For the first two decades of my life, as I sat in the pew during worship, I turned to the last printed page in The Lutheran Hymnal and read, “A Short Form for Holy Baptism in Cases of Necessity.” The very brief and simple instructions said:
“In urgent cases, in the absence of the Pastor, any Christian may administer Holy Baptism.”
Two simple lines followed that title. One gave a brief instruction, the other provided the simple Trinitarian phrase for baptism. A prayer and the Lord’s Prayer concluded this tool for every Christian.
When I read this regularly—even as a child, I thought, “I may need to baptize someone someday. I need to be ready to talk to a person about Jesus and do this.”
This final page of the hymnal indicated that the church is not a building or a set of rites or a class of workers. Christ’s Church is His people. He sends us. We need to be prepared.
Of course, this was in cases of emergency. And what might an emergency be?
Back in 1865, the Western District of the LCMS brought “Theses About the Call and Position of a Traveling Preacher” to the LCMS for consideration. Because an adequate number of pastors could not be provided to bring the Gospel to an expanding and growing nation, visionary leaders helped establish the office of Reiseprediger (Traveling Preacher). This servant of God (either ordained or non-ordained) would travel from place to place, planting churches. This office was instituted because of an emergency. What was that emergency? Thesis 11 tells us:
“An emergency occurs then when, through a legalistic retention of the order, souls, instead of being saved, are lost, and thus love is thereby violated.”
An emergency didn’t have to be a natural disaster or a war or an apocalyptic event that threw the church and society into turmoil. An emergency occurred when souls were being lost because the systems of the church could not provide the Gospel effectively. The retention of order was seen as a violation of love.
This is the spirit of the LCMS. This is Scriptural (see Philip’s action in Acts 8).
Are we experiencing an emergency in our context and culture today? How might we show adaptability in our normal systems of order to ensure that souls are saved instead of lost? How might love be upheld instead of violated?
By: Rev. Michael W. Newman
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area C