Thursday, January 24, 2013

Worship for Epiphany 3 - 2013



Thursday after Epiphany 2
Commemoration of St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor
January 24, 2013

The Lord be with you
Icon of St. John Chrysostom

This coming Sunday is the Third Sunday after Epiphany. It is also the commemoration of John Chrysostom, Preacher. While we will thank the Lord for his witness in our prayers, he will not be featured in our worship in any other fashion. Therefore, a quick word about him is in place at this time. “Chrysostom” is actually a nickname for John, given by those who heard him preach, it means “golden-mouth.” He was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian Church. Born in Antioch around 347 ad, he learned the Christian Faith from his mother, Anthusa. After serving in numerous “lower” offices, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple and direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398 he was made patriarch of Constantinople but his determination to reform the church, court and city brought him into conflict with the authorities. Eventually he was exiled. He continued writing until his death in 407. His final words were “Glory be to God for all things! Amen.” His life can remind us that following Jesus does not automatically mean an easy or prosperous life, even in a “Christian” setting. Following Christ has a price. A price believers are willing to pay.

This coming Sunday we will be using the first setting of the Divine Service (page 151) for our liturgy. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. If you desire to attend the sacrament, you may prepare by reviewing the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” found in Luther’s Small Catechism. The appointed lessons are Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; and Luke 4:16-30. Our opening hymn will be “Once He Came in Blessing” (LSB 333). Our sermon hymn will be “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” (LSB 650). Our closing hymn will be “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” (LSB 685). Our distribution hymns will be: “By All Your Saints in Warfare” (LSB 517:1, 4, 3), “Eat This Bread” (LSB 638), and “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” (LSB 411). The second distribution hymn was chosen because of John Chrysostom. Verse four of “By All Your Saints in Warfare” is the GP verse.

 “It’s Not About Me” is the sermon title. The text is 1 Corinthians 12:13.

In our prayers we will continue to remember those who have been mislead by our cultures advocacy of sexual immorality and abortion, asking for healing in the lives damaged by these sins and those who are trapped in modern-day slavery (often now called Human Trafficking). We will also remember The India Evangelical Lutheran Church and their president, Rev. J. Samuel. We will remember missionaries Jack and Cathy Carlos, who are working the Maninka people in Guinea West Africa. We will remember the Christians in Chiapas, Mexico, where the Church us persecuted. We will remember our sister congregations: Abundant Life, All Saints, Ascension, Chapel for the Deaf, all Charlotte, NC; and Risen Christ, Myrtle Beach, SC

Our adult Sunday school class has begun studying the CTCR report “together with all creatures: caring for God’s living earth.” This is an excellent and biblical examination of ecological issues. Quite obviously, this will have real implications about how we live on the earth. Class begins at 9:00 am. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

Preview of Lessons

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
The book of Nehemiah takes place around 440 bc (give or take a decade). The Jewish people had abandoned the way of the Lord and been deported as a consequence. The books of Nehemiah and Ezra tell about their return from captivity, specially about the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra) and the city walls (Nehemiah). Upon returning home the people wanted to do what was right, but didn’t know exactly what that was. In this reading the people gather in a large worship service. The word of God was central to this service. Verse 8 lets us know that either sermons based on the text were also delivered or that the Hebrew lessons were at least translated into Aramaic. Many believe this is background for the Jewish Targums. The peoples’ response to the Law was sorrow. However Nehemiah and Ezra tell them they should rejoice, for God keeps his promises. Here we have a good Law/Gospel contrast. As long as we are focused on ourselves, the Law of God brings remorse and sorrow for our failures. At least this is the case if you have any real spiritual awareness. It is the Gospel that brings joy. God keeps his promises, even though we are sinners. Our sin cannot stop God. The greatest promise he has kept is his entering human history to restore us through his suffering, death, and resurrection. We look forward to the ultimate fulfillment of that when Jesus returns and ushers in the final age with the new heavens and the new earth. Other themes one might draw from this lesson is the importance of corporate worship in our lives and the importance of the word of God in guiding our lives. Without the Bible we are bound to wander from the truth.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
This reading picks up where last week’s reading ended. Paul continues to respond to a troubled and divided congregation which, ironically, was not lacking in any gift (1:7). As the sermon will be based off of this reading, I’ll write no more.

Luke 4:16-30
Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, where he is invited to speak in the Synagogue. This was very early in his ministry. He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and reads from what we would call Isaiah 61. Jesus then tells the congregation that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The response is drastic and negative as his hometown neighbors seek to kill Jesus. Verse 22 is a translation issue. The esv (and many other translations) renders it, “And all the people spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” After this apparently positive evaluation everyone immediately become hostile towards Jesus. The word translated “spoke well of” is more literally translated “testified of/concerning”. Translators tend to think that anyone who is speaking about or testifying concerning Jesus, is being positive, which is why the translations say “spoke well of.” The key word is translated “marveled.” It is often positive and often associated with God. In this context, with the negative response the people are having, I think the better translation would be “remarkable.” So a translation that doesn’t have such a jarring change in the people might be, “And all the people spoke of him and remarked at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” In other words, the evaluation in verse 22 is far more neutral that it appears in our translations. This ties into our Old Testament lesson as we again see people gathering for corporate worship and the word of God as a key element of that service, including a “sermon.” It is also instructive that we find Jesus in a corporate worship service. This is common for Jesus. For those who are followers of Jesus, we also find corporate worship as a natural expression of our faith.

Tidbits

Our February newsletter will be available Sunday.

Junior Confirmation continues to meet on Wednesdays, beginning at 6:30 pm.

Below is a video of our sermon hymn, “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling.”


Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today in History



 

January 22

304 Vincent of Saragossa, martyr, is commemorated.

1629 Johann Tarnow, exegete, died (b. 1586, Grevesm├╝hlen, Mecklenburg).

1711 Johann Philipp Fabricius, Lutheran missionary among the Tamil people of India, was born at Kleeberg, Germany (d. 1791).

1815 Philipp Fleischmann, who helped found and conduct the Missouri Synod teachers seminary at Milwaukee in 1855, was born in Regensburg, Bavaria (d. 11 September 1878).

1821 Georg Philipp Speckhard, first director of the Lutheran School for the Deaf (Detroit), was born in Wersau, Hesse (d. 20 November 1879).

1843 Francis Landry Patton, Presbyterian cleric and educator, was born in Warwick, Bermuda (d. 25 November 1932).

1843 Friedrich Wilhelm Blass, German philologist and grammarian, was born (d. 5 March 1907). [German Wikipedia article]

1855 Carrie Ellis Breck, American Presbyterian poet, was born in Vermont (d. 27 March 1934, Portland, Oregon).

1858 Gerhard Friedrich Bente, professor at Concordia Seminary (Saint Louis) and a compiler of the Concordia Triglotta, was born in Wimmer, Hannover (d. 15 December 1930).

1859 Andrew George Voigt, theologian and educator in the Lutheran United Synod of the South, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 2 January 1933).

1872 Friedrich Reinhold Eduard Preuss (18341904), a professor at Concordia Seminary (Saint Louis) from 1869 to 1871, was rebaptized in the Roman Catholic Church.

1876 John Bacchus Dykes, composer of sacred music and an English clergyman, died (b. 10 March 1823, Kingston-upon-Hull, England).

1882 Frederick Henry Stephen Hassold, LCMS missionary to New Zealand, was born in Huntington, Indiana (d. 6 September 1970).

1882 The Fifth Street Presbyterian Church of Troy, New York, became the first church in America to be lit by electric lights.

1899 Pope Leo XIII (18101903) warned James Cardinal Gibbons, senior hierarch of the Catholic church in America, against the phantom heresy of Americanism: the attempt to adapt the traditional doctrines and practices of the church to a more independent modern world.

1913 Carl F. H. Henry, American evangelical theologian and publisher, was born (d. 7 December 2003).

1913 John Julian, hymnist, died (b. 27 January 1839).

1915 Anna B. Warner (b. 31 August 1827), American hymn writer, died.

1922 Pope Benedict XV died (b. 21 November 1854).

1966 William Mahler, the first Missouri Synod missionary to Brazil, died (b. 16 November 1870, Polkwitz, Germany).

1967 The Lutheran hospital at Abatan, Mountain Province, Philippines, was dedicated.

1973 The Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion in United States, was handed down by U.S. Supreme Court.

1976 Jean Garton, Lutherans for Life, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast for Life in Washington, D.C.

Daily listings of selected events from the history of the church are available on the Concordia Historical Institute web site at http://lutheranhistory.org/history/todayinhist.asp .

Sign up for our email publication, “Pieces of Our Past,╦« on the LCMS eNews page.


Monday, January 21, 2013

An Epiphany Season Message

An Epiphany message from Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the LC-MS, for our church.


Serving Our Lord and His Church with Gladness



The Lord be with you

Pastor Frank Ciampa is the called ministers at Christ our Savior Lutheran Mission in Camden, SC (KershawLutheran@gmail.com). Like so many of us pastors, he has a regular newsletter. This is the lead article for their January/February newsletter, that I thought I’d share with you.

Serving Our Lord and His Church with Gladness: Those who serve God miserably or mechanically or reluctantly, are obviously doing something they find unpleasant. Such people mechanically do what outwardly appears proper, but inwardly there is no joy, no sense of mission, no presence of the Spirit. They serve God like slaves. But God does not want slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of love, freedom and joy. God has invited us to the Feast of Victory, not to the bottom of a galley to row in darkness and misery. We have from knowing our sins are forgiven and that we are loved children of God. The angels serve God with songs, not with groans. Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looketh at the heart, and if He seeth that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering. Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart-service, and therefore true. …If a man be forced into battle, he is no patriot; but he who marches into the fray with flashing eye and beaming face, singing, "It is sweet for one's country to die," proves himself to be sincere in his patriotism.”

Some days serving God may not be (or feel) very joyful, our faith is not perfect, but in good times and bad the Joy of the Lord is always there to provide us strength and protection from the friction that robs us of divine joy. In the joy of the Lord we are strong – God’s joy can remove mountains of difficulties and His joy in us is a witness to the world. So, when the world looks at your service or your giving to the church – do they see joy and freedom or do they see sad compulsion and slavery? By the power of spirit and faith, I pray that our service at Christ Our Savior Lutheran is also done in joy and always brings us joy.”

If you are in the Lugoff/Camden/Kershaw area, I encourage you to join the members of Christ our Savior for worship. They meet at Patterson Plaza, 1053 Hwy 1 South in Lugoff, on Sundays at 10:30 AM. Christian Education begins at 9:30 AM.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Worship for Epiphany 2 - 2013



Thursday after Epiphany 1
January 17, 2013

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday after Epiphany. It is also the commemoration of Sarah. While we will thank the Lord for her witness in our prayers, she will not be featured in our worship in any other fashion. Therefore, a quick word about her is in place at this time. Sarah was originally named Sarai. The Lord changed her name when she was quite old. Both Sarah and Sarai mean princess. Sarah was barren. However, at her advanced age, God promised her a son. That son was Isaac. This has been seen as a type of the birth of Jesus. In both cases you have women for whom it is impossible to bear children (one because she was past the age of bearing children and the other because she was a virgin). In both cases God intervened sending a messenger to tell of a promised birth. Both births were miraculous. Both children were boys. Both children were fulfillments of the promise of God. The child, in each case, was a blessing to many. Another way to consider the story of Sarah is to realize that she was “fruitful” even in her old age. This began when she received her new name. So we receive a new name in our baptism. So we can pray, in the words of the collect: “Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit”.

We will be using Matins for our liturgy (page 219). The appointed Psalm is Psalm 128 (antiphon verse 5). The appointed lessons are Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, and John 2:1-11. Our opening hymn will be “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” (LSB 394). Our sermon hymn will be “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (LSB 700). Our closing hymn will be “We Are Called to Stand Together” (LSB 828).

The sermon is titled “Same and Different.” The text is 1 Corinthians 12:4. The epistle lesson is actually the first of several drawn from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 and so we are going to have a mini-series drawn from these chapters.

In our prayers we will continue to remember those who have been mislead by our cultures advocacy of sexual immorality and abortion, asking for healing in the lives damaged by these sins and those who are trapped in modern-day slavery (often now called Human Trafficking). We will continue to remember the families and friends of the Sandy Hook murders. We will also remember The Lutheran Church - Hong Kong Synod and their president, Rev. Dr. Allan Yung. The LCHKS is a partner church with us. We will remember missionaries Tony and Constance Booker, who are in the Czech Republic. We will remember our sister congregations: Redeemer, Burlington, NC; Resurrection, Cary, NC; Redeemer, Catawba, NC; Advent, Chapel Hill, NC; and Good Shepherd, Greenville, SC. Finally we will remember the persecuted believers in Burma (Myanmar).

Our adult Sunday school class will begin a new study this Sunday. It is based on the Commission on Theology and Church Relations report titled: “together with all creatures: caring for God’s living earth.” In this study we will examine our relationship with the rest of God’s good creation. Quite obviously, this will have real implications about how we live on the earth. Class begins at 9:00 am.

Preview of Lessons

Isaiah 62:1-5
Our Old Testament lesson is another wonderful Gospel passage from Isaiah. This lesson speaks of the global nature of God’s love in Christ Jesus as Isaiah speaks of the “nations” seeing Christ’s righteousness and “kings” his glory. Even if you don’t “get” all the metaphorical language, the overall tone is unmistakable. This is “good news” that everyone enjoys for it encompasses everyone.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Paul writes concerning the roll of the Holy Spirit. There are two key verses one should pay attention to in understanding these and subsequent verses. They are verses three and eleven. We will unpack this reading more in Sunday’s message.

John 2:1-11
This is the traditional Gospel lesson for Epiphany 2. Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding. The host/groom runs out of wine. Mary gets Jesus involved and Jesus turns a huge amount of water into wine (which, no surprise, turns out to be the best wine the celebrators received at the party). The reason this lesson is a traditional Epiphany text lies in verse 11: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Aside from the major theme of Jesus as God in human flesh and that we should believe in him, many minor themes can also be found. The wedding metaphor is often used in scriptures as an analogy for our relationship with God. Jesus attending a wedding underscores that marriage is a good thing. In fact, marriage is an echo of the Garden of Eden and the relationship of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The turning of water into wine underscores the goodness of God’s creation. (As a very small aside, it also indicates that consumption of wine is okay in moderation. To say anything else is to say Jesus encouraged (or even indorsed) sin.)

Tidbits

Our Health Fair (scheduled for Saturday, April 13) has a name: “Spring forward for Health.” Apparently this title won by a “healthy” margin (ugh, was that a bad pun or what?).

Junior Confirmation continues to me on Wednesdays, beginning at 6:30 pm.

Women’s Bible Fellowship has been canceled for tonight due to the threatening snow. We are rescheduling for next Thursday. We will then begin the study “The Bible on Trial: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt.” This study has many internet links. To make it easier for the ladies, those links have been posted on this blog and can be found in the post I made earlier today.

Below is a video of our closing hymn, “We Are Called to Stand Together.” It is being sung at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.


Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Women's Bible Study - Bible on Trial



Thursday after Epiphany 2
January 17, 2013

The Lord be with you

Tonight our ladies will begin a new Bible study titled The Bible on Trial: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. The study is produced by the “Men’s Network” of the Lutheran Hour Ministries (www.lhmmen.com). It has a 4-part video and a discussion guide which will be handed out. Throughout the study are internet links, eight of which seem to no longer be in service. So no one has try to type in all these addresses, the links are provided below.

About the Study (from the back of the video)

Ste in a courtroom, The Bible On Trial: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt examines the contributions of biblical analysis, ancient historical voices, archaeology and the testimony of first-century followers of Jesus Christ in its quest to determine the reliability and accuracy of the Bible’s message.

In this Men’s NewWork Bible study, attoney Craig Parton leads the investigation. Along the way, Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Dr. Randall Price of Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.; Dr. Jeff Kloha of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. and Joel Lampe of The Bible Museum, Goodyear, Ariz. contribute insights and analysis from their respective fields on the crucial issue of the Bible as a trustworthy work in which to place our faith.

Employing three “Standards of Reliability,” the authenticity of the Bible is evaluated according to the “Biblographical,” “Internal Evidence” and External Evidence” tests. By assessing how the Bible stacks up agains6t other well known manuscripts of ancient literature. The Bible On Trial shows itself to be a remarkable and meticulous achievement when compared to any document from any time period. That this is so should come as no surprise. “The Bible claims to speak for God. It should be held to the highest standard,” Parton says.

But what then of the message? “It’s one thing to agree the text is reliable. It’s quite another to say that it is true,” Parton says. The Bible makes the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to take away the sins of the world, and that He rose from the dead three days after He was crucified on a hill outside of Jerusalem. The Bible indicates Jesus is the Savior of the world and the central figure in all of human history.

What is your verdict?


Full List Of Links Used In Digging Deeper Boxes
Throughout This Study:

Session 1: Answering The Bible's Critics

Oldest New Testament Manuscripts:
o Catholic Encyclopedia Article: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04080c.htm
  • Partial New Testament papyri: http://www.biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html
(The above link takes you to Biblefacts.org, but the specific fill was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)

Dating the Gospels

Textual Criticism


Session 2: Hard Evidence From The Ancient World

External Evidence: Historians

The Original Autographs
  • How papyrus is made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= FNtqAkzpuU
(The above video was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)
(The above video was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)
(The above video was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)
  • Writing before the alphabet: http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/video/3 history writing.html
(The above video was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)

The Writing of Jeremiah

The Sopherim
  • Sopherim: http://www.grmi.org/renewal/Richard Riss/evidences/16trans.html
            (The above link was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)

The Dead Sea Scrolls
(The above link was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)

Religions That Depend on a Corrupt Bible
(The above link was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)


Session 3: Archaeology's Contribution

Contributions Of Biblical Archaeology
(The above link was missing when I checked 1/17/13.)


Session 4: Eyewitness Testimony

Bible Images


Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickewrt

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lutherans advocate for anti-malaria support in D.C

Lutherans advocate for anti-malaria support in D.C.
By Vicki Biggs

In Africa, a child dies of malaria every 60 seconds.

As part of the ongoing efforts of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) to reverse this statistic, leaders from the LCMS, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) and Lutheran churches in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania converged in Washington, D.C., Ndc-malaria.gifov. 27, to advocate for ongoing support of anti-malaria programming overseas.

The group conveyed three primary messages to Congress: requests for support of LMI's commitment to fight malaria in Africa; a pledge to make fighting malaria a foreign-policy priority; and the ongoing commitment to earmark $670 million in FY13 for U.S. bilateral malaria programs and support of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Joining LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and the Rev. Dr. John A. Nunes, president of Lutheran World Relief (LWR), in this effort were the Most Rev. Christian Ekong, president of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria; the Rev. John Halakhe, general secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya; Bishop Eliuphoo Sima with the Central Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania; and Rogath Lewis Mollel, general secretary, East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, along with 14 staff members from the LCMS and LWR.

Harrison said the meetings provided an opportunity to inform congressional leaders about the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.

"This was a chance for our elected representatives to get to know the significant work the faith community is doing in Africa, and also for us to hear about the current appropriations process and challenges the government faces in continuing to support anti-malaria programs," Harrison said.

To accommodate 25 congressional visits, the Lutheran delegation divided into small groups. Meetings were held with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Colleen Bell, an aide to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as well as with Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., and legislative aides to three of the six LCMS members of Congress. The contingent also met with aides to members of Congress serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights; the Appropriations Committee; and House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

During the meetings, Ekong, Halakhe, Sima and Mollel told personal stories of the effects of malaria in their own lives, congregations and communities, and emphasized the importance of ongoing U.S. funding for accomplishing the goal of ending malaria deaths.

"Through LMI, dollars move to the grassroots level -- to the people who need it to fight malaria," Ekong said. "To get people to go for treatment, you have to know the people and their beliefs. You need to have their trust. The pulpit is very strong in Nigeria. Our churches are dependable and trusted. And our people know [that] these dollars are coming as the result of love. We thank the American people who care about us."

Since LMI was started in 2008, the child mortality rate from malaria in Africa has decreased by 50 percent. Stressing the need for ongoing support for anti-malaria work in Africa -- with the U.S. as one of the largest contributors -- Ekong said, "It is important for the U.S. government to continue supporting malaria so we don't fall backward on the successes we are seeing."

Together to win

Sima added, "I know that working together with the people of America, especially the Lutheran church in America, we will win this war against malaria -- and there will be no more malaria in my country."

Martha Mitkos, LMI campaign director for the LCMS, said the meetings were an important opportunity for LMI and the church's African partners to meet with U.S. lawmakers.

"Our partners came to share their personal stories of how malaria has affected the people of their countries, not only economically -- given the effects the disease has on increased health-care costs and lost productivity -- but also emotionally, given the tragic loss of life the disease [causes]," Mitkos said.

More than half the world's population is at risk for malaria. Nearly one million people die of the disease each year, and 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease disproportionately affects pregnant mothers and children under age 5. Malaria costs Africa $12 billion annually in lost production. But malaria is preventable and treatable.

Nunes and Harrison thanked the members of Congress for taking the time to meet with the group.

"We were excited about meeting with folks who care to make a difference," Nunes said.

A reception billed as "Going the Distance to End Malaria" in the Dirksen Senate Office Building capped off the day's schedule of congressional appointments. Nunes; Halakhe; Sima; Elizabeth McKee Gore, vice-president of Global Partnerships at the United Nations Foundation; and Harrison addressed nearly 100 assembled guests, who included clergy, donors and congressional representatives.

"Thanks to everyone in this room, we have improved the child-mortality rate in Africa," Gore said. "Our partnership in this effort extends to the U.S. government and the faith-based community. Together, we are doing the work."

'The right thing to do'

Harrison, who mentioned the story of the Good Samaritan in his remarks, said, "This parable is about Jesus Himself seeing the world in need. We must become incarnate now and help our neighbor. We've got a long way to go, but it's the right thing to do."

LMI is a partnership of Lutheran World Relief and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod to mobilize U.S. Lutherans in the global fight to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. LMI utilizes a three-fold approach to fighting malaria: prevention, education and treatment. LMI is made possible through support from the United Nations Foundation.

To learn more about LMI, visit www.lcms.org/lmi.

Vicki Biggs is director, Integrated Communications, with LCMS Communications.

This article appeared in the January 2013 Reporter and was posted online Dec. 27, 2012

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worship for Epiphany 2



Thursday after The Epiphany of our Lord
Commemoration of Basil the Great of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazainzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, Pastors and Confessors
January 10, 2013

The Lord be with you

Well, I’m back from my vacation. For those who come to these notes regularly, I apologize for not posting much for the past few weeks. In the week leading up to Christmas I was just to busy with all the worship services. In the two weeks after Christmas, I was on vacation. But I’m back now, and so are these notes.

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday after Epiphany. Epiphany is always January 6 and so typically is not a Sunday. The first Sunday after Epiphany is also the Baptism of our Lord. The readings in the three year cycle we use retains this historic theme, we just read it from a different Gospel each year. In the old one-year series the story was read from Luke. It just so happens that we are in the third year of the three-year cycle, and our Gospel lesson for Sunday is from Luke, so we will hear the historic lesson this Sunday. The appointed lessons are: Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22.

We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. For our liturgy, we will be using Divine Service 1, which begins on page 151. Our opening hymn will be “God Himself Is Present” (LSB 907). Our sermon hymn will be “To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord” (LSB 407, verses 1-4, 7). Our closing hymn will be “Forth in the Peace of Christ We Go” (LSB 920). Our distribution hymns will be “Baptized into Your Name Most Holy” (LSB 590), “Your Table I Approach” (LSB 628) and “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized” (LSB 596).

The sermon is titled “More Than Meets the Eye.” The text is Romans 6:4. No surprise, on a Sunday when we remember the baptism of our Lord, the sermon will accent baptism.

In our prayers we will continue to remember those who have been mislead by our cultures advocacy of sexual immorality and abortion, asking for healing in the lives damaged by these sins. We also regularly remember those who are trapped in modern-day slavery (often now called Human Trafficking). We will continue to remember the families and friends of the Sandy Hook murders. St. Paul’s Lutheran, and ELCA church down in Newberry, is burning as I write this. We will remember them in our prayers. We will also remember the China Evangelical Lutheran Church and their president, Rev. Andrew Miao. The CELC is a partner church with us. We will remember our missionaries Tony and Constance Booker, who are in the Czech Republic. We will remember our sister congregations: Greenwood, Greenwood, SC; Emmanuel, Rock Hill, SC; Eternal Shepherd, Seneca, SC; Emmanuel, Ashville, NC; Island, Hilton Head, SC. Island Lutheran is where Kitty and I worshiped one of the Sundays we were on vacation.

The adult Sunday school class is almost finished with the four-part study The Intersection of Church and State. We will finish it this Sunday, or the next at the latest. Our next topic has already been picked by the class. We will be looking at a report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that came out April 2010. It is titled “together with all creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth.” Personally, I’m looking forward to the discussions. I’m sure they will be lively.

Preview of Lessons

Isaiah 43:1-7
This is a wonderful reading from Isaiah and helps us understand why he has received the nickname, the Fifth Evangelist. The lesson is pure gospel. If you are having a bad day, read it. Through Isaiah the Lord reminds us that he has created us, redeemed us, called us by name, are precious in his eyes, called us by name, and so much more. There are baptismal overtones with the references to passing through the waters and through the rivers. You may wonder about this as Christian baptism would not be established for about 700 years (give or take a decade or two). However this section of Isaiah, like much of his book, is poetry. Isaiah is not speaking literally but symbolically. Two of the most common things water points to in the Bible, when used symbolically, are troubles and baptism. It is something like the flood: Troubles as the world is deluged, but also baptism as the Lord rescued Noah and his family through the flood (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Romans 6:1-11
This reading is all about the power of baptism in our lives. In theological circles baptism is approached basically in two ways. One way treats it basically as a symbolic event and not much more. The other way treats it as a miracle of God. The “miracle of God” group does not deny that baptism has symbolic elements; it simply does not view baptism as only a symbol. As you read this lesson ask yourself, does Paul say baptism symbolizes our union with the death of Jesus or does he say this union takes place in baptism? Is baptism just a symbol of being buried with him or does Paul say that in our baptism we actually are joined with Jesus in that burial? In verse 11 Paul tells us to “consider [ourselves] dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Is this some abstract idea or is it based on our baptism, according to Paul?

Luke 3:15-22
Luke picks up some highlight in the ministry of John the Baptist. John preaches about baptism and the coming Messiah. The people wondered if he was the Messiah, which John denies. Herod had John arrested. The reading reaches its apex with the baptism of Jesus and a revelation of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. The Father speaks from heaven. Jesus, of course, is identified by the Father as his beloved Son.

Tidbits

We have scheduled a Health Fair for Saturday, April 13. It will begin at 1:00 pm and last until 4:00 pm. Jill, our parish nurse, has told us that such Health Fairs need a theme, sort of a title. The committee has come up with several options. This Sunday there will be a ballot in the bulletin with those options on it. We are asking for your opinion. What theme do you prefer? The theme with the most votes, even if it isn’t over 50%, will be the one we use. The options are: “Total Health,” “Every Day Health,” “Health Expo,” “Spring forward for Health,” and “A Health Life.” If it helps in your decision making, we are talking about having boots featuring dental care, blood pressure, chiropractic care, Medicare information, nursing homes, fire safety (fire department), personal safety (police), counseling, the YMCA, and more. All is very preliminary right now so some of these options may well change, but you get the general idea.

Junior Confirmation will resume this coming Wednesday. We begin at 6:30 pm.

Women’s Bible Fellowship will resume. The next meeting will be Thursday, January 17. Please note the change from Wednesday to Thursday. This change is because the ladies have asked me to lead the studies, and I just can’t make Wednesdays at this time. The ladies have decided to return to the church for their Bible studies. They have been rotating from home to home, but by meeting at our church building it is hoped that it will be easier for new people to find the study and join in. The ladies will meet at 6:30 pm for fellowship. I have been asked to arrive late and begin the study at 7:15. Apparently the ladies feel they don’t want a man listening in on everything they may want to say. The study the ladies selected is: The Bible on Trial: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. This is a four-session video-based study. I am assured that the ladies typically do not finished a session in one evening. So, while this study is designed to take a month, it may take longer.

Below is a video of the hymn “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized.” The congregation singing is Memorial Evangelical Lutheran in Houston, TX.  


Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Monday, January 7, 2013

One Night in Bangkok



The Lord be with you

Each Sunday, in our prayers, we remember those who are trapped in modern day slavery and ask God to bless efforts that are pleasing in his sight to end this terrible sin. The following article by Cal Thomas helps bring the scope of the problem into greater focus.

BANGKOK -- Most of us can read about sex trafficking with a sense of detachment. It is only when we see its results up close that we are forced to confront the full extent of its horror.

Nana Plaza is one of several "red light" districts in Bangkok. It is less than two blocks from my upscale hotel, but worlds away from it, a distance, you could say, separating Heaven from Hell. Girls -- and that's what many of them are -- wear almost nothing. They are there to please. My guide points out a three-story structure. "The higher you go," he says, "the raunchier it gets." It looks raunchy enough on the ground floor.

In the song "One Night in Bangkok," a line describes my feeling: "I can feel the devil walking next to me."

Prostitution has been illegal in Thailand since 1960, but the Thailand Government Public Health Department estimates there are 75,000 prostitutes in the country. Some nongovernment organizations put the figure much higher. "Sexual tourists" come here, their visits set up by travel agents, as if they were booking people for a cruise or a trip to the beach. The newspapers constantly rail against corrupt officials who tolerate the sex trade and turn a blind eye to exploited women.

Into this den of iniquity have come Bonita and Roy Thompson, two Christian missionaries. Eight years ago they gave up careers as California educators to come to a place where they make less money and receive little notice. 

Their payment comes in the lives of those girls they are able to save from a life of prostitution. Their ministry is called Home of New Beginnings


At a Christmas party they give annually for the "bar girls," more than 200 prostitutes show up to play games like musical chairs and to hear a message from a former prostitute who tells her story of redemption, offering them a new life if they will only trust God.

A few respond. One is called "Nim," not her real name. Nim says she was abandoned by her mother and later sold by an opportunistic "auntie" to a couple who needed her to care for their aging parents. Nim says her work proved unsatisfactory and she was sold again to a bar where she was forced into prostitution.

When the Thompsons rescued her they took her to a doctor who estimated her age at 11 or 12. She had no formal schooling, but they tutored her and she is now in a regular school. Nim recently received a "character pin" from the oldest daughter of Thailand's king in recognition of her changed life and academic success.

The rescued girls live in housing run by the Thompsons. They receive an allowance that partially compensates them for lost earnings. Many send portions of their allowances to family, which they used to do with their income from prostitution.

"One of our girls," says Bonita, "is in her senior year at a university, studying chemical engineering. She is currently interning with a company that expects to hire her upon graduation. Another is in her senior year in textile design and has been selected by one of the top designers in Thailand to work with him on a project."

At a recently concluded conference on women's rights in London, attendees were told that ever-younger girls are being forced into prostitution because of declining economic conditions in many parts of the world. The Straits Times reports that, according to The International Labour Organization, "About 21 million people ... are in forced labour, meaning they have been coerced or deceived into jobs which they cannot leave. ...

about 4.5 million of these, mainly women and girls, were victims of sexual exploitation..." Overall, cites the ILO, "...the human trafficking trade was estimated to be worth US$32 billion (S$39 billion) a year."

The Thompsons are doing their small part, though the numbers seem overwhelming at times. Think of these girls as someone's daughter or granddaughter and even though some of those relatives may have sold them, the message of love and self-worth sometimes breaks through, even in the red light districts of Bangkok