Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 31:55 mark. Pr. Brian Bowes of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Okanogan, WA and Hope Lutheran, Tonasket, WA is the preacher.
[This is the letter I sent to Gov. Inslee via e-mail and physical mail regarding this memorandum from yesterday.]
Dear Governor Inslee:
First, I would like to thank you for doing everything within your sphere of authority to keep the residents of Washington State safe and healthy, as well as assuring first responders and other workers that they will have the tools necessary to do their jobs. I believe you have the best interests of all Washingtonians in mind as you go about your work. I appreciate that in your Proclamation 20-25.3, issued on May 4, you say that spiritual “services are a vital part of the spiritual and mental health of our community.” I am sure that this is not an easy time for you, either as governor or personally, as you make difficult decisions about how best to uphold the welfare of the people whom you have been elected to serve.
Please know that we here at Faith Lutheran Church in East Wenatchee keep you and our other state and national elected and appointed leaders in our prayers continually, as we believe that our human governing authorities are put in place by God for the good of the citizens of our cities, states, and country.
[From the 2020 Wenatchee Walk for Life on January 18]
I’m Pastor Timothy Winterstein and it is a joy in the Lord to be pro-life.
But this seems like a bad time to be pro-life.
It’s not a popular label. Because it’s never surprising when a famous celebrity, a popular musician, or a powerful politician says something in favor of the destruction of human life, using euphemisms like “reproductive health,” “women’s health,” “freedom of choice,” or “the right to choose what happens to one’s own body.” Those people will talk as if the position they’re holding is brave, rare, or difficult, when it’s the position that will be applauded loudly by all the “right” people. In fact, the only surprising and brave thing is when a famous person says something in favor of protecting or valuing human life.
But of course it’s not only outside of Christianity where it’s uncool to believe that all life is worth more than our own convenience or success or comfort. Some people act like it’s strange and out of the ordinary to believe that “pro-life” means being consistently pro-life across the board. The caricature of pro-life people only caring about human life inside the womb, but ignoring or devaluing that same life once he or she has been born, is common and popular. Such an accusation is no longer—if it ever was—a helpful check to make sure we are consistent; now it’s simply an easy cliché, without and against all evidence. That’s the way cliches work. They may start as a challenge to another cliché, but then they turn into coercive cliches themselves, attempting to force people to submit to the prevailing winds of popular opinion and be quiet.
[delivered on January 19, 2019]
Good afternoon. I am Pastor Timothy Winterstein from Faith Lutheran Church in East Wenatchee, a congregation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Thanks, Gene, for inviting me. What a great privilege it is to be with you today, as we pray and trust God in Jesus Christ as our only hope in life and death.
I am six years younger than Roe v. Wade, which means that I and my younger siblings have always lived under its death-shadow. I was probably 10 or 12 when I saw a picture in the newspaper of the Washington March for Life in Olympia, where I grew up. I remember asking my mom, “What is abortion?” and from that moment on, there was no doubt in my mind that legal and unlimited abortion was a tragedy unlike nearly any that we have seen in this world.
The question for us gathered here and around the country this weekend, as we approach the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, is not whether that event is a nearly unfathomable disgrace and stain on the fabric of the United States of America—we have no doubt about that—but what to do about it.
164 years ago next month, the very first president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther, wrote this in the official publication of the Synod, Der Lutheraner:
Whenever the divine service once again follows the old Evangelical-Lutheran agendas (or church books), it seems that many raise a great cry that it is “Roman Catholic”: “Roman Catholic” when the pastor chants “The Lord be with you” and the congregation responds by chanting “and with thy spirit”; “Roman Catholic” when the pastor chants the collect and the blessing and the people respond with a chanted “Amen.”
Even the simplest Christian can respond to this outcry: “Prove to me that this chanting is contrary to the word of God, then I too will call it ‘Roman Catholic’ and have nothing more to do with it. However, you cannot prove this to me.”
If you insist upon calling Romish every element in the divine service that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church, it must follow that the reading of the Epistle and Gospel is also Romish. Indeed, it is mischief to sing or preach in church, for the Roman Church has done this also.
Those who cry out should remember that the Roman Catholic Church possesses every beautiful song of the old orthodox church. The chants and antiphons and responses were brought into the church long before the false teachings of Rome crept in. This Christian Church since the beginning, even in the Old Testament, has derived great joy from chanting…For more than 1700 years orthodox Christians have participated joyfully in the divine service. Should we, today, carry on by saying that such joyful participation is Roman Catholic? God forbid!
Therefore, as we continue to hold and to restore our wonderful divine services in places where they have been forgotten, let us boldly confess that our worship forms do not unite us with the modern sects or with the Church of Rome; rather, they join us to the one, holy Christian church that is as old as the world and is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. (This is translated from Der Lutheraner, July 19, 1853, page 163.)
*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”
Apparently, there have been some questions raised among the membership of Faith regarding something that’s happened the past three weeks prior to the Prayer of the Church.
At the Vigil of Easter on April 15, a young woman will be baptized here at Faith. I’ve been meeting with her and and her mother for two or three months, answering questions, reading the Scriptures, and preparing her for baptism. Since very early in the Church’s history, the time prior to the celebration of the Resurrection was used to instruct those who were to be baptized at Easter, since that was the primary (and in some places, only) time when baptisms took place.
While preparing people for baptism, there have been many different forms of instruction, and various rites and practices to lead people to the baptismal water. As it is for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8; Lydia and the Philippian jailer in Acts 16; and pretty much all the other adult converts from Acts 2 on, they are instructed, they believe, and they are baptized. Part of that instruction as it developed in the Church–especially, after the destruction of Jerusalem, once the Church began to instruct people who did not know the Old Testament–included various events and rites to help bring people into the fullness of the Christian faith. For example, Cyril of Jerusalem used to physically walk people from the place of Christ’s crucifixion to the place of His empty tomb within the walls of the church that had been built over the believed sites of those events. There were also other physical movements associated with baptism meant to signify the transfer of a person from old to new life, from death to life, from blindness to sight, and from darkness to light.
Now, only God can make Christians, and so His work and promise in Holy Baptism, believed by the person baptized, is the decisive point. Nevertheless, it does not take away from that decisive point of conversion if–prior to baptism, as well as afterward–the Church hands over the substance of the Christian faith in Creed, prayer, and the Word and blesses the person on his or her way to the water of baptism, and on to the resurrection. We pray that God would preserve newborns who have not yet been baptized, and we pray the same for adults on their way to baptism.
Prayer and hearing the Word of God in Christ are the ways of preparation, just as they have always been. Why do it publicly within the Divine Service? So that the members of the congregation can bear witness, for the sake of the one to be baptized, to the promises of God present in His Word and in baptism, as well as remember the promises God made to each person in his or her baptism. Such prayer and blessing is absolutely catholic–what the Church has done in all places and all times. There’s nothing distinctly Roman Catholic about it.
Why is it called a “scrutiny”? Because in the beginning of the Church, the sponsors (who were the same people who introduced a person to Christ’s Church) were asked to testify that the person really did want to become a Christian and was not doing it to spy out the Church (when Christianity was illegal) or for any material benefit (once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire). So the candidate for baptism and the sponsors were “scrutinized” to that effect.
It seems that many people were not prepared for this public process, and for that I take full responsibility. I hope this little explanation has cleared up some of the questions. I would also remind everyone that I am available often for anyone to ask any questions that might arise. People who don’t know the answers, on the other hand, are probably not good resources of whom to ask the questions one may have.
Feel free to clarify any of this at any time. For now, I ask you to rejoice with me and with the angels in heaven that God is claiming another person for His Kingdom through His Son, Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. God grant you a blessed celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, as you remember your own resurrection to eternal life in Holy Baptism.