Not because we like the scenery, but because flying in and out of Memphis almost always takes longer than driving. But, we drove – hundreds of miles to go to the Sixty-sixth Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the National LCMS Youth Gathering. Along the way to Milwaukee, travelers are forced to go through Illinois. There weren’t the familiar rice fields of Arkansas, the lush green rolling hills of Kentucky, or the rock-cut hills of Tennessee. But, there was one thing in common in all of the places we saw – power poles.
Power poles stand like picket fences along every highway and byway in just about every state. In Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and parts of Mississippi we saw more power poles and gigantic wind turbines. We saw solar energy “farms” and more power poles. They stand as a constant reminder that America is one of the most (if not the most) advanced country in the history of mankind – technologically speaking.
As I returned from the NYG, I was reminded of something quite different than technology. When I saw the power poles along the highway all the traffic came to adead stop. Nothing moved. No – not because of power poles, butbecause there was a wreck several miles ahead of us. However, it gave me a moment to talk to my grandson about power poles. Look at a power pole along any of your frequently traveled roads. They form a cross! The lines in between connect one cross to another. Every electron flowing through those wires comes from a single source of power. It may be a wind turbine or a solar energy farm. Power may also come from the hydroelectric dams and generating plants – nuclear, coal, gas, or other sources – bringing power to every household and business in the nation.
That’s what these two Synodical events were all about as well. Power. At the Synod Convention, delegates focused on the mission and ministry of Christ – “Upon This Rock.” Convention essays, convention Resolutions, and Convention Reports all focused on the mission and ministry of Christ and His Church.
Essays were presented on the power of God to forgive us, for the sake of Jesus Christ, as we live as repentant sinners. The cross of Christ brings us the power of His sacrificial suffering and death that paid for our sins, delivered directly into our daily life. Being forgiven, for the sake of Christ, allows us the opportunity to confess – bringing Light to the lost who struggle in the darkness of being without the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they may rejoice in His grace.
Several Resolutions dealt with the privilege and responsibility to bring about witness of our faith to a lost world. We have been gathering resources since our Mid-South District Convention to enable, empower and engage every member of our District’s congregations to bring at least one person to hear the Good News. (Bring more if you wish!) The power of conversion from lost sinners to redeemed people in Christ comes through the Word and guidance of the Holy Spirit. By God’s grace and guidance, our Each-1/Reach-1 will allow the MDS to be one of the first Districts to grow numerically and spiritually.
Church Planting and Church Re-Vitality were reinforced as initiatives for the Synod. In the Mid-South District, we are committed to planting more congregations, keeping our eyes peeled for opportunities God lays before us, and constructing those power lines in communities where our Lutheran doctrine brings a refreshing hope and gracious joy. Our CAR and COMPASS programs will help all congregations evaluate their ministry and set a roadway to their mission destination.
The Synod continued its concern over the smaller number of people who are entering our universities and seminaries for Church work careers. Resolutions at the Convention dealt with ways to encourage alternate routes to ministry, assisting with financing of church-work education, and engaging every capable layperson in assisting in the congregations’ ministries and missions. The power of the Church drives every aspect of finding and preparing our future Church workers, and bringing that power to the ever-changing culture of the American landscape.
The energy from a highly-effective and meaningful Convention continued as we traveled to New Orleans to participate in the National LCMS Youth Gathering. There was more energy assembled with the 25,000 youth gathered for this even than anyone could capture in any solar farm or field of wind turbines! Youth and youth leaders from every state, and several foreign countries participated in servant events, Bible studies, special break-out sessions, and spectacular mass events inside the Superdome.
You’d have to be there to hear thousands of youth singing their hearts out, praying together, watching inspirational videos, hearing heart-felt stories, and being fed by the Word and Sacrament offered by Christ to His Church. The streets of New Orleans were filled with thousands of youth – everyone with a NYG backpack – showing their love and being the echo of God’s grace in their lives.
The NYG technology was spectacular! The presentations by each of our Concordia University campuses left a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of these precious youth – a real way to encourage our youth to consider the precious privilege of serving in the Church. One waiter at a breakfast mentioned to me the wonderful behavior of the “hundreds of kids” he served. “They are so well behaved and polite,” he remarked, “not like some other youth groups who have come to town.” Yet, it wasn’t about them at all. It was all about our life “In Christ Alone!” Jesus was the focus of the entire week, and remains the focus of the young lives He touched through “…many and various ways; but now in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV)
I don’t think I will ever look at a power pole differently after this. They don’t carry a secret message. They carry the power that travels upon them, and through the wires that connect them to their source of energy. Didn’t Jesus give us that same power – connected to His cross, and delivered to every corner of our world?
Rev Dr. Roger Paavola,