(Pr. Sikora, President-Elect Harrison, and newly appointed Director of Church Relations - Assistant to the President, Rev. Al Collver)
I was going to photoshop myself into this pic, but I lack both the software and the know-how, so, instead, to make myself feel better and quench my jealousy of Pr. Sikora, I'll just re-post a couple of pics of my own:
(Notice how Pr. Steve Starke, Hymn-writer extraordinaire, and President-Elect Harrison are taking great joy in listening to me - take that, Sikora! :)
(In this pic, President-Elect Harrison is writing down the many suggestions I shared with him on how he should lead our synod - it only looks like he's merely signing my copies of his books; I know the truth! :)
Okay, now that that's out of the way and I feel better . . .
Before we commenced with our study of the Confessions, we had Divine Service, celebrating the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Pr. Sikora preached a most excellent sermon to us, calling us to repentance for often seeking God in the wrong places (much like St. Mary Magdalene did in going to the tomb to look for a dead Christ), and enlivening us with the pure, sweet message of the Gospel, reminding us that the Living Christ has sought us and called us by name (just like He did with St. Mary Magdalene) and continues to call us to where He promises to be, that He may deliver unto us the Divine Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments. Then we received the very Body and Blood of the Living Christ in the Holy Eucharist for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith. A wonderful way to begin the day!
After Divine Service, we turned to our study of the Confessions. There were around 40 people in attendance, which I believe set a record. We began a study of Luther's Large Catechism, taking turns reading paragraphs and then discussing what we'd read. It was most delightful and edifying, especially given the fact that there were some top-notch theologians in attendance, both clergy and lay. Great discussion! We made it through the Longer Preface and began the Shorter Preface. Always a bit sobering (and convicting) to read Dr. Luther's admonishments here, especially given the fact that his words are every bit as applicable to our day and our situation as they were to his. It doesn't appear that things have changed much and we would do well to listen anew (and often) to Dr. Luther's admonishments. Here are a couple of excerpts from the Longer Preface:
To this laziness such preachers add the shameful vice and secret infection of security and contentment. In other words, many see the catechism as a poor, common teaching, which they can read through once and immediately understand. They can throw the book into a corner and be ashamed to read it again . . .
But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. Every morning - and whenever I have time - I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so. Yet these delicate, refined fellows would in one reading promptly become doctors above all doctors, know everything, and need nothing. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the souls of the people. Indeed, they even despise God and His Word. They do not have to fall. They have already fallen too horribly. They need to become children and begin to learn their alphabet, which they imagine they have long outgrown [Mark 10:15].
I wonder what Dr. Luther would say about the conditions of the clergy in our synod today? I'd bet he would write much the same thing, only in not so nice a fashion. :) All pastors need to heed his words here. We should all be diligent in our reading and study of the catechism, never imagining that we have learned it all and no longer need it. The same is true for the rest of our Confessions. They should not be placed on some bookshelf to collect dust, but should be regularly read and studied. If we cannot master the catechism - and we can't! - then how in the world could we ever master the rest of our Confessions?
After our study, the vast majority of us went to lunch, which was a blast. Lots of conversation about the Convention last week, mixed with some good, solid, theological gab, and a little catching up. It was so good to be with many brothers I don't get to see as often as I like, and I'm already looking forward to next month's Study!