Monday, September 9, 2013

What Does the Liturgy Mean?

[NOTE: This article was moved to FAITHpages. Please see the listing in the right-hand column.]

Monday, August 5, 2013

Breakfast at Rothschilds

Everyone is invited to join us for 
Breakfast at Rothschilds

Saturday, August 10th  -  at 8:30  

then following breakfast
we'll be working together to
clean up in and around the church.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Confessing the Faith

This is a YouTube video of the reading of the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed dates back over a 1,000 years in the the Christian church. This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946, and Trinity’s oldest member; Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys; and Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Faith Lutheran Church Community BBQ

Saturday July 13, 2013

Come and join us for a few hours of faith, fun, fellowship and food!  
Games for kids of all ages.  Cake walk and BBQ.

11:00 am-2:00 pm

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Our thoughts and prayers are with those effected by the May 20th tornadoes killing at least 24 people in Moore, Okla., some of them children. The two LCMS congregations serving the area are:

Trinity Lutheran Church
Pr. Nehrenz
Norman, OK

St. John's Lutheran Church and School
Pr. Bersche
Moore, OK

Both churches escaped damage and are open and busy serving members of their congregations and  community who have experienced damage and loss.

How You Can Help

You can help these congregations as they respond. The easiest way to help is through the LCMS disaster response effort. Your gifts for Disaster Response provide a constant resource of funds that can instantly be made available to help those in need.

You may also give by mail:
Make checks payable to "The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod" with a memo line or note designating ‘Disaster Response’

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis MO 63166-6861

Or by phone:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sermon for May 19, 2013

“Spirit-filled People”
Acts 2:1-11

If suddenly this morning the weather were to change, dark clouds filled the sky, thunder lightning, hailstones, and storm appeared, our reaction would probably be "What's going on? The weatherman said we were gong to have a perfect day today." We might be taken aback more if at the same time a large ball of fire appeared in the chancel, broke apart into small tongues of fire, and each landed on someone's head.

Luke’s description makes it clear that something tremendous happened in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost. There are some dimensions that are not ordinary, ever day occurrences. They are strange, different, unusual.

Our trouble, however, is that we today view this story as a kind of quaint museum piece—an exhibit of things that happened long ago. Certainly strange and unusual, but somehow we fail to see the connection between that event and our lives today.

Yet the early Christians were very much in tune with these events and understood their meaning. God had used these means and methods before. Throughout the Scriptures a storm or great wind is a sign of the presence of God. One of the signs of God's presence on Mount Sinai was the thunder and lightning in the storm. The same is true of fire. We all recall the pillar of fire that went with Israel from one place to another. When these phenomena occurred in the Scriptures, instead of thinking of weathermen or fire extinguishers, the early Christians immediately thought of God. These were two signs by which God was assuring them of His presence.

As Luke records it: These early Christians were all together in one place says our text. They were gathered for worship and God appeared; He made His presence known. This first Pentecost was an experience of elemental force. Like a cloudburst that overwhelms a parched land, so the Spirit of God came to the first disciples. So while it was a wondrous experience for these early Christians, it may not have been as foreign and strange as it is to us today. Then we here "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The Christian church was born.

God's Presence Today
When we remember this, we can say that this morning, Pentecost 2013, here at Faith Lutheran, and every Sunday morning, is a similar experience for God's people. But He doesn't use fire and wind; He has other sign of His presence here, other means that He uses to assure us that He is here. He says, for example, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." He declares that He is present in the Word spoken in our worship. He is here in our worship service as He speaks to you in Scripture readings, the sermon, and the Absolution, He is here in and with the bread and wine to give us the body and blood of Christ, personally and individually.

It is the same kind of day. Although it is likely you will not see tongues of fire or hear the wind, He is here. Not in some sort of spooky sense, but God Himself is present because He has promised to be. Therefore when the church gathers, it is more than just a social group getting together. It's more than just putting in an hour for some good cause, or even some good work. It is God Himself gathering you together, so that He can work on you and accomplish His good purpose in your lives. That's what Pentecost is all about—the power of God's Spirit at work in the lives of Spirit-filled people, building the Church of God here on Earth.

God's Presence In Faith’s History
25 years ago a group of Spirit-filled people came together in a fledgling congregation and began to dig a basement out of a hillside on Bieker Road. Some of you are sitting here this morning; others were your fathers, your husbands, and your brothers in Christ. The foundational work they did, and all the subsequent planning and labor, stands as a demonstration of the power of God's people on Earth. But it is not, and was not, the structure that caused the church to be and to grow. It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through believers. Before there was a building there was a Church. Before there was a building there was right teaching and preaching of God's Word; there were the sacraments and the forgiveness of sins.

There was all that was necessary to be Faith Lutheran, a Church of the true God. But the Holy Spirit gave the congregation abundant gifts. He gave Faith Lutheran the skill and resources to build a structure dedicated to the glory of God. But like that first Pentecost, the birth, establishment and growth of Faith Lutheran, is not only a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit working through believers, but it is a promise of even greater things in a world to come.

So this morning, on this “anniversary of the Church” while we take a deserved "time out" to reminisce about the times past, we must maintain the true course and goal of the true Church of God, we must take with glad hearts the command of our Lord to go out into the world and bring all nations to the foot of the cross. There to hear and see what God has done for all men. There to feel the healing power of God's grace on a soul infected with sin.

Just outside the tiny town of Exira, Iowa, is a famous landmark. There is a legend that young farmer was out plowing his field when a group of Union soldiers passed by. Overwhelmed by patriotism, the young man leaned his plow against a young oak tree and left to join the Civil War—and never returned. Today, passersby stop at Plow-in-the-Oak Park to picnic by the once-young tree that grew and swallowed up the farmer's once useful plow.

Goals are like that. If we set them aside for a time, we're apt to find them swallowed up in the changing scene and rapidly growing world. Good goals should never be put aside, but pursued until, with the grace of God, they are achieved. We must continue to be about the building of the Church of God here on Earth and here in Washington, Missouri.

God's Presence In Spirit-Filled People
That Pentecost recorded by Luke was a one-time event. But the world today still needs Spirit-filled people, swift as the wind, to take the word of God to people in languages that they can understand.  The world today still needs Spirit-filled people, strong as the wind, to run up and down the streets and lanes of Washington, Missouri proclaiming the Good News to a world incredibly depressed and grim, lonely and gloomy—the Good News of a Savior crucified and risen again. The Good News of a Savior who cares.

Brothers and sisters, members of Faith Lutheran Church, I contend that you have been and are still God's Spirit-filled people.

Spirit-Filled People Care And Show It In Their Lives. They control their fears and overcome their flaws. They keep their sharp tongues and flaming tempers in check, They say with the apostle Paul: In the midst of life's hardships and cruelties, we have found more than victory through Him who loved us. They triumph even over the final enemy, which is Death. They see their resurrected Lord come out of that dismal garden at the crack of the first Easter dawn, and they know the power of the Spirit He promised. They have no reason to go around any longer hanging sad and sorrowful. Instead, they go forth laughing and leaping, shouting and singing.

Spirit-Filled People Are Changed. Change is not all bad. If nobody could be changed were would we be? People are often rigidly inflexible, stubbornly bullheaded, and arrogantly right about everything. In almost every case, people like that are dead wrong. Spirit-filled people have to be ready for change, prepared to accept change—even change in themselves.

Spirit-Filled People See God At Work. Jesus Christ himself said that the Spirit is like the wind. you can see the results, even though you can't see the wind. The Spirit is like the wind. It blows were it chooses He said. That's the way the Spirit is. None of us can tell the Spirit what to do. We have to accept Him and His work. We have to recognize His power. We have to admit the changes He produces in ourselves and in others.

Spirit-Filled People Are "On The Go." They are not the most consistent people in the world. The only thing consistent about them is that the Spirit moves them. Otherwise, you can never predict exactly what they are going to do. They will love when others are hateful. They will forgive when others are intent on getting even. They are ready to move when others are standing still. They are where the action is, not looking for the safe comfortable seats.

Spirit-Filled People Are Fiery. When God's Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost, split tongues of fire sat on their heads. What happened? They were aglow with the Spirit and ablaze with God. They were fervent and fired up, "enthusiastic" in the first meaning of that word—filled with God. Spirit-filled people today are energetic and passionately committed to Jesus Christ. They spend their lives doing things for other people in the name of Jesus.

You might think that in a world of hate, strife, violence and war, who needs fiery and aggressive people who are angry and hot-tempered, making life a constant battle? Certainly, nobody needs them. But the world does need Spirit-filled people on fire for God, given to love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, patience and self-control. Those are gifts of the Spirit. The lives of Spirit-filled people embody them.

The world needs people on fire with faith graciously given them as a gift from God—on fire with love, on fire with the power of the Spirit, The world needs people who have left behind those former days of apathy and lukewarm commitment. It needs people who are revved up for Christ, turned on for God, fiery and fervent followers of Christ: dreaming impossible dreams, bearing impossible loads, fighting unbeatable foes, and "marching into hell itself," with a heavenly cause.

The fire of the Spirit crackles with life. That's the way it is with Spirit-filled people. They are alive. They are energetic. They are active. They are vibrant. They are on the move and on the go for God. They are not out to hurt people, but to help them. They know the task is monumental and the time is short. The Spirit moves them to be God's people with confidence and a zest to touch the lives of others with the Good News.

Spirit-Filled People Are Alive. They don't go around with long faces and set lips. They are not always shaking their heads and saying "no." Their greatest word is "yes."

Spirit-Filled People Have A New Language. There are fewer foul, filthy, sharp, profane, vicious, wounding words. Spirit-filled people are empowered and moved to speak words that heal and gladden and soothe and reconcile; building people up instead of tearing them down. People are attracted to them because they have compassion and love.

The Spirit of the Lord fills the world. He is here and He is busy. He is doing exactly what Christ said He would do.  When the counselor comes...the Spirit of Truth, ...He will bear witness to me. That's what the Spirit is doing: Telling people the Good News of God as you have it in Jesus Christ.

Like most Christians, we sit like rocket ships on the launching pad, ready for orbit but never used. We are like Christmas trees never sold, or beautiful paintings never hung; or a CD unplayed. We spend a lifetime seemingly studying God's Word, listening to His commands, and fellowshipping in His Church; but seldom do we do what God has called each and every one of us to—to take His Word to all people, to witness to the atoning work of Christ Jesus. But Spirit-filled people are different. They hear God speaking and they respond.

God's Presence In Us As Spirit-Filled People
There is forgiveness from God for you. Jesus Christ died for you. That's the Spirit talking to you today. If it were not for the Spirit of God, the message would have long since died. There is new life from God for you in Jesus Christ.  It comes by faith, and it acts by love. That mission would long since have died if the Spirit of God were not active. The message and the mission are yours to take with you each day, and, as true believers, the Spirit of God seeks to talk through you, to further the message and mission thorough you, each day.

There have always been people like those at the first Pentecost who have asked, "what does this mean?" It is a good question. This means exactly what the rest of the book of Acts tells us: repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ happen all the time through the power of God's Spirit. The wind is blowing and the fire is burning. Jesus has gone to the place of His lordship, and His Spirit has taken His place here on Earth. It is just as Jesus said, If I do not go away the Spirit cannot come.

Jesus went to His cross, to His grave, and then to His glory—to His Father. Returning to Heaven and picked up the mantel of power and authority which was His before time, and which He had set aside to humble himself to become man.  By going to Calvary, by lying in that garden grave, and then triumphantly rising from the dead, and by returning to His seat of power in Heaven, God's Spirit comes, richly and fully, to enliven the lives of ordinary people, people like you and like me, and to bring us to Jesus. As people redeemed by God have just got to be filled with His Spirit. Otherwise, you would not be trusting in God, hoping in God. You are alive. You are forgiven and forgiving. You are loved and loving. You are Spirit-filled.

The Spirit of the Lord speaks Word of God. Listen to Him and renew your belief in Jesus your Savior every day. The Spirit of God lights your fire today and fans the flames with the wind of His power. Use the gifts He has given you to build and strengthen the Church on Earth and bring souls to the family of God. Believe, hope and trust in God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My prayer for you is that the grace of our Father Almighty, the love of the Son who redeemed you, the power of the Spirit who brought you to the one true faith, and the peace of God which passes all understanding, be and abide with you. Amen.

Acknowledgement and thanks to Rev. Oswald Hoffman for the inspiration of Spirit-filled people from a sermon heard in 1990 by a young impressionable seminarian.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Voters Meeting May 21, 2013 7:30 pm

All voting members invited to attend.  If you are not a voting member and would like to become one, please join us.

Pot Luck Dinner and Congregation meeting Sunday May 19th

Come join the Faith family on Sunday May 19th to discuss the future of our church family.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon for May 12, 2013

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:12-26, John 17:1-11      
For thousands and thousands of years, some scholars have studied the Bible by focusing on the meaning or symbolism of certain numbers. We must be very careful when studying those numbers, for it is all too easy to focus on the numbers themselves and search for so-called hidden meanings while failing to understand why God has given specific numbers for us to understand. But that’s not to say that all Biblical numbers are meaningless, for some numbers we read most certainly do have implications for our study of the Scriptures.
Take, for example, the number 40. When God sent the great flood to destroy the wicked people while preserving only Noah and his family – and preserving the life of animals and birds – Genesis 7:12 says that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai when God gave him and us the Ten Commandments – and when the Children of Israel rebelled against the God who had led them from the slavery of Egypt, they were forced to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness before their children could finally enter the Promised Land. Following His baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as Satan tempted him. Last Thursday marked Christ’s ascension into heaven – an event that took place 40 days following His resurrection. What you see here is a pattern – a pattern of the number 40 representing either a period of testing, a period of preparation, or a critical period of God’s redemptive history of His people.
Another symbolic number – one that is less often used but which has great importance – is the number 12. In the Book of Genesis we learn how God chose the 12 sons of Jacob to be His covenant people. Those sons and their families – better known as the 12 Tribes of Israel – were given more than just the promise of a homeland flowing with milk and honey. More importantly, they were given the promise of being the ancestors of the Messiah, the Promised One who would lead them not only from temporary, painful human bondage, but from the deadly and eternal spiritual bondage of sin.
God did, indeed, lead the 12 Tribes to the Promised Land. This great nation that had descended from the 12 sons of Jacob now began to live – or so it seemed – in one communion as God’s faithful people. But the oneness was often tested and was sometimes shattered. In the Book of Judges we read of conflict when members of the Tribe of Dan, who were unhappy with their portion of the Promised Land, so they set out to conquer new lands for themselves. Then we read of the Tribe of Benjamin being attacked by armies of the other 11 tribes. Under King David and King Solomon the 12 Tribes seemingly were united in peace. But following Solomon’s death, the Promised Land was broken into two nations, the nations of Israel and Judah. The 12 Tribes were broken apart, never again to be unified or complete. Just as sin had corrupted all of God’s creation when Adam and Eve first defied God, sin had likewise corrupted God’s chosen people, and they would never again – never in all of recorded history – be one.
The memory of the 12 Tribes remained firmly planted in the psyche of Jacob’s descendants who still followed the true God in what was left of Israel 2,000 years ago. And it was then – 2,000 years ago, during the ministry of Jesus – that 12 again became an important number in Scripture. Although we are told that large numbers of people followed Jesus for much of His ministry, Jesus personally selected 12 men to be His Apostles. On one occasion recorded in Matthew chapter 19, when Jesus was discussing life in heaven following His second coming, He told the Apostles: “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
And yet, it was one of the 12 – Judas Iscariot – who broke the fellowship of the Apostles by betraying Jesus and killing himself. In Luke’s record of the Acts of the Apostles, the good doctor describes the earliest church in the interim between the ascension and Pentecost. The visible physical presence of Jesus in the church is gone, and the Spirit has not yet been poured out. And so the eleven and those who also followed Jesus awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit by devoting themselves to prayer and the study of Scripture. Peter leads the community.
Peter addressed the group and recited verses from two of the Psalms, including these words from Psalm 109: “Let another take his office.” The fellowship of the Apostles had been broken. The purpose of this gathering was to discuss the appointment of a replacement for Judas. The 11 Apostles felt compelled to include the larger group of ‘brothers’ to help in selecting a replacement. Luke notes 120 persons were present; indicating not only their involvement as members of the body of Christ, abut also their unity and their togetherness when decisions need to be made.
Peter and the other followers of Jesus understood that the full number of the twelve must be restored. It is necessary that one of the men should become one with them in their future travels. The decision would be based on the criteria established by Peter regarding this election, This successor should have at least two qualifications: (1) he must have been with Jesus and the disciples from Christ’s baptism to his ascension, and (2) he must have been witness to the resurrection, as were the other disciples. Peter determined the requirements, but the final choice was left to the Lord.
The job description is stated in two words: “ministry” and “apostolic” which grants the new disciple the full right of apostleship equal to that of the 11.
They identified two men who had been followers of Jesus from the start of His ministry. God’s choice, determined by casting lots, was Matthias. The name of the one selected was Matthias, and he was added to the number of the apostles.
While most of the decisions you and I may don’t appear to be as momentus as selecting an apostle of Christ, today we want to hear what Scripture has to say to us about making appropriate decisions. Along the way we’ll be looking at the examples of seeking counsel from God’s people and direction from God.
On this Mother’s Day, I have a several questions to ask you: How do you get along with your mother-in-law? How did you choose the mother of your children? What qualifications did you use in selecting a mate to bring to God’s altar for a promise of lifetime commitment? What qualifications would you list for the mothers whom we remember today? Good mothers and good parents do not happen by chance, but often require important decisions. Today we want to talk about making important life decisions.
The first step in making good decisions is to state or identify the problem/issue in a clear and concise statement.
For the disciples, the issue was a ‘now what? Jesus had appointed 12 disciples They were down one. They needed to find a replacement for Judas. Peter stated the agenda in a clear sentence when he said, “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us.”
Our difficulty in making choices and decisions is that we often deal with wishes rather than needs. We do not say what we really need. In fact, our hidden agenda does not allow us to be honest in a simple statement of need.
Jesus never wished to die. In fact, in the garden he asked his heavenly Father to remove the cup of suffering. But there was also a divine must, a divine need. In order to save humankind, Jesus needed to die for us and give his life as a ransom for many.
Second step in good decision-making is to identify possible solutions.
The disciples set certain qualifications. They had to choose someone who had been with them from the beginning, who knew all things that had taken place so that he could give the testimony of an eyewitness.
Even more important than the qualifications of an apostle was the function of an apostle—“a witness of [Christ’s] resurrection.” These qualifications were demanding, but the successor was to be part of the mission team of the apostles.
In selecting people to fill positions in the church, we may be tempted to concentrate on such things as job-related skills or a life of-the-party personality. But today’s disciple needs to be spiritually mature and committed to the Savior, as were the original disciples.
Peter did not act alone in making the decision. He asked the community of believers to review possible solutions. He depended on the Spirit to guide the community. The community asked God to lead them in their search for the right person. The church prayed as a group and acted as a group.
One of the hardest parts in making a decision is truly to seek GodÕs help and the advice of fellow Christians in choosing the best person for a particular task.
There is a world to be gained. There is a ministry that has to be done. An apostle must be sent. There is a story that has to be told. There are people who need to hear of the goodness of a resurrected Lord. Those charged with this awesome task find it gratifying when they successfully select candidates who are fit for ministry and who fulfill the ministry.
Do we decide on activities and make decisions that will further our kingdom, or further the kingdom of God? Judas made a bad decision. It was a personal decision based on frustration, disappointment, and greed. Yet Jesus died for the bad decisions of all people, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He paid for decisions that you and I regret. He died even for the sins of someone as estranged as Judas or the thief on the cross. He died to pay our debt and then arose on the third day to empower us to be his witnesses. His Spirit gives us the wisdom to make decisions to honor his name.
Decisions are never easy, be we are called on to make decisions all the time. Some are personally important, that will further our kingdom, like deciding on a spouse. But there are time when we are called on to make decisions that will further the kingdom of God by selecting people for church offices and tasks. We need to know our needs, we need to evaluate the best possible solutions, we need to involve the community, and we need to go to God in prayer.
Faith is the community of Christ gathered here in Washington, Missouri. Through Word and Sacrament, you have been witnesses of what Christ has done in this place and in your lives. We are human and we will make mistakes. We are all guilty of making decisions and judgements out of frustration, guilt, disappointment, and greed. Jesus died for the bad decisions of all people, including you and me. He paid for decisions that you and I regret. He died even for the sins of those who have caused us heartache and hurt by their decision. He paid our debt, He paid your debt, and then He rose on the third day to empower us to be his witnesses.
As a result of the Jerusalem Council the number of the twelve was restored. Everything was in readiness for the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Everything was in readiness for the Apostles – the twelve – to begin following Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
After the few verses we heard earlier, we are told no more in Scripture about Matthias – he is never mentioned again. For that matter, only a few of the Apostles are actually mentioned in the final 23 books of the New Testament. All of our attention will now be focused not on this number, but to the apostolic witness to Christ and the spread of the Gospel throughout what then was most of the known world.
It is in this witness and spreading of the Gospel that we focus in on the number cited by Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson: the number one. In His prayer for the Apostles, Jesus asks: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
“Even as we are one,” Jesus said. Today Christians confess oneness in creeds – statements of what we believe – in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed – but in Jesus’ day, the oneness of the Jewish people was represented by these words from Deuteronomy chapter 6, words known as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Even though the Shema was spoken for centuries before God’s people understood the Trinity it actually is totally consistent with everything that Jesus taught and everything that we Christians believe. Two weeks from today is Trinity Sunday, the day that we focus so specifically on our belief in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three persons but one—and only one—God. This belief in the oneness of the Triune God – our confession that we make here and now – represents the prayer of Jesus “that they” – that we – “may be one.” 
One of my favorite Psalms is that appointed for us today; it is Psalm 133. It’s only three verses long; please open your hymnals to the front, and let’s read those words together:
1     Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2     It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
          on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3     It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
     life forevermore.
Unity … blessing … life forevermore. What beautiful words, representing the life we have – or should have – as redeemed believers in Christ. But as we look around the religious landscape of modern Christianity, we seldom see much if any unity. Instead, we see denominations based on false teachings and flawed understandings of Scripture. We see churches that deny the truth of Scripture and substitute the sinful and shortsighted opinions of mankind. In our own beloved Missouri Synod our fellowship is divided by issues including forms of worship, denial of the clear Biblical mandate for closed communion, and even – by a few – calls for the ordination of women pastors. Sometimes congregations are split into warring factions to the extent that hate and fear replace love and fellowship. As long as we draw breath on this earth, Satan will never stop trying to create division and destroy your fellowship, just as he destroyed the fellowship of the 12 Tribes and the fellowship of the 12 Apostles.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ;
I thank God every day that Faith Lutheran Church here in Washington is not beset by these false beliefs and false practices. I thank God that this congregation holds fast to the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of Scripture alone. This doesn’t mean that you may not, on occasion, disagree on some issues or details. But in matters of faith, you are one. Jesus prayed: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one.” Jesus continues to make that same prayer for us. And He will do so continuously until we are brought to Paradise, where we and all believers shall worship our Triune God with one voice, in unity for all eternity.
You have begun a process, a journey toward healing and making this ministry whole. His Spirit gives us the wisdom to make decisions to honor his name. The first century church has given you the model for the days and months to come—they asked God to lead them. The church prayed as a group and acted as a group. In this way they received the blessing of God upon their decision.
You are the church of Christ in Washington. Ask God to lead you. Pray as a group. Care for one anther and find unity. Then act as a group. Serve God and serve one another. God has promised that your decisions will hallow His name and serve his holy will and his kingdom, both here and for eternity.
Ascended Lord, the vistas are high, the horizon is long, the landscape seems endless. From our vantage point, spreading the Gospel to all the world sounds impossible. Give us patience and perseverance, reminding us always to follow you fully in the places you have chosen for us. And keep us focused on our tasks at hand until the day when your name will echo over every hill and valley. Amen.
 with thanks and acknowledgment of Pastor Terry O’Brien

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Outing Sin

From the Memorial Moment

Wednesday of Easter 6
8 May 2013

Romans 7:18-25

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

I see it in their eyes. Faces ashen with shame. Tears make rivulets of cleansing salt. Breath comes not evenly, but in gulps. Their sin stings. Hearing confession is an agonizing discipline for both penitent and confessor. The confessor is anguished for the sheep and feels intimately his own sin (1Corinthians 10:12). The sheep feel deeply the penalty that sin extorts from them. The shepherd shares that with them. As necessary as confession is, anyone who enjoys being on either end of a confession is truly warped. No one enjoys surgery either, but sometimes it is necessary. Excising a tumor from the body or lancing an infection is never any fun, but the cleansing afforded by the surgeon's plunging scalpel brings the first momentous step toward healing. The damage done by the incision and excision will heal, and what is hurting us is out. Our sin needs to undergo such an excision. We need to "out" sin in confession.

Why does sin cause so much hurt? And why does it hurt so much when we confess it? Sin's power is in the law, which points out our wickedness and perversity to us. Perhaps our sin would remain quiescent within us if the law did not wake its rage (Romans 7:7-9). Maybe it wouldn't hurt so much if the law could just remain quiet. A great deal of what passes for Christian preaching is an attempt to silence the law by turning it into friendly advice. But the law cannot be silenced. It is God's, not ours. God's law will always work wrath upon us.

Is not the law of God good and holy? How then does the law give strength to sin so that together they work death? Yes, the law of God is good and wise, but it has a terrible function. God sends it to lay bare the human heart and display the corrosive cancer of sin. The scalpel of the law plunges deeply cutting out our dying sin-sick heart. And it feels like there is no anesthesia. The law is a bullet too hard to bite. God's wrath cannot be endured, only suffered unto death. Only then can we receive a new heart from the gospel (Ezekiel  36:26). Just as the excision is God's, so the healing also comes from Him. The heart is Christ's and is transplanted within us all at once. We are entirely new. His blood is transfused into our mouths and the heart that pumps must be His. The confessor speaks back together the jagged edges of our sin shredded lives with the Word. "Your sins are forgiven." How different God makes everything when the law has done its terrible work and then God speaks the gospel.

Martin Luther

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 56-57
"Where does sin come from? Or how does it happen that it is so very strong and able to kill and slay? St. Paul says: 'I shall tell you: "The power of sin is the law"(1Corinthians 15:56).' Who has ever heard that said about God's commandment and law, which, after all, was given and instituted as holy and good by God? And still St. Paul can say that sin would be feeble and dead and could effect nothing if it were not for the law. The law renders sin alert and strong and prompts it to cut and to pierce. If it depended on us, sin would very likely remain dormant forever. But God is able to awaken it effectively through the law. When the hour comes for sin to sting and to strike, it grows unendurable in a moment. For the law dins this into your ears and holds the catalog of your sins before your nose: 'Do you hear? You committed this and you committed that in violation of God's commandments, and you spent your whole life in sin. Your own conscience must attest and affirm that.' In that way sin already shows its power. It frightens you so that the whole world becomes too confining for you. It agitates and strikes until you must despair. And there is neither escape nor defense here. For the law is too strong, and your own heart incites it, which itself denounces you and condemns you to hell. Therefore sin requires nothing else than God's law. Where that enters the heart, sin is already alive and able to kill man if it wants to, unless he lays hold of this victory, which is Christ, our Lord.

"If the law has such bad results, why, then, did God issue it? Would it not be far better if there were no law? To be sure, it would be better for us. And yet it cannot be dispensed with. For it is incompatible with God that He should be pleased to let us have our way and do as we wish. It is true that He is longsuffering with us all before He manifests His wrath. He permits many people to follow their own way, who never feel the law and sin or ever think of God's wrath, but, instead, disdain the law and sin and, moreover, mock them, no matter how one threatens them with death and hell. But finally God is constrained to show them what both the law and sin are able to do, to deter them from making sport of it. To be sure, God may wink at this for a while, but when the hour comes in which the law really raps at your door to find you at home and demands an accounting, it will not be so easy to ignore it. Then one begins to lament and wail: 'Alas! What did I do? What will become of me now?' Then we observe the meaning of the words: 'The law is the power of sin.' That is why St. Paul elsewhere (Romans 7:6; 2Corinthians 3:7) also calls it a law of death and an office of death, which proclaims death and is the cause of death. Even if there were no other sermon or rule, the entire world could be preached to death solely with this."

Lord Jesus Christ, Your holy law lays bare our wickedness that You might pluck it from us by Your death and resurrection. Help us to confess that wickedness that we might hear ever and again the gospel Word of holy absolution. Put that new heart in us that You want us to have through Your speaking. Amen.

     © Scott R. Murray, 2013

Dr. Scott Murray is Senior Pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church and School and Vice-President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Boston, Lutherans offer comfort in wake of horror

on April 24, 2013 from Reporter Online
By Paula Schlueter Ross

The Rev. Ingo Dutzmann, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Boston, chokes up when he talks about those who were bloodied and maimed in the April 15 bombings, just four blocks from the church.

“To me, they’re all ‘we’ — we’re in this together,” he says. Exhausted after an emotionally draining week, he’s trying to live up to the “Boston Strong” motto, but points to the injured as the real heroes.
The Rev. Ingo Dutzmann, left, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Boston, and Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) staff member Rich Martin return from a walk to the bombing scene on Boylston Street with LCC Comfort Dogs "Luther" and "Maggie." (Lutheran Church Charities)
The Rev. Ingo Dutzmann, left, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Boston, and Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) staff member Rich Martin return from a walk to the bombing scene on Boylston Street with LCC Comfort Dogs “Luther” and “Maggie.” (Lutheran Church Charities)

There’s the woman “who thought she would lose her leg,” the wounds were so bad, but she didn’t. Dutzmann and two Lutheran Church Charities “Comfort Dogs,” with their handlers, were in her hospital room when she took “her first steps” since the horrific blasts.

The dog handlers — who often are called to scenes of pain and destruction — said seeing the young woman walk “was the best day of their lives,” according to the pastor. All were teary-eyed, he said, thankful to God for the woman’s good prognosis.

There’s the man who lost both legs, “who woke up [in the hospital] and he was so happy that he’d lost his legs because he’d thought that he’d died,” recalled Dutzmann. Even as a double amputee, that injured marathon runner is embracing life, the pastor notes.

Dutzmann also recalled the positive spirits of a young, newly married couple — each lost a leg and are recuperating in separate hospitals.

All in all, he’s ministered to probably a dozen or more bombing victims in four area hospitals.
The back-to-back homemade bombs killed three people and injured more than 170. With one suspect dead and the other in custody, Boston residents are relieved, but the pain is still there, notes the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, director of Church and Community Engagement with the LCMS Office of National Mission.

Two days after the bombings, Hernandez and LCMS New England District President Rev. Timothy Yeadon were there, talking and praying with people who stopped by First Lutheran Church, a church that “will never be the same again,” according to Hernandez. “It is now known nationally and internationally as a place of comfort in times of crisis.”

Still, “families, singles, students living around First will continue to struggle to understand the meaning of this evil and ask, ‘Are we safe here? Could this happen again? Why [is there] evil alongside a caring God?,’ ” Hernandez muses.

With four local pastors present, the LCMS church opened its doors within three hours of the 2:50 p.m. bombings and stayed open from 7 a.m. to midnight for five days afterward. Five Comfort Dogs arrived the evening after the blasts and stayed “on duty” — for bombing victims and Boston residents as well as emergency and healthcare personnel — at the church, on the street and in area hospitals through Sunday, April 21. During the stressful week, Dutzmann was often out on the sidewalk in front of the church, inviting strangers inside for free coffee and snacks, conversation and prayers.

On Wednesday, April 17, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, delivered to the church 240 copies of a special edition of Portals of Prayer that addresses the question “Where Is God Now?” The booklets include 60 “hope-inspired devotions” written especially for those affected by disasters, along with a list of resources. Almost all of the copies have been distributed to “very receptive” people, according to Elaine Laaser, parish administrator at First Lutheran.
A memorial on Boston's Boylston Street honors the memory of those who were killed and injured in the April 15 marathon bombings. (Lutheran Church Charities)
A memorial on Boston’s Boylston Street honors the memory of those who were killed and injured in the April 15 marathon bombings. (Lutheran Church Charities)
Also in CPH’s package of grief-support materials were 20 copies of Strength for the Day, a resource for pastors that’s designed to help them deal with life challenges such as stress, illness, fatigue, loss and anxiety.

“Our hearts were broken by the news of the bombings and we immediately wanted to help,” said Amanda Christie, senior manager of Corporate Communications and Publicity for CPH. “We have the good fortune of sharing God’s Word with the world. But sometimes it’s our own member congregations who need His Word most.”

Located downtown, First Lutheran Church was well-placed to reach many people, noted Laaser. “On an average day, especially with the Comfort Dogs there, we saw anywhere from 300 to 400 people,” she told Reporter. The dogs were a real asset, she said, because people “didn’t want to talk about it”: They just wanted to pet the dogs and feel like everything was going to be OK.

Even on Friday, April 19, the day Boston authorities asked everyone to stay inside because the second suspect was still at-large, Laaser took a call from a student at Emerson College who wanted to know if the church was open and the dogs were there. The students — about 150 in all — walked more than a mile from the college to the church in groups of 20 beginning at about 10 a.m. They were away from home and scared, Laaser said, and “they would put their heads on these dogs and just cry.” Many also prayed with Dutzmann.

That ministry of First Lutheran Church — and other ways LCMS Lutherans have responded to the marathon bombings — were simply “a desire to share the love of Jesus,” explained New England District President Yeadon. In an interview with Reporter on Friday, April 19, Yeadon said, “I have personally seen the darkness this week, but I have personally seen the light of Jesus shine! The darkness cannot overcome that!”

Yeadon calls Dutzmann “a true saint” who “shows the love of Jesus to all — church member or not.” Even though the Boston pastor “is tired and worn and it may show … you will be amazed at his love of Christ and his zeal, even now.”
Students from Emerson College in Boston pet "Addie," a Comfort Dog, in the courtyard of First Lutheran Church, Boston. The five dogs that spent a week at the church were a real asset, according to a spokesman, because people "didn't want to talk about" the bombings: They just wanted to pet the dogs and feel like everything was going to be OK. (Lutheran Church Charities)
Students from Emerson College in Boston pet “Addie,” a Comfort Dog, in the courtyard of First Lutheran Church, Boston. The five dogs that spent a week at the church were a real asset, according to a spokesman, because people “didn’t want to talk about” the bombings: They just wanted to pet the dogs and feel like everything was going to be OK. (Lutheran Church Charities)
Although Yeadon was unable to attend a special marathon-memorial worship service April 21 at First Lutheran Church, he sent a letter to the congregation that was read by former New England District President Rev. James Keurulainen. (An earlier service planned for Friday, April 19, was cancelled because of that day’s citywide lockdown.)

“With Jesus on the cross, we can ask of our heavenly Father, in light of last week’s events, ‘My God, My God … why?’ But with Jesus, we end that conversation with our heavenly Father with the words, ‘ Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,’ ” Yeadon wrote.

“Even without total understanding, we can, with His help, place ourselves into His hands once nailed to the cross for us all. We remember that which connects it all, His words of ‘Father, forgive them,’ and we know that in this broken world with terror and unexplainable tragedies that the love of our God shines in the darkness — and the darkness will not overcome it.”

On Tuesday, April 16 — the day after the bombings — LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison released a prayer and a statement asking for “blessings for the injured and strength for the bereaved” as well as for doctors, emergency workers and city, state and federal officials “as they face this evil in dedicated service.”

Said Harrison: “Like the death of our Lord Christ Himself, we pray that, even in this dark hour, the sacrifice and pain of those affected will not be in vain, but redound in good as yet unseen.”
He also shared from 2 Cor. 1:3-5, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.”

According to Laaser, some 30 nonmembers — including about 18 college students — were among some 230 people who attended First Lutheran’s two services on April 21. The congregation is planning a second memorial service, she said, and wants people to know “We’re here to pray with you, we’re here to talk to you.”

Dutzmann is considering making one or two Comfort Dogs a permanent part of the congregation’s ministry.

One of Laaser’s lasting memories, she said, is of seeing her pastor out on the church sidewalk, encouraging passersby to “come on in.” Even though there are many Christian churches in the area, Dutzmann was “the only [pastor] I saw out there, actually standing on the sidewalk.”

Laaser said the whole week-long ordeal was wrenching and exhausting, but, at the same time, she added, “I was just so honored and proud to be a Lutheran.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Good Shepherd Sunday

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 27
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 21 this year) is commonly called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Gospel for this Sunday is verses from John 10, where Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Why celebrate our Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd during the Easter season? Very simply, after He laid down his life for us, defeating our enemies (sin, death, and the devil), He did not stay dead. He rose again, and remains the Shepherd for us, His flock, with many continuing blessings for us as a result.

The Psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 23, summarizes the blessings we receive from the hand of our Good Shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
     He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
     I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
     You anoint my head with oil.
     My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
     And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In this world there is trouble. But our Good Shepherd has overcome the world.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Lord's Supper

There are few things that separate Christians more than the Lord’s Supper. Certainly there are countless doctrines that are debated and argued over, but in our world today, nothing seems to divide Christians like the Lord’s Supper.

The most obvious form of this is the practice of close or closed communion. When someone visits a church, like Faith, that practices closed communion, they can feel singled out and even rejected because they are not welcome to receive the Sacrament alongside the members. This leads to questions like, “Do you think you are better than the rest of us?” or even, “Do you think that I am not a Christian, or will not be saved, because I am not a Lutheran?” (The short answer to these questions is “no,” but there is more to it than we can get into in this short post.)

However, this only scratches the surface of the divisions that Christians have over the Lord’s Supper. We are divided over whether or not Jesus’ body and blood are truly present in the Sacrament. Those who agree they are present are still further divided over how they are present, and those who agree that they are not present are still divided over whether Jesus is spiritually present or not at all. Then Christians are also divided over what it means to receive the Sacrament in a worthy manner, let alone who is worthy to receive it.

On top of this, there are questions regarding how we should practice the Lord’s Supper: How often should it be celebrated? Is there a right form of how to celebrate it, and if so, what form is that? Do we use a single, common cup or do we use individual cups? We could go on and on.

Here at Faith, the Sunday morning education hour is where we have opportunity to work through such questions. We have been looking at what Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions teach us and then what we as Lutheran Christians say about what we believe, teach and confess.

Our goal was not just to answer one or two questions, but to do our best to understand all that God is saying to us and doing for us through His Word, and prepare us to witness to Christians and non-Christians with the whole counsel of God's Word.

I hope to share with you over the coming weeks and months many of the insights that we have learned. If there is one thing I can say to sum up what we have learned: it is that it seems that as soon as we think we have nailed down what God is doing for us in His Means of Grace, we learn that there is even more happening than we think.

Please join us for our study of God's Word on Sundays, beginning at 9:15 a.m. Coffee and goodies provided.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

What are these trials of life?

There’s an instructive story buried in the Old Testament. Not suspecting anything was about to happen, Jacob was jumped by an assailant. A long wrestling match followed, a wrestling [match] that lasted through the night, and through it Jacob came to realize he was wrestling with God. 

Jacob didn’t initiate the match and we don’t pick the times; God picks the times and places where He tackles us. “Lord, what’s going on here? Why are You letting this happen?” Martin Luther had three words to describe the Christian life, oratio, meditatio, and temptatio. The first two, prayer and devotion, often occur at times and places of our own choosing, but the third, temptatio, trial and trouble, chastening and growing, come where and when our heavenly Father chooses. Smackdown time!

Jacob was blessed through that long night of wrestling and when dawn finally came he had received a new name, Israel. Although it’s never easy, when we see the troubles and trials of life as occasions to grow in the ways of God, we are blessed at dawn by a new understanding of what it means to carry the name of God’s suffering servant, Jesus Christ (Genesis 32:22-30). “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

[The Meyer Minute by Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, Thu., Apr. 11, 2013]