109 S. Elm,
Kewanee, Illinois 61443
Volume 28 January 2016 No. 1
PONDERING THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN
The significance of the coming of the wise men to visit the Christ Child in Bethlehem may be learned, first, from the fact that it is reported in St. Matthew’s Gospel, a book dedicated especially to demonstrating to the Jews that Jesus is indeed the Christ long awaited.
After the resurrection and Pentecost, a strong contingent of Jews was alleging that Jesus could not be the Messiah since Gentiles were now being welcomed in as followers, without needing to become Jews. The Judaizers, as they were called, were troubling the church not only from the outside, but from within: Jewish Christians were sometimes fierce in their (false) contention that proselytes must become Jews in order to be true followers of Jesus.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians addresses this problem, and recounts the event in which even St. Peter himself was temporarily taken in by this sort of thinking. This was not surprising, given that for thousands of years the Jews had been under the Mosaic covenant. If traditions of any religious persuasion are always hard to change, imagine how hard it must have been for Jewish Christians to swallow the idea that Gentiles could join the churches without circumcision and without declaring their allegiance to Jewish code.
Here is a key significance to the Gospel of Matthew, and a strong argument for its priority (the theory that it appears first among the Gospels because it was written first). The Evangelist wanted to show Jewish Christians in particular that the coming of the Christ was not merely for Jews but for all the world. His coming marked the end of a long era and the beginning of another. The age of the Jews as God’s chosen nation was coming to an end, being replaced by its fulfillment: Christ is the Father’s chosen (beloved) son, and therefore all true believers are to be found in him, whether Jews or Gentiles.
The visit of the wise men to the nativity-place in Bethlehem is a key historical event that shows this to be the case. These wise men were Gentiles first of all. They sought him who was born King of the Jews, not as though seeking a foreign king, but as seeking their own king. The King of the Jews is in this context the fulfillment of the Jewish nation, and therefore the King of the Gentiles as well. This is why they presented him kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were thereby swearing their allegiance to him.
Christian people will all do well to understand the tremendous change that came to pass when Jesus came. The cocoon that kept this promise for thousands of years was now about to burst, and the butterfly of a new creation was born in him. And this new creation would last forever.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Join us on Epiphany Day as we discuss this matter further. See below.
Eckardt household Christmas greetings: click here.
Epiphany Retreat, Mass, and Reception January 6th
For the first time, our annual winter Epiphany retreat is to be scheduled all on one day, Epiphany Day, January 6th, 2016. This should accommodate people who come from a distance.
At 1:00 p.m. we will open with a mid-day prayer service, and follow at 1:30 p.m. with a Day of Theological Reflection, the sixteenth retreat in series, continuing with the theme of the opening article in this newsletter, above, entitled,
“PONDERING THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN”
At this retreat, we’ll take an in-depth look at St. Matthew 2. To prepare for it, reading the chapter carefully is recommended.
At 4:00 p.m. we’ll break for dinner, then return for Epiphany Mass at 7:00 p.m. and round out the festivities with a wine and cheese reception afterwards. Invite your friends!
1/1 Chris Erickson
1/4 Lucille Kemerling
1/13 James Hornback
Larry Campbell has been inducted as a subdeacon, just prior to mass on Sunday, December 13th. He had been training for several weeks. We rejoice that we now have two trained subdeacons willing and able to serve at the altar. Scheduling is yet to be determined, but some adjustments will be needed in ushering, since obviously he won’t be able to do both at once, if scheduled.
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell (unless Larry is scheduled to sub-deacon, in which case a volunteer will be needed)
Refurbished Chalice and Flagon
The chalice and flagon have been refurbished. The company that did it is confident that it should last a very long time; the flagon in particular needed additional attention, the cost came to about $400 more than we had hoped. Anyone who would like to contribute a bit extra to help cover the cost, we welcome the contribution: you may put “for flagon” on your check. UPDATE: Contributions have been coming in at an amazing rate! Thanks to all.
Mary Hamilton at home; Ann Baker at home Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Retirement Center
January Anniversaries None
Annual Voters’ Meeting
Our Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 3rd, at 10:00 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).
The offering envelopes have been in your mailboxes for several days.
Altar Guild Notes
Altar color is white until Saturday, January 23rd in the evening, when pre-Lent (Septuagesima season) begins, and the color turns to violet.
First Tuesday meetings
Our First Tuesday meetings will be held January 5th, beginning with Altar Guild at 6 pm, Vespers at 6:45, and Elders at 7:15. Anyone is welcome to join us for vespers.
Pastor Presenting Sectional Paper at Symposium
I am scheduled to present at the Concordia Theological Seminary symposium during the third week in January on the topic “What is Truth?: a Look at the Fourth Evangelist’s Use of the Term.” - Pastor
Harrison, Day speak to history and future of Boy Scouts of America – LCMS relationship
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
First, we apologize for the slow nature of this letter, realizing that congregations and individuals have been waiting for word from the Synod on this issue. However, the recent Boy Scouts of America (BSA) adult leadership standards change — effected by the BSA National Executive Board July 10, 2015, that lifted the BSA’s ban on openly gay Scout leaders — caused great concern and has led us formally to dissolve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the BSA. As of Dec. 1, 2015, the LCMS no longer has an official relationship with the BSA.
Second, while we understand the legal concerns that led to this new BSA direction, it is simply a place the church is not willing to go. At our summer 2013 meeting with the BSA, we were assured that changes concerning adult leadership would not be on the table, but that was not the case. We are now being told that the LGBT agenda, even with the most recent change, won’t affect the content of Scouting or the BSA experience, but we do not believe that will be the case.
Third, it is important to know that the LCMS has never “endorsed” Scouting formally. Past Synod conventions determined that participating in Scouting was not a matter of fellowship and did not undermine our theological convictions or violate our position on unionism and syncretism. Therefore, the matter of Scouting was “left to the individual congregation to decide,” with each congregation having the responsibility to “establish its own policy as pastoral wisdom on the part of both the congregation and the ministry in its own particular situation dictates.” “Synod thus neither encourages nor discourages Scoutism in any congregation” (1953 Convention Proceedings, pp. 555–556). Unless the Synod in convention issues a change, this is still the case.
We have had an MOU with the BSA for some time that was based on mutual trust between the LCMS and the BSA. The memorandum was renewed periodically through the years by different LCMS presidents. The BSA’s recent inconsistent direction on human sexuality and its policy changes, however, have led our office to conclude that such an MOU is, regretfully, no longer tenable, and thus our decision formally to dissolve the MOU between the LCMS and the BSA.
As congregations now consider their continued involvement with the BSA, we thought it important to share something of this past and recent history of the LCMS–BSA relationship. We also need to share potential legal concerns that chartering LCMS congregations should consider. Recent federal rulings, including the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, are shaping decisions by organizations such as the BSA. Previous rulings, including the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale decision, seem likely to no longer hold in court.
For instance, a recent BSA memorandum cites cases demonstrating that the BSA has been held to be a place of public accommodation in some states and not in others, noting there is no national determination of the issue. Interestingly, the memorandum readily acknowledges that cases that previously held that the BSA was not a place of accommodation were decided long ago when “the courts viewed homosexuals and the BSA in different lights,” and it ends the discussion by candidly saying, “A court could conclude that the BSA is a place of public accommodation based on the size and inclusiveness of the Scouting program.” Based on these comments, it appears that the law is growing stronger for those who might be in a position to file suit for discrimination against the BSA and, by extension, against chartered organizations, including LCMS congregations.
While legal speculation is just that, we are concerned that the legal boundaries are still being drawn with each court case, and we are concerned that LCMS congregations could be pulled into such a legal battle. Congregations who continue their BSA charters after the Dec. 1, 2015, dissolution of the LCMS MOU should seek local legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally.
To that end, we are calling for the establishment of a task force to consider Scouting and the involvement of the LCMS going forward. The landscape and intersection of church and world — including Scouting — has drastically changed since our Synod’s decisions on Scouting matters in the 1950s. We recognize that the BSA and other Scouting programs have a positive impact on the lives of many Lutherans and LCMS congregations and schools. However, the times demand we ask important questions. How should the church engage and be involved going forward? How does the church participate in a faithful way so that our children are able to be involved and the church’s confession remains unhampered?
Again, we appreciate the patience of the church as we have been considering these issues over the past several months. We lament the fact that an MOU between the LCMS and the BSA is no longer possible. We pray that the Lord of the church will bless congregations and individuals as they consider the information shared here and chart a faithful course forward.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Rev. Bart Day, executive director
LCMS Office of National Mission
In Our Prayers
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
Denny Schoen [having tests]
Anna Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Jill Matchett [at request of Diana Shreck]
Lorene Foglesong [at request of the Kraklows]
Cathy Van Wassenhove [re Sandra Verplaetse]
Shelly DeBord [at request of the Watsons]
Jackie Hampton [at request of the Murphys]
Robin Hampton [at request of the Watsons]
Maria Thorndike [at request of the Murphys]
Annie Eastman [at request of Svetlana Meaker]
Keith Ruggles [Barb Kraklow’s brother]
Emily Corzine [Sarah’s sister]
Dennis Hoag [at request of Diana Shreck]
Nancy Popejoy [relative of Sharon Hartz]
Jeff Autery [friend of Chris Erickson, with cancer]
John Molburg [friend of Sandra Verplaetse]
Dave Colgron [friend of Tom Wells]
Michelle Campbell [Larry’s wife]
Shannon Watson [Jim’s daughter]
in the military:
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Thomas Kim [at request of the Shrecks]
Michael Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Katherine Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Carter Wills [grandson of the Thompsons]
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]
Jaclyn Alvarez [daughter of Kris Harden]
especially any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Syria, Iraq, Kenya, North Korea, and elsewhere.
and our own church
Persecution details (from CP World, Release International, China Aid) at www.persecution.net (10 December):
SYRIA: More Christian Hostages Freed from Captivity
After months of negotiations with the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, small groups of Assyrian Christian hostages have been released. One of the most recent of those released consisted of ten Assyrian Christians, including five women, who were freed from captivity on the night of November 24th in Tel Temir town, Hasakah province. These Assyrians were part of a mass abduction that took place in February, numbering more than 200 captured victims, when the Islamic militants attacked various villages along the Khabur river valley. The February raids had also driven another 3,000 Assyrians from the villages. To date, most of them have not returned home.
KENYA: Persevering Faith Despite Perilous Attacks
A group of militant men armed with knives arrived unexpectedly at the door of Hassan Ali's home in Witu, Lamu County, on November 11th. While escaping through a window, he heard the intruders questioning his wife about her faith. While Hassan himself was raised as a Muslim, he became a Christian only about ten months ago. He believes that neighboring Muslims may have noted his lack of attendance at the local mosque.
CHINA: Sisters Released After Repeated Detainment
Three sisters from China's southwestern Guizhou province who were detained in mid-October for worshipping God in their home have been released, although other members of their house church are still awaiting a final decision from the court. An anonymous member of the Daguan house church stated on November 22nd that the women were released from their administrative detention after serving a 15-day sentence. The only reason given for the detention was that they had “violated the public security administrative punishment law.” In a previous incident, the same three women were detained in June for “illegal assembly” and “organizing cult activities.” Thankfully, in that situation as well, they had been granted release after serving a short detention.
Alms for the Needy
Please remember those less fortunate during this season. The alms box is in the back of the church, and the offerings will be distributed during the holidays.
St. Paul’s Ev.