Conference Report

June 13 & 14, 2015
by Paul Hinz, Conference Secretary

Summer Conference sessions were held at FREEA in Appleton, WI. The opening devotion began with Martin Luther’s triumphant Easter anthem, “In Death’s Strong Grasp the Savior Lay,”(#91 A New Song). Chairman Robert W. Christman read Matthew’s account of the Easter story, Matthew 27:62–28:20, and Paul’s exhortation from Colossians 1:24–2:3. The Swedish hymn “Praise the Savior, Now and Ever,” (#173 ANS) was sung in response. Pastor Christman prayed Psalm 123, a Song of Ascents, ending with the Gloria Patri, to close the opening devotion.

The Winter Conference Minutes were read and accepted.

The opening announcements were as follows:

1) About a fifth of the Marcus Albrecht library was neatly laid out in an adjoining back room, the books available to anyone interested. Those in attendance were nudged to select a few good books.

2) A progress report is to be given on the Kirchengeschichte project, as the Manitowoc printer would like to hand the work over to the Conference.

3) Greetings from a number of absentees were extended.

4) Mike Hanke will give a progress report next Conference regarding old Conference recordings.

5) Concerning the meeting place for Conference sessions, the lack of response was taken as indication of general happiness with the present accommodations (FREEA).

6) Michael Horvath, selected reader of Koehler’s “Master Mission” is absent due to a funeral. The Chairman will read in his place.

7) The next bound volume of Faith-Life, 2009–2013, is in the process of being assembled and taken to be bound at Grimm Book Bindery in Madison by Mel and Angie Koss.

8) The editorship of Faith-Life should be discussed and settled, at the request of the current assistant editors.

Presentations available for the summer sessions were:

1. Galatians 3 – Carl Springer

2. The next section of Koehler’s “Master Mission,” Robert W. Christman, Reader

3. An Introduction to the Gospel of Mark – Michael Albrecht

4. Galatians 3 for the children – Floyd Brand

5. Faith-Life Editorship Discussion – Floyd Brand & Michael Albrecht

6. Luther’s Small Catechism, A New Translation – Floyd Brand & Robert W. Christman

7. The Report of Jerome Aleander to the vice-chancellor of Pope Clement VII, a rough draft – Robert J. Christman

Carl Springer delivered an analytical study of Paul’s message to the Galatians, and to us, Galatians chapter 3.  He divided the chapter into two parts. The first was Paul’s thesis: “Faith alone in Christ for salvation is paramount” (vs. 1-5). The second was Paul’s defense of his thesis: his arguments from Scripture and from experience in support of his thesis (vs. 6-29)

Paul, the master rhetorician, began his argument with a series of passionate questions to his beloved congregation, begotten in Christ: What were you thinking?! Satan and sin are subtle and smooth in diverting and destroying; one recalls the Pied Piper of Hamlin. With carefully worded questions, Paul, like a concerned parent speaking to his wayward child, sought to bring
the Galatian Christians back to their senses and back to Christ.

Sin has a certain “bewitching” aura about it. The word “fascinate” comes from the Latin word for “bewitch.” The essayist read a few brief excerpts from George McDonald’s “The Poet’s Homecoming,” which displayed the power of fascination, and the danger of settling for a substitute.

The Substitute whom people should keep their eyes fixed on is Christ, and Him crucified. Christ’s death is not the end, but only the beginning; it is the only death that can be labeled as such. That should fascinate and captivate everyone. God broke His own heart to give us the priceless treasure of everlasting life.

It was noted during the discussion that the word for “foolish” means “mindless,” “not using one’s head,” even, “had you lost your minds?” Conversely, Isaiah illustrates the role of the mind beautifully: “Come, let us reason together, says the Lord” (1:18). In the New Testament, we are exhorted to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Active faith does involve using one’s head, in submission to what God says.

The presentation on Galatians 3 resumed with the sterling example of Abraham, the first proof from the Old Testament that faith alone is sufficient. Abraham simply believed God, and His promises, without any proof save for God’s trustworthy Word. The more we progress in technology and the more materialism sucks the life out of society, the easier it is for false gods to slither in. Trust in God, Luther reminds us, involves the whole heart, along with the captivated mind.

With that reminder, sessions recessed for dinner in the downstairs diner, served by the Conference ladies.

After Choir practice for Sunday morning, we resumed our Galatians 3 study. The second warrant for faith is the authority of Scripture: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Luther called  this “the jolly exchange”: Christ became a curse to make us blessed. The great turning point in history is the incarnation of God’s Son. God chose to buy us back because He wanted to. The great Gift-giver is indeed generous; but at a frightfully terrible cost. Let no one add insult to injury by adding to or taking from this priceless gift.

The third factor in support of faith is the appeal to common sense and experience. Earthly contracts and wills are fixed texts, with detailed language leaving little room for ambiguity. The language is binding. All the more then with the Gospel promise to Abraham: it came first and thus took precedence over the law.

Like a good chess player, Paul anticipates the objection of the opposition: “Why, then, the law?” If it could have saved us, it would have. But the Law demands perfection and thus it always accuses. One must rely on God and His promises, not on himself; even one’s own righteousness is stained.

In his final section, Paul turns to the analogy of the school master, the tutor.  As it was the task of the tutor to lead the Roman boys safely and punctually to school, so it is the task of the Law to lead us to Christ. As the purpose of education is to lead out, so the spirit of the Law is to lead us out to Christ.

Reflecting on this chapter, one observes the frustrating and bewitching power of Satan. Sadly, one can turn anything that is good and salutary into sin. One can turn a gift of God into a good work of man, and thereby destroy its intended power. This robs God of His glory. A sin common among Lutherans especially is turning the art of believing into self-sufficient platitudes on which one hangs his hat. From such a spirit, Lord, deliver us.

Discussion centered on the dichotomy of the great difficulty and the great gift of faith. God is not fond of flaws. He loved His Son who had no flaws. He loved the world, which was full of flaws. The only way to remove the flaws was to pour them out onto His flawless Son. He carried out justice on Himself, so He could be merciful to us. Thereby, God made no compromise whatsoever with sin, remaining true to himself and to his highest of standards even as he justified the flawed, the ungodly. Thus one of the hymns expresses the thought: “Who Himself both Gift and Giver.”

During a short a short afternoon break complete with coffee and bars, the children practiced their hymn for Sunday morning.

Sessions resumed with discussion of Faith-Life and of the naming of a new coordinating editor. Michael Albrecht and Floyd Brand are the current members of the editorial board. Floyd Brand reported that the Easter issue is ready to be sent out. Michael Albrecht clarified that, due to his prohibitive schedule and responsibilities, Floyd should be named the coordinating editor.

Philemon Hensel pointed out that Moses thought that he was the last person on earth qualified to lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land; and yet, he was the one whom God hand-picked for the task. Pastor Hensel would still prefer to see Karl Koehler’s “Policy and Purpose” on the front cover. This polemical statement first appeared on the front cover after the death of Mrs. Otto Gruendemann in 1935.

Robert W. Christman suggested that the “Policy and Purpose” should be re-evaluated, as history does not stand still. The truth of the Policy and Purpose still has great validity; but the question arises whether it could be revised to fit our current situation, eighty years after its initial appearance. Certainly we should strive to publish something distinctly “Wauwautosa.” The “Wauwautosa Gospel” is not a corpse, but a living and enervating enigma that always calls for fresh and living insights in
the present.

Others agreed that this is “the right time” to work through Karl Koehler’s “Policy and Purpose,” word for word and thought for thought. Perhaps in the end no changes will be made. But the current generation will at least have worked through it even if it remains unchanged; this would be preferable to merely keeping it on the front page simply because it has always
been there.

Upon request from the floor, Robert W. Christman read aloud the “Policy and Purpose,” providing a thoughtful conclusion to the discussion. Saturday sessions closed with the hymn “Feed Thy Children, God Most Holy” (#659 TLH), followed by supper in the dining
room downstairs.

On Sunday morning, Kathy Chang taught the Sunday School lesson on Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it. She and the children closed the class with the singing of “Lord Jesus, Who Dost Love Me” (#554 v. 5 TLH).

Harold Trott conducted the worship service for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, with Joel Hensel at the organ and Peter Hensel as choir director. Luther’s “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (#115 ANS) was the opening hymn. Following the Confessional Liturgy and Collect, Tim Chang read Romans 6:3-11 as the Epistle Lesson, and Mel Koss read John 15:1-11 as the Gospel Lesson. After the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the children sang verses 1 & 3 of “Praise the Savior, Now and Ever” (#173 ANS), with the congregation singing verses 2 & 4. The sermon hymn was “O Lord, Give Heed unto Our Plea” (#299 ANS). Pastor Trott preached on the Gospel Lesson, “Every Branch that Bears Fruit, He Prunes” (FL Trinity 2015, p. 15). Following the Offertory and General Prayer, the Adult Choir sang Hugo Distler’s three-part arrangement of Luther’s “Nun Bitten Wir den Heiligen Geist.” The Service of the Sacrament followed, with the singing of  “Father of Heaven, Whose Love Profound” (#126 ANS), “Lord Jesus, Thou Art Truly Good” (#291 ANS), and “Happy the Man That Feareth God,” (#295 ANS). After the Post-Communion Liturgy, the service concluded with the singing of “In These Last Days So Perilous,” verse 1 by Martin Luther (#236 ANS), verses 2 & 3 by Robert W. Christman.

The Sunday noon dinner was the usual catered chicken dinner with the trimmings, nicely served by the ladies.

When sessions reconvened, Conference was informed that Kathy Chang had made available for perusal her compilation of composite graduation photos of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary students. Also, Judy Meier had duplicated photos of the Gruendemann family. It was suggested that Pastor Gruendemann’s story be written out for the younger generation. David Meier, his grandson, was chosen for this task.

The first offering for the afternoon was Michael Albrecht’s presentation entitled “The Remarkable Gospel of Mark.” Pastor Albrecht had gleaned biographical information about John Mark, the son of Mary, from various places in the New Testament. Mark is indirectly Peter’s Gospel, with Peter preaching and Mark writing it down. The similarity in character between Peter and Mark is interesting. Mark’s audience was Gentile readers; presumably he wrote his Gospel at Rome. It is a Gospel of action, with the emphasis  on what Jesus did: he came and conquered death. Thus the ecclesiastical symbol for Mark’s Gospel is the lion. Mark presents Jesus as a man with a mission: he came, he saw, he conquered.

After a seventh inning stretch with cookies and coffee, Robert W. Christman read another portion of Karl Koehler’s “Our Master Mission.” That historical thinking be instinctive in the Christian is paramount; let history present its assignment for each Christian in his situation. While we long for the halcyon days of the “Quartalschrift,” each one must do the spade-work of first-hand study of the Scriptures, which are the source of real life.

On those thoughts, we closed these summer sessions with the singing of the evening hymn, “Christ, Everlasting Source of Light” (#323 ANS)

 

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