Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Lutheran pastor in Iraq

"We as Christians do not need to water down or make more manageable the one true faith of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, which we proclaim and confess. As we confess this faith clearly and confess this faith often, the Holy Spirit will use that means of salvation, the properly preached Word and the rightly administered Sacraments, to do his miraculous work on the hearts of the hearers. This is not abstract theologizing; it becomes concrete when we faithfully put it into practice. An example is to be found in this region of Iraq, which used to be known as Assyria.

Ever since Christianity arrived here in the second century AD, the Church has had a presence, in spite of the many and tumultuous power struggles over this piece of land. In recent decades, there has been an increase of violence here against our fellow saints in Christ. Their churches have been bombed and vandalized; their lives have been threatened and even taken from them, yet they have not stopped gathering for the Supper. Neither have they ceased in their outreach to their neighbors by word and deed.

So markedly different is their existence from ours that it bears investigation. These men and women do not concern themselves with proving their right to exist, nor with proving the success of their message. Instead, they concern themselves with matters far more profound: gathering as a body of Christ in a world that despises such gatherings and faithfully reaching out in word and deed to their pagan neighbors. Here’s an evangelism program that has its roots in the Early Church, by word and action proclaiming, in a hostile environment, Christ crucified. Here they are concerned only with fidelity to the One who has called them by the Gospel, enlightened them with his gifts, sanctified and kept them in the one true faith. Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying for these brothers and sisters in the faith, for the kingdom of God has come and is still coming in the midst of the upheaval in the Iraqi nation—as surely as it is coming in our less turbulent locales! How comforting for us and for them to know the timelessness of this message and its efficacious power, the blessed hope of the resurrection!" Preaching to the troops, Mark Nuckols, senior pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas (U.S. Army Reserve brigade chaplain, deployed to northern Iraq from October 2004 to October 2005)

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