Word from the Center Digest: June 28, 2019

Buzz Words

by Winston Grieser

Buzz words: They’re the favorite friend of confirmands and the bitter foe of pastors, instructors and anyone trying to teach anything. Say I were to ask, “How are we saved?” And you answered, “Jesus,” that’s a buzz word, an answer that doesn’t tell me anything. Do you mean the word “Jesus” is a password to get to heaven? Or do you mean knowing the historical fact that a man named Jesus of Nazareth once lived is enough to go to heaven? Or do you mean Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of the Virgin Mary, who died on the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind and that men are declared righteous in the sight of God by grace through faith? That is a different matter entirely.

            Buzz words serve as great hindrance to learning and articulating Christian truths. So when I ask, “What do Lutherans mean by the two kingdoms or two kingdom theology?” it is unhelpful to respond with the buzz words: “The kingdom of the left and kingdom of the right.”

Instead, we can answer something like, “The kingdom of the left is the secular world, government, businesses, and the like. There order is maintained by earthly power and authority, laws and armies. There God does not rule through the preaching of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, and administering the Sacraments, but through temporal authorities. The right hand kingdom, on the other hand, is the Church.”

Now we’re really getting somewhere!   

Let’s sum up: In the kingdom of the left, the sword (temporal power) is used to enforce the law and keep governments in power. In the kingdom of the right, in the Church, it is impossible to use earthly power extend God’s Kingdom because that is the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel.

So, how would a Christian mayor, who, let’s say, is an elder in a LCMS congregation, navigate such a landscape? By having a clear understanding of the two kingdoms!

As a mayor, he is obligated to uphold the rule of law in the city, by force if necessary. As an elder, he is to hold to the pure teaching of Gospel and the Lutheran Confessions. As mayor, if a group wants to rent out a public space like the fair grounds for a convention or wedding, if it meets with the various rules that the city has in place and doesn’t lead to public unrest then, as mayor, he cannot discriminate and say, “Ahh you worship Thor and Odin, which is absurd, so find somewhere else to have your feats of strength.” As a public servant, the mayor is a servant of the rule of law. If he thinks Vikings are ridiculous, he still can’t deny them use of the fairgrounds for their axe-throwing and log-flipping contests. As an elder though, if said Vikings wander into the Divine Service, he must warn the pastor that they should not commune because they are not Christians (1 Cor. 10:21), are not in altar fellowship with the LCMS, and have not been properly instructed in what the Lord’s Supper is (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

            See why buzz words can’t get at the root of the matter? As mayor, he is to uphold the rule of law, even if distasteful, which includes letting the Vikings use the fairgrounds. But when Vikings enter the Church, there God’s Word reigns supreme. Therefore, the mayor, as a Christian and elder, supports the pastor in being faithful by excluding Vikings from the table. And yet whether in the Church or outside of it, the mayor is still a Christian and is compelled by his faith to behave as one.

If the Vikings show up to Church, the Sword of the Spirit does its work. If, on the other hand, the Vikings decide to have a good old-fashioned pillaging session, then the mayor can call in S.W.A.T to restore law and order. (See Rom. 13:3-4).

Buzz words don’t help us distinguish between the left and right hand kingdoms. This is why we need to choose our words wisely! Instead, clear, honest language and discussion reminds us that the left hand kingdom, or civil realm, benefits from wise, just leadership and participation by Christians whose minds and consciences are formed by God’s Word and truth! And it shows that the right hand kingdom, the Church, requires discipline to prevent disorder and chaos.

In our discussions, we can also take heart, for in the Church, all will be well! Christ still rules and reigns by His Gospel for our eternal good so that being shown our sins through the preaching of the Law, we flee to the Gospel and receive forgiveness and mercy from our Lord. And then, having been forgiven, a new man arises to live before God in holiness and righteousness forever, no buzz words necessary.

The Rev. Winston Grieser is pastor of the Apostolic Lutheran Church, Moses Lake, Wash., and a chaplain in the Army National Guard.

Be Informed

Our friends at The Heritage Foundation have put together a video regarding schools and how teachers are teaching gender and sexual identity. Watch the video here, but be prepared to be shocked!  

Be Equipped

Religious freedom is nothing new. Lutherans have been talking about it since way back in 1523! Click here to check out a brief timeline. (Go to “Articles” and select “Timeline of Religious Freedom” to download.)

Be Encouraged

We are the ones who must demand that the euphemisms, the dysphemism, the caricatures, the personal malignments, and the demonizations cease so that robust, honest, and forthright conversations can continue.” – Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director, Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty