In 1920, American Lutheran Pastor Lauritz Larsen had just left a European conference with the resounding strains of “A Mighty Fortress” ringing in his ears. Spiritually energized, he was now headed for Soviet Russia, the newly founded communist nation. As the train approached the border, a large contingent of communist sympathizers, equally energized, suddenly stood and loudly sang the anthem of the their movement, “The Internationale.” Larsen immediately recognized the significance of this incident. The battle had been joined for the soul of Russia. Would the 350 year old Lutheran Church survive this attempt to redefine man as solely a material being rather than a spiritual one? The history has been a long and, at most times, tragic one since those days. As executive secretary of the National Lutheran Council, Larsen, like minded Americans, and other European Lutheran churches struggled to keep the Russian Lutheran Church alive.
Without their assistance, the church would not have survived the 1920s. Pastors could no longer be employed as ministers in the communist nation since that job description was not recognized as suitable employment by Soviet officialdom. Despite the earnest efforts of international Lutherans, all Lutheran churches were
forcibly closed in the Soviet Union by 1938. But the story wasn’t over—see below. (The Larsen story comes from the Archives of the ELCA).
The Reformation Today in Russia Fast forward many decades into the early 21st century and the sound of Luther’s powerful “A Mighty Fortress” is once again being heard in Russia. On Reformation Day, October 31, 60 people plopped down the $20 fee to see a performance by a Bach Chorale with whom our office assistant Darya Shkurtlyateva often performs.
Darya played the cello (she is a Moscow Conservatory trained musician), and the evening featured “Ein Feste Burg” as well as Bach’s Cantata for Reformation Day. The performance took place at the Mikhail Glinka Museum in Moscow, Glinka being the famous 19th century musician often referred to as the father of Russian classical music. The historic congregation of Sts. Peter and Paul, founded in 1626, sponsored this concert.
On Reformation Sunday itself, Sts. Peter and Paul worshiped the Lord through a rendition of Luther’s Mass. Some of those who came to the service were new
members. Others were baptized members of the church in Moscow when the communists closed it in 1937. Together, old and new heard the clarion call of the Reformation preached by Pastor Dmitri Lotov. We are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ, not because of works. It seems that the old tune,
“The Internationale,” is lying on the scrapheap of history, because God’s promise to preserve His Church to the end of time remains secure. “The Kingdom ours remaineth!!” (LSB ymn 656).
• Please pray for my continuing travel and teaching in Russia and Mongolia into early December.
• Please pray for the surgery now deemed necessary for Pastor Alexey Shepelov of Moscow. The good news is that the doctors in Israel say the success rate for his brain surgery is 98%. But that number declines by 2% every year it is put off. Alexey needs to raise $45,000.00 for the operation. Please pray for the means to be found to fund his surgery. • Thank the Lord with me for Cousin Shawn’s amazing progress is her battle with cancer. The numbers that describe her condition continue to plummet (believe me, it’s a good thing!). Please pray for continued healing and for her powerful witness about Jesus to others coping with cancer.
My E mail: [email protected] Mailing address: 26650 Woodshire, Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
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Make all checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Mark checks “Support of Matthew Heise.” Gifts can also be given through the LCMS Web site on my online giving page at www.lcms.org/Heise.
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[email protected] Thank you, and may God’s peace be with you!