospel on the part of a larger segment of our communities around the country.  What will be the circumstance of this renewal future?  It is my belief that the Confessing Church will be re-energized in the Refiner’s Fire of the apocalyptic developments ahead for the United States and the globe in world history.  As it was in Germany then, so shall it be with what looms on the political horizon now.

Helmut Thielicke:  Being a Christian When the Chips are Down.  Is America Nearing Midnight?

Helmut Thielicke: Being a Christian When the Chips are Down. Is America Nearing Midnight?

     I most assuredly am not looking forward to what this is going to mean in either my life or yours.  But I do look forward to the renewal of Biblical study and the deep yearning for the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ that will move more people to seek the truth of the deepest mysteries of God, in the briefly open window of opportunity that will beckon in the midst of the terror and calamity prophesied by Christ in the Olivet Discourse.  In the time of Thielicke’s re-emergence from exile in the darkest days of the eclipse of German national fortunes in the Second World War, he would experience something I hope every faithful Pastor in this Conference Room will yet see before the ending of his days.  Let Dr. Fry unfold this marvelous testimony of those days of the Presence of Light in the midst of the darkness:

     “As he lectured [in Stuttgart Cathedral] on its five principle parts [Small Catechism of Luther]–the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper–‘evening after evening some three thousand persons gathered together; workers and businessmen, students and professors, soldiers and generals, Nazi functionaries (naturally in civilian clothes!) and Jews, Dutch compulsory laborers . . . and sometimes whole classes from the schools.  It was an overwhelming time for me.  Never since have I experienced such intense listening.’      Soon the massive air raids began.  When the streetcars could no longer run, people ‘came on foot, often from many miles away, through the fields of ruins and rubble’ even on dark and frightening winter evenings.  But then the [Stuttgart] cathedral was destroyed.  Thielicke wrote, ‘I can still see the towering torch of this venerable house of God.  . . . I stood there holding in my hand a key to a door that no longer existed.'”

The original Stuttgart Cathedral is located in Stuttgart-Bad-Canstatt. Its history goes back all the way to 1470. After massive destruction during the Second World War, the church was rebuilt in 1954/55.

The original Stuttgart Cathedral is located in Stuttgart-Bad-Canstatt. Its history goes back all the way to 1470. After massive destruction during the Second World War, the church was rebuilt in 1954/55.

     With Thielicke and the destruction of the Stuttgart Cathedral in mind, with reference to the impending threats to our country and the world in the 21st century, let us again turn briefly to my remarks before many of you in Indianapolis in 1996 in Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy.  The central question of both 1996 and 2014 is the same one posed by Thielicke 70 years ago to the German people.  It is the core question of all of history and eternity alike:  Who is Jesus Christ and Why and How did He become the Word [λόγος] Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us? (John 1:14).  To effectively answer this question, each and every believer must once again “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude, verse 3).”  We can only contend when we are immersed in the knowledge of the Word of God and the Confessions of our Faith as the Holy Spirit of God directs during countless hours of personal and collective study.  We must avail ourselves of the Full Armor of God (Ephesians 6).

The Word (Logos) is God.

The Word (Logos) is God.

     The Biblical text from John’s Gospel for today demonstrates the humanity and divinity of the λόγος.  As we saw in my 1996 paper to this gathering in Indianapolis, the Ancient Church was not inventing its doctrine of the λόγος.  It was fighting for the maintenance of the Biblical witness to the identity of the λόγος against all heretical and apostate teachers with their false doctrine and witness.  In 1996, I stated:

     “If we assume the legitimacy of the Sola Scriptura today, and assume a commitment to the Lutheran Confessions as the normative explication of what the Bible teaches, an appropriate launching point for answering some of these raised questions may lie in what occurs first in the Book of Concord of 1580, namely the listing of the Three Ecumenical Creeds, or Three Chief Symbols of the Church as the foundational basis of all the Confessions which follow. This is important for several reasons.  First, the Confessions wanted to reiterate that their articles of faith were neither recent nor heretical, but were undergirded by the theological and historical foundations of the early Church. Second, it is noteworthy that the controversies of the second, third, and fourth centuries were consistently deemed applicable to the struggles of the Reformers in the sixteenth century. Third, if historical and theological struggles and issues of centuries two, three, and four continued to be relevant in the sixteenth, one might suspect the possibility of a prima facie relevance of those developments to a church under renewed attack from similar, in some cases identical forces, as we approach the beginning of the twenty first century. The writer of Ecclesiastes states that, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’—this may well be his verdict on Biblical theology’s constantly recast conflict with false doctrine — fought time and again within the confines and context of redemptive history.”

     When you and I sing and say today all of the components of the Ancient Liturgy, which constantly employ Scripture and the ancient witness to the core teaching in all of Scripture regarding the identity and significance of the λόγος, we stand with our ancient brothers and sisters in Christ against the identical heresies and apostasies of Satan sown in the false teachers and deceivers of our time.  These range from the Clown Eucharists of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and ELCA liberals and universalists in our midst, to the Trivial Pursuits and cultural accommodationism of the Southern Baptist pastor in Houston two decades ago who conducted a “service” on Super Bowl Sunday vested in an NFL referee’s uniform and whistle. We stand with the Confessing Church of the Ages against the apostates of the “Reimagining Conference 1993” who blasphemed the Holy Trinity by worshiping the Goddess Sophia, and who venerated radical feminism and lesbianism even as the Conference banner in the sanctuary was an exquisitely embroidered picture of The Beast.  And we stand with our ancient counterparts as the Lutheran Reformers of the 16th century did, against the outright Montanism and exhibitionism of a “Prayer and Praise” service witnessed by people in this Conference Room 24 years ago at the Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The writer of Ecclesiastes indeed understood the verdict of history and linear time:  “There is nothing new under the sun.”

     John’s witness to the  λόγος is repristinated each time we sing the Kyrie, Agnus Dei, or Nunc Dimittis.  It is repristinated each time we confess our faith with the Apostles’, Nicene, or Athanasian Creed.  We encounter the λόγος in the mystery of the Eucharist tied to the Biblical Words of Institution of Christ.  We encounter λόγος in the Old Testament, New Testament Epistle, and New Testament Gospel readings.  He is a living reality, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  We deny λόγος when we bend to the whims of the post-Christian spirit of this dark age, embodied in the false teachers and teachings already enumerated.  

     And what a blessed Biblical witness to the  λόγος lies before us in John’s text today and throughout his Gospel!  The identity of the  λόγος is clearly stated in John’s prologue, even as it is through the entirety of the book woven around 7 Miracles and 7 Discourses emphasizing the linkage of the  λόγος to the I Am of the Old Testament (6:35, 48; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15: 1-5.).

Jesus Christ, the Logos. John, chapter 1.

Jesus Christ, the Logos. John, chapter 1.

     Klappert gives us the roadmap for understanding John’s Prologue.  He divides it into 3 sections:

     “ 1)  The pre-existent being of the λόγος (John 1: 1-4).  ‘In the beginning’ is the λόγος–not ‘at the beginning’ of Creation (Genesis 1:1), but in the ‘time before time’ of divine eternity–was the λόγος (pre-existence of the Word, John 1:1), the λόγος was with God (personal reference, John 1:2), indeed the ‘λόγος was God’ (essential divinity of the λόγος, John 1:1) .  By this λόγος , whereby the universe was created, men have their life and the benefit of light (John 1:3f.).  2)  The coming of the λόγος to the world of men and his incomprehensible rejection (John 1: 5-13).  The λόγος who came into the world, to whom John the Baptist bore witness (John 1: 6-8; in the Evangelist’s mind vv. 5ff. thus already hint at the Incarnation), was rejected by men in an incomprehensible way (John 1: 9-11), with the exception of those who came to faith and thus became children of God (John 1:12f.)  3)  The event of the incarnation of the λόγος and its redeeming significance (John 1: 14-18).  Without surrendering–indeed, rather, in the application of his essential divinity, the λόγος became a mortal man (sarx), took up residence amongst men, and, as the presence of God’s glory with men, signified the gift of God’s grace and covenant faithfulness to them (John 1: 14, 16), surpassing the OT revelation of the word in the commandment and becoming event in Jesus Christ (John 1:17f.).”    [λόγος: DNTT, vol. 3, pages 1081-1146, esp. p. 1115, B. Klappert, author; Colin Brown, editor ] 

     The Who is Jesus Christ? has been answered in John’s Prologue and in linear history in time and space.  The Why of Jesus Christ is also stated in the Prologue, and what is arguably the greatest summary statement in all of Scripture, found at the conclusion of the Evangelist’s Gospel:

     “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:  but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20: 30-31).

     When we confess our Biblical faith through Creeds, Confessions, and Liturgy, we reaffirm the faith of the ages and  “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude, verse 3)”.  We stand with our Lord against the false witness of Caiphas, the Sanhedrin, and the mob which called for the release of Barabbas.  We stand with the Apostles in witness against the Jewish and Roman opponents of the Gospel in the first century.  We stand with the Ancient Fathers and Councils against the 5 heresies of Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism that were chronicled for you in Indianapolis in 1996.  We stand with Luther and Chemnitz against Pope Leo X and the heresies of the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

     And we also stand against the evil forces and developments of our own day.  Our Pauline text from 2 Timothy 3: 1-5, and our Lord’s witness to the events of the future preceding his Second Coming in Matthew 24: 3-4 guarantee this.  Make no mistake about it.  You and I will be challenged and oppressed for our faith in Christ in ways not previously seen or encountered by most of us.  To  “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude, verse 3)” as our illustrious predecessors did, will require the ongoing presence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit beyond anything we have known before.  The Spirit’s leading and protection will be directly proportional to our involvement with the Word and with the Sacrament.  Our future pathway in faith in Christ is guaranteed to be the toughest and most taxing journey of our lives, even as the Blessed Return of our Lord stands at the end of that race.

     H.-C. Hahn notes this in DNTT.  The καιροὶ of “the final days” (2 Timothy 3: 1-5) is a “tension-laden time“.  καιροὶ is a “point of time, a moment” which “characterizes a critical situation, one which demands a decision, one into which man is perhaps led by fate.”  Used in a negative sense, it “implies danger”   [καιροὶ:  DNTT, vol. 3, pages 833-39; H.-C. Hahn, author; Colin Brown, editor].

     That danger is linked to the deception our Lord warned us would come in Matthew 24: 3-4  [πλανήσῃ:  DNTT, vol. 2, pages 457-61; W. Gunther, author; Colin Brown, editor].  W. Gunther indicates that the classical Greek usage of deception is inextricably linked to injustice (adikia) and evil (kakia).  He states that in the New Testament, the active verb for deception is used almost exclusively in an apocalyptic sense and of false teachers.  As an adjective, the term is used to describe deceitful spirits (I Timothy 4:1).  As a noun, it is used to describe a deceiver, an imposter, a false teacher. In the New Testament, the verb “to deceive” is used interchangeably with the verb “to destroy” (apollyo).  And Satan is described specifically as The Destroyer (Revelation 9:11).  H.-C. Hahn notes in quoting Oepke in DNTT, Vol. 1. pages 462-65 that we may reliably link deception and destruction in the New Testament sense asdefinitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death.”

     We must be convinced, as John was on Patmos during his exile at the hands of Domitian (A. D. 81-96), that earthly exile is far better than experiencing this Second Death.

     Surely by now you know the drill.  These are the stakes.  This is the apocalyptic struggle of our time, soon to intensify as the fight of our lives, the fight of our souls, for everything we have ever believed and confessed in Creeds, Confessions, and Liturgy.  We will indeed, in these final days, “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude, verse 3).”

     As I began today with a story, I will uphold my reputation as The Storyteller by concluding with one.  This one goes back to Friday, December 14th, 2012.  I was on a United Arab Emirates flight which had departed Dubai for Houston, Texas.  In a way I have never quite experienced before, I witnessed something from the distant past, which took me back to some of the happiest days of my youth, preceding the hardships and tragedies of later years that often visit me–as they do all of us–in the darkest of our thoughts in troubled nights.  As my experience on the aircraft suddenly transported me in the speed of light to a time almost 4 decades prior in a reverse flight through linear time, I was simultaneously catapulted into eternity in the Kingdom of God, in the presence of the Triune God and all of the Saints of God by a forward thrust in linear time ended instantaneously by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  It goes something like this:

     The biggest surprise of the trip—was the return flight to Texas from Dubai on Emirates Airlines, after arriving in Dubai from Durban and waiting 4 hours in Dubai for the connection to Houston.      I always prefer aisle seats on aircraft, for easy access to the restroom and to walk around when permitted, especially on flights of 25 hour duration.  I had forgotten to request them of Emirates Airlines while in Durban for the return to the United States and managed to be wedged into a window seat in the very back of the Boeing 777, in Seat 50 K.      There were 3 advantages to this assignment I had not planned on.  The first is that Seat 50 K on a Boeing 777 on Emirates Airlines has one literally right across from the restroom facility, and with easy access to the back of the aircraft to procure additional snacks and drinks from the flight attendants in between peak service times.  The second proved to be a delightful encounter with an African American woman from Texas seated next to me, who was a schoolteacher in Dubai.  She had a great personality and plenty of inside information on living and working in that locale in the United Arab Emirates.      The third was a ringside seat to scenery of my sojourn of many years ago:  Iran.        Unlike the flight from Houston to Dubai on my way to South Africa, where the plane straddled the Iran-Iraq border as it split the very middle of the Persian Gulf at night on the approach to Dubai (I did see the coastal lights of Bandar Abbas from the left side of the aircraft and my aisle seat of that evening), the return journey took the interested passenger through the heart of modern Iran and ancient Persia.      There they were again as I proceeded in a South to North fashion through the central corridor:  the combination of clay-colored desert and jagged mountains with occasional snow caps beneath me as I traveled an aerial salient with the Shiraz-Isfahan-Tehran axis to my left (west), and the Kerman-Mashhad axis to my right (east); I followed the plane’s crossing of the Kerman to Yazd railroad tracks below, and then the stark, haunting beauty of the Kavir-e-Lut to the east, followed by the eventual appearance of the Dasht-e-Kavirdesert (The Salt Desert) in the country’s north-central interior.      Only one question remained.  Would I see Tehran once more after an absence of many years, or would this be the exclusive privilege of the denizens of the left side of the aircraft looking westward as we continued our northern route toward the Caspian Sea?        The answer arrived soon enough.  I would not witness Iran’s capital from Emirates Airlines Flight EK 211 traveling ponderously at an altitude of just under 30,000 feet in a strange arc from Dubai to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Texas.      What I did see in a marvelous panorama as the plane banked slightly was a view of snow enshrouded Mount Damavand (elevation 18,406 feet/Kuh-e-Damavand, elevation 5671 metres) as the aircraft approached it, and finally did a direct flyover.  There was another gift of the Divine to me while seated in seat 50 K:  when approaching Damavand, I had a brief, but clear glimpse of Lar Valley (Daryacheh-ye-Sadd-e-Lar).

Damavand in Winter, just as I witnessed it on December 14, 2012 on Emirates Airlines.

Damavand in Winter, just as I witnessed it on December 14, 2012 on Emirates Airlines.

     The first American pastor to serve in Persia described Lar Valley and summer camping in a book entitled,Persia and the Persians.  My late Father and I would camp and fish there a lifetime ago, in the summertimes during my visits to my parents in between undergraduate college years in the United States.  The nighttime sky there is permanently etched in my mind.  One does not see stars there, but entire galaxies and planets seemingly close enough to reach out and touch.  Sleeping in pup tents and sleeping bags is facilitated by the stillness of the Valley in the nocturnal hours, permeated only by the incessant but soothing presence of the voice of God in the form of “the rush of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).        The words of Hafez in the 14th century came to consciousness:

Lie down beside the flowing stream

and see life passing by and know

that of the world’s transient nature

this one sign is enough for us.

     After passing over Damavand, I looked at my watch and the GPS system screen in front of me in seat 50 K.  It was 0210 Central time in Texas in the United States on Friday, December 14th.  Tehran time was exactly 1140 on the same day in history.      All of a sudden, I was no longer a middle aged man of 57 in transit from South Africa to America.  I was a young 19 year old college kid again, fishing with my Father and swapping stories with him at night in the Sadd-e-Lar.  I was hiking in the hills at the foot of Mount Damavand in early summer.  I was playing center field again on the Air Force Detachment 333 fast pitch softball team playing against the U. S. Army team in the stadium at Gulf District, the American military outpost off Saltanatabad Avenue in north Tehran in the Pahlavi years.  I saw myself wandering around in great wonderment in the ruins of Persepolis, searching for the treasures contained in the cities of Isfahan and Shiraz, running the Vacation Bible School for kids in the summertime atmosphere of Community Church of Tehran, embarking on a 7 mile run at 0500 beginning each day from my parents’ apartment in the city, or approaching the tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae with the respect accorded to one mentioned by the Old Testament repeatedly as a prototype and forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (2 Chronicles 22-23; Ezra, chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 6; Isaiah, chapters 44 and 45; and Daniel, chapters 1, 6, 10).

Cyrus the Great's tomb at Pasargadae, Iran is captured on a winter night most magnificently by the astrophotography of Oskin D. Zakarian of Tehran.

Cyrus the Great’s tomb at Pasargadae, Iran is captured on a winter night most magnificently by the astrophotography of Oskin D. Zakarian of Tehran.

       It was so long ago.  Yet it was only yesterday.  And it all came flooding back in a handful of minutes on Emirates Flight EK 211 between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Texas.      There was one especially strange manifestation during this brief gift of God 30,000 feet above earth.  Immediately upon crossing a brief segment of the Caspian Sea in leaving Iranian airspace, the perfect visibility I had possessed from Bandar Abbas to Lar Valley and Damavand had absolutely vanished.  While the GPS screen informed me of the Boeing 777′s impending overflight of Baku, Azerbaijan, a solid sheet of impenetrable white clouds completely obscured any view from above.  This sudden departure of visibility continued through the Balkans and most of Europe.  Had the Hidden Hand of Creation, Redemption, and theNew Heaven and the New Earth kept this cloud cover north of the Iranian border for an appointed purpose?      I was neither irritated nor disappointed in what I did not view from Baku northward.  I saw what God wanted me to see, from the humble vantage point of Seat 50 K in Economy Class on Emirates Airlines Flight EK 211.  The perpetual movement of Time and the relentless advance of Biological Age in decades speeding by with the speed of light, had momentarily halted.  Eternity was in full view, an Eternity firmly in the center of the Kingdom of God, occupied by His Saints past, present, and future.  What I witnessed in Iranian airspace on December 14th is a promissory note promising all good things to come for the true Israel of God bathed in the blood of the Lamb.      Spring is indeed near.

     Spring is indeed near, for all the Saints of God on this beautiful day in Wisconsin in June of the Year of Our Lord, 2014.  Be sure of this! And may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bless you today, tomorrow, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

A River Runs Through Iran's Lar Valley.  It presages the soothing presence of the voice of God in the form of “the rush of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).

A River Runs Through Iran’s Lar Valley. It presages the soothing presence of the voice of God in the form of “the rush of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).

Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy: Mark Dankof for the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod USA, 1996

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Pastor Mark Dankof of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA, a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

Creeds As Confessions in Liturgy


by

Rev. Mark Dankof

The LMS-USA Indianapolis Conference

St. Matthew Lutheran Church

Indianapolis, IN

23 April 96

     Before my brief paper on Creeds as Confessions in Liturgy is read this morning, I would like to engage in covering two (2) housekeeping items. First, I offer my profound apologies to Pastor Spears and the entire national convention of the LMS-USA for my physical absence from Indianapolis. This was necessitated by several recent tragedies in my wife’s family, the completion of our emergency duties as temporary house parents of a pro-life maternity home here in Kerrville, Texas where I serve on the Board of Directors, and the fact that it was my misfortune to be clobbered by influenza beginning April 10 and intensifying April 15-17. My prayer is that I will see all of you soon, and that downstream, God will give me another opportunity to be in a Lutheran pulpit again.

     Second, I would like our convention to formally acknowledge the recent departure from this life of Dr. Arthur Braun, pastor emeritus of Calvary Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and former Bishop of the Minnesota District of the old American Lutheran Church. He died on Good Friday, April 5, at the age of 86. Dr. Braun was a gallant, sometimes lonely voice, in calling his church back to its Biblical and creedal heritage. Despite his best efforts, he was pained, in the waning years of his life, to witness not only the eventual formulation of the ELCA under circumstances hostile to evangelical orthodoxy, but the failure of two (2) other attempts to create a mainstream, confessional Lutheran church in America. His vision was for a church which would avoid both universalism and apostasy on the left, as well as some of the more sectarian and isolationist offerings at the starboard end of the American Lutheran spectrum. Copies of his obituary, a 1985 speech made in Waterloo, Iowa, and editorials from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Christian News are available if anyone at today’s conference would like them, both for edification as well as for ongoing historical documentation on one of the orthodox Lutheran church’s giants. Art Braun fought the good fight unto the end, even in the conscious understanding that for all involved in the corporate fight for the soul of our denomination, time and history are not on our side, even as eternity and Jesus Christ firmly stand with us. Let us observe a moment of silence in Dr. Braun’s memory–


     Thank you. Now it is time to move on to the question of Creeds as Confessions in Liturgy in the life of the contemporary church. What is the significance of these various forms? What is the key history behind their development? Does their utilization today undermine or enhance the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? Is their present day employment a bone thrown to the memory of archaic times, persons, and seasons, relevant only to esoteric academicians and long discarded history textbooks? Or do they retain a legitimate, practical usage as a key line of defense in the maintenance of God honoring worship rooted in the history of the church catholic, as well as in the retention of an orthodox apology against newly repristinated ancient heresies and frontal assaults?

     If we assume the legitimacy of the Sola Scriptura today, and assume a commitment to the Lutheran Confessions as the normative explication of what the Bible teaches, an appropriate launching point for answering some of these raised questions may lie in what occurs first in the Book of Concord of 1580, namely the listing of the Three Ecumenical Creeds, or Three Chief Symbols of the Church as the foundational basis of all the Confessions which follow. This is important for several reasons.  First, the Confessions wanted to reiterate that their articles of faith were neither recent nor heretical, but were undergirded by the theological and historical foundations of the early Church. Second, it is noteworthy that the controversies of the second, third, and fourth centuries were consistently deemed applicable to the struggles of the Reformers in the sixteenth century. Third, if historical and theological struggles and issues of centuries two, three, and four continued to be relevant in the sixteenth, one might suspect the possibility of a prima facie relevance of those developments to a church under renewed attack from similar, in some cases identical forces, as we approach the beginning of the twenty first century. The writer of Ecclesiastes states that, “There is nothing new under the sun.” —this may well be his verdict on Biblical theology’s constantly recast conflict with false doctrine — fought time and again within the confines and context of redemptive history.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

     Among many heretical movements of significance to the early church were Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism.

     Out of orthodoxy’s clash with these came an increasingly systematized Christian theological rebuttal and the formulation of affirmative creedal statements. These statements may be seen not only as the voice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church staking out its position in challenges past — but as the bequeathed legacy to today’s church, which must turn, paradoxically, to the past, to understand the ideological lineage and connections of ancient enemies to modern antagonists, as well to recover its own historical memory as the key to the reestablishment of a previously possessed Biblical identity, obscured by compromise with doctrinal relativism and repristinated apostasy.

     The battle with Gnosticism is particularly instructive in application to today’s crisis of clarity and faith. Christianity had borrowed four (4) concepts from Judaism for its battle with this new threat. These were monotheism, the personhood of God, verbal revelation, and the idea of God’s intervention in real, time/space history. Gnosticism, an ancient forerunner of the modern existentialism of Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), came to the appointed conflict with a variety of advocates and ideas, common threads which included the rejection of the Jewish Old Testament as fraudulent, the utilization of magic and the occult as a replacement for Christ in the connection of the physical and spiritual realms, the belief in docetism (Christ only seemed to have a human body/identity), the belief in the antithesis of the physical and spiritual realms, extreme asceticism, and every conceivable form of philosophical speculation outside of God’s written revelation. Irenaeus (125-202) and Tertullian (160-230) would be key players in the struggle with Gnosticism (and later Marcionism). Key Gnostic figures in the relevant period include Saturninus of Syria, Basilides of Egypt (who posited a sexual union of Dynamis and Sophia in the creation of 365 aeons between an unknowable Father and humanity — this places last year’s Goddess Sophia conference of the ELCA, PCUSA, and UMC in context!!!), and Valentinus of Rome (who posited Christ as the offspring of Sophia and as the last of 30 special aeons between God and humanity. Christ was a docetic Christ, and saves only by His enlightenment of souls!!!).

Dr. Donald Thorson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Mark Dankof, Pastor John Erickson:  June 2012 in Chetek, Wisconsin.

Dr. Donald Thorson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Mark Dankof, Pastor John Erickson: June 2012 in Chetek, Wisconsin.

     Marcion’s heresies only served to intensify the challenges to orthodoxy. As a contemporary of Valentinus, he posited the existence of two (2) gods. One was the good, ultimate Father; the other was the alien God who was also the malignant God of the Jews. Marcion forced Christians to draw up their first New Testament canon as a result of his acceptance of only Paul’s writings and a portion of Luke. He simultaneously denied carte blanche, the validity of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. posing a radical dichotomy between that era and that of the New Testament. Christ was once again, a docetic Christ of the unknown God; a different God from the Demiurge who created the material world and physical bodies. His de facto rejection of the reality of the Incarnation led him to a denial of the doctrine of the second coming of Christ; he also served as a precursor of Sabellian Modalism, with his idea that Christ was only a mode of the Father’s existence, and that He did not really suffer and die.

     Montanus, active during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-61), further exposed the theological vulnerability of a Church bereft of a fixed canon and sufficiently detailed creedal statements integrated into the daily liturgical life of the Church Catholic. Like Marcion, Montanus had an aversion to Judaism, as well as the notion of a fixed revelation and canon. Emphasizing only the writings of John, he called the church from worldliness to the embrace of an extreme asceticism (including the dissolution and abolition of the institution of marriage), advocated an imminent chiliasm (the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth during a literal 1000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem), articulated an understanding of the priesthood of all believers which opposed any ecclesiastical authority or hierarchy, opposed the use of art or fixed creeds of any kind in the Church, and most importantly, along with female prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilla, utilized glossolalia, dreams, and visions to proclaim himself the Paraclete’s personal vehicle of progressive revelation to those seeking the will and mind of the Spirit. Montanism served not only as a further impetus for the development of canon and creeds in the Church’s battle with heresy, but as a current warning to late twentieth century Lutherans as well — that those who emphasize the normative character of the Spirit’s supernatural revelation outside of Scripture, who call for the cessation of the use of confessional creeds and liturgy in corporate worship, and who stress a combination of individual subjectivism and authoritarianism in revelation and congregational leadership as being of the Spirit, are leading the sheep into a schismatic, sectarian Sheol, out of which there can be no escape, save in Word and Sacrament, and in the Creeds and Confessions of the Ancient and Reformational Church.

     The fourth major threat to Biblical orthodoxy which would add to the pressure for creedal formulation and adherence, was Monarchianism. It arose as a movement designed to emphasize the oneness of God vis a vis the duality and plurality of gods espoused by both Marcion and the Gnostics. Its desire for monotheistic expression was admirable — its theological confusion about Jesus Christ was concurrently catastrophic, and along with the heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism, would mandate the orthodox creeds of the First Ecumenical Council of Nikko (325), the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), and the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451). By 451, it can be argued that the foundational Trinitarian and Christological truths based on Scripture were properly explicated, and available for the Reformation’s rediscovery in the sixteenth century, as well as for the rediscovery of the modem Church mired in the ruins of relativism and existentialism. It can also be argued that these intellectual theological rediscoveries take on their best practical and spiritual significance for the Church, when employed again and again as creedal confessions in corporate worship and apologetic defense of the Faith.

     There were two (2) types of Monarchianism. The first was Dynamic Monarchianism or Adoptionism. Its falsehoods would reappear later in history in the theology and Christology of modem liberals like Friedrich Schliermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, Adolf von Harnack, and John A.T. Robinson. In this view, Christ is adopted as God’s Son, but is not essentially God. Christ then becomes a moralistic example of God’s will and desires for humanity, with pithy sayings and concerns for the poor. He ceases to be the Christ of Nikko who is homoousion (of the same essence) with the Father, and the Lamb of God in the context of propitiation and substitutionary atonement. The adoptionistic Christ of Theodotus the Tanner (late second century) and Paul of Samosata (200-75), only a supernaturally endowed mere human, preserves the unity of God by sacrificing the deity of Christ. The rejection of this apostasy by Nikko and Chalcedon must be renewed again by today’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, employing confessing creeds in corporate worship against the recycled militant adoptionism of twentieth century liberalism — the prevalent Christology of a dying, modem world.

     The second type of Monarchianism was Modalistic Monarchianism or Modalism, first advocated by Praxeus. It equated Christ and the Father as being the same. Instead of sacrificing the deity of Christ as Adoptionism did, it jettisoned the Personhood of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. In denying that Christ was a distinct Person vis a vis the Father, but only a mode or aspect of the Father Himself, Modalism abandoned the doctrine of the diversity of Persons within the Godhead, losing the concept of Christ as Advocate before God the Father (I John 2:1). If Christ, not being a distinct Person, cannot really represent us before the Father, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is removed from legitimacy as the key ingredient in redemptive history. Modalism also produces a docetic Christ, since Christ as only a mode of the Father, could only appear to be a man.

Mark Dankof in the Christ Lutheran Seminar Room:  Computer and Video Screen for Lecture Charts and Visuals for Amos 8, Habbakuk 3, Revelation 2-3, Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks.

Mark Dankof in the Christ Lutheran Seminar Room: Computer and Video Screen for Lecture Charts and Visuals for Amos 8, Habbakuk 3, Revelation 2-3, Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks.

     Its confusion of Persons with Essence in regard to Christ’s oneness with the Father (John 10:30; 14:9), needed to be clarified by Nicaea and Constantinople to preserve Christ’s Personhood, Advocacy, and Atonement, at the same time that Modalism’s rejection of Christ as lesser aeon(Gnosticism) and supernaturally endowed mere human (Adoptionism), were affirmed by orthodoxy.

     The fifth and final ancient threat to confessional orthodoxy that will be considered here, was Arianism in the fourth century. It revealed the insufficiency of the Apostles Creed in completely explaining the relationship of the Son to the Father. Arianism, more powerful in the East than the West, denied that Christ is eternally begotten, and claimed that He is first begotten of the Father. In this view, Christ is a semi-divine being created. not begotten by the Father and having an origin in time, or at least a definite beginning before the creation of the material world.

     Arius came out of the rigorist, monastic movement in Egypt, and spent much time in Alexandria, home of a theological school that stressed the deity of Christ. Unfortunately, Arius was profoundly influenced by Lucian of Antioch, who followed Paul of Samosata in emphasizing the exclusive humanity and human will of Jesus. Arius coopted Lucian’s view of the Logos as an intermediate, created, spiritual being between God and humanity, and argued that the Logos was higher than any other created being, but still a creature Himself and different in essence from the Father. Arius taught of a “time when the Logos was not”, equated begetting with creating, stated that the Logos had a body but not a soul, and that the Son was not worthy of divine worship as is the Father, but is merely the ktisma teleion (Perfect Creature) through whom all other things were made.

     Arianism insisted that Christ did not possess deity by nature, but developed it by virtue of His constant and growing moral unity with God. He is our Savior only in the sense that He presents us with divine truth and furnishes a perfect example of commitment to the good. If the created Logos develops into deity, Arius opens the door to the possibility of other created, contingent beings partaking of divinity through evolution toward moral perfection and conformity to divine truth. Here lies the seeds of a Christology and anthropology consistent with humanism, Mormonism, the New Age movement, the works righteousness of medieval Roman Catholicism, and some of the extreme ascetic tendencies in aberrant charismatic/Pentecostal movements.

The Logos, the Word Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, Eternally Begotten of the Father, of the Same Substance (homoousios) as the Father.

The Logos, the Word Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, Eternally Begotten of the Father, of the Same Substance (homoousios) as the Father.

     Arianism was rejected by Nicaea (325) and even more roundly so at Constantinople (381). Especially between 361-81, the Son, and derivatively, the Holy Spirit, were deemed to be of the same essence as the Father, but also as distinct Persons, avoiding the twin dangers of tritheism and modalism. Oneness of nature/essence and the distinct, yet equal existence of Persons had been articulated together as a packaged foundation of orthodox Trinitarianism and Christology.

     This package, and the history surrounding its development, would serve the Church to the present moment in time.

      Names like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine, all contributed to the orthodox derivation from Scripture of “One Essence, Subsisting in Three Persons.” The Athanasian Creed (450??), the Western world’s greatest statement on the Trinity, would put it this way:

This is the catholic (universal) faith, that we worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the substance.

     Ecumenical creeds and canonical Scripture thus became mandated as components in the liturgical forms employed in the worship life and apologetic defense of the Faith inherent in the ministry of the Ancient Church Catholic and Militant. Failure to employ them today 1) elevates individuality and subjectivism above the historic experience of the Church Catholic in time, as well as Scripture itself; 2) presupposes an irrelevancy in that which is time tested through the centuries; 3) assumes that Greek, Hebrew, and Latin express theological truth only in the context of their immediate culture and era of usage; 4) insinuates that theological truth is not immutable but evolutionary in nature; and 5) holds as orthodox the naive belief that ancient Christological and Trinitarian controversies will not reappear as renewed threats to the faith delivered once unto the saints (Jude). These dangerous five (5) assumptions mirror the Ancient Five (5) of Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Monarchianism, and Arianism, as cancers growing within the shrinking remnant Church today. A truly Lutheran and catholic worship life centered in Christ, Scripture, history, objectivism, and apologetics, is our first, last, best, and only line of defense in the waning days and twilight of the Church Age, before the dawning of the Blessed Eschaton itself.

Mark Dankof for the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA: The Chosen People of God: Who Are They?

Pastor Mark Dankof on the Chosen People of God.  Who are They?  I Peter 2: 9-10 is the Rosetta Stone.

Pastor Mark Dankof on the Chosen People of God. Who are They? I Peter 2: 9-10 is the Rosetta Stone.

     [This transcript represents a greatly abbreviated version of the sermon delivered by Mark Dankof in Chetek, Wisconsin on June 23rd, 2013 at the closing worship service in Christ Lutheran Church for the National Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA.]

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther's Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

     “But you are a Chosen People, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God: once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I Peter 2: 9-10

     It is good to see all of you again at this treasured annual gathering of a small segment of the remnant of the Chosen People of God in the closing days of the Church Age and the end of history itself as we approach the Second Advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

     As I open our very brief time together at our Convention’s closing worship service on this blessed Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, I’m blissfully reminded of three (3) things.  First, each time I come back here, my earliest memories of the American Midwest and those that would follow over many years keep flooding back.  The Middle West is where my roots are, having been born to parents from Southwest Iowa, who grew up in the years of the Great Depression in the run up to World War II.  At the same time, being the son of a United States Air Force officer, there were no roots for me at all.  I would travel all over our country, as well as Europe, Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa.  Of all of these sojourns that God would grant me for reasons known only to Him, many of you know that Iran would be the place where many of my fondest memories of traveling the globe would reside.  When I returned from South Africa last December, I wrote a brief essay on this insight.  It is entitled, “A Reminder of God’s Existence From Long Ago.”

     Secondly, when I come to these Conventions, my mind inevitably drifts back to the salad days of the formation of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) in 1987.  This is where I would first encounter Pastors Ralph Spears and John Erickson, who have remained among my best friends in life.  Can it really be over a quarter of a century ago that our journey began?

     Finally, it is June 23rd today.  Every June 23rd, my mind goes back to June 23rd, 1967 when my family was transferred from Hawaii the first time, and transported back to the Mainland on the S. S. Lurline bound for San Francisco.  Last year, I shared this experience of 46 years ago at our National Convention with many of you.  Incredibly enough, that was exactly one year ago today, on June 23rd, 2012, when my message to the gathered was entitled, “The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant.”  Given that fact that we are now a year closer to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope that presentation continues to encourage both you and me as the horizon of history continues to darken as storm clouds approach our position near Midnight.

     Today’s message based on the classic text of I Peter 2: 9-10, familiar to so many of us who toiled as kids in the Lutheran Catechetical system a lifetime ago, has three applications to us today and to the entirety of the people of God throughout linear time.  The text reads as follows:

    “But you are a Chosen People, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God: once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I Peter 2: 9-10

     The first application Biblically is this:  God chooses great people in history to minister to His saints in times of global oppression and evil.  I was reminded of this only eight (8) days ago in Houston, Texas when privileged to see the Cyrus Cylinder at the Museum of Fine Art there, courtesy of a loan of the Cylinder to a series of America’s greatest museums courtesy of the British Museum.

     What is the significance of Cyrus the Great, the first of the Achaemenid Kings of Ancient Persia, where the Old Testament is concerned?  The Bible is absolutely explicit on this point.  After the 70 year Captivity visited upon Ancient Judah courtesy of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, a Captivity which included the Temple Destruction of 586 B. C. [Tisha B’Av], God’s prophets underscore that this catastrophe brought upon Judah because of its own sin and rebellion against God (Jeremiah 25:1- 29:32) would be followed by a Deliverance and a Restoration.  King Cyrus the Great would be the Chosen Instrument of God in this process, a prototype and forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (2 Chronicles 22-23; Ezra, chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 6; Isaiah, chapters 44 and 45; and Daniel, chapters 1, 6, 10).

The Cyrus Cylinder in Houston's Museum of Fine Art on June 15th, 2013.  Mark Dankof photo.

The Cyrus Cylinder in Houston’s Museum of Fine Art on June 15th, 2013. Mark Dankof photo.

     Particularly striking are the words of Isaiah, who foretold the coming Persian King’s arrival in history 150 years in advance of his appearance, courtesy of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God:

     “. . . [The Lord] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my Shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.  . . . I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness:  I will make all his ways straight.  He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.” 

     And Ezra tells us in chapter one that:

     “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing.  This is what Cyrus king of Persia says, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of His people among you–may his God be with Him, and let Him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.  . . .'”

     Now fast forward to I Peter 2: 9-10. What is the connection of the Apostle and his text to the events of the Sixth Century B. C. and an ancient Persian King?

     I will say it again:  The first application Biblically is this:  God chooses great people in history to minister to His saints in times of global oppression and evil.

     Peter is writing his Epistle to a group of churches in the part of Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains.  The context is the approaching outburst of persecution directed at Christians by Nero (A. D. 54-68) in A. D. 64.  The martyrdom of the Apostle Paul is just beyond the horizon.  Peter’s horrific upside down crucifixion at Nero’s direction before the latter’s death in A. D. 68 is but a handful of years away  (John 21: 18-19).   The storm clouds that approached Ancient Judah after the death of King Josiah in 609 B. C. and culminated in Nebuchadnezzar’s temple destruction in 586 B. C., are gathering again for the people of God living under the Roman Caesar’s reign in the First Century A. D. But God does not desert His faithfulAs Cyrus the Great made his Sixth Century B. C. appearance at a time of the Lord’s providential designation, so Paul and Peter have been commissioned to minister to the faithful in the midst of the exponential increase in evil in human history embodied by the Ancient Roman EmpireAnd the message and witness of these Apostles is clearthe Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is the center of the plan of salvation designed before the foundation of the world for those who believe (I Peter 1: 3-5).  And those who believe in the midst of a national culture centered in the things of the Beast (Revelation 13), will endure persecution and oppression at the hands of a majority who have rejected the Messiah, both in a First Century Judah nearing God’s judgment for its role in the rejection of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 24: 1-2), and in a Roman Empire moving toward the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian (81-96 A. D.) at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation 13).

John on Patmos:  Exiled Because of Resistance to the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian  (A. D. 81-96).

John on Patmos: Exiled Because of Resistance to the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian
(A. D. 81-96).

     The same principle applies to Christians in a 21st century America and Western World which have largely abandoned the faith “that was once for all entrusted to the Saints (Jude, verse 3).” Peter warns us as he warned his contemporaries in Asia Minor that we are to be fully ready for this. In I Peter 4:12 he emphatically tells believers “. . . do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”

     It is painful for many of us as lifelong denizens of an older American culture, especially in the Middle West and the Southern United States, to recognize how this nation has become a part of the same post-Christian culture of our European counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean.  And how closely we are beginning to resemble the ethos of the Ancient Roman Empire.  As the late Evangelical Francis Schaeffer observed in the aftermath of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, we are increasingly a Culture of Death.  Abortion-On-Demand; every form and brand of sexual perversion; rampant violence and crime; the collapse of the family; the embrace of a Hollywood culture enshrouded in moral sewage; a staggering level of budgetary and national debt; a thoroughly corrupt political and banking system centered in fiat money, usury, and confiscatory taxation; and the overextension of our military presence globally, are the symptoms.  but the root cause is fundamentally a rejection of the Gospel and of God’s Word on an individual and collective basis.  Those who refuse to take the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13), either in the Rome of Nero and Domitian, or in the increasingly anti-Christian West of the 21st Century, may fully expect trial, tribulation, persecution, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom.  As Peter has already told us, “. . . do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”  This is the bottom line.

     The second application of I Peter 2: 9-10 Biblically is this:  God chooses to deliver on His promises, both those made to members of His Son’s Kingdom and those made to individuals and societies outside of the Kingdom of God in Christ.

     Any reasonable interpretation of this text and of the New Testament throughout, tells us that the Chosen People of God according to the teachings of our Lord and His apostles, include all who believe in Jesus as Crucified and Risen Savior.  Paul assures us in Romans 10:9 that if “you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”   This too, is the bottom line.

     The New Testament and I Peter 2: 9-10 as a part of that corpus, explicit reject the notion that the Chosen People of God and the Kingdom of God itself, are rooted in notions of racial supremacy, racial identification, nationalism, military power, political power, or economic supremacy.  Jesus makes this clear in his debate with the Pharisees in John 8: 31-58Modern Christian Zionism, based in these false assumptions and in the 19th century eschatological inventions of John Nelson Darby and the Scofield Reference Bible [see charts in “The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant” regarding an alleged parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel, chapter 9], has resurrected the very false teachings surrounding the Kingdom, the Covenants, Obedience, and Racial Identification that permeated the thinking of the Pharisees in John 8 and those who called for the release of Barabbas on the night of the Savior’s betrayal (Matthew 27:25).  This was the thinking of Paul prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  It is an explicit denial of the core doctrine of Justification by Faith in Jesus Christ Alone known as the Material Principle of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.

     This is why Peter uses 2: 9-10 to reiterate what Paul says in Ephesians 1:4 when he states that “. . . He [God the Father] chose us in Him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world . . .”  Peter now tells believers in Christ who are racial Gentiles who were “once not a people” that they are “now the people of God” (I Peter 2: 10).  He assures his audience that, “Once you [Gentiles] had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

     Peter now applies the terms and the concepts of Old Testament Judaism to Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ (verse 9).  They are now a “Chosen People.”  They are now members of a Royal Priesthood [of all believers in Jesus Christ], and are a “Holy Nation” and a “People Belonging to God.”  The Apostle’s application of these terms and concepts to Gentile Christians is fraught with impending spiritual and political irony.  After Peter’s death by crucifixion in A. D. 68 in Rome, it would only be two years before the Romans would visit Jerusalem in a fashion reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar in the Sixth Century B. C., and would destroy yet another Jewish Temple on Tisha B’Av (August 9th) in the year A. D. 70.  The notion of National and Racial Judah as the Chosen People of God in the New Testament Era had come to a catastrophic end, never to be resurrected again (Matthew 21: 19 and Mark 11: 14).

     As for the true Chosen People of God, it is critical that those “chosen” are also a People “called.”  We are called “out of darkness.”  We are called “into His wonderful light.”  God’s call is to his “elect” (I Peter 1:1).  The elect have been “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God,” (I Peter 1:2) which involves both divine mystery and grace linked to the blood of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:2).

     The third and final application of Biblical principles using I Peter 2: 9-10 is as follows:  You and I, as the Chosen People of God by his mysterious love and grace alone, have an inheritance (I Peter 1: 4) that is imperishable

     If we are living in the hour of history I sense we are, what are the implications of this for you and me?  As we close this National Convention, what do you take from these last 3 days and from this sanctuary and the classrooms here at Christ Lutheran in Chetek?  What do you return home with that will encourage you and empower you and your loved ones in trying times?  Why do we continue in a faith that seems less appealing than ever in our dying culture, and in an America increasingly unrecognized by those of us of an earlier vintage?

     In a nutshell, the answer is in a gift of God to you and me that involves mercy, rebirth, new beginnings, a new life, and an imperishable inheritance being kept in a Divine Repository for safe keeping until the right time.  This is the final bottom line of which we speak on the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost in the year 2013.  The Chosen People of God shall be the final winners at the end of history, and in the eternity to come, in a world without end.

     I Peter 1: 3-5 serves as a marvelous companion to I Peter 2: 9-10 and our Chosen People theme for the 2013 National Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA:

     “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 

     As that last time draws ever closer, so does your salvation and the arrival of your long awaited and promised inheritance.  For every ending there is a New Beginning.  The best is yet to come for you, and for me, as we await the re-entry of the Logos into the time and space of this present cosmos.  And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of God the Holy Spirit be with you now, and always.  Amen.

A Mystical Point in Time: The Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA National Convention

The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

     The National Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA held at Christ Lutheran Church of Chetek, Wisconsin June 22nd-24th was a Mystical Point in Time.

The Luther Rose at Night at Christ Lutheran Church of Chetek, Wisconsin.

     It was a glance back at recent American Lutheran history:  first, a snapshot look at the inauguration of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) 25 years ago in Minneapolis, historically the predecessor body to the LMS-USA; second, a nostalgic nod to the launching of the LMS-USA itself in Indianapolis, Indiana 17 years ago in 1995.

Dr. Donald Thorson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Mark Dankof, Pastor John Erickson: 25 years later. June 2012 in Chetek, Wisconsin.

     This year’s National Gathering in northern Wisconsin reunited 4 men tied to the earliest history of both Lutheran bodies and all now members in good standing of the Clergy Roster of the LMS-USA in 2012.  Dr. Donald Thorson of Chippewa Falls, a member of the Executive Committee of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) a quarter of a century ago, joined the LMS-USA formally in the moving closing service held at Christ Lutheran of Chetek on Sunday, June 24th; Dr./Pastor Ralph Spears the Presiding Pastor of the Synodical side of the LMS-USA and Pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran of Indianapolis, spoke at the Convention’s opening worship service on June 23rd; Pastor Mark Dankof of Immanuel Lutheran of San Antonio and a member of the LMS-USA since its inception in 1995, was acknowledged as the first Lutheran clergyman to join the AALC officially on July 10, 1987; Pastor Emeritus John Erickson of Christ Lutheran of Chetek, the Presiding Pastor of the Ministerium, rounded out the lineup of AALC veterans who have graced the senior leadership of the LMS-USA since the heady days of Indianapolis in 1995.

     The theme of Pastor Spears’ message for the Opening Service on June 23rd was “What Do These Stones Mean?”  The text for his address was I Peter 2: 1-10, the Epistle Reading of the Day.  Pastor Spears underscored Jesus Christ as the Living Stone, “disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” and disciples of Christ as “lively stones.  . . .” who comprise “the spiritual house, a holy priesthood, . . . a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, . . .” who have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light.  . . . [who] have now obtained mercy  [I Peter 2, esp. verses 9-10].”

Dr. Ralph Spears: “What Do These Stones Mean?”

     Pastor Spears emphasized the Living Stone as the center of the story of Christian redemption, reconciliation, and eternal life.  The Lively Stones are entrusted with continuing to “Tell the Story,” of the Living Stone, the theme of the LMS-USA National Convention, with absolute fidelity to the inspired, inerrant Word of God of Scripture which conveys Christ Crucified and Christ Risen as the Christ of Scripture, the Christ of History, and the Christ of Faith.

     Dr. Spears’ homily set the tone and the stage for the major speakers and presenters assigned to provide instruction and ministry to those gathered at Christ Lutheran for the weekend.  There were seven (7) special presentations which followed, and which covered a wealth and breadth of material for those who traveled to northern Wisconsin from around the country to hear them.

Mark Dankof in the Christ Lutheran Seminar Room: Computer and Video Screen for Charts on Amos 8, Habbakuk 3, Revelation 2-3, Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks

      These seven presentations were Dr. Ralph Spears’ thoughts on the significance and function of Liturgy; Pastor John Erickson’s repristination of his observations of October of 1993 in Janesville, Wisconsin on issues affecting the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) in the early 1990s, issues having a direct bearing on the eventual formulation of the LMS-USA in 1995; Pastor Mark Dankof of San Antonio followed with a sobering application of lessons past and present in his message entitled, “The Famine, The Watchman, and the Remnant.” Dr. Donald Thorson’s offering was entitled, “Inerrancy of the Scriptures:  A Question of Focus? Focusing on the History of the American Association of Lutheran Churches:  Seeking Relevance for the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA”; Maureen Spears-Tullis made a compelling presentation entitled, What Makes a Church a Church?”: Musing on Models, Ministries, and True Meaning with Discussion.” Pastor Jeffrey Iverson rounded out the weekend with his own personal journey and life history, tabbed as his Finding the LMS-USA.”

     Each presentation was compelling.  In his tome on Liturgy, Dr. Spears insisted that, “Liturgy ties together the theology and practice of a Church and acts as a barometer of its very function.”  In that regard, the longtime Pastor of St. Matthew’s Lutheran in Indianapolis shared his historical and functional perspective on worship, postulating that, “Most liturgy can be traced to the all-important need to remember, especially in the context of a verbal tradition before the days of written history.”  Liturgy in this regard involves the remembrance of key events in the life of a people in linear history, where the prose of scribes enables the people to “. . . memorize the events, rehearsing and singing the prose from memory from time immemorial.” Eventually, Dr. Spears reminded the Convention attendees, these pieces of prose were written down by later generations, as evidenced by the Song of Deborah and the Great Passover Liturgy.  The Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent, titled “Reminisce,” is suggestive.  God commanded His people to remember–and they did.

     Dr. Spears proceeded to remind his hearers that if Liturgy includes committing a proven history to memory, it must also “. . . be careful with the words and phrases concerning God–and use them with great respect.” Liturgy must avoid the “God and I are buddies” approach in which “we prevail upon Him with a certain insider attitude“, where intimacy on God’s terms is replaced by one solely on ours. A misplaced sense of intimacy, a false sense of “ordering the Almighty around” and embracing the trivial to make it more approachable, are to be avoided.  Calling upon the Name of the Lord is to be accompanied by absolute respect and care.  The attitude of the Pastor in leading the Liturgy must be saturated in the latter, with balance rooted in Biblical and historical persective assisting in the avoidance of both manipulation and trivialization of the Divine and the Holy.

Pastor Emeritus John Erickson of Christ Lutheran Church, Chetek, Wisconsin.

     Pastor John Erickson’s review of his October 1993 message in Janesville, Wisconsin, entitled “A Problem of Identity,” brought  25 years of AALC and LMS-USA history into play in reviewing his own observations on an identity crisis in American Lutheran theology and worship previously evidenced in the Spears lecture on Liturgy.  With references to changes in the AALC between its constituting National Convention in November of 1987 in Minneapolis, and an “infamous” National Convention only 3 years later at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, Pastor Erickson chronicled the erosion of Lutheran theology and practice in that situation, courtesy of the trends of much of contemporary American Evangelicalism, including the Charismatic Movement, the Health-Wealth Prosperity Gospel, the reduction in doctrinally sound preaching, the embrace of Dispensationalism and Premillennial Eschatology, the replacement of the Lutheran Chancel (altar, font, and pulpit area) as the focus of worship with the “Stage” of Evangelical Performers and Entertainers, who often substitute “success” and “numbers” for doctrinal and devotional integrity informed by the history of Liturgy and the orthodox Lutheran understanding of this history.

     Pastor Mark Dankof of San Antonio followed with “The Famine, The Watchman, and the Remnant.”  It was noted that Pastor Dankof was literally the first Lutheran clergyman in history to be accepted onto the clergy roster of the American Association of Lutheran Churches on July 10, 1987.  His congregation, St. Matthias Lutheran of Seattle, was one of the Charter Churches entered into membership on the AALC’s Congregational Roster at the constituting National Convention in Minneapolis in 1987.  Pastor Dankof was subsequently elected to the AALC’s Board of Trustees and its Board of Higher Education in those pivotal days.

     Yet within 3 years, he and his congregation were gone.  Why?  His presentation dealt with the reasons for the departure, based on the trends in the AALC cited by Pastor Erickson in 1993 and again in 2012.  With reference to Amos 8, Habakkuk,  Revelation 2: 9, and Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy in Daniel 9, Pastor Dankof suggested that both the United States generally and most of American Lutheranism specifically, are being impacted by a Famine of God’s Word as Ancient Israel was at the time of Jeroboam II and the prophecies of Amos.  To be a Watchman at such a time in history references the hardships of Habbakuk and others playing this role now for God’s people in difficult and dark days.  The Confessing Church of Christ is a Remnant Gathering of the Faithful in the midst of such darkness, with reference to the Church of Smyrna in John’s Apocalpyse as the model (Revelation 2:9).

     Dr. Donald Thorson of Chippewa Falls gave a critical overview of the history of the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy in the strand of American Lutheranism officially committed to this position as articulated in Thesis Number One of the Minneapolis Theses (1925), with special attention paid to the history of the American Lutheran Conference (1930) and its Member Synods; the American Lutheran Church of 1960; and finally the American Association of Lutheran Churches (1987).  The wealth of data, dates, and quotations from relevant documents cited by Dr. Thorson proved invaluable for those who heard the presentation and received a written summation of his lecture.  Perhaps the most cogent observation provided by the AALC’s ex-Executive Committee member was the dry martini that, “In my view, the irony and lament of the ALC’s history is that the loftiest statement of faith [Thesis Number One of the Minneapolis Theses of 1925) did not protect an errant organization.  The dominant [political] party in a group finds a way to re-interpret or circumvent what is written on paper.”

Madison’s Arik and Tina Johnson of Altum Radix (“Deep Roots”), a food and Gospel ministry based on the Parable of the Sower.

Pastor Tylan Dalrymple of Christ Lutheran Church, Chetek, Wisconsin.

     There were three (3) additional sessions of instruction for the faithful gathered at Christ Lutheran of Chetek.  Maureen Spears-Tullis’ session on “What Makes a Church a Church” explored different Church Models, including the Church as Institution, the Church as Mystical Communion, the Church as Sacrament, the Church as Herald, and the Church as Servant.  These Models correspond to various recognizable denominational forms in the United States; each has a description of its reason for being; each has advantages and disadvantages.  Two recognizable dynamics to be identified are the Fighting Curmudgeon Syndrome and the “I’ll Help You Change” Syndrome.  Maureen Spears Tullis concludes that these Syndromes, and the various Church Models, all indicate that the same goal is being pursued in different ways by all the approaches:  “. . .  trying to convert followers or establish salvation or keep church membership alive and the church doors open–by manipulating members into becoming closer to Christ.  . . . ”  An accompanying observation in the lecture was the emphasis on the true Church as one that is Christ proclaiming and centered in the Word.  The dangerous of a modern church rooted in secularism, and as an institution “making Christ serve them instead of [them] serving Christ,” was emphasized as a warning to the Remnant and Confessing Church in a “Brave New World.”

Arik Johnson of Aurora Competitive Intelligence, the Green Bay Packers, and a special home farm south of Madison designed eventually to feed the poor of the inner city in the name of Jesus Christ.

     Arik and Tina Johnson of Madison told the LMS-USA National Convention of their farming acreage south of Wisconsin’s Capitol, designed to be used to facilitate food production to feed the needy of the inner city in the name of Jesus Christ, according to the focus of the Parable of the Sower.  The name of the food and Gospel proclamation ministry, based on the New Testament parable, is Altum Radix (“Deep Roots“). Arik has been the longtime Internet web site director of the LMS-USA gratis in perpetuity, and recently began the Facebook page for this Remnant gathering of the Lutheran faithful.

     Finally, Pastor Jeffrey Iverson rounded out the Convention seminars with his “Finding the LMS-USA.” Pastor Iverson referenced all of the circumstances that led to his encounter with the Synod’s leadership in the 1990s; his personal journey in his calling prior to that time; his ordination service of June 8th, 1997 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, presided over by Dr. Spears and where Pastor Mark Dankof offered the special day’s homily; and finally with references to many trials and tribulations since, trials seemingly typical for the Christian in an increasingly post-Christian American society and secularized church.

     Pastor Iverson noted that, “Whatever the future holds for me, I know that the LMS-USA still has the treasure I was looking for back in 1997.  That treasure is God’s inerrant Word, His Sacraments, our Lutheran Confessions, and our traditional Liturgy.  But as the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘. . . we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.'” [2 Corinthians 4: 7-9]

     Amen.

The Crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Mark Dankof on “The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant” for the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod-USA

Pastor Mark Dankof in the 1990s.

[Pastor Mark Dankof’s address to the National Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod—USA in Chetek, Wisconsin on June 23rd, 2012 is entitled, “The Famine, The Watchman and The Remnant.”]

[Open in prayer; read the three relevant Biblical texts]

Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me:  and behold a basket of summer fruit.  And he said, Amos, what seest thou?  And I said, A basket of summer fruit.  Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them anymore.  . . .  Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:  And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

Amos 8: 1-2, 11-12

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Habakkuk 2: 1

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer:  behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days:  be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

The Apocalypse of St. John on Patmos, chapter 2: 8-11

     All of us here today have been on an odyssey since birth.  We trace our voyage from infancy through childhood; from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood; from young adulthood to middle age; from middle age to old age; from old age to death, which the Christian defines as a transition from this present life to a new life in a new plane of existence with the Triune God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and all of the Saints of God in a place called Heaven.

     It was 45 years ago today that I began my long odyssey from childhood to adulthood.  On June 23, 1967, my parents, my older brother, and I embarked on the USS Lurline, departing Honolulu for a 5 day journey to the Port of San Francisco.  Our years together as an Air Force family living in Hawaii were coming to a swift end. I remember wishing that there had been more time.

The legendary Matson Lines liner, SS Lurline.

     There are times at night when I can still hear the Matson Lines Orchestra and Band striking up the haunting strains of Aloha Oe, even as I still occasionally feel the Lurline beginning to physically pull away from the dock in Honolulu.  As we began to depart, the ship was accompanied by a farewell flotilla of escorting canoes comprised of paddling Polynesian men and women.  The women were decked out in Hawaiian tribal garb with bright colors.  Their  long, beautiful black hair was adorned with careful arrangements of the orchids of the Islands.

     The huge crowd standing on the dock in Honolulu waved good bye to the departing until we were out of sight.  There is still one face I see above all others in that sea of humanity bidding tearful farewell to the denizens of the USS Lurline.  It was Pastor Frederick L. Von Husen of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Wahiawa.  The three years at his school, and my Baptism in his sanctuary, began my long journey in Lutheran Christianity, a wandering that in the providence of God continues to this day.

Pastor Frederick L. Von Husen of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Wahiawa, Hawaii at the Dock of Honolulu on June 23, 1967, bidding farewell to Mark Dankof and family as the USS Lurline prepares to depart for San Francisco.

     I did not want to leave the loving confines of Christ-centered Church and School in Hawaii in June of 1967.  The USS Lurline was taking me on a voyage to an ultimate destination I wanted to disembark from.

     I am reminded of the Lord’s solemn prophetic admonition to Peter:

     “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God.  And when he had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow me.”  (John 21: 18-19).

Mark Dankof in Geek Days. 3rd row, center position. Teacher Paul Wangerin in back row, far right. Trinity Lutheran School, Wahiawa, Hawaii. 6th grade. School Year 1966-67.

     Those initial years as a child at Trinity Lutheran were rooted in a love of The Lamb and of God’s Word which testified to Him in the sunshine of childhood on Oahu.  As the years passed, I would more than occasionally experience a darker side in American Lutheranism, what Eugene O’Neill would have termed A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  The painful journey which began on the USS Lurline in 1967 was often accompanied by queasy turbulence and darkness as the speed of time in an increasingly ominous Age accelerated, even as my own encounter with the Theology of the Cross deepened in time.  The Lord seemed to be suggesting that I was being prepared to go places I didn’t want to go, on assignments no sane person would volunteer for.

Paul Wangerin and Mark Dankof at El Mirador in San Antonio in March of 2012, 45 years after Teacher and Student days at Trinity Lutheran School of Wahiawa, Hawaii.

     One of those assignments was to be a Watchman 25 years ago in the initial salad days of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC). Those days, my role in them, and the historic events then which overtook many of us in this sanctuary now, are the reason for my acceptance of an invitation to be here in Wisconsin on June 23, 2012.  We cannot know who we are today as a Confessional Body of Faithful Believers standing in the Reformation loci of Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide, and presently residing in the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod–USA, without understanding the situation of a quarter of a century ago in our predecessor body, anymore than anyone of us can possibly know who and what we are as individuals today without intimate acquaintance with, and memory of, our own historical pasts.

     In short, we cannot know who we are, if we do not know where we have been.

     You are invited to share today in only a small segment of my own journey that began almost half a century ago in the Hawaiian Islands as a child.  I hope that my journey illumines the remainder of your pathway as a child of God before the Lord returns. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

     It is my great pleasure to be in attendance at a National Convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod—USA.  Dr. Ralph Spears has asked me to address all of you, keeping the theme of The Watchman in mind, and my past role in the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) serving as one laboring under very painful circumstances that would subsequently come perilously close to destroying my life.  The aftermath has impacted me in all the days and nights since that time.

     For the record, Ralph Spears and John Erickson have stood by me for the last 23 years in the aftermath of the most horrific events of my career in Word and Sacrament ministry.  They have never left me behind in all this time, even as a number of people in strategic positions in the AALC years ago did, not only to my detriment and longtime exile, but to the detriment of many rank-and-file Lutherans out of the old American Lutheran Church who made the same initial mistake that I did in believing that we had found a confessional fellowship and home in the midst of the larger darkness that has enshrouded American Lutheranism in my lifetime.  That darkness accompanies the blackening clouds swirling above our country, clouds soon to pour down God’s verdict of condemnation upon a nation and institutional church that have collectively rejected Him.

     It is an especially gratifying thing to see Dr. Ralph Spears, Dr. John Erickson, and Dr. Donald Thorson again after the passage of so many years.  As has already been mentioned, each of us was a pioneer in the initially hopeful days that surrounded the creation of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) a quarter of a century ago.  Between the years of hardship for each of these men that often accompanied toil in other Lutheran bodies prior to 1987, and what would fatefully transpire in the years that followed that date permanently etched in my own mind, I am reminded of the speed of the passage of time in this present cosmos, and the vicissitudes of life that accompany the turning of pages from one decade to the next.  Moses knows of what he speaks in Psalm 90: 3-10 when he says that:

     “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return ye children of men.  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.  Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep:  in the morning they are like grass which growth up.  In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

     “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.  Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.  For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

     “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

     Thus, I briefly delve into a journey into the distant past, without rancor or bitterness and hopefully with Biblical perspective.  I speak of these matters all these light years later, only because requested to by Pastor Spears, and because of the way in which the events and circumstances of a quarter of a century ago serve to illustrate and warn The Remnant in these presumably final days of human history.

     The final days of human history, chronicled by Jesus Christ in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), have many parallels with the beginning of the end for the Northern Kingdom of Israel as Amos proclaimed it during the reign of Jeroboam II (Co-regency with Jehoash from 793-782 B. C.; sole reign from 782-753 B. C.; total reign 792-740 B. C.); with the Babylonian Exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah which culminated in Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B. C.; and the national judgment of Judah at the hands of Titus and the Romans in 70 A. D. because of the former’s rejection of Jesus Christ and the nature of the Kingdom of God He proclaimed during His First Advent.  This last catastrophe was forecast by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, shortly before His betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the climax of the plot against His life launched by the Jewish religious authorities of first century Palestine.

     The reasons for each of these judgments in redemptive history, and the reasons for what I believe is a coming judgment on our own American nation in the 21st century, are absolutely identical.  Political, economic, military, and cultural eclipse are always the result of rebellion against God, and total disdain for God’s Word.   The final stage in total eclipse is a famine visited upon the land.  And in an age where many of us are terrified of the very real possibility of physical food shortages and the societal turbulence which will accompany it, it bears noting that the famine chronicled by Amos is not a physical oneIt is one that involves the progressive withdrawal of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the evaporation of God’s blessings and protection.  Heed then, the 8th century prophet as he warns both the Northern Kingdom of Israel then, and by extracted principles, all of us here today:

     “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:  And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” [Amos 8: 11-12]

     This is the critical perspective we must have on what has happened to the United States and to the Lutheran Church in your lifetime and mine.

     For the record, I was the first Lutheran pastor in “days passed away [Psalm 90: 9] to be formally accepted onto the clergy roster of the AALC, on July 10, 1987.  In those days, I was a young man, and serving a Lutheran congregation in Seattle, Washington known as St. Matthias Lutheran Church, which would subsequently be among the Charter Congregations comprising this daring venture into the Great Unknown.

     All across the country then, there was much excitement among the early trailblazers in this endeavor and journey of faith. I shared in this Great Hope of that brief moment in time, feeling that after years of heartache in the Lutheran denomination, I was not only experiencing a turning point in my own life and calling, but witnessing a turning point in American Lutheran history that would define the future course of countless Lutheran Christians at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st to follow; a course destined to merge theological orthodoxy, love, and personal witness for Christ as the Church of Smyrna did in the dark early days of the Roman Empire and its persecution of disciples of Jesus Christ, accompanied by the Apostle John’s exile to Patmos at the hands of Emperor Domitian (A. D. 81-96) [Revelation 2: 8-11].

     In those days, I especially looked forward to flying from Seattle to Minneapolis for national board meetings of the Association, and the mornings and evenings spent apart from official business that inevitably involved the swapping of stories, experiences, and future hopes with compadres like the late Pastor Jonathan Noel Kennedy of Faith Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon; Pastor Dennis Brostrom, then of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Patterson, California; Pastor Ray Klug of Fairbury, Nebraska; Pastor Thomas Aadland of Duluth, Minnesota, an AALC Executive Committee member who would years later become the AALC’s Presiding Pastor; Dr. Christopher Barnakov of Washington, D. C., the editor of the AALC’s flagship national publication, The Evangel; Mr. Rollie Strommen of Janesville, Wisconsin; and our own Dr./Pastor John Erickson here today.  Between 1987 and 1989, the course being charted for the AALC in closed session meetings was matched by a special fellowship with these aforementioned Saints, based in what Paul tells us in Ephesians 3: 9:

     “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”

     But darker, demonic forces were also afoot in the AALC between 1987-1989.  Events in that two year period of time would force me into a public role as The Watchman.  I did not seek this assignment.  The role sought me, for reasons only partially understood 25 years later.

     Between 1987-1989, my involvement with the meetings of the Joint Council of the AALC in Minneapolis, and the early conclaves of the Board of Higher Education, revealed three (3) disturbing trends that underscore the Biblical truism for Watchmen and The Remnant throughout history that the Satanic threat to the Confessional Church of our Lord is not simply one posited by external threats and enemies.  The threat and the enemy is often in our own midst.  Jesus’s warnings to His people in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21) come to mind, especially the Lord’s eschatological admonition at the outset:

      “Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.  . . .  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  . . . (Matthew 24).

     And the Apostle Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6 reinforces that of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse:

     “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6: 11-12)

     With these Biblical passages in mind, the three trends of Satanic infiltration in the AALC’s early days that I observed as a Watchman are as follows:  1) the attempts at the outset of the Higher Education Committee of the AALC to establish a Lutheran House of Study in conjunction with Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California; and the involvement of the AALC’s Executive Committee in those days in using representatives of the C. Peter Wagner Church Growth Institute of Fuller Theological Seminary, like Carl George, for seminars on how to create AALC congregations based on the principles of the Church Growth Movement(CGM);  2) the early embrace of key leaders of the AALC of the most radical elements of the Neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal Movements in the Lutheran church, even as it was claimed that the AALC was a continuation of the older American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Lutheran Orthodoxy that once characterized that Synod; and 3) the attempt to synthesize a full subscription to the Lutheran Confessions (“quia“) with the inclusion of advocates of CGM, the Charismatic Movement, and Dispensational Premillennial eschatology and Christian Zionism as full fledged members of the AALC.

     This underscores a truism:  The attempt to synthesize truth and falsehood courtesy of the Hegelian Dialectic is destined to fail.  This methodology is the enemy of Biblical Revelation and the Orthodox Lutheran Confessions.  You and I cannot forget this.  Ever

     And as for the attempt to synthesize Dispensational Premillennial eschatology and Christian Zionism with historic Biblical Christianity, let there be no mistake.  The 19th Century Darbyism which led to the Scofield Reference Bible and subsequently to Hal Lindsey, Jerry Falwell, and John Hagee in our own time, has commingled Law and Gospel; it has perverted Jesus’ teachings on the otherworldly and eternal character of the Kingdom of God in favor of  worldly doctrines of racial supremacy, secular nationalism, and the naked employment of economic and military power to achieve its ends.  It has reduced the Confessing Church of Christ to status as a mere parenthesis in God’s dealings with racial, national Israel and Judah (see chart below on Daniel 9 and the “70th week” or 70×7=490 years).  One can effectively argue that it is leading our country into dangerous and uncharted waters in the Middle East and domestically.  As it repristinates in the modern era a belief in the same heresies and ideology that the New Testament indicates caused the rejection of the truth claims of Jesus Christ on the part of the Jewish religious and political leadership of two millennia ago in Palestine (John 8: 31-59; Matthew 27: 1-6), it may well reside at the center of the eschatological warning issued by Jesus in Matthew 24: 21-24:

     “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.  Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

     Much of the deception surrounds the Dispensationalist and Christian Zionist interpretation of Daniel, chapter 9, The Prophecy of 70 Weeks.  It began with John Nelson Darby in the 19th century, and subsequently the Scofield Reference Bible.  The inroads into both the American churches and American foreign policy began in earnest with Chicago Dispensationalist and international businessman William E. BlackstoneThe endgame is the Beast, the New World Order, and World War III.  See the following chart:

Daniel’s 70th Week: Past Fulfillment or Future?

Issues of Interpretation

Roman View

Eschatological Interval or Parenthesis View

Beginning point (Decree of verse 25)

One of the 3 Persian Decrees: 538, 458, 445 B. C.

One of the decrees of Artaxerxes, 458 or 445 B. C.

Messiah the Prince (verse 25)

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

62 Weeks (62×7= 434 years)

Added to 7 weeks to span from decree to point in the life of Christ (62 weeks or 434 years + 7 weeks or 49 years=69 weeks or 483 years)

Added to 7 weeks and by using “prophetic years” ends at the triumphal entry.

The prophetic clock stops. The parenthesis between the 69th and 70th week begins.

Messiah (verse 26)

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion

Covenant-Maker (verse 27)

Jesus Christ

Antichrist

70th week (7×1=7 years)

Roman destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, 70 A. D.

Futuristic Tribulation corresponding to the 70th week of Daniel (7 years) which begins after the Rapture of the Church, the closing of the Parenthesis Era, and the resumption of National Israel and Judah’s role as the center of God’s plan in redemptive history.

[Brief analysis of the Daniel 9/70 Weeks Chart Follows for Convention Attendees]

     We must leave further analysis of these critical differences in the interpretation of Biblical eschatology and the character of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus to future discussions.  But I must leave you with two essential closing observations.  First, Dispensational Premillennialism and Christian Zionism are incompatible with Orthodox Lutheranism (Augsburg Confession, Article 17).  The former’s adherence to a doctrine of racial supremacy, a commingling of Law and Gospel, and a confusion of the kingdoms of this present realm with Christ’s Kingdom, are anathema to what Jesus taught about His Kingdom, its eternal character, and the universal eligibility of all to receive His gifts and promises.  And the United States is yet to experience the tragedy of being linked as a nation to ongoing support of this monstrous heresy in the political, economic, and military realms.  That tragedy shall be proven both catastrophic and apocalyptic in its implications.  You can take that prediction to the bank, if there is still one left in your community in the next several years. . . .

     Second, everyone in attendance today at this gathering, as well as many others who will be connected to our conversations in Cyberspace, must encounter the work of the late Westminster/Princeton scholar Oswald T. Allis published on this subject in 1945.  His book, Prophecy and the Church, will demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the interpretative scheme of John Nelson Darby, the Scofield Reference Bible, Hal Lindsey, and John Hagee, is incompatible with the Lutheran and Reformed streams of the Protestant Reformation and their respective Confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries.  The Remnant Confessing Church of our Lord ignores this warning at its peril.  The AALC drove through this stop sign many years ago, when it officially recognized a Christian Zionist ministry as its own affiliated organization, one of the many egregious errors made in the initial years of the Minneapolis meetings which taken in the aggregate, spelled disaster and shipwreck.

     Let there be no mistake.  No orthodox Christian of any stripe, including the Confessional Lutheran, believes that the Church of Jesus Christ is a mere parenthesis in history in God’s exclusive dealings with racial, national Israel.  No one can compatiblize this with the witness of the New Testament.  As Dr. Allis testifies in his magnum opus, to believe this is to ultimately revert to Judaism.

     The implications of all of this for the future direction of the AALC would be subsequently chronicled by me for the Lutheran weekly, Christian News, in February of 1994 in a front page story entitled, “The AALC:  Not an Option for ELCA Conservatives.”  I have brought copies of that piece with me today for those interested.  It will cover in greater detail the particulars of the time in which I was barely surviving the assault, along with Pastor Spears, Pastor Erickson, Pastor Klug, and Pastor Brostrom.

     I say barely surviving as my own congregation, St. Matthias Lutheran Church of Seattle, was being rent asunder by the infiltration of the same forces that had begun to permeate the national body.  This was covertly being aided and abetted by two different officials of the AALC, as was documented at the time.  By the decree of the Executive Committee of the AALC undertaken in between national meetings of the Joint Council and the Board of Trustees (of which I was a member), financial subsidy was being silently provided for what had been covertly transpiring in the Emerald City under radar.  The only Early Warning System I possessed that I was in the crosshairs was provided by phone calls of concern from the then President of the Lutheran Bible Institute in Issaquah, and an ELCA pastor in the Puget Sound area who had inside information for me that connected all the relevant players in this Demonic Subterranean Netherworld, their past history, and current informal reports from the Midwest being conveyed to him by his own sources on a regular basis.

     Translation: I had been the leading voice in closed door meetings in the  Twin Cities expressing opposition to the national drift I saw in the organization’s decisions being made by its Executive Committee, its Joint Council, its Board of Higher Education.  It was time that I be disposed of.  The table had been set.

     I kept asking myself in the middle of the night, “Could all of this really be happening to me after two years of service to the national organization, and with the friendships developed with key people in Minneapolis?” I was stunned.  But every piece fit.  The Watchman had let his guard down. He was in the crosshairs of forces he had failed to anticipate and identify.  An excruciating price would be paid for this lack of vigilance.  The spinoffs continue to the present day. 

     The lesson is clear.  The Watchman and The Remnant can never let their guard down.

     Failure to keep this lesson Front and Center is a catastrophic and potentially fatal mistake.

     I will be forever grateful to Pastor Dennis Brostrom and Pastor Ray Klug for their official expressions of public dismay over this situation, along with Mr. Rod Kirchoff of Fairbury, Nebraska.  Mr. Kirchoff led an official inquiry into events in Seattle when commissioned by the Executive Committee of the AALC to do so.  His conclusions were submitted to that body before both he and the Fairbury, Nebraska congregation joined Pastor Klug in leaving the AALC formally.  Pastor Brostrom also departed for other confines.  Other people presently in this room today would also eventually head for the exit.

     I would leave the AALC officially after their 1990 National Convention at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Five (5) years later, I would accept Pastor Ralph Spears’ invitation to join the new LMS-USA at its launching in Indianapolis in 1995.  I have remained with all of you all these years since (17 years), out of conviction that this body represents a slice of The Remnant in these final days, even as I seriously doubt that a Second Reformation will ever grip this country or the post-Christian societies of the Western World generally. I have also remained in the LMS-USA out of eternal personal gratitude that Pastor Spears and Pastor Erickson understood the magnitude of the personal tragedy I had experienced in Seattle in 1989-90 and did not leave The Wounded Watchman by the side of the road.

     They have been sources of encouragement and support in the Lord ever since.  You can’t buy friendships like these over the counter.

     What then, are the other lessons derived from this brief Journey into the Past, both for today’s Watchmen and The Remnant?  For this, we return to where we began today, with the books of Habakkuk and the Apocalypse of John.  I hope the charts provided to you are helpful here.

Habakkuk in Judah and John on Patmos

Today’s Watchmen and Remnant

Ministry in days of Judah’s “death throes.” The reign of Jehoiakim (609-597 B. C.) leads to destruction (2 Kings 23:34-24:5; Jeremiah 22:17). John exiled to Patmos by Emperor Domitian’s decree (A. D. 81-96) and after the national judgment of Judah and its Temple Destruction in A. D. 70, as prophesied by Christ (Matthew 24).

Ministry in days of America’s “death throes.” Fill in your own contemporary particulars.  . . .  Roe versus Wade, national embrace of sexual perversion, national debt, crime, family disintegration, over extension of military empire abroad, New World Order, embrace of a deceptive and evil alliance with the Synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2: 9 with reference to Romans 2: 28-29), et.al.  Church mirrors the nation with its higher Biblical criticism, embrace of sexual perversion, cultural accommodationism, corrupt leadership, financial greed, lack of love.  Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea or a combination of them (see Revelation 2: 1-3: 21) are today’s American church, including the institutional Lutheran version.

The Remnant today must follow the Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia (Revelation 2: 8-11; 3: 7-13)

Babylon as instrument of God’s judgment (1:6; 2:1; 3:16)

Fill in your own contemporary particulars.  . . . Who will it be? What configuration of world powers and forces?

Habakkuk means “One Who Embraces or Clings.” See 3: 16-19 for the Prophet’s decision to Cling to God in all circumstances.

Watchmen and Remnant must Cling to God and His Son. (Romans 10: 9; Revelation 3: 19-22)

The  circumstances for Habakkuk, Judah, and Babylon sometimes appear to contradict God’s revelation, His power, His purposes, His promises.

Circumstances surrounding the institutional church and the nation sometimes appear to contradict God’s revelation, His power, His purposes, His promises to you and me.

Habakkuk has extended dialogue with God (2/3 of entire book).  First dialogue (1:1-11); second dialogue (1: 12-2: 20).

Watchmen and Remnant must Pray Without Ceasing (I Thessalonians 5: 17).

Perplexity over God’s purposes causes Habakkuk to stand upon a watchtower to wait for God’s reply. God’s reply is plain (2: 2), for an appointed time (2: 3), guaranteed to come and truthful (2: 3).  5 Woes are pronounced upon the guilty (chapter 2).

Watchmen and Remnant must be the Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia in the 21st century.

God’s people must overcome in the midst of adversity, trial, and exile.

The Watchmen and The Remnant must overcome (Revelation 2 and 3).  The mandate is given to all 7 Churches of Asia Minor in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

[Brief summation of main highlights of the chart with attendees].

     For the sake of time, I will now permit all of you to comprehensively digest the chart’s entire contents in the days ahead.

     And as this may well mark the last time I address a national Lutheran gathering of this type, given present conditions in the world, let me leave my segment of this program today with a final thought (s) for The Remnant, based on the last theme of the chart.

     The Watchmen and The Remnant must overcome

     Strong’s Concordance on the Internet at http://concordances.org/greek/3528.htm explains the meaning and nuances of the word used by Jesus for His instructions to each of the 7 Churches of Asia Minor in the Apocalypse.  The Greek word is [(nik-ah’-o)]. 

     The literal translation is “I conquer, am victorious, overcome, prevail, subdue.” K. Wuest correctly conveys the idea that “The verb implies a battle.”

     You and I are now in the very beginning of the ultimate battle in world history forecast in the Olivet Discourse and by John on Patmos.

      The blackening darkness accompanying the emerging rule of The Beast proceeds apace (Revelation 13).  The enemies of Jesus Christ and Biblical witness are many.  Some are external threats.  Others are ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing in our midst (Matthew 7: 15).  We have already discussed some examples of this from a quarter of a century ago.

     I will simply say this as a Lutheran pastor whose lifetime and ordained ministry have coincided with our perilous collective course.

     As far as the Confessing Church in America in the 21st century is concerned, we are not simply losing.  We have already lost.  I agree with the prevailing published secular analysis and consensus which flatly states that the United States and Europe are post-Christian societies.  The evidence of this is Legion: The decline in preaching and teaching in our churches that is based in solid Biblical exegesis and Orthodox Lutheran standards, increasingly replaced by the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity “Gospel” and entertainment galas; the Church of Jezebel’s accommodation of the greed, narcissism, and perversion which continues to permeates American culture as it has since the salad days of the Drug and Sexual Revolutions in the 1960s; the Culture of Death which continues to abound, symbolized by abortion, Zero Population Growth, euthanasia, and the organized homosexual rights movement; and the ongoing disappearance of healthy young families and communities built around a solid economy and Confessing Church, courtesy of the Globalist movement which underscores the truism that “No man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13: 17).

     This then, is truly the age of The Beast and The False Prophet (Revelation 13).  How then, to quote Strong’s Concordance and Wuest, do we “conquer, overcome, prevail, and subdue?

     The key for The Remnant is To RecognizeWhat must we recognize?

     We must recognize the signs of the eschatological times in world history (Daniel 2, 7, 9; Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21/; I Corinthians 11: 13-14; I Timothy 4: 1-2; I Peter 1: 5-7).

     We must recognize the reality of the demonic forces at work against the people of God (Ephesians 6; I Peter 5: 8).

     We must recognize that we can only battle demonic forces by donning the full armor of God (Ephesians 6: 11-18), even as the season of Antichrist approaches (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13) with lying “signs and wonders.”

     We must recognize the full implications of our status as a Remnant (Smyrna/Revelation 2: 8-11 and Philadelphia/Revelation 3: 7-13) of the Israel of God (Galatians 6: 16 and I Peter 2: 9-10).

     We must recognize God’s providential plan and design in both the best and the worst times of our lives (Romans 8: 28, Romans 11: 33-34; Philippians 1: 12).

     We must recognize that the Remnant Church confounds an unbelieving world and dying culture by preaching Christ Crucified (I Corinthians 1: 17-25) and Christ Risen (Romans 10: 9; I Corinthians 15; II Corinthians 5: 21).

     We must recognize that the Final Victory is ours (Revelation 22); that we are Conquerors, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 37-39).

     This is the context in which we must see and understand what has happened to all of us in the passage of these last few decades.  The American Empire is going the way of ancient national Israel and Judah; the American Lutheran Church’s descent into apostasy, sectarianism, institutional corruption, and increasing irrelevance, accompanies the sick national scene of which it is merely one component in the larger picture.

     We of The Remnant must Cling to God and His Son.  We must Cling to His Word and to His people.  We must Cling to a lifetime of prayer and meditation.  We must Cling to the Cross of Calvary and the Empty Tomb of Easter Sunday morning.  We must Cling to the Promise that the Son of God, presently seated at the Right Hand of God the Father, will soon return for His  People and the establishment of a Kingdom Without End.

     Lutheran Synods are not necessary for this.  Neither are District Presidents and Bishops, million dollar church budgets, satellite TV shows with televangelists, church growth demographic chart analyses, endorsements from secular political figures, or subsidies from non-profit organizations and NGOs.  These sad sack ingredients are the reverse side of the counterfeit coin which captures the two major secular political parties in America, the corporate news media, Wall Street, and the worst elements of our declining educational system.  Why see them as our deliverers from our lamentable individual and collective condition?

     They are anything but deliverers.  They are the ultimate symptoms of a fatal national and metastasizing malignancy which oppress and corrode the souls of God’s people. The discerning will throw them overboard. Paul warns us in the context of his own discussion of the Last Days offered to Timothy that such entities “have a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away(II Timothy 3: 5).

     We shall simply take Jesus at His Word with his blessed assurance to the beleaguered Saints of both the 1st century and the 21st: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2: 10).

     I finally conclude my brief conversation with you today, by coming full circle to where we began an hour ago, with the story of a maritime voyage.  It illustrates where you and I are headed together in our present journey.  The Final Destination is assured and unmistakable.  Be sure of this.

     This maritime voyage transpired in my Night Thoughts of three (3) years ago, one late Spring evening right after the death of my father in San Antonio.  The voyage was a nocturnal reversal of the sad maritime journey I had been forced to embark upon one early Hawaiian morning in the early summer of 1967.

     In those Night Thoughts of 2009 in the Alamo City, I was suddenly a kid again.  I found myself waiting at the Port of San Francisco with my youthful parents and my older brother.  We were getting ready to board a ship, by walking up a long and steep ramp.  The ship had Matson Lines of Hawaii markings.  It was the SS Lurline.

     My parents and my brother began the ascent up the ramp to board.  I felt a hand upon my right shoulder.  I turned and saw one who looked like the Ancient of Days.  His garment was white as snow; the hair of His head was like pure wool.  He was accompanied by the One whose hand was on my shoulder, one like the Son of Man (Daniel 7: 9, 13).

     The One whose hand was upon my right shoulder smiled.  It was a silent but sure reassurance that this voyage of 2400 miles would be a special one.  I proceeded up the ramp.

     The SS Lurline began to pull away from Pier One, the Embarcadero, and the western edge of San Francisco Bay on this early sunlit morning in the City by the Bay.  As it did, my eyes focused on the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline until they disappeared.  There was a beautiful Pacific breeze that accompanied the panoramic view.  The sun seemed to follow the luxury liner and its occupants across 2400 miles of the deepest blue ocean and whitest crests I had ever witnessed.

     Five days passed in only an hour, much as one day with the Lord is like a thousand years (Psalm 90, 2 Peter 3: 8).

     Suddenly the Port of Honolulu swept into view.  As the SS Lurline approached Pier 11, the Matson Lines band and orchestra struck up Aloha Oe. A farewell in time had become a greeting in eternity.

The SS Lurline navigates the east side of Diamond Head in Honolulu.

     The welcoming crowd was teaming on this sun drenched Honolulu morning.  I saw Frederick L. Von Husen front and center among the beaming faces, waving to my family and to me.  Then I noticed he was surrounded by other faces I had known my entire life, the faces of people I had always known were among the Saints of God.  I had known them in so many different places as numerous as the stars in their courses. Some had preceded me in death and were now alive!  Others had not known the sting of temporal death, because of the One I had just seen upon departure from the Port of San Francisco only an hour before.  But how could we have crossed the Pacific so quickly?

     The Polynesian men and women who comprised the Matson Lines canoe crews were alongside us again.  The ladies looked as bright, colorful, and beautiful as they had so long ago.  The young men were as athletic and vibrant as they had been light years before in another universe in time.  But they were all now waving hello!  They were accompanying us to a Pier of Arrival that made up the most joyous scene I had ever seen in my life.  And suddenly I knew that my life was not ending but beginning, in a new plane of existence in a new cosmos that comprised The New Heaven and The New Earth.

SS Lurline arrives at the Port of Honolulu. Pier 11.

     Amidst all of the tears of joy and the embraces that enshrouded me in the love of the Saints who had come to the Pier to greet me, I was suddenly in the presence again of One Like the Son of Man.  But lo and behold, He is the Son of Man and the Only Begotten Son of the Father!  His Legions of Angels surround him in an aura of Radiant Light!  It is the Light of the Living Lord!  It is the Victory of the One who Has come as He has promised!

     And His people are the Victors, the Conquerors, the Ones Who Have Overcome in the Blood of the Lamb! The Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, the Whore of Babylon, and their followers throughout history are now consigned forever to the Lake of Fire!  Death and Hell have been cast into this Lake.  This is the Second Death. (Revelation 20).

     And all of us have a Crown of Righteousness!

     And all of you today in Chetek, Wisconsin are there!  You too departed Pier One, the Embarcadero, the western edge of San Francisco Bay with me, on a most glorious luxury liner, destined to arrive at a place the world will never know, but which the People of God, the New Israel of God in Christ will live in forever and ever!

The Port of San Francisco on a clear day. Coit Tower remains on watch.

     And then I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul:

     “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all of them also that love His appearing.” (II Timothy 4: 6-8).

     And the vision of John on Patmos swiftly followed Paul’s words in the Night Thoughts and nocturnal dream that came to me after the death of my earthly father, an incredible gift of your Heavenly Father and mine:

     “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.

     “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.

     “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

     “And He said unto me, It is done.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

     “He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”  (Revelation 21: 2-7)

     This is your destiny.  This is my destiny.  It is by the grace of God alone, Christ alone, and faith alone.  The Holy Scriptures testify to these truths.  Do not doubt these truths, but cling to them.  Your redemption draweth nigh in these dark, final days of human history.

     I recall Paul’s admonition to all of God’s people who are both Watchmen and Remnant:

     “Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

     “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

     “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

     “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (I Thessalonians 5: 5-11)

     God bless you and your household this blessed day. I bid you farewell.

The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, awaits us.