July 27, 2011 - How Good And Pleasant It Is When Brothers Dwell in Harmony

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“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” – Ps. 133:1
Don’t you just love that passage of Scripture? It evokes the picture-perfect image of the Church, doesn’t it? One almost expects to hear the choir intoning, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” And then we hear in the book of Acts how unity in the Church gets worked out in real time!
“After Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.”– Acts 15:2
Of course, the two images are not contradictory, are they? What the “no small dissension and debate” in Jerusalem was all about was what the Psalmist extols, namely, unity. Genuine unity and unfeigned peace. Peace in the Gospel taught in its truth and purity and the Gifts of God’s salvation administered accordingly. All we are saying is give that a chance!
What I mean is, that’s what the ACELC is truly about! It is tempting to imagine a Lennon-esque view of peace with no dissension or debate. We had that once, until Adam and Eve let go what they had been given. It only took a tiny departure to destroy peace with God and one another. It took God becoming Man and submitting Himself to our horrible division to restore it. Breathing His last, He established peace.
He keeps the peace by breathing still; by breathing out His Word, His Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. The Church holds faithfully to that, neither adding to nor subtracting from, but handing on what we have received. That will always be challenged in this world, and so the Church gathered in Jerusalem to hash out real issues which could not be ignored or imagined away. It was not the debate or dissension that threatened unity but the theological departures and additions which stood in contrast to both the Gospel and love.
So, the Church “manned-up,” so to speak, and did the hard work of wrestling, like Jacob at the Jabbok, until the morning dawned bringing the blessings of unity and peace. As Acts 15 tells us, after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and began to speak. After that, they heard Barnabas and Paul. Then James spoke and what they resolved in the end “seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church,” “having come to one accord” with each other and the Holy Spirit.
Now that’s what the Psalmist means when he says, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”!
The work of the ACELC aims at nothing less, and we know that such an aim is shared with many in our Synod. The proposed Koinonia Project is an expression of that aim, as are even those dissensions and disagreements which have been voiced over the debate we of the ACELC are encouraging. We do not question the intent of those who criticize, and so we have welcomed their critique from the beginning. We have submitted our papers to the brotherly wrestling and wrangling the issues we are facing as a Synod deserve. As the history of the Church has shown, sparks will sometimes fly, as they did in Acts 15, but from such was forged a stronger bond of unity and peace in the Gospel purely preserved and love practiced in accord with it. We look forward to that again!
Not everyone, of course, is comfortable with sparks flying, and the heat of debate can become disconcerting. Brotherly wrestling can get out of hand and so our mothers warned us, “Somebody’s going to get hurt!” We ought take care to prevent that in so far as we are able!
Toward that end, if you haven’t read the documents of the ACELC, please do so by visiting our website. There you will find a whole host of resources to study, either privately or in Bible class or at a Circuit meeting. We intend these resources to grow, so please keep visiting the site.
You will also notice that we have a new Board of Directors for whom we ask you to pray as they continue the fine work begun by the Steering Committee.
We welcome new members like Augsburg Lutheran, Shawnee, Kansas, to the ACELC and invite you to consider signing the Admonition, joiningindividually as an Associate Member, or with your entire congregation. If we can be of assistance in that, please don't hesitate to ask.
It really is good and pleasing to be working toward unity of faith and practice in our beloved Synod! Even if there is dissension and debate? Even then! After all, the same Spirit at work in Acts 15 is still at work! So, please participate in the discussion and consider attending our next Free Conference, Feb. 7-9, 2012, in Lincoln, NE. The theme will be Christ For Us: The Lord’s Supper.
This truly is an exciting time in our Synod and the ACELC is glad to be part of it!
Pastor Rick Sawyer, Vice-Chairman
Board of Directors of the ACELC
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