Actions of the 64th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod produced a number of changes for our Synod, not least of which were the election of President Matthew C. Harrison and the adoption of a number of restructuring resolutions. While delegates at the convention made dramatic decisions that will affect the future of the LCMS, its congregational principle and scriptural foundations remain unchanged. In an effort to focus this task upon our Lord’s institution of the church, the emphasis “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” was adopted.
These phrases illustrate how the church lives and works together to proclaim the Gospel and to provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our congregations, communities and throughout the world. And in all we do, Christ is at the center, leading us, sustaining us, keeping us focused on our mission. This will never change.
As we at Holy Cross Lutheran Church pray for our Synod’s new leadership, for wisdom and courage for them in the Word of God, we rejoice at this faithful reminder of what Christ’s Church, whether Grace Lutheran Church or The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is all about. These three themes are a helpful introduction to what our Lord has given us to be at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
Witness (μαρτυρία, testimony)
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”
1 John 5:7–8
Holy Cross Lutheran Church is here to bear witness to the Truth. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from all eternity. The eternal Son was made flesh in Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was raised bodily from the dead on the third day, with life and salvation for all who believe in his Name. He is the only hope for sinful man. In him alone we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.
The Church bears witness to salvation in this Jesus in her preaching of Christ crucified, raised, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Holy Cross Lutheran Church stands in agreement on this with the Bible, the Creeds, and the Lutheran Confessions, as teaching the truth about Jesus. Our teaching is normed, checked against these standards, so that we do not teach the doctrines of men, but the Word of God. This is a place where these three John mentions still testify to Jesus: the Spirit, in the preached word of God, the water, in Holy Baptism, and the Blood of our Lord, offered for our sins and given us to drink, with his Body to eat, in his Holy Supper. This doctrine, the Word of Jesus that is Spirit and Truth, is the beating heart of both our life together and our works of mercy. We therefore see to the preaching of this Word and the administration of the Sacraments in our community and, through our gifts and prayers, throughout the world.
Mercy (διακονία, service)
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus did not come to help those who help themselves, or to show a way of living by which we could try to save ourselves by serving God in a better way. He came to seek and to save the lost, and that, by giving his own life as a ransom for many. On account of his faithful service to us, as those justified through faith in his blood, we are confident that nothing can separate us from the love of God in him. Our hearts are therefore freed from trying to justify ourselves to love others, and our hands are therefore freed from trying to save ourselves to love and serve our neighbors.
Just as Holy Cross Lutheran Church is a place where witness is borne to Jesus through Word and Sacrament, it is also a place where his mercy goes forth into the world through acts of loving service. We exercise the various gifts and offices with which God has entrusted us to serve one another with the love of Christ. We joyfully serve and give out of the substance with which our Lord has served and gifted us–locally, through our elders, Ladies’ Aid, our deaconess, and community service projects, and nationally and internationally, through gifts and prayers and organizations like LCMS World Relief and Human Care. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Life Together (κοινωνία, communion or fellowship)
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9
When Jesus began his ministry, he did it by being baptized together with sinners, by taking his place with us in the baptismal waters, taking all the “dirty bathwater” of our sins on himself to make us clean. Just before he was crucified, putting those sins away, he instituted the Holy Supper of his Body and Blood, giving his Church communion with him and with all the saints in the holy things that bought our peace. At his ascension, he sent his apostles to preach and baptize, to gather to him a holy Church out of this dying world, a Church gathered in the one hope that belongs to her calling: one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:5–6).
We at Holy Cross Lutheran Church are gathered into the living community raised up in the resurrection of Jesus, gathered in the forgiveness of all sin by his blood, calling upon one Father in heaven in his Name. Even as we confess that we are gathered together with all the saints who believe in Jesus in the Church Universal, so we are gathered together now in this place, as those who partake together of our Lord’s common gifts, as those whose sins are alike forgiven, as those who are made new as sons and daughters of God by his Word even in the midst of our imperfections and even sins. Our life together flows from our receiving together from the Word of Christ. We are united by his teaching and reconciled by his forgiveness. We rejoice in our life together in Christ, forgiving one another as he has forgiven us, gathering frequently to receive his gifts and to build each other up with “songs and hymns and spiritual songs,” with the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly. And we await our common hope, together with all the saints, in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, where we, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, will forever praise the Lamb once slain and now forever alive, our Lord Jesus Christ.