What’s an Exile to Expect?

Stephen C. Krueger

Mundelein, Illinois
Feast of the Reformation — 31 October 2000



I have a seminary diploma which reads, “Concordia Seminary in Exile.” That dates me to a particular few years in the history of the Missouri Synod when those who shaped me considered themselves “in exile,” along with the community of us students, and to a time before, under the threat of legal action by the synod, Concordia Seminary in Exile changed its name to Christ Seminary—Seminex.

That doesn’t necessarily mean much of anything, except that it means I’m old enough to have begun my seminary studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and to have finished them when that same school, same faculty (almost), only at a different location in St. Louis, saw itself as continuing what it had been doing for almost a century and a half: teaching Augsburg confessional theology to aspiring pastors.

Yet, there was one big difference. We learned then, first-hand, that the theology of the Church of the Augsburg Confession was dangerous stuff.

In the 16th century that theology was produced in crisis by exiles at a place called Wittenberg where those exiles were being pushed out of the church because their rediscovery of the gospel threatened everything. It most particularly threatened those in power. Luther and Melanchthon and those around them, now known heroically to us as “the Reformers” but at the time hardly heroes to the institutional church, learned the truth of what exiles can expect who take their stand on the gospel and its Christ as the center, the core authority of Christ’s church. They learned the truth of what Jesus said shortly before his death (from Luther’s favorite Gospel—hold that thought):

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You are also to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me (St. John 15:26–16:3).

Of course, our Lord spoke those words to his disciples of the first century. They would be expelled from the institutional ecclesia, the gathering of their day, because of their single-minded focus on the Christ, God’s Messiah, whom they knew as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. They would be exiled, all right, a picture which the writer to the Hebrews turns from bad news into good news, because they joined the ranks of all strangers and exiles who had followed God’s promising Word, seeing from afar a God who “is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them” (11: 16).

So it was for the Lutheran Reformers, too. And it is my thesis, so it is for us.

If you had visited Seminex’s chapel on Grand Blvd. after the exile of 1974, it was a strange and exhilarating sight to behold. There we would be crammed into our chapel with Doc Caemmerer, Bertram, Schroeder, the infamous exegetes —Danker, Klein, Kalin, Krentz, von Rohr Sauer in his flowing Mosaic beard —Fuerbringer, Tietjen, Damm, and the rest, who had been for years the teachers of Missouri, all now the post-New Orleans “heretics,” working out of a hymn book in which were inscribed the words:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 12:1–3).

I have been told on Daystar, among some of you in this beloved community, “There you go again, Krueger, resurrecting the battle of New Orleans, lifting up the ghosts of ancient history now of a quarter century ago.”

And you may be right. But the issues before us today in our crisis are not different. They are the same. As they were for Jesus’ disciples of the first century who would be exiled “for the sake of the gospel.” As they were for our Lutheran forbears who would be exiled “for the sake of the gospel.” As they were for us a quarter century ago. And as they are for us, now, today. We resurrect these ghosts … no … these blessed memories of faithfulness … so that we can “consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners … (and) not grow weary or lose heart.”

I. More than a constitutional crisis

This second free conference was hatched chiefly to deal with what we have called on Daystar “a constitutional crisis.” Indeed, there is one of those in Missouri today as we anticipate the 2001 convention of our synod. Is the synod advisory to its members, as our constitution says it is, or not? Thus we have said that one of the purposes of this conference is to look at Article 7 of the synod’s constitution, where it says that the synod is “advisory.” The article even expands on that, lest there be any doubt: “… Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers. …” What part of that don’t some people seem to understand? Well, ask Gene Brueggemann. He’s done a yeoman’s job to answer that question among us.

Yet there is more than that. There is more than a constitutional crisis before us. There is a doctrinal one. We are hinting at that when we say we are also calling a free conference to look at that other Article 7, the one from the Augsburg Confession, about the sufficient grounds for the unity of the church. What are those sufficient grounds? The gospel! Not the gospel plus something else, which is what, in fact, makes the pure gospel an impure one, but the pure gospel in its oral and visible, sacramental forms; the pure gospel, the one around which the community of faith gathers and believes so that in its administration sinners are getting their sins forgiven and being offered for Christ’s sake alone new life. Consensus on the gospel and only the gospel is the grounds for the true unity of the church. That’s what Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession says, as it points to Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession, saying, “That gospel which we’ve just identified—the one about justification by faith alone in Christ alone—is the sufficient grounds for the unity of the church.”

But the crisis cuts even deeper than that. It isn’t merely that those in power in the synod today don’t have their doctrine straight on Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession over what constitutes the true unity of our synod and, for that matter, of the whole church. Oh, that they don’t have their doctrine straight is clear enough, as they toss up every impediment they can think of to explore and realize the unity of Christ’s holy church. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse.

The crisis is a confessional one. It is over the gospel itself as the sole-sufficient norm of the church. Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession trusts the norm of the gospel alone as “sufficient” to establish the true unity of the church. The question is, why doesn’t our leadership trust it? Why doesn’t our synod? It is that same gospel which Article 7 of our synod’s constitution seems to trust as that gospel does its gospelling in the life of its members, so that the gospel doesn’t need a synod with “legislative or coercive powers” for its unity and mission. No! The gospel is quite sufficient to do among us what God wishes to accomplish by God’s gospel: create the church, unify it, sustain and strengthen it. The problem isn’t the gospel! The problem is on the human side—with us! The problem is that WE do not trust the gospel to do what it will do when it is free to do it, that is, unite the church around the gospel’s forgiveness of sins and offer of new life in Christ.

And the problem becomes especially acute, of critical proportion, as if the very life of the church were at stake, as if the church “would stand or fall,” in fact, when the very ones who are entrusted to articulate and administer that gospel are the very ones who “bury” it, suppress it and its core, central place as the sole-sufficient norm of the church. So much so that they exile not just gospel-trusters but the gospel itself as the power of God among us along with all the gospel’s gifts, like freedom, joy, trust and the Spirit’s gifts for mission and, most especially, the Christ-centered heart for the poor (a theme in the LCMS today virtually conspicuous by its absence).

I submit to you, that is the nature of our crisis today. The gospel itself is being exiled by the church not trusting it. And, most particularly, not trusting it by the very ones who would lead us.

II. Walther or Wittenberg?

A great deal among the legalists today in our synod is made of returning the church back to the original vision of the synod crafted by our first president, C. F. W. Walther. I must confess it is a conversation which doesn’t interest me much because I am convinced it wouldn’t have interested Walther much if he were living among us today. I am not a Walther scholar, nor do I purport to be, but I do know that Walther progressively argued that the infant synod not revert back to European forms of church governance but try the bold experiment of democratization which he found among his new American culture. In that sense, Walther was very culturally open.

It is also important to point out, as Dr. Todd has so eloquently done in her book, Authority Vested, that the crisis in the community of those Saxon exiles caused by the Stephan debacle is part of the crisis we in the Missouri Synod carry with us as part of our baggage today. Wherein resides authority? In the congregation with its voters or in a strong pastoral office?

The answer to the dilemma resides, in my opinion, not in Walther’s writings on governance but in Walther’s most famous master work, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

While surely dated to its time, Proper Distinction picks up the great theme of the Lutheran Confessions themselves on what ultimately is the true authority of the church. To Walther, it’s “the Word.” But by that Walther means the Word of God, properly distinguished between law and gospel. Walther well knew that the law describes God at God’s penultimate Word. The law exists for the sake of the gospel and not the other way around. The gospel is God’s ultimate verdict on our lives for Jesus’ sake. Its tender, joyous news of Christ’s justification of us is truly good news when we see how bad the alternate news is of the law—death! And not just temporal death—but the eternal kind!

To Walther the evangelical pastor is one who takes great care in administering those two words as the Word of God to the people entrusted to his care. To the indifferent and erring the evangelical pastor is called to administer the law of God in all its terror and seriousness. And with full divine authorization does he do this. Without Christ there’s hell to pay! But the true evangelical pastor doesn’t do this because he takes delight in condemning sinners. He knows in true pastoral love that the law does its work in sinners for the sake of the gospel. The law drives them to despair of themselves and into the arms of the gospel’s Savior, who is the sinner’s only necessary justification to be!

It is one of the great legacies of our synod that C. F. W. Walther kept for us the message straight! Few better than he in his time understood Luther’s insight of the great froeliche Wechsel (the happy exchange) of the gospel: the fame and fate (“sinner”/“death”) which I deserved became Christ’s for me. The fame and fate (“eternal child of the Father”/“eternal life with God”) which Christ alone deserved, in Christ’s sacrifice became mine. It is my faith alone, my trust in the forensic gift of the gospel, which makes the gift mine (wie glaubst du, so hast du).

Walther clearly understood that and made the legacy of Wittenberg central to his theology. The question is, “Why do the legalists today, who cite Walther right and left on issues of power, not get the key to his theology?” To Walther, the key authority in the church was the Word of God properly distinguished between law and gospel. To Walther Christ gets to rule! To our legalists today the question deteriorates dramatically to: who among us gets to rule?

My reading of Walther would suggest that he would be spinning in his grave with the crisis in the Missouri Synod today. So confident was he in the winsome power of the Word, properly distinguished and pastorally administered as law and gospel, to sufficiently govern the church, that Walther made it abundantly clear the only power synodical leadership should have is the power to persuade. Read his first presidential address to the synod (prominently posted on the Daystar web site). The Word of God, properly distinguished, HAS that power in the hands of an evangelical pastor … or lay person for that matter. SO WHY DO WE NEED TODAY ALL THIS LEGALISTIC BYLAW CONTROL?

I suspect Walther would be among the first to provide an answer. It’s because leadership today no longer trusts the power of the Word, distinguished as law and gospel, to do what it alone is perfectly capable of doing: to norm quite sufficiently the church of Jesus Christ! Walther could even trust a local congregational voter’s assembly to get its mission straight without a synod’s coercive oversight because Walther clearly knew the power of the Word.

That depth of faith and stature of Christian leadership was Walther’s, in my opinion, because he understood deeply a faith which informed him. Oh, sure, he made some mistakes, including as a young man being mesmerized by Bishop Stephan. I was a young man once, too. But in his day Walther got a lot straight, and we are the richer for it.

I also think he would be profoundly embarrassed if we today didn’t point to those things which shaped his faith, chiefly, the theology of Wittenberg.

III. Wittenberg’s Wisdom

Once again, I say the present crisis in the synod today is far more serious than even a serious constitutional crisis. Or even a doctrinal one. The crisis is a confessional one, so serious that on it, as Luther put it, “the church stands or falls.” The centrality of the gospel to do what it is God would do with God’s gospel among us is on the line. It doesn’t get any more serious than that.

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.

Those are hard words when we apply them today because they foreshadow the cost that any disciple of Jesus may have to bear for knowing the Father and Jesus. You get to be exiled, tossed out of the assembly, by those who do not know the Father and Jesus.

Our Lutheran Confessions struggled with that, as those confessors got to be exiled from the church of their day. And they have something to teach us, since we look to them, those symbols of our faith, to make sense out of who we are or hope to be today.

The earlier confessions ask the question, “Ought we really have a problem with the medieval papacy by whose authority the church has existed throughout the centuries? And could that problem be so bad as to disrupt the unity of the church throughout the world?” John Eck, the Vatican enemy of the Reformation, kept demanding of the Lutherans, “Why can’t you ‘walk together’ with us?”

In John Osborne’s award-winning play Luther, Luther chokes prior to the Diet of Worms in an audience before Cardinal Thomas De Vio Cajatan, on that very question. “Sure,” the slick cardinal says, “we know how embarrassing and crassly opportunistic people like Tetzel are, selling indulgences and the like, but, Brother Martin, are you willing to risk the perfect unity of the western church for what you stand for?”

That is a monumental question for us today. We Daystars are being cast as trouble-makers, fault-finders, who would derail all the good work of our synod and ruin its unity. Why can’t we go along? Why can’t we “walk together?” Why can’t women just understand that we’re not ready to take up the question of their full equality? Is pushing their case worth ruining all the good work our synod is trying to do to “Tell the Good News About Jesus” and the like? Don’t we want to “Tell the Good News About Jesus”? Isn’t that more important? What kind of people are we, anyway? And all the rest about which we are made to feel we’re too extreme, pushing too hard, ruining the perfect unity which the synod has enjoyed for over a century and a half?

That is exactly and to a tee the way the Wittenberg Reformers were made to feel. Read the Confutation, the Vatican’s response to the Augsburg Confession. The Lutherans were accused there of eroding the authority of Scripture, as in “How can you say that the Christian is saved by faith alone on the basis of the writings of St. Paul, when St. Paul clearly writes in 1 Corinthians 13: 13, ‘And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.’ Not faith!” So wrote the Confutation against the doctrine of justification sola fide. There you are. The Bible says! How dare the Wittenberg Reformers contradict clear words from the Bible! “And you Lutherans would wreck the unity of the church over such dubious exegesis by which you conclude that justification is by faith alone?”

The answer is found in the Wittenberg Reformers’ response to the Confutation. In the Apology, Melanchthon diagnoses the issue this way. We stand ready even to ruin the unity of the church we love because there is no true unity of the church without the gospel. The scriptures do, indeed, proclaim justification by faith alone as gospel when they are read as law and promise, rightly distinguished, keeping God’s two words in their proper, Biblical arrangement, so that the gospel’s Christ and all his benefits are not “buried” but are, in fact, made necessary. When that is done, it is eminently clear that only the gospel (God’s ultimate verdict on our lives “in Christ”) has the power to unify the church and sustain it. Outside of Christ and his gospel there is no unity of Christ’s church; for that matter, there is no church at all! There is only law and sin and death.

The gospel sets us free from the power of the law. The gospel is the Christian’s victory through Jesus Christ over the law.

To Melanchthon it is that new declaration, forensically declared to us through the church’s ministry, outside of ourselves, in spite of us, called the gospel, covering us, calling us, gifting us, which authorizes Christ’s church to be. That message is what unifies us no matter who we are, “Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female,” into a whole new Christ-connected community.

The problem with the medieval papacy and the church surrounding it, says Melanchthon, is that that surprising declaration in the gospel has been “buried.” People cannot trust a gospel which the church buries. So (Melanchthon says), as we assess our place in the medieval church, we ask two questions of it and of all the doctrines, practices and requirements it asks of us in order to belong: (1) Does this or that teaching, doctrine or practice exalt Christ of the gospel, giving to the church the full benefits of Christ, or instead, does this or that teaching or practice bury Christ, making of him no use at all? (2) Does this or that teaching or doctrine or practice leave sinners in the terror and bondage of their sins, or does it instead speak the tender Word of forgiveness and new life which Christ has come to bring?

IV. The Crisis Today

We ask precisely those same two questions of our leadership in the synod today which Melanchthon asked of his church’s leadership, the medieval papacy. As much as it ridiculed and charged the Augsburg Confessors for “not walking together” with the rest of the western church, so we, too, have been warned. Yet the reasons for our protest are precisely the same as Melanchthon’s, as he asks of the papacy in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (Article 4) his two questions: (1) Why do you continue to bury Christ and all his benefits, including Christ’s gift of freedom, in most everything you propose? Why don’t you, instead, raise Christ and all his benefits up among us instead of appealing to law and bylaw revisions to coerce and control? (2) Why don’t you administer the gospel among us as the true source of unity in the church rather than create, as you do, a climate of suspicion and mistrust, leaving the church in the bondage of its sin instead of in the arms of Christ, the sin forgiver?

The simplest way to state the question of the Apology to church leadership: “Why do you propose to solve all our problems without Christ and the gospel? The gospel makes virtually no appearance in anything you propose or would impose among us. Is there something about the gospel, as the chief norm of the church, which you don’t trust?”

The question is deadly serious. The president’s Task Force on Synod and District Relations just furthered the climate of suspicion, accusation and mistrust which the synod’s current administration has reveled in for almost the past decade. Each Christian, among the myriad of bylaw proposals of the task force, should ask, “Where is the gospel in any of this? Does the task force mean to suggest by tightening the control of a centralized authority, administered by the president of the synod, the synod will be better off? And isn’t that exactly what our own Lutheran confessional tradition stood against: a false unity, a contrived and empty “walking together,” at the expense of Christ and the gospel?”

What we insist on is that our leadership understand this: what choice do we have except to raise our voices for the gospel when our leadership behaves like a medieval, legalistic papacy? We’re Lutherans after all! Maybe they’re not, but we sure are!

The problem lies infinitely deeper than whose politics shall rule the church. Long before the social scientists identified the source of most personality disorders as the inability to trust, the Augsburg Confession in its Article 2 on Original Sin said as much the same. AC2 confesses that all of us come naturally, born into Adam’s race, as we are, “without fear of God, without trust, and with concupiscence” (with a will curved inward).

“Without trust.” Legalism tries to replace trust with something else: certainty, a world under one’s control, a universe under one’s thumb, being god instead of letting God be God with one’s life. That is the problem with legalism. It is patent unbelief in God through Jesus Christ and all of God’s promises through Christ.

The alternative is life in the gospel. There, life is one of letting go of control and letting God be God. It is a life of being able to be free in Christ to let God be God in all things. Fred Niedner and Dave Truemper say that life in the gospel is trusting Christ crucified so that God can be God for us even in the darkness because Christ crucified makes God trustable in all things.

You will not find that life of trust in God for Christ’s sake in the legalism of the task force report. Nor will you find it in the themes of the current synodical administration. Rather, there is something else, about which our Lord warns:

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.

They would make exiles out of us, they would. They do so because they think, in their mistaken legalism, they are offering worship to God. But the fact is, they do not know the Father nor Jesus.

If they did, if they did know the Father or Jesus, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing now: seeking to control the church. Rather they would be offering it up to Jesus, entrusting it to the power of his gospel to do what Jesus’ Holy Spirit in freedom would do through that gospel, enlisting us in the Father’s redemptive mission to the world.

V. A Profile of Legalism

One of the books I’ve been working on lately is John Cornwell’s biography of Pope Pius XII, Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, published last year. It turned out to be an important book because it was one of the reasons the Vatican backed off beatifying Eugenio Pacelli—exposed in it for his relationship to Hitler and the Holocaust. Instead, in order to balance beatifying John XXIII, the world’s beloved pope, to placate the conservatives, Rome decided to go for Pius IX, Pio Nono, for whom Pacelli helped develop the 1917 Code of Canon Law, thereby establishing, so Cornwell (a Vatican scholar from Cambridge) contends in part, the modern autocratic papacy.

Just for silly, let me read a little of it to you.

Canon 218 on the authority of the Pope: “… the supreme and most complete jurisdiction throughout the Church, both in matters of faith and morals and in those that affect discipline and Church government throughout the world” (cited p. 42).

About Canon 1323 Cornwell notes “a blurring of the distinction between the ordinary and the solemn teaching authority of the Pope, confusion that the fathers of the First Vatican Council sought to avoid” (cited p. 43).

So that Canon 1324 reads: “It is not enough to avoid heresy, but one must also carefully shun all error that more or less approach it; hence all must observe constitutions and decrees by which the Holy See has proscribed and forbidden opinions of that sort” (cited p. 43).

Canon 1325: “Catholics are to avoid disputations or conferences about matters of faith with non-Catholics, especially in public (is Dave Benke here?), unless the Holy See, or in the case of emergency the bishop of the place, has given permission” (cited p. 43).

Canon 1386.1, Cornwell summarizes: “No priest is allowed to publish a book, or edit or contribute to a newspaper, journal, magazine, or review, without permission of the local bishop. Every diocese would have its own censor” (cited p. 43).

Canon 1393.5: “The name of the censor, moreover, is not to be divulged until the bishop has given a favorable judgment on the work” (cited p. 44).

And “above all,” says Cornwell, there was Canon 329.2, which endowed the Pope with the sole right to nominate bishops (p. 44).

Sound vaguely familiar? Isn’t that exactly, and I mean precisely, the world into which a task force and president’s office intend to lead us? Substitute “Office of the President” for “Holy See,” and we have the new bylaws of the Missouri Synod. Substitute “district president” for “bishop,” and what have you got? The path into which Missouri is now headed! And you know it and I know it. No dissent. None. No free conscience. None. Anonymous censors called “Doctrinal Review.” And worst of all a world of law and no gospel.

Luther and the Reformers are spinning in their graves! Our powerful opponents are turning the Reformation and the triumph of the gospel over the law on its head and calling that, excuse me, “Lutheran?” Why not just adopt Pope Pius IX’s Code of Canon Law of 1917 in its entirety, change a few titles here and there, and be done with it?

Pius IX’s Vatican was all about control. So was Leo X’s of the 16th century, for that matter, except that there were these exiles from Wittenberg, who had found, reclaimed and had been seized by the gospel and its eminent freedom to be the people of God without Vatican approval.

Who are these characters today in Missouri who are jettisoning our entire confessional tradition of the gospel and who are the real “Bible doubters” because they cannot trust any of the Scriptures’ wonderful, Christ-connected promises? Who are they? Who are these men and women who would not only exile us, which really would be no big deal, and the gospel of Jesus Christ from its place in the life of our synod among those we love and care for?

It’s the same crowd as always.

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.

There is no question, that’s a hard word. And I probably, incurable exile that I am, will pay dearly for speaking it. But given who the Speaker really is, and my solemn calling, I have little choice.

I went to school with them. I grew up with them. As did my parents. And their parents. And their parents.

And I love them, more than they can begin to know. I was ordained out of Seminex in 1977 into the AELC and left Missouri for a time. I came back, mostly because of a beloved father and mother, to see what I could do to help. When I colloquized a over decade ago, a very evangelically open president then also inspired me. He missed the first “exile,” but he soon got a taste of it too and has been living in Jesus’ promised exile for his beloved since.

But of our oppressors, we do love them. Perhaps more than they love themselves. They just don’t “get it.” And they don’t get it on pain of their souls. That’s what’s so wrenching.

They’ve never really heard the gospel nor appropriated its meaning for them, because obviously in their obsessive need to control they just can’t trust the church to God for Jesus’ sake. Were they able to do that, they wouldn’t be doing now what they are. And how sad for them as they join the ranks of the gospel’s oppressors throughout history. They are the Pharisees who were offended by our Lord’s walking with outcasts, tax collectors and sinners. They are the Judaizing enemies of St. Paul and his Gentile mission, who placed their hope and confidence not in the radical new word of the gospel that in Christ all are equally justified and justified to be equal, but in the law, replete with its many distinctions (like “orders of creation”). They would have been repulsed by Luther had they lived back then, and it is curious to me in today’s struggle that they contradict the great Reformer time and again. If Luther taught today at Fort Wayne, he would be the first to go, and anybody who knows Luther knows it. That’s bad company to keep in the Final Analysis for those who oppose the victory of the gospel.

I suspect we all do love these oppressors of ours. It has come up often in our Daystar conversations how much we do love them and want them to have Christ like we have Christ. And I am genuinely afraid for them a thousand times more than I will ever be afraid of them. They are the ones imprisoned by their fear: of culture today, of people who are different, of learning with its wonderful free pursuit of truth knowing that all truth resides ultimately in the One who is truth, of a world that has vastly changed on them from the simple immigrant one of not long ago. But the world has changed. The gospel will be there to greet that change with the love of a Savior. Would that our exilers begin to believe that.

VI. So what if we’re exiled?

So we are exiled? So what?

One of the best novels to have come out in recent memory is Jane Hamilton’s A Map of the World (1994). It isn’t often a screenplay captures a novel, but this one does, in my opinion. You can rent the video. Sigourney Weaver plays Alice, a very strong woman who follows her husband, Howard, to take up dairy farming outside Racine, Wisconsin.

The story is about being blindsided by life in a seemingly unjust and arbitrary world. Alice has a best friend, Theresa, whose small daughters play on Alice’s farm, exchanging, as the moms do, responsibilities for child care to give each other a break. One day the littler of Theresa’s daughters wanders off and drowns in the farm pond. Alice describes it all as her gradual “fall from grace.”

The drowning on her watch precipitates for Alice, a school nurse, a snowball effect of a town’s outrage, of other irrational and false accusations against her of child abuse, of arrest and jail.

Blindsided by life in her fall from grace, Alice resolutely seeks justice from somewhere. Instead, losing the farm and most everything else in the process of defending herself, she is surprised by grace—grace for this exile, shunned by almost everyone except Theresa, the friend who lost the child.

Theresa will not abandon her friend. Instead, she forgives Alice completely, as one who understands. And Theresa rises up at court to speak in her friend’s defense.

In the end Alice’s family regroups in a circle of “outcasts”— redeemed, losing all material possessions but freed in redemptive, forgiving love to move on.

Fallen from grace. Reclaimed by grace. And redeemed to move on, even though you lost everything to defend yourself.

I asked you at the very beginning to remember about John’s Gospel, where Jesus promises what exiles can expect, that Martin Luther found a home, too, in the Fourth Evangelist.

I don’t think there’s any question why. It has a Samaritan woman who is nothing, except that she meets a Stranger (John 4). And she says to him that maybe, when the Messiah comes, there will be hope for the likes of her. And then he says (as heaven and earth meet), “I am.”

There is a blind beggar man given his sight by a Stranger. And when he is interrogated by the synagogue as to how anyone could give him his sight—by what canon law this could possibly occur—he’s driven to say, “I don’t know. All I know is that I was blind but now I see. That’s what I know about this Jesus; you guys with your seminary degrees can sort out the christological ramifications.” Of course, he is exiled, driven from the synagogue, excommunicated for his insolence. Only later he gets to meet the Stranger again and see his Friend with his own eyes (John 9).

And so on. There’s dead Lazarus, the friend of the Stranger, for whom the ultimate exile, death, won’t stop the Stranger from his mission. He would be Lazarus’s, his friend’s, “resurrection and life,” as he is for all his friends (John 11).

All fallen from grace, as exiles are, only to be found by a Stranger, who lays down his life for them all to embrace them in a deeper grace.

Exile isn’t so bad. It’s what you can expect. It’s what is in store for most of us and, shoot, you’ll only be greeted by Someone who knows all about exiles. Read the Passion story and learn of the Friend of exiles, who wishes that everybody could join him.

Our synodical legalists will never know that life. Their problem is that they’re so bound to not falling from grace that they will never truly know that grace. And that’s too bad. Because our ministries are all about dealing with God’s beloved when they have fallen from grace, as have we, in spades since we are here, only to be grasped by grace in a Stranger, whom we confess is Jesus Christ, our Friend, the Friend of outcasts, sinners and exiles as we.

The writer to the Hebrews helps keep what we are about in perspective. “So you’re an exile, are you? Well, that’s what you’re supposed to be! One with no continuing city—not St. Louis, nor Chicago, nor Mequon, nor Canterbury, nor Wittenberg, nor Geneva, nor Rome.” No, our true home is yet to be, in that eternal city, which God has prepared for us who follow Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 11–12).

Does 2001 mean anything for exiles? Maybe. But it will only mean anything if it is where we get to confess Jesus and his gospel as the sole norm, rationale and meaning of the church. Let’s do it up right! But even if we win a slam dunk (which is not likely), ain’t no big thing either. My friend Bob Schmidt from Portland, keeps reminding us of that. It’s the kingdom we’re after, exiled with Jesus. It’s his dominion over hearts and minds that we’re about. If the LCMS can help us, then great. If it can’t, well, too bad for the LCMS. It’s just going to miss out on a lot of fun—for Christ’s sake.

That’s best of all what an exile can expect. The freedom of heaven with Christ’s eternal victory. Living in the certainty of that promise today we Daystars are at liberty to shine as Christ’s people in whatever venue God places us now to take our stand as confessors of Christ alone, no matter what. That authorization comes right from the top!

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