This past Sunday, September 8, marked the anniversary of my initial installation one dozen years ago as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It was a memorable day, likely forgotten by many, surely remembered by a few.
What I remember most about that day was an overwhelming sense of humility and awe, surrounded by family, friends, past and present co-workers, and many complete strangers. We all had gathered in The Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
Lots of pomp and circumstance was the order of the day. That included a procession of the 35 white-robed, red-stoled district presidents with whom I had worked for the previous decade on the Council of Presidents, the newly elected Synod vice-presidents and Board of Directors.
But what I remember even more clearly than that service of installation was what occurred three days later on Tuesday, September 11. You’ve probably figured out that one dozen years ago was the year of our Lord 2001. Our country marked that anniversary yesterday, September 11, 2013.
Anyone alive at that time and most people born since then know that what is now simply called “9/11” was a time of shock, horror, grief, death and devastation. It will be remembered, long after we’re all gone, as a turning point in America’s history.
Before 9/11 we boarded airplanes without airport security lines, time consuming shoe and outer clothing removal and X-ray scanning we must now endure in order to provide at least a modicum of safety assurance prior to boarding. How strange and frustrating in the land of the free!
All this, and much more, is a reflection of the challenges facing the church in a society and world comprised of many people, in the U.S. and beyond, who do not value God-given life. Folks who walk down chapel aisles for installation to important offices have significant responsibility in trying to change that sad reality. But we/they cannot do it alone.
Many experiences in my life, including that installation of one dozen years ago, remind me that the real work of changing the world by influencing people for Christ is done by the faithful people of God in congregations and communities. You are the ones who influence families, co-workers, neighbors and fellow citizens to be the salt and light our Lord intends us to be! (Matt. 5:13-15)
“So let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Doing so requires much more than just one dozen years!
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick