Rev. Jim Fritsche
Concluding Devotional Message
June 10, 2002

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the years I have had the privilege of attending many convocations and conventions, as I know many of you also have. I think it's great to be part of a larger church gathering to meet old friends, to make new acquaintances, to hear insightful presentations and debate serious resolutions. Although some may disagree, I believe there's an excitement and a vision and a mission that is set before us at a convention which challenge our apathy and call us to move forward with the strength of the Lord.

The place where the excitement and vision and mission hit the road, of course, is back home in our congregations and circuits, and on the various boards and committees to which we may be elected or assigned. I don't know about you, but this is where I have my greatest difficulty, moving from the mountaintop to the plain, from the vision to the valley, from the possibility of what could be to the reality of what is.

The realities we face at the present time, as President Mayan said in his opening address, remind us more of the first century than the twentieth. How quickly has the voice of the church become irrelevant to our society and culture. Doctrines and truths from God's Word that we learned as children are openly challenged and rejected. The Word of Life we want to proclaim with great joy is often received with scorn and ridicule.

So what's new? Noah faced the same thing when he obeyed God's word by building the Ark. He was a preacher of righteousness, but who heeded his message? No doubt Abraham's family and friends thought he was off his rocker to follow the call and promise of an unseen God. Even so great a leader as Moses knew the grumbling and complaining of those God called him to lead. Imagine coming down from the mountaintop experience at Sinai only to face the harsh reality of God's delivered people worshiping a golden calf!

In Hebrews, chapter 11, these people are called heroes of faith, men and women who had seen the vision of God's mercy and grace and then walked by faith through the daily trials and challenges that came upon them as children of God. With great boldness they went forth to face the challenges: Moses confronting Pharaoh, David facing Goliath, Nathan challenging David, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea and Amos confronting and comforting God's people with His Word ï calling them first to repentance and then to faith.

It was with great boldness that the disciples went forth from their upper room on the day of Pentecost to tell the Good News to all who would listen. With great boldness they continued to make the Lord's name known even when they were persecuted. When they had their first convention they took the very bold step of moving ahead with the mission to the gentiles and then with great boldness they sent out the church's first missionaries so that all may know His name. Were they afraid? Probably. Were they rejected and scorned? Absolutely. Were they alone? Never! The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, was with them as they went, giving them confidence and courage in the face of every trial so that with great boldness they couldproclaim the wonderful deeds of Him who called them out of the darkness into His marvelous light.

And now, in this hour, we ask the same Spirit to fill us with great boldness as we go forth from this place, not because of any great plan we've come up with to redeem the church and make it powerful and influential again, but because we have a Redeemer whose name must be made known, whose saving deeds beg proclamation, a Savior who died to give us life forever.

It takes great boldness to find credible ways to make His name known. Many congregations are creating opportunities to do just that. Some start schools. Others open soup kitchens. Still others provide a social ministry of counseling and visitation. Together as a synod we take bold steps to make His name known ï by training pastors and deacons for ministry and by extending God's kingdom to areas of the world where we have been invited todo missions. It takes boldness to respond to the opportunities God gives us, but respond we must.

As you leave this convention, I challenge you and your congregations to take bold steps to make His name known. Take bold steps in the opportunities God gives you to witness personally to that person who needs God's love. Take bold steps within your community and neighborhood. Take bold steps to confront sin and to forgive the sinner. Take bold steps to make His wonderful name known through the work we do together as Synod. Go, then, with the power of the Spirit! Go, with the mighty strength of the Gospel! Go with all the confidence you have as children of God! Go forth With Great Boldness That All May Know His Name.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.