Seeking God’s Word as we approach Advent

President Egon Kopereck.
President Egon Kopereck.

by Egon Kopereck

Dear brothers and sisters,

We approach the end of another ecclesiastical year. This season’s biblical readings, texts, and reflections in our worship advise us to be watchful. We are not of darkness but are instead children of the light, and we are therefore given the warning to not sleep but keep watch (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6): “Keep awake and be sober,” St. Paul writes, “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (5:6, 8).

The admonitions, the warnings of the Word of God seem as if they were written for today. Keep watch! This is our challenge.

In fact, the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature are very astute and dangerous enemies. They use subtle, subliminal, and dangerous weapons. One of these is to occupy our time to the maximum, with television, electronics, socialization, work, and amusement filling all our time. We no longer sit down with our family and read the Holy Bible or a devotional story. We no longer inculcate the Scriptures “diligently to our children” (Deuteronomy 6:7) nor “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). And yet when children do not want to go to church and are not interested in the things of God, we wonder and cannot understand the reason why.

No wonder we’re told to keep watch! St. Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The psalmist asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” before answering: “By guarding it according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:9). For this to occur, that Word needs to be in our hearts, and this only happens by studying, reading, meditating on, and applying the Holy Scriptures. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

My dear brethren, the word of Jesus to “be watchful” echoes firmly and strongly still today. Therefore, let us not overlook meditating on, listening to, contemplating, and practising the Word of God, but instead make time for it (Colossians 3:16). Let us also teach this attitude in word and action to our children and families (Ephesians 6:4). Let us be careful of what we feed our own minds and hearts (1 Corinthians 6:18). And let us seek help, rescue, and refuge in God (Psalm 46), because only in Him is there hope and life.

May everyone have a blessed ecclesiastical year-end and Advent Season, and may the Church’s New Year be filled with peace, love, joy and hope.

With love,

Egon Kopereck

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Rev. Egon Kopereck is President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and sits on the International Lutheran Council’s Executive as representative for Latin America.

Reflections on the ILC Latin America regional conference

by Egon Kopereck

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

President Egon Kopereck.
President Egon Kopereck.

It was with these words—first uttered by the people of Israel when, in an unexpected, wonderful, and surprising way they received the right, the permission of God to leave their captivity and to return to their own country—it was with these words, that the Latin-American Lutheran churches returned to their homes, having participated in the International Lutheran Council’s Regional Conference (held earlier this month in Caracas, Venezuala).

They were four wonderful days of fellowship, study, reflection, debate, reports, exchange of experiences, and mutual strengthening. Participants highlighted in this conference the importance of reading, meditating, and deepening ever more our study of the word of God. They also stressed the importance of Lutheran Hour ministry outreach, which opens doors for the Church’s mission.

Conference participants stressed the need to provide theological support to smaller Lutheran churches in the region, especially through the theological seminaries of Brazil and Argentina. By helping each other and looking for more opportunities to cooperate, they hope to take Christ’s message, the Gospel of salvation to all people, races, peoples and nations of Latin America and, where possible, to cross the seas with this challenge to go to the “ends of the Earth”—something Brazil is already doing in Africa with Mozambique and Angola.

In Latin America we have many challenges, many opportunities, and much work to do. People are thirsty for the water of life; if we don’t offer it, as Jesus asks us to, then people will turn to contaminated water—waters of death and not life.

People are thirsty for the water of life; if we don’t offer it, as Jesus asks us to, then people will turn to contaminated water—waters of death and not life.

Many of us today cannot imagine living in a house where you don’t have water: water to drink, water for washing, water for cooking, well-water. So too we cannot imagine a Christian home without the Bible, God’s Word, the water of life. Christian homes, satiated in their own spiritual thirst for truth, cannot look to others without extending to them the same blessing, without offering them that treasure of eternal life. They share it with their compatriots of all peoples, races, and nations. They share it with them who are dying of thirst and starvation.

With cheerful and grateful hearts, therefore, we also say: “The LORD has done great things for us” (Psalm 126:3). But on the other hand we also say with Nehemiah, “the work is great and widely spread” (Nehemiah 4:19). As the Israelites did then, so too we also “prayed to our God” (Nehemiah 4:9), that He would bless our lives and attitudes as people of God, and our testimony of what we believe and confess. May God bless the mission of the Christian Church throughout the world.

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Rev. Egon Kopereck is President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and sits on the International Lutheran Council’s Executive as representative for Latin America.

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Guardians of Pure Doctrine

by Egon Kopereck

President Egon Kopereck.
President Egon Kopereck.

God gave us His Word, clear and pure, for our guidance—for our solace and comfort. The author of Psalm 119:105 writes, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This is the Word which we know and upon which we base our confession of faith and life. It must be defended, proclaimed, and lived by us in word and deed.

We live in a secularized world. The Bible, God’s Word, is relativised. For many, this Word seems outdated and retrograde in its values, ethics, and moral concepts. The marriage of a man and a woman, as God commanded, is no longer seen as valid. And so it is also with abortion and euthanasia: zeal for life as God’s gift is no longer respected or taken seriously in many countries and cultures. We see the family and Christian principles founded in the Holy Scriptures being trampled upon and tossed aside.

Faced with this reality, we must ask ourselves: What can we do? Do we just shake our heads? Or do we instead express our concerns and fight back, by writing, publicly manifesting our beliefs even though they run counter to public relativism. Are we brave enough to disagree, to debate, and raise high the banner of our faith based and grounded in the Holy Bible? We must act. We need to speak out. We must defend what we believe without fear or shame, even if it brings us adversity and discomfort.

So, dear fellow pastors, brothers and sisters in Christ! To defend an idea we need to know it well. We must first have conviction about it before we go into battle. In this sense, I point to the example of Martin Luther. He fought back. He did not ignore error, but rather defended his positions, not on the basis of reason but rather on the Word of God. Grounded on that foundation, he was willing to give his life rather than deny God’s Word. To do this as he did, he studied hard, meditating, researching, and reflecting upon what the Scriptures offered and pointed to. Look what he said and the example he left us:

“For several years, I have read the entire Bible at least twice each year. And if the Bible were a huge and imposing tree and if its words were branches, then I can say that I have shaken each of these branches to really know what was hung on them. And again and again I found I could gather more apples or pears. I want to see what is in Scripture—what is most durable—and only after that to read other writings based on Scripture, accepting it or rejecting it without caring who its author is.”

Luther not only recommended reading Scripture, but he actually read. He practiced what he preached.

God is the Lord, and if we are with Him we have nothing to fear. Believe that. And then live your life in a manner consistent with that belief.

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Rev. Egon Kopereck is President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and sits on the International Lutheran Council’s Executive as representative for Latin America.