Friday, April 27, 2012

Worship for Easter 4 - 2012

Friday after Easter 3
April 27, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. It also happens to be a fifth Sunday. We have one of those every three months. (As far as that goes, in every three month cycle there will be one month that has five Mondays, five Tuesdays, etc.) At Lamb of God we have a regular cycle of liturgies we use. On the first Sunday of the month we use the Service of Prayer and Preaching. On the second Sunday of the month we use the third setting of the Divine Service. On the third Sunday we use Matins. On the fourth Sunday we use the first setting of the Divine Service. But, what happens on fifth Sundays? We use Morning Prayer (page 235). Because there are only four fifth-Sundays in a year, the service is less familiar.

Our appointed lessons are: Acts 4:1-12, 1 John 3:16-24, and John 10:11-18. In this service we use the appointed Psalm instead of the appointed Introit. This Sunday it will be Psalm 24. The antiphon will be verse 6. Our opening hymn will be “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia” (LSB 463). The sermon hymn will be “All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” (LSB 462). The closing hymn will be “Son of God, Eternal Savior” (LSB 842).

The sermon text will be 1 John 3:18. The sermon is titled “A Pilgrimage to Holy Ground.”

We will continue our regular prayer pattern in our public prayers Sunday. That means we will remember in our prayers Sunday the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church and their President, Rev. Jonas Roberto Flor. We will remember Matt and Kim Myers, missionaries in Macau. Macau is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China lying on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong-Kong. We will remember the persecuted believers in Kuwait, and our sister congregations: Mountainside, Linville, NC; St. Matthew, Marion, NC; Grace, Nags Head, NC; Holy Cross, Newton, 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.

Below is a video of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia.” It only has the music.

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

Preview of the Lessons

Acts 4:1-12:    This lesson is the sequel to the lesson read Easter 3. In that lesson Peter and John healed a man born lame. When a crowd gathered, Peter gave an impromptu sermon. We pick up at the close of the message. Peter and John are arrested and jailed. However the message was well received by the crowd, and the number of men who believed in Jesus grew to around 5,000. The next day, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin to be examined. Once again they give a powerful witness to Jesus, with Peter taking the lead. Peter makes it clear that the good deed was done by the power of Jesus and that “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (verse 12). When the Lord provides us an opportunity to share our faith, we should take advantage of it.

1 John 3:16-24:          This is one of those lessons that have way too much in it to cover in these brief notes. We know God loves us because Christ gave his life for us. God’s love is known through God’s actions. As Christians we are called to share the love of God in Christ Jesus. That love is also known through action. A “faith” that has no action is not a real faith. At best it is knowledge of facts. In light of the fact that we are all sinner, and fall short of how we should live, this truth John teaches can be rather frightening. We may wonder if we have a real faith or just some pale imitation. John reminds us “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (verse 20). God’s grace is greater than our sin. This is not to be an excuse to ignore how we should live, but an assurance that forgiveness is always available to the repentant heard. Not what it means to obey Jesus, “we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (verse 23). Faith first, then action.

John 10:11-18:           Jesus describes himself as “the good shepherd.” As the good shepherd he lays down his life for his sheep, that is, you and me. Of special note in this Easter Season are verses 17-19 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” The vast majority of times the New Testament refers to the resurrection of Jesus the Father (or simply God) is given credit for the resurrection. These verses are an example of one of the relatively few times when Jesus is credited with his own resurrection. There are also a few times when the Holy Spirit is given the credit. These passages in no way conflict with each other. They are a peek into the mystery of the Trinity. So, while the Father is the source of all, nonetheless, the works of God are attributed to the entire Trinity. Therefore all Three Persons of the Trinity is involved in our salvation, including the resurrection of Jesus. Notice also in this passage the importance Jesus places on reaching sheep (people) with the Gospel. We, who are the Body of Christ, are part of his calling to “sheep” who are not part of our fold.

  • Youth, don’t forget to bring in the money you have been gathering for the relief of the orphans in Haiti. 
  • The May newsletter has been posted to this blog. Go to the link on the left hand side of this page. Paper copies will be available Sunday.
Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

St. Mark, Evangelist

Feast of St Mark, Evangelist
April 25, 2012

The Lord be with you

Today is the Feast Day of St. Mark, Evangelist. Mark was the author of the second Gospel, which he composed, according to some Early Church Fathers, when the Christians in Rome asked him to write down the preaching of the apostle Peter. Therefore Mark’s Gospel is also sometimes known as Peter’s Gospel. Mark, also known as John Mark, was originally from Jerusalem, where the house of his mother Mary was the center o9f the early Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:12). He was brought from Jerusalem by Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 12:25), and it was from this city that they set out on the first missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go on the second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul refused because mark had left them during the first journey. Theories abound as to why Mark left, but the Scriptures are silent. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” was unwilling to give up on Mark so he and Paul split company. Barnabas took Mark with him and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas as his new companion (Acts 15:37-40). As it turns out, Barnabas was right. Later, Paul reconciled with Mark and was working with him again (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Finally, Mark was found laboring with Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Tradition says that Mark was instrumental in founding the Church in Alexandria, becoming its first bishop, and also that he suffered a martyr’s death.

Mark’s Gospel is short, but it includes many little details that are not in the others Gospels. The Gospel starts out with John the Baptist in the wilderness preaching a baptism for the repentance of sin. Mark tells us that this was in fulfillment of Malachi 3:1. This quick start reflects the nature of Mark’s Gospel, which is very fast-paced.

Mark’s Gospel, and Mark himself, is sometimes symbolized as a winged lion. This symbolism is taken from Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. The association may be because the Gospel starts with John the Baptist boldly preaching in the wilderness much like a roaring lion. It is also observed that lions are fearless. St. Mark wrote a Gospel to a church which was suffering from frequent martyrdom, in Rome. Mark wrote with a fearless faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

According to tradition he was buried in Alexandria. This city was conquered 641 by the advancing Islamic military. In 828, two Venetian merchants stole the remains of Mark and transported them to Venice, where a basilica was built to house them.

Prayer: O Almighty God, as You have enriched Your Church with the precious Gospel proclaimed by the evangelist Saint Mark, grant us firmly to believe Your glad tidings of salvation and daily walk according to Your Word, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Johann Walter, Kantor

Commemoration of Johann Walter, Kantor
April 24, 2010

The Lord be with you

One of the great blessings of the Lutheran Reformation is its strong endorsement of “the arts” as a blessing from God in our lives and a wonderful aid in worship. This included paintings, sculpture, cloth, woodcuts, and so on. Specially treasured by the Lutheran Reformers, especially Luther himself, was music. Luther loved music and said it was second only to theology as a gift from God. It comes as no surprise, then, that music, especially congregational singing, has always been a vital part of Lutheran worship. (Other strains of Protestantism did not so easily see the value of the arts.)

While congregational singing was not new with the Reformation, the Reformation brought it to new heights and general use. One of the key individuals in doing this was Johann Walter (1496-1570). He is the one we commemorate today. This commemoration is one of the new ones on our Liturgical Calendar.

Johann Walter was Martin Luther’s musical adviser. He helped Luther with the part of the reformation that had to do with the church’s music, liturgy, and hymns.

The year 1524 was very important for Walter and his contributions to the Lutheran Church.

First, Walter published a very important hymnbook, which was used in the church, school, and home. Prior to this, hymnals were for church choirs only. It was a book of musical arrangements of hymns, mainly for choirs, and included 35 hymns, 23 of them by Luther himself, arranged to be sung in 3, 4, or 5 part harmony. With Luther’s input Walter prepared this book. One of the innovations in this hymnal came with the four-part harmony hymns. In some of them the melody was carried by the top voice, which today is the common way hymns are written.

Luther himself wrote an introduction to the hymnal, showing how important he thought this hymnbook to be. In this introduction Luther said that these musical arrangements of the hymns were to help children learn to sing good Christian music. He also stated the importance of good hymns and church music when he wrote: “I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them. I therefore pray that every pious Christian would be pleased with this and lend his help if God has given him similar or greater gifts. As it is, the world is too lax and indifferent about teaching and training the young. God grant us His grace. Amen.”

Walter continued to add hymns to this first protestant hymnal for the remainder of his life.

The second important thing Walter did in the year 1524 was to help Luther prepare a new liturgy. It wasn’t really new. But at that time, the church service was sung only in the Latin language-which most people did not know-and things contrary to Scripture had invaded the church service, which gave the impression that worship consists of our doing things for God rather than of God’s giving things to us. Luther was preparing a service that would (a) be in German (the language the people could understand), and (b) get rid of the errors.

In 1524 Walter spent three weeks in Luther’s home while helping him write this liturgy. He said Luther showed himself to be very capable in composing the music. However, the final version also showed Walter’s influence as he improved Luther’s musical settings for the liturgy.

Walter was a layman, but he was a good Lutheran theologian. After Luther’s death Walter remained a strong Lutheran in doctrine and worship.

As an orphan he experienced the sadness of growing up without parents, but he helped bring happiness to many through the music he wrote to the glory of God.

He also wrote the words to some hymns. His hymn “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us” (1552) was the first one devoted specifically to the glories of eternal life. He gave it the title “A Beautiful Spiritual and Christian Song of the Last Day and Eternal Life.” Originally it had 33 verses! (I told you singing was important to Lutherans.) It is hymn 514 in the Lutheran Service Book, but we have only four verses. Sadly I can’t find a recording of it on YouTube. Verse four truly reflects the heart of a musician’s view of heaven.
    In that fair home shall never
    Be silent music’s voice;
    With hearts and lips forever
    We shall in God rejoice,
    While angel hosts are raising
    With saints from great to least
    A mighty hymn for praising
    The Giver of the feast.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Trivia: An asteroid has been named after Johann Walter.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Anselm of Canterbury - 2012

Commemoration of Anselm of Canterbury, Theologian
April 21, 2012

The Lord be with you

Anselm, from the exterior of Canterbury

Today we remember Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Born in Aosta, which is now part of northwestern Italy and then the frontier of Lombardy and Burgundy, Anselm was the son of a nobleman. After the death of his mother and quarreling with his father, Anselm left home at the age of twenty-three for travel in Burgundy and France, furthering his education. While in France he was attracted to the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy, which had been founded in 1040. The prior of the monastery was Lanfranc, a brilliant man. When Anselm’s father died he left Anselm all his property, leaving Anselm with a choice: leave the monastery to manage the family lands, or stay and become a monk. Anselm chose to stay and became a novice in 1060. After three years, when Lanfranc left to become prior of a new monastery, Anselm was elected his successor as prior of Bec. Herluin, the founding abbot of Bec, died in 1078 and Anselm was unanimously elected abbot. Under Anselm’s leadership the monastery of Bec became the intellectual center of Europe.

Lanfranc became Archbishop of Canterbury and Anslem visited him in 1078, making a favorable impression on the English. Lanfranc died in 1089. King William Rufus kept the post empty for four years to secure as much of the revenues of Canterbury as possible. Finally Anslem was chosen to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury, but he was inclined to refuse the call. However, pressure from all sides changed his mind and he was “enthroned” September 25, 1093 and consecrated December 4.

During this time something called the “Investiture Controversy” was raging. The basic issue was: Who had the right to appoint Church officials (pastors, bishops, etc.), the civil authorities or the Church. Behind this issue was the question of where Church leaders ultimate allegiance belonged, the Church or the State. Anselm came down clearly on the side of the Church, putting him in conflict with King Rufus, who felt it was his right to appoint Church leaders in England (and therefore their ultimate allegiance would be to him). Anselm was exiled twice over these issues. While in exile, he persuaded the Pope to not excommunicate the English king. In the end, the Pope worked out a compromise that was acceptable to all.

Anslem was a brilliant scholar. At his time theological thought mainly meant finding out what earlier Christian thinkers taught on a topic. You would group the various authors together on various topics and seek some sort of synthesis. Anslem approached these issues from a fresh perspective and also asked new questions.

 He is probably best known for his ontological proof of the existence of God. Anslem reasoned that God was the greatest possible being of which we can conceive. He suggested that, if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality. The argument has been expanded by many over the centuries. Anyone who has taken a philosophy 101 course in college has been exposed to it.

Perhaps his greatest work was his book on the incarnation. In this book, you might say, he examined the incarnation in relation to the phrase in the Nicene Creed which confesses that the Son, “for us men and for our salvation, became man”. In his argument, the material world was lifted up as vitally important to God. “Spirituality” was not “non-corporeal.”

Another important high water mark was reached in a meeting between Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches. In the Western Church the Nicene Creed reads, in part, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified …” In the Eastern Church the first “and the Son” is missing. The Eastern Church had long argued that the Western Church was wrong in attributing the proceeding of the Holy Spirit to both the Father and the Son. Anslem successfully (at least in the opinion of the Western Church) argued for the appropriateness of the phrase.

A key mark of his theology was prayer. In deed, he thought of theology as prayer.

Anslem’s searching mind remained active to his dying day. On his death bed he spoke to those gathered about his next project, a book on the origin of the soul.

Anslem died April 21, 1109, which was Wednesday in Holy Week. He was almost 80-years-old

Appropriate Prayers include:
    • For a sense of the majesty of God
    • For forgiveness for those who wrong us
    • For a spirit of prayer and devotion
    • For those who inquire into the mysteries of God and God’s relation to the world
    • For those who seek assurance of the existence of God
    • For Christian unity based on a faithful understanding of Scripture
    • For the Church to remain faithful to Christ above all human authority
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Friday, April 20, 2012

Commemoration of Johannes Bugenhagen - 2012

The Commemoration of Johannes Bugenhagen
April 20, 2012

The Lord be with you

Today, on the calendar used in the LC-MS, is recognized as the Commemoration of Johannes Bugenhagen. Born in Eastern Pomerania in June 24, 1485, Bugenhagen studied humanism in Greifswald and was ordained as priest before holding diverse positions as teacher of the Holy Scriptures and of the early fathers of the church. Initially Luther’s anti-Roman paper “The Babylonian Captivity,” published in 1521, was met with total rejection by Bugenhagen. After intensive study of this hypothesis, he did however become a firm supporter of the Reformation Movement and moved to Wittenberg.

“Doctor Pommer,” as Luther called him, became one of the most effective reformers. He became the pastor of St. Mary’s in Whittenberg’s in1523, becoming Luther’s personal spiritual adviser, confessor and pastor. He also was a theology lecturer at the Wittenberg University.

Bugenhagen was an exceptionally good organizer and indispensable for the Reformation in northern Germany and Scandinavia. He founded a church polity for Braunschweig, Hamburg, Luebeck, Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein, Hildesheim, Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel and Denmark; he even helped with the initiation and realization of the polity in these areas. They not only regulated the worship service, but also far reaching things such as the educational system and social matters. In 1539 Bugenhagen was made superintendent general of the Electorate of Saxony.

Bugenhagen was one of the greatest scholars of the Reformation era, and helped translate the New Testament into Low German. He wrote a commentary on the Psalms and his work on his “Passion History” was extremely influential.

After Martin Luther’s death, Bugenhagen took care of Luther’s widow and children.

Johannes Bugenhagen died in Wittenberg April 20, 1558. His tombstone can be seen in the City Church.

Northwoods Lutheran, a blog, has a post from 2009, which gives more background on Bugenhagen. The link below will take you to it.

Appropriate prayers include:
    • For openness to the Gospel
    • For pastors
    • For teachers
    • For faithfulness to the Word of God
    • For the spread of the Gospel
    • For the Church in Germany
    • For a rich, biblically informed, worship life
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Religious Map of America

Thursday after Easter 2
April 19, 2012

The Lord be with you

If you follow the link below, it will take you to a map published by USA Today and complied by the Pew Foundation. It reveals the religious affiliation of the people in America. As you move your cursor over the various states the numbers change, revealing the statistics for that state. As one looks at the numbers, it hardly seems appropriate that certain elements in our society feel it is their duty to silence 85% of the population by telling them that their faith has no place in the public square.

Blessings in Christ,

Worship for Easter 3 - 2012

Thursday after Easter 2
April 19, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Third Sunday of Easter. The Easter Season lasts until Pentecost. Pentecost is always 50 days after Easter so the Easter Season always has seven Sundays. Not surprisingly, the lessons for the season accent the resurrection of Jesus. Another traditional aspect of the lessons during the Easter Season is that the Old Testament lesson is replaced with a lesson from the book of Acts. So, while those out of tune with the traditional Christian Year celebrate Easter as only one day, or at best, celebrate Easter during the later part of Lent and end their celebration with Easter Sunday (as witnessed by all those “after” Easter sales in the stores), those who are spiritually in tune with the historic Christian Faith celebrate for seven weeks, beginning with Easter Sunday.

We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper Sunday, using the First Setting of the Divine Service (page 151) for our liturgy. Our opening hymn will be “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (LSB 461). Our sermon hymn will be “All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” (LSB 462). This is the hymn we are learning this month. Our closing hymn will be another Easter hymn, “He’s Risen, He’s Risen” (LSB 480). Our distribution hymns will be “Your Table I Approach” (LSB 628) and “All You Works of God, Bless the Lord” (LSB 930). “All You Works of God, Bless the Lord” is a paraphrase of The Song of the Three Young Men, found in the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel. These additions to Daniel, and other sections of the Old Testament, are not found in the Hebrew text of the Bible but are in the Septuagint translation of the Bible. The Septuagint is a translation of the Old Testament into Greek that was made before Jesus was born. So, while not part of the original manuscript, it is still very, very old. This song is placed on the lips of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The appointed lessons for the day are: Acts 3:11-21, 1 John 3:1-7, and Luke 24:36-49. The sermon is based on the lesson from Acts and the text is Acts 3:11. The sermon is title “Opportunity Knocks.”

We will continue our regular prayer pattern in our public prayers Sunday. That means we will remember in our prayers Sunday the Consistory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania (CELCL) and their Bishop, Rev. Mindaugas Sabutis. We will remember Matt and Kim Myers, missionaries in Macau. Macau is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China lying on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong-Kong. We will remember the persecuted believers in Jordan, and our sister congregations: Calvary, Jacksonville, NC; Mt. Calvary, Kennapolis, NC; Fountain of Life, Kernersville, NC; Faith, Kinston, NC; 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 of “All You Works of God, Bless the Lord,” is sung by a choir, backed by a small orchestra. They only do the first verse.

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

Preview of the Lessons

Acts 3:11-21: Peter and John go to the Temple to pray. In the Temple precinct, they meet a crippled man whom is healed. The healed man makes such a commotion that a large crowd forms. Peter takes the opportunity to proclaim the message of the resurrection.

1 John 3:1-7: John marvels at the depth of God’s love, which makes us his children. This is a two-edged blessing. The world does not recognize this reality. However, we hold the promise of a great future, one so marvelous that our present understanding is only partial. As believers, we are to live as Children of God. Christ is to make a difference in how we live. Some get confused by John’s letter, thinking he is telling us that we can become sinless in this life. We should pay careful attention to his words in verse 3, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” John is plainly saying that our purity comes, not by our righteous works, but through the hope we have in Christ Jesus. To use the phrasing of St. Paul, we are saved by grace through faith.

Luke 24:36-49: This is the account of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples. It takes a bit for Jesus to convince the disciples, but after letting them examine him, and eating a bit, they realize the truth, Jesus is risen. Jesus then affirms that his story is fully revealed in the entire Old Testament. This point can not be overemphasized. If you are not finding Jesus in “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” that is, the entire Old Testament, you are not reading the Old Testament like Jesus and the Apostles. When your mind is opened by the Holy Spirit, you find Jesus everywhere in the pages of the Bible, not just the New Testament and a few isolated Old Testament passages that are too obvious to miss. Jesus also tells us that the mission of the Church, “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem,” is also firmly grounded in the Old Testament. To accomplish this task, we are equipped with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promises to his assembled disciples.

    • Don’t forget to fill out your Stations Survey. It is an important part of Pastor’s D.Min. project.

    • For those who purchased Easter Lilies, remember that you can now take them home.

    • The Board of Evangelism will meet Sunday after the worship service.

    • Information for the May newsletter is due Sunday.
Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stations of the Cross service - 2012

Holy Saturday
April 7, 2012

The Lord be with you

Fourteen members and friends of Lamb of God gathered at noon this day to walk the Stations of the Cross together. The service lasted about half an hour and concluded with us singing together “Were You There?” Henry Hampton played the violin. The Lord provided a beautiful day for this, the first Stations of the Cross service, at Lamb of God. While we were hoping for a larger turn out, those of us who attended were blessed by our time together as we walked in the footsteps of our Lord. Below are some pictures from the day.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer

Holy Saturday
April 7, 2012

The Lord be with you

Yesterday was Good Friday, April 6. The date for Good Friday is set by Easter and so moves from year to year. April 6 is also the Commemoration of Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer, Artists. Lucas Cranach (1472-1557), a close friend of Martin Luther, was a celebrated painter of portraits and altarpieces and a producer of woodcuts of religious subjects. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), a native of Nürnberg, Germany, was one of the most learned of Renaissance artists and an ardent admirer of martin Luther. His paintings and woodcuts include examples of the splendor of creation and skilled portrayals of biblical narratives. Both Cranach and Dürer are remembered and honored for the grandeur of their works of art, which depict the glory and majesty and the grace and mercy of the triune God.

“Who can exhaust all the virtue and power of God’s Word? The Holy Scriptures, sermons, and all Christian books do nothing but praise God’s Word, as we also do daily in our reading, writing, preaching, singing, poetizing, and in painting. This blessing abides and sustains us when the temporal blessings vanish and when through death we part from them and from one another. This blessing does not leave us or depart from us; it goes through death with us, tears us out of it, and brings us to eternal life, where there is neither death nor fear of dying.” – Martin Luther

Appropriate prayers include:
    For artists
    For renewed appreciation of beauty as an attribute of God
    For joy in the natural world
    For a receptive mind to explore the beauty of creation
    For appreciation of art
    For the use of art in telling God’s story
(The man with the long hair is Albrecht Dürer. The man with the long beard is Lucas Cranach.)

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, April 6, 2012

Worship for Easter - 2012

Good Friday
April 6, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is The Resurrection of Our Lord, more commonly called Easter. We will have a special liturgy for the day, and a special schedule. The service will be full of those great Easter hymns we all love to sing: “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” (LSB 457), “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (LSB 469), “Jesus Comes Today with Healing” (LSB 620), “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds” (LSB 465), and “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (LSB 461). We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The main choir piece is a combination of two tunes, “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”

The appointed lessons are: Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; and Mark 16:1-8. The sermon, based on the Gospel lesson, is titled “What Now?”.

In our prayers we will remember the Independent Evangelical - Lutheran Church (SELK-Germany) (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche) and their Bishop, Rev. Hans-Jörg Voigt. We will remember our missionary Alan Ludwig in Siberia, Russia. We will remember the persecuted Christians in Indonesia. We will also remember our sister SED congregations: St. Paul, Havelock, NC; Mt. Pisgah, Hendersonville, NC; Augustana, Hickory, NC; Christ, Hickory, NC; and Mt. Olive, Irmo, SC.

The day will start with breakfast, prepared by the men of the congregation. There will be pancakes, waffles, egg casserole, and sausage. Breakfast begins at 9:00.

We will have our Resurrection Cross. This is the same wood cross used in our Good Friday service. Members are encouraged to bring fresh flowers to attach to the cross. The fresh flowers represent the new life that sprung from the cross of Christ.

Below is the Lutheran Warbler singing or opening hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”

Preview of Lessons

Isaiah 25:6-9: The Lord is speaking to Israel. First he tells the people that they have broken the First Commandment. This is leading to disaster for the nation. God will raise up Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who will come up against the land and destroy it. The interesting thing about this passage is that Nebuchadnezzar is called “my servant” by God. This is a title reserved for the Messiah. Nebuchadnezzar is, therefore, in some fashion a “type” of Jesus. He fills this role in at least two ways. First, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords. Second, to reject Christ is to accept eternal judgment and destruction.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11: This is the famous “Resurrection” chapter in the Bible. Paul begins by telling us that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the Gospel. If we loose this, nothing else will matter for we will have lost Christ. He then proceeds with a list of witnesses, who all saw the resurrected Jesus. The last person Jesus appeared to was St. Paul himself. With over 500 witnesses to the resurrection, we have an event that stands as one of the best attested events in all of ancient history.

Mark 16:1-8: There is a problem with the end of Mark’s Gospel which most modern translations reflect in a footnote at either verse eight or verse nine. Simply put, the text is sure only through verse eight. There are two endings given in most modern Bibles, a “short” one and a “long” one. The best and oldest manuscripts do not have either of these endings. The possible solutions are: 1) Our best and oldest manuscripts are incomplete and either the short or long ending represent what Mark wrote and is preserved in later (but still early) manuscripts. 2) Our best and oldest manuscripts were damaged and later believers, recognizing this, added endings that finished the story from available material. 3) Mark ended his Gospel with verse eight. I have once again examined the evidence. It is clear to me (and the vast majority of scholars) that verse nine and beyond are not from St. Mark. That means the last authentic words of Mark are: “And they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Could Mark have ended his Gospel, which means “Good News,” with such a sentence? I have come to believe he did! Sunday’s sermon will explore why Mark may have chosen such an ending.


• Concordia Publishing House is producing a new commentary series drawn from the insights of the great Reformers of the Church. This commentary is for the mature layman. There will be an insert in Sunday’s bulletin giving more details.

• Beginning the Second Sunday of Easter (April 15), a questionnaire will be in the bulletin that relates to Pastor’s D.Min. project (the Stations of the Cross). Pastor would like these filled out and back within two or three weeks.

• Remember, we still have Good Friday and Holy Saturday services as well. See earlier posts for information about those services.

Easter Blessings,
Pastor Rickert

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Worship for Holy Saturday - 2012

Wednesday in Holy Week
April 4, 2012

The Lord be with you

We will have two opportunities to worship the Lord this coming Holy Saturday, April 7, 2012. The first will be a Stations of the Cross service and the second will be a Great Easter Vigil service. The two services are very different. The Stations of the Cross service is our final Lenten service. The Great Easter Vigil is our first Easter service.

The Stations of the Cross service will be conducted entirely outside at Lamb of God and will begin at noon. The Stations service is chiefly a service of meditation and prayer, guided by our stations and scripture. At each station, the congregation and pastor will read responsively scripture lessons that relate to the various stations. After the reading there will be a brief silence for personal reflection and prayer, followed by a corporate prayer, led by pastor. After the prayers are completed at each station, the congregation will be led by our crucifer to the next station, until we have traveled from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden Tomb of Jesus. The service will concluded with the singing of the hymn “Were You There?”.

This is the first time we have offered this service at Lamb of God. Real interest in it from the community has been expressed, so we anticipate a number of visitors. It is a non-communion service.

Due to the nature of this service, no opportunity to worship the Lord with offerings is provided in the service. However, if individuals wish to worship the Lord in this fashion, a box will be located near the front doors of the church. Offerings may be placed in it.

The Great Easter Vigil is a joint worship service offered by Lamb of God, Spartanburg, Good Shepherd, Greenville, and Abiding Savior, Anderson. The service will be at the centrally located Good Shepherd (1601 N. Plesantburg Dr, Greenville) and begin at 8:00 PM.

The Great Easter Vigil begins outdoors on Good Shepherd’s plaza with the Liturgy of Light. A large fire is kindled which reminds us of the pillar of fire that led Israel in the wilderness and the tongues of fire that fell upon the Apostles at the first Pentecost. Both fires represented the presence of God among his people. The congregation receives candles, which are lit off the Christ Candle, representing that the presence of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, goes with us. With candles burning, we process into the sanctuary. In the sanctuary the Exsultet (or Paschal Proclamation) is read. After this we extinguish our candles and move to the main part of the service, the Liturgy of Readings. The readings are interspersed with prayers, singing, and moments of silence. The lessons (Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18 and 9:8-13; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:10-31, 15:1; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Job 19:20-27; Jonah 3:1-10; Daniel 3:1-30) are selected from the list of traditional lessons read in this service. Historically this was the service at which people were baptized. In former years we have been blessed to have at least one baptism. This year, though, we do not have a baptism. Therefore, following Liturgy of Readings, we will have a Remembrance of Baptism. Following this we will have the Gospel Procession, in which the resurrection Gospel is read (John 20:1-18). The service will end with the singing of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia!”.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Were You There - A Cappella

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Worship for Good Friday - 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week
April 3, 2012

This Friday (4-6-12) is “Good Friday.” It is the day Christians commemorate the death of Jesus. To a non-Christian this might seem odd. Easter, the day of his resurrection, now that might seem like a day to celebrate, but not the day of his death. It probably seems even stranger to a non-Christian that the day is called “Good” Friday. Maybe it should be call “tragic” Friday, or “death” Friday, or “travesty of justice” Friday, or “dark” Friday, or some other mournful name. Passages like: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18), and “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14), must seem almost nonsensical to those outside the Faith.

Christians, though, know that the day is indeed “good,” no matter how ugly it looks. That is because, on this day, the Son of God bore our sins on the cross meriting for us life and salvation. This is the day we were saved. This is the day our debt was marked “paid in full.” So, while it is indeed a day of sorrow as we witness the sacrifice of Christ, it is, nonetheless, “good.”

At Lamb of God we remember this ultimate sacrifice in two ways. The church will be open from noon to 3:00 for prayer and meditation. These hours are selected because it corresponds to the three hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus was on the cross. People who attend may wish to also walk our Stations of the Cross as part of their devotional exercise.

We will also have a Tenebrae service, beginning at 7:00 PM. This is a traditional “service of darkness.” This is both a dramatic and somber service. During the second half of the service the last words of Christ are read as the lights slowly dim. At the end of the service the sanctuary is in darkness. The last candle, the Christ Candle, is removed. After a period of silence, a loud noise is heard, representing the tomb of Jesus being sealed. Then the Christ Candle is returned, representing the sure knowledge that Jesus will be raised Easter Sunday.

The Old Testament lesson is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This will be read responsively. The Epistle lesson is Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9. The Gospel lesson is John 19:17-30. The sermon is titled “It Is Finished” and is based on the Gospel lesson. The choir will be singing “Lamb of God.” The congregation will sing “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” (LSB 440), “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” (LSB 451), “Go to Dark Gethaemane” (LSB 436), and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (LSB 449). We will also pray together the Great Litany (page 288, LSB), which is traditional for Good Friday.

As is traditional, the Lord’s Supper will not be a part of this service.

Good Friday marks the second day of the Great Triduum.

The video below is of the Lutheran Warbler singing “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Unlike her other recordings, she is singing to an organ this time. Through computer magic, she is also singing in harmony. It is an excellent recording.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Worship for Maundy Thursday - 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week
April 3, 2012

This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, marked the beginning of Holy Week. This is the week Christians around the world commemorate the final week of the earthly ministry of Jesus, the week when he completed his task of earning our salvation. Christians will recognize this week with many special worship services. Some congregations will have services every day of the week. At Lamb of God we will have special services on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday is knows as either Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatus, which means “command.” It comes from the words spoken by our Lord in the upper room, “A new command I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). It was on this night that Jesus celebrated his last Passover with his disciples. During that Passover celebration Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, Maundy Thursday services have historically been Communion Services.

We will celebrate the Eucharist at Lamb of God this Maundy Thursday. “The Eucharist” is another name for Communion. Eucharist is a Greek word, and means “thanks” or “thanksgiving.” It comes from the words recorded in the Gospel accounts of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19). In them we read that Jesus gave thanks over the bread and cup as he instituted the Sacrament. The name “Communion” comes from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. The Greek word is variously translated as “communion,” “sharing,” and “participation.” Paul seeks to explain the mysterious and miraculous union of the body and blood of Jesus with the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are together called the “Great Triduum.” “Triduum” is Latin and means “Three Days.” Most precisely, the Great Triduum begins with the Communion service on Maundy Thursday and ends with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. In the early centuries of the Church, the services on these days were not thought of as separate, but as one. In fact, during the days of Saint Augustine, there was no break between them. Christians would come and join in worship. If they needed to leave to get some sleep or a bite to eat, they would. When they returned, the service was still going on. With this practice they recognized that the events that transpired from the upper room to the resurrection are not to be separated, but are one great action by God. We recognize this thought by not incorporating our traditional blessing at the end of any of the worship services, beginning with Maundy Thursday, until we celebrate Easter. The benediction at the end of the Easter service concludes the worship that began on Maundy Thursday.

At Lamb of God, we will have two worship services on Maundy Thursday. As mentioned above, both will be Communion services. The first service will start at 12:15 PM and the second will start at 7:00. The liturgy, in each case, will be specially designed for Maundy Thursday. While the liturgy in each service will be different, the scripture lessons and sermon will be the same. The appointed lessons are: Exodus 24:3-11, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and Mark 14:12-26. The text for the sermon is Exodus 24:11. The sermon is titled, “An Heavenly Banquet.”

In the 12:15 service, the liturgy will be spoken. The only singing we will do, will be the sermon hymn, “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 637). The service will conclude with reading responsively Psalm 22. This Psalm can be used either on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Jesus quotes from it while on the cross.

There will be more singing in the 7:00 service. Those portions of the liturgy that are normally sung, however, will be replaced with well known hymn verses. So our Offertory will be the hymn “Create in Me” (LSB 956). The Agnus Dei will be replaced with the first verse of “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (LSB 434). The Sanctus will be replaced with the first verse of “Holy, Holy, Holy” (LSB 507). And our Post-Communion Canticle will be “O Jesus, Blessed Lord, to Thee” (LSB 632), one of the many hymns set to the tune of “Old Hundredth.” Aside from these hymns that are being used as part of the liturgy, our opening hymn will be “What Wondrous Love is This” (LSB 543), our sermon hymn will be “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 637), and our distribution hymn will be “I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table” (LSB 618). There is no closing hymn, as is traditional. Instead, the altar area will be “stripped.” This ceremonially removing of the communion vessels, paraments, and other appointments, reminds us of the abuse and humiliation our Lord endure at the hand so his persecutors. The choir will be singing “This My Body, This My Blood.”

Below is a video of the Lutheran Warbler playing and singing "Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord" which is the sermon hymn in both services.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert