We’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It takes a village to preach the Gospel.
This past weekend, the rostered ministers and members of the congregations of the Northeastern Iowa Synod gathered to do the work that is necessary to ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed in response to Christ’s command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
Thanks to a Luther statue from Wartburg College and Luther College’s giant Playmobile “Little Luther”, the visual reminder of Luther and his devotion to the Gospel was with us always to keep us focused on why we do this.
Our Saturday morning prayer preacher was The Rev. Dr. Wanda Deifelt, from the Lutheran Church in Brazil. She expounded on Paul’s words in Galatians 5:
For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
After worship, the morning plenary session began with an excellent keynote address by Dr. Jane E. Strohl, “Bold Sin and Bolder Faith”. Her insights on Luther’s exposition of Genesis 1 gave us new ways of understanding the old story of Adam and Eve’s fall to temptation.
It was a new insight for me that it was Eve’s innocence that caused her to listen to the snake. She didn’t know any better. We do. We know that we are under no obligation to listen to the lies of the Tempter. But even when we do, there is always our Baptism to fall back to and emerge forgiven and renewed to continue to live as children of God.
Be like Luther, tell Satan to kiss off. And remember you are baptized. You are loved unconditionally”
Another highlight of the Assembly was the report from our Churchwide Organization, Pastor Linda Norman, ELCA Treasurer.
She told of how she just followed her brother to a Lutheran church youth group. Although she mostly sat on the sidelines, when she went with her brother to visit the youth leader when she was hospitalized, the visitor said to her “Linda you are going to be a leader in the church”.
Those words never left her and pushed her to participate in the church in many ways that eventually led to seminary and becoming a pastor.
It takes a village to preach the Gospel.
It takes youth leaders who guide and mentor young people whose formative experiences in the church lead to a lifelong commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel, whatever vocation they choose.
It takes ministries like Lutheran Services in Iowa, who shared an inspiring video of the work they do in the name of the Gospel.
One of the benefits of coming to a Synod Assembly is to see how all the parts, Pastors, Congregations, Synod Ministries, Bishop, Synod and the ELCA Churchwide organization come together to make sure the Gospel is proclaimed. Everyone has a part to play.
Here are just a few more ways we learned how it takes a village to preach the Gospel.
Workshops with everything from church finances to how to teach middle school students illustrate how each one of us has a part to play when it comes to preaching the Gospel.
We didn’t have many resolutions to consider, however, an important resolution to establish an AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) Network passed unanimously. This network will provide support and resources to help congregations welcome, assist and advocate for immigrants and refugees in our communities. This resolution helps us welcome more people into the village so that we can continue to preach the Gospel to all nations.
On Sunday morning, assembly voting members and visitors gathered early for our own version of Sunday School to study the Small Catechism together, answering Presiding Bishop Elizabeth’s call to ELCA members to read the catechism together in preparation for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
It takes a village to preach the Gospel, and the final hour of our assembly was a favorite time of sharing stories of the different ways congregations in our synod are finding ways to reach out and preach the Gospel in their communities.
It was fitting that Gospel text for our closing worship was from Matthew 28:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It takes a village to preach the Gospel. And again we were blessed to assemble and see just how big our village is and all the gifts God has given us to carry out the great commission.