Today I finally started reading through this month’s issue of the LCMS Reporter (49:4, April 2013) and read the following headline, “CTCR recommends fellowship with Ukraine. The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) convened in St. Louis Feb. 16-18 for its quarterly meeting. With a deadline looming for submissions to the 2023 LCMS convention, the 20-member Commission was able to conclude much of its work for the current triennium.” Then comes the first paragraph,
The meeting featured a visit from the Rev. Serge Maschewski, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU), to discuss the potential for fellowship between the ELCU and the LCMS. Maschewski had been scheduled to meet with the CTCR in December 2022, but ongoing fighting in the war between Ukraine and Russia prevented him from traveling. After a presentation by Maschewski to the Commission and further discussion with a CTCR subcommittee charged with evaluating church relations requests, the CTCR unanimously approved a motion to memorialize the 2023 convention to recognize fellowship with the ELCU.
This is exciting news! This is a testimony to God’s sovereign grace. Even in times of war, God continues His work of salvation through the ministry of Word and Sacrament! We often only view current events with the myopic, bipartisan view of politics that we forget (A) to remember there are people who are suffering and therefore in dire need of the theology of the cross, (B) this is a spiritual battle more than it is a temporal one (Ephesians 6:12), (C) we have Christian brethren as well who are suffering, and (D) God’s sovereignty continues His work of salvation despite human turmoil.
People expect me to take a bipartisan side concerning the war in Ukraine. I couldn’t care less about the politics; I’m not a politician. Certainly, my prayer is that the war comes to a peaceful resolution. But the only side I take is the side of Christ. If the Church—and therefore Christ—is being persecuted (Acts 9:4), I take the side of the Church, which is to take the side of Christ. More vital than any political outcome is the continuation of Word & Sacrament ministry. While politics does have its own vital placement along the plane of horizontal righteousness, my first and primary concern is the vertical righteousness of the Gospel—of justification by faith through Jesus Christ our Lord. The possibility of altar & pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU) is the sunrise of the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) rising above the dark horizon of war.
For as people—soldiers and innocents—are dying left and right, Christ crucified will be preached to them. It is the theology of the cross—the folly of that Word of the Cross that says Jesus’ suffering and death (and therefore ours through Christ) “is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Even in war, God works His mighty power of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of His only-begotten Son. Jesus summarises the paradoxical folly and might of His cross perfectly, of course, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believe in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). People are dying in this war; nevertheless, the believers shall never die because Jesus will raise them into a resurrection just like His (Romans 6:3-5).
That is why Word & Sacrament ministry is most vital in Ukraine at this time. “For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free [indeed, Ukrainian or Russian]—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The side of Christ extends grace to all, for His side was pierced whose water fills every font and whose blood fills every chalice to make disciples of all nations that we all might be with Him to the end of the age. Amen.