Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 12 - 2011

Wednesday after Pentecost 11
August 31, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost. It also is the Commemoration of Moses. Moses was, of course, the great leader and prophet of the Hebrew people at the time of the Exodus. He is credited with writing the first five books of the Bible. The first book, Genesis, takes place entirely before Moses was born. In fact it ends centuries before he was born. How do you think Moses knew about all these events? Something we often do not consider when thinking of the Bible is the possibility of the writers using sources. However, if we take Luke 1:1-4 seriously, then it is entirely possible for the writers of the Bible to use sources. One such source mentioned by Moses himself is the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14). So, when we say the scriptures are inspired, we do not automatically mean that the writers wrote down visions they received. We mean that the Holy Spirit so guided the process that what was recorded is exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted recorded. While God could have given Moses a vision and revealed the book of Genesis, like he gave a vision to St John for the book of Revelation, the most like scenario is that the Holy Spirit guided Moses in gathering the information from prior sources.

For our liturgy we will be using the service of Prayer and Preaching found on page 260 of the Lutheran Service Book. Our opening hymn will be “Forgive Us, Lord, for Shallow Thankfulness” (LSB 788). Our sermon hymn will be “Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling” (LSB 827). Our closing hymn will be “Jesus Shall Reign” (LSB 832).

The service of Prayer and Preaching is one of those services where we use the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the appointed Introit. This Sunday it will be Psalm 136:1-26 and the antiphon will be verse 26. Our assigned readings are: Isaiah 55:1-5, Romans 9:1-13, and Matthew 14:13-21. The sermon text will be Romans 9:2 and the sermon is titled “A Godly Sorrow.”

The video below is of someone playing “Jesus Shall Reign” on a 92 rank pipe organ. My guess is that Karen will play it a little faster than he does.

“Jesus Shall Reign” was written by Issac Watts (1674-1748). Our hymnal has fifteen hymns by Watts. This may seem like quite a few, until you realize he wrote around 600 hymns! Watts was a brilliant man, also writing theological and philosophical works. Due to the influence of Calvinism in England, the church only sang Psalms in their services, usually only with a few tunes to choose from. This left the singing of the church rather bland and without any real New Testament witness. A young Issac complained to his father about this and his father told him that if he though he could do better then he should. Issac took up the challenge and became the Father of English Hymnody.

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. We are in chapter 7 and will pick up with verse 15. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Isaiah 55:1-5: This is a great passage about the open invitation of the Gospel. As is so common in the prophets, Isaiah gives this message in poetic form. That means the rules of poetry are applied to understand it. One of the keys to understanding poetry is the use of metaphor. Isaiah’s poem sets things up as if in a market place with a dealer calling to those in the market, advertising his goods (water and bread). The big surprise is that the bread and water are free. No one is bared from receiving. But there is also bread that does not satisfy and water that does not quench the thirst. For these things people actually spend money. In the Old Testament the longing for God, his wisdom and mercy is often associated with longing for food and water (Psalm 36:8; Proverbs 18:4; Jeremiah 2:13; etc.). Here in Isaiah’s passage, the free gift of God’s grace is depicted as bread and water that satisfies. False teachings, which lead to false hope, are depicted as bread and water the people buy, but which does not satisfy. The true bread and water is linked to the covenant God made with David and is for all people. David’s descendant (Jesus) will be a leader and commander for the peoples, not just the Hebrew people. Because of the work of Jesus people from all over the globe will become believers.

Romans 9:1-13: Paul speaks of his sorrow over how many of the Jewish people had not received faith in Jesus. It is especially mind-boggling in light of the great blessings God had bestowed on them. However Paul is quick to point out that this is not a failure on the part of God or his word. The true Israel is composed of those who have faith in Christ. Being a physical descendant of Abraham does not make a person part of Israel. As this lesson serves as the foundation for the sermon, I’ll say no more.

Matthew 14:13-21: This is an account of one of the times Jesus fed a multitude of people with minimum supplies. Of course we can see a tie-in with the Old Testament lesson. Isaiah sees a time when the Lord will provide and Jesus provides. With this in mind we can remember what Jesus said earlier in Matthew, that he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (5:17). We can also see this fulfilling the “Law and the Prophets” in reference to the giving of manna and water to the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 16; Numbers 20). Jesus acts as he does because of compassion for the people who had tracked him down (14). This gives support for “compassion” ministries like soup kitchens, clothing closets, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Boarders, and so on. It is interesting that Matthew does not mention that Jesus was teaching the crowds. Now I’m sure that Jesus did teach the crowds. The evidence elsewhere that Jesus regularly taught is overwhelming. The question then is why is this left out? Perhaps the Spirit is telling us that “compassion” ministries are valid as primary efforts. When the opportunity to share the faith presents itself, we certainly take advantage of it (1 Peter 3:15). However it is not a failure if the opportunity does not present itself. Some have observed that the disciples gather up twelve baskets of leftovers. Counting Jesus, though, there are thirteen mouths to feed (not counting others who were often with Jesus and his disciples). The idea drawn from this is that the need to share is built in. This thought does tie in with the compassion theme. One of the big things this lesson teaches is that Jesus exercises the power of God over the material realm. Any miracle over the physical realm accents this truth and can bring us extra assurance that Jesus is the Incarnate God.

• We will be receiving Jill Snow and her son Joshua into membership in the worship service Sunday.

• The LWML will have a business meeting following the worship service.

• Monday, September 5, is Labor Day. The banks and schools will be closed.

• The September newsletter has been posted on this blog. Just click on the link in the left hand column.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Something to Think About

I don't know, but this video does give you something to think about.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." John Philpot Curran in a speech upon the Right of Election in 1790

"But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government." -- Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." -- Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884), abolitionist, orator and columnist for The Liberator, in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852, according to The Dictionary of Quotations edited by Bergen Evans

(By the way, contrary to popular opinion, Thomas Jefferson didn't make a quote similar to this.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 11 - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 10
August 25, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. It also is the Commemoration of Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian. Augustine (354-430) was the Bishop of the city of Hippo in North Africa and is considered one of the most eminent, if not the most eminent, of the Latin Church Fathers. You are considered a “Latin” Church Father if you wrote in Latin. You are considered a “Greek” Church Father if you wrote in Greek. Augustine’s sometimes wild younger years are covered in his book, “Confessions,” which is on our book club’s reading list for the coming year. His voice was decisive at several Church Councils. Though his father didn’t become a Christian until shortly before his death, his Mother Monica was a committed Christian whom he praised in his writings. This coming Saturday, August 27, is set aside to commemorate her. Ambrose (340-397), bishop of Milan, was instrumental in the conversion of Augustine. Ambrose is commemorated on December 7 and is one of the four saints we will learn more about in this year’s Mid-Week Advent series – The Saints of Advent (the other saints are John of Damascus, Nicholas of Myra, and Lucia). Each of these heroes of the faith is commemorated during the Advent Season. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk. Though this order was not formed until 1256, they were strongly influenced by the thought of Augustine. Through this connection Augustinian thought had a real impact on the Reformation. There is so much more that can be written about Augustine that I will try to put up a separate post about him.

We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper Sunday. To prepare you can use the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” found in your copy of Luther’s Small Catechism. We will be using the first setting of the morning service found on page 151 of the Lutheran Service Book. Our opening hymn will be “Father Most Holy” (LSB 504). Our sermon hymn is the one we are learning this month, “Forgive Us, Lord, for Shallow Thankfulness” (LSB 788). Our closing hymn will be “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (LSB 528). Our distribution hymns will be “Lord Jesus, Think on Me” (LSB 610), “What Is This Bread” (LSB 629), and “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 637).

The assigned lessons for Sunday are Deuteronomy 7:6-9; Romans 8:28-39; and Matthew 13:44-52. The sermon is once again based on the lesson from Romans as we work are way through the book this summer. It is titled “Does God Want to Make You Rich?” The text is Romans 8:28.

The video below of “Father Most Holy.” It is preformed by the Augustana Choir & Trombone Quartet. The hymn was originally written in the 10th century in Latin. The arrangement is, obviously, different from what is in our hymnal but the tune is the same.

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. We are in chapter 7, which is still part of the Sermon on the Mount. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Deuteronomy 7:6-9: The name “Deuteronomy” means “Second Law” and comes from the restatement of the Ten Commandments found in chapter 5, as well as the general review of the laws and exodus history found in the book. The name the Jewish people use for the book is translated into English as “These are the words [of Moses],” which are the opening words of the book. The book is set up as several addresses, or sermons, given to the Hebrews just prior to them entering the Promised Land. Peter comments on verse 6 (1 Peter 2:9-10), which is a passage loved by many believers. This lesson is pure Gospel while the text surrounding it is basically Law. In this passage Moses makes it clear that the selection of Israel had nothing to do with some moral excellence on their part, or some superior military might, or some other such thing. They were chosen by the grace of God alone. With Peter applying this thought to us it becomes clear that we also have not merited our salvation in any fashion. It is a gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We are, of course, called to live in a fashion pleasing to God, but that is not an effort to earn salvation or God’s grace but a response to the grace and salvation God has granted to us.

Romans 8:28-39: This is a passage of exceptional comfort when we face various trials and tribulations. However, in some parts of the American church, it is badly twisted, especially verse 28. In Sunday’s sermon we will examine exactly what God promises here. This is very important. If you think God has promised “A” when he hasn’t, then you can feel like God has let you down when he doesn’t give you “A.” In reality it is the teachers of false doctrine who have let you down, but the devil seems determined to not let people recognize this. For more on this passage come to Lamb of God Sunday and hear the sermon.

Matthew 13:44-52: This lesson continues with the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13 that we have been reading for the last couple of weeks. The BIG difference between these parables and the ones we have had so far is that Matthew recorded Jesus’ explanation of the ones we have already looked at but most of them in Sunday’s reading have no such explanation. This reading has the parables of the Hidden Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net, and the New and Old Treasures. Sometimes people act like understanding the parables of Jesus is soooo easy. Usually they are thinking of the parables that Jesus explained. The parables in this reading have been understood variously over the years and so perhaps we should not be so smug. Many look at these parables as indicating that we should seek the Kingdom of God. However in the parables that Jesus explained in this chapter the main actor is always Jesus. So it seems to me better to think of the seeker in the first two parables as Jesus, who gives up everything to acquire the treasure and pearl, and the treasure and pearl as us. The parable of the Net is explained and is similar to the parable of the weeds and wheat. Both emphasize that there will be a final judgment. The final parable considers the disciples as “scribes trained in the kingdom” and compares them to a “master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” This is basically summing up all the parables. The old treasure is a reference to the revelation of God found in the Old Testament. The new treasure is the revelation of God found in Jesus Christ and exemplified by the parables recorded earlier in the chapter.

• There are no special events scheduled for Sunday.

• This coming Thursday Junior Confirmation class begins for the year. For more information read the newsletter.

• Also on Thursday pastor will be out of town for the day because of school. You can read about it in the newsletter.

• The September newsletter has been posted on this blog. Just click on the link in the left hand column.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 10 - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 9
August 18, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using Matins for our liturgy (page 219). In this service we use the appointed Psalm instead of the Introit for the Day. This week the appointed Psalm is Psalm 119. This happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible. We will not use the entire Psalm. Instead verses 57-64 have been selected for our use. The antiphon will be verse 89. The other appointed lessons are: Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. The sermon, again based on the epistle lesson, is titled “Prayer in a Fallen World.” The text is Romans 8:26. Our opening hymn will be LSB 788, “Forgive Us, Lord, for Shallow Thankfulness.” This is a hymn selected by our hymnal review committee as worth learning, so we will be using it over the next four weeks. I am unable to find a video of the hymn, or one of the hymn that shares the same tune (LSB 764, "When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love"). The sermon hymn will be LSB 497, “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord.” Our closing hymn will be LSB 571, “God Loved the World So That He Gave.” These two hymns were rated as “Well-Known” by the hymnal review committee.

“Forgive Us, Lord, for Shallow Thankfulness” was written by William W. Reid, Sr (1891-1983) and first published in 1965. Reid served as the director of the department of news service of the Methodist Board of Missions and was also, at one time, the executive secretary of the Hymn Society of America. This is another great example of the ecumenical nature of hymnody. I doubt that this hymn will ever become wildly popular in America. Not because of the music, but because of the words. Just in general we don’t like to think of ourselves as needing forgiveness because that means we’ve done something wrong. We rather like to think that God is always patting us on the back and telling us just how wonderful we are, just as we are; there is no call to discipleship, no call to change. Reid, however, goes the extra mile and has us asking God to forgive us for many of those invisible sins (like shallow thankfulness) which are so much a part of American life.

The video below of “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord,” is from a worship service at St. Lorenz Evangelical Lutheran Church. It includes the words. I’ve used a number of the posted hymns sung by this congregation in the past, so you just might recognize the altar. The hymn is built on a pre-Reformation German antiphon, which Martin Luther expanded into the current three verse hymn.

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. We are starting chapter 7, which is still part of the Sermon on the Mount. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Isaiah 44:6-8: This is an exceptionally powerful passage and deserves to be cross-stitched and hung in every Christians’ home. The opening two lines identifies the Father as “the LORD, the King of Israel” and the Son as “his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts.” The next two line are picked up by John in his Revelation, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” So we see in the Old Testament a plurality in the One God and that this Being is the only true God. He is our Redeemer and our King. Verse 7 tells us that our Triune God is completely unique. Only the Lord knows the future and reveals it to us. If you doubt that, just look at all the failed and failing predictions that come out each year from so-called psychics. Verse 8 tells us that, based on the fact that the Triune God is the only real God, those who trust in him need not be afraid. He is the Rock, the only rock really, on which humanity can depend and not be disappointed.

Romans 8:18-27: We ended our reading last week in Romans with Paul telling us that we are heirs with Christ. He continues this week by pointing us towards that inheritance, which he places in stark contrast with the present corrupted creation. It is that future hope towards which we strive. However we live now. So the Spirit aids us, especially in this reading in our prayer life. As this reading forms the foundation for Sunday’s sermon I’ll say no more now.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43: Matthew 13 has a series of parables about the Kingdom of God. Last week we looked at the Parable of the Sower. This week we have the Parable of the Weeds. Jesus tells this and other parables to the crowds. Later his disciples ask him about the meaning of the parable, which is why there are omitted verses in the reading. We hear the parable, then skip foreword to Jesus’ explanation. This parable would actually be easy to misunderstand if Jesus hadn’t explained it to his disciples. He tells us that a sower goes out to plant his field. The sower is Jesus. Because of the Parable of the Sower we would be inclined to see the “good seed” as the word of God, but Jesus tells us point blank that it is “the sons of the kingdom.” Christians are the good seed here. The field is the “kingdom of heaven.” Many are inclined to see this as the Church, but Jesus tells us point blank that “the field is the world.” So we have a parable about the Church in the world. How can the world, with all its sin, be considered the Kingdom of Heaven? In this case we have the Kingdom considered from God’s omnipotent rule. Jesus says in the last chapter of Matthew that “all” authority in heaven and on earth are his, not just some. It is an “enemy” that sows “bad seed.” This underscores the point that all the sin, hatred, oppression, evil, suffering, and so on, in the world are not God’s fault. The devil “sows” his “seed” which are those who work against Christ and his Church. They bring suffering into the world, and usually blame Christ and his Church for it. It is often said by detractors that, if God is real, why does he let suffering continue? This parable gives at least one answer. It is to preserve the salvation of the elect. Let us say that you really love or admire someone, but that person is not a believer. If God determined to punish all unbelievers before the end, you would see something horrible happen to them. This just might make your faith waver. You might say, “Why didn’t God give them more time to repent?” So God gives them a lifetime to repent. There is a reckoning, though. It is the harvest day in the parable. For those who resist to the end the call of Grace, it is a graceless eternity of misery for them. For those who receive the gift of salvation, it is an eternity joy.

• Don’t forget that this Saturday is “Game Day.” Come to church at 2:00 PM for Pictionary and refreshments. The more people we have the more fun we will have. So bring a friend.

• I will meet with the parents and students for this year’s Jr. Confirmation class briefly after the worship service in the library this Sunday. We will be selecting a day and time for the classes, and material will be handed out.

LitWits will meet Sunday at 6:30 PM. The book we will be discussing is “I Can’t Wait For Heaven,” which is a quick-read novel. Everyone is welcome.

• Information for the September newsletter is due Sunday.

• The backpacks have been delivered. As always, they are greatly appreciated.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mother of Five Jailed in Pakistan for being a Christian

August 11, 2011

From Janet Parshall on the radio: this story.

Bibi, a mother of five, has been in prison for two years… she was sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly speaking ill of Muslim Prophet Muhammad. She was accused of blasphemy by fellow Muslim field co-workers after they refused to drink water that she fetched for them. They complained that “the water container was touched by a Christian.” Christian Post

According to VOM (Voice of the Martyrs), on June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”

Worship for Pentecost 9 - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 8
August 11, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the third setting of the morning service with communion (page 184). The appointed lessons are: Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. The sermon, again based on the epistle lesson, is titled “Led by the Spirit.” The text is Romans 8:14. Our opening hymn will be LSB 825, “Rise, Shine, You People.” This will be the last week we will sing this hymn (at least for a while). The sermon hymn will be LSB 496, “Holy Spirit, Light Divine.” Our closing hymn will be LSB 507, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Our distribution hymns will be LSB 626, “Come, Let Us Eat,” LSB 744, “Amazing Grace,” and LSB 712, “Seek Ye First.”

The video is of the sermon hymn, “Holy Spirit, Light Divine.” It is being sung by St. Lorenz Lutheran church. The video includes the prelude and so the congregation doesn’t begin to sing the hymn until over three minutes into the video. The hymn was composed by Andrew Reed (1788-1862), the son of a watchmaker. His father had hoped Andrew would also become a watchmaker, but the work wasn’t to his taste. In stead he wanted to become a minister, which is what he did. Originally this hymn had eight verses. Most hymnals include four of them. Our hymnal includes five. The verse we have retained but dropped by most, is verse 3:

Holy Spirit, pow’r divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
In Thy mercy pity me,
From sin’s bondage set me free.

I think it is worth keeping. What do you think?

We will resume our adult Bible class Sunday, picking up in the Sermon on the Mount. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Isaiah 55:10-13: Isaiah is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament” because of his frequent and explicit prophecies about Jesus. In this short reading Isaiah is speaking of the power of God’s Word. He does so through metaphor. The word is like rain, which accomplishes it purpose of watering the earth. God’s Word accomplishes its purpose, which is to build the Church. The word is one of the chief means by which the Spirit converts and strengthens us (the Sacraments are the other Means of Grace). Verses 12 and 13 speak in terms of Paradise restored.

Romans 8:12-17: In the “continuous” reading from Romans found in our lectionary, Romans 8:1-11 is skipped over. It is an important bridge to Sunday’s lesson. Paul, in Chapter 7, had written about the struggle all Christians have between our Old and New Man (nature, creature). He ends by reminding us of the victory we have in Christ, the victory we were united with in our baptisms. Because of these objective realities Paul begins Chapter 8 by telling us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He is moving on to life in the Spirit, so we need to remember the source … God’s grace. Romans 8:1-11 brings up an important point in understanding the Bible, Context is King. In Lutheran circles we are used to using the words “Law” and “Gospel” with very specific theological meanings. There are plenty of examples in the Bible where these words are associated with our standard understanding. However in Romans 8:1-11 the word “Law” is used in a broader way. Some have suggested that a better way to translate the Greek here is with the word “principle.” That works in some of the cases, but not all and, if you translate the Greek sometimes with “law” and sometimes with “principle” the English reader might miss the tight development of thought Paul is presenting. Pay attention to the context and you should do fine. Another challenge is found with the words “flesh” and “spirit.” Many tend to understand them as “corporal” and “non-corporal.” This is clearly not the understanding here. Paul says his “corporal” Roman readers are “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” as he writes to them. “Flesh” is still being used in an “ethical” way, meaning non-regenerated, non-Christian, non-baptized, learning and adhering to the ways of the world, and things like that. Being “in the Spirit” is the opposite.

The big point in these verses is that, because we are all sinners, we are unable to save ourselves. Therefore the Father sent his Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order to condemn sin through his atoning work. The result is that we baptized children of God have been set free from a life of death and are called to live according to the Spirit. We are called to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and not on the things of death (the ways of the world, the fallen flesh, the devil, etc.) Setting ones minds on the things of the Spirit involves being in the word, devotions, worship, the Lord’s Supper, a good hymnal, and the like. When Paul writes, “You … are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” he is again drawing us back to our baptisms. It was then that we died to sin and were raised by the Spirit to new life. There are more baptismal references here also. If someone asks you, “Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit,” the biblical answer is “Yes, it happened when I was baptized by water and the word in the name of the Triune God.”

Sunday’s lesson begins with the words, “So then, brothers …” What that means is that what follows in the reading is built on what Paul has just said (actually on all he has said for everything has led up to this point in the book). So if we want to truly understand what Paul means when he says we are led by the Spirit, we need to keep what he has already said in mind.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23: The placing of this lesson is interesting. In Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus’ mother and his brothers (actually half-brothers) were seeking to speak with him. Jesus counters by pointing to his disciples and saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” How do we know what that will is? Do we rely on our own feelings? Do we rely on our own moral compass? Do we rely on the corporate sense of right and wrong prevalent in our current culture? Do we rely on some charismatic preacher who can sway thousands? Matthew 13 has a series of parables about the Kingdom of God. The general feel then is that the Spirit works through the word to make disciples, to make us our Lord’s “brother, sister, and mother.” Interestingly, then, the chapter ends with Jesus being rejected by the people of Nazareth because of Jesus’ words. Chapter 14 begins with the death of John the Baptist. Those who reject the Word do not remain passive. The particular parable recorded in this lesson has been called the Parable of the Sower. Once again it accents the power of God’s word and is a great companion passage to our Old Testament lesson.

The Parable of the Sower is so familiar that we can miss some of the outlandish aspects of it. For example the Sower casts his seed recklessly about. He almost seems to be aiming at places where the seed will not grow, or grow well. No farmer was ever so careless. The seed, though, represents the Word of God by which the Spirit works faith in hearts. The message is that we do not determine who will or will not be drawn to faith. Our job is to broadcast the word. The Spirits job is to cause the seed to take root. Sometimes preachers focus on the different types of ground the seed is cast on and ask, “What kind of ground are you?” The implication is that if we are not good soil we should do something about that to change the type of soil we are. However dirt never changed itself. The active agents in this parable are the Sower and the Seed. The parable doesn’t teach us to somehow change the type of dirt we are (which would be a “my good works add to my salvation" theology). The point is that we are dependent on the Sower and the seed for salvation and the fruit we bear. The parable also reveals that there is a whole host of threats arrayed against the disciple, seeking to rob us of our faith. We need to be grounded in the Word to remain faithful. As Jesus says, “the one who hears the word and understands it, he indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

• Sunday is the last day to return your Backpacks. I will take them to Jesse Boyd Elementary School on Monday (which is also the first day of classes). Most of the backpacks have already been returned and checked. I wish to thank everyone in advance for helping with this annual project of ours. In the service Sunday we will dedicate these backpacks and supplies at the beginning of the service, asking God to bless the children who receive them and help their families to see this as an extension of God’s love in Christ Jesus for them.

• I noticed a fare amount of the baked goods from last Sunday’s LWML Bake Sale was in the refrigerator. I assume that means that they will be available this Sunday. So bring some extra cash Sunday.

• Our Cub Council will meet Sunday after church. We will be planning the coming year’s activities.

• I have set Sunday, August 21, as the time for a meeting with the parents of our 2011-2012 Jr. Confirmation class. We will be settling on day and time for Jr. Confirmation for the year and student material will be handed out. The meeting should last no more than fifteen minutes.

Well, I pray I'll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Myrtle Beach

Wednesday after Pentecost 8
Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
August 10, 2011

The Lord be with you

This past Sunday I worshiped at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Myrtle Beach fulfilling part of my responsibilities as Circuit Counselor. On this trip I remembered to bring my camera so below is a picture of Pastor Kassouf in front of his church. They have both a tradition liturgical service and a contemporary service and offer the Lord’s Supper in both services each Sunday.

After the service Kitty and I went to lunch with Pastor Kassouf, his wife Fran, and several members of their congregation. One of those members was Joe Ruisi, a retired editorial cartoonist. I spoke with him about my D.Min project and how I was finding it hard to find an artist. To cut to the chase, he has agreed to do the art work for me. Now my stations of the cross will have something much better than stick-figures. What a blessing. It is so special when the Lord works and we can see it.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr

"Early in the third century AD, Lawrence, most likely from Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage Church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the 'treasures of the Church.' Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year AD 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young Church. Almost immediately, the date of this death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church." Treasury of Daily Prayer

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 8 - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 7
August 4, 2011

The Lord be with you

Once again this Sunday Pastor James Roseman will be filling in for me (Pastor Rickert) as I visit one of our sister congregation in our circuit as the Circuit Counselor for Circuit 18. Rev. Roseman has shared the Lord’s word with us on several occasions and everyone agrees that his sermons are excellent.

This coming Sunday is the Eight Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching for our liturgy (page 260). In this service we use the appointed Psalm for the Day, which is Psalm 145 (antiphon v. 19). The other appointed lessons are: Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:14-25a, and Matthew 11:25-30. At this point in time I have not heard from Pastor Roseman what his sermon title is or if he desires any changes in the hymns I have already picked out. All this is to say that some of the following information is tentative.

Our opening hymn will be “Today Your Mercy Calls Us” (LSB 915). The sermon hymn is “The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace” (LSB 580). Our closing hymn is the one we are learning this month, “Rise, Shine, You People” (LSB 825). The video below is of our opening hymn. This is one of those great hymns that has been in each of our English hymnals. It was first published in 1861 by Oswald Allen. Allen was an Englishman, a banker, and a life-long invalided.

As noted above, I will not be at Lamb of God this week. My adult Bible class, which is going through the Gospel of Matthew, will therefore be taking a break. We will resume Sunday, August 14, at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Zechariah 9:9-12: Zechariah lived and worked just after the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity. He encouraged the people in the rebuilding of the temple and looked forward to the coming of Jesus. The Lutheran Study Bible (Concordia Publishing House) has Luther’s excellent summary of the book and, if you have a copy of this study Bible, I recommend reading what Luther said.

Our reading is often read on Palm Sunday, as it is a prophecy of this event. As is so often the case with the prophets, Zechariah uses poetic language. In verse 10 we are told that the Lord will “cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem.” Ephraim was the leading tribe of Israel and Jerusalem was the leading city of Judea. By using these two names the Lord points to all the people of God. Instruments of war have no place in the kingdom of God. Instead Christ comes to bring peace. This kingdom will extend to the “ends of the earth,” meaning pretty much what Jesus said in the Great Commission. The “blood of my covenant” (v. 11) refers to the blood Jesus shed on the cross and by this our enemies are defeated, we are set free and we are restored.

Romans 7:14-25a: Paul describes the struggle that all believers face – we want to live a God pleasing life but “something” inside us rebels against the will of God. That “something” is called in this reading “sin” and “flesh.” The word “flesh” is being used, as the theologians say, in an “ethical” way. What that means is that Paul is not talking about being human. Jesus was human but did not have sin dwelling in him. Paul means our fallen or corrupted human nature. On the Last Day this “sin nature” will be removed, leaving us fully human without any adulterations brought on by sin. In other words, we will be purely human as God intended us. As baptized Christians, united with Christ, we have a new nature, one that delights in living as God intended. That is to say, we are truly human according to our new nature. As Paul presents it, these two natures war within us. Our victory is found in Jesus Christ (v 25). Some might wonder why Paul doesn’t expand on this more. The reason is that he has already done so. We are united to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus by our baptism, as Paul has already said. We live in the power of the Gospel, as Paul has already said. The strength to live according to our new nature is found in our connection to Jesus. We are powered by the forgiveness of Christ.

Matthew 11:25-30: Chapter 11 is taken from our Lord’s “preaching tour.” The chapter opens with John the Baptist, who is in prison, hearing about what Jesus is doing and he sends some of his disciples to Jesus with a question. Jesus sends comfort to John, assuring him (and John’s disciples) that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. After these envoys leave, Jesus speaks of the importance of John and how the leaders of the Jews simply cannot be satisfied with the Kingdom of God because that Kingdom does not conform to their sinful desires. Jesus then speaks of all the cities he has visited that rejected him. They are more hard of heart than Sodom, and their fate will be worse. This brings us to verse 25.

Here we have some of the sweetest words for Christians, but repulsive words to those who reject Jesus. The Gospel of Christ has always “connected” with those who see their spiritual poverty. The proud have always had problems with it. That is because the Gospel makes us completely dependent of Jesus. Hear Jesus is praying and thanks the Father for having revealed his truth to “little children.” Helpless children are not, typically, the class of people the rich and powerful identify with. Jesus also claims here that the only way someone can know the Father is if Jesus reveals the Father to them. Again this is not something the self-reliant, pull yourself up by your own bootstrap, people of the world like. Surely, they think, I must do something to merit God’s approval. Also the exclusive claim of Jesus, that he is the only way to know the Father, is rejected by many who arrogantly claim that Jesus is being arrogant. But these words have always had a great appeal to those “who labor and are heavy laden.” To all of these Jesus promises rest. It is no wonder that when the Gospel first penetrates a new area it is typically the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the poor, who first come to faith.


• This will be the last Sunday to pick-up a backpack for our annual “Adopt a Backpack” effort. The backpacks are in the hallway and supply lists are on the bulletin board above the backpacks. (There are seven backpacks left.) These backpacks are to be filled with the supplies and returned to church no later than Sunday, August 14. Pastor will deliver them to Jesse Boyd Elementary School that week.

• The LWML Bake Sale is this coming Sunday. Lots of good “eats” will be available and supporting the missions of our LWML is always a God pleasing thing to do. So bring some extra cash Sunday.

Well, I pray we all have a wonderful time with the Lord Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert