by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick
For as long as I can remember, I have heard—and made—reference to “our beloved Synod.” I don’t know who first coined the phrase, but it was probably someone who said it in German: “unsere geliebte Synode.”
Generations of Missouri Synod Lutherans have spoken of “our beloved Synod.” Let me share some of my thoughts about why:
- It is the church of our fathers and forefathers. What a blessing that those who founded our Synod and those who have been part of it over its 163-year history were people like you and me—people who loved the Lord Jesus and held near and dear the same matters of faith and life as we do. Together, we hold the Scriptures “as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice” and the Lutheran Confessions “as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God,” as stated in our Constitution.
- We are consistent in what we believe, teach, and confess. Last summer, I shared with delegates to our district conventions a long list of Christian doctrines on which we have little or no disagreement in our Synod. We simply are not arguing or even debating the major doctrines of the Christian faith that are in contention in many parts of the Body of Christ. We are undeniably blessed with God-given unity and harmony and have so much more that unites us than those things that would divide us!
- As stated in our Constitution, we “encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith.” Developing an appreciation for a variety of responsible practices and customs leads to some of the tensions experienced in the Synod, not just currently, but historically as well. So, we continue to study Scripture and the Confessions, pray for our Lord’s guidance, and seek to resolve any differences in a God-pleasing fashion.
- We emphasize the grace of God. We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, as taught by Scripture alone. This is our message, the wonderful Good News that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). As Paul also writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
- We emphasize the means of grace—that God comes to us with His undeserved love by means of His holy Word and Sacraments. Recently, as Terry and I worshiped in an LCMS congregation in Southern California, we were privileged to witness two Baptisms. I was struck yet again by the miracle God works through plain, ordinary tap water that is “included in God’s command and combined with God’s word,” as described in the Small Catechism. Likewise, every time I receive Holy Communion, I approach the altar with reverence, joy, and thanksgiving that our Lord comes to us personally with His very body and blood, even if we cannot begin to comprehend how His body and blood are present in, with, and under bread and wine.
- We focus on mission, education, and service. “In grateful response to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world,” as our mission statement reminds us.
- Among the earliest Missouri Synod Lutherans were missionaries to Native Americans and recent immigrants. More than 100 years ago, we began mission work among African Americans in the American South and among people overseas, beginning in India.
- Our two seminaries and 10 colleges and universities are the crown jewels of our Synod. I thank God for every one of these 12 institutions.
- And, individuals in the Synod make Christ’s love known in so many circumstances. A recent example is the outpouring of love and support, in the name of Christ, for the suffering people of Haiti, a country that was impoverished even before the earthquake struck.
So we speak of “our beloved Synod,” The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: Lutheran Christians in Mission and Service.