October 15 & 16, 2016
by Paul Hinz
Fall Conference 2016 sessions were held at FREEA in Appleton, Wisconsin. Sessions opened with Luther’s chorale, “Now Do We Pray God the Holy Ghost, For the True Faith Which We Need the Most,” A New Song (ANS), 117. Chairman Robert W. Christman read Psalm 13, with a prayer for quickening and bountiful blessing from above. Luther’s “Our Father thou in Heav’n Above,” ANS 270, was sung in response.
The Fall Minutes were read and accepted. Items for presentation and discussion were:
1) Galatians 6, Harold Trott
2) Galatians 6 for the children, Floyd Brand
3) A book review of The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, Floyd Brand
4) Reactions to how Faith-Life is currently being produced
5) The Te Laudamus hymnal project report, Daniel Reuning
6) “Observing the Double Anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and World War I,” Michael Albrecht
7) “A Study of the Anti-Christ Phenomenon, St. Paul and II Thessalonians 2,” Robert W. Christman
8) Scheduling for 2017, as FREEA has been sold and is no longer available to the Conference
9) What remains of the Marcus Albrecht library, available for the taking
Pastor Harold Trott guided the assembly through Galatians chapter 6, the final chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle. He typified Galatians as “the Magna Carta” of the New Testament, emphasizing personal responsibility, the sharing of one’s spiritual riches, and glorying in the cross of Christ.
Reaction to the presentation centered around speaking and preaching the truth today: whether we are able to speak in unvarnished terms as Paul did and honestly address the situation, or do we skirt the issue? Do we have a “father confessor” as Luther did in von Staupitz, or do we live on an island and depend on ourselves, believing that we have the truth in our hip pocket and are ourselves the epitome of truth?
It is a marvel that Galatians was not torn up and burned! The letter could have easily perished, as the language is personal and pointed. Paul went right to the problem, point after point. But the promise, “My Word shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish that which I please” (Is. 55:11), was fulfilled in the historical fact that the epistle did survive, and entered the canon of the New Testament. That is a wonder of wonders!
After noon dinner, the Children’s Choir rehearsed, and Floyd Brand reviewed the content of Galatians 6 with them.
Afternoon sessions began with Robert W. Christman’s presentation, “The Man of Lawlessness in II Thess-alonians 2:1-12.” In this thought-provoking portrayal, Pastor Christman traced the history of the identifying of the Anti-Christ in the New Testament Church from Paul through Luther and on to today. All who have opposed Christ and his saving work have been identified as Anti-Christ, notably the Judaizers, the Papacy, the Synod. The paper presented a new emerging version of this opposition, bearing the name of “Modern Man.” Modern Man is a worthy candidate simply because of the speed with which modern technology has promoted and simplified everything. What was once impossible is now possible or probable in the near future. With the computer-driven technology of Modern Man, who needs to be rescued from sin, death, and the power of the devil? Almost everything is attainable and obtainable here and now.
After a break, discussion of the term “Anti-Christ” and historical judgments related to the concept filled the rest of the afternoon. Anti-Christ, somewhat like ISIS, is invisible. Everything at work in the world in opposition to Jesus is the world. Anti-Christ has managed to evaporate, as though he did not exist; and yet he is in the fabric of everything in the world, including the church.
Daniel Reuning was given the floor just before supper to give an update on the Te Laudamus hymnal project, briefly extending the afternoon sessions. During supper hour the Adult Choir rehearsed for Sunday morning. Later a few of those in attendance gathered with Dr. Reuning to edit some of the hymns and to savor fine Lutheran hymnody.
On Sunday morning, Michael Hanke taught the Sunday School lesson in an adjoining room, Ezra 4-6.
Paul Hinz conducted the service for the Twenty- First Sunday after Trinity, with Joel Hensel at the organ, Kevin Milner as cantor, and Daniel Reuning directing the choir. The liturgy was the Willan setting of the Common Service, included in the Te Laudamus hymnal. The service opened with “Christians, Prayer May Well Employ You,” ANS 248. The Old Testament Lesson was Daniel 3. The Adult Choir sang “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word.” The Epistle Lesson, Ephesians 6:10-17, and the Gospel Lesson, John 4:46- 54, followed. Gustavus Adolphus’s “Be Not Dismayed, Thou Little Flock,” ANS 247, preceded the sermon. The sermon text was Psalm 42. Martin Shalling’s “O Lord, I Love Thee from My Heart,” ANS 332, followed. The service continued with the Communion Liturgy. Hymns sung during distribution were: “Christ, Thou Defender of Thy Congregation,” ANS 237, “Rise Again, Ye Lion-hearted,” ANS 239, and “May God Be Praised Henceforth and Blest Forever,” ANS 292. The Service closed with the Children’s Choir singing the first verse of Luther’s gallant “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” ANS 228, with the congregation joining in singing the remaining three stanzas.
After the Sunday chicken dinner, sessions reconvened to discuss a possible location for 2017 sessions, since FREEA is no longer available for Conference sessions. Winter Conference would be held at St. James Church in Green Bay. The current Faith-Life was discussed, briefly; comments expressed appreciation. The Policy & Purpose Committee gave a short report, stating that they are still working on their project.
The first presentation for the afternoon was Floyd Brand’s book review on The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, by Joel Harrington. The book documents the career of Frantz Schmidt, the official executioner of the city of Nuremburg, Germany, from 1577–1618. It was heartwarming to hear how Frantz brought the Reformation Gospel to bear in the ministrations of his assigned duties, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
The next presentation was Michael Albrecht’s presentation, “Observing the Double Anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and World War I,” both to be commemorated next year. This enlightening presentation connected the two disparate events, separated by 400 years, that shaped history ever after. The Theses were a gift of God through Martin Luther, which was the beginning of the Reformation. The War was a judgment of God, brought about by our own guilt. Yet each was a lesson in sanctification, the one great goal in this life.
After a break and discussion of the essay, Fall Sessions concluded with Kevin Milner’s short presentation of a CD edited by Ralph Vaughn Williams, focusing on Gilbert K. Chesterton, and his hymn “O God of Earth and Altar,” followed by the singing of this hymn, and following that, the singing of “Feed Thy Children, God Most Holy.” Thus ended the sessions at FREEA, a Wartburg-like structure and setting which served the Conference beautifully during the few years when it met there.