Saturday, October 31, 2009

Martin Luther Quote

Reformation Day
October 31, 2009

The Lord be with you

As this is Reformation Day I thought a quote from Martin Luther would be in place.
    May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: "I came not to be served but to serve" (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king's son were to appear in a beggar's home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar's filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dust to Dust or Ashes to Ashes?

Friday after Reformation Sunday
October 30, 2009

The Lord be with you

Book: Dust to Dust or Ashes to Ashes? A Biblical and Christian Examination of Cremation
Author: Dr. Alvin J. Schmidt
Publisher: Regina Orthodox Press, Inc
Copyright 2005
136 pages
Cost: $14.95 (but right now Regina has a sale and is offering it for $7.48)

The practice of cremation has dramatically risen in the United States in the last 30 or 40 years. The Church, for the most part, has gone along for the ride. Those who have written about it tend to be those who are making money by it, so their objectivity is in question. Real and serious theological and historical reflection by those who are not making a living from the dead is desperately needed; not only for pastors, but also for those who are making decisions about loved ones that were the Temple of the Holy Spirit and will one day, in their body, stand before the Lord of Creation. Dr. Schmidt does an excellent job of reviewing the history of cremation and burial as well as the theology behind these ways of treating those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. He writes in a way that is easy to understand and grounded in the Word of God. While the book does have some limitations (I would love to have seen the connections between baptism and burial explored in greater detail), and some of his assertions need archeological and/or greater written support (such as the idea that Jesus would have been cremated if Joseph of Arimathea had not buried him), nonetheless I can give this book my wholehearted endorsement. It could also be used as a Bible study resource.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

An History and Theology of the Circuit Counselor

Friday after Reformation Sunday
October 30, 2009

The Lord be with you

As the members of Lamb of God Lutheran know, I’m now the Assistant Circuit Counselor of Circuit 18 in the Southeastern District of the LCMS. To help me fulfill these responsibilities I have received a copy of the Circuit Counselor’s Manuel. As you would expect, it has a great deal of practical information about my responsibilities. The introduction, however, is a great little piece blending history and theology in relation to this office. As every Circuit in the LCMS has a Circuit Counselor, and therefore every church in the LCMS has a Circuit Counselor, I thought I’d share the introduction from the manual with everyone who might stumble across this blog.

First, just a word of explanation for my international readers: LCMS stands for Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, which is my denomination. The LCMS has about 2.5 million members. The churches are divided up into Districts. My District is the Southeastern District. The Districts are divided into Circuits and numbered. So every District has a Circuit 1, Circuit 2, and so on. Larger Districts have more circuits than smaller Districts.


The Theological and Historical Setting
of the Circuit Counselor's Office

Unlike the office of pastor, the office of circuit counselor does not have a divine command. Nevertheless, the office, including its responsibilities, has its roots in the practice of the apostolic church and in the historic development of the church following apostolic times.

In the book of Acts and in a number of the letters of Paul, we have examples of both the visitation of the churches and the supervision of the churches.

In Acts 8, after the evangelist Philip had planted the church in Samaria, Peter and John were sent by the believers in Jerusalem to visit the Samaritan converts. It was through their visit that the Word was confirmed in Samaria, and they returned to report that the church in Samaria was of the same origin and held to the same Gospel as the church in Jerusalem.

The church in Jerusalem also sent Barnabas to Antioch in Acts 11 when the news reached Jerusalem that Gentiles also had been converted through the preaching of the Gospel. Barnabas, together with Paul, visited other churches also "strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22). And after the council in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders there sent two other men with Paul and Barnabas to deliver the letter to the Gentiles in Antioch and to report the decisions of the council.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul prepared the church in Corinth for the visit by Timothy. They were not to despise him but to "put him at ease" and speed him on his way (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Later, Paul thanked God that Titus has the same "earnest care" in his heart for the church in Corinth, for Titus also visited there, apparently with Timothy (2 Corinthians 8:16-24). Paul speaks highly of them for their work. Paul sent Timothy also to the church at Thessalonica with mutually excellent results (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8).

Timothy was to protect as well as admonish the elders to whom he went (1 Timothy 5:17-19). This included concern for their wages. Through the apostolic "counselors" all the churches were encouraged to exercise concern for all the fellow believers (Acts 11:27-29; 1 Corinthians 16; 2 Corinthians 8-9).

It should be evident from these passages that the apostolic church knew nothing about "independent and autonomous congregations." The purpose of such visitation and supervision of the doctrine was to prevent schism.

The Lutheran Confessions recognized this in the post-apostolic church (SA of the Power of Bishops, Tappert p. 330). "One man was chosen by the rest to prevent schism, lest several persons, by gathering separate following around themselves, rend the church of Christ" (From the letters of St. Jerome).

At the time of the Reformation after the collapse of ecclesiastic order, Luther urged Elector John of Saxony to give attention to the plight of the clergy and the churches. The spiritual life of the people in the elector's lands was in decline. In February 1527 the visitations began on the basis of Articles of Visitation formulated by Melanchthon. As a result of these visitations Luther prepared both his large and small catechisms.

In 1528 Luther provided a preface which explained the origin of the instructions for the visitors of parish pastors. In this preface he states:
    Both the Old and the New Testaments give sufficient evidence of what a divinely wholesome thing it would be if pastors and Christian congregations might be visited by understanding and competent persons. For we read in Acts 9[:32] that St. Peter traveled about in the land of the Jews. And in Acts 15[:2] we are told that St. Paul together with Barnabas revisited all those places where they had preached. All his epistles reveal his concern for all the congregations and pastors. He writes letters, he sends his disciples, he goes himself. So the apostles, according to Acts 8[:14], when they heard how the Word had been received in Samaria, sent Peter and John there . . . Formerly, in the days of the ancient Fathers, the holy bishops diligently followed these examples and even yet much of this is found in the papal laws. For it was in this kind of activity that the bishops and archbishops had their origin - each one was obligated to a greater or lesser extent to visit and examine ... we would like to have seen the true episcopal office and practice of visitation re-established because of the pressing need ... we have respectfully appealed to the illustrious and noble prince and lord, John, Duke of Saxony . . . that out of Christian love (since he is not obligated to do so as a temporal sovereign) and by God's will for the benefit of the gospel and the welfare of the wretched Christians in his territory, His Electoral grace might call and ordain to this office several competent persons ... we yet hope that all devout and peaceable pastors who find their sincere joy in the gospel and delight to be of one mind with us will act as St. Paul teaches in Phil.2[:2], and will heed our prince and gracious lord. We hope they will not ungratefully and proudly despise our love and good intention, but will willingly, without any compulsion, subject themselves in a spirit of love to such visitation and with us peacefully accept these visitors until God the Holy Spirit brings to pass something that is better, through them or through us (Luther's Works American Edition, Vol. 40, pp. 269-273).
Following this ecclesiastical tradition, the original Constitution of the Synod made it the responsibility of the President of the Synod to visit the congregations of the Synod and to report to the Synod on the religious conditions of the congregations. As the Synod grew, the assignment of visiting and supervising was delegated to district presidents. And as the Synod continued to grow the district president was assisted by the circuit visitor.

Sometime after World War II the circuit visitor became the circuit counselor. The name change was not to change the office. Visitation by the district president with the assistance of the circuit counselor is stipulated by the Synod's Handbook and does continue to occur.

Thus the office of circuit counselor is a part of a long tradition of the church, beginning with apostolic practice. Counselors serve the Lord and His Church in an extremely important and unique way.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Worship for All Saints' Day

Thursday after Reformation Sunday
October 29, 2009

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday, November 1, is All Saints’ Day. This feast is the most comprehensive of the days of commemoration, encompassing the entire scope of the great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1). It holds before the eyes of faith that great multitude which no man can number; all the saints of God in Christ—from every nation, race, culture, and language—who have come “out of the great tribulation … who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). As such, it sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19). It shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection, since all those who have died with Christ Jesus have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:3-8). It shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the entire Church catholic—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in the one Body of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just as we have all been called to the one hope that belongs to our call, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year a focus on the life everlasting and a confession that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In all of these emphases, the purpose of this feast is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:2-3).

On All Saints’ Day the Church traditionally has a Communion service, recognizing that when we share the Lord’s Supper we are gathered, not only with the saints we can see with our physical eyes but also “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” Not that they are sharing in the Sacrament with us (they do not need forgiveness for their sins, being confirmed in glory), but they join us as “we laud and magnify” God’s “glorious name.” So, even though we normally do not celebrate Communion on the first Sunday of the month at Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) this month we will.

It is also common on All Saints’ Day to give thanks for the life and witness of those who have gone before us into heaven. Those who have passed into Glory during the past year are often remembered by name. In large churches, remembering just those who have died in the Lord over the past year who were also members of the local congregation typically gives more than enough names for the prayers. In smaller churches, like Lamb of God, we are blessed in being able to expand that list by remembering any and all the worshiping community desires, giving thanks for the life and witness of loved ones who may have died many years earlier. We will receive names Sunday morning, but you may wish to leave some names as a comment on this post. If you do this it will make Sunday morning’s service more smooth, and ensure I can read the handwriting.

Because this is a special Sunday we will be using a special setting of the liturgy for our worship service, setting 5. Usually when we use a new service there is a learning curve for the music. Such will not be the case this time as this service replaces the typical chanting portions of the service with well known hymns. All the sung parts of Sunday’s service are:

Opening hymn – “For All the Saints” LSB 677 (vs. 1-5)
Kyrie – “Kyrie—I (Lord, Have Mercy)” LSB 943
Gloria in Excelsis – “All Glory Be to God on High” LSB 947
Creed – “We All Believe in One True God” LSB 953
(Because we will be singing the Creed there will be no sermon hymn)
Sanctus – “Holy, Holy, Holy” LSB 507
Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” LSB 434
Distribution hymns –
    “We Sing for All the Unsung Saints” LSB 678
    “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” LSB 680
    “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” LSB 670
Post-Communion hymn – “O Lord, We Praise Thee” LSB 617
Closing hymn – “For All the Saints” LSB 677 (vs. 6-8)

The assigned lessons for All Saints’ Day are Revelation 7:9-17, 1 John 3:1-3, and Matthew 5:1-12. The appointed psalm is Psalm 149. The antiphon is verse 4. The text for the sermon will be Revelation 7:9. The sermon title “A Great Multitude.”

I found a powerful video for the hymn “For All the Saints” on YouTube, and it is posted at the end of these notes. It is moving, but not for the weak of heart and it depicts the early Christians in the arena. Better Noise (see links on this page) has all but three of the hymns (943, 953, 680).

Preview of the Lessons
Revelation 7:9-17: John gives us a look into heaven. There he sees the saints in glory, together with the angels and archangels, praising God. It is like looking in on a great worship service. Gone are all the trials and tribulations of this world, gone are physical pains and illnesses, gone is all sorrow and tears. However purpose for living remains very much alive. We are reminded that in Glory we will serve our Lord day and night. Boredom is not a problem in heaven.

1 John 3:1-3: John reminds us that we are children of God because God loves us. Because the world does not recognize God the world does not recognize us as God’s children. This leads to the tribulations referred to in our Revelation reading. But tribulations and rejections is not the end of the story. John reminds us that there is an indescribable future for us where we will be completely pure. While that is certainly true of those who have preceded us into heaven, it becomes completely fulfilled at the resurrection on the Last Day.

Matthew 5:1-12: These are the beatitudes taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Often this text us used to describe Christians, or at least what we as Christians strive to be. The text is often used to point to Jesus, who truly exemplified these traits as he fulfilled the Law for us and in our stead. Both of these uses are justified and beneficial. However they don’t seem to fit the All Saints’ Day theme. They are included on this day because of the second half of each beatitude: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “they shall be comforted,” “they shall inherit the earth,” etc. These promises are completely fulfilled at the resurrection on the Last Day.

Psalm 149: We find the joy of the redeemed both now and in eternity. As we saw in the Revelation reading, there will be purpose in heaven. One of those purposes is the executing of God’s justice in his Name and in his place. Those who judged Christians, those who killed Christians, will find the tables turned. Verses 6-9 depicts our roll as judges in terms that must be truly terrifying to those who persecute Christians.

Sunday’s Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Gradual (Rev. 7:14b; Ps 84:5)
These are ones coming out of the great tribulation.
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion.

Verse (Heb 12:1a, 2a)
Alleluia. Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us [look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Alleluia.

Introit: Psalm 149, antiphon v. 4
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones, Praise the LORD!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.

Extra Notes
Don’t forget Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. Set your watches and clocks back one hour before you go to bed Saturday night.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cub Scout Family Campout

The Lord be with you

The Cub Scouts of Pack 1031 (Lamb of God Lutheran, LCMS) will be going on a Family Campout. Because we do not have a “Belue” trained leader yet, our boys will be going with Pack 53. They will be camping at White’s Hidden Valley Farm, Friday, November 6 – Saturday, November 7. The boys are to bring their own food and drinks.

Friday, November 6
2:00 Anytime after 2:00 meet and set up campsites
5:30 Start fires
6:00 Get your suppers going
7:00 Night Ventures
10:30 Singing and devotional around campfire
11:00 Lights out

Saturday, November 7
7:00 Crawl out and light fires
7:30 Breakfast
8:30 Morning Hike and Activities
11:00 Clean up and leave campsite

Supplies Needed
Ground Cloth
Plenty of stakes

Sleeping bag or sheets and blankets
Air Mattress or Sleeping Pad

Gloves (optional)
Sweatshirt or jacket
Rain gear (poncho)
Laundry bag

Flashlight or Lantern
Camp chair (sit in your own)
Scout handbook/Pencil
First Aid Kit
NO POCKET KNIVES (without a “Totem Card” which none of our cubs have)


Mess Kit and Meals
Eating utensils
Napkins/hand wipes
Cup/water bottle
Food for supper
Food for breakfast
Plenty to drink (WATER/juice/soda)
Snack food

Try to bring paper products that can be burned (not foam) or reusable plastic. You will be responsible for your own trash removal. Recycle plastic, glass and cans. REMEMBER: YOU WILL EAT MORE ON A CAMPING TRIP!
(Separate male/female toilets are on site as well as running water.)

Directions from First Baptist Church of Gaffney are available from Cub Master Scott Mullinax. The following directions are slightly different and assume you are heading north on 85

  • Take the SC-18 exit, EXIT 96, towards Shelby

  • Turn RIGHT onto SC-18/SHELBY HWY (AKA Union Hwy & Frederick St) and travel to Hwy. 105 – Wilkinsville Hwy (across from McDonalds and in front of Fred’s); make left onto Hwy. 105 Wilkinsville Hwy

  • Follow Hwy. 105 to Peeler Creek Road (past Lake Cherokee entrance and Draytonville Elementary School is across the street on the left), make a right on to Peeler Creek Rd.

  • Make immediate left from Peeler Creek Rd onto Pondfield Rd; follow to Hidden Valley Dr (past church on the right until you see junkyard); make right onto Hidden Valley Dr (a dirt road going through the yunkyard).

  • Follow Hidden Valley Dr through junkyard down the hill to the white gate; go through the gate to the top of the hill and turn left through gate and go through the Pine trees until you reach the clearing; this is the campsite.


Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Radio, Racing, & Cub Scouts

    Saturday after Pentecost 20
    October 24, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    Lamb of God’s (LCMS) Cub Scout pack 1031 visited ESPN1400 radio station today during the “Dropin’ the Hammer” program. hosted by Dale Wilkerson, Spartanburg’s only show devoted to local racing. Not only did the boys meet Dale, but also racing legend Bud Moore who has been key in NASCAR history, being involved from the very beginning, Zack Mitchell, who is only 13 years old, nicknamed “Kid Quick,” and races in Crate & super Late Model cars, and Chris Ferguson, a current NASCAR racer. Below are pictures taken today.

    Blessings in Christ
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Lutheran Lecture Series

    Lutheran Lecture Series Presents

    I. Luther’s Theology of Missions
      The Task of the Church in Every Age
      Dr. Detlev Schultz—Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, In

    II. The Lutheran Congregation’s Mission
      Saints Alive—The Priesthood of All Believers
      Rev. Herbert Mueller-President, Southern Illinois District

    III. Lutheran Missions in Foreign Countries
      God’s Word Stands in the Center of Missions
      Rev. Daniel Preus – Pastor/President, Luther Academy

    IV. A Lutheran Chaplain’s Mission Field
      Lifting High the Cross
      Dr. John Wohlrabe – US Navy Chaplain/3rd VP of the LC-MS

    Date: October 31, 2009 (Reformation Day)
    Time: 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM
    Place: Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
    2103 Mt. Olive Church Road
    Newton, SC 28658

    Information is posted on the church’s “Good Times a Comin’” bulletin board.

    For more information contact Rev. Ray Ohlendort, 828-632-4863,

    Worship for Reformation Sunday

    Thursday after Pentecost 20
    October 22, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday is the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost. Like most Lutheran congregations, Lamb of God (LCMS), will recognize it as Reformation Sunday. Reformation Day is October 31. Even in my youth many Lutheran congregations had special worship services on October 31, but these days that is rare. That is why most have moved the celebration to the Sunday immediately prior to October 31. The related holiday, All Saints Day’, falls on November 1, and is usually celebrated on the first Sunday following November 1. This year, however, November 1 actually falls on a Sunday, but more about that next week.

    This Reformation Sunday we will be using the third setting of the morning worship service (Lutheran Service Book (LSB), page 184). The appointed scripture lessons are Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36. This will be a Communion service. Our opening hymn will be the Luther hymn “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” (LSB 824). Our sermon hymn will be the Luther hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655). Our distribution hymns will be “O Lord, We Praise Thee” (LSB 617), “By Grace I’m Saved” (LSB 566), and “What Is This Bread” (LSB 629). The hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” was written by Martin Luther. Our closing hymn will be the Luther hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (LSB 657). We will be using Bach’s setting, thus honoring two Lutherans at once. Each one of these hymns is well know to the members of Lamb of God. The sermon is titled “Distinguished” and the text is Romans 3:21-22.

    Better Noise (see links on this page) has “Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” “O Lord, We Praise Thee,” and “By Grace I’m Saved.” I found a YouTube video with the Bach settomg of "A Mighty Fortress," and it is posted at the end of these notes.

    Preview of the Lessons
    Revelation 14:19-28: This is one of those rare Sundays when all the appointed readings are from the New Testament. Each lesson is a traditional Reformation reading. This reading from Revelation speaks of an “angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” It was quite common in the 16th century and beyond to identify this angel with Luther, which is why it is a Reformation text. In the 20th century it became quite common to smirk at this understanding and discount it. The truth lies between the two. This angel represents all who stand-up to the world and proclaims salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Martin Luther certainly did that, but so did Augustine, Bede, CFW Walther, and so on. Luther was this angel in a particular place and in a particular time, but the Church is constantly sending forth this angel into a sin-darkened world.

    Romans 3:19-28: This reading is the foundation of Sunday’s sermon so I’ll not say much here. However it is a powerful lesson explaining how no one is saved by the works of the Law but instead those who receive the work of Christ “are justified by his grace as a gift.”

    John 8:31-36: Jesus explains how important it is to remain faithful to the word. This is what marks us as his disciples. This sets us free. To ignore preaching and his word is to guarantee a fall from faith. Not right away, but sooner or later your faith will dwindle and die.

    Sunday’s Collect
    Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Gradual (Ps 48:1a, 12-14a)
    Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
    Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers,
    consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels,
    that you may tell the next generation
    that this is God, our God forever and ever.

    Introit (Ps 89:1, 5, 15-16, antiphon: Ps 119:46)
    I will speak of your testimonies before kings, O Lord,
    and shall not be put to shame.
    I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
    Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
    your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
    Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
    who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
    who exult in your name all the day
    and in your righteousness are exalted.
    Glory be to the Father and to the Son
    and to the Holy Spirit;
    as it was in the beginning,
    is now, and will be forever. Amen.
    I will speak of your testimonies before kings, O Lord,
    and shall not be put to shame.

    Extra Note

    People have begun to drop off items that will be sold at our auction/pot-luck November 8. You may do the same if you want.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    When We Die

    Thursday after Pentecost 20
    October 22, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    In Genesis 3:19 God says to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We have all heard this passage many times at funerals, but does it have any meaning in reference to how we treat the bodies of the deceased? Does the Bible in general have anything to say, or any pattern we might follow, in reference to that which was the temple of God? Such will be the questions we examine in this coming Sunday’s (Reformation Sunday) adult Bible study at Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS). The question submitted is “Genesis 3:19 in regard to embalming and cremation.” As always, everyone is welcome. Bible study begins at 9:00 AM.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor Rickert

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Tell Everyone What He Has Done

    Wednesday after Pentecost 20
    October 21, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    A few months back I put together a faith-sharing resource for Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) titled “Tell Everyone What He Has Done!” The function of this pamphlet is to supplement any witnessing program/outline/effort/etc. that an individual or congregation might be using. It is not a witnessing outline. The pamphlet contains quotes from the liturgy, hymns, confessions and Martin Luther which can be used to underscore and support a point being made by the person sharing their faith. These quotes are arranged by topic. I shared it with the members of the Districts Ablaze Task Force and the Task Force decided to share it with all who are interested. Therefore it can now be downloaded as a pdf file from the SEDCongregationsAblaze site. In my personal witnessing to the faith I have found it quite powerful to be able to quote a hymn verse, etc, as it communicates powerfully that the message is not just mine.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Popcorn Sales A Success

    Tuesday after Pentecost 20
    October 20, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    Our Cubs did $1,234.00 in popcorn sales! This is great, especially as it is their first ever Popcorn Sale! The money raised supports the national and regional scouting programs, as well as our local pack 1031.

    Maybe you wanted to buy some popcorn, but time got away from you. Well good news! While the boys are no longer selling, the books do not close on the sale until this coming Sunday. So you can still order some. The prices are:
    Chocolate Heaven - $50
    Chocolate! Caramel! Cheese! - $40
    Say “Cheese!” (three types of cheese) - $35
    Trail’s End Mix - $20
    Layers of Luxury - $18
    Go Nuts! - $18
    Lighten Up! - $18
    Unbelievably Buttery! - $14
    The Light of Your Life! - $14
    Original Caramel Corn - $8

    Just bring the money to church.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Scout Field Trip

    Tuesday after Pentecost 20
    October 20, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This Saturday, October 24, Cub Scout Pack 1031 of Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) will be taking a field trip to radio station ESPN, 1400 AM. This is a sports radio station right here in Spartanburg. We will be visiting while the program “Droppin’ the Hammer with Dale Wilkerson” is being broadcast. We will meet at 10:30 in the church parking lot and travel together to the station. The program begins at 11:00 AM and runs for an hour. Droppin’ the Hammer is about auto racing and features guest drivers, NASCAR representatives, and more. The boys will not only learn about radio but also about this exciting sport.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Movie Night

    Monday after Pentecost 20
    October 19, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This Friday, October 23, 2009, aka the Commemoration of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr, we will be showing the movie “Luther” at Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS). The show begins at 7:00 PM. Everyone is invited. Come and experience the beginning of the Reformation and all modern protestant churches once again.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Where Angels Go

    Pentecost 20
    October 18, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    LitWits is the name of the book club at Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS). We meet every other month to discuss books that range all over the place. What book we read is decided by a vote of those who attend. Our next meeting will be December 20, 6:30 PM, at church. Anyone is welcome to attend. The next book is by Debbie Macomber and titled Where Angels Go. It continues our tradition of reading a “Christmas” book for our December get-together. I’m told it is a fast read, even though it is 296 pages. What follows are two reviews, both taken from Barns and Nobles webpage.


    Christmas is a time for angels. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are back! These three irresistible angels love their assignments on earth. They especially love helping people who send prayer requests to Heaven (even though the Archangel Gabriel, their boss, knows they're going to break his rules)!

    This Christmas, Mercy is assigned to bring peace of mind to an elderly man... who discovers an unexpected answer to his prayers. Goodness is sent to oversee the love life of a young woman afraid to risk commitment for a second time. And Shirley has the task of granting a little boy's fondest Christmas wish.

    Shirley, Goodness and Mercy go wherever they're needed. These three charming angels often find themselves in trouble, but somehow things always work out for the best--especially at Christmas.

    Publishers Weekly

    Archangel Gabriel and his three mischievous Prayer Ambassadors-Shirley, Goodness and Mercy-lend their celestial aid to three needy Christmas cases. Harry Alderwood, 86, prays that his increasingly forgetful wife, Rosalie, will agree to move into assisted living before he dies. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Carter Jackson begs God for a dog, even though his mother and father tell him that they can't afford to keep a pet, while Beth Fischer's mother prays that her divorced paralegal daughter, nightly engrossed in a World of Warcraft online game, will start a new life. The busybody angels work behind the scenes and provide a few delightful surprise twists as lives transform.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Car Wash & Picnic

    Saturday after Pentecost 19
    October 17, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    Due to the weather we have canceled the Cub Scout car wash and the scout/church picnic scheduled later today. Sorry.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Car Wash & Picnic

    Thursday after Pentecost 19
    October 15, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This Saturday Cub Pack 1031 will be washing cars for a donation at church starting at 10:00 AM. God willing the weather will cooperate. Following that we will have a Pack/Church cookout and enjoy some games. Everything will be happening at Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS), 1645 Fernwood-Glendale Road. If you are in town, consider this an invitation. Just bring a side-dish to share.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Worship for Pentecost 20

    Thursday after Pentecost 19
    October 15, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday will be the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. At Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS) we will be using Matins for our morning service (Lutheran Service Book (LSB), page 219). The appointed scripture lessons for Sunday are Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Hebrews 4:1-13, and Mark 10:23-31. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 119:9-16, antiphon verse 14. Our opening hymn will be “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” (LSB 824). This is the hymn we are learning. The sermon hymn will be “What is the World to Me” (LSB 730). The closing hymn will be “Beautiful Savior” (LSB 537). The sermon is titled “Fleeting Happiness or Permanent Joy.” I could probably used any of the lessons for my text as I will be using all three, but for record the text will be Mark 10:26.

    Better Noise (see links on this page) has “What is the World to Me” but not our other two. “What is the Word to Me” was written by the Lutheran German pastor Georg Pfefforcorn (what a name) in 1679. “Beautiful Savior” first appeared in 1662 in a Westphalian manuscript. No one knows who wrote it. The opening line has also been translated “Fairest Lord Jesus,” so you might know it by that name. It has been included in each of the LC-MS hymnals. I found a nice male quartet singing Beautiful Savior on YouTube and it is at the end of these notes.

    In the Adult Bible study well will be looking at the Kingdom Parables in Matthew 13, with a special focus on the parable of the Pearl of Great Value in verses 45-46.

    Preview of the Lessons
    Ecclesiastes 5:10-20: “According to Christian and Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote his Song early in his reign, Proverbs toward the middle of his reign, and Ecclesiastes at the end. Statements from these Books and form 1 Ki 1-11 fit well with themes in Ecclesiastes. For example, Solomon strayed from the Lord later in his life because he allowed his many idolatrous wives and concubines to lead him into idolatry (1 Ki 11). The writer crassly describes his pursuit of power and pleasure, which only led to emptiness. This could explain the desperation, even unbelief, expressed repeatedly in Ecclesiastes, which seems depressing with its droning, negative outlook.
    “This negative outlook rings true with our bitter experiences and is a key feature of Ecclesiastes. However, the Book’s conclusion pulls the reader back from the brink of despair with firm confessions of God’s care and wisdom (12:7, 13-14). Solomon offers hope that there is more to life, and, in the one “greater than Solomon” (Mt 12:42), readers can find the fullness of wisdom and life embodied. Jesus Christ is the answer to the questions and mysteries that Ecclesiastes poses about life.” (The Lutheran Study Bible, page 1048)
    In this particular pericope Solomon speaks of how wealth does not produce lasting joy. Those who run after it are never satisfied with what they have. Often even what you have is lost. He recommends being satisfied with what the Lord has given you instead of always chasing after something else to make you happy.

    Hebrews 4:1-13: The book of Hebrews is an absolutely brilliant treatment of the Old Testament. If you want to know how to read this portion of the Bible, start by reading Hebrews. In this reading the book gives us a proper understanding of the Sabbath (the 7th day). In short it points to Jesus, in whom we find our rest. This reading ends with a powerful testimony concerning the Bible, saying it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When we read this on Sunday, and consider how Hebrews is telling us that the Old Testament is all about Jesus, remember the words of our Lord in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures [Old Testament] because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

    Mark 10:23-31: Jesus speaks about how “riches” become a stumbling block for salvation. In our country, when many Christians have fallen for the deception that riches automatically mean God’s blessings, we need to head our Lord’s warning. Indeed riches are a powerful and seductive idol. However wealth does not put a person beyond the pail of God’s grace (verse 26-27). On the other hand, poverty is also no guarantee of God’s favor (verses 28-31). The Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus where we find a favorable God.

    Sunday’s Collect
    O God, Your divine wisdom sets in order all things in heaven and on earth. Put away from us all things hurtful and give us those things that are beneficial for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Gradual (Ps 91:11; 103:1)
    He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
    Bless the LORD, O my soul,
    and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

    In the service of Matins we do not use an Introit. In stead we use an appointed Psalm. The Psalm appointed for this coming Sunday is Psalm 119, verses 9-16. The antiphon is verse 14.

    How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
    With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
    I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
    Blessed are you, O LORD;
    teach me your statutes!
    With my lips I declare
    all the just decrees of your mouth.
    In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
    I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
    I will delight in your statues;
    I will not forget your word.
    Glory be to the Father and to the Son
    and to the Holy Spirit;
    as it was in the beginning,
    is now, and will be forever. Amen.
    In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.

    Extra Notes
    A voters’ meeting is scheduled for this coming Sunday. One item to be discussed is how to use the matching funds from Thrivant that we will be applying for (as soon as we know how we want to use it). One of the options was to purchase a new (used) organ as there was a great deal. However that organ was purchased by another church, so that is off the table. Two other options are a remodel of the narthex or some repairs in the sanctuary. These proposals will be presented.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Back To School

    Wednesday after Pentecost 19
    October 14, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    Well, I’ve taken the plunge. I have e-mailed in my application to Gardner-Webb University for the D.Min. program. Requests for transcripts will go out in tomorrows mail. I’ve asked for three letters of recommendation, one from Dr. James Voelz of Concordia Seminary. Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) has agreed to the endeavor. Assuming I’m accepted, I should begin in the winter semester.

    Part of the application process includes an essay about my ministry and my goals. It was an odd assignment as I don’t really think in terms of “my” ministry. It is the Lord’s ministry, or maybe the ministry of Lamb of God. I’m part of that. Oh well, I explained it in my essay. Maybe they will think I’m weird and not accept me.

    Gardner-Webb University is located in Boiling Springs, NC, just a little over half an hour north of Spartanburg. It is affiliated with the Baptists, but the school has people from a number of different denominations.

    If I’m accepted you can probably expect some more posts about my late-in-life academic endeavor.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Asian Disasters

    2009 Asian Disasters

    LCMS World Relief and Human Care is working with U.S. and overseas partners to assist people who are suffering following a string of disasters in Asia:
    1. Earthquake in Indonesia: This 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed more than 1,000 people. WR-HC Asia staff assessing needs in Sumatra and working with Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP) – a partner since the 2004 tsunami devastated Southeast Asia.

    2. Tsunami in Samoa: A powerful tsunami crashed into Samoa and American Samoa, killing hundreds. LCMS pastors working on behalf of WR-HC are on the scene, assessing need and distributing aid.

    3. Flood in the Philippines: An estimated 500,000 displaced and 100 dead. WR-HC staff in contact with Lutheran partners.

    4. Typhoon in Taiwan: In the deadliest typhoon to strike Taiwan, more than 450 people were killed. WR-HC staff in contact with Lutheran partners.
    Pray! Please pray for those in harms way, who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods. Please pray that Lutheran disaster response efforts touch many lives with God’s hope and mercy.

    Connect! To learn more, visit

    Give! Donations are urgently needed! Your gifts will allow continued disaster response efforts in Asia.

    • Mail checks to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, noting “SE Asia Storm and Earthquake Relief” to:
    • LCMS World Relief and Human Care
      P.O. Box 66861
      St. Louis MO 63166-6861
    Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Your gift is tax deductable to the extent permitted by law.

    Halloween III

    Tuesday after Pentecost 19
    October 13, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This is now my third post about Halloween and how we might celebrate on October 31 while not hurting sensitive consciences. In the first I suggested celebrating the “communion of saints.” In the second I suggested celebrating “Reformation Day.” There is yet another option, and this is for any atheist who is uncomfortable about Halloween because the whole idea of ghosts and witches strongly suggests that the supernatural is real. It is also an option for those who are in settings that frown on anything that might have spiritual implications, like say a public school. Finally, for those who are Christians, it is not difficult to find the hand of God in this idea, so if you are looking for a way to celebrate on October 31 that might draw the un-churched but not be blatantly “Christian,” this idea might work for you. It could be an outreach opportunity.

    October is, of course, in the Fall. A Fall festival or a Harvest festival would fit quite nicely on October 31. Many of the traditional games played at Halloween get-togethers are actually Fall/Harvest games, like bobbing for apples. Apple and pumpkin pies, corn on the cob, and other “harvest time” favorites would be eaten gladly. If you are planning a get-together for adults you might want to have an “Oktoberfest” party. You could accent German food, German culture (or at least a Germany travel poster), and so on.

    The spiritual aspect could be brought in with a Thanksgiving accent. All this goodness is from the bounty of our God. Granted this is not specifically “Christian,” but could be an excellent way to gently introduce the idea of something greater than the physical into the activities. Being ready to share more about Jesus if asked would make the difference here.

    Well, that is all for now.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Halloween II

    Monday after Pentecost 19
    October 12, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    In a post on October 9 I suggested one way Christians might celebrate October 31 was by remembering the communion of saints of which all believers in Christ are a part of, including all those who have preceded us into Glory. I also said that for Protestants, especially Lutheran, there was another reason to celebrate October 31. That reason is the Reformation.

    On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This was a call for an academic debate on the topic of Indulgences. Each thesis was a topic to debate. Such debates were common in academic circles of the day. Posting such notices on the church door was also common; it was kind of like a community bulletin board. What happened is that an enterprising printed made copies of the 95 Theses and sold them. Soon they were circulating far and wide, sparking conversations that challenged the whole idea of indulgences. The idea that forgiveness is a free gift from God’s grace was radical. When Luther and the other reformers were excommunicated, they did not simply dry up and blow away. Instead they continued on, with the support of their rulers, and formed what in Germany was called the “Evangelical” Church, but in America is called the Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession was the first publicly accepted confession of these Christians. After Luther came other reformers who, while disagreeing with Rome like Luther, felt Luther didn’t quite get it right. So other “confessions” came along, some in the lifetime of Luther. All these churches, lumped together, are called Protestants. Because the 95 Theses were posted on October 31, that day is recognized by Protestants worldwide as Reformation Day. While I can understand why Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches don’t want to celebrate Reformation Day, a Protestant church certainly can have a Reformation Fair as a Halloween substitute. (The Orthodox and Roman Catholics split about 500 years before the Reformation and so the Reformation doesn’t mean much to the Orthodox historically speaking.) Again it could include costumes like knights, kings, emperors, monks, bishops, and other period things. You could include any sort of ethnic background from your denomination. You might even want to show the movie “Luther,” which was in the theaters a few years back.

    There is yet one more way for Christians to celebrate on October 31, but that will have to wait for Halloween III.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    The Pearl of Great Price

    Monday after Pentecost 19
    October 12, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    At Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LC-MS) we will continue our Sunday morning Bible study series, Puzzlers and Questions about the Bible this coming Sunday with a look at the Kingdom Parables found in Matthew 13. In this chapter there are the parables of the Sower, Good Seed and Weeds, Mustard Seed, Leaven, Hidden Treasure, Pearl of Great Price, and Fishing Net. The “question” submitted was simply the verse Matthew 13:45, which refers to the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, so we will give special attention to it. Each of these parables deals with the “kingdom of God.”

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Friday, October 9, 2009


    Friday after Pentecost 18
    October 9, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    Boo!!! Did I scare you? I didn’t think so. But there is a day later this month that does scare a lot of Christians. It is October 31, called Halloween on most American calendars. Children dress up in all kinds of costumes, elementary schools have carnivals, children go trick-or-treating, people decorate their homes with jack-o-lanterns, black and orange crepe paper, radio stations play “Thriller” and oldies stations play “Monster Mash,” candy sales soar, horror movies play on the television, new horror movies are released in the theaters, etc.

    But some Christians fear that all this fun is just a smoke screen for a more sinister agenda, the advancement of Satan’s kingdom. Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is claimed to be the day witches gather to conduct unholy rites. All the celebrations by the rest of us are viewed as supporting such activities. Such reasoning, though, is flawed. It is like the reasoning in the late 1960’s when some thought the peace sign worn by many teenagers was anti-Christian because, they said, it was an upside-down broken cross. The two uses were unrelated and the similar look did not indicate a similar meaning. It is like saying that Mary Stuart, who was called Bloody Mary, and the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor are related because Queen Mary was born on December 7 and Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7.

    Halloween actually has Christian and Pagan roots. The pagan roots come from the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For them November 1 marked the beginning of winter and a new year. The night before the new year they celebrated the festival of Samhain, the Lord of the Dead. during this festival the Celts believed the souls of the dead returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil ones people would wear masks and light bonfires.

    When the pagan Romans conquered the Celts they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider.

    Christianity does come to the area, like it did to the rest of the Roman Empire. In 835 Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration of All the Martyrs (later renamed All Saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even, that is “holy evening.” Over time this was shortened to Halloween. November 2 became All Souls Day.

    The purpose of these holy days is to remember those who have gone to glory before us. Not just the big names like Augustine, Martin Luther, etc., but also, and maybe especially, all the regular Christians like Uncle Bob, Aunt Mary, great grandpa Hank, and so on. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints.” They are a reminder that the Church is not simply composed of those who are alive today, but of all the saints, from Adam and Eve to the present. To honor this many churches remember in their worship services all those who have gone to be with the Lord, either in a special service on November 1, or in the first Sunday worship service after November 1.

    Halloween, then, can be used by Christians as a way of reminding ourselves and others that the Church transcends time. Costumes may be of saints from all the ages. Refreshments might be from different ages. Games and activities could be from different ages. The scary part could even be maintained by remembering what believers have suffered for the sake of Christ. When someone wishes you a Happy Halloween, you could respond with “have a blessed All Saints Day.”

    The pagan roots of Halloween are roots of fear. The masks and such were to protect people from the wicked dead. As Christians we have nothing to fear from the dead. We need not run in fear from Halloween. We should not become angry with others who wish us a Happy Halloween or decorate their homes. But we can use it as a time to share our faith, a time to speak of the eternal life all Christians have in Christ Jesus, especially those who are already with the Lord.

    Protestants in general, and Lutherans in particular, have another reason to celebrate October 31, but that will wait for another post.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Worship for Pentecost 19

    Thursday after Pentecost 18
    October 8, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday will be the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. At Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS) we will be using the first setting of the morning liturgy out of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), which begins on page 151. The appointed scripture lessons for Sunday are Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Hebrews 3:12-19, and Mark 10:17-22. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Our opening hymn will be “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” (LSB 824). The sermon hymn will be “Spread the Reign of God the Lord” (LSB 830). The closing hymn will be “O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (LSB 389). The distribution hymns will be “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (LSB 597), “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” (LSB 680), and “O Bless the Lord, My Soul” (LSB 814). This will be the last week we will be featuring “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying.” While it may not be a favorite by now, at least we know it. The new hymn we will be learning is our opening hymn, “May God Bestow on Us His Grace.” This is hardly a “new” hymn. It was written by Martin Luther and based on Psalm 67. It has been called “Martin Luther’s missionary hymn” and the “first missionary hymn of Protestantism.” It has been in every English hymnal the LCMS has ever published (not the supplements, of course).

    I could find no videos on YouTube with this Sunday’s hymns. However Better Noise has two of them, “Spread the Reign of God the Lord” (LSB 830) and “O Bless the Lord, My Soul” (LSB 814). There is a link to Better Noise on the side bar of this blog. The hymn “O Christ, Our True and Only Light” is one of those hymns that had its words updated in Lutheran Worship, but had them returned to the form found in The Lutheran Hymnal in LSB. It was written during the Thirty Years War by the Lutheran Johann Heerman, based on a prayer written by Peter Brillmacher which he found in a prayer book published by Philipp Kegel. What Heerman didn’t know was that the prayer's author was a Jesuit and the prayer, from Brillmacher’s point-of-view, was for the Protestants to return to the Roman Catholic Church! However it has passed into general church usage as a missions hymn, which is the sentiment we express when we sing it.

    Preview of the Lessons
    Amos 5:6-7, 10-15: Amos was an Old Testament prophet who was active from 760 to 750 BC in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Israelites divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, after the death of Solomon in 930 BC. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BC and disappeared from history. The only survivors escaped to Judah. Though Israel had fallen from the true faith, God in his mercy continued to send prophets calling them to repentance and faith. As Amos’ work was done only a few decades before the fall of Israel it is not surprising that his book is an earnest call from God for repentance with a promise of mercy for those who repent. This reading reflects this call. “House of Joseph” (v. 6) is another way of referring to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. “Bethel” (v. 6) is a Hebrew word meaning “house [beth] of God [el].” “El” is the generic word for god. At the time of Amos the main worship site of Israel was in Bethel, so the reference to it in verse 6 indicates that the idols of Israel will not be able to save them. Verse 7 contains an indictment of one of the manifestations of Israel’s apostasy, they pervert justice. Verse 10 is a related charge, they persecute those who speak the truth. Verse 11 has another charge, the rich exploit the poor. The coming judgment from God, through Assyria, is then depicted. God is not deceived by them. In verse 13 those who “keep silent” should be understood as those who repent. They have nothing to say, no defense. The one who repents and trusts in God will then “seek good” (v. 14). This believer will then find life (salvation). He has this life, not based on his good works, but because the “LORD, the God of hosts,” is with them. This is the One True God. Even though the nation is so far gone, if they repent and return to the LORD, they will find him to be “gracious.” Thank the Lord that we have a gracious God in Christ Jesus. Sadly we know that Amos’ words went unheeded by Israel.

    Hebrews 3:12-19: While there are many suggestions, no one really knows for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews. The writer knows and loves his Old Testament, however he correctly sees Jesus as the fulfillment of its many types. It is clear from the letter that the Temple was still standing, meaning the book was written before 70 AD. The writer writes to people who are familiar with the history of the Jews and the practices of its worship life, meaning they were Jews by birth. Therefore this letter might well have been written before the Church made a significant jump to the Gentile community. However persecution was picking up for the Christians and so the major move to the Gentile mission is not far off. His readers were facing a very real temptation. Should they return to the established Jewish religious system with its grandeur and legal status, or remain Christians. In this lesson the writer uses the Israelites wilderness wandering to encourage them to remain faithful to Jesus. Even though those Israelites were delivered from Egypt, they rebelled and did not enter the Promised Land. Their unbelief kept them out. We are to take care that the same does not happen to us. We are to continue to gather in worship and exhort one another to faithfulness. Only by remaining “in Christ” and holding to the Gospel of grace, which is our “original confidence,” will we be able to remain “firm to the end” and enter Glory.

    Mark 10:17-22: This reading forms the foundation of the sermon, so I’ll not say much here. In it a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers the question but the answer only crushed the spirit of the man. He walked away disheartened. Though this man was certainly more pious than the people in our Old Testament lesson, he had a similar problem. Prosperity was more important than eternal life. Even Jesus face the painful reality that everyone you share God’s word with does not become a follower of the Lord.

    Sunday’s Collect
    Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Gradual (Ps 91:11; 103:1)
    He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
    Bless the LORD, O my soul,
    and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

    Introit (Ps 112:3-6; antiphon: Ps 112:1)
    Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
    Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
    Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
    It is well with the man who deals generously and lends
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
    For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
    Glory be to the Father and to the Son
    and to the Holy Spirit;
    as it was in the beginning,
    is now, and will be forever. Amen.
    Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Luther on Outreach

    Wednesday after Pentecost 18
    October 7, 2009

    The Lord be with you

    On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, which sparked the Reformation. As this is October, and in light of this historical tidbit, it seems appropriate to include a quote from Martin Luther.

    One of the things Luther is falsely accused of is a disregard for outreach (evangelism). The following quote is one of many that show Luther’s commitment to sharing the Gospel by all believers.

      1 Peter 2:9: That you should proclaim the deeds of the one who called you from the darkness into his wonderful light.

      We live on earth only so that we should be a help to other people. Otherwise, it would be best if God would strangle us and let us die as soon as we were baptized and had begun to believe. For this reason, however, he lets us live that we may bring other people also to faith as he has done for us …

      This is part of being a priest, being God’s messenger and having his command to proclaim his Word. You should preach the “good work,” that is, the miraculous work that God has done as he brought you from darkness into light. This is the highest priestly office. Consequently, you preaching should be done so that one brother proclaims to the other the mighty deed of God: how through him you have been redeemed from sin, hell, death, and from all misery, and have been called to eternal life. You should also instruct people how they should come to that light. Everything then should be directed in such a way that you recognize what God has done for you and that you, thereafter, make it your highest priority to proclaim this publicly and call everyone to the light to which you are called. Where you see people that do not know this, you should instruct them and also teach them how you learned, that is, how one through the good work and might of God is saved and comes from darkness into light. (Luther Texts on Mission, The Church Comes from All Nations, page 20, by Volker Stolle, Translated by Klaus Detlev Schulz, Concordia Academic Press, Concordia Publishing House)
    When Luther says “this is part of being a priest” he is not referring to called clergy, but to the priesthood of all believers.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

      Monday, October 5, 2009

      How Bad Can It Get?

      Monday after Pentecost 18
      October 5, 2009

      The Lord be with you

      This coming Sunday, Pentecost 19, October 11, the adult Bible study at Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) will continue its series titled “Puzzlers and Questions About the Bible” by considering a story contained in Judges. The “question” submitted was simply the biblical reference Judges 21:22. This is actually part of the conclusion of a story that begins with chapter 19 and demonstrates just how low the spiritual and moral nature of the Israelites had sunk by the end of the time of the Judges. This story is also how the book of Judges ends. We will discover that God has a reason for ending this book with this picture of moral and spiritual decline. We will have to cover all three chapters to get the full feel for what is happening in chapter 21, and understand what the Lord intends for us to learn, so don’t be late.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Pastor John Rickert

      Saturday, October 3, 2009

      Just As I Am

      Saturday after Pentecost 17
      October 3, 2009

      The Lord be with you

      Charlotte Elliott was born in 1789. At the age of 32 she became a invalid and had to live with her brother, who was a pastor. One evening in 1834 her brother and his family were busy preparing for a bazaar to raise money to build a college where the daughters of poorer clergy could be educated at low expense. Charlotte, who was blessed with an excellent education herself, was haunted by a sense of her helplessness. She could do nothing to assist. She tossed about that night, racing through her mind were many conflicts and doubts. The next day, Charlotte could not go. Charlotte could never go because her health restricted her to the home.

      Though her body was weak, Charlotte’s faith was strong. One way she expressed her faith was with her writing. While the family was gone she wrote a hymn that you know.

      Just as I am, without one plea
      But that Thy blood was shed for me
      And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

      Just as I am and waiting not
      To rid my soul of one dark blot,
      To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

      Just as I am, though tossed about
      With many a conflict, many a doubt,
      Fightings and fears within, without
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

      Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
      Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
      Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

      Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
      Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
      Because Thy promise I believe,
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

      Just as I am; Thy love unknown
      Has broken ev’ry barrier down;
      Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
      O Lamb of God, I come, I come. (LSB 570)

      The hymn was first published in The Invalid’s Hymnal, along with 114 other hymns by Charlotte. Her brother once said of this hymn, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit of my labor, but I feel that far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s.”

      Now in my gut I “know” that Rev Henry Elliott was correct. However I don’t have any stories to corroborate his evaluation of Charlotte’s hymn. If Just As I Am has been a blessing to you, would you please leave me a comment and let me know about it. The comment can be as simple as “This hymn has been a blessing to me.” However, if you can include a story about how it has been a blessing - that would be great!

      Blessings in Christ
      Pastor John Rickert

      Thursday, October 1, 2009

      Let the Hits Begin

      Thursday after Pentecost 17
      October 1, 2009

      The Lord be with you

      I have finally been able to add a hit counter to my blog. It is in the side bar and not only gives the number of hits this blog has received, but also indicates the countries the hits come from. The count begins from this afternoon, October 1, 2009.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Pastor John Rickert

      Worship Notes for Pentecost 18

      Thursday after Pentecost 17
      October 1, 2009

      The Lord be with you

      This coming Sunday will be the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS), like many of our sister congregations around the country, will be recognizing the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in our service. This will be done by featuring our ladies as ushers, readers, and giving the children’s message, having an all ladies choir, and a special liturgy which uses the LWML Pledge (don’t worry guys, it is gender neutral). Our opening hymn will be the one we are currently learning, “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (LSB 597). We will use the hymn “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” (LSB 843) for our corporate confession. This hymn is known, but not well known, meaning about half of us known it and half do not know it. Our hymn of praise will be verses 4 and 5 of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (LSB 790). Our special “Alleluia Verse” is set to the tune Ode to Joy, written by Beethoven. Our sermon hymn will be “Jesus Shall Reign” (LSB 832). The closing hymn will be “Lutheran Women, One and All,” which is set to the same tune as “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” (LSB 892) and is well known. For our Gradual we will be using Psalm 121. We will be using the regularly appointed lessons for the day, Genesis 2:18-25, Hebrews 2:1-13, and Mark 10:2-16. The sermon is titled “Jesus Reigns!” and the text is Hebrews 2:7-8.

      As readers of these worship notes know by now, I can not find a video or recording of “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying.” Better Noise has the tune, but not the lyrics for “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive.” They have the hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” so you can hear the tune for “Lutheran Women, One and All.” They have the words and music for “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and “Jesus Shall Reign.” I don’t know why it took me so long to think of it, but I’ve added “Better Noise” to my links so you can go right from this blog to Better Noise to listen to the hymns. I found a video for “Jesus Shall Reign” which is at the end of these notes. Musically it is kind of schmaltzy, but it does have the words so you can sing along. If you have a copy of Lutheran Service Book so you don’t need the words, I’ve included a better video with good pictures but no words.

      Preview of the Lessons

      Genesis 2:18-25: This is Moses’ account of the creation of woman. Before Eve is created Adam gives names to all the animals. In the process he discovered that none of the animals were truly fit to be his companion. Then God created Eve and established marriage. This order establishes for Adam just how precious a gift Eve is. The absence of sin in the Garden is accented by the lack of shame they feel in the presence of each other, even though they are naked. I don’t know who wrote the following, but I’ve always liked it: “When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden he saw that it was not good for man to live alone. So God prepared a helper and a companion for man - woman. In this act of creation, God didn't take the woman from man's head, lest she should rule over him; nor from his feet, lest he should trample upon her- but from his side, that she should be equal with him, and from close to his heart, that he should love, cherish, and honor her. Then God presented woman to man that each might be the other's helper and companion. Marriage is God's gift to deliver us from our isolation and loneliness. It is our opportunity to give each other the gifts of God and to receive the gifts of God from each other.”

      Hebrews 2:1-13: Verses 1-4 accents the importance of remaining faithful to the Word of God as delivered to us from the beginning, and how it has been validated by God. It also teaches us that Christ is the center of the Word of God. To neglect the once-delivered message of Christ is to lose your salvation. In verse 5 and following the writer moves to a hymn about Christ, who is ruler of all. This rule is not seen now, we hold to it in faith, but one day it will be manifest to all. The path of Jesus to the cross is accented. Verses 10 and following continues the focus on Christ as the God who became a man, died for us, and rose, as the foundation of salvation and life as Christians.

      Mark 10:2-16: The Pharisees test Jesus with a question about divorce. How typical of us to seek a way to get out of our God given responsibilities with our hands clean. Jesus turns the question around and gives an answer about marriage. The disciples, later, don’t want to let the divorce question go. Jesus responds again by accenting how important it is to remain faithful and work on your marriage. Then, still later, people are bringing children to Jesus so he can bless them. The disciples, no doubt thinking Jesus has much better things to do with his time then play with children and bless infants, rebuked the “silly” parents who were bringing the children. Jesus turns the tables on the disciples. In fact the text says Jesus was “indignant.” To this day people try to keep children at arms-length when it comes to Jesus, refusing infant baptism, distaining the innovation of Children’s messages, getting upset when children make too much noise in a worship service, creating nurseries so children won’t even be brought into the worship service, and the like. We should remember our Lord’s words, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Not only does Jesus teach that small children can have faith with these words (for only by faith can anyone be in the “kingdom of God”) but he reminds us that faith, wherever we find it, is precious. I’ve never know a small child to like a sourpuss. It says a lot about the nature of Jesus that children wanted to be with him. I love the picture on Sunday’s bulletin which depicts this portion of the Gospel lesson. Jesus is smiling and reaching out to the children. A smilling child is offering Jesus a piece of fruit (apple?).

      Sunday’s Collect

      Merciful Father, Your patience and loving-kindness toward us have no end. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may always think and do those things that are pleasing in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


      We will be using Psalm 121 as our Gradual, with verse 8 as the antiphon


      I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?
      My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
      How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings,
      Who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
      Glory be to the Father and to the Son
      and to the Holy Spirit;
      as it was in the beginning,
      is now, and will be forever. Amen.
      I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?
      My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Pastor John Rickert

      “Jesus Shall Reign” with words but a lame arrangement

      “Jesus Shall Reign” without words but good pictures and arrangement