Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Worldview Everlasting

Tuesday after Pentecost 18
September 28, 2010

The Lord be with you

There is a young LCMS pastor named Jonathan Fisk. He has a blog named the Wittenberg Trail. He also has produced numerous videos which are quite entertaining on Lutheran doctrine and how it relates to our lives today. Those videos can be found at Worldview Everlasting.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “How can a video about Lutheran doctrine be entertaining?” It is a fare question. Below is one of his videos. This one was made in response to a question someone sent him and is on the differences between Lutheranism and Calvinism. It is titled: Most Magesterial Tulips. It lasts about ten and a half minutes.





Other videos he has posted are titled:
    The Method Is Umm.... (his latest)
    Dead Man Rising
    Lutheranism for Attractive People (in Turkey)
    Taming of the Shrewd
    Non-Huguenots in Harmony
    I'm Just Very Confused (two parts)
    and on and on.
I’ve actually only seen a couple of the videos, but they made excellent theological points in ways that made me laugh.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Rev. Dr. Bill Seaman Visit

Tuesday after Pentecost 18
September 28, 2010

The Lord be with you

On Wednesday, October 6, at 5:30 PM, Rev. Dr. Bill Seaman will be at Lamb of God Lutheran Church. Rev. Seaman is the Mission and Ministry Facilitator for the Southern Region of the Southeastern District and Director of Congregational Renewal. His ministry includes providing resources to congregations, professional church workers and congregational leaders in areas including evangelism, stewardship, leadership development, demographic analysis, planning, and visioning, as well as providing special programs on request in North and South Carolina. As Director of Congregational Renewal he serves all congregations in the District. He has developed renewal materials and works in partnership with the rest of the SED staff, especially the Spiritual Life Team to provide resources to all congregations seeking renewal of their ministry founded on Confessional, missional outreach.

He is coming to Lamb of God to meet with the church council, and ALL OTHER INTERESTED MEMBERS of the congregation.

Rev. Seaman has given us a list of services that the Southeastern District provides for the congregations in the District. The members of the council have reviewed the list and selected a number that we feel meet the current needs of our congregation and would fit us. The selections were sent to Rev. Seaman. He will be going over those, explaining what they are in greater detail and answering any questions we may have about them. He might also accent a few offerings that he feels would be a good fit for Lamb of God, but which did not select, perhaps because we did not fully understand what the resource offered us.

If you are not on the Church Council, you will not know what the various resources are that the Council was selecting from. The list is:

1. Support and resourcing circuit counselors

2. Support and resourcing circuit mission advocates

3. Assistance with vacancy and intentional interim pastors

4. Assistance with visioning, planning and development of congregational profiles (during vacancy and at other times)

5. Assistance with calling of graduates and workers from the field

6. Partnering with congregations and circuits for new mission starts

7. Workshops and resources offered primarily by Mission and Ministry Facilitators

    a. Evangelism, Witness and Outreach - a number of different workshops that introduce these three means of sharing the Christian faith; any one of them can be offered all day Saturday or on a Sunday afternoon. They presuppose that participants will participate in a series of follow-up Bible studies to gain skills and grow in understanding of what was presented in the workshop.

    b. Stewardship - Consecration Sunday is a program that is offered to support the congregation's annual stewardship drive and requires approximately eight weeks of time for preparation and completion. Total Life Stewardship requires a Friday evening session, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon to cover not only time, talent and treasure, but spirituality, leisure activities, relationships and many other aspects of our lives. It is not a "giving" program. There is also another workshop based on George McCalep's Faith Raising that can be used for congregation giving programs.

    c. Leadership - This is a workshop for leaders to assist in growing in leadership gifts as well as bringing members into the leadership circle through identification and recruitment.

    d. Planning and Visioning - This workshop requires at least thirty days advance preparation for prayer and data processing by the leader. It reviews the current congregational programs and community context and then proceeds, after laying a foundation, to identify core values, develop mission and vision statements, as well as goals and strategies for making the vision a reality. It requires at least one full day on a Saturday, but may also require follow-up sessions to complete the process.

    e. Constitutional review and development - Missional Constitution and Bylaws in One Day, not Two Years is the foundation for this workshop. Congregations desiring the use this process are required to purchase the book and CD from Mission Growth Publishing. A minimum of twelve members are necessary for a successful workshop. The MMF is available to lead the process. It takes a full Saturday from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM.

    f. Staffing analysis - a staffing analysis is a time intensive exercise involving a number of days on site with congregation staff and leaders. Normally the congregation is asked to undertake the Planning and Visioning workshop as a preliminary step. The MMF will interview all existing staff and leaders as appropriate and then present recommendations in consultation with the leadership group to the congregation.

    g. Congregational Profile - The congregational profile is a standard instrument which all congregations intending to call from the field or request a candidate from the seminary are asked to complete. It helps the congregation to assess its strengths, weaknesses and needs; it assists the district president in identifying suitable candidates for the congregation; and it benefits a worker considering a call to the congregation as he or she seeks to better understand the congregation and its ministry. Completion of the congregational profile can be done at other times as well to assist the congregation in its ministry.

    h. Nine Marks of a Mission Focused Congregation - This is an evaluation instrument that is normally presented in a day long workshop with members of the congregation. It is based on the healthy church concept and seeks to identify areas of ministry on which the congregation needs to work.

    i. Twelve Keys to an Effective Church - Kenon Callahan's work helps congregations to identify external items that may be preventing growth and ministry. Completion of this process can take place over the course of a number of weeks led by the pastor or a lay leader. It focuses on building on the strengths of the congregation.

    j. Small Group Ministry - a workshop explaining small group ministry and offering a program for developing small group ministry is available.

    k. Mission planning - MMF's can assist congregations, mission committees, circuits and circuit mission advocates to analyze their areas for potential new mission starts and also to develop mission strategies for new missions. They can offer advice on mission planters and also the formation of mission teams and core groups for new missions. Most of this work will be the responsibility of the new director of mission development.

    l. Demographics - demographic studies are available through LCEF in the SED office. The MMF can help local groups analyze and understand the demographic data.

    m. Generational studies - Ministering to different age groups has become a challenge. Materials are available that can be used in presentations to congregational groups wishing to understand the challenges and opportunities of generational ministry.

    n. Discipleship - Jesus' command was to "make disciples" but what is "discipleship"? This presentation addresses discipleship and paths to discipleship as well as multiplication of disciples.

    o. Web site development - This is not intended to be a technical presentation of how to use FrontPage, Dream maker or any other web development software, but rather suggestions about what to include or not to include on congregational web sites.

    p. Spiritual life and spiritual disciplines - These workshops are offered through Rev. Art Umbach and the spiritual life team and cover a variety of spiritual disciplines and prayer forms.

    q. Spiritual warfare - The Apostle Paul tells us that we are "not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and rulers in heavenly places." It is important for our people to be on guard against the evil one, know the resources that we have been given to fight the forces of evil and to employ those gifts on a regular basis. This workshop provides a foundation for engaging in spiritual warfare.

    r. Evolution and creation - This workshop offered by Rev. Dr. Bill Seaman looks at the evidence claiming to support the theory of evolution and evaluates it and than how the data fits the Genesis creation accounts. This presentation can be made in either a one-hour or a two-hour time frame.

    s. Theological implications of evolution - There are many who believe that God created the world using a process of evolution over a very long period of time. This presentation examines how such a view fits, or does not fit, with our Christian theology.

    t. Congregational renewal - a new process in which our district is engaging has grown out of Synod's revitalization (transformation) process for plateaued and declining congregations. We have developed our own process that we believe is totally spiritually based, recognizes the uniqueness of each congregation, does not use church growth metrics, is affordable for most congregations, and is for all congregations - not just those perceiving themselves to be in trouble.

    u. Postmodernism - We are no longer living in a "churched" culture, but a society that regards Christianity with suspicion, if not antagonism. This presentation seeks to help congregation members understand the world around them and how to begin to take steps to minister to the world outside the doors of the church.

    v. Core values - One of the questions in part four of the congregational profile asks the congregation to list its core values. Most congregations have never identified these. For those congregations wanting to determine their core values, but not wishing to do an extending planning and visioning workshop, this one to two hour process will enable members of a congregation to determine their core values.

    w. Developing a mission statement - For congregations that do not have a mission statement, this one to two hour workshop will enable a congregation to frame an initial mission statement that can be presented to the whole congregation for further refinement.

    x. Orientation for Ablaze! Covenant Congregations - This is a three hour presentation that will help any congregation seeking to be an Ablaze! Covenant Congregation or wishing to plant a new mission to understand the resources that are available and the process involved.

    y. Assimilation - While many congregations gain new members, often there are significant back door losses to the membership. This presentation addresses the issues of member attrition and ways in which to assimilate new members.

    z. Spiritual Gifts - There are many spiritual gift assessments available. At times it is helpful to have someone present the importance of and deployment of spiritual gifts, as well as the process for identifying spiritual gifts.

    aa. Financial Review - for congregations that are not able to afford an annual CPA audit, Mr. Steve Heemann has developed a financial review process that can be used in congregations that desire such a process. Either this or an audit is strongly recommended on a regular basis.
8. Development of "Training Leaders for Ministry", a program that continues to be offered through Concordia College, Bronxville, NY

9. Development and offering of "Training Leaders for Outreach" a series of classes and workshops offered through distance learning centers and web casts

10. Mission Development Academy to train mission teams for planting new missions or to assist in congregational renewal

11. Annual congregational leadership conferences the first weekend each August and regional leadership conferences each spring

12. Scholarship support of professional church work students at Synod's colleges and universities
13. Development and support of the "Mission Vicar Program"

14. Assistance with the development of schools, school programs and accreditation

15. Working with congregations in conflict and financial crisis

16. Assisting professional church workers in crisis situations

17. Coordinating disaster response

18. Networking with workers in other districts of Synod to develop new resources and materials for congregational use

19. Sponsorship of regional and district conferences for pastors, teachers, pastors' wives, church secretaries, and other entities

20. Maintenance of a system of communication via e-mail and printed media for professional workers and lay leaders

21. Development and support of urban and ethnic ministries

22. LCEF's "Arch of Services" - contact Mr. Steve Heemann. This includes architectural consultation, capital funding, design and build, Laborers for Christ, to name a few of the services.

At this meeting we may very well make some firm selections, set dates, and basically start putting things into motion. Our general goals are to reach more people with the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, thus increasing the number of members at Lamb of God and to do a better job of retaining our membership. An expected benefit, and also a sub-goal, is to improve our fiscal position.

A light dinner will be served.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert




    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The LWML Continues to Work

    Monday after Pentecost 17
    Commemoration of Jonah
    September 27, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday (Pentecost 19) will be celebrated at Lamb of God as LWML Sunday. LWML stands for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. The LWML “is the official women’s auxiliary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For over 65 years, the LWML has focused on affirming each woman’s relationship with Christ, encouraging and equipping women to live out their Christian lives in active mission ministries and to support global missions.” (This description was obtained from the LWML website.)

    The LWML does an outstanding job in each of the areas referred to in the above paragraph but, outside the LWML, they are probably best known for the last phrase “to support global missions.” Only God knows how many people have been reached with the Gospel of His grace in Christ Jesus through the efforts of these ladies over the years. But these ladies do not rest on the accomplishments of past generations, or even on the accomplishments of what the current members did in past years. Their pledge, adopted in the 1950s continues to express their outlook.

    "In fervent gratitude for the Savior’s dying love and His blood-bought gift of redemption we dedicate ourselves to Him with all that we are and have; and in obedience to His call for workers in the harvest fields, we pledge Him our willing service wherever and whenever He has need of us. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to sing His praises, our lips to proclaim His redeeming love, our silver and our gold to extend His Kingdom, our will to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen." (This pledge was obtained from the LWML website.)

    This week I hope to post several articles about the LWML and what they are currently doing. In this post I want to accent their Mission Grant for October 2010. It is $88,000.00 to be used in Tanzania. With this grant you will be able to see how the LWML works in tandem with other groups to spread the Kingdom of God.

      The Republic of Tanzania is one of the poorest counties in the world. With more than 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the average lifespan is just over 51 years old. About 80% of the population work as subsistence farmers and the average income is only $210.00 per year. Tanzania borders war-torn Rwanda and Burundi causing refugee camps in Tanzania to be filled to overflowing.

      LCMS World Mission began work in 2002 to help national churches train leaders to reach out to East African countries. By the grace of God these Tanzanian churches have grown very quickly, and many things are needed to support mission work in this area.

      In order to meet the needs of the growing Tanzanian church, this LWML grant has a three-fold purpose. The first is to build ten chapels for the Sukuma people, a tribe that is 94% non-Christian. New believers want to begin construction on new church buildings to provide shelter from the heat and torrential rains that plague this area. The new believers will provide the labor and materials for the foundation, walls, and church furnishings, and the LCMS World Mission will provide the costly church roofs.

      Another portion of this grant will provide motorcycles and bicycles to pastors and evangelists visiting and bringing the Gospel to remote villages. On average the villages are about 30 miles apart, so this will enable leaders to visit several villages in one day. It will also make it possible to serve these growing village churches on a more regular basis, thus providing more worship services and Bible studies.

      The last portion of this grant will provide training for five more pastors in Tanzania. As of 2008 there were only 39 Tanzanian pastors. Each pastor is serving over 30,000 people at this time. We rejoice that the church is growing at this rate and that more pastors are needed to train lay leaders to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments.

      By God’s grace, this LWML grant will provide hope and needed supplies to further the kingdom of God in Tanzania. (Information about this grant was obtained from the LWML website.)
    What a blessing these ladies are!

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Worship for Pentecost 18 - 2010

    Thursday after Pentecost 17
    September 23, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday is the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the first setting of the morning service (page 151) for our liturgy. We will be sharing the Lord’s Supper. The appointed lessons are Amos 6:1-7, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, and Luke 16:19-31. The sermon, titled “What’s A Pastor To Do?,” is based on the Epistle lesson. The text will be 1 Timothy 3:1. Our opening hymn will be the one we are learning, “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord” (LSB 853). The sermon hymn will be “God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets’ Sons” (LSB 682). The distributions hymns will be “Faith and Truth and Life Bestowing” (LSB 584), “O Lord, We Praise Thee” (LSB 617), and “Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens” (LSB 589). The closing hymn will be “Almighty Father, Bless the Word” (LSB 923).

    The following vide is of one of our distribution hymns, “O Lord, We Praise Thee” (LSB 617). It is actually being sung during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper at Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, IN.




    Preview of the Lessons

    Amos 6:1-7: Amos warns the Jews of the impending destruction of their kingdom and deportation. He gives reasons for this upcoming destruction. They have confused temporal success with spiritual success. They thought, “If I am rich, have all that I want to eat, sleep in the finest of homes and most comfortable of beds, then surely I am blessed by God, surely I lead a life that is pleasing to God.” They were wrong, and such thoughts led the nation away from God. “Spirituality” was not defined by God in their minds, and such thinking led to the “ruin of Joseph.” “Joseph” means the Northern Tribes.

    1 Timothy 3:1-13: This is a text that should be known by all pastors, for Paul is telling us about the qualifications for the ministry. However, in this day and age when there is so much confusion about the ministry, this lesson is also important for the non-clerical members of the Church to be familiar with. When people don’t know what God expects of his pastors, they can be fooled into accepting any charismatic person as legitimate. Therefore Sunday’s message is based on this lesson and I’ll not write any more about it now.

    Luke 16:19-31: This is the famous story told by Jesus about the poor man Lazarus and the rich man tradition names Dives (which simply means rich). This story gives us a picture of what happens after we die. It is worth noting that Jesus never gives a name to the rich man who was not a believer and ends up in Hell. While everyone in his town probably knew his name and few may have known the name of Lazarus, in the realm of eternity the exact opposite was the case. It is also worth noting that ‘Dives’ never repented, not even in Hell. He continues to think his way is best. People in Hell are not repentant. They continue to think in ways opposed to God. It is also worth noting that God points us to Scripture as the source of salvation. Fallen human nature always wants exciting displays to entice them and reject the humble Means of Grace (Word and Sacrament) by which God has promised to work. In doing so, they reject God in favor of their own devices. These are just a few of the lessons that can be gleaned from this story.


    Sunday’s Collect
    O God, You are the strength of all who trust in You, and without Your aid we can do no good thing. Grant us the help of Your grace that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


    Gradual (Psalm 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!


    Verse (Luke 16:31)
    Alleluia. If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. Alleluia.


    Introit (Psalm 119:73-75; antiphon: Psalm 119:76)
    Let your steadfast love comfort me
    according to your promise to your servant.
    Your hands have made and fashioned me;
    give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
    Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
    because I have hoped in your word.
    I know, O LORD, that your just decrees are righteous,
    and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
    Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
    for your law is my delight.
    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.
    Let your steadfast love comfort me
    according to your promise to your servant.

    Adult Bible Study
    We continue our series “Puzzlers and Questions about the Bible.” The next submission deals with the test of Abraham, when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. The question is: Genesis 22 – Abraham’s heart – He (God) knows all things – maybe He wanted to show Abraham what was in his heart (Maybe God wanted to show the “great cloud of witnesses” around him – and the spirit world of evil – even Satan himself – that his servant would be faithful.)

    The heart of this question is comparing this story with a received doctrine, the omniscience of God. There is no reference to the omniscience of God in Genesis 22. The only reference to God’s knowledge in the story is that after God stops Abraham God says he now knows that Abraham “fears” God. So I am understanding the question as twofold: 1) “Why would God say he now knows something (as if previously he didn’t know it) when he is omniscient?” and 2) “What was the purpose of the test in Genesis 22?”

    The study is named “Why Test Abraham?” Class begins at 9:00 AM. Everyone is invited.

    Well, I hope to see you Sunday.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Survey Closed

    Wednesday after Pentecost 17
    September 22, 2010
    First Day of Fall

    The Lord be with you

    I am officially closing the poll that is located at the top of the right-hand column. The consensus view is that the blog should have more “theological” posts. In response to this I posted an article titled “Teach Us To Pray” this past September 20. Theological posts take more thought (at least for me), therefore I will not be able to put up one a day (much less several!). However I will seek to post something at least once a week. I also recommend reading the “Diggin’ In” article in our newsletter, which is now posted on the blog on a separate page. The tone of the lead article varies from accenting upcoming events to devotional to theological, so you will just have to read it to know what I’ve done each month. The review of the appointed lessons for the upcoming weeks worship service can certainly be considered “theological.” I may also include more posts that are written by other people to increase the number of “theological” articles.

    Thank you to everyone who took the survey/poll. I will put up another one, I just don’t know when.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    LCMS Constitution Amendments & LOG Voters' Meeting

    Wednesday after Pentecost 17
    September 22, 2010
    First Day of Fall

    The Lord be with you

    The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod met in a national convention this past July 10-17. Along with much other work, they passed two constitutional amendments which the congregations of the LC-MS are now being asked to either approve or disapprove. The first one was Resolution 8-10, “To Amend Constitution Articles X and XI.” If approved by the congregations of the LC-MS this would change the name of the office of “Vice-President-Finance-Treasurer” to “Chief Financial Officer” and make the position an appointed position. The second amendment we are being asked to vote on was Resolution 8-27, “To Add a New Article XIV.” This proposed amendment adds clarity to the relationship between the Bylaws and the Constitution of the Synod. When the Synod was formed we actually had no bylaws, only a constitution, therefore there was no need to be clear about which held preeminence.

    Lamb of God has a regularly scheduled Voters’ Meeting on Sunday, October 17. We will cast our vote at that time. Two-thirds of the congregations in the Synod need to approve the constitutional changes for them to go into effect.

    You can get all the official convention news at: http://www.lcms.org/pages/convention.asp?NavID=13524.

    There were other changes made in the constitution at the convention. As the ballots arrive we will consider each one and vote on them.

    Blessings in Christ
    Pastor John Rickert

    St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

    Festival of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
    September 21, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    Today was the Feast Day of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. St. Matthew, also known as Levi, identifies himself as a former tax collector, one who was therefore considered unclean, a public sinner, outcast from the Jews. Yet it was such a one as this whom the Lord Jesus called away from his occupation and wealth to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Not only did Matthew become a disciple of Jesus, he was also called and sent as one of the Lord’s twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). In time, he became the evangelist whose inspired record of the Gospel was granted first place in the ordering of the New Testament. Among the four Gospels, Matthew’s portrays Christ especially as the new and greater Moses, who graciously fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and establishes a new covenant of salvation in and with His own blood (Matthew 26:27-28). Matthew’s Gospel is also well-known and beloved for its record of the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12); for the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 5-7); and for the institution of Holy Baptism and the most explicit revelation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:16-20). Tradition is uncertain where his final field of labor was and whether Matthew died naturally or a martyr’s death. In celebrating this festival, we therefore give thanks to God that He has mightily governed and protected His Holy Church through this man who was called and sent by Christ to serve the sheep of His pastures with the Holy Gospel.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Converse Faith Fair

    St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
    September 21, 2010
    The Lord be with you

    On Thursday, September 2, Converse College held its annual Faith Fair. This is an opportunity for members of local churches to meet students and share information about their church. As usual, Lamb of God participated. Joining me at our table was my wife Kitty and Jim Kimsey. At our table we take prayer requests and offer to pray with any student who wishes to in the chapel behind where we are set up. The two pictures below are of Jim. In one he is giving directions to a student on how to get to Lamb of God. In the other he and a student are talking.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Teach Us To Pray

    Monday after Pentecost 17
    September 20, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” I would have to say that my experience agrees with this observation. Every single Christian I’ve ever met from every denomination, non-denomination, independent, or whatever stripe they might wear, “believes in prayer.” Not only that, but they actually pray (some more than others, of course).

    You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in prayer. Moslems, Jews, Hindus, New Age adherents, and so on, all incorporate prayer to their chosen deities as an important factor in their faith.

    The Bible bears out the importance of prayer. In Genesis 4:26 we read “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” This is a reference to corporate worship, but it is also a reference to prayer, which is part of corporate worship. We see the same in Genesis 12:8, 13:4, etc. Calling on the Lord as reflecting personal prayer can be found in places like Judges 15:18, 28; 2 Kings 20:11, etc. This doesn’t even touch the book of Psalms or the New Testament.

    With this natural inclination to prayer, it comes as something of a surprise when the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). This is even more surprising as the Jews knew scads of prayers. They have a prayer for everything, and they memorize those prayers. This point was humorously made in “Fiddler on the Roof.” There is a scene where someone asks the rabbi, “Is there a prayer for the Czar?” The rabbi, after only a moments pause, says, “May the Lord bless and keep … the Czar far from us.”

    What, then, motivated the disciples who knew how to pray and had been praying since they were small children? Part of that motivation was surely their observation of just how important prayer was in the life of Jesus (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:49; Luke 5:16; etc.). It seems Jesus was forever slipping away to pray.

    It might also have been motivated by the difference between Jesus’ prayers and the prayers they had said and heard so many times before meals, in the temple, and so on. While formal memorized prayers are great, they can also slip into mindless repetition. While Jesus, no doubt, used the formal memorized prayers, he never prayed them mindlessly. Of course the disciples also heard Jesus pray prayers that were not written out ahead of time. He prayed extemporaneously. But whether he was praying extemporaneously or a memorized prayer, Jesus was always praying from his heart.

    The disciples request might also have been motivated by the connection they saw between Jesus’ prayers and his actions. Before he fed the 5,000 he prayed (Luke 9:16). Before he selected his disciples Jesus prayed (Luke 6:12). On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus was praying (Luke 9:28). Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he prayed (John 11:41-42). Before instituting the Lord’s Supper Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:26). In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed (Matthews 26:36). Even from the cross Jesus prayed (Luke 23:34, 46). Other examples could easily be cited.

    From a Christian point-of-view it is also wonderful to notice that this prayer life of Jesus did not cease with his ascension. His prayers continue, and they continue in the same vein as when he walked among us 2000 years ago. His prayers are kingdom prayers for us. In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says, “31Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus prays for Peter that he may be restored and strengthen the Church. In his High Priestly Prayer (John 17) Jesus prays “I am praying for them” (i.e. his Church). He prays that we are kept safe from the “evil one,” that we might be sanctified by his word, and so on. Just so we don’t think that Jesus is praying only for those sitting at table with him, Jesus specifically prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

    That our Lord’s prayers continue in the same vein as when he was walking with the disciples is revealed in Hebrews and Romans. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Notice that Scripture says Jesus is interceding for us. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Paul agrees, Jesus is interceding for us. These prayers for us are kingdom prayers.

    Satan seeks to turn us from the Father. Christ seeks to turn us to the Father. For both it is not only us, but all humanity.

    So the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and the Lord responded with the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus taught this prayer he said, “When you pray say …” (Luke 11:2). Jesus expects us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, but he does not want us to pray it mindlessly. We are to pray it with understanding, from our heart. To help us pray this prayer “from the heart” the Lutheran Service Book provides an expanded form in the fifth setting of the Divine Service (page 215-216) as the Prayer of the Church. I would like to share it with you. P = Pastor; C = Congregation.




    P: Friends in Christ, I urge you all to lift up your hearts to God and pray with me as Christ our Lord has taught us and freely promised to hear us.

    God, our Father in heaven, look with mercy on us, Your needy children on earth, and grant us grace that Your holy name be hallowed by us and all the world thorugh the pure and true teaching of Your Word and the fervent love shown forth in our lives. Graciously turn from us all false doctrine and evil living whereby Your precious name is blasphemed and profaned. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: May Your kingdom come to us and expand. Bring all transgressors and those who are blinded and bound in the devil’s kingdom to know Jesus Christ, Your Son, by faith that the number of Christians may be increased. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: Strengthen us by Your Spirit according to Your will, both in life and in death, in the midst of both good and evil things, that our own wills may be crucified daily and sacrificed to Your good and gracious will. Into Your merciful hands we commend name(’s) and all who are in need, praying for them at all times: Thy will be done. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: Grant us our daily bread, preserve us from greed and selfish cares, and help us trust in You to provide for all our needs. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: Forgive us our sins as we also forgive those who sin against us so that our hearts may be at peace and may rejoice in a good conscience before You, and that no sin may ever frighten or alarm us. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: Lead us not into temptation, O Lord, but help us by Your Spirit to subdue our flesh, to turn from the world and its ways, and to overcome the devil with all his wiles. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: And lastly, O heavenly Father, deliver us from all evil of both body and soul, now and forever. Lord, in Your mercy,

    C: hear our prayer.

    P: We trust, O Lord, in Your great mercy to hear and answer us; thorugh Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    C: Amen.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Installation of Rev. Lawrence M. Eckart

    Friday after Pentecost 16
    Citizenship Day
    September 17, 2010

    The Lord be with you
    This past Sunday (Pentecost 16) I was blessed to participate in the installation service of Pastor Lawrence (Larry) M. Eckart at Island Lutheran Church in Hilton Head Island, SC. There was a good turnout with 136 in attendance, 16 of which were pastors. Below is a picture of the pastors who were present and where they serve. “EM” stands for “Emeritus.” Emeritus is a term which means the individual is retired after long and faithful service and in recognition of that service they retain their title.


    Back Row: Reverends Steve Saxe (Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Greenville), Tim Sandeno (Good Shepherd Lutheran, Charleston), Bill Seaman (SED Mission and Ministry Fascinator), John Rickert (Lamb of God Lutheran, Spartanburg, Circuit Counselor), Dave Panning (Holy Lamb Lutheran, Myrtle Beach), Ed Grant (Calvary Lutheran, Charleston), John Kassouf (Risen Christ Lutheran, Myrtle Beach)
    Middle Row: Reverends Ron Schlegel (EM), John Graudin (EM), Dan Quiram (former Vacancy Pastor of Island Lutheran), Dan Lunick (EM), Larry Eckart (Island Lutheran, Hilton Head Island), Christopher Burger (Holy Trinity Lutheran, Columbia), Ted Crandall (Faith Lutheran, Beaufort), Bob Duddleston (EM)
    Front: Reverend Clifford Gade (EM)

    The reception after the installation was great and the members of Island Lutheran are looking forward to an exciting new chapter in the life of their church. What a wonderful God we have who has preserved the ministry of Word and Sacrament at Island Lutheran.

    Blessings in Christ
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Worship for Pentecost 17 - 2010

    Thursday after Pentecost 16
    September 16, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday is the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the service of Matins (page 219) for our liturgy. The appointed lessons are Amos 8:4-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-15, and Luke 16:1-15. As is standard with the service of Matins, we will not use the Introit. Instead we will use the appointed Psalm, which this week is Psalm 113. The antiphon will be verse 3. The sermon, titled “Handel With Care,” is based on the Gospel lesson. The text will be Luke 16:10. Our hymns will be “Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way” (LSB 857), “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord” (LSB 853), and “Oh, That the Lord Would Guide My Ways” (LSB 707). “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord” is a new hymn for us, and we will sing it each Sunday for the next four weeks, as we learn it.

    The following vide of our closing hymn, “Oh, That the Lord Would Guide My Ways.” It is another video by Rachel, the “Lutheran warbler” For more of her video’s check out her Lutheranwarbler’s Channel.




    Preview of the Lessons

    Amos 8:4-7: This reading is pure “Law.” Amos lived and preached in the 8th century BC. The Israelites had abandoned their faith, but had retained a formal imitation. In-other-words, they thought they could craft their own religion, go through the motions, and God would be pleased (sounds a lot like the USA today). This false doctrine led to self-serving, self-centered, action. If God’s rules got in the way, then God was the inconvenient, even unreasonable, being. The actions specific condemned by Amos are: abuse of the poor and needy (4); disrespect/ignoring worship for business reasons (5), cheating business practices (5), slave trade (6), and swindling (6). If they will not repent, they will be judged, for God will surely remember their actions (7).

    1 Timothy 2:1-15: This letter is basically advice to Timothy from Paul about how to be a pastor. In this reading Paul reminds Timothy (and us) to pray, some of what we are to pray about, and why (1—8). This section also reminds us that Christ is our only mediator, which is why we do not pray to the saints. Paul then instructs women to dress modestly (9-10). What exactly is modes dress varies from culture to culture and age to age, but the general rule is to dress modestly. I guess you could say, if you would be embarrassed if your mother wore this or that item then you should give it a second thought before you put it on. Verses 11-14 deal with a woman’s roll in the Church and is one of the passages often cited to demonstrate that the pastoral office is reserved by God for men. Paul bases this on the “orders of creation,” that is, this is how thing have been arranged from the beginning. Verse 15 has the unusual phrase that women “will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Paul does not mean childbearing somehow grants salvation to women. Not only would this understanding contradict Paul’s plain statements elsewhere in his letters (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; etc.) but also it would mean that women who do not have children, for whatever reason, could not be saved. Paul refers to childbearing because it is as distinctively a female vocation as you can get. A man might clean house, cook dinner, etc., but he will not be able to bear a child. That truly is “woman’s work.” He adds to this “woman’s work” faith, love, holiness, and self-control, further underscoring that childbearing is not a saving event for the woman. It sums up the vocation of women. Paul is saying that faith is exercised in the vocations God grants us. We endure to the end, living the lives God has given us in faith, and inherit eternal life.

    Luke 16:1-15: This reading has the parable of the “unrighteous manager.” This parable disturbs many because the master (who represents Jesus/God) praises the unrighteous manager. To understand the parable you must remember the hero is the master. The unrighteous manager is praised because he trusted the goodness of the master. The parable is followed by encouraging us to not have two masters (wealth and God) for this is impossible. In the end you will have only one master. Trust Jesus/God, not your wealth (or whatever), is the message of the parable and the postlogue Jesus gives. This is why the Pharisees who hear this parable rejected it. They were sure that they could place wealth first in their lives and God would not have any problem with it. Sounds like the Old Testament lesson.

    Sunday’s Collect
    O Lord, keep Your Church in Your perpetual mercy; and because without You we cannot but fall, preserve us from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Gradual (Psalm 34:9, 19, alt.)
    Fear the LORD, you his saints,
    for those who fear him lack nothing!
    Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

    Verse (1 Tim. 2:5-6a)
    Alleluia. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. Alleluia.

    Introit Psalm (113; antiphon: v. 3)
    From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the LORD is to be praised!
    Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD,
    praise the name of the LORD!
    Blessed be the name of the LORD
    from this time forth and forevermore!
    .From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the LORD is to be praised!
    The LORD is high above all nations,
    and his glory above the heavens!
    Who is like the LORD our God,
    who is seated on high,
    who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?
    He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
    to make them sit with princes,
    with the princes of his people
    He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children. 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.
    .From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the LORD is to be praised!

    Adult Bible Study
    We continue our series “Puzzlers and Questions about the Bible.” The next submission was not really a question. It read: “1 Corinthians 15:45 – Living Soul vs. quickening Spirit”. To understand these terms we need to understand the “Adam Typology” Paul uses in the chapter. Therefore I’ve named the study “Adam & Christ.” Class begins at 9:00 AM.

    Well, I hope to see you Sunday.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    A Belated Blessed Holy Cross Day

    Wednesday after Pentecost 16
    September 15, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    Yesterday was “Holy Cross Day.” I was so busy that I didn’t have the time to post something about it. Though largely past over today by most Protestants, this is actually one of the earliest annual celebrations of the Church. It commemorates the traditional date of the discovery of the original cross of Jesus by Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (September 14, 320). In conjunction with the dedication of a basilica at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the festival day was made official by order of Constantine in 335 AD. Helena was a devout Christian. She helped locate and authenticate many sites related to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout the biblical lands. Most of the sites she helped identify continue to be held as authentic by scholars to this very day. Holy Cross Day has remained popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Many Lutheran parishes have chosen to use “Holy Cross” as the name of their congregation. I was a member of one before I became a pastor, and was the pastor of another one in Midland Texas.

    A quick word about Constantine: Many mistakenly believe Constantine made Christianity the State Religion or the Roman Empire. He did not. He did legalize it and patronize the Christian Faith, but no one was required to become a Christian while he ruled Rome.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    A Prayer for our Enemies

    Saturday after Pentecost 15
    September 11, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    A Prayer for our Enemies

    Almighty, everlasting God, through Your only Son, our blessed Lord, You commanded us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who persecute us. Therefore, we earnestly impore You that by Your gracious working our enemies may be led to true repentance, may have the same love toward us as we have toward them, and may be of one accord and of one mind and heart with us and with Your whole Church; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

    This prayer is found in the Lutheran Service Book, page 306.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Islam, 9-11, and Christian Response

    Saturday after Pentecost 15
    September 10, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    Today is the last day of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Moslems. It is known as Eid Al-Fitr. Because Islam uses a lunar-calendar, the exact date changes from year to year. It is a festive day for them. Because it falls so close to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001, some might interpret the celebrations as a celebration of that attack. This is a concern for the Islamic community in the USA, especially the peaceful ones.

    How should Christians respond? Are we to take up arms? Should we burn copies of the Koran? Should we vandalize mosques? Should we drive the Moslems out? Should we kill those who will not leave?

    A few years back there was a popular saying in Christian circles, “What Would Jesus Do?” If we ask that question, the answers to questions like those above become quite obvious.

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48, ESV)

    27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

    32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36 ESV)

    Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV). He did not say: I am the way, the truth, and the death. He did not call his Church to go on military, or para-military, crusades. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV). If you want to be like Jesus, then you will not be a dealer in death. This includes hatred. The Apostle John wrote, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15, ESV).

    Even if the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr today are overlaid with tinges of Islamic triumphalism, as Christians we are called by our Lord to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). To take up the sword (either in reality or metaphorically by shouting insults, or whatever) is to let Satan win.

    As Christians we have the greatest weapon of all time, the Word of Truth (John 17:17). It is with that Word of truth, the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 1:13) that we contend. If you really care for the Moslems in the world, if you really would do as Jesus would do, then you will support efforts to reach Moslems with that gospel of grace.

    If you know a Moslem, and wish to share Christ with them, I would recommend that you learn from Jesus as he encountered a Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:1-45). He listened to her, showed compassion, and gently guided her. So with a Moslem, we should not start out with an attitude of superiority. We should listen. Find opportunities to be compassionate. Find some common ground. When the Holy Spirit provides the opportunity, then share Christ. The relationship should not be one of manipulation, but of friendship. Friends share what is happening in their lives with each other. Friends share what is important to them with each other. Remember, it is never your job to convert anyone. That is the Holy Spirit’s work. The “job” of a Christian is to share the love of Christ.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Worship for Pentecost 16 - 2010

    Thursday after Pentecost 15
    September 9, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    This coming Sunday is the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the third setting of the morning service (page 184) for our liturgy. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. To prepare you can read the section on the Lord’s Supper in Luther’s Small Catechism. The appointed lessons are Ezekiel 34:11-24, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, and Luke 15:1-10. The sermon, titled "The Good Shepherd," is based on the Old Testament lesson. Our hymns will be “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” LSB 611, “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us” LSB 711, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” LSB 793, “Wide Open Stand the Gates” LSB 639, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” LSB 710 and “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” LSB 918.

    The following vide of “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” is by Rachel and can be found on her site “Lutheranwarbler’s Channel.” Her goal is to record everything in LSB for her site. I know that will not happen due to copyright laws (also it is just a tremendous undertaking). What she does post will be a blessing, not only for people who can’t make it to church on Sunday, but also for pastors like me who like to post previews of the upcoming Sunday’s service. Check her sight out. (It is even better if you have a hymnal so you can sing along.






    Preview of the Lessons


    Ezekiel 34:11-24: This is a wonderful passage, filled with shepherding metaphors. Ezekiel is looking forward to the coming of Jesus. Because this text is the foundation of the sermon, I won’t say much. However there is one point easily misunderstood, especially by those who wish to find fault with the Bible. In verses 23-24 Jesus is called “David.” This is a similar use of language as when, in prophecy, John the Baptist was called “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5). When Ezekiel wrote he did not know our Lord would be named “Jesus.” When Malachi wrote he did not know the forerunner of our Lord would be named “John.” David and Elijah typified and pointed to the greater reality of John and Jesus. We still do this, but it often goes unnoticed. On facebook we might type “lol,” which means “laugh out loud.” We might say “he is a Good Samaritan,” but we are not speaking of the person’s national origin. When I was young, Sun Yat Sin was called the “George Washington of China,” but he was never named George Washington. In a Stevie Wonder song he sings about a “ribbon in the sky.” He means a rainbow. Context is always king, and in the context of the Bible we know the prophets were not talking of reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27). The prophets used symbolic language regularly, and that is what they did in calling Jesus “David” and John “Elijah.” That is because the rolls of Elijah and David were similar, but lesser, than that of John and Jesus.

    1 Timothy 1:12-17: Paul is writing to his co-worker, Timothy. He recalls his past, when he persecuted the Church, and sings the praises of God’s grace in Christ Jesus by which he was saved. It was this very passage that inspired William McComb to write the hymn “Chief of Sinners Though I Be,” our opening hymn.

    Luke 15:1-10: Luke 15 is a pivotal chapter in Luke’s Gospel. In it, Jesus tells three parables, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Sons (the Prodigal Son). This reading has the context of the stories (the religious leaders grumbling about the company Jesus keeps – vs. 1-2) and the parables of the Lost Sheep (vs. 3-6) and Lost Coin (vs. 8-9). These two parables strongly accent the passive nature of salvation on our part and the active nature of salvation on God’s part. Now both a lost silver coin and a lost sheep are objects that most anyone would desire to find. This makes the context rather shocking. The very people the religious leaders were grumbling about are represented by these desirable things. If we are to be about the Lord’s work, then the people who society considers undesirable we should view as desirable. God’s love does not stop when you drop below a certain income or educational level. God’s love does not dissipate if a person has an despised job, even if you have a sinful job. (Of course he does want to lead you away from sinful work, but he wants to do that because of his love. We also need to remember that a changed life is not a requirement but a result of salvation.) Jesus teaches that these so-called undesirable people are so desired by God that when any single one of them is brought to faith in Christ there is more “joy in heaven” than there is over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent (vs. 7, 10). In light of the fact that we are all sinners and in need of repentance, this reference to righteous people who do not need to repent might well be referring to self-righteous people who do not think they need to repent, and so smugly look down on others who are repentant. This would also fit the context where the smug religious leaders looked down on the sinners Jesus associated with.

    Sunday’s Collect

    Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd, without whom nothing is secure. Rescue and preserve us that we may not be lost forever but follow You, rejoicing in the way that leads to eternal life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


    Gradual (Psalm 34:9, 19, alt.)

    Fear the LORD, you his saints,
    for those who fear him lack nothing!
    Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

    Verse (Luke 15:10)

    Alleluia. I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Alleluia.

    Introit (Psalm 30:2-5; antiphon: Psalm 30:11a, 12b)

    You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
    O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
    O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
    Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
    For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
    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.
    You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!


    Adult Bible Study

    We will tackle two questions in the next study in our series Puzzlers and Questions about the Bible. They are:

    1. We hear nothing in the Christian world about prophecy but how do we understand 1 Corinthians 13:2, 1 Corinthians 14:4-6, and 1 Corinthians 13:10?

    2. What are examples of the gifts 8, 9, & 10 of 1 Corinthians 12.

    Both of the questions deal with gifts God gives to the Church. Both are asking “What does this mean?” (a good Lutheran question) and therefore are exegetical questions. The first question also says, “We hear nothing in the Christian world about prophecy”. Is this observation accurate? If so, then why this omission? If it is not true, then where can we turn to find solid, biblical information on the topic? The study it titled “Gifts.”

    Well, I hope to see you Sunday.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Pure White Ribbons

    Tuesday after Pentecost 15
    September 7, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    The two books that have recently been reviewed on this blog (Jim & Casper Go to Church and At Home in the House of My Fathers) bring up the whole question of contextualizing the Christian Faith. There is a perennial tension between contextualizing and repristinating the faith. The “contextualizing” camp love passages like “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). The “repristinating” camp love passages like “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

    From my point-of-view, both camps have a good point, and both camps err if they go too far. The repristinators can put a halo around the past, as if everything was grand back in the good-old-days. The contextualizers, on the other hand, tend to throw the past out, often throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Both points can be made by considering hymnody. The music in some churches is dominated by trendy, contemporary words and tunes. Because they reflect modern sensibility, it is quite difficult for many to see their weaknesses. This is the danger faced by the contextualizing crowd. The danger faced by the repristination crowd is to accept anything, as long as it has some age. The following hymn was copyrighted in 1913 by Homer A. Rodehever and found in the hymnal Awakening Songs: For the Church, Sunday School and Evangelistic Services, published by The Rodeheaver Company.
      Have you seen our badges new?
      Pure white ribbons!
      Don’t you want to wear one, too?
      Pure white ribbons!
      They are emblems of a band
      That is working hand in hand,
      And for temperance they stand,
      Pure white ribbons!

      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!
      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!

      They will drive strong drink away,
      Pure white ribbons!
      They will surely win the day,
      Pure white ribbons!
      They will right the wrongs we bear,
      Drive out poverty and care,
      So we’re very proud to wear
      Pure white ribbons!

      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!
      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!

      They make stalwart men and strong,
      Pure white ribbons!
      And they help the world along,
      Pure white ribbons!
      They make sin and suff’ring cease,
      They bring happiness and peace,
      Make prosperity increase,
      Pure white ribbons!

      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!
      Join the ringing chorus, wave them proudly o’er us,
      Pure white ribbons, hurrah! hurrah!
    This song had it all; a contemporary melody, catchy repetitive words, and addressed a hot contemporary issue. Much the same could be said about many of the contemporary “praise” songs. In one hundred years they, like "Pure White Ribbons," will be forgotten by everyone except odd people like me. The weaknesses of "Pure White Ribbons" are obvious to us now, but they were not so obvious a hundred years back. On the other hand, just because it is old and written in four-part harmony, the repristinators would make a serious mistake in bringing this hymn back.

    What is needed in this whole discussion is not posturing, but an agreed upon set of theological standards by which all hymns, praise songs, choir selections, and so on, can be evaluated. If, for example, the standard included a requirement of at least some reference to Jesus, Pure White Ribbons would never have come off the printing press.

    The date something was written is no guarantee that the product is a quality one. It doesn’t matter if that date is 2010 or 1010. The music attached to the words is no guarantee that the product is a quality one. It doesn’t matter if the music is four-part choral or electric guitars and drums.

    So that people will know that I feel a standard should be applied to historical Lutheran material, I’m going to include another hymn. This one is from Common Service Book with Hymnal, which was published by The United Lutheran Church in America, copyright 1917. The hymn, by Johann A. P. Shulz, was written in 1800. It is actually much better than the one I already reproduced, but consider this as you read it: What makes it distinctively Christian? Could a Mormon, Moslem, or Jew sing it with just as much gusto?
      We plough the fields, and scatter
      The good seed on the land,
      But it is fed and watered
      By God’s almighty hand;
      He send the snow in winter,
      The warmth to swell the grain,
      The breezes and the sunshine,
      And soft refreshing rain.
      All good gifts around us
      Are sent from heaven above,
      Then thank the Lord,
      O thank the Lord,
      For all his love.

      He only is the Maker
      Of all things near and far;
      He paints the wayside flower;’
      He lights the evening star;
      The winds and waves obey Him;
      By Him the birds are fed;
      Much more to us, His children,
      He gives our daily bread.

      We thank Thee then, O Father,
      For all things bright and good,
      The seed-time and the harvest,
      Our life, our health, our food;
      No gifts have we to offer
      For all Thy love imparts,
      But that which Thou desirest,
      Our humble, thankful hearts.
    Once again, if the standard included a requirement of at least some reference to Jesus, this hymn would not make the cut.

    If you were sitting in a park singing these hymns and an atheist walking by sat down to listen, there is nothing in the first hymn that would make him think you are an adherent of any faith community whatsoever. After listening to the second hymn, he would know that you were “religious,” but have no idea to which religious community you belonged. However if you sang this final hymn, written 1861 by Ann Warner, there would be no doubt that you were a believer in Jesus.
      Jesus loves me! this I know,
      For the Bible tells me so:
      Little ones to Him belong;
      They are weak, but He is strong.
      Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
      Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!

      Jesus from His throne on high,
      Came into this world to die;
      That I might from sin be free,
      Bled and died upon the tree.
      Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
      Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!

      Jesus loves me! He who died
      Heaven’s gate to open wide!
      He will wash away my sin,
      Let His little child come in.
      Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
      Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!

      Jesus, take this heart of mine;
      Make it pure, and wholly Thine:
      Thou hast bled and died for me,
      I will hence-forth live for Thee.
      Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
      Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!
    (School Carols, Joint Synod of Ohio, # 48, as my copy lacks the title page, I don’t know the publication date.)

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    At Home in the House of My Fathers

    Tuesday after Pentecost 15
    September 7, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    There is a book that I do not own, but want to buy. The following review of the book, published in Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Volume XIX, Number 3 (48) by Albert B. Collver, III of Saint Louis, Missouri, should give you all the information you need to understand why I want to have a copy. (This issue of Logia was published before our convention this past Summer.)

      At Home in the House of My Fathers: Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters, and Addresses from the Missouri Synod’s Great Era of Unity and Growth. Compiled, translated, and annotated by Matthew C. Harrison. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Lutheran Legacy Press, 2009. $19.95

      Among the clamor of the emergent church movement with its makeover of Christianity and the boastful proclamation of pastors and church officials alike that “it’s not your grandfather’s church," a quiet movement has spread through the church. In the early years of the twenty-first century “the most vibrant and serious field of Christian study” is that of the church fathers (First Things, November 2006, 15). Anecdotal evidence suggests that this revival is happening along generational lines, with the younger generations rediscovering their heritage, as the Boomer generation, in particular, seeks something new. This church father study revival is not limited to those fathers of the first five centuries but has extended to cover the fathers of various confessional movements, including Lutherans. The most recent book in the Lutheran tradition from this rediscovery of the church father movement is Matthew C. Harrison’s At Home in the House of My Fathers.

      Harrison’s At Home in the House of My Fathers is a massive tome of more than eight hundred pages, containing nearly one hundred essays, addresses, or sermons. In many cases for the first time, translations of works primarily by the first five presidents of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are made available to readers of English. The book also compiles many works from various sources that are difficult to obtain or are hidden away in the vaults of Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. These works by C.F.W. Walther, Friedrich Wyneken, Heinrich Schwan, Francis Pieper, and Friedrich Pfotenhauer span ninety-one years of the Missouri Synod’s history. If this volume were produced for a jubilee celebration of the synod, a subtitle of the book might have read, “One hundred essays for Missouri’s first hundred years.” The sheer weight of the book, both literally and figuratively, is impressive. It is also surprising that a Synodical publishing house, seminary, or any other official entity did not produce this book. Rather the book is primarily the work of one individual and an independent press.

      An 800-page book can be intimidating to any reader, be it the scholar, interested churchgoer, or busy pastor. The physical layout of the book is very reader friendly. Despite its size, the volume is not cumbersome to hold. The type is clear and of sufficient size not to require a magnifying glass to read. There is a timeline at the front of the book showing when each author held office as Synodical president. Photographs of each president mark the beginning of each section. The approximately ninety-page report of the Walther and Wyneken trip to Germany is broken up with several period pictures and photographs to help illustrate pertinent items mentioned in the text. The book also contains helpful footnotes and annotations explaining or clarifying various items in the text. These refinements greatly increase the accessibility of this book to both the casual reader and the scholar alike.

      With nearly one hundred pieces by several different authors covering almost a century, something of interest can be found for all. Many of the pieces give the impression of having been written yesterday. Topics include many of the issues that have afflicted the Lord’s church since St. Paul worked with the congregation in Corinth, ranging from ecumenical concerns, lay preaching, clergy depression, divisions, confessional allegiance, worship and song, stewardship, and more. What is most helpful is not the discovery that the church in the past suffered from many of the same afflictions that she does today, but rather, the Scriptural, confessional, theological, and pastoral way in which men approached the problems. We would do well to follow in their path. Essays by C.F.W. Walther include “On Luther and Lay Preachers,” “Counsel to Remain in a Corrupt Church: Make Them Throw You Out!”, Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” “Methodist Hymns in a Lutheran Sunday School,” and “The Fruitful Reading of the Writings of Luther. In an essay titled “On the Spiritual Priesthood and the Office of the Ministry,” Friedrich Wyneken writes, “We will not tolerate it that the souls freed and purchased by the blood of Christ be brought again under the yoke of any little Lutheran pope.” Heinrich C. Schwan asks, “Are the best years of the Synod behind us?” Francis Pieper writes on “The Offense of Divisions in the Church.” Friedrich Pfotenhauer bids “Encouragement for Lonely Preachers and Teachers.” In our age of church growth Pfotenhauer addresses “How Did We Grow?” He also warns, “God’s Co-Workers Do Not Lust for Power.” With a synodical convention approaching for the Missouri Synod in 2010, one cannot get more prescient that Pfotenhauer’s Synodical address from 1923 on “Avoiding Political Factions in the Church.”

      All of these church fathers realized the peril and threats that the gospel faced in their day, and addressed these concerns both faithfully and pastorally. They were deeply aware that historically a church body was rarely blessed to retain the pure doctrine of the gospel for more than a generation or two. They sought to remain faithful individually and as a church body by repenting and believing the faith handed down to them by their fathers. When expounding 1 Thessalonians 5:20, “Do not despise prophecy,” C.F.W. Walther said, “Do not despise the writings of the old faithful church fathers. …. Otherwise you disobey the Holy Spirit” (Synodical Conference Essay, Cleveland, Ohio, August 1884). May we too be at home in the house of our fathers who handed us the faith
    The editors of LOGIA describe their journal:

    LOGIA is a journal of Lutheran theology. As such it publishes articles on exegetical, historical, systematic, and liturgical theology that promote the orthodox theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. We cling to God’s divinely instituted marks of the church: the gospel, preached purely in all its articles, and the sacraments, administered according to Christ’s institution. … LOGIA considers itself a free conference in print and is committed to providing an independent theological forum normed by the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. At the heart of our journal we want our readers to find a love for the sacred Scriptures as the very Word of God, not merely as rule and norm, but especially as Spirit, truth, and life that reveals Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – Jesus Christ our Lord …” (1). It comes out quarterly. A one year subscription is $30.00, two years is $56.00. To subscribe contact: LOGIA Business Office, P.O. Box 81, Northville, SC 57465 or logia2@nvc.net.


    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Two New Pages

    Tuesday after Pentecost 15
    September 7, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    Yesterday two new pages were added to this blog. You can find them at the top of the left-hand sidebar. One is titled Cub Pack 1031. On this page you will find information posted about Cub Scout Pack 1031. This pack is sponsored by Lamb of God.

    The second page is titled We Believe. Often such pages are written by whoever the pastor is. I’ve decided to take a different approach. What I’ve done is include excerpts from the Lutheran Confessions. This not only tells people what we believe, but also accents the continuity between Lamb of God and those who have gone before us. This page might be tweaked in the future with other pertinent quotes. The page also has an Introduction, which gives some historical background that will help readers appreciate the overall context of the Lutheran Confessions.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Gregory the Great

    Friday after Pentecost 14
    Commemoration of Gregory the Great, Pastor
    September 3, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    September 3 is set aside to remember Gregory the Great on our Church Calendar. One of the great leaders in Europe at the close of the sixth century, Gregory served in both the secular and sacred arenas of his era. As mayor of Rome, he restored economic vitality to his native city, which had been weakened by enemy invasions, pillage, and plague. After he sold his extensive properties and donated the proceeds to help the poor, he entered into full-time service in the Church. On September 3, 590, Gregory was elected to lead the Church in Rome. As bishop of Rome, he oversaw changes and growth in the areas of church music and liturgical development, missionary outreach to northern Europe, and the establishment of a Church year calendar still used by many church bodies in the Western world today. His book on pastoral care became a standard until the twentieth century.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Worship for Pentecost 15 - 2010

    Thursday after Pentecost 14
    Commemoration of Hannah
    September 2, 2010

    The Lord be with you

    This Sunday is the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the Commemoration of Zacharias and Elizabeth. I will remember this commemoration in my childrens' message.

    We will use the Service of Prayer and Preaching (page 260) for our liturgy Sunday. The appointed lessons will be Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1-21, and Luke 14:25-35. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 1. The antiphon is verse 6. Our opening hymn will be the one we are learning this month, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” (LSB 793). The Sermon hymn will be “Son of God, Eternal Savior” (LSB 842). Our closing hymn will be “God of Grace and God of Glory” (LSB 850). The sermon will be based on our reading from Philemon and is titled “The Bible & Slavery.”

    The following video is of a Methodist congregation singing “God of Grace and God of Glory. This hymn was written by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a man whose theology has been questioned by many, but whose hymns have blessed even more. His hymns often reflect a social concern which is mistakenly overlooked by many in the Church. While Fosdick may well have been wrong about many things, he was dead-on when he felt that being a Christian should impact how we live. The fact that this hymn is in our hymnal indicates that our Synod agrees.




    Preview of the Lessons

    Deuteronomy 30:15-20: This reading is a selection from Moses’ final sermon to the people of Israel. They are powerful words encouraging the Israelites to remain faithful to God. Faithfulness constitutes not only a right confession, but also a life lived in harmony with that right confession. The Israelites did remain pretty much faithful during the lifetime of Joshua, the man who succeeded Moses, but after that it was an up and down history for the next four-hundred years.

    Philemon 1-21: Philemon was a “beloved fellow worker” of Saint Paul’s. Paul was in prison. While there he met Onesimus, a runaway slave, who became a Christian. The owner Onesimus had run away from was Philemon. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, with this letter. This brings up the whole question of slavery. It is a question we will look at in Sunday’s sermon. It is important, not only from an historical perspective, but also from a contemporary point-of-view because there are more slaves in the world today than ever before. One country you can find slaves in is the United States of America. This lesson relates to our other readings in that Paul clearly expects that Philemon's faith will impact how he receives Onesimus.

    Luke 14:25-35: Jesus’ message in this reading is an echo of Moses’ message in our Old Testament lesson. Following Christ is more than a right confession. It is also living in harmony with that confession. Following Jesus is more than just saying the words, “I follow Jesus.” It is putting Christ and his will first. So we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Sunday’s Collect
    O merciful Lord, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all. Grant us courage and strength to take up the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    Gradual (Psalm 34:9, 19, alt.)
    Fear the LORD, you his saints,
    for those who fear him lack nothing!
    Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

    Verse (Galatians 6:14)
    Alleluia. Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Alleluia.

    Introit
    We will be using Psalm 1 for our Introit this coming Sunday. This is a beautiful Psalm about the blessings of being in the Word of God.

    Adult Bible Study
    We continue our series “Puzzlers and Questions about the Bible.” Last week we began our look at the question “Mark 16:18 & Luke 10:19 – What is the intent of these verses? What is the meaning of ‘evil spirits’?” by considering the evidence for and against Mark 16:9ff as being part of Mark’s original Gospel. This Sunday we will actually do the exegetical work the question asks us to do. If you read the passages cited it is clear why someone submitted this question.

    “… they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:18)

    “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19

    The name of our study is “A Deadly Battle - II.”

    Well, I hope to see you Sunday.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Pastor John Rickert