Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blasphemy and Free Speech

Blasphemy and Free Speech

A growing threat to our freedom of speech is the attempt to stifle religious discussion in the name of preventing “defamation of” or “insults to” religion, especially Islam. Resulting restrictions represent, in effect, a revival of blasphemy laws.

Few in the West were concerned with …

To read this timely article from Hillsdale College (Michigan) follow the link.

Worship for Lent 2 - 2012

Wednesday after Lent 1
Leap Day
February 29, 2012

The Lord be with you

The season of Lent has begun. This season precedes the Easter season. It is actually 46 days long (counting from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday), but we say it is 40 days long. That is because Sundays are not counted. The early Christians remembered with special devotion the forty hours during which our Savior lay in the tomb. The period of commemoration was later extended to two weeks (the Passiontide), and eventually, in recognition of the forty days of our Lord’s temptation, to forty days. Lent is a season of self-reflection and repentance. In recognition of this, many give something up for Lent. In-other-words, they fast from something. Since Sundays were never fast-days, the extra days were added so there would be forty fast-days, broken up by Sundays when the people did not fast. This is reflected in the official names for these Sunday. They are Sundays “in” Lent, not Sundays “of” Lent. The name Lent is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring, the time when the days lengthen.

During Lent many church omit the singing anything with the word “Alleluia” in it. Also omitted are other expressions of joy, like the hymn of praise. These all return on Easter.

There are some who feel the focus on repentance, the suffering and death of Jesus, and other such Lenten themes are somehow sub-Christian. To such people I ask that they return to the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Notice how much space is given to the final week in the life of Jesus. Nothing compares. Remember also that, while obviously the events being described all happened before Easter, they are recorded after Easter. That is to say, after Easter the Gospel writers felt is was vitally important for our spiritual life to record this information. To be frank, an Easter without a Good Friday is an empty holiday from a biblical perspective.

This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday in Lent. For our liturgy we will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching, which begins on page 260 of the Lutheran Service Book. Our opening hymn will be “Lamb of God” (LSB 550). Our sermon hymn will be “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (LSB 765). Our closing hymn will be “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” (LSB 685). The appointed lessons for the day are Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; and Mark 8:27-38. Prayer and Preaching is one of those services where we use the appointed Psalm instead of the appointed Introit for the day. Sunday’s Psalm is Psalm 22:23-31. The antiphon is verse 22.

Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 8:34. The sermon is titled “Take Up Your Cross.” In it we will be exploring the meaning of bearing your cross.

In our prayers Sunday we will remember the Lanka Lutheran Church (LLC) of Sri Lanka and their President, Rev. Govindan Nadaraja. We will remember Anthony DiLiberto, our missionary in Peru. We will remember the persecuted believers in Egypt and our sister congregations: Prince of Peace, Charlotte, NC; Resurrection, Charlotte, NC; Bethel, Claremont, NC; Holy Cross, Clayton, NC; and Good Shepherd, Charleston, SC. We remember the orphans in Haiti that our youth are seeking to help. We also will continue to remember those who are trapped by the modern practice of slavery, and those who have fallen victim to our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality.

I must admit, I’m a little frustrated. I want to post a video of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” which is the sermon hymn. While many have recorded it, they can’t seem to do it “straight.” The words are by William Cowper, and the tune in our hymnal if from The CL Psalmes of David, Edinburgh. It was first published in 1774. Three of Cowper’s hymns were included in The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship reduced than number to two, and Lutheran Service Book has only this one. If you are going to include only one of his hymns, this is the one you want to pick. However, if you don’t know Cowper’s story, you might not know why this is the hymn to pick. You can tell from many of the videos and arrangements on YouTube, that many don’t know Cowper’s story. The following is from The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal.
    William Cowpder (1779-1823) was born in his father’s rectory at Berkhampsted, England, on November 26, 1731. Although Cowper’s mother died when he was only six years old, she had become a real friend and companion to him. When he received a picture of her in his sixteenth year, Cowper composed some lines to her memory which are indeed a high tribute. At school Cowper was wretched because of his extreme shyness and eccentric character. Later at Westminster he adjusted himself a little better. Here Cowper studied law. At this time he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora Cowper, and wrote love poems to her. Her father forbade her to marry Cowper, but she never forgot him and in later years secretly aided his necessities. Fits of melancholy began to seize Cowper with greater regularity. His nomination to the Clerkship of the Journals of the House of Lords proved a calamity. The thought of a public examination disturbed him to the extent of overthrowing his reason and driving him to attempted suicide with “laudanum, knife, and cord.” The delusion of his life now appeared – a belief in his reprobation by God. Under the wise and Christian treatment of Dr. Cotton at St. Albans this malady passed away. In general the next eight years were happy ones for Cowper – full of the realization of God’s favor. This was the happiest, most lucid period of his life. The first two years of this period were sepnt at Huntington, where Cowper formed the life-long friendship of Mrs. Unwin, the wife of the Rev. Morley Unwin. The remainder was spent at Olney with John Newton, with whom Cowper collaborated on the justly famous Olney Hymns. But the tension of the Calvinist exercises, the despondence of Newton, and the death of Cowper’s brother brought another attack of madness and attempted suicide. For sixteen months Cowper lived under this dark cloud. Mrs. Unwin kept him occupied with small tasks and suggested that he do some serious poetical work. The malady gradually left Cowper by the time his cousin, Lady Hesketh, brought him to Weston in 1786. But the death of Mrs. Unwin brought “fixed despair” of which Cowper’s last poem, the Castaway, is a terrible memorial. From this melancholy Cowper never recovered. He died at East Dereham on April 25, 1800.
“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was published under the title “Light out of Darkness.” The title evidently had reference to Cowper’s mental affliction. While suffering a lighter “attack” he wrote the hymn for his own spiritual strengthening. James Montgomery says it was written “in the twilight of departing reason.” From Cowper’s troubled soul came a hymn that has brought comfort and assurance to many a troubled soul since.

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. This Sunday we will pick up at Matthew 15. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16: This is the account of God making the covenant of circumcision with Abraham. It actually encompasses the entire chapter. As the story unfolds, in the chapter, God appears to Abraham when he is 99-years-old, identifies himself, tells Abraham to “walk before him and be blameless” as Abrahams responsibility under the covenant. Then Abraham is given promises, has his name changed from Abram to Abraham, and given the sign of circumcision, to be performed on the eighth day. Abraham finds the promise of a child by his aged wife Sarah hard to believe, and pleads that the promise may be transferred to his son, Ishmael. God says no, the future child of Sarah would be the one to bear the promise, however Ishmael is not left out. He is also given a blessing from God. After God leaves, Abraham has his whole household circumcised. A couple of things jump out in this story. First, the initiative is God’s. Second is that the children are brought into the covenant relationship at the age of eight, long before they can make a decision or commitment. This again accents God’s grace. Third, the miraculous nature of the promised birth of Isaac foreshadows the miraculous birth of Jesus. Neither Sarah nor Mary should have been able to conceive, though obviously the miracle about the conception of Jesus is greater than the miracle with the conception of Isaac. Finally, the shedding of blood in circumcision in order to enter into the covenant pointed forward to the shedding of blood by our Lord Jesus that we might enter into our covenant relationship with God.

Romans 5:1-11: About these verses Martin Luther wrote, “Paul comes to the fruits and works of faith, such as peace, joy, love to God and to every man, as well as confidence, assurance, boldness, courage, and hope amid tribulation and suffering. For all this follows, if faith be true, because of the superabundant goodness that God shows us in Christ, causing Christ to die for us before we could ask it of him, indeed, while we were still enemies. Thus we have it that faith justifies without any works; and yet it does not follow that men are therefore to do no good works, but rather that the genuine works will not be lacking.”

Mark 8:27-38: In verses 27-30 we find Mark’s account of Peter’s great confession that Jesus is “the Christ.” In verses 31-33 Jesus begins to speak of his upcoming death at the hands of the religious authorities. Even though Jesus clearly says he will rise after three days, the disciples must have missed this important point. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke the Lord, telling him his plan was seriously flawed. Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” What strong words! But it is true, human nature always seems to seek the easy, comfortable way. In verses 34-38 Jesus tells us that the life of the Christian is not shaped by the same concerns that shape the life of the non-Christian. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus.


• The March newsletter has been posted. Just click on the “newsletter” link found in the left hand side-bar. The calendar of events for March can be found in the same side-bar. .

• Our Wednesday Lenten services have begun. We again have a 12:15 service and a 7:00 PM service. The evening service is preceded by a soup supper, beginning at 6:15 PM. Our focus this year is our new Stations of the Cross. Join us each week as we travel with our Lord his Way of Sorrows.

Well, I pray I’ll see you both Sunday and Wednesday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle - 2012

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
February 24, 2012

The Lord be with you

Matthias is one of the lesser-known apostles. He was appointed to the apostolic band to replace Judas, who betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. His appointment, and the qualifications for being an apostle, is found in Acts 1:15-25. An apostle has to be a witness of Jesus’ ministry from his baptism to his ascension, as well as a witness of the Resurrection. Two men met the requirements, Joseph Barsabus and Matthias. When you realize that there were a number of women present that met these qualifications but did not have their names put forward, it seems another qualification was to be a man.

Details about Matthias are hard to come by. A very early tradition states that both Matthias and Joseph were part of the group of 70 men Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1-20. All traditions agree that he died a martyr’s death, probably by a double bladed ax.

The traditions give a number of choices for his field of ministry. Some suggest he went to Ethiopia; others say he went to Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion. The most likely place for his death is at Colchis in Asia Minor, around 50 AD. The church of St. Matthias as Trier, Germany, claims the honor of being the final burial site for Matthias the only one of the Twelve to be buried in Europe north of the Alps.

His Feast Day was one of the last of the Apostles to be added to the calendar, occurring in the eleventh century. No one seems to know why February 25 was chosen. Back in 1969 the Roman Catholic Church changed their remembrance of Matthias from February 25 to May 14. Most have not followed their example.

Matthias served the Lord faithfully, but he was not one of the original Twelve. When his name was called, though, he was ready. Even after he was appointed to be one of the Twelve, he does not get directly referred to again in the Bible. So we too may serve the Lord far from the limelight. When we are called, Matthias reminds us to be ready. Even if our moment is only a moment, and then we serve the Lord for the rest of our years once more far from the limelight, we know that the Lord remembers our service. Matthias was a faithful servant of the Lord.

Prayer: Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose Your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve; Grant that Your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr

Commemoration of Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr
February 23, 2012

Polycarp was born around 69 AD and was a central figure in the Early Church. Having been instructed by the Apostle John himself, Polycarp is a principle link between the Apostolic Age of the Church and Christian life of the Second Century. In his youth, Irenaeus knew him. He was also a close friend of Ignatius of Antioch and it was probably at Polycarp’s request that Ignatius wrote his famous epistles to the various churches in Asia Minor. Only one of Polycarp’s letters has survived, his Epistle to the Philippians. In it he warns against the rising Marcionite heresy, a dualistic faith that rejected the Old Testament and distorted the New.

During much of his life, Polycarp was in many ways the leading figure of Christianity in Asia Minor, and he was referred to with great respect and affection by Irenaeus and Ignatius. As a very old man Polycarp was arrested. Great effort was expended to get him to recant his faith in Jesus and to offer a sacrifice to Caesar. Polycarp refused. For his faithfulness he was burned alive in a great bonfire. An account, written by eye-witnesses, has survived, the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The day was February 23, 155. The Martyrdom of Polycarp continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.

Polycarp has the distinction of being the very first non-biblical saint to be commemorated. The Martyrdom of Polycarp reports that the faithful would assemble at the bishop’s grave “as occasion allows” to celebrate “the day of his martyrdom as a birthday.”

Polycarp certainly knew the meaning of Christ’s words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). He laid up treasures in heaven that far surpassed any gain he might have been able to acquire on this earth. So, not only does he encourage those who are persecuted for the faith, perhaps even forfeiting their lives, but he also encourages us to value that which has true worth.

Prayer: O God, the maker of heaven and earth, You gave boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior and steadfastness to die for the faith to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Poly carp. Grant us grace to follow his example in sharing the cup of Christ’s suffering so that we may also share in His glorious resurrection; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stations of the Cross Blessed and Posted

Transfiguration Sunday
February 19, 2012

The Lord be with you

In our worship service today, we use the Rite of Blessing for Artwork to dedicate our Stations of the Cross. In spite of the dreary weather, after the service they were posted outside. (Thank you Bob, Scott, Boyce, Philip and Gregory for doing that.) Devotional booklets, keyed to our Stations, have been placed in our public literature box, which is next to our mailbox on Fernwood-Glendale Road.

These Stations are posted outside so that anyone may drop by and use them for reflection, meditation and prayer. The devotional booklets have additional biblical references and short prayers that reflect themes in the different stations. The booklets may be kept or returned to the literature box, as the individual desires. They will remain up until Easter.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor

Commemoration of Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor
February 18, 2012

The Lord be with you

Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony. He was baptized the next day, November 11, which is St. Martin’s feast day. As was the custom of the day, Martin was named after the saint who was honored on the day of his baptism.

More has been written about Luther than any other human that has ever lived, except our Lord Jesus. For me to do justice to him here is impossible.

As a youth Luther showed remarkable promise and his father, a miner, had high hopes for him to become a successful lawyer. To that end he sent Luther to the best schools he could, and Luther excelled. However, after a near death experience in 1505, he changed his career path and joined an Augustinian friary. He was ordained a priest April 3, 1507. He received his doctorate in theology in October 1512. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to be the professor of biblical studies at the newly formed University of Wittenberg. Luther was a popular professor and was one of the key reasons why Wittenberg was the largest University in Germany when he died.

Luther’s scriptural studies led him to question many of the Roman Church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences (remission of the punishment believed Christians had to endure in purgatory before being allowed into heaven). His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treaties (and much more).

He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. Luther died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.

Prayer: O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day, and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Anyone who knows much about Luther, knows that I’ve skipped over much that would man anyone a person for the history books. You might wish to read a biography on Luther.)

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Too Important Not to Share

Worship for Transfiguration Sunday - 2012

Commemoration of Philipp Melanchthon (birth), Confessor
February 16, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday has two names, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany and Transfiguration Sunday. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is always Transfiguration Sunday just like the First Sunday after the Epiphany is always the Baptism of Our Lord. I guess it isn’t hard to guess what the Gospel lesson will be about this Sunday.

We will be using Matins for our liturgy (page 219). During the service, right after the offering and just before our prayers, we will be blessing our new Stations of the Cross. The liturgy we will use for this is found in the Lutheran Service Book: Agenda. This is a book pastors have which includes liturgies for rites and such which happen in churches, but not very often (like installing a pastor, laying a cornerstone, blessing art work or a home, blessing new hymnals or other worship books, installing a new Synod President, and so on). As Saint Paul told Timothy that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4) it is most appropriate that we receive these Stations of the Cross with thanksgiving, blessing their use with the word of God and prayer as we begin our general prayers. The liturgy will be printed out on an insert. After the service they will be posted in your yard for all to use.

Our appointed lessons for Sunday are: Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:1-6; and Mark 9:2-9. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 50:1-6 (antiphon verse 2). Our opening hymn will be “‘Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here,” (LSB 414). Our sermon hymn will be “Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory,” (LSB 416). Our closing hymn will be “Within the Father’s House,” (LSB 410). The sermon will be based on Mark 9:4 and is titled “The OT Fulfilled.”

In our prayers Sunday we will remember the Gutnius Lutheran Church (GLC) in Papua New Guinea (the word Gutnius means “Good News”) and their Head Bishop, Rev. David P. Piso. We will remember again Jack and Cathy Carlos, missionaries in Guinea West Africa. We will remember the persecuted believers in Comoros (a series of islands in the India Ocean off the coast of Africa) and our sister congregations: Resurrection, Cary, NC; Redeemer, Catawba, NC; Advent, Chapel Hill, NC; Abundant Live, Charlotte, NC; and Bethlehem, Aiken, SC. We remember the orphans in Haiti that our youth are seeking to help. We also will continue to remember those who are trapped by the modern practice of slavery, and those who have fallen victim to our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality.

The video below is of our sermon hymn, “Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory,” being sung by a congregation in Michigan. Words are included.

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. This Sunday we will pick up at Matthew 14:1. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Exodus 34:29-35: This is the story about Moses, when he came down from Mt Sinai with the replacement set of the Ten Commandments. To everyone’s astonishment, his face was glowing after being in the presence of God. After this Moses took to wearing a veil over his face. However he would take the veil off when he went into the tabernacle to meet with the Lord, replacing it after he relayed to the people what God had said. Moses doesn’t say if his face ever ceased to be radiant. This is a traditional Old Testament lesson for Transfiguration Sunday for two reasons. First, Moses is one of the two Old Testament figures that appeared with Jesus when our Lord was transfigured, talking about his upcoming crucifixion. The second reason is that Moses himself, to a lesser degree, was transfigured. Moses, though, radiated a borrowed light, something he received from being in the presence of God. We might think of it as the light of the moon, which is a reflection of the light from the sun. Jesus, on the other hand, simply let his own glory, which he had with the Father and the Holy Spirit before all time, shine through a bit. In this look at Moses we also get a peek at what we will be like when we live in the presence of the Lord in the world to come.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:1-6: This is the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. Paul is building on our Old Testament lesson. Most understand verse 13 as indicating that the radiance of Moses faded over time, being reenergized each time he entered the presence of the Lord. Moses certainly does not deny this and so the natural reading of 2 Corinthians 3:13 should stand. Paul uses this event as a metaphor in two ways. First, those who do not understand and come to faith in Christ continue to have a veil over their hearts. Second, the glory that Moses received is a foretaste of the glory we will all have in the resurrection. It is a glory believers in Christ currently possess in beginning stages. As we grow in our faith we are actually growing in that glory, being transformed ourselves into the image of Christ, who is the perfect image of the Father. Paul goes on to say that this inspires us in our ministry. Inspiration is a tricky thing. If we are inspired by something unworthy, the inspiration can lead to great disappointment. We are inspired by that which cannot disappoint, our Lord Jesus and the promises attached to him. Therefore rejecting the shameful things of the world is not a burden, but a blessing, a freedom those outside the faith lack. Also, living for Christ is not a burden, but a blessing. It is a freedom those outside the faith lack.

Mark 9:2-9: This is Mark’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Many of the details we automatically think of about this even are omitted by Mark. Mark is, in fact, the shortest of the four Gospels and one of his features is the speed in which he presents things. Here we are told precisely that this took place six days after Peter’s great confession and Jesus begins to tell his disciples more plainly about his upcoming death and resurrection. Omitted are details like Jesus was praying when his transfiguration began and Moses and Elisha were talking about Jesus upcoming death and resurrection. In Mark’s account Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up the mountain. Jesus is transfigured, shining with some of the radiance which is his be virtue of being God, the two great Old Testament saints, Moses and Elijah appear and they have a conversation, Peter blurts out his idea of building structures for the three, the Father’s voice comes from a cloud, identifying Jesus as His Son and telling us to listen to him, the disciples are terrified by everything, then, suddenly, Moses and Elijah are gone. Jesus tells the three disciples to not tell anyone about the event until after his resurrection. One thought in Mark’s text I will not be bringing out in the sermon is the whole idea of glory. The disciples see what is going on and Peter wants to erect three tents. Peter, no doubt, thought he might capture the moment. This would be something spectacular. But Jesus returns to his mundane appearance and teaches about his death and resurrection. This is where the glory of God is truly manifested. Not so much in radiant splendor, but in the suffering and death of Jesus.


• Information for the March newsletter is due Sunday. You can put it in Kitty’s box, hand it to her, or e-mail it to her.

• As mentioned above, our Stations of the Cross will be dedicated in the worship service Sunday. After the service they will be mounted on polls in our yard. Devotional booklets will be placed in our literature box, down by our mailbox, to guide anyone interested through them as a form of personal devotion. This can be an excellent exercise for you to participate in with a friend who needs to know more about Jesus and the central place he has in the Christian Faith.

• Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We will have two worship services. The first is at 12:15 and lasts about half an hour. It is great for those who don’t like to drive at night or wish to worship on their lunch hour. The second begins at 7:00 PM, and lasts 45 minutes or so. This is preceded by a Soup Supper, which begins at 6:15 PM. (Our youth will be selling desserts to raise money for the orphans in Haiti.) The focus of the homilies will be our Stations of the Cross.

Choir practice will resume, following the evening Ash Wednesday service.

• Today is the Commemoration of Philipp Melanchthon (birth), Confessor. He was truly a remarkable man. A post has already been placed on this blog.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Commemoration of Philipp Melanchthon (birth), Confessor - 2012

Commemoration of Philipp Melanchthon (birth), Confessor
February 16, 2012

The Lord be with you

Philipp Melanchthon was born February 16, 1497 as Philipp Schwarzerd. Following the practice of many scholars of the day, Philipp translated his last name, which means “black earth,” into its Latin equivalent. He died April 19, 1560. I don’t know why the framers of our liturgical calendar chose his birthday into this world, instead of his birthday into heaven, to commemorate him. Perhaps it is because April 19 can also be Easter.

Melanchthon was a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar. His influence in the Lutheran Reformation is, perhaps, second only to Martin Luther. When I say “brilliant,” I’m not exaggerating. At the age of 12 he was completely fluent in Latin. At 13 he had added the language of Greek to his skill set. After attending Latin school in Pforzheim, he attended the University of Heidelberg and then the University of Tübingen, where he received his master’s degree in 1516. He soon became known as one of the top humanist scholars in the world. In 1518, at the age of 21, he was called to the new University of Wittenberg as its first professor of Greek. At Luther’s urging, Melanchthon undertook the teaching of theology and Scripture in addition to his work on Aristotle and classical studies (even though he was a layman and was never ordained). He was a very popular lecturer with class attendance often well over 100. (To be honest, his classes drew far more students than Luther’s.) The combination of Luther and Melanchthon at Wittenberg made the university one of the leading schools in Europe during much of the sixteenth century. His theology lectures became the foundation for his extremely influential Loci Communes, the first compendium of Lutheran doctrine.

Along with his many other responsibilities, Melanchthon was placed in charge of reforming the schools in Saxony. He was so successful that his model was copied all over Germany. He is, therefore, sometimes called the “teacher of Germany.” His Greek grammar was used for several centuries to teach the language.

In April 1530, Charles V called an official meeting (called a “diet’) between the representatives of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism. The meeting was held in the Imperial City of Augsburg, Germany. Charles wanted to reunite Christendom under the Roman Pope so he could present a united front against the advancing “Turk” (the Ottoman Empire). Luther could not attend because he had been excommunicated by the Roman Church and placed under the imperial ban. In other words, he was an outlaw now and could be killed on sight. Melanchthon was the unanimous choice to be the main representative of the Lutheran Christians. The meeting was to be held June 25.

In 1530, there were all sorts of groups breaking away from the Roman Church. Some of them had ideas that were clearly not Christian, like denying the Trinity. The Lutherans discovered that they were going to be accused of subscribing to all of them. So Melanchthon drew up a document, in consultation with Luther via letters, which accented common ground with the Roman Church. It also presented where the Lutherans differed, but the overall tone of the confession of faith was that of an olive branch.

It was said by eye-witnesses that, when the Augsburg Confession was read on June 25, you could hear a pin drop. The Roman representatives were not ready. To utterly condemn the Lutherans as heretics could not be done because that would mean that they condemned much that they believed themselves (like the Trinity). They hastily drew up a document, called the Confutation, and it was read the next day. It was so poorly received that people burst into laughter at various points.

While only a handful had signed the Augsburg Confession before it was presented (7 princes and representatives from 2 “free cities”), it quickly spread and was accepted as a faithful expression of the Christian Faith by most of evangelical Germany within 15 years. It actually became the model of a confession of faith even for those who did not accept the Augsburg Confession, copying it wholesale and changing only the parts they didn’t like.

It is for his work on the Augsburg Confession that Melanchthon is chiefly remembered today. It is still considered the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.

The story of Melanchthon can inspire us to know where we stand in our Christian Faith, and why we believe what we believe.

Prayer: Almighty God, we praise You for the service of Philipp Melanchthon to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in the renewal of its life in fidelity to Your Word and promise. Raise up in these gray and latter days faithful teachers and pastors, inspired by Your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to Your Church and proclaim the ongoing reality of Your kingdom; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Tidbit: Melanchthon is remembered on the Methodist calendar on April 19 (his death date) and in the ELCA on June 25, along with the presentation of the Augsburg Confession (his greatest achievement).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Melanchthon on Joining a Church

Commemoration of Philemon and Onesimus
February 15, 2012

The Lord be with you

I just read a wonderful quote from Philip Melanchthon (commemorated on our liturgical calendar tomorrow, February 16) dealing with worship. I found it in the Treasury of Daily Prayer, published by Condordia Publishing House. He wrote:
    We should know that there must be a public ministry of the Gospel and public assemblies, as we are taught in Ephesians 4:10-12. And this assembly we must join; of this visible assembly we must be citizens and members, as the psalmist commands us: “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8); and again: “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts!” (Psalm 84:1). These and similar passages do not speak of a Platonic idea, but are talking about the visible church, in which the voice of the Gospel resounds and where there is witnessed the ministry of the Gospel. And thus God reveals Himself and is efficacious. And we should not praise those vagabonds who roam about and join no congregation because they cannot find an ideal [church] in which there is not something lacking in morals and discipline. We should rather seek the church in which the articles of faith are taught purely and no idolatry is defended. That church we should join, hear, and love its doctrine as we unite our intercession and confession with their prayers and confession. We should also learn to support it in order that it may not be devastated. For where there are no assemblies, there the voice of the Gospel becomes silent. So the Muslim tyrants in many places destroy all churches and did not permit even their own people to assemble. We should recognize that such satanic devastations and dispersions are a dreadful and very great evil. Therefore, we should ask God that He may preserve His congregations, and we ourselves should support them with all our resources.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Philemon and Onesimus - 2012

Commemoration of Philemon and Onesimus
February 15, 2012

The Lord be with you

Philemon and Onesimus are recognized on the LCMS liturgical calendar today. The Eastern Church recognizes Onesimus on this day (not Philemon), calling him “Apostle Onesimus.” They were introduced into the Lutheran tradition by Wilheim Löhe, a remarkable liturgical scholar, back in 1868 (remembered on January 2).

Philemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. Although the name Onesimus means “useful,” Onesimus proved himself “useless” when he ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (Philemon 18). Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome), and through Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, he became a Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway salve, Onesimus was directed by Paul to return to his master and become “useful” again. In order to help pave the way for Onesimus’s peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for running away and to “receive him as you would receive me” (v. 17), “no longer as a slave but … as a beloved brother” (v. 16). The letter was eventually included by the Church as one of the books of the New Testament.

In the 2nd century Ignatius relates that Onesimus became bishop of Ephesus and was responsible for an early collection of letters written by Saint Paul. This could easily explain how this private letter was available for inclusion in the New Testament.

Not surprisingly, this letter was the subject of great interest in the decades leading up to the American Civil War. Those who were pro-slavery pointed out how Saint Paul sent Onesimus back to his master. Those who were anti-slavery pointed out how Saint Paul urged Philemon to set Onesiums free and consider him an equal brother in the faith.

The general tone of the letter is simple: do what is best for the sake of the Gospel. Onesimus returns because that provides the best witness to Christ. Philemon sets Onesimus free, because that is the best witness to the Gospel of Christ. When we think of the modern practice of “human trafficking” (aka slavery) this story calls for us to do what is best for the witness of the Gospel. In my opinion, that would be at least to pray for the end of this dreadful practice (which is more widespread today than it was in the 1800s).

The main point of the letter, though, is not slavery. It is wonderful example of reconciliation between people. In this case Onesimus might well have held a grudge again Philemon for keeping him as a slave. Philemon might well have held a grudge against Onesimus for stealing from him. By the grace of God in Christ Jesus, they were reconciled.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the Apostle Paul. Philemon received him as a brother and released him from temporal slavery. Cleanse the depths of sin within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by Your mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will reflect Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine, Martyr - 2012

Commemoration of St. Valentine, Martyr
February 14, 2010

The Lord be with you,

Today is, of course, Valentine’s Day. The greeting card companies and florists love it. The origins of the day reach back to the third century.

Valentine was a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius. Claudius wanted to restore the glory of Rome. He felt restoring the army was vital in this effort. However he didn’t want to draft anyone, so he was going to have an all volunteer army. In this effort, he discovered that unmarried men were more likely to join than married men. So, believer it or not, he outlawed marriages. That is to say, if you were already married, that was okay. However if you were not married, you couldn’t get married. Many young couples were understandably upset.

As said, Valentine was a Christian priest. He married people, even though it was against the law. (This is the romantic connections with Valentine we celebrate today.) When Claudius found out, Valentine was arrested and martyred in 270. Rather quickly he was remembered by the Early Church with a day commemorating the day of his martyrdom (which was February 14).

Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian Faith, Valentine left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer, written on an irregularly shaped piece of paper. He signed it, “Your Valentine.” The paper just happened to be shaped like a heart. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.

Valentine’s love flowed from his faith in Christ. His actions in marrying people flowed from his faith in Christ. His willingness to die, was a willingness born from his faith in Christ. Perhaps the best way we can honor the memory of Valentine is for the love of Christ to flow through us as well.

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine. Grant to us, Your humble servants, a like faith and the power of love, that we who rejoice in Christ’s triumph may embody His love in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Monday, February 13, 2012

Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos 2012

Commemoration of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos
February 13, 2012

The Lord be with you

On the LC-MS liturgical calendar today is the Commemoration of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos. It is also recognized by the Orthodox congregations for Aquilla and Priscilla (sorry Apollos). Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), were Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul that traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making (Acts 18:1-3). In turn, they joined Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18), where the two of them established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity. Apollos was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith. An eloquent man, Apollos, “being fervent in spirit … spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25). He later traveled from Corinth to the province of Achaia, “showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28). What is meant by “Scriptures” is the Old Testament. Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal. They are also honored for living their faith. Apollos didn’t just learn from Aquila and Priscilla, he shared what he learned. Aquila and Priscilla didn’t just learn from Paul, but put their faith into action in reference to new converts.

Prayer: Triune God, whose very name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word, fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into falsehood and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good of the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Friday, February 10, 2012

Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul - 2012

Commemoration of Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul
February 10, 1012

The Lord be with you

Timothy had delivered Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians but Silas (also known as Silvanus) delivered his second letter. Apparently Silas had become Paul’s new deputy. He plays an important role in the Corinthian correspondence from this point on. Titus is not mentioned by name in Acts, but he is frequently referred to in Paul’s letters. (This little fact lets us know that 1) the book of Acts is not a comprehensive history and, 2) there are theological reasons behind what Luke chose to record in the book of Acts.) Titus was born of Gentile parents (Galatians 2:3) and was perhaps a native of Antioch, since he was in the delegation from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:1-3), and he may have been converted by Paul (Titus 1:4). He and a companion were sent to Corinth after 1 Corinthians had been delivered there, because of reports Paul had received about that troubled congregation. The mission was a delicate one. Paul had expected to meet Titus at Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12-13), but instead Titus met him in Macedonia with good news (7:6, 13-14), and he returned to Corinth with Second Corinthians (8:6, 13, 23), where he apparently stayed for some time. The epistle to Titus gives the information that Titus had been left on Crete to oversee the organization of the churches there. Titus’s mission to Dalmatia is alluded to in 2 Timothy 4:10. Sometime after his stay in Corinth, Titus apparently joined the apostle Peter, likely serving as Peter’s secretary (1 Peter 5:12). One early tradition says that Titus was the first Bishop of Corinth. Another one says he was the first Bishop of Crete. He apparently died of natural causes at an old age.

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece and Macedonia. We give You thanks for raising up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Worship for Epiphany 6 -2012

Thursday after Epiphany 5
February 9, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. For our liturgy we will be using the Setting 3 of the Divine Service (page 184 of the hymnal). The appointed lessons for the day are 2 Kings 5:1-14, 1 Corinthians 10:19-11:1, and Mark 1:40-45. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. To prepare you can read the section of “The Sacrament of the Altar” in Luther’s Small Catechism. Our opening hymn will be “The People That in Darkness Sat,” (LSB 412). The sermon hymn will be “Christ, the Word of God Incarnate,” (LSB 540). Our closing hymn will be “Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense,” (LSB 741). Our distribution hymns will be “Come, Join in Cana’s Feast,” (LSB 408), “Thy Body, Given for Me, O Savior,” (LSB 619), and “When I Behold Jesus Christ,” (LSB 542). “Come, Join in Cana’s Feast” is the hymn we are learning this month. Sunday’s sermon is based on the Gospel lesson. The text will be Mark 1:44. The sermon title is “Restored Lives.”

In our prayers Sunday we will remember the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) and their President, Dr. Hyun Sub Um. We will remember Jack and Cathy Carlos, missionaries in Guinea West Africa. We will remember the persecuted believers in Colombia and our sister congregations: Eternal Shepherd, Seneca, SC; Immanuel, Simpsonville, SC; Emmanuel, Asheville, NC; Redeemer, Burlington, NC; Grace, Summerville, SC. We remember the orphans in Haiti that our youth are seeking to help. We also will continue to remember those who are trapped by the modern practice of slavery, and those who have fallen victim to our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality.

The video below is of our opening hymn, “The People That in Darkness Sat,” sung by the “Lutheran Warbler.”

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. This Sunday we will pick up at Matthew 14. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

2 Kings 5:1-14: This is the story of Naaman, a commander in the army of Syria. At the time of this story, Syria was certainly not viewed as a “friendly” by the Israelites. Naaman had leprosy. A slave girl, captured during a raid in Israel, told her owners about the prophet Elisha, saying the prophet could cure Naaman. (She, in essence, became a missionary.) Naaman went to his king, who sent the commander to the King of Israel with a massive gift. The King of Israel is dismayed, thinking the Syrian king wants to start a war. Elisha hears about it, and sends of Naaman. Elisha, through a messenger, sends Naaman to the Jordan River, telling him to dip himself seven times. While at first Naaman resists (he was expecting a show), cooler heads prevail and he obeys. Sure enough, he is restored to health and professes faith in the God of Israel (something the King of Israel seemed to lack). This story is depicted in Station 8 of our custom Stations of the Cross, where Simon of Cyrene takes up the cross of Jesus. In both cases we see that the “God of Israel” is also the God of all people. Many have seen the washing of Naaman is a foreshadowing of baptism, where were are cleansed from the sickness of sin.

1 Corinthians 10:19-11:1: We pick-up where we left off last week. Paul is speaking of our witness to those who are “weak.” The issue used to illustrate the point is still food. When Paul speaks of the “cup of the Lord” and the “table of the Lord” he is speaking of the Lord’s Supper. He ends by urging us to be imitators of him as he is an imitator of Jesus. Good roll models are exceptionally valuable, just as bad roll models can be exceptionally destructive.

Mark 1: 40-45: Jesus heals a leper, which connects this lesson with our Old Testament lesson. Just as Naman comes to faith in the God of Israel, so this healed man comes to faith in Jesus. This restored man also becomes a witness for Jesus. As this reading is the text for the sermon, I’m not going to write more.


• I’ve got word back from Gardner-Webb about my D.Min. project (the Stations of the Cross). I need to tweak my survey a little, but it should be ready by this Sunday. That means, in Sunday’s bulletin, there will be a survey that I need everyone to fill out and return by Ash Wednesday. This is vital for the project. Thank You.

GAME DAY! Don’t forget that “Game Day” is this Saturday, February 11. We will be playing Pictionary. We begin at 1:00 PM. PLEASE invite a friend and join in the fun.

• The Evangelism Committee will meet for lunch and business Sunday, after the worship service.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Commemoration of Jacob (Israel), Patriarch

Commemoration of Jacob (Israel), Patriarch
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 5, 2012

The Lord be with you

Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angle of the LORD, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” was renamed Israel, which means “he strives with God” (Genesis 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother, Esau, and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph. Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers but then appointed by the Egyptian pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob’s death, through the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49).

If there is one lesson that comes through loud and clear in his story, it is that, while we may not be faithful, God always is.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rule our hearts through Your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord - 2012

Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord
Thursday after Epiphany 4
February 2, 2012

The Lord be with you

Thirty-two days after Jesus’ circumcision and seventy weeks after the announcement of John’s birth to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel, the Lord comes to His temple to fulfill the Torah (Luke 2:22-38). The days are indeed fulfilled with the presentation. Jesus’ parents keep the Torah and fulfill it by bringing Jesus to His true home. Also, Jesus’ parents offer the alternative sacrifice of two turtledoves or two pigeons. Leviticus 12:8 allows this instead of a lamb, since not everyone could afford a lamb (showing the poverty and humility of Joseph and Mary). Yet no lamb was necessary because already here at forty days old, Jesus is the Lamb brought to His temple for sacrifice. Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis is a beautiful example of the immediate response to this inauguration of God’s consolation and redemption in the Christ Child:
    “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
    for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Simeon, representing the expectant nation of Israel, at last, after years of patient and faithful waiting, held the infant Savior in his arms. The consolation of the nations, the light to the Gentiles, had come. The child was being presented to God by his parents, but in this child God was coming to meet his people, so that he who is the light of the world might make his people lamps shining in a dark world that others might see the right path. Simeon’s song has been sung by countless generations of believers ever since.

But Scripture does not stop with simply a heartwarming story. The Light casts a shadow. Simeon spoke of this as well.
    And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)
The long awaited Messiah will achieve no easy triumph. He will be the center of storm and controversy that will reveal the secret disposition of many hearts and will bring piercing grief to his own mother. The Messiah, who comes to lead Israel to glory, must go by the path of suffering, and his people must go with him along that same path.

Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Worship for Epiphany 5 - 2012

Wednesday after Epiphany 4
February 1, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. It is also the commemoration of Jacob (Israel), Patriarch. For our liturgy we will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching (page 260 in the hymnal). The appointed lessons for the day are Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27, and Mark 1:29-39. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 147:1-11, and the antiphon is verse 5. Our hymns will be “Within the Father’s House” (LSB 410), “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus” (LSB 729), and “All Depends on Our Possessing” (LSB 732). The sermon text will be Isaiah 40:21 and the sermon is titled “Ignorance is Bliss?”

In our prayers Sunday we will remember the Japan Lutheran Church (JLC) and their President, Rev. Yutaka Kumei. We will remember Jack and Cathy Carlos, missionaries in Guinea West Africa. We will remember the persecuted believers in China and our sister congregations: St. John, York, PA; Abiding Savior, Anderson, SC; Greenwood, Greenwood, SC; Emmanuel, Rock Hill, SC; Risen Christ, Myrtle Beach, SC. We remember the orphans in Haiti that our youth are seeking to help. We also will continue to remember those who are trapped by the modern practice of slavery, and those who have fallen victim to our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality.

The video below is of our sermon hymn, “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,” sung by the “Lutheran Warbler.”

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. This Sunday we will pick up at Matthew 13:24. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Isaiah 40:21-31: God is great, the creator of all things. Don’t be a dumb bunny and ignore this basic reality. Instead, trust in the Lord and you will find he provides amazing resources of life, both here and hereafter. Trust me, Isaiah says it much better! This reading is the text for Sunday’s sermon, so I say no more.

1 Corinthians 9:16-27: This reading follows right on the heals of Paul writing about how ministers have a right to be paid for their services. He then shares that he has not exercised that right. His reason is to be more effective in reaching others with the Gospel. He explains then how he is always judging his actions by that one goal, seeing people converted. Paul knows that we all have “rights” as well. We have the “right” to eat meat. We have the “right” to drink a glass of wine. We have the “right” to work on Sunday. We call this Christian Liberty. However there are many who do not know about such things. So Paul is always looking at others, asking if his behavior might be a stumbling block to them. The very Gospel is a stumbling block, and he will not give that up. But why should the way we dress or some other trivial thing stand in the way of hearing the Gospel? It certainly can be a fine line to walk. However, what a blessed reward, a share in the blessings of the Gospel. This is an imperishable treasure. The things we run after in this life are all fleeting. What we receive at the resurrection on the Last Day will be eternal. Paul wants that to motivate us.

Mark 1:29-39: In his typical breakneck speed, Mark quickly covers Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, then a multitude of people, casting out demons, and preaching. Jesus then slips out of town for private prayer. When his disciples fine him, telling him that the whole town was looking for him, Jesus responds by telling the disciples it was time to move on to other towns. The big point is to look at Jesus. Who is it that can do such wondrous things? It is none other than the Son of God, which Mark told us he was writing about in verse one.


• The Super Bowl will be this coming Sunday. It is such a big deal in the USA that they even put it in my appointment book I get from the denomination. In recognition of this American obsession, nothing is scheduled tomorrow after the worship service. However …

• Our Elders meet Monday;

• Our Cub Scout Pack meets Tuesday;

• Our Junior Confirmation Class meets Wednesday;

• and our Women’s Bible Fellowship meets Wednesday as well.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert