Friday, December 26, 2014

Worship Notes for the Festival of Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 2014

Festival of St. Stephen, Martyr
Second Day of Christmas
December 26, 2014

Blessed Christmas

Well the last week has been busy, that is for sure. Worship on Advent IV, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, family from out of town, and visiting Marion in the hospice home has kept me moving. What fell by the wayside were these worship notes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Of course the days came and we gathered to worship even without these posts. We had a full house Christmas Eve and, as usual, a slight turnout for Christmas Day. The messages have been posted on the sermon page. The Christmas Eve message was a retelling of the Christmas story, with biblical and historical context. Can you spot the OT biblical themes woven into the story? As has been my practice for years, the Christmas Day “sermon” was really different medications inspired by the carols we sang. Those were, “The First Noel,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

This coming Sunday is the Fourth Day of Christmas. The Fourth Day of Christmas is one of two dark commemorations during the season of Christmas. The first one is today, when we remember St. Stephen who was martyred. Sunday’s is the Festival of The Holy Innocents, Martyrs. We will use the readings assigned for this festival. They are Jeremiah 31:15-17, Revelation 14:1-5 and Matthew 2:13-18. The sermon is titled “No Snow Globe Christmas.” The text is Matthew 2:16.

This will be a communion service. We will be using the first setting of the Divine Service (page 151). Our opening hymn will be “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (LSB 361). The sermon hymn will be “By All Your Saints in Warfare’ (verses 1, 9, and 3 of LSB 517). The distribution hymns will be “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 637), “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child” (LSB 374) and “A Great and Mighty Wonder” (LSB 383). Our closing hymn will be “What Child Is This” (LSB 370).

Below is a video of a children’s choir singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Here are the lessons for Sunday.

Jeremiah 31:15-17
15          Thus says the Lord:
            “A voice is heard in Ramah,
                        lamentation and bitter weeping.
            Rachel is weeping for her children;
                        she refuses to be comforted for her children,
                        because they are no more.”

16          Thus says the Lord:
            “Keep your voice from weeping,
                        and your eyes from tears,
            for there is a reward for your work,
            declares the Lord,
                        and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17          There is hope for your future,
            declares the Lord,
                        and your children shall come back to their own country.

Revelation 14:1-5
14:1        Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

Matthew 2:13-18
13          Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16          Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18          “A voice was heard in Ramah,
                        weeping and loud lamentation,
            Rachel weeping for her children;
                        she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Some Additional Notes

  • The January newsletter should be available Sunday. To be honest, I haven’t finished my parts yet, but I’ll be getting to them today.  

  • Our Christmas decorations will remain up throughout the Sundays in the Christmas season. That means both this Sunday and Sunday, January 4. Following the January 4 service, those present will be invited to remain after the service and help us take down the decorations. People will also be able to take home their Poinsettias.  

  • I was so pleased by the vote Sunday where the members of Lamb of God committed themselves to pray for their 100 closest neighbors this coming year. To assist with this the congregation is joining Our members are encouraged to visit the site, sign up, and get a list of their neighbors.

  • Please keep Ray and Marion in your prayers.

  • New sign-up sheets for the coming year have been posted in the narthex.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Friday, December 19, 2014

Worship Notes for the Festival of St. Thomas, Apostle, 2014

Friday after the Third Sunday of Advent
The Commemoration of Adam and Eve
December 19, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is one of those Sundays where we have options in reference to what we celebrate. The first option is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The second option is the Festival of St. Thomas, Apostle. In our hymnal we have three types of holidays. The first are (principle) Feasts (of Christ). This includes things like Christmas and the Visitation.  When they fall on a Sunday we use those appointed readings. The Second are Festivals. These also have their own distinctive propers (scripture lessons, etc.). However, congregations celebrate them according to local tradition. In other words, some celebrate some or all of them while other congregations ignore them. There is nothing wright or wrong, better or worse, about whatever a local congregation chooses to do in reference to the Festivals. The third type of holiday is the commemorations (like today). These have no assigned propers for the day and do not supplant the regular liturgical calendar. They are intended to remind us of significant people and events from history and, hopefully, encourage us to dig a little deeper. When celebrating a Feast (Christmas, Easter, etc.) it is most common to offer the Lord’s Supper. When celebrating a Festival congregations conform to local tradition, which means some will offer Communion while others will offer Communion only if it falls on a regular Communion Sunday. If congregations recognize the commemorations they might be remembered in the prayers or in a reference in the sermon, but otherwise not typically impact the Sunday worship.

As I said, we have a choice this coming Sunday and we will be going with the Festival of St. Thomas, Apostle. Selecting the Festival readings is far more common today than it was in my childhood. This reflects the current fad in liturgical churches, which began in protestant circles in the 60s, of making a wider used of the liturgical tradition. It broke into the Missouri Synod with the hymnal Lutheran Worship.
We typically celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. This coming Sunday is a third Sunday. Therefore we will not offer communion Sunday. We will use Matins for our liturgy (page 219). We will use the Advent option for the first response on page 219. We will use the Benedictus for our Canticle (page 226). Our opening hymn will be “Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come” (LSB 350).  Our sermon hymn will be “We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight” (LSB 720). Our closing hymn will be “Hark the Glad Sound” (LSB 349). Our opening and closing hymns have been selected to reflect the Advent season while the sermon hymn reflects the message. The appointed lessons are: Judges 6:36-40; Ephesians 4:7, 11-16; and John 20:24-29. Psalm 136:1-4, antiphon verse 26, is our appointed Psalm. The sermon is titled “You’ve Got to be Kidding Me.” The text is John 20:25.

Below is a video of our opening hymn, “Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come.” It is complete with words highlighted to make it easier to sing along.

Here are the lessons for Sunday.

Judges 6:36-40
36          Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.

Psalm 136:1-4 (26)
136:1      Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
                        for his steadfast love endures forever.
2           Give thanks to the God of gods,
                        for his steadfast love endures forever.
3           Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
                        for his steadfast love endures forever;

4           to him who alone does great wonders,
                        for his steadfast love endures forever;

26          Give thanks to the God of heaven,
                        for his steadfast love endures forever.

Ephesians 4:7, 11-16
7           But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. …
11          And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
John 20:24-29
24          Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26          Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Some Additional Notes

  • We will have a Voters’ Meeting Sunday following the worship service. There are two business items. The first will be voting on our budget for next year. The second is a resolution being presented by our Board of Evangelism where we commit ourselves to pray for our neighbors. Both votes are important for our future.

  • Thank you to everyone who helped GREEN the sanctuary this past Wednesday. Our decorations will remain up through our Sunday morning worship service on January 4. Following the service we will take the decorations down and all who are at the service will be invited to help.

  • Our Wednesday Advent services have concluded for the year. This coming Wednesday will be Christmas Eve. We will have a Candlelight Service at 7:00 pm. On Christmas day we will have a Service of Carols and Communion, beginning at 10:00 am. The entire “Meaning of Christmas is …” series can be heard on our sermon page.

  • Information for the January newsletter is due Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ethiopian President visits CTS

President of Ethiopian Church Body Visits CTS Campus

For Immediate Release
December 15, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—The faculty, students and staff of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, were pleased to welcome the Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idossa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), to the campus today, December 15, 2014. The EECMY is the largest and fastest growing Lutheran church body in Africa with nearly seven million members. President Idossa’s visit follows meetings that took place in November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that continued the discussion concerning the relationship between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the EECMY. Those discussions were focused especially on partnering in theological education and human care opportunities.

CTS has been providing theological education to Ethiopians for well over a decade with Ethiopian students traveling to study at the Fort Wayne campus and by having members of the faculty teach at the Mekane Yesus Seminary. “We are particularly glad today to celebrate the relationship that is budding between our seminary and the EECMY. We are partnering already with the EECMY in very important ways, especially by working very specifically and intentionally with the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa,” commented CTS President Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr.

In his comments to the CTS community President Idossa expressed his thanks. “It is the pleasure of my church body to be partnering with the Seminary and with our dear friend, President Rast, who visited us last November to discuss ways of working more closely. We are thankful for your prayers and also for the support you are contributing. I ask you to continue to uphold us in your prayers and also walk together with us as we are engaging in God’s mission to serve the Ethiopian society and beyond.”

Among several participants in the November meetings in Addis Ababa was Dr. Albert B. Collver, director of LCMS Church Relations, who commented on the visit, “I am very pleased that President Idossa was able to visit the Fort Wayne seminary. I expect great things to emerge from this and other meetings.”

“We are very blessed to be expanding our working together with the EECMY,” said President Rast. “We look forward to God continuing to bless our relationship.”

Worship Notes for Wednesday after Advent III, 2014

Tuesday after the Third Sunday in Advent
December 16, 2014

The Lord be with you

We will have our third mid-week Advent service this Wednesday, December 17. This will be our final Advent service as the fourth Wednesday in Advent this year also happens to be Christmas Eve. So, while we will have a worship service December 24, it will be our Christmas Eve Candlelight service.

We will use the service of Evening Prayer (page 243) for our liturgy. Our lessons for the evening will be Psalm 18:1-6 (antiphon verse 35), Ephesians 2:4-10 and we will conclude our reading of the Christmas story with Matthew 2:2-15. The text for the message will be Mathew 2:11. The homily will be titled, “The Meaning of Christmas is Giving.”

Our opening hymn will be “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (LSB 357). Our homily hymn will be “Hark the Glad Sound” (LSB 349). Our closing hymn will be “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” (LSB 356).

The video is of the Lutheran Warbler singing our homily hymn, “Hark the Glad Sound.”

Our Wednesday evening begins as usual with dinner at 6:15 pm. We will then worship together, beginning at 7:00. Typically that ends the evening for everyone except the choir. However this Wednesday will be different as we will be GREENING the church. Everyone will be invited to stay and make the church building ready for the Christmas holiday. Following the decorating, the choir will rehearse.

Below are the readings for Wednesday.

Psalm 18:1-6, 35
1           I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2           The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
                        my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
                        my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3           I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
                        and I am saved from my enemies.
4           The cords of death encompassed me;
                        the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5           the cords of Sheol entangled me;
                        the snares of death confronted me.
6           In my distress I called upon the Lord;
                        to my God I cried for help.
            From his temple he heard my voice,
                        and my cry to him reached his ears.

35          You have given me the shield of your salvation,
                        and your right hand supported me,
                        and your gentleness made me great.

Matthew 2:1-15
2:1         Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6           “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
                        are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
            for from you shall come a ruler
                        who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7           Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
13          Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Ephesians 2:4-10
4           But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective

A Message from Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the LC-MS

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace, mercy and peace to you in Jesus Christ.

As church workers, we daily face a host of challenges as we tend to those the Lord has placed under our care. While issues of sexual morality have always numbered among those challenges, the culture’s recent push, especially with regard to gender and sexual identity, warrants a purposeful study of the matter.

To better equip both church workers and lay people to understand and discuss this issue, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) has written and approved an immensely helpful paper: “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective.” You can download it here.  It is my prayer that you will read it, learn by heart what our Lord has to say on the matter and discuss it with your peers so that you may stand ready to care for those who come to you struggling with their own understanding of gender and sexuality.

And they will come to you. We have men and women, church workers and students in the LCMS who are confused about their gender. They are in need of pastoral care, God’s Word spoken in love and, above all, Christ’s forgiveness. For, as the CTCR has rightly noted, “Nothing is more powerful in the life of every person — for all of us fallen people — than the forgiveness that is given through the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus.”

May our merciful Lord’s blessings be upon your study of His Word and also upon those hurting for whom you care.

In Christ,

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

Three Christmas Classics

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Lutheran Visuals

2015 LCMS Life Conference

The 2015 LCMS Life Conference
is one month away!

It’s almost time for us to stand together and stand up for life at the 2015 LCMS Life Conference in Washington, D.C., Jan. 22-24 at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel following the National March for Life.

Have you registered? Get started and make your plans.

The LCMS Life Conference is your chance to join your Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ in speaking out on behalf of the 2,900 children who are aborted every day right here in America.

The conference will feature some of the biggest names in the life movement: LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; Dr. Robert P. George, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom; and Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action. They will be on hand to encourage you in advocating for life and to equip you to exercise your vocation as a Christian citizen in speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Need a bit more inspiration before you register? Check out this video and listen to a KFUO interview with Dr. Donna Harrison, director of Research and Public Policy at the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life, as they discuss important topics to be addressed at the conference. You also can hear a KFUO interview with Tracy Quaethem of the LCMS Office of National Mission and Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries, as they offer details about the conference.

Register now and connect with fellow LCMS Lutherans who support life by tweeting #lcmslifeconf.

In Christ Alone,
LCMS Life Ministry