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Our cross and crown

A portion of the “President’s report” that President Mark Schroeder presented to synod convention delegates on Aug. 1.

WELS President Mark Schroeder at podium for synod convention 2023
WELS President Mark Schroeder

As we embrace the cross and anticipate the crown, it’s fitting to keep in mind our Lord’s messages of both warning and encouragement to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation chapters 2 and 3).

As the Lord said to the church in Ephesus, he commends Christians who faithfully endure hardship and hold to the truth of God’s Word. But he warns us not to forsake our love for the gospel and the mission to proclaim it.

As he said to the church in Smyrna, while we may experience suffering and poverty, we are rich in God’s grace and need not fear any suffering that may come to us.

As he said to the church in Pergamum, we live where Satan has his throne, but even there, God has enabled us to hold fast to his name.

As he said to the church in Thyatira, God acknowledges our works of faith and love and commends us for them. At the same time, he warns us not to allow false teachings to creep unnoticed into our midst.

As he promised the church in Philadelphia, he will continue to place before us the door that has been opened by his saving message so we can seize the opportunities he gives us to share that message.

As he said to the church in Sardis, he calls us to repentance for, at times, resting on a reputation of faithfulness when, in reality, our faith grows listless and our actions are hollow.

And as he warned the church in Laodicea, we must not grow lukewarm and complacent in our faith and our commitment to his Word and mission.

Those churches are an accurate picture of the Christian church in this world. The church on earth is a gathering of people whom God has redeemed and made his own through the work of his Son, blessed by God with saving faith that is often displayed in works of Christian love, service, and faithfulness. But the church on earth is also composed of people who need the Savior’s loving call to repentance and his fervent warnings of the consequences of spiritual apathy and complacency.

There is much about the future we don’t know. But we do know God will continue to call us to repentance and to strengthen our faith through the trials and crosses that we face in a sinful world. So, God’s people first embrace the cross of Jesus, where he brought about the healing and forgiveness we so desperately need. We embrace the cross of suffering, which God allows for our strengthening and spiritual good. We also anticipate the crown in keeping with the promise Jesus himself gave: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Revelation 2:10).

Yes, the world we live in has been terribly damaged by sin. Yes, Christians will experience the effects of sin in their own lives and in the culture around them. Yes, Christians will be persecuted and suffer for their faith. Yes, as long as this world stands, Satan will be attacking God’s people and God’s church. Yes, at times it will look to us like Satan and his forces are winning that war and the church is losing it. But then comes the message of incredible comfort: Yes, all of that may be true now, but don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged, don’t despair, don’t give up. Because Jesus is coming. And in the end, he wins. And so do we.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 110, Number 09
Issue: September 2023

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This entry is part 1 of 48 in the series presidents message

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