Monday, June 30, 2014

Hymns vs. CCM?

Hymns vs CCM?

“Contemporary Christian Music” (CCM) is a term used these days to describe music that has pop instrumentation combined with Christian lyrics. This brand of music has been around at least since the 60s, though it was call Christian Rock back then. This non-conventional Christian music began to seep into Sunday morning services, first through Folk services. In time these changed into the bands so popular in some churches today.

A singer named Amy Grant changed the popular Christian music scene forever. Instead of singing in churches and at youth gatherings, she sang in major venues. She even had pop hits. The major record labels took notice and began to buy up all the independent Christian record labels. With the major labels came major money to promote new Christian singers and groups. Radio stations began to play only pop Christian music. Historic hymns, once the mainstay of Christian radio along with talk (sermons, etc) became harder and harder to find.

Of course, not everyone has embraced this new style. Many still love the old hymns and the style of hymns. In deed many continue to write Church music in the style of hymns. One such prolific writer is Stephen Starke. He has written over 175 hymns, over 30 of which are in our new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book. So, while Starke’s hymns are Christian and Contemporary, he would not be considered a writer of Contemporary Christian Music because he does not write pop music.

One of the knocks against CCM is that the lyrics are often shallow when compared to historic hymns. While often true, it is an unfair criticism. Consider Isaac Watts (1674-1748) who is often called the “Father of English hymnody.” In his lifetime he wrote around 750 hymns. Our hymnal has 15 of them. What happened to the rest of them? Well, some of them are well worth keeping, but there just isn’t enough room in the hymnal. Others, though, just aren’t that good. Either their poetry is not top tear, or their theology isn’t top tear, or their music isn’t top tear. Now, if someone as brilliant as Watts produced a majority of second rate hymns, certainly you would expect the writers of CCM to do no better. Also, you certainly would not want to throw away all of Watts’ hymns simply because the majority of the hymns he wrote are not making it into modern hymnals.

To put this another way, among the mountains and mountains of CCM songs being sung and hummed by Christians around the country, there are a handful that are real treasures, that Christians will be singing and humming a century from now.

The next thing we might learn from Watts is that he was writing the CCM of his day. That’s right. And he met with similar resistance from those who liked the old music that CCM musicians meet with today. In Watts’ day the English churches sang only the Psalms and they used the Psalm Tones (that is, they chanted them). The idea of singing words penned by mere men (i.e. not the inspired word of God) seemed sacrilege. The Lutheran Church, which started in Germany, sang hymns. Many of the English laity longed to be able to do the same. When the Methodist movement began it was swept into popularity, in part, because it embraced hymns, including the hymns of Watts. Lesson to be learned? Just because it is new, and just because much of it is below par, doesn’t mean that we should condemn all of CCM. God’s divine providence is at word through CCM, as it is at work everywhere else.

So far I’ve spoken mainly to those who have problems with CCM. However, the advocates of CCM could learn a lesson or two from the advocates of hymnody. The hymns that survive century after century tend to be those with great theology as well as great poetry. A serious study of the gifts we have in hymnody will improve the content of CCM, increasing the chance that contemporary pop Christian music will be a blessing to future generations.

In part to aid advocates of CCM to write better lyrics (theologically speaking) and in part to help advocates of  hymnody to better appreciate the hymns we have, I will post a series of articles that examines some of the theology in hymns. I will basically pick one of the hymns we will be singing in the upcoming Sunday worship service. I don’t know how many I will do but, God willing, I’ll keep it up at least through the summer.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Worship Notes for the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles - 2014

Commemoration of Jeremiah
Thursday after Pentecost 2
June 26, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles. It is also the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Pentecost 3). This presents the local churches with a choice as both days have specific lections assigned. At Lamb of God we will celebrate the Festival. I hasten to add that churches that are not celebrating this Festival are not “wrong” or somehow sub-Christian for not celebrating this day. I also need to add that Lamb of God is not somehow better or more spiritual or more Christian by celebrating the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul. Festivals come under the general heading of Christian Freedom.

When I arrived at Lamb of God (way back in the 20th century) I was told that the church observed all major Feasts and Festivals. This was done by celebrating the Lord’s Supper. “Feasts and Festivals” were explained as “things like Easter and Christmas.” If I stuck to the letter of what I was told in the beginning, we would be celebrating the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. However I think what is meant are the “super big Feasts,” like Christmas and Easter. If we offered the Lord’s Supper on all Feasts and Festivals, we would share the Sacrament on the following days:

January 1: Circumcision and Name of Jesus (Feast)
January 18: The Confession of St. Peter (Festival)
January 24: St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor (Festival)
January 25: The Conversion of St. Paul (Festival)
January 26: St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor (Festival)

February 2: The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord (Feast)
February 24: St. Matthias, Apostle (Festival)

March 19: St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus (Festival)
March 25: The Annunciation of Our Lord (Feast)

April 25: St. Mark, Evangelist (Festival)

May 1: St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Festival)
May 31: The Visitation (Feast)

June 11: St. Barnabas, Apostle (Festival)
June 24: The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Feast)
June 29: St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Festival)

July 22: St. Mary Magdalene (Festival)
July 25: St. James the Elder, Apostle (Festival)

August 15: St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord (Festival)
August 24: St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Festival)
August 29: The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (Festival)

September 14: Holy Cross Day (Festival)
September 21: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Festival)
September 29: St. Michael and All Angels (Feast)

October 18: St. Luke, Evangelist (Festival)
October 23: St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr (Festival)
October 28: St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Festival)
October 31: Reformation Day (Festival)

November 1: All Saints’ Day (Feast)
November 30: St. Andrew, Apostle (Festival)

December 21: St. Thomas, Apostle (Festival)
December 26: St. Stephen, Martyr (Festival)
December 27: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Festival)
December 28: The Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Festival)
December 31: Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (Feast)

Also Christmas Eve day; Christmas Eve midnight; Christmas Day dawn; and Christmas Day; the Epiphany of Our Lord; every day of Holy Week beginning on Palm Sunday and extending through Wednesday after Easter; the Ascension of our Lord; Pentecost Eve; Pentecost Day; Monday and Tuesday following Pentecost; and finally the Sunday following Pentecost which is the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

The above list of Feasts and Festivals is the one in the Lutheran Service Book. Lamb of God was using the calendar from Lutheran Worship when I arrived, and that calendar has fewer celebrations.

So, if we stick to the letter of what I was told when I arrived, we would share the Lord’s Supper this Sunday. However, if we go with what I think was the spirit of the comment, we can celebrate this Feast, using the appointed lections and propers, and using red paraments, without also celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In light of the fact that we have shared the Lord’s Supper three times already this month, I have opted for the non-communion alternative. Therefore we will use Matins (page 219) for our liturgy.

The appointed lections for the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles are: Acts15:1-21; Galatians 2:1-10; Matthew 16:13-19; Psalm 46 (antiphon: v. 11). Our opening hymn will be “Lord, This Day We’ve Come to Worship” (LSB 911). Our sermon hymn will be “Salvation unto Us Has Come” (LSB 555). Our closing hymn will be “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” (LSB 576). Our opening hymn (Lord, This Day We’ve Come to Worship) is another one of the hymns the hymnal review committee selected as worth learning. So, over the next month or so we will sing it at least four times.

Concerning the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Treasure of Daily Prayer (476) says:
          The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).
          The New Testament tells us much about both apostles. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and served as a leader among the disciples. Despite his steadfast faith, Scripture also records some of his failures, such as his rebuke of Jesus (Matthew 16:21-23) and his threefold denial of his Lord (Matthew 26:69-75). Following Jesus’ ascension, Peter continued as a leader in the Church (Acts 1:15; 2:14; 15:7).
          Paul, a devout Jew also known as Saul, entered the scene as a persecutor of the Church. Following his miraculous conversion, in which the risen Christ Himself appeared to him, Paul became a powerful preacher of the grace of God. During his three missionary journeys (Acts 13-14; 16-18; 18-21), Paul traveled throughout modern day Turkey and Greece. The New Testament account of his life ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16), though tradition holds that he went on to Spain before returning to Rome.

The text for Sunday’s sermon is Galatians 2:9-10. The sermon is titled “Something Old, Something New.”

Below is a video of our opening hymn, “Lord, This Day We’ve Come to Worship” sung by St. Lorenz Lutheran Chburch in Frankenmuth, MI.

Our Sunday morning Bible hour begins at 9:00 am. We will continue in Ruth, chapter one. Everyone is welcome.

What now follows are Sunday’s lessons.

Acts 15:1-21
15:1      But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
6         The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12        And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16        “‘After this I will return,
          and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
          I will rebuild its ruins,
                    and I will restore it,
17        that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
                   and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
18                 says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

19        Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Galatians 2:1-10
2:1       Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—5to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Matthew 16:13-19
13        Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Psalm 46
46:1      God is our refuge and strength,
                   a very present help in trouble.
2         Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
                   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3         though its waters roar and foam,
                   though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4         There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
                   the holy habitation of the Most High.
5         God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
                   God will help her when morning dawns.
6         The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
                    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7         The Lord of hosts is with us;
                   the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8         Come, behold the works of the Lord,
                   how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9         He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
                   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
                   he burns the chariots with fire.
10        “Be still, and know that I am God.
                   I will be exalted among the nations,
                   I will be exalted in the earth!”
11        The Lord of hosts is with us;
                   the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Some Quick Notes:

  • Tuesday morning Pastor Rickert will be a guest on KUFO radio ( which you can live stream on your computer. A Matins service is broadcast, beginning at 10:05 am (which lasts about half an hour). Pastor will give the sermonette. Pastor will also be the guest pastor on the Bible study portion of the program, which begins around 9:05 am.

  • This past Sunday new officers were elected. Our new officers will be installed in our Sunday service July 20. Please remember that the new chairs of the various boards are looking for board members. If you are asked to serve, please, for the sake of Christ and his Church, agree.

  • Our Summer Series, Resolving Everyday Conflict,” has begun. Every Wednesday, through August 13, we are gathering to learn what Scripture says about the source of conflict and how to resolve it in God pleasing ways.

  • The July newsletter will be available Sunday.

Well, I pray we will see you Sunday morning.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Friday, June 20, 2014

LCMS July focus - Service; Both God's to Us and Us to Others

Jesus tells us that He “came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). And He wasn’t kidding.

Everything He does is an act of service, a gift, to us. And because we live in and by Christ, because He served us first on the cross, because we are a part of His body — the Church — it is our joy to serve those around us: our older brothers, our dear wives, our grumpy neighbors and our sleepy newborns.

Jesus comes to serve you, and He does. He has also given you the gift of serving your neighbors — those people He has placed in your life. So, join us this July in receiving all that God has to give and then, turning right around in joyful service, and loving those in your midst. Thanks be to God, we know you can, and we pray you will.

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Rev. Bart Day, executive director
Office of National Mission

Worship Notes Correction

Friday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity
June 20, 2014

The Lord be with you

At Lamb of God we celebrate the Lord's Supper on every second and fourth Sunday as well as on major feasts and festivals. This coming Sunday is a fourth Sunday so, even though we celebrated the Lord's Supper last Sunday because it was the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we will still celebrate the Sacrament this Sunday because it is a fourth Sunday. That means we will use Divine Service, setting three (page 184), and not Matins, use the Introit for the Day and not the Psalm for the Day, and have three additional hymns for our distribution hymns. Our Distribution Hymns will be:

"May God Bestow on Us His Grace" LSB 824
"Come, Let Us Eat" LSB 626
"Saints, See the Cloud of Witnesses" LSB 667

Blessings in Christ,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Worship Notes for Pentecost 2, 2014

Thursday after Feast of the Holy Trinity
June 19, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Pentecost 2). We are now in “regular” time in the Church Year. In general, the lessons from here until Advent will accent our walk as Christians.

For our liturgy Sunday we will be using the service of Matins (LSB 219). This is a non-communion service. The Synod makes available a “Prayer for the Church” which reflects the readings of each Sunday. We will be using it this Sunday, with a few modifications to reflect Lamb of God and current happenings. At the end of each petition I will pray, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord!” and the congregation will pray “For He has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.”

The appointed lessons for Sunday are: Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:12-23 and Matthew 110:5a, 21-33. Matins uses the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit for the Day. For Pentecost 2 in series A it is Psalm 91 and the antiphon is verse 1. The sermon text is Jeremiah 20:10. The sermon is titled “Is This Providence?” Our opening hymn will be “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (LSB 790). Our sermon hymn will be “All Depends on Our Possession” (LSB 732). Our closing hymn will be “Thine Forever, God of Love” (LSB 687).

Below is a video of our sermon hymn, “All Depends on Our Possession” sung by a choir. They only do three of the six verses, but that is okay.

Our Sunday morning Bible hour begins at 9:00 am. Last week we covered the first five verses of Ruth so we will pick up with verse 6. Everyone is welcome.

What now follows is a summary of Sunday’s lessons provided by the LCMS, and then the lessons themselves.

Delivered from Sin and Death, You Now Live before God in the Righteousness of Christ
The outcome of sin is death, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). He has set you free from the slavery of sin and has brought you “from death to life” (Rom. 6:13). No longer are you under the condemnation of the Law, but you live under grace (Rom. 6:14). Such is your courage in the face of “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). For though “you will be hated by all,” and maligned by the world for the name of Christ (Matt. 10:22, 25), you abide in the care of your Father in heaven, who numbers “even the hairs of your head” and values you more “than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:30–31). By the Word of Christ, you have become like Him, your Teacher and Master in whom you endure to the end, and “will be saved” (Matt. 10:22, 25). For He is with you “as a dread warrior,” who has overcome your enemies (Jer. 20:11). By the righteousness of faith, He delivers your heart, mind, body and life “from the hand of evildoers,” and He brings you into the land of the living (Jer. 20:12–13).

Jeremiah 20:7–13
7         O Lord, you have deceived me,
                   and I was deceived;
          you are stronger than I,
                   and you have prevailed.
          I have become a laughingstock all the day;
                   everyone mocks me.
8         For whenever I speak, I cry out,
                   I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
          For the word of the Lord has become for me
                   a reproach and derision all day long.
9         If I say, “I will not mention him,
                   or speak any more in his name,”
          there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
                   shut up in my bones,
          and I am weary with holding it in,
                   and I cannot.
10        For I hear many whispering.
                   Terror is on every side!
          “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
                   say all my close friends,
                   watching for my fall.
          “Perhaps he will be deceived;
                   then we can overcome him
                   and take our revenge on him.”
11        But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
                   therefore my persecutors will stumble;
                   they will not overcome me.
          They will be greatly shamed,
                   for they will not succeed.
          Their eternal dishonor
                   will never be forgotten.
12        O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
                   who sees the heart and the mind,
          let me see your vengeance upon them,
                   for to you have I committed my cause.

13        Sing to the Lord;
                   praise the Lord!
          For he has delivered the life of the needy
                   from the hand of evildoers.

Romans 6:12–23
12        Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15        What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20        For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 10:5a, 21–33
5         These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, …
21        “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24        “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
26        “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Some Quick Notes:

  • There will be a voters’ meeting following our worship service. Several important items will be presented for the voters to consider, including election of officers, a possible modification of our worship area, and election of two representatives to our Circuit Forum.

  • LitWits, our book club, will meet at 6:30 pm. The book is Loving God with all Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. We are asking ourselves, “Is there any profound statement that we encountered?” It is also time to submit any book titles for the group to vote on to read in the upcoming year.

  • We are less than a week away from the beginning of our Summer Series, Resolving Everyday Conflict.” It begins Wednesday, June 25, at 7:00 pm. Don’t forget, in order to insure we have enough material, we are asking you to sign-up. The sign-up sheet is on the coffee table. You are welcome, even if you haven’t signed up, but you may not receive the workbook until we can order and receive it.

  • Information for the July newsletter is due Sunday.

Well, I pray we will see you Sunday morning.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert