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A New Heaven and a New Earth

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  • Christopher Orr
    By Benjamin L. Harju I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me. The above
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3 10:37 AM
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      By Benjamin L. Harju<http://paredwka.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-heaven-and-new-earth.html>

      I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me.


      The above is a movie quote from Matrix: Reloaded. The character Morpheus
      uttered it in shock as he watched his ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, explode
      before his eyes, which was shortly after discovering that his hope in "The
      One" was a false hope.

      I think of this line as I bid my final farewell to Evangelical Lutheranism.

      However, I also think of another line from the same character, this one from
      the first Matrix film:


      Welcome to the real world....


      It's like being born, coming into Holy Orthodoxy, or like waking from a hard
      sleep. Everything you once knew or experienced before birth or while asleep
      is suddenly removed, but in its place is simply what is real and true.

      Unlike birth or a dream, though, a person must choose to wake up or to pass
      beyond the birth canal. Even if he is utterly convinced it must be done, he
      must still apply his will wholeheartedly. He will not know what that waking
      or birthing is like experientially, and when it begins it can be quite
      frightening, because it can sometimes push you along like a current. But in
      this way God means to bring you from sleeping into waking, from dreaming
      into the real of His kingdom - what the world calls the Orthodox Church.

      I have sent a letter to my district president, resigning from the roster of
      the LCMS. Because he had asked on more than one occasion about what led me
      to such a decision, I attached an explanation to the back of the
      resignation. I reprint it here:

      The Reason for My Resignation

      In short I have only one reason: my children. Where can I take my children,
      especially now that I am no longer a parish pastor? The entire Missouri
      Synod is ablaze with mistrust among its members, endless squabbling over
      power, and a seemingly unstoppable erosion of worship.

      This last point alone is of serious importance, since the Christian faith is
      that of worship in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23-24; Athanasian Creed), and
      in the LCMS there are multiple competing worships. This reveals a
      deep-seated loss of and detachment from the redemption accomplished for us
      by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

      Where can I take my children under the banner of the Lutheran
      Church�Missouri Synod that their faith may not be eroded or grievously
      mislead by this chaos? It is useless to say that all this is simply the way
      things normally are, because the LCMS is a voluntary association, which
      means its members voluntarily continue on like this. There is nowhere in the
      LCMS where my children can be spared from a subjectified, and therefore
      false, example of Christ and His holy Church.

      This much alone is enough for any God-fearing man to pluck his family from
      the flames and run to safety.

      However, more than this lies behind my resignation. If I were to stay, it
      would only be long enough to advocate that the Synod be dissolved (for it is
      no synod at all, by definition of the term), or that there be a formal
      parting of ways. But instead I choose to resign, not only from the Lutheran
      Church�Missouri Synod, but even from the Evangelical Lutheran Church itself,
      if there is such a thing.

      For over a decade I have earnestly and sincerely given myself to the
      promotion of the Lutheran Book of Concord. I have thrown everything that I
      am and have into learning this confession from the best theologians,
      teaching this confession to all that I could, and defending it wherever
      possible. It has been my hope, especially during the past four-plus years as
      a parish pastor, to pass on through these Lutheran Confessions the faith
      once delivered to the saints by Jesus Christ our Lord through His holy
      Apostles.

      Yet the sad condition of the LCMS and all American Lutheranism itself has
      led me to explore other options. I had hoped to find the faith detailed in
      the Book of Concord elsewhere, but I could not. This Confession overturned
      all other Roman Catholic and Protestant claims to truth completely. But
      there was one Church, one expression of Christianity that I had not properly
      engaged due to my own ignorance. That is the Orthodox Church. Better known
      as the Eastern Orthodox Church, my family and I have become convinced that
      this Church is without a doubt the very Church of Christ Himself (even
      though we did not set out to find such a thing). We desire nothing more than
      to be Christian; the Orthodox Church is the home of Christianity � both at
      Pentecost and continuously until today.

      I had begun by looking for another Lutheran haven. That was a disappointing
      search. Yet what I found was more than I ever knew was possible. I have
      found the faith once delivered to the Apostles. I have found the Church
      described by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. I have found the home of
      worship in spirit and in truth � even in Spirit and in Truth � and that
      worship which fulfills the Scriptures. In fact, I have come to believe (for
      this is no mere intellectual game, but a matter of the heart and soul and
      serious conviction) that the Orthodox Church is the fulfillment of the
      Scriptures and their continuing in the history of the cosmos.

      Much investigation, prayer, and discernment has gone into this decision.
      Though other pastors before me, having come to this same decision, have done
      otherwise, I have chosen not to bring my investigation and discernment
      regarding this matter into the parishes where I have served. Instead, I have
      continued throughout to lead them to embrace Lutheranism as I was taught it
      in seminary. I even left as much of a paper trail as I could so that it
      would be apparent to all that everything I gave them was Lutheran and
      congruous with the Lutheran Confessions. Originally this was so future
      ministers could continue the work after I moved on, and also so the people
      would know whether they were receiving genuine Lutheranism or not. I have
      had great confidence that doing this � even as I privately began discerning
      � was a drastic improvement over the half-decade of vacancy and uncertainty
      they lived with before my arrival.

      I love the people I served in the Lord Jesus dearly. I am sad that I did not
      get to speak with them about my beliefs concerning Holy Orthodoxy, but I did
      not feel such a move would have been healthful to them. The Prophet Isaiah
      said of our Lord Jesus, �A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax
      He will not quench� (42:3). How much more should I, His unworthy minister,
      take care with His sheep, to not force anything on them whether they were
      willing or not, and thereby do damage to their souls. Instead I go on ahead
      myself, so that all those who hear may have the freedom to inquire or not,
      to discern or not, to follow or not. The Lord forces no one, and neither do
      I.

      It is true that I have suffered much personal hardship as of late. Rather
      than dissuade me, it has all tested my faith and brought me with great speed
      to the gate of Christ�s home in Holy Orthodoxy, like Lazarus begging covered
      with sores waiting for a kinder Rich Man. God be merciful to me a sinner!
      The Orthodox Church is the fullest expression of the catholic (universal)
      faith, and is truly the Body of Christ on earth and the gate of heaven.

      I strongly hope and pray that every one reading this will take the time to
      carefully learn of this Church, and hear her according to her own words and
      meaning, and not according to our private expectations. It is not easy for
      we with Western ears, geared toward Roman Catholic vs. Protestant conflicts,
      to do this, but the labor is well worth it.

      If Lutheranism were only compared against Roman Catholicism and the
      plentitude of Protestant denominations, it would win hands down every time.
      But never can Lutheranism compare to the Truth and faithfulness of Holy
      Orthodoxy, and the intimacy she holds with Christ our Lord. Words can
      neither do justice nor exhaust the greatness of Christ in His Orthodox
      Church, with the Father and the Spirit ever reigning, world without end.
      Amen.

      In the Orthodox Church my children have the very best they could ever hope
      to have: communion with Christ in the fullness of His grace. No; it�s better
      to say that my children have what they should have as Christians. They have
      what Christ has won for them by His voluntary suffering, death, and
      resurrection to life. Anything else will just not do.

      In Christ,

      Benjamin L. Harju


      "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first
      earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the
      holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a
      bride adorned for her husband" [Rev. 21:1-2].

      Amen.

      Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

      +

      "Some, when they actively observe the commandments, expect this to outweigh
      their sins; others, who observe the commandments without this presumption,
      gain the grace of Him who died on account of our sins. We should consider
      which of these is right." - St. Mark the Ascetic, On Those Who Teach that
      They are Made Righteous by Works.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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