Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Visit At Faith

The Lord be with you

This morning Kitty and I worshiped at Faith Lutheran in Beaufort, SC. Lamb of God is in the northwest corner of our state and Beaufort is in the southeast part of the state. That makes them about as far from us as possible. However, as we were vacationing, it seemed like a great time to visit our "daughter" congregation. Pastor Ted Crandal is an Associate Minister of Lamb of God, deployed to Beaufort to establish a congregation. The Lord has blessed this work and over 40 gathered today to worship. Following the service there was a pot-luck lunch. Following that was a "town" meeting where Pastor Bill Seaman (our Area Mission and Ministry Facilitator who was also visiting) and myself answered questions. I answered questions as the Circuit Visitor as well as the pastor of the "parent" congregation. One of the interesting aspects of this parent/daughter relationship is that the members of Faith are technically members of Lamb of God. However Faith has recently submitted a constitution to district, and once it has been approved, they will be able to have membership. We at Lamb of God will simply "transfer" the members we have that attend Faith at that time. And now, a few pictures.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Installation of Pastor Burgstrazer

The Lord be with you

Yesterday we installed Pastor Burgstrazer at Good Shepherd, Charleston. Aside from myself and Allen Burgstrazer, pastors in attendance were: Christopher burger, Ted Crandall, Bob duddleston, Lary Eckart, Ed Grant, Russ Helbig, John Kassouff, David Panning, James Pierce, Steve Saxe, Paul Sizemore, Richard Willsea, John Graudin and Bill Seaman. What follows are some photos taken by Kitty. The sermon was titled "Insufficient" and a link to it has been posted on the sermon page.

Blessings in Christ,

Friday, August 22, 2014

LCMS President calls for prayer, peace amid Ferguson, Mo., unrest‏

Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Together with other residents of metropolitan St. Louis, I have been saddened and worried by the events of the past week in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent riots have produced a tempest of emotions in this region and throughout the country. Fear, anger, animosity between races, and a general nervousness are rife.

There is no panacea for such unrest, for it is simply one more tragic result of a world where sin and death continue their regime. Wars, rumors of war, tension and animosity between peoples we will always have with us (Matt. 24:6, 26:11).

The good news is that violence and distrust and animosity are not the last word. Christ, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, full of grace and truth and life and salvation; Christ, whose death atoned for the sins of all humanity and whose resurrection trampled sin and Satan; Christ, the Prince of Peace—Christ gets the last Word. His is a Word of peace, despite sin’s turmoil (1 Thess. 5:23).

So, I write today for one simple reason—with one great need. I write to ask for your prayers.
I ask your prayers for our city, St. Louis—this is the city the Missouri Synod, in a certain way, has called home since 1847. I ask your prayers for the Brown family in their grief. I ask your prayers for the law enforcement officer involved and his family. I ask your prayers for the community of Ferguson, its people, their officials, and all who live and serve there. I ask your prayers for the churches of Ferguson, as they seek to be instruments of peace. And I ask your prayers for our Synod and our work, especially for work in the urban centers of our country where there is such a crying need for the Gospel and the Lord, whose peace “surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Black Ministry, Urban & Inner-City Mission and Disaster Response teams are working together with local church leaders to assess both immediate and long-term needs in Ferguson. Plans are now underway to provide a way for the life-giving proclamation and comfort of the Gospel to be sustained into the future, so that true and lasting reconciliation in Christ may be restored to this community.

Finally, let us pray, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Father, You reveal Yourself as a God of both order and compassion. We ask for the restoration of order in Ferguson and for compassionate hearts on all sides. Give wisdom to those entrusted with temporal authority; give comfort to those who grieve; give peace to this troubled community. We ask these things in the name of Him who is our Prince of Peace, even Jesus, whose blood has made us one.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where are the Worship Notes?

The Lord be with you

For those of you who are coming here looking for worship notes for this coming Sunday, I'm sorry to disappoint you. However, Kitty and I are on vacation and I will not be in Spartanburg this Sunday (or next Sunday for that matter), Nonetheless, I will be posting a sermon, probably on Monday. This Sunday I will will be delivering the sermon at the installation of Pastor Allen Bergstrazer, the new pastor for Good Shepherd in Charleston. This also means that other typical posts, like a Bible study about an upcoming hymn, will not be posted.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sermon Video Posted

The Lord be with you

Back in March of this year we were in the middle of Lent. I did a series titled "The Catechism for Life." One of those messages, "The Apostles' Creed for Life," was recorded in video as well as audio. Well, today I was able to load it up to dropbox and put a link on the sermon page. You will have to scroll down through five months of messages to find it because I put it right next to the audio link. However, if you want to watch, just go to the sermon page and you can find it.

Blessings in Christ,

Worship notes for Pentecost 10, 2014

Thursday after Pentecost 9
August 14, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the Commemoration of JohannGerhard, Theologian. The link takes you to a post I made back in 2012 about Gerhard. The only update I would make to it is that his Loci Theologica is currently being translated and published by CPH.

For our liturgy Sunday we will use the service of Prayer and Preaching (page 260). The Lord’s Supper is not celebrated with this service. It uses the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit. The lessons for Sunday are: Isaiah 56:1, 6–8; Romans 11:1–2a, 13–15, 28–32; Matthew 15:21–28; and Psalm 67 (antiphon verse 5). The text for the sermon is Matthew 15:28. The sermon is titled, “I Don’t Believe It.” The opening hymn will be “How Wide the Love of Christ” (LSB 535). This is the third time we will have sung this hymn. We will sing it again next week and then it will move from the unknown category to the known category. Our sermon hymn will be “All Depends on Our Possessing” (LSB 732). Our closing hymn will be “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” (LSB 824).

Earlier this week I posted a Bible study “May God Bestow on Us His Grace.” A couple of weeks ago I posted a Bible study on “How Wide the Love of Christ.” Links to both of these studies can be found on the “Bible Studies Based on Hymns” page on the right hand side of this page. They are listed in numerical order, followed by the name of the hymn. Our third hymn for this Sunday, “All Depends on Our Possessing,” will be the subject of Sunday morning’s Bible study. Availing yourself of these studies is a great way to prepare for Sunday’s worship.

Below is a video of a choir singing our closing hymn, “All Depends on Our Possessing”.

Our Sunday morning Bible hour begins at 9:00 am.

What now follows is first a summary of Sunday’s lessons, provided by the LC-MS, and then the actual lessons.

The Church Lives Under the Cross of Christ and Prays
in the Hope of His Mercy

By her persistent prayer that Jesus would have mercy and help her (Matt. 15:22, 24), and even in the face of His initial silence and apparent rejection (Matt. 15:23–26), the Canaanite woman boldly confessed her faith in Him (Matt 15:27–28). Her beautiful example encourages us to cling to the words and promises of the Gospel, even in the face of the Law that accuses and condemns us. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29), and His Law “has consigned all to disobedience” for the very purpose “that he may have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). Hence, the woman’s faith and hope were not disappointed, but her prayers were answered in the mercy of Christ. Not only does He grant us the crumbs from His Table, but He also feeds us with “the children’s bread” in the house of His Father (Matt. 15:26–27). He has brought us to His “holy mountain,” and He makes us joyful in His house, where He hears our prayers and accepts our sacrifice of praise upon the altar of His cross (Is. 56:7).

Isaiah 56:1, 6–8
1         Thus says the Lord:
          “Keep justice, and do righteousness,
          for soon my salvation will come,
                   and my righteousness be revealed. …
6         “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
                   to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
                   and to be his servants,
          everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
                   and holds fast my covenant—
7         these I will bring to my holy mountain,
                   and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
          their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
                   will be accepted on my altar;
          for my house shall be called a house of prayer
                   for all peoples.”
8         The Lord God,
                   who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
          “I will gather yet others to him
                   besides those already gathered.”

Romans 11:1–2a, 13–15, 28–32
1         I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. …
13        Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? …
28        As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Matthew 15:21–28
21        And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Some Quick Notes:

  • Church Council will meet Sunday following the worship service.  

  • LitWits will meet Sunday, 6:30 pm, at the Ludvik’s home. The book we will talk about is “Bones of the Lost” by Kathy Reichs.  

  • Our “Jesse’s Supplies” drive has been wrapped-up and the supplies have been delivered to Jesse Boyd Elementary School.

  • Our Summer Series, Resolving Everyday Conflict,” has wrapped-up.

  • Any hard copy information for the September newsletter needs to be turned into Kitty Sunday. E-mail submission can be sent in as late as the 24th.

  • Rev. Allen Bergstrazer will be installed as the new pastor of Good Shepherd, Charleston, Sunday, August 25. Pastor will conduct the service with the assistance of other clergy from SC.

  • Kitty and I will be taking a two week vacation, beginning Monday, August 18.

Well, I pray we will see you Sunday morning.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

LCMS Aid to Fight Ebola in Africa

African partners Suffering
effects of deadly Ebola virus

In answer to requests for help and reaching out in Christ’s mercy, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has given three grants — to Lutherans in Guinea and Liberia as well as to Lutheran World Relief — to assist people affected by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

The effects of the deadly Ebola virus are “being suffered and felt in many ways” — including the deaths of two Lutherans suspected of having the disease, according to the Rev. Amos Bolay, president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL).

The grants, totaling $51,175, include $25,000 to the ELCL; $20,000 to Lutheran World Relief; and $6,175 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea. The grants follow two previous grants totaling $16,554, distributed to the Synod’s African partners earlier this year.

Click here to learn more about the deaths of twoLutherans in Liberia as a result of the disease and how the outbreak isaffecting LCMS missionaries.

Monday, August 11, 2014

May God Bestow on Us His Grace

A Bible Study Inspired by a Hymn
Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
 (Lutheran Service Book 823, 824)

(Primary Biblical References: Psalm 67:1–2; 96:10–13; Isaiah 55:10–11; 62:1–2)

May God bestow on us His grace,
    With blessings rich provide us;
And may the brightness of His face
    To life eternal guide us,
That we His saving health may know,
    His gracious will and pleasure,
And also to the nations show
    Christ’s riches without measure
And unto God convert them.

Martin Luther 1532
Thine over all shall be the praise
    And thanks of ev’ry nation;
And all the world with joy shall raise
    The voice of exultation.
For Thou shalt judge the earth, O Lord,
    Nor suffer sin to flourish;
Thy people’s pasture is Thy Word
    Their souls to feed and nourish,
In righteous paths to keep them.

O let the people praise Thy worth,
    In all good works increasing;
The land shall plenteous fruit bring forth,
    Thy Word is rich in blessing.
May God the Father, God the Son,
    And God the Spirit bless us!
Let all the world praise Him alone,
    Let solemn awe possess us.
Now let our hearts say, “Amen!”

When most people think of Martin Luther, they think of him as the great 16th Century Reformer of the church. If they know anything about his musical contributions, they typically think of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the hymn that is sometimes called the “battle hymn of the Reformation.” In reality Luther was a proficient musician with a good sense of poetry and a good singing voice. He composed 37 hymns along with some ballads, chants and liturgies in the German language. He also encouraged others to write hymns. It is no surprise that the Lutheran Church was known as the “singing church” and the first Protestant hymnals were all Lutheran. His contributions to church music would be enough to have him remembered today; it is just that his other work overshadowed his musical contributions. Six of Luther’s hymns are in the Lutheran Service Book. You can find them listed on page 1005 of that hymnal under Luther’s name.

“May God Bestow on Us His Grace” is typical of the focus of Luther’s hymns. It really isn’t about us, and certainly not about him or his work. Instead the focus is on Christ and Christ’s work. We factor in as the object of his work and as responding to his work. This is not surprising. Christ and his redemptive work were at the center of all Luther did.

Psalm 67 begins with the words:

1           May God be gracious to us and bless us
                        and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2           that your way may be known on earth,
                        your saving power among all nations.

It isn’t hard to hear in the words of the Psalmist an echo of the Aaronic benediction, by which Aaron was to bless God’s people and put God’s name on them.

22          The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24          The Lord bless you and keep you;
25          the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26          the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27          “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

These are the thoughts Luther captures in his first verse. But the hymn does not leave us wondering how God might bless us. If we were to determine what constitutes a blessing, we would probably never lift our eyes above the temporal realm; health, wealth, power, or at least completing our “bucket list.” But the blessings of God are far greater. They don’t end when we “kick the bucket.” His blessings are eternal life and an understanding of his gracious will. This is what the Psalmist told us in verse 2. We would also likely limit his blessings to us and our loved ones. But God’s blessings are not so limited. They are for all the nations (Isaiah 45:22; Matthew 28:19; 1 Timothy 2:4, as well as Psalm 67:2). So we sing “And also to the nations show, Christ’s riches without measure.”

In verse two Luther continues with the thought of the universal blessing of God. He echoes Psalm 96:10-13.

10          Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
                        Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
                        he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11          Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
                        let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12                      let the field exult, and everything in it!
            Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13                      before the Lord, for he comes,
                        for he comes to judge the earth.
            He will judge the world in righteousness,
                        and the peoples in his faithfulness.

The Psalmist reminds us that all the world is to praise the Creator; Christians have even more reason to do so because, through the Holy Spirit, we know what has been done for our salvation. The Father sent His Son to pay for our sins; Jesus rose, and returned to heaven until He comes again; so “Thine over all shall be the praise.” We sing in this verse of the coming Judgment, which the Psalm refers to in verses 10 and 13. While the coming judgment is a source of concern, worry and fear on the part of some, for us it is yet another reason to rejoice for He judges the people in His faithfulness. God is indeed faithful and will keep His promises, like the promise that baptized believers will be saved. Those who reject Christ do have reason to fear the coming judgment, but by His grace we are not part of that crowd.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

The Holy Spirit works through the Means of Grace (Word and Sacrament). This is reflected in what is probably my favorite line: “Thy people’s pasture is Thy Word, Their souls to feed and nourish”. It is by His Word that we are established Verse three also speaks of the blessings we receive from the Word. Isaiah 55:10–11 tells us more about God’s Word.

10          “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
                        and do not return there but water the earth,
            making it bring forth and sprout,
                        giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11          so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
                        it shall not return to me empty,
            but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
                        and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

How powerful is God’s Word! It accomplishes what God desires. So we feed on it, we immerse ourselves in it, and it strengthens us, it grows our faith, and it keeps us faithful. When that happens we increase in good works.

1           For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
                        and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
            until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
                        and her salvation as a burning torch.
2           The nations shall see your righteousness,
                        and all the kings your glory,
            and you shall be called by a new name
                        that the mouth of the Lord will give. (Isaiah 62:1-2)

To understand Isaiah 62:1-2 we need to understand that “Zion” and “Jerusalem” are synonymous with God’s believing people. Today that would be the “hidden” Church (i.e. all believers in the Triune God). God loves His Church on earth and has some amazing words for us. God himself will not keep silent. He continues His care for us until we join the Church Triumphant in heaven. So we sing in verse two that the Lord will keep us in righteous paths.

God also speaks of our witness through Isaiah (though it is really God’s witness through us). He says that, by the witness of the Church, nations and kings will be positively influenced by us, by what we do. God’s Word will bring “outsiders” into the Church. So, “all the world” will “praise Him alone.” To put this in the words of Psalm 23, our cup of blessing is to overflow so others receive God’s blessings, so others are brought into God’s kingdom. And remember, God’s blessings are not about some me-centered “bucket list,” but the eternal blessings of being God’s child and possessor of eternal life, both here and hereafter.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert