Thursday, October 27, 2011

Worship for Reformation Sunday - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 19
October 27, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday will be celebrated in most Lutheran churches around the globe as Reformation Sunday. It is also celebrated by some whom are not Lutherans but recognize the huge impact Luther and the Lutheran Reformation has had on subsequent generations of Christians. It is celebrated on October 31, or the first Sunday prior to October 31 if that date does not fall on a Sunday. October 31 was selected because that is the anniversary of the date Martin Luther, in 1517, nailed his famous 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Most consider this event as the catalyst for the Reformation.

In spite of how much Lutherans love Reformation Day/Sunday, it is not a major Church festival but a “commemoration.” (All dates that are denomination specific are commemoration, at least in our tradition.) Therefore, because this is also a fifth Sunday and we normally do not celebrate the Lord’s Supper on fifth Sundays, we will not be celebrating the Sacrament in our worship service. This, however, will not stop us from having a very special worship service. The liturgy is designed with the Reformation specifically in mind, but accents the reality that the Church is always in need of returning to the Word, to Her Lord, to the truth. In other words, we always need a re-formation into the image of Christ.

The liturgy will be spoken. Our hymns will be LSB 549 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name;” LSB 660 “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”; LSB # 655 “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word;” LSB 644 “The Church’s One Foundation;” and LSB # 656 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Our offertory will be LSB # 851 vs. 1,2, 4 “Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us.” The appointed lessons are: Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; and Matthew 11:12-19. The sermon text will be Revelation 14:6. The sermon is titled: “The Word of the Lord Endures Forever”

The video below is of the LutheranWarbler singing and playing Luther’s setting of “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” This will be the setting we will be using Sunday. The other well know setting was made by J.S. Bach (a great Lutheran in his own right), but it seems fitting that we use Martin’s setting as he wrote the hymn and it is Reformation Sunday.

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons
Revelation 14:6-7: Reformation Day/Sunday is one of those rare days when our first lesson is not from the Old Testament. This is the standard first lesson for Reformation. It describes an angel flying at the apex of the sky who proclaimed an “eternal gospel.” This passage became associated with the Reformation because many identified this angel with Luther. The word “angel” means messenger, so you can see how people made the association. Boy did Luther have a message to proclaim! Those who made the association were not far off. The mistake comes if you identify this angel only with Luther. All who proclaim the eternal Gospel are represented by this heavenly being as they proclaim a heavenly message, a message that opens the doors of glory.

Romans 3:19-28: Paul makes a clear distinction between Law and Gospel as it relates to our salvation. Our good works can not save us. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. This was, of course, the central insight of the Reformation. Because we are natural born legalists, the desire to make our works count towards our salvation is always a danger. This reading is a strong tonic that keeps us on track.

Matthew 11:12-19: Two main points can be drawn from this reading. First, John the Baptist marked the end of the Old Testament era. With Jesus something new has been started by God, a new age, an age of fulfillment. The prophets looked forward to Jesus and the dawn of this age. We are blessed to live in it. The second point easily noticed is that Jesus and his followers are always rejected. It is not because we are obnoxious. If that was the case then the lost would have some justification for mistreating Christians. It is because we stand for the truth of God’s love for humanity found in his Son, our Lord Jesus. This the world, the devil, and all that is opposed to God, cannot abide.

• Tomorrow (Friday, October 29) the Lutheran Lecture Series is giving a presentation titled “God’s Gift to Mankind—Marriage”. It will be at Augustana Lutheran in Hickory. Presenters include two of the Synod’s VPs and a professor from Concordia Theological Seminary. More information can be found in Sunday’s bulletin.

• There are no activities planned for after church Sunday.

• Our regular mid-week events (Cubs, Catechism class) will meet this coming week.

• There will be a “clean-up” day Saturday, November 5, beginning at 10:00 AM.

• Daylight Savings Time ends November 6. The board of evangelism will also meet on the 6th.

• We will also celebrate November 6 as All Saints’ Sunday. Names of those who have departed and gone to be with the Lord will be remembered in our prayers. A sign-up sheet is in the narthex for names of people you would like remembered.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 18 - 2011

Wednesday after Pentecost 18
October 19, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. For our liturgy we will be using the first setting of the morning service (page 151). This is a communion service. To prepare you may review what Luther’s Small Catechism teaches concerning this sacred meal.

Our appointed lessons are: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13; Matthew 22:34-46. The sermon will be based on the Gospel lesson and the text will be Matthew 22:45. It is titled “The Conundrum of Jesus.” Our opening hymn will be “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (LSB 549). Our sermon hymn will be “O Word of God Incarnate” (LSB 523). Our closing hymn will be “Thanks to Thee, O Christ, Victorious” (LSB 548). Our distribution hymns will be “The Lamb” (LSB 547), “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me” (LSB 756), and “Wide Open Stand the Gates” (LSB 639).

The video below is of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” performed by the LutheranWarbler.

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. Sunday we will pick up at the end of chapter 9. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18: Leviticus is somewhat difficult for the modern reader. In this chapter the Lord speaks to Moses, and Moses speaks to the people. The phrase “I am the Lord” is scattered throughout the chapter, not only marking significant items and breaks, but clearly marking the chapter as a unit, to be considered together. In other words, the various parts relate to each other. God is addressing the Israelites as a worshiping community. Though much of what he tells them relates to everyday life, they are united before the altar of the Lord. Therefore verses 3-8, skipped in the appointed lesson, deals with keeping the Sabbath. Verses 9-14 treats with how we live with others, both neighbors and “foreigners” (i.e., not a direct descendant of Abraham). So these verses also deal with the Ten Commandments. Verses 15-18 continue with how we relate with our neighbors. Courts should be fair. We should not slander others. You shall not hate others, take vengeance, etc. Our relationship with others is summed up in verse 18 with the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” Some may wonder how to love others. In the Bible love is defined by action. If we live according to the Ten Commandments, we are loving our neighbor as ourselves. It all flows from us being the corporate worshiping community.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-13: This is a passage that all pastors should read and take to heart. Paul speaks of his time in Thessalonica and any member of the church could challenge his memory. Paul writes confident that no one will. It was not an easy ministry, but the labor produced the church at Thessalonica. Clearly a strong bond developed between Apostle and congregation. And where does Paul put the credit? Does he thing he has the magic touch? No! He caps it off with these words, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the world of God, which is at work in you believers.” There is a month of sermons in that one verse!

Matthew 22:34-46: This reading falls nicely into two parts. The first has a Pharisee testing Jesus by asking what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answers with a catechism lesson, quoting two Bible verses that every Jew had memorized as children (Deuteronomy 6:54; Leviticus 19:18). Like today, in Jesus days there were teachers that selected obscure Bible passages and exalted them as some special key to the scriptures (I’m reminded of the book The Prayer of Jabaz). A God pleasing life isn’t built on such esoteric passages, but on the clear and well know ones. I can’t help but feel the Pharisee was a little embarrassed. In the second half of the reading Jesus returns the favor and asks a question of his own. This one is based on the identity of the Christ. The “testers” were unable to give any answer to the meaning of the Bible passage Jesus asked about. I will not share any insights on it as it forms the foundation of Sunday’s sermon. You will just have to come to church and find out.


• The ladies of the LWML raised over $700.00 in their auction this past Sunday.

• We have a voters’ meeting scheduled for this coming Sunday, after the worship service.

• Information for the November newsletter is due Sunday. .

• Our Cubs will meet on Tuesday.

• Our Junior Confirmation Class will meet on Wednesday. Don’t forget your movie review.

• Remember Friday (October 29) the Lutheran Lecture Series is giving a presentationtitled “God’s Gift to Mankind—Marriage”. It will be at Augustana Lutheran in Hickory. Presenters include two of the Synod’s VPs and a professor from Concordia Theological Seminary. More information can be found in Sunday’s bulletin.

• November 6 (the first Sunday in November) will be celebrated as All Saints’ Sunday at Lamb of God. Names of those who have departed and gone to be with the Lord will be remembered in our prayers. A sign-up sheet is in the narthex for names of people you would like remembered.

• November 9 is also when Daylight Savings Time ends. (Fall back.)

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 18 - 2011

Thursday after Pentecost 17
October 13, 2011

The Lord be with you

Well I’m back from the Professional Church Workers Conference and I must say it was excellent. I picked up a number of excellent ideas that just might work well right here in Spartanburg, which I will be sharing with the leaders of the congregation. If they agree, they we will share them with the rest of the congregation. Now, I’m glad to be able to have time to post these worship notes.

This coming Sunday is the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. For our liturgy we will be using Matins (page 219). This is a non-communion service and uses the appointed Psalm instead of the appointed Introit. That Psalm is Psalm 103:1-12 (antiphon verse 13). Our other appointed lessons are: Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35. This will mark our final sermon based on Romans and means that the following week we will “catch up” with the rest of the LC-MS in reference to our readings. The sermon is titled “Things Indifferent” and the text is Romans 14:1. Our hymns will be “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me” (LSB 756), “Heavenly Hosts in Ceaseless Worship” (LSB 949), and “Earth and All Stars” (LSB 817).

The video below is of our closing hymn, “Earth and All Stars.” This hymn was written by Herbert Brokering in 1964 for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Regarding its contents Brokering said, “I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which merge in the life of community. So there are references to building, nature, learning, family, war, festivity.” To put this another way, our Christian faith is “incarnational,” impacting our whole life, and this hymn reflects this truth. You will easily recognize the influence of the hymn being written for the anniversary of St. Olaf’s when you sing verse 5:

Classrooms and labs!
Loud boiling test tubes!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band!
Loud cheering people!
Sing to the Lord a new song! (Refrain)

Sunday we will continue our trip through Matthew in our adult Bible class. Sunday we will pick up at 9:18. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Genesis 50:15-21: The last part of the book of Genesis is sometimes called the “Joseph Cycle.” That is because Joseph is the featured character. It begins with Joseph as a young boy who is just about all that a parent could want. Therefore his brothers are jealous of him. To get him out of the picture they sell him into slavery. Taken into Egypt things go bad for him because he holds to his principles. Based on false testimony, he is thrown into jail. By God’s grace, Joseph is able to interpret dreams. Pharaoh has a dream that no one can interpret except Joseph, so Joseph is released from jail and rapidly rises to a position of power second only to Pharaoh himself. A famine strikes Egypt and Canaan but due to Joseph’s skills there is enough food in Egypt. Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt to buy food and come face to face with Joseph. Surprisingly, Joseph forgives them and provides for them, setting them up in some of the richest grazing lands in Egypt. Our reading begins many years after these events. Jacob (Israel), the father of Joseph and his brothers, dies. The fears of the brothers resurface. Has Joseph been holding a grudge and only holding off until dad dies? They appear before Joseph and seek to placate him. To their surprise, Joseph has not only really forgiven them, but has understood their history as the action of God. Though the brothers had meant evil, God had intended all these events for good, for the salvation of many people, Egyptians, the children of Israel and ultimately the ancestor of our Lord Jesus. Two big messages we can learn from this lesson is that God really is ultimately in control, even when everything seems out of control, and the importance of forgiveness. Joseph is able to forgive because he understands and believes that “all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 14:1-12: This is our last reading from Romans. Actually Romans has two more chapters but the lectionary doesn’t cover them at this time. In this reading Paul deals with a very common human problem, being unnecessarily judgmental. I say “unnecessarily” because there are certainly times when passing judgment is called for. However those times tend to be far fewer than most people imagine. At Lamb of God we use a form of the historic western liturgy for worship. Are those who do not use this worship tradition “wrong?” This type of question applies to all kinds of things in our lives. Are you “right” if you pick school A and “wrong” if you pick school B. What about something like the Lutheran Malaria Initiative? Or some Christians “right” when they support this very important effort by our denomination and other Christians “wrong” if they do not support it? Certainly we may judge that a person is “wrong” if they choose as a career path the professions of prostitution or a pimp, but is such clarity there for each individual in reference to their job search? In other words, is there one “right” job for each person and we are “wrong” if we don’t find it? These are the sorts of questions we will explore in Sunday’s sermon.

Matthew 18:21-35: In this reading Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness and therefore this reading dovetails nicely with our reading from Genesis. In the story a king is settling accounts with his servants. One servant owes him 10,000 “talents.” A “talent” was equal to the wages a common laborer would make in 20 years. While the debt is impossibly high, the servant nonetheless begs to not be thrown into the debtors’ prison but be granted more time to repay. The King does the unbelievable and forgives the entire debt. This same servant then comes upon another servant that owed him 100 “denarii.” A “denarius” was equal to the daily wage of a laborer. Clearly this is also a large sum, but not impossible to pay. It equals about what a laborer would earn in four months. With the very same words the first servant used before the king, the second servant asked for more time to repay. The first servant denies the request and has the second servant thrown into the debtors’ prison. This heartless act was reported to the king who was outraged. The king’s mercy surely should have motivated the first servant to show mercy to the second servant. The king, therefore, repeals the forgiven debt of the first servant and has him cast into prison. In short we see that the mercy of God in Christ Jesus towards us is the power and motivation to forgive those who have sinned against us. Therefore Paul can remind us that Christian Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NASV).

• Sunday we will have a Pot-Luck luncheon following the worship service. Be sure to plan to join in the fellowship. Coupled with the pot-luck luncheon …

• We will have the LWML auction Sunday. There are always great items to purchase and the proceeds go towards the many projects our ladies support.

• Sunday, at 6:30 PM, our book club (LitWits) will meet and discuss the book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. While it is a quick read, it is packed with thought provoking images. There is still time to read the book, but even if you don’t read it you are still more than welcome to join the group. One question we can try to answer might be, “Why did Lewis name the book ‘The Great Divorce?’”.

• Our Elders will meet on Monday.

• Our Cubs will meet on Tuesday.

• Our Junior Confirmation Class will meet on Wednesday.

• On Sunday, October 23, we have a voters’ meeting scheduled, but I seem to recall that it has been postponed until November and there will be a council meeting on the 23rd. We will see if what I have written down or what I remember is correct.

• Looking further into the month, don’t forget the Lutheran Lecture Series presentation, October 29, titled “God’s Gift to Mankind—Marriage”. The presentation will be at Augustana Lutheran in Hickory. Presenters include two of the Synod’s VPs and a professor from Concordia Theological Seminary. More information can be found in Sunday’s bulletin.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Motivation for the Christian Life

October 11, 2012
Commemoration of Philip the Deacon

The Lord be with you

Appreciating with all his heart the liberty from sin, death, and damnation which his Savior purchased for him at the cost of His own life, the Christian feels that a whole lifetime of service will not repay even a part of that which God has given him as a free gift. He, therefore, is a good steward, not because he desires to win a reward, but because he considers himself under grateful and perpetual obligation to Him by whose mercy he has been blessed beyond measure. In other words, not what he hopes to possess, but what he already has, is the mainspring of his stewardship.

Karl Kretzxchmar
The Stewardship Life

Blessings in Christ
Pastor Rickert

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg

Saturday after Pentecost 16
October 8, 2011

The Lord be with you

Yesterday was the commemoration of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg (1711-1787). Who, you ask? Henry Muhlenberg was an early American Lutheran pastor, church organizer, chronicler and “patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America.” He was the founding pastor of many Lutheran congregations, mostly in Pennsylvania, a key organizer of the first Lutheran synod in America, and he was instrumental in creating the first American English Lutheran liturgy. You can read more about Muhlenberg here. Below is a quote from him.
    Error must be refuted. Since our church members dwell among all kinds of hostile sects, controversy cannot be avoided; yet you should not mention names. The matter should be so treated that the unholy founts of heresy and sectarianism are exposed with due humility and moderation. As many parties dwell together, intermarry, and have business relations with one another, a dangerous indifferentism easily arises. Therefore it is necessary at all times to point out [doctrinal] differences, as otherwise the suspicion of indifference may also fall upon the preacher. Carefully inquire into the moral condition of the members, and let it be a guide in the preparation of sermons. Above all, let us sow with tears, and have the edification of each individual at heart, and take heed unto ourselves and unto the doctrine."
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert