“From the Mountain to the Cross”
July and August 2010
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray….And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” (Luke 9:28, 36 ESV).
Fellow Cross Bearers:
Sharon and I recently returned from a five thousand mile trip to visit our children and grandchildren. Along the way I spent a week in Eau Claire, WI attending the 29th Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. It was a demanding week that involved a lot of sitting, a lot of listening, and a lot of prayer. It was good to get back home again. But guess what – the problems that were here when I left are still here. It was back into the demanding regular work of the pastoral ministry. Someone said that convention will help you appreciate your congregation and your calling. Sometimes I experience a letdown when I try to turn the excitement and possibilities of convention into the reality of my ministry.
If you are following the Christian Worship Three-Year Series based on the ILCW three-year series, the Gospel readings for the Pentecost season are taken from the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel readings for June stressed the cost of discipleship and the necessity of denying yourself and taking up your cross. These readings are sandwiched around Luke’s account of the transfiguration in chapter nine. I have always been struck by the contrast of the revealed glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and the fact that Jesus then set his face toward Jerusalem and entered the valley of death.
On the Mount Of Transfiguration Jesus revealed all the glory that was rightfully his as the Son of God. Peter later wrote that he was an “eyewitness of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Peter was so overcome by the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration that he wanted to build three tents to capture the glory of the moment. The Father testified, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him! (Luke 9:35).
Jesus came down from the mountain and set his face toward Jerusalem. Moses and Elijah had discussed Jesus’ departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem on the mountain. Now it was necessary to go to Jerusalem to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. The glory of the transfiguration would be replaced by the shame of the cross. In the cross is ultimately revealed the glory of our salvation. The Son of God gave himself up as the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world. This is the miracle of the Gospel.
In a sense, we experienced the high of our celebration of our 50th anniversary at convention. For me the highlights were the devotions, the memorial service and the two essays reminding us of redemption for the past and the certain hope for the future. This culminated in the special convention communion service. The music especially took us to an emotional high during this service. The blessings of God and the opportunities to lift high the cross fired up the delegates to go out and conquer the world for Christ. It seems so easy during convention to increase our commitments to ILC and in the mission fields.
Then we leave convention and settle back into the routine of our pastoral ministries. Each of us has our own problems and weaknesses. Our congregations are not made up of the perfect Christians we expected from our seminary days. Within a few months, we may hear the realities of budgetary shortfalls in our congregations and in the CLC budget. We also struggle to remain confessionally faithful to God’s Word. We seek to aid each other in applying the principles of God’s Word to everyday situations within our own congregations. It is easy to become tired and worn out from the constant struggle of contending for the faith. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
At convention we set a budget based on lower CBP estimates from our congregations. This was based on a projected $40,000 deficit which would be covered by the Reserve Fund. However, this could deplete the Reserve Fund. Major cuts would then have to be made in the second year of the biennium. These are the realities that a convention has difficulty dealing with. We need to realize that the accomplishments of God’s Word do not depend upon our budgets or even our church body. God will accomplish his purposes. We can share the Gospel with our people and put before them the opportunities we heard about convention. Some times pastors and congregations become so concerned about their own struggle to exist that they fail to consider the needs of the larger church body. There is much for us to do. Pray the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into his harvest.
The end of the year financial report reported some good news. The offerings for June were higher than normal ($115,000). We had projected a spending deficit of $40,000 for the fiscal year. The deficit projected at convention based on normal receipts was $49,000. The large offering enabled us to end the year with a $30,000 deficit. A large part of this deficit was due to higher commodity prices in the ILC kitchen budget. This means the Reserve Fund now has a balance of $72,000. Having called us to come and follow him, Jesus now tells us to go out in his name (Luke 10).
I encourage you as you leave the mountain top of our celebration at our last convention to denyyourselves and take up your crosses and follow Jesus.