We have been talking about getting along and forgiving in our life together. We have talked about the trans -parochial nature of the church and how when congregations suffer we all suffer. When one struggles we all struggle. We are all in this together. There are those that do not want to be part of one another as Christ calls us. They want to be individual franchises. There are some who refuse the mutual consolation and admonition of the brothers and deny the right of other Christians to even visit with them.
Luther reinstituted the ancient custom of visitation. The idea was that the bishop, or overseer, would visit Pastors and churches and see how things were going. It fell into disrepute over the years and Luther wanted to start it again. Our Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison wants to start it again. A lot of folk that I talk to don’t want to do it. I wonder why?
Luther may have been pressing the point a bit but he said that Jesus was the ultimate “visitor” and he started in the womb when his mother went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Here is a quote from John Pless who did a paper on visitation in South Africa a few years ago.
The ancient fathers, Luther observed, also practiced visitation. In fact Luther argues that the essence of the episcopal office is to visit and examine. To be a bishop is to be asupervisor or visitor. Archbishops supervise bishops. Bishops oversee the work of parish pastors. Yet Luther argues the office fell into abuse and misuse. Luther writes “The holy synods were forgotten. In brief that is what befell so worthy an office and nothing remained of it except the burdening and banning of people because of money, debts, and temporal goods and the making of a divine order out of the bellowing of antiphons and versicles in churches. No attention is paid to how one teaches, believes, loves, how one lives a Christian life, how to care for the poor, how one comforts the weak, or punishes the unruly. They are altogether officious and gluttonous fellows who destroy what belongs to the people and do worse than nothing for them. This office has fared like all holy and ancient Christian doctrine and order – it has become the farce and contempt of the devil and Antichrist with awful and terrible destruction of souls” (AE 40:270).