For the past six years about 700 LCMS pastors, lay folks, theologians and church workers have banded together in a conversation over the internet known as Daystar. We are an eclectic group, if ever there was one, committed to the Gospel and its renewal of our church. We have witnessed, often first-hand, how legalism has destroyed people and ministries and have chosen to support and care for one another via our cyber-community. Well over a thousand evangelical catholic, that is, Lutheran friends have passed through our number over the past half-decade.
The Daystar Journal is an experiment in sharing our DayStar voice with the larger church. We hope that you will find its voice a gentle, Gospel-oriented one which can be put to use in your Christian life and ministry. The authors, as is our rule in the DayStar community, speak for themselves. DayStar takes no positions on the great issues under debate among us. Each is free under the Gospel to say what he or she thinks within the rubrics of Christian civility and the healthy exchange of ideas.
We hope to publish the Journal quarterly in electronic format. Of course, our ability depends on the generous gifts of our readership. Your contribution to the Daystar movement is important and we welcome it to maintain this site. If what you read here hits home, we’d encourage your gifts to: Treasurer, Daystar, 16452 NE Fargo Street, Portland, OR. 97230.
One of my favorite authors is Philip Yancey who recently published a book which features the writings of Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneer medical-missionary. In the Likeness of God (Zondervan, 2004) is full of the insights acquired by a humble servant of the Lord whose vocation led him to think deeply about the dreaded disease of leprosy. The volume is about making connections between the human body and the Body of Christ. While not a Lutheran, so that one may want to tweak Brand’s perspective on the Law here and there, Brand makes a good point on deadly legalism which applies so aptly to the LCMS today:
But legalism contains enough inherent dangers to elicit the strongest warnings in the Bible. No other issue—not pornography, adultery, violence, or the things which most rankle Christians today—inspired more fiery outbursts from Jesus.
Strangely, the people who made Jesus livid with anger were the ones the modern press might call Bible-belt fundamentalists. This group, the Pharisees, devoted their lives to following God. They gave away exact tithes, obeyed each minute law in the Old Testament, and sent out missionaries to gain new converts. Almost no sexual sin or violent crime was visible among the Pharisees. Yet Jesus denounced these model citizens. Why?
To answer that question, I go back to the humble crayfish creeping along the creek bottoms of Louisiana. In comparing its exoskeleton with my more advanced internal skeleton, several differences suggest themselves and throw light on Jesus’ strong statements in Matthew 23 and Luke 11 about the dangers of legalism.
First, the crayfish relies almost exclusively on its skeleton for protection. Its dependable armor plating can ward off enemies. Humans, in contrast, have soft, vulnerable exteriors. But as the rules God gave to free Christ’s Body begin to calcify, we tend to hunker down inside them for protection. We develop a defensive exoskeleton. In his Letters to an American Lady, C.S. Lewis said, “Nothing gives a more spuriously good conscience than keeping rules, even if there has been a total absence of real charity and faith.”
Legalists fool you. Like the Pharisees and the “athletes for God,” they impress you with their unquestioned dedication. Surely, you think, they have a high view of God. But I learned as I grew up in a legalistic environment that legalism actually errs by lowering sights. It spells out exactly what a person has to do to meet God’s approval. In so doing, legalists can miss the whole point that the gospel is a gift freely given by God to people who don’t deserve it…
…A second danger of legalism is that it limits our growth by forming a hard, crusty shell around the accepted group…(pp. 125-126).
You get the idea. Whatever we are on Daystar, it has been how God in God’s Christ has broken through hard, crusty shells with God’s newness, joy and peace. It has been about being stretched through meeting up with a variety of ideas among a crowd willingly normed by Scripture and Confessions whose evangelical imaginations have been set on fire in the Gospel. It is this voice, often learning, often growing, often ready to invite a new sister or brother with his/her brand new set of insights into the conversation, which we of the DayStar community offer to the church through The Daystar Journal. We hope you accept what follows in that spirit.
One of the things that strikes you in the Daystar conversation is that we are not quitters on a church which we love very much. Oh, that some would like us to quit, and have told us so, of that there can be no doubt. But no. Thank you very much. The Daystar community has signed on for the duration. When our three sons were younger, my wife and I hung a poster on their bedroom door. It showed a boy, room in shambles, with that befuddled look for which preadolescent boys are notorious. The poster’s caption read, “Please, be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
Indeed. The Daystar Journal is born in the evangelical heart of a community of Missouri’s sons and daughters who simply refuse to give up on a church that requires a lot of patient TLC. She is our home where the Good Lord nurtured us with his Word. We are those who dare to believe that the same Good Lord hasn’t given up on her just quite yet.
Enjoy. This first issue is more or less devoted to the overriding theme: “The Evangelical Imagination.” We threw that topic out to percolate ideas in our community and what comes next was the result.
The Postscript below describes the context and content of the first contribution by Frederick Niedner of Valparaiso University, as Daystar, among many others, commends a dear friend and brother into the hands of the crucified and risen One who even goes to hell for you. Seasoned synodical educator and veteran pastor David Stein, emeritus of many callings, including the Daystar presidency, comes next in order, as he puts on his historian’s hat and reflects on what, in his view, might be part of the LCMS’s agony. “The Same, Yesterday, Today and Forever” is a feisty piece which you shouldn’t miss. Robert Schmidt opens up positive and visionary thoughts about the church which could be with his “The Colossian Model.” This veteran missionary and teacher never ceases for us Daystars in asking us to think outside the box in the mission-driven freedom of the Gospel. Marie Meyer is next with her insights on Luther’s Commentary on The Magnificat and how the Reformer applied Mary’s song to all things great and small. Next Pastor Andrew Schroeder remembers an anniversary coming up of the “Statement of the Forty-Four,” adopted in 1945 by some visionaries then. What abiding meanings does this statement have for us today, perhaps spilling over to far beyond the synod to which it was addressed? Pastor Dale Krueger next takes us on a brief walk through Paul in Galatians and that bewitching appeal to love, opened up by the Spirit in the Gospel.
Also your editor’s review of Martin Marty’s Luther is recycled from its Crossings Community moorings, along with brief reviews by Dr. Art Kaul and Pastor Paul Dobberstein of books which matter.
As I say, enjoy this first feast, and let your evangelical imagination go to work in whatever context in which God has placed you to spread the light of the Gospel.
Pastor Stephen C. Krueger
San Diego, CA
On October 30, 2004, our friend, David Truemper (1939-2004), Chairperson of Valparaiso University’s Theology Department, joined the Church Triumphant after a lengthy struggle with cancer. David was in many ways a friend and a mentor of the Daystar movement for a number of years and an active voice in Daystar free conferences. Several of Dave’s important contributions can be found at the Daystar website.
As a tribute to our dear friend, Frederick Niedner, a beloved colleague who delivered the funeral sermon in the Chapel of the Resurrection, gave us his permission to share the Word of resurrection hope with you in this first electronic issue of the Journal.
We will miss our beloved friend very much but rejoice that the victory to which his ministry was directed is now his.
Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine on him.