I just returned from our monthly Winkel (circuit pastors' meeting). What a joy it is to serve in a circuit filled with loving, faithful servants of our Lord, who honestly care for one another and desire to engage in fruitful conversation for the mutual edification of all. We have our disagreements, to be sure, but we are willing to talk through them in a loving manner, and sincerely desire to understand the positions of others. Of course, it does help that the majority of the pastors in our circuit, from what I can tell after four years of getting to know them, fall on the "confessional" side of the theological equation (let the reader understand), which is, sad to say, a rarity in our district.
Today's Winkel was especially good, considering that it was hosted by Rev. Dave Reed (Grace, Auburn), who is as solid as they come and one of the most loving, faithful pastors I have ever been privileged to know. Pr. Reed prepared us for reception of the Most Holy Sacrament by leading us through the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution (LSB, p. 290). But, he first prepared us for that Service by reading and preaching upon Jeremiah 7:8-15, which I had never seen done before, but thought it worked extremely well. His brief homily was a superb example of rightly dividing the Word of truth by proclaiming the Law in its full sternness (go read that text from Jeremiah - who among us has not been guilty of taking the Gospel for granted at times?) and the Gospel in its full sweetness. Then, we were blessed to approach the altar, kneel, confess our sins, and receive individual absolution by name from our Lord, through Dave, His servant. After that, we returned to our pews, confessed our faith in song, heard another excellent, brief homily upon Luke 6:1-5, prayed, joined in the Communion liturgy, and received the very Body and Blood of our Lord. A truly splendid way to begin the day - basking in the Divine Gifts our Lord so graciously lavishes upon us!
As you might expect, the conversation during our meeting was focused upon the recent decisions made by the ELCA. We all agreed that, while we do need to speak out against the horrible, un-Scriptural decisions made by the ELCA, we also need to take time for self-examination to see where we, as individuals, as a circuit, and as a synod, are in need of repentance. This is not a time for us to follow the lead of the Pharisees and say, "Lord God, I thank You that I am not a member of the ELCA," but rather, "Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" We have plenty of problems to grapple with right here at home. This is not the time for the LCMS to mount a pedestal and engage in prideful boasting. Instead, what we witnessed at the ELCA Church Wide Assembly should be viewed as a warning shot across our bow, waking us up to the reality of the divisions and problems we have in our own fellowship. Shame on us if we don't heed the warning and continue on as if everything is hunky-dory among us!
I believe "It's Time" to pursue, and engage in, deliberate, focused dialogue on the divisive issues currently plaguing our synod. I hope and pray that the delegates to next year's National Convention will agree.
After our conversation and business were concluded, most of us went out to lunch together and did some catching up with one another, since this was our first Winkel since June. It was great to be with the guys and join in the mutual conversation of the brethren. A truly blessed day!
Please keep Rev. Kurt Eichinger (Lord of New Life, Midland) and family in your prayers, as they continue to mourn the loss of Diane (Pr. Eichinger's dear wife), who was called home to the Lord on August 23.