Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Reformation Day
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The Lord be with you

On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk posted ninety-five statements for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Dr. Martin Luther hoped that posting his theses would bring about an academic debate regarding repentance, the sale of indulgences, and other matters of concern within the Roman Catholic Church. However, Rome eventually excommunicated Luther, judging him to be a heretic. Luther’s reforms, centered on the teaching that a believer is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, sparked religious reforms not only in the German states but also in many European countries. In 1667, Elector John George II of Saxony standardized the custom of observing Luther’s Oc6tober 31 posting of the Ninety-five Theses.

Collect of the Day: Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; 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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters

Commemoration of Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters
Saturday, October 26, 2012

The Lord be with you

Three of the greatest Lutheran hymnwriters are commemorated together on this date.

Philipp Nicolai was born August 10, 1556, in Mengeringhausen, Waldeck, Germany, the son of a pastor. He studied theology at the universities of Erfurt and Wittenberg (1575-1579). In 1583 he became pastor in Herdecke near Dortmund where his father had introduced the Reformation. The town council was Roman Catholic, and, when the Spanish invaded and the Roman Mass was reintroduced, Nicolai was forced to flee. He seems to have served secretly as a pastor in Cologne in 1586, holding services in members’ homes. (Gerhardt did the same in Berlin.) At the end of 1586, he was appointed deacon (cleric of minor orders) at Niederwildungen, and in 1587 became pastor there. In November 1588 he was the pastor at Altwildungen, court preacher to the Countess Margaretha of Waldeck, and tutor to her son. In 1594 he at last received his D.D. degree from Wittenberg. The degree had been delayed because of controversy with the Crypto-Calvinists. (Crypto-Calvinists were individuals who claimed to be Lutherans, all the while seeking to supplant a Lutheran understanding of the Scriptures with Calvinist/Reformed theology. “Crypto” means hidden.)

In October 1596 Nicolai became pastor in Unna in Westphalia. It was a time of distress: between July 1597 and January 1598, the plague took thirteen hundred of his parishioners, sometimes thirty in a day, three hundred in July and 170 in one week in August. The parsonage overlooked the graveyard and Nicolai could not avoid the constant presence of death. He wrote a series of meditations to comfort his people, Mirror of Joy (the preface was dated August 10,1598, his forty-third birthday), and to this book, published in 1599, he appended two chorales. One was “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying,” based on Matthew 25. (It is hymn 516 in the Lutheran Service Book.) It has been called “the king of chorales.” The other was “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” based on Psalm 45. (It is hymn 395 in the Lutheran Service Book.) This, “the queen of chorales,” written in the space of a few hours, immediately established itself as a favorite in Germany and came to be regarded as an almost indispensable part of the wedding service. Nicolai’s fame as a hymnwriter rests upon these two hymns.

In December 1598, the Spanish army again invaded, and Nicolai was forced to flee once more. He returned in April of the following year. In 1601 he was made pastor of St. Katherine’s Church in Hamburg, where he endeared himself to the people with his pastoral concern and won their respect as a courageous and powerful preacher. He was called a “second Chrysostom.” (Chrysostom is commemorated January 27.) In 1596-1597 he wrote a two-volume biblical-theological apocalyptic work on the kingdom of Christ. He was also the author of polemical writings against the Crypto-Calvinists and the Reformed in his impassioned defense of Lutheran orthodoxy. Nonetheless, he was personally gentle and irenic (definition: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation), with a mystical inclination.

Following an ordination at St. Katherine's on October 22,1608, he returned home ill. His illness grew worse, and Philipp Nicolai died on October 26. It is on this day we remember these hymnwriters.

Johann Heermann was born at Raudten, Silesia, October 11, 1585, his parents’ only surviving child. His father was a furrier. The son suffered a severe illness as a child, and his mother vowed that if he recovered, he would be educated for the ministry.

After serving as a tutor, he was appointed deacon at Koben, a village near Raudten. Within six months he was elevated to the pastorate of the parish in 1611. An affliction of the throat in 1634 forced him to stop preaching. For four years his preaching was done by assistants, and in 1638 Heermann retired to Lissa and died there on Septuagesima Sunday (the third Sunday before Lent), February 17,1647. Many though he had been poisoned. (The name “Septuagesima” is still used in the LC-MS by those who use the one-year lectionary, but isn’t used in the three-year lectionary. It is taken from the first word in the old Latin Introit.)

Heermann had suffered not only from poor health but also from the deprivations of the Thirty Years’ War. Koben was devastated by fire in 1616, plundered four times by Roman Catholic troops between 1629 and 1634, and suffered pestilence in 1631. Heermann was driven from his home and forced to flee again and again, loosing all his movable possessions and, on at least three occasions, narrowly escaping death. From this unending affliction, Heermann was able to write hymns of confident faith that have been sung and loved by succeeding generations. As a hymnwriter of the seventeenth century, he ranks second only to Gerhardt. His hymns, John Julian observes, mark a transition from the objective hymns of the Reformation to the more subjective type and are characterized by a depth of feeling and tenderness that is unsurpassed.

Heerman wrote over 400 hymns. Six of them are included in the Lutheran Service Book (421, 439, 568, 696, 774, 839).  One of my all time favorite hymns, “O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken,” is one of Heerman’s. (That more of his hymns are not included points out a problem faced by anyone seeking to produce a hymnal. There are so many good hymns, both old and new, that you simply cannot include them all in one hymnal.)

Paul Gerhardt, without much doubt the greatest Lutheran hymnwriter, was born March 12, 1607, at Grafenhaynichen, near Wittenberg. His father, the mayor of the town, died while his son was still young. Gerhardt studied theology at the University of Wittenberg from 1628 to 1642. The Thirty Years’ War was raging, and it was a time of suffering and desolation. Gerhardt went to Berlin as a tutor in the home of Andreas Barthold and in 1655 married Barthold’s daughter, Anna Maria. His contact with Johann Cruger, the cantor at St. Nicholas’ Church in Berlin, stimulated his poetic gifts, and eighteen of his hymns appeared in the third edition of Cruger’s hymnal.

When he was forty yours old, Gerhardt obtained appointment as Probst (chief pastor) at Mittenwald in Brandenburg, near Berlin, and was ordained November 8, 1651. He became the third assistant at St. Nicholas’ Church in Berlin in 1657, and there he gained fame as a preacher. In doctrinal debates with the Reformed, he maintained the Lutheran position. He refused to sign a pledge not to bring doctrinal discussion into sermons and was deposed by Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia in 1666. Although he was restored to his position in the following year, he refused to return and remained without a parish for some years. During this time of trial, his wife and a son died (three of their children had died earlier), and his misery increased. In May 1669 he was appointed archdeacon of Lubben. He lived there with a sister-in-law and his sole surviving son in a somewhat unsympathetic parish. He died May 27, 1676.

Amid affliction and the calamities of the Thirty Years’ War and its aftermath, Gerhardt wrote some 133 hymns of faith and confidence. He was, moreover, able to translate orthodox doctrines in such a way that people could experience them with emotional warmth. In the church at Lubben there is a life-sized portrait of Gerhardt with the inscription beneath it, “A Divine [i.e., Theologian] sifted in Satan’s sieve” (cf. Luke 22:31).

The Lutheran Service Book has seventeen of his hymns (334, 360, 372, 375, 438, 450, 453, 467, 596, 683, 724, 726, 737, 754, 756, 880). Perhaps his best know hymn was his German translation and versification of a larger work by Bernard of Clairvaux, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” The great hymn about life as a baptized believer, “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” is his, along with the wonderful hymn that encourages us when facing various trials, “If God Himself Be for Me.” Along with Martin Luther, Gerhardt is regarded as one of Lutheranism’s finest hymnhwriters.

Collect for the Commemoration of Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters: Almighty God, the apostle Paul taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We thank You this day for those who have given to Your Church great hymns, especially Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heerman, and Paul Gerhardt. May Your Church never lack hymnwriters who through their words and music give You praise. Fill us with the desire to praise and thank You for Your great goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other things these saints might inspire us to pray about:
  • For grace to sing in distress and in joy
  • For preachers of the gospel
  • For confidence and faith
  • For a gentle spirit
  • For those who continue to provide new hymns for the Church
  • For the strength to remain faithful during difficult times

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women

Commemoration of Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women
Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Lord be with you

These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas, or Tabitha (the name means “gazelle” and was a favorite name among both Greeks and Jews), was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36-41). This was the first time an Apostle did such a miracle and it was a powerful witness to the Gentiles.

Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was much in demand in the ancient world. (Thyatira was a Lydian city and so the name Lydia might originally have been an adjective.) Such a business required a great deal of capital, so she was probably well-to-do. She was also a “worshiper of God” at the local synagogue (Acts 16:14) and the first person converted to Christianity in Europe. When the apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (Acts 16:13-15, 40). After her baptism she invited Paul and his companions to stay in her house, which relieved Paul of the necessity of earning his support, as was his custom elsewhere.

Phoebe (her name means “bright” or “radiant”) was another faithful woman associated with the apostle Paul. She was a deaconess from Cenchreae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the Church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. The word “deaconess” might perhaps be better translated “patron” or “helper,” for Paul doesn’t mean that he is a deacon when he applies a similar word to himself (2 Corinthians 11:23; Colossians 1:23, 25). In Romans, Paul writes of Phoebe’s support for the work of the Early Church (Romans 16:1-2) and this, along with Paul calling her a deaconess, became the inspiration for the more regular order of deaconesses that was to emerge in the Church in the third and fourth centuries.

The date for remembering these ladies of faith was taken from the liturgical calendar used in Orthodox denominations, as they remember the Blessed Tabitha on October 25. We have simply expanded the commemoration to include more of the important women in the Early Church.

Collect for the Commemoration of Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women: Almighty God, You stirred to compassion the hearts of Your dear servants Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe to uphold and sustain Your Church by their devoted and charitable deeds. Give us the same will to love You, open our eyes to see You in the least ones, and strengthen our hands to serve You in others, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other things you might pray for:
  • For the poor
  • For foreigners in a strange land
  • For deaconesses
  • For all who assist in the proclamation of the word of God

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr

Commemoration of Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women
October 25, 2012

The Lord be with you

This past Tuesday, October 23, was the Festival of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr. I was in Richmond, attending a Circuit Counselors meeting, and unable to post something about this remarkable man. However, I can make up for that now.

St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). The New Testament refers to “brothers and sisters” of Jesus (Matthew 13:53; Mark 6:3; John 7:3; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Many modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Others have thought that when Joseph married Mary he was a widower, and James was a son from his first marriage. Such understandings of the relationship of James to the Holy Family start as early as the Second Century, as well as the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary. In these early writings, these arguments were always centered on defending the virgin birth of our Lord. How could Joseph, or any other man for that matter, be the human father of Jesus if Mary had remained a virgin her entire life?

Along with other relatives of our Lord (except Mary and Joseph, who died before Jesus entered his public ministry), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.), with a special calling to the Jews (Galatians 2:9). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in 62 ad by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. Hegesippus adds that this happened at the Temple after James claimed that Jesus was the “Son of Man.” James was then thrown from the Temple and stoned to death. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross.

In recent years James has been in the headlines around the world because of a first century ossuary that has been found inscribed “James, the Brother of Jesus.” An ossuary is a box that the bones of a deceased person were put in. In the burial practices of first century Jews, the departed were placed on a ledge in a cave. After a year or so, when the body had decomposed, the bones were placed in the ossuary. The James ossuary is authentic, meaning it really is a first century artifact and the inscription was really made in the first century. It also seems most likely that the James referred to is the one we remember today. This underscores the reliability of the biblical record.

Collect for the Festival of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr: Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Alternate Collect: Grant, O God, that following the example of Your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, Your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Others prayer suggestions:
  • For the church in Jerusalem
  • For peace in the Holy Land
  • For Church leaders
  • For God’s grace to live a just and righteous life
  • For the work of archeology

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Worship for Pentecost 21 - 2012

Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist
October 18, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the 21st Sunday after Pentecost. For our liturgy we will use the service of Matins (page 219). This is a non-communion service. The assigned lessons are Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Hebrews 4:1-16 and Mark 10:23-31. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 119:9-16, antiphon verse 14. Our opening hymn will be “Christ Is Surely Coming” (LSB 509). The sermon hymn is “We Give Thee But Thine Own” (LSB 781). Our closing hymn is “Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way” (LSB 857). The sermon text is Mark 10:23 and its title is “A Christian View of Wealth and Work.”

In our public prayers we will remember the Church Universal, David & Joyce Erber, missionaries who work with English speaking people in Nigeria and West Africa, the believers in Turkmenistan, our sister SED congregations Christ, Dundalk, MD; Immanuel, Easton, MD; Faith, Eldersburg, MD; Advent, Forest Hill, MD; and Good Shepherd, Charleston, SC. We will also continue to remember those who have been misled by our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality, asking God’s grace for their lives that they may be healed and restored by the Holy Spirit. We continue to remember those trapped in the modern practice of slavery and ask God to bless all efforts that are pleasing in his sight to end this sinful practice. We will also remember the Lutheran Malaria Initiative’s effort to end malaria in Africa by 2015.

Below is a video of a congregation in Michigan singing our closing hymn, “Lord Help Us Walk Your Servant Way.”

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. We have begun a new study titled "The Intersection of Church and State,” produced by the Men’s Network of the LLL. It is a four-part video-based study. Due to the lively discussion, we didn’t even come close to finishing the first part this past Sunday. This is a very timely topic and you may want to invite a friend. We have plenty of materials. You can view last week’s worship notes for more information.

Preview of the Lessons

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20:      What is the secret to having a contented life? The world often offers wealth as the answer, and so we chase after “the almighty dollar.” But Solomon warns us that such a quest if “vanity,” a “seeking after wind.” All the money in the world will not fill a heart that is missing Jesus.

Hebrews 4:1-16:   We continue with our lessons from Hebrews. This reading is the entire fourth chapter. The writer continues to point us to the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old. This reading focuses on the “rest” we are promised. The Old Testament events point to the rest, but it is in the New Testament that the rest is realized. Therefore all the Old Testament “rest” passages, like the Sabbath Rest, point to New Testament realities and find their fulfillment in Christ. The writer makes a special point of Joshua and the entering of the Promised Land. In the end, those Hebrews didn’t find the “rest” that was tied to the promise of land. Now that we have our “rest” in Christ, the promise of land has been fulfilled and superseded.

Mark 10:23-31:    Last week’s lesson recounted how a rich man came to Jesus asking what he must do to receive eternal life. Jesus follows up this conversation by teaching his disciples about wealth and the deceptive nature of it. Like Ecclesiastes, Jesus does not feel wealth is a mark of spiritual blessing or a particular indicator of God’s favor. On the other hand, wealth can be a great blessing. So what is the Christian’s approach to wealth and the secret of contentment? That is the focus of the sermon.

  • Our Pancake Breakfast to support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative is fast approaching (Saturday, October 27; 8:00-10:00 am). Jill needs to know how many tickets you have sold so FATZ in Boiling Springs can have a general idea of how many people to expect. Tickets will also be sold by members of Lamb of God at the door.
  • If you didn’t read the post Ideas Needed, then you might not have heard about what we will be doing in our worship life during the summer of 2013. Follow the link, and leave an idea.
  • Today is the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist. A post about St. Luke was posted earlier today. Just scroll down.
  • Wednesday was the Commemoration of Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr. Just keep scrolling down to read about this saint.
Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist - 2012

Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist
Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Lord be with you

St. Luke, the beloved physician referred to by St. Paul (Colossians 4:14), presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality. He was a Gentile, probably a Greek. As Paul’s traveling companion, he claimed Luke’s Gospel as his own for its healing of souls (Eusebius). Luke traveled with Paul during the second missionary journey, joining him after Paul received his Macedonian call to bring the Gospel to Europe (Acts 16:10-17). Luke most likely stayed behind in Philippi for seven years, rejoining Paul at the end of the third missionary journey in Macedonia. He traveled with Paul to Troas, Jerusalem, and Caesarea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years (Acts 20:5-21:18). While in Caesarea, Luke may have researched material that he used in his Gospel. Afterward, Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16). Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are the stories of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20) and the canticles of Mary (Luke 1:46-35), of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), and of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32). To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the Apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.

A later tradition says that he was also a painter and painted a portrait of the Virgin Mary, but it seems unreliable. Nonetheless, it is an important inspiration for the art form of Icons and he is often depicted either painting Mary or holding an Icon of her. St. Luke is said to have died at the age of eighty-four, having never married. There are various locations given in various traditions for the location of his death: Boetia, Egypt, Bithyniaand Achaia. The date of October 18 for his festival is very ancient and may actually reflect the day he died. 

The traditional symbol for St Luke is the ox and is drawn from Ezekiel 1:10.It might remind us of the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. There we read about how Zachariah, the priest and father of John the Baptist, was in the temple performing his duties when an angel appeared to him. Priests, of course, sacrificed animals. We also read of how Jesus was born and the feeding trough (manger) of the animals (like an ox) was used for our Lord’s crib.

Collect of the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist: Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Other things you may wish to pray about:
  • For the sick
  • For doctors and all the healing professions
  • For hospitals and nursing homes
  • For artists
  • For compassion
  • For the spread of the Gospel

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr - 2012

Commemoration of Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Lord be with you

Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century ad and an early Christian martyr. Near the end of the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 ad), Ignatius was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, as well at to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops. Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic (which in English means “universal”) to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centerdness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine are a lasting legacy to the Church.

Ignatius was apparently born in Syria around 35 ad and was a convert from paganism. He calls himself Theophoros, the God-bearer. Tradition identifies him with the child Jesus held in his arms at Capernaum (Mark 9:36), but this seems to be based on a misunderstanding of Theophoros as the “God-borne.” His letters provide us with a vital look at the church and its faith at a time when the leadership was changing hands from the Apostles to the “Apostolic Fathers” (those leaders who became Christians during the lifetime of the Apostles and carried the Christian Faith beyond the death of the Apostles).

Collect for the Commemoration of Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr: Almighty God, we praise Your name for Ignatius of Antioch, pastor and martyr. He offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that he might present to You the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of all that we are and all that we have, and give us a portion in the pure and unspotted offering of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ideas Needed

Friday after Pentecost 19
October 12, 2012

The Lord be with you

Recently we took a “Spiritual Life” survey. Fifty-one items were listed and our members rated them as to how important they are in their spiritual life. Everyone was asked to use a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 meaning “not at all,” 2 meaning “a little,” 3 meaning “moderately,” 4 meaning “quite important,” and 5 meaning “vital.” One item rated was: “Special” worship services (Lenten; Advent; Christmas Eve; etc.).

These special services received an average rating of 4.2, putting it in the “top 10” of things we do at church. In discussing this in our Elders’ meeting, we have decided to expand our offerings of special services.

Our schedule has, in the past, clustered these special services during winter (Advent-Christmas cycle) and spring (Lent-Easter cycle). This coming year we will expand by offering evening services, every other Wednesday, during summer. The dates selected are: June 5, 19, July 3, 17, 31, August 14, and 28.

Why summer? Because people often like to take weekend trips to the mountains or beach. These services will allow us to worship together, even if someone is out of town on the weekend. Who knows, maybe they will also allow someone who would not join us on a Sunday morning to worship with us as well.

There is a problem, however. The general themes used in the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter cycles are set by the seasons themselves. Summer offers no such help to the preacher. What to do? What to preach about?

Ah! I have an idea. I’ll let the members of Lamb of God decide. Yes, that will work well.

We will have seven Wednesday services this coming summer so I will need seven topics (unless some of the topics require more than one sermon). So, I’m asking members of Lamb of God to think about what they would like to hear a sermon on. In a few weeks, an insert will be available in church for you to turn in your ideas. Then we will rank them, so I can be sure to cover those topics of greatest interest. (See how optimistic I am? I’m expecting more than seven choices.)

So, what do you want to hear?: A message about baptism in our daily lives?; A message about reconciliation in the family?; A message about the last days?; A message about the incarnation? Maybe you have an unchurched friend who has a question and who would come to the service if they knew their question was being addressed. Give it some thought.

By the way, if you can’t wait to give me your idea in church, or you think you might not be in the worship service when ideas are solicited, you can always leave your idea in a comment on this blog post.

Blessings in Christ,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Worship for Pentecost 20 - 2012

Thursday after Pentecost 19
October 11, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the 20th Sunday after Pentecost. For our liturgy we will use the third setting of the Divine Service (page 184). This is a communion service. The assigned lessons are Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Hebrews 3:12-19; and Mark 10:17-22. Our opening hymn will be “O Blessed, Holy Trinity” (LSB 876). The sermon hymn is “Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain” (LSB 865). Our closing hymn is “Thine Forever, God of Love” (LSB 687). Our distribution hymns are: “One Thing’s Needful” (LSB 536), “Come unto Me, Ye Weary” (LSB 684), and “Lord Jesus Christ, Live-Giving Bread” (LSB 625). The sermon text is Hebrews 3:13 and its title is “A Line in the Sand.”

In our public prayers we will remember the leaders of our own denomination, our fellow LC-MS believers, specially those in Trinity, Chestertown, MD; Our Shepherd, Columbia, MD; St. Paul’s, Crofton, MD; Trinity, Cumberland, MD; and Calvary, Charleston, SC. We continue to pray for our LC-MS missionaries around the world. This month we remember David & Joyce Erber, who work with English speaking people in Nigeria and West Africa. We pray that the Lord would raise up Christ-centered leaders of Lutheran congregations; that the Lord would protect David as he travels; and that the Holy Spirit would continue to sustain and grow the Lutheran church bodies in English-speaking West Africa.

We will remember the believers in Turkey. We will continue to remember those who have been misled by our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality, asking God’s grace for their lives that they may be healed and restored by the Holy Spirit. We will also continue to remember those trapped in the modern practice of slavery and ask God to bless all efforts that are pleasing in his sight to end this sinful practice. We will also remember the Lutheran Malaria Initiative’s effort to end malaria in Africa by 2015.

I was unable to find a video for any of the hymns we will be singing Sunday.

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. We have finished the gospel of Matthew. We will be starting an LLL Bible study titled “The Intersection of Church and State.” The study was prepared by Rev. Gregory Seltz. The LLL web site gives the following description:

In the U.S. the relationship between church and state is an energetic one. Voices and viewpoints line up across the spectrum. Some would argue from history there should be a "wall of separation" between the two. Others maintain co-existence is not only necessary and inevitable, but can lead to positive results. In real life, church and state do operate in similar spheres-both conflictingly and cooperatively. See how they interconnect in The Intersection of Church & State.

While some may propose a church and state separation is feasible, breaking this long-standing liaison is not likely. Though each entity has its separate function-the state to "promote the general welfare" of its citizens, the church to deal with spiritual concerns in this world, with an eye to the next-in reality they work together.

The Intersection of Church & State examines the dynamic give-and-take relationship that has marked the crossroads of church and state in this country. Though roadblocks are frequent where the two meet, there is still tremendous potential for cooperative work to be done. Using expert commentary from academics, church and civic leaders, agency professionals and others, this program underscores the healthy collaboration between church and state in caring for the needy, settling refugees, child adoption, chaplain services and more. It will also consider how these historical church and state partnerships are jeopardized. In the end, it will suggest a far superior metaphor in describing the church-state relationship is not one using a wall or barrier but, instead, an intersection, which benefits us all.

The Rev. Gregory P. Seltz is the Speaker of The Lutheran Hour® radio program. As host of The Intersection of Church & State, Seltz assists viewers in understanding the multi-layered discourse existing between church and state in the U.S. and how this relationship can be a fruitful force for good to those in need.

Below is the First Amendment and links that will take you to various documents that will help you dig deeper into the concepts and ideas in the first lesson.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Preview of the Lessons

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15:          In the Old Testament the Israelites formed a united nation, after the period of the Judges, around 1050 bc. This political unity was destroyed after the death of Solomon (930 bc) and, after a rebellion against the son of Solomon, the people divided into two nations, Israel in the north and Judea in the south. Amos, who prophesized from around 760 to 750 bc, was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel was more wayward that Judea, though both kingdoms had faithfulness problems. In the time of Amos, the nation of Israel was prosperous and they interpreted that prosperity as evidence that God was pleased with them. This is how our fallen human nature works. We think, “God is good to me because I deserve it.” Forgotten are the words of Moses, “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me into possess this land,’ … Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deuteronomy 9:4, 6). Their prosperity was interpreted as divine approval for the idolatry and injustice that permeated their society. Amos called the people to believe in and worship the true God and to a life in harmony with God’s will. Amos was just one of may prophets the Lord sent with this message. They were all ignored and/or persecuted. Marks of the corruption of Israel included injustice, persecution of those who point out injustice and how the culture had abandoned God, and the interpretation of temporal prosperity and the greatest blessing God can bestow. True life, which is granted only by the true God, is found in the Lord alone, as verse 6 directs us. It is true today as well. True life is not found in great vacations, great homes, great jobs, great families, great cars, and so forth. True life is located in a living relationship with the Lord, which is granted by grace through faith. In that relationship we learn how to truly live in a fashion that is pleasing to God, we learn to live in his grace.

Hebrews 3:12-19:            The writer of Hebrews tells us to be on our guard against having an “evil and unbelieving heart” which can lead us away from the living God. This, of course, is what Amos found in our Old Testament lesson. Hebrews tells us that the job of Amos is actually our job, to “exhort one another every day.” As this forms the central thought for Sunday’s sermon, I’ll not write more about it here.

Mark 10:17-22:    This story is also found in Matthew and Luke, which makes it had for us to read it simply in terms of Mark’s account. We tend to bring in information from the other accounts. For example, from Luke’s account, we know the man who comes to Jesus was a “ruler,” but Mark doesn’t tell us that fact. Matthew tells us that he was a young man, but Mark skips that fact. The story is basically an exposition of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus quotes in Mark 12:30-31. These are the two “great” commandments, of which all other commandments are simply expansions. In this particular case, the rich “young” “ruler” who came to Jesus valued his possession above both God and his neighbor. This also elucidates how the issues in the days of Amos continued in the days of Jesus. The words of Hebrews remind us that these issues continued to be prominent in the days of the Early Church. The temptation to usurp the place of God and neighbor in our hearts with something else continues to this day. In light of this, we should also pay close attention to what Mark reports, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Thank the sweet Lord that his love is not dependent on our righteousness (see the notes on Amos). The invitation of Jesus to this man to follow Jesus was sincere. The same sincere invitation is offered to all humanity to this day. In him we will find grace and forgiveness for every day of our lives. We will find the life that Amos spoke of.

  • Before I arrived at Lamb of God, the congregation crafted its current mission statement. In it we acknowledge that we desire to reach out with the love of Christ Jesus. The Lutheran Malaria Initiative is just such a God pleasing effort. Remember our statement of purpose, and support our Pancake Breakfast, October 27, from 8 to 10 am., at FATZ  in Boiling Springs. Sell tickets ($7.00), attend yourself, tell others about it, help greet people who come, and, when you sell the tickets you have, get more from Jill. Let us show the community we believe our mission statement through our actions.
Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Philip the Deacon - 2012

Commemoration of Philip the Deacon
Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Lord be with you

Philip, also called the evangelist (Acts 21:8) was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve apostles and of the rapidly growing Early Church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6). (He should not, therefore, be confused with the Apostle Philip.) Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (Acts 8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. By his work with the Samaritans and the Ethiopian we can see that Philip had a good grasp of the Gospel as God’s message for all people. He traveled as a missionary, preaching in every city from Azotus (Ashdod) northwards to Caesarea, where he took up residence with his four daughters. (As there is no mention of a wife, it is assumed she died before he became a deacon.) In Caesarea, Philip was host for several days to the apostle Paul who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-15). Philip’s activities toward the end of his life are the subject of speculation, but Basil (329 – 379), who became bishop of Caesarea, says he was bishop of Tralles in Lydia in Asia Minor.

Collect for the Commemoration of Philip the Deacon: Almighty and everlasting God, we give thanks to You for Your servant Philip the Deacon. You called him to preach the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land messengers of Your kingdom, that Your Church may proclaim the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Other things to pray about:
  • For those who administer the affairs of the church
  • For those who flee persecution
  • For missionaries and their families
  • For all Christian families and single-parent homes

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Commemoration of Abraham

Wednesday after Pentecost 19
October 10, 2012

The Lord be with you

Yesterday was the Commemoration of Abraham in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I was away from the internet, so I couldn’t post anything about it. I am, therefore, posting something today.

Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs – and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12).

In Genesis 15:6 we are told that Abraham believed the promise God made to him, and that the Lord counted it to Abraham as righteousness. This is the first explicit reference to anyone in the Bible as having faith. Therefore Abraham is often referred to as the “father of all who believe.” Of course, he was not the first person to believe in God and God’s promises, just the first to whom the Bible explicitly points. As this faith granted to Abraham righteousness, he, like all believers, was justified by grace through faith. Of this saving faith, Luther wrote:

All Holy Scripture is in agreement with this true service of God, which is indeed grounded in Holy Scripture. Therefore if you want to serve God, bear in mind that you must believe in Him whom the Father sent. If you want to know how to obtain God’s grace and how to approach God, how to render satisfaction for your sin, and how to escape death, then this is truly God’s will and true service, that you believe in Christ. The text deals with the work that we are to perform, namely, to believe. Faith is a work that man must do, and yet it is also called the work of God; for this is the true existence, work, life, and merit with which God desires to be honored and served. If there is no faith, God accepts nothing as service rendered to Him. Here we have the answer to the question: What is the real service of God? It is the doctrine of faith in Christ. Later Christ tells us about the origin of faith—for no one possesses faith of himself—when He says (John 6:44): “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” And again (John 6:65): “No one can believe in Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” For faith is a divine work which God demands of us; but at the same time He Himself must implant it in us, for we cannot believe by ourselves.

Abraham’s story can be found in Genesis 11:27-25:11.

Prayer for the Commemoration of Abraham: Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament, through the same 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

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor * 2012

Commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor
Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Lord be with you

Moving from Europe to the English colonies in America, Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg arrived in Charleston, SC, on September 23, 1742. He established the shape of Lutheran parishes for North America during a forty-five year ministry in Pennsylvania. He was born at Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, the seventh of nine children. A tireless traveler, Muhlenberg helped to found many Lutheran congregations and was the guiding force behind the first Lutheran synod in North America, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, founded in 1748.

When Muhlenberg arrived in the colonies, Lutheranism already had a long history in North America. In the mid-1600s Lutherans could be found in the Danish West Indies (today, the Virgin Islands) and along the Hudson River. Lutheranism continued to slowly grow, drawing membership from various ethnic backgrounds, but was never the dominant expression of Christianity. Therefore, when Muhlenberg arrived, the Lutheran congregations were still few, scattered, and not organized beyond the local congregational level. In deed, his call came from three congregations, one in Philadelphia, one from New Hanover (Swamp), and one in New Providence (Trappe), as none of them could support a pastor on their own.

Muhlenberg valued the role of music in Lutheran worship (often serving as his own organist) and was the guiding force in preparing the first American Lutheran liturgy. This liturgy survives to this day, having come to the Missouri Synod through The Lutheran Hymnal, and, today, as the third setting of the Divine Service in the Lutheran Service Book (page 184). (Of course, back in Muhlenberg’s day, it wasn’t called the “Divine” service but the “Common” service.1) He preached in German, Dutch, and English. The sample constitution for a congregation he wrote was the model for most Lutheran congregations in America for many years.

Muhlenberg is remembered as a church leader, a journalist (the book, Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman, comes from his journals and gives you an idea of just how tireless he was), a liturgist, and – above all – a pastor to the congregation in his charge. The strong presence of Lutheranism in the mountains of North Carolina is due, in part, to his work. He died October 7, 1787, leaving behind a large extended family (many quite involved in the founding of the United States) and a lasting heritage: American Lutheranism. He was buried in Trappe, Pennsylvania, where he died. The Latin inscription on his headstone confidently states, “Who and what he was future ages will know without a stone.”

Prayer for the Commemoration of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg: Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of Your people we give You thanks for Your servant Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of the flock entrusted to his care. So they may follow his example and the teaching of his holy life, give strength to pastors today who shepherd Your flock so that, by Your grace, Your people may grow into the fullness of life intended for them in paradise; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Alternate Prayer: God, our heavenly Father, Your servant Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg displayed courage and perseverance in the face of opposition and slander, and brought order both in life and in worship to scattered and dispirited congregations: Give to the pastors of Your Church such strength and faithfulness that the devotion of Your people may be enriched, and that unity and cooperation may be advanced, to the glory of Your Name; through Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Additional things you could pray about:
  • For the Lutheran Churches in America
  • For harried administrators and leaders in the church
  • For a spirit of peace and unity based on God’s word
  • For a commitment to orthodoxy and right teaching
  • For a deepened piety

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

1      The introduction of the term “Divine,” in reference to the Communion Liturgy used in American Lutheranism, dates to the material published to introduce new hymnals in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With it came a division of opinion, is Sunday morning about us serving the Divine or about the Divine serving us? It also brought a division of opinion concerning the word “liturgy.” Based on the origin of the word, it means “public service/work,” but is it the public work of God or of the people? Referring to the Communion Service as “Divine” was taken from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The reality is, of course, that all answers are correct. We serve God in our prayers and praises, and God serves us with his gifts of forgiveness and grace.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Worship for LWML Sunday - 2012

Thursday after Pentecost 18
October 4, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the 19th Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the Commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor. Muhlenberg was a very important colonial pastor, as far as Lutheranism in America is concerned. You can read more about him in the post I will put on the blog Sunday. Sunday is also Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Sunday. This isn’t exactly a “liturgical” day. Nonetheless, many of our congregations will recognize it as a way of lifting up the kingdom work that the women in the LC-MS accomplish. We will do that at Lamb of God.

Our liturgy for Sunday will be the Service of Prayer and Preaching (page 260), with a few modifications to recognize our women. The two most noticeable modifications will be the congregation praying out loud the Collect for LWML Sunday and our Mission Statement will be replaced with the LWML Pledge. This pledge, written in 1955, should be something every Christian can wholeheartedly pledge. It is: “In fervent gratitude for the Savior’s dying love and His blood-bought gift of redemption we dedicate ourselves to Him with all that we are and have; and in obedience to His call for workers in the harvest fields, we pledge Him our willing service wherever and whenever He has need of us. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to sing His praises, our lips to proclaim His redeeming love, our silver and our gold to extend His Kingdom, our will to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen. “

Our ladies will also play a more prominent role Sunday, handing out bulletins, ushering, reading, providing us with the Children’s Message and Tina Mullinax will be playing “Nearer My God to Thee” on her violin during our offering. The assigned lessons for Pentecost 19 are Genesis 2:18-25; Hebrews 2:1-18; Mark 10:2-16, and, as you will see, work well for LWML Sunday. We will also be using Psalm 128 (antiphon v. 1).  Our opening hymn will be “One Thing’s Needful” (LSB 536), our “new” hymn. The sermon hymn is “O Father, All Creating” (LSB 858). Our closing hymn is “Lord, When You Came as Welcome Guest” (LSB 859). The sermon text is Mark 10:7, and its title is “Prelude to a Marriage.”

In our public prayers we will continue to lift up other Christian denominations and their leaders. This Sunday we will remember the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and their president, Rev. Mark Schroeder. We continue to pray for our LC-MS missionaries around the world. This month we remember David & Joyce Erber, who work with English speaking people in Nigeria and West Africa. We pray that the Lord would raise up Christ-centered leaders of Lutheran congregations; that the Lord would protect David as he travels; and that the Holy Spirit would continue to sustain and grow the Lutheran church bodies in English-speaking West Africa.

We will remember the persecuted believers in Tunisia. Tunisia is in North Africa, right next door to Libya. Tunisia was a fertile ground for the Early Church, but the conquering of the area by Arab Moslems changed that. Non-Moslems must pay a 50% tax. Over the centuries, this policy, plus the mandatory execution of any Moslem who converts to a different faith, has diminished the numbers of non-Moslems. Recently, more radical Islamic groups, like Al Qaeda, have increased the danger to Christians. Just this past June a young man who converted to Christianity was martyred for his faith in the One True Triune God by having his head cut off with a knife. I refrain from putting the graphic video up here. Today there are maybe 25,000 Christians in Tunisia.

We will also remember, in our prayers, our sister SED congregations: Our Savior, Bryans Road, MD; Our Shepherd, Cambridge, MD; St. Paul, Catonsville, MD; Galilee, Chester, MD; and Bethlehem, Aiken, SC. We will continue to remember those who have been misled by our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality, asking God’s grace for their lives that they may be healed and restored by the Holy Spirit. We will also continue to remember those trapped in the modern practice of slavery and ask God to bless all efforts that are pleasing in his sight to end this sinful practice. We will also remember the Lutheran Malaria Initiative’s effort to end malaria in Africa by 2015.

The following video is of a man playing our closing hymn, “Lord, When You Came as Welcome Guest” on the tuba. This is a well known tune as it is also used for “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” (LSB 673) and “Lord, Bid Your Servant Go in Peace” (LSB 937).

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. We are starting the final chapter of Matthew, and considering what we will do next.   

Preview of the Lessons

Genesis 2:18-25:  The story of creation is actually broken into two parts in the Bible. The first part (Genesis 1) deals with the big picture. The second part (Genesis 2) deals specifically with humanity. In Genesis 1:26, when God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” the word “man” does not mean “males” but humans. The dominion spoken of here applies equally to men and women. In Genesis 2 we have a close-up on the creation of humanity. These verses are commonly heard in wedding services. Anyone who has been to a few of these has certainly heard them expounded on many times. Some things to note include that Adam was made out of the ground. This reflects the connection we have with nature. Due to that connection, our “dominion” should not be one of master and slave, but one more akin to caretaker and what is cared for. In the same sense, the woman is made from Adam. Once again, the relationship is therefore not master-slave but care and support. This is especially true as the image of God is given to both. The mutual dependency is accented even stronger for a man and a woman than our mutual dependence with nature. Another interesting feature is that Eve is “born” of Adam, where as normally men are born of women. While a number of points might be illustrated from this, my mind goes to how Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, designates Jesus as the New Adam. Just as Eve (and through her all humanity) received “birth” through the Old Adam, so we all now receive our new birth into the Christian Faith through the New Adam, Jesus. Finally the final verse, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” can catch our attention. Here we see the stark difference between the perfect creation and the mire of our fallen creation. Adam and Eve could live in this state without all the lust such publications like Playboy engender in us. Such a state is near impossible to imagine for us fallen people. No one should take this to mean we are to strut around in our “birthday suites.” Sin changed things. So, in Genesis 3:21, God himself provided Adam and Eve with their first set of clothing.

Hebrews 2:1-18:   We will finish out the Church Year with a series of readings from Hebrews. This is the first one. No one really knows who wrote this book. Some suggestions include Paul, Apollos, Luke and Barnabas. Even though it is anonymous, it was accepted as Apostolic right away. Because the writer does such an excellent job of interpreting the Old Testament in light of Jesus, I am inclined to think of him as one of the two “Emmaus Road” disciples (Luke 24:13-35). As far as I know, I’m the only one who thinks this. One of the main focuses of the book is to encourage converts to remain faithful to Jesus (2:3). This encouragement was important as persecution of Christians was enticing some to return to Judaism. The writer demonstrates the superiority of Jesus over angels. He then writes about how God, in Jesus, became enfleshed. Just as Adam and Eve were flesh and blood, so Jesus became flesh and blood. He ends with how this enfleshment of God made possible our Lord’s victory over the devil on our behalf. He also points out how the enfleshment of Jesus means that Jesus can relate to us. He has “walked in our shoes.”

Mark 10:2-16:       Some say that this reading has Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce. That really isn’t so. It has Jesus’ teaching about marriage. The Pharisees ask when it would be okay to get a divorce. How human, as in fallen human. We always tend to want to know how to get around God’s will. So we get questions like, “What it the minimum requirement to get a divorce?” “What is the minimum requirement to be a Christian?” “What is my minimum responsibility to my neighbor?” God isn’t really all that interested in “minimum” questions. His goal is to provide “maximum” answers. We are always to be growing in the grace of God, at least, that is God’s desire. Jesus points to divorce as evidence of a hard heart. In stead, God desires marriage to be a live long union between a “male and female,” which produces the maximum about of support, blessing, joy, and contentment. Jesus doesn’t want our marriages to be examples of people scraping by, but a reflection of the same relationship Jesus has with the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The reading ends with the disciples trying to keep parents from bringing their little children to Jesus so Jesus could bless them. (This reminds me of people who will not baptize infants and small children.) Jesus rebukes the disciples “for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” In this reading Jesus affirms that small children can indeed have faith, for it is only by grace through faith that we are received into the kingdom of God.

  • Our Cub Scout Pack will be meeting at Church, 1:00 pm, to go to King’s Mountain.

  • As mentioned above, this is LWML Sunday.

  • PLEASE DON’T FORGET, We are sponsoring a Pancake Breakfast, Saturday, October 27, at the Fats restaurant ( in Boiling Springs, to support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI). Members are asked to sell tickets for $7.00 (of which $4.00 will go to LMI and $3.00 will go to Fats to cover their costs) for this event. Tickets will be available Sunday. Additional help will be needed in the form of greeters who will also sell tickets at the door and/or accept donations. You can expect more information over the next two months on this blog about our Pancake Breakfast and LMI.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert