Shared Vision

February 2020

From the Pastor's Desk:

Our teachers have been falsely accused of forbidding good works. AC, Article [1]

One of the charges that is often made against traditional Lutherans is that they are opposed to efforts on the part of Christians to work for peace and justice. This charge is made because traditional Lutherans criticize the emphasis on political advocacy in the ELCA. This is inaccurate. We no more forbid our fellow Christians from working for peace and justice than the Lutheran reformers forbid the doing of good works. Rather, like the reformers, we are concerned about the blurring of the distinction between Law and Gospel, Faith and Works, Justification and Vocation, and the like.

One way to get at this distinction is to focus on the concept of Vocation. The Augsburg Confession says,

It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call. (Article XIV)[2]

What does this mean? It means that although we believe that all Christians are equal in Christ, that in Holy Baptism all are filled with the Holy Spirit, and that all called to bear witness to Christ through word and deed, no one has the right to take it upon himself to walk into the pulpit and begin preaching. No one has the right to take it upon herself to walk up to the table and preside at the Lord's Supper. That is reserved for the person who has been called and ordained into the Office of Ministry.

What is not as well know is that Lutherans believe there are other offices to which people are called by God. Those other offices include mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother and neighbor. These center around the home. In regard to the workplace, people are called into the office of employer and employee, buyer and seller, merchant and customer. There are people who are called into various professions. As Christians, we believe that each office we hold represents an opportunity for faith to be active in love through service to our neighbor. This is what Lutherans call the doctrine of Vocation. (From the Latin word for "calling".)

The doctrine of Vocation helps clear up the confusion that often arises around the concept of the Priesthood of All Believers. The Priesthood of All Believers does not mean that at any moment a Christian may assume any office he or she chooses. It does not mean that anyone can walk into the pulpit and preach. It doesn't mean that anyone who feels moved at the moment can preside at the Lord's Supper. That is reserved for persons called into the proper office.

At the same time, however, it does not mean that I as a pastor can walk into your home and assume the role of father. I cannot walk into your place of business and assume the role of owner or manager. I cannot decide that today I want to practice law and that tomorrow I want to practice medicine. My call is not yours, but in the same way your call is not mine. You serve as priest in your home, office or place of work.

This confusion of priesthood and vocation is most evident today in the realm of politics. When a person becomes a member of a congregation through Affirmation of Baptism, they promise among other things to "strive for justice and peace in all the earth." Indeed, the Lutheran Church affirms that striving for justice and peace is the calling of every Christian in baptism. The confusion arises when we think that it is the calling of the pastor or congregation to do this for the individual Christian.

Christians in the United States hold many offices that pertain to justice and peace. The most important office in this regard is the office of citizen. As a citizen, you vote for those who will hold public office and have the power to set policy, and administer and enforce laws. The office of citizen is one to which you have been called and for which you are accountable to God. Other offices include elected official, civil servant, judge, juror, police officer, etc... As Christians, we are to work for peace and justice in every office to which we have been called.

Is the Church called to strive for justice and peace? Yes. It does so through the various vocations that its members have. The problem arises when the ELCA believes that it is the primary work of the Church to do this for its members. More and more, it seems that the ELCA believes the work of justice and peace must be done by synod and churchwide office and assemblies, and through congregations led by their pastors. In effect, the church has attempted to usurp the offices and callings of its members, by presuming to speak for them and by using their contributions to fund that effort.

Meanwhile, the proper office of the ministry and the congregation is neglected. While the church attempts to promulgate and administer laws, it forgets to proclaim God's Word and administer the Sacraments. Rather than being a place of reconciliation, where people with honest disagreements about public policy are united as forgiven sinners at the Lord's Table, the Church becomes a place of political strife, judgment and condemnation.

The irony of this is that no one cares what I, as an ELCA pastor, have to say about public policy. I can ascend the pulpit Sunday after Sunday to lecture the governor and president, state and federal legislators, judges and juries about how things ought to be done, but it will have little effect. They don't really care about what I think.

Things only get worse if I lack expertise on a subject, but presume to give policy speeches anyway. The teachers in my congregation know more than I do about education. The doctors and nurses in my congregation know more than me about medicine. Engineers know more about engineering. The active and retired military people know more than I do about national defense and foreign policy. They don't come to worship to hear my opinion on matters about which they know more.

Instead, they expect me to use my theological education and parish experience to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. I have been called to be their pastor. They want to hear the Law that convicts them of sin, and the Gospel that sets them free. They want to receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They want me to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so that they, their children, and their grandchildren may receive the salvation that God has promised. That is my office. They expect me to fulfill that calling to the best of my ability with God's help.

The ELCA is in danger of neglecting the one thing that only the Church can do, namely, preaching the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. We run the risk of being ashamed of the Gospel, thinking that our political advocacy will accomplish more. That would be a fatal error. As Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith." (Romans 1:16, NRSV)

Yours in Christ,

Rev. David A. Charlton

[1] Theodore G. Tappert. Augsburg Confession (Kindle Location 141). Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid, (Kindle Location 109).

MISSIONARY NEWS

St. Paul's foreign missionary, Rev. Kristin Engstrom, is in the West African nation of Senegal. She is there as the program coordinator of the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Missions. Each year Pastor Kristin receives a group of young adults who she is to train as foreign missionaries in less than one year. How does she do this? What is a foreign missionary? Most of us only have a vague idea what a foreign missionary is and does. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul was a foreign missionary. He took the Good News of Jesus to the gentiles of Asia and Europe. To be a good missionary it took Paul to do more than simply tell the Good News. Paul had to travel to people who never heard of Jesus. He had to live and work in communities he visited. He had to get to know the local people. He had to be able to speak to the people in a language that they knew. He had to spend time in the communities he visited. He had to be brave, to stick his neck out, and speak not knowing what the reaction would be. Pastors Kristin's training program includes similar items. Her young volunteers have to know French. They have to live with local families and to work in local organizations. They have to be out going, not afraid to tell those they meet about Jesus. Becoming a missionary take effort. Let us pray for Pastor Kristin, her young adults, and the people of Senegal. Let us support Pastor Kristin by giving to Missionary Support.

International Health Partners

As the construction crews complete a unit, the Birthing Center, for the Children's Hospital at Zinga, Tanzania, work is already in progress for the next units, the Operating Wing and the Natal Intensive Care Unit. Plans are being drawn for the next scheduled unit. In their long range planning there are to be 36 different units to be constructed for the Children's Hospital. When finished it will be a complete hospital able to take care of children with all types of diseases and accidents. Work is slow as the Children's Hospital builds only using funds already raised. It uses its own construction crews. This guarantees the quality of the buildings and provides that construction workers will be present each day. The medical staff, service and support staff, and the construction crews all live on the hospital grounds. Thus they are always present. Contacts made by fund raisers and by staff ensure that medical volunteers come to the hospital to see patients and to train the resident medical staff. Nonmedical volunteers come and stay for several weeks while they help to paint, lay bricks, landscape. There are guest housing present for both volunteer groups. While in Zinga they are given time to see the beauty and wildlife of Africa. Let us continue to pray for the building of the Children's Hospital and for all staff members. Let us continue to support the International Health Partners which funds and plans the construction pf the hospital with our gifts to Mission Outreach. Pictures and information are posted on the Mission Bulletin Board.

LUTHERAN MEN In MISSION

February 2020 Bible Study Breakfast

The LMM monthly Bible Study and Breakfast will be Saturday, February 15, at 7:30 A. M. in the Parish Hall. We are continuing the Course on "Spirituality." This is the fifth session where we will be discussing the subject "Spiritual Basics: Becoming a Christian." The Bible study topic is "What Should I Do Now? 'Faith and action'" (Acts 2:42-47). This Bible Study will follow Option 2: Advanced: Teaching with Margin Questions.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

As a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the fellowship of believers described in this passage, had grown by about 3,000. This Scripture shows the importance of fellowship. In verses 42 and 46 we read how the new believers were constantly devoting time and commitment to the activities that marked the Christian community. They wanted to learn and participate in what the apostles and other Christians were teaching and experiencing.

These and the other short verses in this passage present the ideal possible in the Christian community. Starting and ending with the neophytes, Acts describes the drawing power of community living.

Why did the community grow so quickly? The calling card of evangelization was the "wonders and signs of the apostles" that caused awe among the populace of Jerusalem [2:43]. But there was more. A spirit of unity based upon a common concern, a Christian love. These new Christians were devoted to the teaching of the apostles, fellowship, and worship [2:42]. The Jerusalem community itself attended Temple worship together and shared the Lord's Supper in the homes of the faithful [2:46a]. And they would sell real estate and personal possessions for the good of the needy in the community [2:44]. Verse 2:46b seemed to sum up the reason for their growth: a love and joy that pervaded their lives together. The source and end of that love, of course, was the Lord. The Lord himself gave unity to the early Christians.

Discussion will focus on how our Christian community compares to the one described in Acts. How do we express Christian joy? In prayer? In fellowship? In study? In outreach? How does that joy reflect the activity of the Lord in our life?

All men of the congregation are invited to attend

WORN/TATTERED AMERICAN FLAGS

If you have a worn out, tattered, or faded US flag you need to properly dispose of, you can bring it to the church and Don Cleveland will deliver it to his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post for a proper and respectful disposal.

AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (AEDS) -

St Paul Lutheran Church has 2 AEDs for use in an emergency. One is located in the Gathering Room hanging on the east wall (near the classroom door) and the other is in the Family Life Center/School in the Lobby.

PRAYER SHAWLS

St. Paul has a prayer shawl ministry to offer comfort to our members during times of health concerns, grief and other situations. The shawls are knit or crocheted by our members and friends.

We have had expressions of gratitude from those who have received them, several saying they could feel the caring thoughts and prayers from our church. Sadly, we have no shawls right now and need people to make them. If you can crochet or knit and would be able to create one, please contact the church office at 678-1298 or Darlene Anderson at 850-496-1799. We have the yarn and directions for you...now people are needed to knit or crochet.

PRAYER GROUP

Those who are interested in being part of a St. Paul Prayer Group are invited to join Pastor David in the Cry Room on Sunday, February 2, at 9:45 a.m. He will introduce a simple procedure for group prayer. We will also discuss the best time, day and location for future meetings. If you are unable to attend, but want information on future prayer meetings, please contact the church office.

WELCA

Holy Trinity in FWB is hosting our annual retreat for the first time. We need housing for a few gals who drive from Tallahassee and need overnight accommodations. Special need for this year's WELCA retreat April 24-26: If you own a condominium in the Fort Walton Beach area and are willing to "loan" or rent it during the 2020 Spring Retreat, please contact Linda Nelson @ 499-8509 or 729-1954.

WELCA is no longer collecting ink cartridges.

Columbarium Niches Remaining

We have had a number of people, who have recently reserved niches in the Columbarium, and we are starting to run out of available niches to be reserved. We only have 14 left that are available to be reserved, before we run out.

If you are planning to have any family members cremated and want to have the ashes placed in our Columbarium, now is the time to reserve a niche, while some are still available. There is a plan to expand the Columbarium, but due to the significant expense involved, it is hard to determine when we would be able to do that.

If you have been thinking about it and want to reserve one or more niches, while they are still available, please contact the church office and let us know.

DID YOU KNOW: St Paul has a dedicated Safety Team consisting of 15 members trained in first aid, CRP, AED and mass bleed stop. Members are identified by the Red Name Tag they wear. Look for and get to know your Safety Team.

Community Pastoral Counseling

A ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School

Rev. Robert R. Lutz, PhD Diplomate

American Association of Pastoral Counselors

Call 850-843-3083 for Information or to make an appointment