Winter 2011 CONCORDIA JOURNAL sneak peek
As of Wednesday, January 12—the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake—the Winter 2011 Concordia Journal has gone to press. It is only apropos, because the issue marks the anniversary by focusing on suffering, theodicy, and the church’s witness to God’s presence in tragedy, in light of the ongoing reconstruction of Haiti.
To accomplish that task, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) to produce the issue. This makes it a landmark issue, since this is the first time Concordia Journal has partnered with another organization to provide a timely theological resource in this way.
Here are a few touchstones….
Dale Meyer, from his editorial, “Signs of the Times”:
A growing Lutheran church in America will see more and more small congregations. Many of them will be ethnic. It is estimated that by 2050 one of every four Americans will be Hispanic while the white Anglo population of America will dip below 50 percent. Hispanic, African American, African immigrant, and Asian congregations must be part of a growing twenty-first century Missouri Synod, not some backwater colonies of our predominant but rapidly aging white Anglo church. We’ll have to get comfortable with churches and fellow baptized who speak Spanish, Sudanese, Mandarin, and many other languages that first-generation immigrants are speaking….
Jane Fryar, from an editorial roundtable on God and disaster:
If Job could ask, if King David could ask, if Habakkuk could ask, if Jesus himself could ask, then certainly the sufferers in Haiti and those who now minister to them will ask as well: Dear God, why?
It’s not a question that falls easily from the lips of the Lutheran faithful. After all, our hymnody has taught us: “What God ordains is always good.” As children of the heavenly Father, we know—or we ought to know, that “though he giveth or he taketh, God his children ne’er forsaketh . . .”
It’s true, of course. Still, in our own darkest moments, we understand instinctively the despair that welled up from David’s heart to push these words from his lips, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps 10:1). Just when we need him the most, we know the comfort of his presence the least. Deus Absconditus. Indeed!
John Nunes, president of Lutheran World Relief, from his article “Seeing the Other Side”:
How are we to think about Haiti? We believe that there are no unsupervised processes, no overlooked pain, in the universe. We teach that even amid suffering God is up to something good (Rom 8:28); Jesus’s instrument of shame for Christians is the preeminent sign of redemption, to be sure. Friends of the cross, as Martin Luther puts it, discern the works of God in suffering such that they know that “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.” Conversely, enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18) prefer raw power to inglorious weakness. In Christ, there is a narrative of the hidden blessings of suffering. Frequently, this narrative was emplotted in the African American civil rights movement in the United States. In apical fashion Martin Luther King charged those gathered to hear his “I Have a Dream” speech on 28 August 1963: “You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”
We confess our faith in a God whose hidden graciousness always exceeds the limits of the most astute mind to comprehend or perceive. In Luther’s lectures on the eighth chapter of Romans, he evaluates the philosophical preoccupation on questions of the “nature of things” and the problem of evil. He seems to advocate, instead, a teleological view, an eschatological prism for interpreting events. With his characteristic exuberance, Luther labels a person who focuses only on the present condition of things as “empty headed,” since the creation of God is being “skillfully prepared for the future glory.” It “is gazed upon by stupid people who look only at its mechanics but never see its final goal.”….
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