Welcome again to in-person or online worship here at Calvary!
As I like to "freshen up" at least one thing with regard to worship each calendar year, I want to introduce new worship attendance cards this year.
Frequently, we have been cleaning the pews and realized that personal information had been left on one of the clipboards. Now, I do understand that most of the time this would not pose any issue as the next person to see it will probably be a responsible church member. But, in an effort to respect everyone's privacy, individual cards will now be used to ensure that personal contact information is shared only among Offering Counters briefly, then given directly to me or Lisa Klein.
Please complete one of these new cards each time you worship, even if you are a member of Calvary, and place it in the Offering Plate.
The second thing you will find is an option for "desire a call from pastor or the care team" before the section asking for contact information. We want everyone who attends our services in person to "feel seen" and be able to be as forthcoming as they would like to be about issues needing pastoral attention.
Please help us on staff welcome everyone and let them know that we truly care for them as people whom God has placed in our lives as members of the family of Christ. As the Spirit says:
"Be devoted to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted in prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality." (Romans 12:10-13)
Once upon a time, I was a Lutheran school kid in a Sunday School classroom. There, in suburban St. Louis, I went along with other kids from my school when they looked down on and excluded kids from public school. After the "we're better than you and you're not in our group" bug struck our class in 4th and 5th grade, middle-school Bible class on Sunday mornings was down to about 4 kids. Our family would be there every Sunday, so I saw this sad story unfold.
It was always something I reflected on even into my college years. In college, we were ALL public school kids attending the closest Lutheran church to our campus. Some tension arose when there were high school seniors who didn't want to go to our college, they wanted to start life working and perhaps getting married. How should we relate to them? What could we say? We styled ourselves smarter then the kids who decided on this path in life, but they were often more mature and accepted leadership in the congregation. We were too busy with school things and the Lutheran student group on campus to do much in the congregation.
My simple point is that there are always tensions in any congregation. The Lord has made it clear: "Love one another as I have loved you all" (John 15:12). St. Paul echoed Jesus: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
I once stood with two gentlemen in the narthex of a small church. Unity was key to our survival as a small band of believers. Any whiff of disunity, and I felt panic. Well, the two men could not have been more different politically; sure enough, that one day in the narthex the subject came up. There was hand waving and dismissal of the other. But to my surprise, there was laughter. The two men, mature in Christ, decided to turn it into a funny and quirky difference rather than fight it out right there (verbally) after church.
This is the attitude we must have. If it's hard, ask the Holy Spirit for this gift. That you continue being honest about who you are and what you'd like to see happen here at Calvary. But also that you bring a readiness to wait and listen to others, who may have a much different point of view than you have, and different hopes for our ministry to Parma.
Let us simply decide to discard disunity! We must make every effort to keep our unity in the Spirit. There is a bond of peace like no other among people who are "fellow redeemed." We share the sign of the cross made over us at our Baptism. To mark us as fellow redeemed. And that is what we are.
As the angels sang, so our song by the Word working in our hearts becomes: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to/in/with His people on earth!"
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." II Corinthians 4:6 (In the literal face of the Baby born in Bethlehem.)
Like a Train
And so, like a long and lumbering train, the Church pulls into the station at All Saints' Day in the year of our Lord, 2021.
To capitalize the "c" in "church" to make the word "Church," we are usually confessing/talking about what is bigger than Calvary, bigger than any congregation, Synod, or denomination. We are confessing the long train of faith, the saints called by the Gospel and enlightened with God's gifts, wherever they may be found.
One car attaches to another. Surely you will remember your dearest friends from Calvary and from your family or elsewhere who have gone before us to sleep in Christ. Take this comfort today: the heavenly Father who started this all is irrevocable and unshakeable. His Word endures forever and is actively connecting us. By contrast, the word of humans routinely disconnects our "cars." For the salesman, people are divided into prospective clients, maybes, and improbable clients/people not interested or capable of buying the product or service. For politicians--we just had an election, so this is fresh--we are people to be won over for a vote. These are well and good, in their place. But when they become an all-consuming habit, they pull away from God's tracks onto rocky, dangerous ground.
Newcomers to our fellowship are not prospective clients or members. While, yes, we work hard to welcome all to our fellowship, ultimately what's going on spiritually is deeper. They, like we, are being called by the Spirit of God which is building us together like living stones, as St. Peter was fond of saying. And it's all for following directly after the Locomotive, Christ Jesus our Lord, begotten by the Father and running on the steam of the Word:
We are "being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (I Peter 2:5)
"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation [SAINTS], a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;" (2:9)
"For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps, while being abusively insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He did not threaten, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you were healed.
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." (2:21-25 NASB)
We live in an age when "sin" is relegated to the realm of "mistakes" and certainly never trumps personal feeling. If it feels right, do it. This is not the Way. We follow the saints in the long train of martyrs who did not die for a culturally-acceptable faith, but for a faith that spoke truth in sacrificial love and grace.
Thankful for His power, presently protecting us (I Peter 1:5),
Be a Student of Your Own Beliefs
You may not have caught it, but in a recent sermon I shared the goal of Lutheran theology: "Faith learning how to endure attack" (Oswald Beyer). Whereas some people have tried to elevate our Reason and Intellect, saying that Faith is "understanding" and the like, Martin Luther stressed that our theology is faith in our Savior learning how to endure attack.
.... I heard of this for the first time two weeks ago from an interview of a pastor with long experience in the parish as well as at the Seminary. What a valuable and worthwhile goal for us: learn how to endure the attacks of the Devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Is there any higher goal for Christians?
Is our age any different than any other age? This is always required, that we fight these three enemies with a constant taking in of the Word of God, reception of Holy Communion, and remembrance of our Baptism.
If you understand these things, you understand what it means to be a Lutheran Christian. Some churches in America have these "marks of the church" in their own way. Others have one or only two of them. But these marks or "means of grace" are what create and sustain Faith in the hearts of God's people.
What do other churches believe? How can I share the gems of the long experience of the Lutheran Church with my friends and family? A number of you have asked me over these last 6 months, and I'm happy to offer a short course on this topic, on Saturday evenings.
Join me & Elder Jay White as we follow the book Churches in America beginning Saturday, September 11, 4:00--5:30 PM.
Joining Jesus on His Mission
A Moment to think about Stewardship and Fellowship and... Outreach?
In our committees here at Calvary, we segment the facets of our mission as a congregation so that we can share the work of being a missional congregation. What Stewardship plans and does will usually not cross with any other group, be it Fellowship, Outreach, or Elders. That being said, all of these things are meant to flow together in your personal life! There need not be any division of labor there that you're consciously aware of!
Along those lines, one popular book in the last few years has been Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary by Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor Greg Finke (2014). Here's an excerpt about the art of "neighboring." Consider and pray about hosting what Pastor Finke calls a "missional party" as the warm months wind down but people are still going outside a lot. Most importantly of all, remember not to rush conversations about Jesus. When we befriend others and join them on what I would call "the front lines of life," they will confide in us as time goes on and as questions and troubles arise. We go with them to the same cross, the same Savior.
I thought a lot about this book at the Car Show, hosted by Calvary's Board of Outreach, which is doing a fantastic job. The team consists of Jennifer Novy, Jan Glatz, and when he can join us, Deacon Hurst. What a blessed time it was of casual conversation and occasional "church questions" that the people there brought up with us, exactly what we were eager to have happen. The Fellowship Team provided an awesome meal and setting. We truly feel that the Lord blessed our time together and to all who helped, THANK YOU SO MUCH. As the Lord leads, Pastor Dieterichs
"'Neighboring' is defined as creating (or taking advantage of existing opportunities) which foster community and friendship between the neighbors where we live, work, play, or go to school. Neighboring begins the process of awakening community in a neighborhood and friendship between neighbors. Whenever we create an environment where 'neighboring' can happen, we call that a 'neighboring environment.'
Some might have trouble seeing a party as being missional. If 'missional' is equated with something being overtly 'religious,' then I would agree that a party is not missional. However, if missional is about being with people and getting to know them so we can join whatever Jesus is doing, then yes, a party can definitely be missional. The party (or any gathering of people) provides an environment or opportunity for us to get to know and start to enjoy the neighbors God has placed around us. As conversations turn into friendship, missional things start to happen--not because we force them but because friends trust each other. What acquaintances would hide from each other friends share with each other. We are long-term missionaries, not short-term evangelists. Short-term evangelism can be done without the context of friendship. But long-term life transformation (the redemptive and restorative mission of Jesus) happens most powerfully in the context of trusting friendship over time.
Here is a simple Neighboring Formula that illustrates how friendship emerges:
Unhurried time + Proximity + Activity (usually involving food) = conversation x Over time = Friendship.
Put people in an environment where they have unhurried time, proximity, and an activity (which includes food) and you will see conversations emerge. Do this every once in a while over time and you will see friendships emerge. Do this with neighbors and you will see a neighborhood emerge. Since the 1950s, sociologists have known the three conditions necessary for fostering friendship: 1) proximity, 2) unhurried, informal interactions, and 3) a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
... by unhurried time we mean that when we are with a person we focus on the person. In other words, be where you are. Don't be in a hurry to get on with the next thing and miss the moment Jesus has presented you. Put aside all the extra things swirling around in your mind, take a deep breath, relax and be with the person. With that attitude and mindset even brief encounters can be deeply redemptive."
Pages 138-140 Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary Rev. Greg Finke (2014)
www.dwelling114.org - Dwelling 1:14
Copyright, TenthPower Publishing
"Honor the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. --Martin Luther--
Our busy lives often mean we don't stop to reflect in any deeper way about how we live as Christian people in this life. In my last Wednesday Devotion of the summer, I concluded a topic called The Twelve Disciplines of the Christian Life by Pastor Kristopher Morris (Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri).
[click on link above to listen]
....All of the "disciplines" Pastor Morris puts his finger on go back to and feed the other ones. The full list was: Study, Prayer & Fasting, Confession, Worship, Service, Fellowship, Rest, Celebration, Generosity, Chastity, and Making Disciples.
Stop and reflect, please: If you are staying at home for the time being, what kind of at-home Sabbath do you prepare for yourself and your family? Could I as your pastor complement what you do, perhaps once a month, with a home visit for Communion?
I am fully vaccinated and Communion is a holy gift for our use as we traverse this life.
The discipline of setting aside time for the Word of God is crucial; honestly, it will reap countless benefits for your spiritual and even physical health.
"In Him we live and move and have our being," Acts 17 BSB (biblehub.com).
Notice that Missionary Paul says this when he goes to what the Greeks called Mars Hill.(It's also called the Areopagus in other translations.) Our God stands in distinction against the gods of this world. He is separate. He is other. He is holy & unmatched in glory, grace, and mercy toward us in His Son, and in the sending of His Spirit.
Are you a parent? Be sure to model the keeping of a Sabbath Day for and with your children. Are you a grandparent doing the same? Lean on us in the church office for support as you do! We are happy to assist you in doing this for yourself and your grandchildren with any amount of resources, Bible studies, songs, links, and guides such as catechisms.
That is why you called me here, and why you called Deacon Hurst as your Christian Education specialist.
We are here for you.
Be well in body and soul! In Christ our Savior,
Calvary Lutheran Church (LCMS)
6906 W Pleasant Valley Rd
Parma, OH 44129
Office: (440) 845-0070
Apparently, I wasn't the only pastor who saw all of the Ephesians readings on the Three-Year schedule of readings that many of us use and thought, "I should do a sermon series on Ephesians!" Lutheran pastors from as far away as London, England have been "tweeting" about their experience doing so, both writing and delivering sermons based on Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
In these last two weeks of the sermon series, we'll be focusing on active verbs given directly to us by the Holy Spirit--but also that He gives us the power and ability and stature and maturity to accomplish these things! The verbs are:
1. put off your old self
2. be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
3. put on the new self
4. put away falsehood
5. speak the truth to your neighbor
6. don't sin when you're angry
7. don't steal, but work for what you have
8. let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths
9. do not grieve the Holy Spirit (especially in unbelief)
10. put away from you all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and malice
11. be kind to one another, and
12. submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
What a list, huh?! But the power comes from the Body (of Christ) building that Jesus is busy doing:
"We are to grow up in every way into him who is the Head, into Christ, from 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." (Eph. 4:15--16)
"God gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until 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 stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children...
... tossed too and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine..." (Eph.. 4:11-14)
How would you personally summarize this to someone new to the faith?
Look at God's verbs, and the kind of body building He's doing! He gives pastors and teachers and other servants of the Gospel in order to equip you for ministry. **Your own ministry!** This word ministry here--diakonia--means "service." It doesn't mean everyone is a pastor but it DOES mean everyone has to serve.
How can we serve one another? How can we serve Parma? The more we find out how and simply do it, the more He will build us up for this work.
We have His deposit and guarantee.
Welcome! Today we celebrate with the Kasinecz family at the Baptism of their baby Emily Elizabeth! In keeping with the occasion, here is a classic excerpt about Holy Baptism:
"If you live in repentance, you are walking in Baptism, which not only announces this new life but also produces, begins, and exercises it. In Baptism we are given the grace, Spirit, and strength to suppress the old creature so that the new may come forth and grow strong.
Therefore Baptism remains forever. Even though someone falls from it and sins, we always have access to it so that we may again subdue the old creature. But we need not have the water poured over us again. Even if we were immersed in water a hundred times, it would nevertheless not be more than one Baptism, and the effect and significance would continue and remain. Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism; to resume and practice what has early been begun but abandoned.
I say this to correct the opinion, which has long prevailed among us [in the 1200s through 1500s in Europe], that Baptism is something past we can no longer use after falling back into sin. This idea comes from looking only at the act that took place a single time. Indeed, St. Jerome (342-420 A.D.) is responsible for this view... This takes away the value of Baptism, making it of no further use to us. Therefore it is incorrect to say this.
... Thus we see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new person, and always endures and remains until we pass out of this misery into eternal glory.
Therefore let all Christians regard their Baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time. Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits, suppressing the old creature and growing up in the new."
Large Catechism, 1530.
Sometimes, an author encapsulates the truth of Holy Scripture in one place so well that there really is no other equal. This is true of Phillip Keller's The Shepherd Trilogy. Keller was born in East Africa and lived a life of farming and sheep herding and, later, wildlife photography. This real-life shepherd wrote over 40 books in a 30-year time span. Consider ordering his work using the link below this excerpt. -Pastor Dieterichs-
THY ROD AND THY STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
In our walk with God we are told explicitly by Christ Himself that it would be his Spirit who be sent to guide us and to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). This same gracious Spirit takes the truth of God, the Word of God, and makes it plain to our hearts and minds and spiritual understanding. It is He who gently, tenderly, but persistently says to us, ‘This is the way—walk in it.’ And as we comply and cooperate with His gentle promptings a sense of safety, comfort and well-being envelops us.
It is He, too, who comes quietly but emphatically to make the life of Christ, my Shepherd, real and personal and intimate to me. Through Him I am ‘in touch’ with Christ. There steals over me the keen awareness that I am His and He is mine. The gracious Spirit continually brings home to me the acute consciousness that I am God’s child and He is my Father. In all of this there is enormous comfort and a sublime sense of ’oneness’, of ’belonging’, of ’being in His care’, and hence the object of His special affection.
The Christian life is not just one of subscribing to certain doctrines or believing certain facts. Essential as all of this confidence in the Scriptures may be, there is, as well, the actual reality of experiencing and knowing first hand the feel of His touch—the sense of the Spirit upon my spirit. There is for the true child of God that intimate, subtle, yet magnificent experience of sensing the Comforter at his side. This is not imagination—it is a genuine, bona-fide reality of everyday life. There is a calm, quiet repose in the knowledge that He is there to direct even in the most minute details of daily living. He can be relied upon to assist us in every decision, and in this there lies tremendous comfort for the Christian.
Over and over I have turned to him an in audible, open language asked for His opinion on a problem. I have asked, ‘What would you do in this case?’, or I have said, ‘You are here now. You know all the complexities; tell me precisely what is the best procedure at this point.’
And the thrilling thing is He does just that. He actually conveys the mind of Christ in the matter to my mind. Then the right decisions are made with con-fidence.
It is when I do not do this that I end up in difficulty. It is then that I find myself in a jam of some sort. And here again the gracious Spirit comes to my rescue, just as the shepherd rescues his sheep out of the situations into which their own stupidity leads them.
Being stubborn creatures sheep often get into the most ridiculous and preposterous dilemmas. I have seen my own sheep, greedy for one more mouthful of green grass, climb down steep cliffs where they slipped and fell into the sea. Only my shepherd’s staff could lift them out of the water onto solid ground again. One winter day, I spent several hours rescuing a ewe that had done this very thing several times before. Her stubbornness was her undoing.
Another common occurrence was to find sheep stuck fast in labyrinths of wild roses or brambles where they had pushed in to find a few stray mouthfuls of green grass. Soon thorns were so hooked in their wool they could not possibly pull free, tug as they might. Only the use of a staff could free them from their entanglement.
Likewise with us. Many of our jams and impasses are of our own making. In stubborn, selfwilled, self assertion we keep pushing into a situation where we cannot extricate ourselves. Then in tenderness, compassion and care our Shepherd comes to us. He draws near and in tenderness lifts us by His Spirit out of the difficulty and dilemma. What patience God has with us! What long-suffering and compassion! What forgiveness
Thy staff comforts me! Your Spirit, O Christ, is my consolation!
Author Phillip Keller Excerpt from The Shepherd Trilogy
“TOBY” HEALING IN MADAGASCAR: COMING TO AMERICA
Happy July 4th, we like to say! Happy Independence Day!
In America, we are free to be faithful or… free to be unfaithful. There is no modern law in our states like the Puritans and others had--and the Amish still do--about attending church on Sunday and other days to hear the Word of God. As Lutherans, we accept either a national government’s Sabbath law or no Sabbath law. That is because we know that a response of the heart to our Savior God is better and fuller and longer lasting than any response from a vantage point of the law, anyway. A response of the Christian prompted by any type of coercion, or any interference whatsoever by any earthly power, is just not as good. Such is true in the Gospel reading from Mark 6 for today, where Jesus preaches in Nazareth, but is rejected. Now, notice what isn’t in the text: Jesus in no way blasts them, threatens, or cajoles them. Jesus shakes the dust off his sandals and leaves, then appoints 12 “laypeople”/workmen to go out as apostles (apostle just means, “sent ones”). In the sermon today, I will wonder aloud how many people in Nazareth heard the Gospel later on, repented, and believed Jesus is Messiah.
Mark tells us that the apostles “cast out many demons” and “anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” Sin, death, and the Devil are the true enemies--not other people. And certainly not other believers. In the (very large, thriving) Malagasy Lutheran Church on the African island of Madagascar, they maintain camps called “tobys.” A toby is a healing camp where the sick and those struggling with unclean spirits are brought (or arrive on their own) to be prayed over and welcomed by mpiandry--lay evangelists or simply “shepherds.” Lest we think the world of Africa is far afield and that type of spiritual warfare will never be needed here in America, consider reading the book “I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare” by Rev. Dr. Robert H. Bennett. (Available at: https://tinyurl.com/wwwxmnyx)
In the book, Dr. Bennett notes that “While writing this book, the bones of a ritual sacrifice were found at a cemetery a few miles from my home in Michigan. The local news identified the bones as coming from an African religious ritual, probably focused on voodoo worship. While Africa and Madagascar seem like faraway places, the world in which we now live has become much smaller than many of us could ever have imagined. Moreover, even our neighbors visit the local fortune teller, read the horoscope page in the newspaper, and attend seances that attempt to reach departed friends, lovers, and family members. Consequently, as we begin a journey into faraway places [in this book], we may soon find they are not as far away as we may have expected.”
As always, our task is to believe, be baptized, and keep relying on the promises of God in His Word. These alone comprise our bulwark against sin, death, and the Devil. But increasingly we should be willing to add the things learned by churches on the frontlines of spiritual warfare, preaching the freedom that we have in Christ. That freedom shall rest forever above all powers and principalities of the present, evil age. I would close with St. Paul’s reminder to put on the whole armor of God.
For a bit of summer devotion, read the verses below, then the rest of the chapter. What are the pieces of the armor of God? How can you put them on? How can you put them into action?
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:11-13.
In Christ our Freedom-winner,
This month, I'd like to simply reprint a devotion recently emailed by soon-to-retire Pastor George Hansell. He and his wife Christa went to Hawaii and his reflection is almost right "in line" with today's sermon based on the Epistle Lesson. True riches--not gold and silver--are from our Father God. --Pastor Dieterichs
"...And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-7).
My wife and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Hawaii. While there, we saw the most familiar feature of the island of Oahu, the volcanic crater known as Diamond Head, or in the Hawaiian language, Mt. Leahi. The crater got its most familiar name from 19th Century British sailors who thought that they had discovered diamonds on the crater's slopes. As it turned out, these "diamonds" were actually calcite crystals that had no value. Still, the name stuck, and Mt. Leahi continues to be known to most of the rest of the world as "Diamond Head."
Throughout the history of Man and Nations, there has seemed to be an unending search for riches. Those riches have been in the form of silver, gold, precious gems for some. For others, it has been the pursuit of knowledge, the acquisition of a keen intellect, or the search for meaning and truth through scientific investigation or philosophical contemplation. Though these things might for a time bring pleasure and seem beautiful at the time, and perhaps even have some value, in the end. like the calcite crystals of Diamond Head, they loose their luster and ultimately prove to have no enduring value.
So, where can the true riches be found? The true riches are found in Jesus Christ, whose perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection have provided the everlasting treasures of forgiveness of sin, deliverance from death and the power of the devil, and eternal life. Those who possess these treasures possess riches that never lose their luster or value, but endure into all eternity.
In His Service,
Pastor Hansell - Grace Lutheran Church, Lakewood, OH.
Peeling Back the Curtain: What a Sermon Is
Lately the nation's top infectious disease expert--whose name I won't mention only because it tends to trigger sharp feelings in support or in denial of him and his actions in 2020 and into this year--has had a number of his 2020 emails and decision-making process revealed and analyzed. Probably beyond my comprehension to analyze something. The curtain has been peeled back, as it were.
Revealed is the difference between what experts, leaders, and governors are saying in private and what they feel they must tell us in "the public" as it regards public health and measures taken to keep everyone safe. It's no surprise to me, anyway, that there can be quite a gap between their private and public opinions and statements! Yet, for public health, there is one purpose: protect the public *both* from a threat and from...ourselves! (Panic tends to lead to more panic and less thinking through carefully what our responses ought to be.)
Likewise, a sermon can take many forms, but it has one purpose. We preachers must always have a goal in mind. There is a useful structure for sermons called "goal, malady, means." There is a goal for the Christian life in almost every text of Holy Scripture. Yet the malady of sin and self-interest always mires up the gears and we fail to reach that goal; this is evident in what the people in the Bible stories do, and in our own day. However: when we know our sin for sure, we can know a Savior for sure!
The means of grace enter in and we receive more of Jesus. The Lord gives what He says He gives. The words of Jesus don't shake, quake, or wobble. There's no curtain to peel back where we find out He's been telling us half truths--as all human governors and kings have to tell us at times. Now, His glory, that is not something we can see in its fullness until heaven; yet still, my simple point is that He's peeled back the curtain already on our sin-sick hearts. That is, what we NEED to know. (Not always everything we'd LIKE to know.) He's revealed to us how much and how badly we really do need Him.
And so we receive it again at church today: the best vaccine ever, the very Son of God, Jesus in His fullness. The Spirit for our trials. The Father forgiving the maladies of pride and/or indifference on account of His Son. In His gracious majesty,
Servant of the Word and friend,
In Joy and Faith, GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES!
On Galilee's high mountain / Christ gave the great command,
In words of strength and promise / which all can understand:
"All power to Me is given / To do what I shall choose;
Therefore I send my children, / their witness I will use."
LSB 835 v 1
When Moses led Israel and in the "golden age" of Israel, mission was simply "don't pervert justice or fall for every false accusation against someone" and something like: "welcome the sojourner into your midst." (Exodus 23:1-9, paraphrase).
When the prophets and the people return from Exile, the mission was: "rebuild this wall"! The wall protected the temple where worship, law, governance, and economic prosperity found their beating heart in the ancient church/sacred assembly.
Today, we add to safety and provision and hospitality for strangers ("sojourners") the simple and direct command of our Lord to "Go make disciples." This is different than the two previous ways we used to "evangelize" in some remarkable and arresting ways.
1. Being a disciple means walking with God in discipline. Now THIS is a tough sell among a people who want only "self discipline" or some kind of routine they pick for themselves. We Americans reserve the right to choose what we want for lives of health and vigor, kids' activities, school events, and the like. Yet we don't get that from Jesus. We get an expectation of sacrificial love for others.
For example, Jesus often said, "Take up your cross and follow me." And so I hope no one is surprised when I say that the church has a tough job, calling people to die to themselves and rise to new life in Christ.
2. Tough, but not impossible: the command the make disciples implies that our Lord thinks it's possible. In whatever age, in whatever set of challenges we find ourselves. We can make disciples. In Joy and Faith, GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES!
And so this is yet another wonderful reason to become and remain a Lutheran Christian. There is a balance to our theology that is second to none. Law must never become Gospel and the Good News is never a law, or something you have to do or stop doing. The gift of Jesus on the cross is just that: a gift. It is not a preface to a whole set of demands from a pastor or Pope who is a sinner like everyone else.
And so, on we go. We are not the Old Testament church, just worshipping on the Holy Mountain and saying, "Whoever comes that's fine." We are the Sent People; the apostolic band of witnesses stretching from the First Century until now forever going around and asking: "Have you heard of the One who rose from the dead for the life of the world?"
"Listen. Repent. Trust God." Repeat each day. Be baptized if you are not. Learn what else He has commanded us. "Listen. Repent. Live your life in joy and faith." We have a mission to get to.
"All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me;
therefore, go and make disciples
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit
and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.
And, lo, I am with you to the very end of the age." -Jesus
And not alone to nations / in far away retreats,
but everywhere I broadcast / his love through crowded streets: T
he lives that my life touches, / however great or small--
Let them through me see Jesus, / who served and saved us all!
LSB 835 v 4
Your mercy flows like a river so wide
And healing comes from Your hand
Suffering children are safe in Your arms
There is none like You
Today Your gate is open,
And all who enter in
Shall find a Father's welcome
and pardon for their sin.
Last month, an urgent prayer request was brought by one of our council members to the Divine Service and to a separate meeting we had. The prayer was for a local Parma girl, 15, missing from her family and school for almost 36 hours at that point. She was found safe on the afternoon of February 22nd in Depew, New York.
All breathed a sigh of relief. I was impressed with how this community came together and raised the alarm when the girl went missing. Yet I wouldn't have known much about it had the member not brought that urgent prayer request. Pastors and church workers need you, folks. We need you to care about your community and bring in prayer requests, information, or things we can try to help our world beginning with Parma.
People of God: return. Return to church in person or online; return and bring your prayer requests forward. The Lord directs us to pray when he says, "Ask, seek, knock." (Matthew 7:7). The Apostle Paul writes, "Make your requests and intercessions made known to God" in his letter to a young pastor named Timothy. Translation: don't go around fretting and worrying about the events of today or tomorrow. Bring them to the Lord. Present them to the Father.
Joshua was moved by the Spirit to pray, and the sun stopped for a day. The victory was handed to the Israelites. Elijah felt like quitting, but kept talking to God: "Maybe you should just kill me now," he said, in the way I would paraphrase it. A wicked royal court had not bothered to listen to God's Word & were bent on evil and destruction. But God raised Elijah up, gave him an apprentice, Elisha, and ultimately carried him up on a chariot straight into heaven. Now that's a pretty great reward. Friends in Christ: remain faithful. It looks like the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, but these are only birth pangs. The day of joy and all tears wiped away is near.
The Father has welcome for the abused AND the abuser. What have you done? What could you do that is worse than what Jesus became on the cross for us? Nothing. It is forgotten. It is forgiven. Return.
"Return to the Lord your God, for He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Joel 2:13)
This is the annual theme of Lent. This is the call to repentance, to actual life change.
Return. By His mercy,
Call 1-888-900-2406 to sign up for live stream audio & critical updates from our offices.
Law & Order vs. Law & Gospel
Welcome back to worship at Calvary.
If you're reading this at home, I want to welcome you out for worship services. Those who have attended are now experienced social-distancers. We spread out in the pews and have room for a good 10-15 more people on Sundays. Wednesdays at 10 AM is our "lightest" Divine Service during the week; we average about 12. Obviously we are able to spread WAY out on Wednesdays!
There is something remarkably comforting about being in person and face to face. We hear the inflection of a friend's voice; we see the expression in their eyes. But I never want to make this a requirement, or to make those of you staying at home feel bad about staying home. It is a gift ready for you to receive when you are ready. (And you CAN see our eyes above our masks!)
One reason for this is that God has created us to receive gifts better than law, to receive Gospel more than "orders from on high." He Himself does not deal with us in His transcendence, thanks be, but according to His immanence. He gives of Himself because He knows we need love, not continual law. A sentence in a court, for example, is handed down from on high by a transcendent judge. The judge transcends the accused in every way in a modern courtroom. What's interesting to me is how many judges nowadays feel the need to try and soften their pronouncements and judgments with some guiding and encouraging comments and questions for the defendant(s).
Interesting. Interesting because it speaks to the judges' experience with lots of human nature! The criminal who senses that the judge actually cares for him or her as a person will be more likely to carry through with the sentence, I believe they have learned, especially if the person will be capable of running away from or skipping out on it.
How the Lord knows us, but still loves us! In all of our weakness and sinfulness, He sends us Christ, who again says, "I stand in your place as the accused, dear friend. You are forgiven."
This past week, on Friday, we said “goodbye for now” to Dick Martin, long-time member of Calvary. He did many things at Calvary over the years including Sunday School teacher, Confirmation teacher, Chairman, Elder, and delegate to our church district conventions and even the national convention.
Of the building program in 1967: “This will be an opportunity,” he said, "for all of us to think again of what we learned when we studied and then were confirmed. It is an opportunity to pledge again total commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ” But the pledge and commitment are motivated by a Heavenly Set of Gifts: “It is a wonderful thought,” he continues in the same article, “to realize that God has given us so much and asks for so little in return. When we attend worship and receive communion we are receiving God's gifts to us.” And that is the point we always stress here in the Lutheran Church: worship may indeed uplift your feelings and that is okay, but the chief reason we are in worship is to simply receive God's manifold gifts to us in His Son, Jesus. Some days we will feel sad, others we will feel His presence guiding and moving us forward. Yet always through the Holy Spirit we DO/WILL/SURELY receive strength for this journey-- our long journey under the hot sun this side of heaven.
Dick Martin is asleep now in Christ and awaits the gift of resurrection, as we all will. Meanwhile: have you thought again about what all of this means? Are you listening for the Spirit when you enter church or listen online to our services? Listen to these words from the past, from a fellow layman!
Finally, dear friends in Christ, I am always available for home Communion. Say the word and I will be there. I am making as many phone calls as I can, especially to those of you who haven’t been in a while, but you are welcome to call the office or me directly and schedule an appointment.
Joy in the Savior,
Pastor Dieterichs 216-972-4490 call | text | write
After God anoints Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore Israel to the promised land, He tells Isaiah to tell Cyrus the following:
"For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,"
This is the same text, Isaiah 45, that we read in church on the third weekend of October, and the Wednesday after. It is a bold and provocative text, showing that God selects and appoints leaders. Saint Paul reminds us in Romans 13 that every government is appointed by God and derives its power from Him.
In America, it's harder to grasp that when we are the ones selecting our leaders. And yet, that truth remains. Think of the foundations, and what shoulders we're standing on today: God was there when the Constitution was being written and ratified. God was there when the Bill of Rights was added. God was there when the young nation called the United States of America was fighting for the principles espoused in those documents in its Civil War, 1861-1865. People who knew the Word--even agnostics like Thomas Jefferson--carefully crafted guiding documents and staked their lives upon them.
We think that we are free to choose whomever, but that is not the case. God has ordained and orchestrated this time and whichever candidate for President will become our next President. We will choose him within the bounds established by the law of the land.
That President will be God's President. And, even if we disagree with that choice for the White House, we will support him. We will always love and respect our Presidents as far as humanly possible, that is. And we will do so as serving the Lord.
This stands in really stark contrast to people who don't know the Word of God, and don't care. They have trouble accepting the results of elections. But we don't.
Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone the Glory!
216-972-4490 call | text | email: email@example.com
Heirs of Holy Baptism
The "holy" in front of a term indicates that it is set apart for God's use, special, divine, and sacred. And each of us has all that we can learn, believe it or not, in the gift of Holy Baptism.
Baptism means "washing." In Sunday's service this week, we will have the privilege of baptizing two wonderful kids we have come to know, Grace and Aiden Horton. Their father and mother bring them for Holy Baptism. After they are baptized, these children, like those of us who are also baptized, will be "heirs according to eternal life" (Titus 3:7).
And so we ourselves are holy heirs. To make a play on words, we do not PUT ON "holy airs" around others because of this, but humbly accept the gracious gift of God as heirs or recipients of God's varied and abundant and holy grace in his dear Son, Jesus. No one likes a holy roller. But people will speak with the one who shares good news, the best news they've ever heard!
Also: Holy Baptism is USEFUL. In this pastor's corner set of articles, I have rejoiced that Lutheran theology has always proclaimed the usefulness of God's gifts. Well, Baptism is useful when we need to do our spiritual work, I might say. Dr. Luther opines:
“Repentance is nothing other than a return to Baptism.” By this he meant that, if we ever need to say we are sorry to God (and who among us has never needed to do that??!!), then we may return saying, “I have nothing other than my baptism to commend me to you, o Lord. There you adopted me and took me as your child and so please forgive me, renew me,” etc. And this is what we do, daily. “Baptized into his name most holy / we claim a place though weak and lowly.”
In Christ our saving Lord,
Pastor Joel Titus
They Call Him the Working Man
Happy Labor Day--a federal holiday started by a President named Cleveland and very much at home in the city of Cleveland! Since our arrival, we've been very impressed by the evidence of Cleveland's (and Parma's) role in both the post-war building boom and the Industrial Revolution. You can see it in our steel mills, giant cranes on the river, red-brick factories, and sprawling automobile assembly plants.
And, if you don't mind a rock'n'roll reference, the first place that a rock song from a garage band in Toronto made it big over the air waves was right here in Cleveland, back in 1974. The song? "Working Man" by Rush.
Got no time for livin', yeah,
I'm working all the time.
I guess that's why they call me,
they call me the working man.
Now, I know the mission of our congregation does not revolve around federal holidays, but sometimes it is okay to use what good there is in these holidays. And to remember that many churches back in the 1890s were a part of making the first Sunday in September a day for prayers, parades, and speakers honoring the American worker and advocating for fair wages in all industries. Our prayers during each service will honor that history.
The worker deserves his wages. The opposite is true in salvation, though! It is a free gift of God ON ACCOUNT OF the merits of The Working Man for all times: Jesus Christ our Savior. Our works done for Jesus are not the root but the fruit, then--the fruits of His redemption and His Spirit at work within us through Word, through the two sacraments, and through the forgiveness of sins in His name shared among all Christians.
See you at church or "see" you online! By the way, thanks to those of you who have been so encouraging online! It helps us continue our efforts to put the messages online. Joy in Him,
call / text / write
"Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee"
Joy. What a powerful little word in the New Testament! It can be defined as a faithful confidence in God to provide and guide no matter the problems, circumstances, or issues that have arisen for the Christian in this life. But wait! You may not realize it, but "liturgy" is also a powerful word in the New Testament and packed with joy.
In John 4, Jesus tells a woman from Samaria that his followers will one day "worship the Father in spirit and in truth." The entire episode is another one with a foreign woman that instructs his disciples most of all. We learn that "worship" is going to be something quite unique in the new Israel (Christ's body, the church). For starters, it won't need a temple! In Jerusalem or anywhere else!
Also, after learning about grace and becoming known as Paul, the apostle ("sent one") formerly known as Saul holds forth in an eloquent section of Romans that we read today in worship:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (lit., LITURGY). Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Let's focus on that word in all capitals: liturgy. Is this sentence talking about the act of being in worship only? No, it's talking about presenting our bodies in all circumstances as an act of spiritual worship. N0w---remember who St. Paul was--he was a persecutor of Christians who had Jesus appear to him on the road to Damascus. Here he is saying, "your whole life will be transformed by our living God, so get ready! Enjoy his transformation of your mind and heart."
Allow me to boil it all down this way: the liturgy or "order of service" that we use on both Saturdays and the other days is just a picture of what should be happening daily in our lives with Christ.
1. We arise. We begin the day in the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. We confess our need for the Father's forgiveness through Jesus the Son.
3. We go about our lives, confident in that forgiveness.
4. We listen, read, or grab a snippet of God's Word for the day.
5. We praise him that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
6. We eat what he has given us to eat.
7. We sing his praises either out loud or quietly to ourselves.
8. We fellowship with the saints and share with them or assist them when we can.
Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is the basis of the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee." Two of our services will begin with that this week. If you are attending on Saturday, I invite you to go home and "YouTube that one." Or, if you are not connected to the Internet, order a CD with this wonderful hymn and tune on it, and play it at home. It is great with a choir clearly singing the words, "joyful, joyful we adore Thee!"
My favorite line is "hearts unfold like flowers before Thee" and... boy do they ever. Even for the toughest of manly men, it is true. They have told me more than once--grudgingly admitted, is more like it!--the Lord changes hearts. And life is never not joyful after that, even when we feel pain, sorrow, or loss. In Him,
What's New and What's Old
There's a lot that's new this year. Then again, there's a lot that's old. It's getting to feel like an episode of As the World Turns. (Not that I ever saw one, I just like the title and am fascinated by any TV show that stays on for 54 seasons!)
As a pastor, I like to watch social trends and learn what I can from them for ways of speaking to people & communicating the Gospel. If you want to know how Americans are thinking, look no further than long-running TV shows or what social media Americans are using most frequently. There are lots of new bells and whistles but nothing new under the sun, as the Spirit tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes.
When As the World Turns aired its first episode, the year was 1956 and Calvary Lutheran Church was just a year old. When the show aired its last episode on September 17, 2010, Calvary was a fully matured congregation with elected leaders, a pastor, a deacon, and an office manager. It was the same year that I recall my cell phone getting smarter and Facebook became more than a communication tool for college kids.
Now Abigail, my 16-year-old, born in 2004, considers Facebook "old and slow," to use her exact words. For me, I still consider Facebook new and fresh and an unfolding social experiment. It certainly brings distant friends and relatives much closer than they used to be, and allows for instant communication of important news stories, church happenings, and so on. All of this has brought quite a new perspective!
When I first met Yanti in 2009, she was using her college ID to access Facebook, and thought it strange that everyone could now use it. My point is, though, that we have to be careful how we consume the "content" on new "media formats" is no surprise. Sinners are still sinners in need of God's grace--no matter if they're new college students or people who watched the first episode of As the World Turns in black and white on CBS. Prone to indulging the flesh and forgetting God, we are in need of a Savior--though how we communicate Him to others will change over the decades.
Thankfully, God in his kindness and mercy has provided one. He is Jesus Christ our brother, friend, God, and Savior. He is Lord of all--don't say it--sorry, I can't help it... AS THE WORLD TURNS.
Meditatio, Oratio, Tentatio--
The three ways that Dr. Luther once remarked a theologian is made. And each of us, even if we aren't pastors or church workers, are theologians. That is because we all think about life, death, sin, judgment, forgiveness, and how life should be lived with others. These are topics that God addresses in spades in Holy Scripture.
The three Latin words above mean "meditation, prayer, and suffering." Let's take them in order for our reflection during this pandemic. Some of you continue to shelter at home and I want to bless you as far as I'm able to bless you, dear friends. These can be used anywhere, in other words. And perhaps especially if you are sheltering at home.
Meditation: In a chapter of the book we use here, Pastors and Elders: Caring for the Church and One Another, the author talks about meditation. But maybe not in the way you think he would! The chapter is called "The Challenge for the Church in a Self-Absorbed Culture." The author notes,
"Everyone is engaged in meditation, whether conscious of it or not. The question has to do with what we are meditating on. Our daily meditation typically centers on ourselves--on what we are doing or on what others have done to us. ... Christian mediation has its focus not on us, but on Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us, in us, and through us for others." (Page 63)
So--we're not here speaking of sitting in a transcendental state in one's living room. We're speaking of "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1 ff.). Try it! You will find relief, especially today, in watching less news on TV or Internet and taking an equal time or more in learning of God's Word, God's will, and God's purpose in Christ Jesus.
Second, oratio--prayer. This is an easy one to attach to spending time in God's Word and learning about it from other, qualified commentators. Here's a key: just like you don't trust your car with any old mechanic, so also you should only entrust your spiritual growth to a qualified and trained pastoral caregiver. If you're not sure what to pray, begin with the Lord's Prayer. Review the Small Catechism at www.bookofconcord.org if you don't remember what the petitions mean.
Third, tentatio--suffering. When the flood waters rise, Noah and his family had the Ark. When persecution came to the early Christians, the Holy Spirit and all of the brethren were there for them, to lift them up and encourage them--even as some of them were chained or put to death for the Gospel. Here's the plain fact: suffering always has a redemptive purpose in what theologians call "God's economy." They get this word from the Greek New Testament, especially from Ephesians, chapter 1:9-10, literally: "making known to us the mystery of [God's] will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as an economy (or plan) for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."
Long and short? It's a mystery why suffering is allowed to remain on earth, but it's all in God's timing and plan, and nothing can erase or lessen that truth, no matter what anyone tells you! So while we can't say for sure what his specific plans are, we will all see and understand in due time.
Why a pandemic? people ask. But I ask, "Why not something worse?" Because our sins deserve something worse. But God, in his everlasting kindness and mercy presents us with salvation in Jesus, a chance to repent and turn from self-centered ways unto great love for others, whom Jesus also died for and rose again.
Happy meditating! Be well, in the Holy Spirit, my fellow redeemed!
Well, this was supposed to be a big celebration today. To celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as Americans to worship and assemble freely and the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. We can still celebrate, though, it will just look different than we'd hoped!
We invite you to the prayer vigil after today's service. While it's not the same atmosphere as a barbecue, it is still that quiet confidence we have in Christ while we pray that we can celebrate.
Quoting author Chad Bird, it's not if/then religion that we have, but a because/therefore. Let me explain. We are truly free in Christ because gone are the "if you do this, then God will love and bless you" transactional religions of the world. Even the ones claiming to be Christian!
The "religion" that we celebrate today is, rather, a because/therefore and more like a loving relationship than a religion. BECAUSE Christ has won the victory for us, BECAUSE the Father established our salvation in His Son from the foundation of the world, THEREFORE we live a new life in the Spirit, attached to the Word, bearing fruit for the kingdom.
Too many Christians walk around saying things that seem to indicate they are trying to grow in righteousness by themselves. We can practice basketball and get good at it; we can practice painting and get good at that; but this is not the way it works in Christianity! The way it works is more like surrender and falling into the arms of a very strong father. To say "God use me and my talents for your kingdom" is far different than, "God, today I will use my talents for your kingdom, in the way I want to use them."
Today, we pray that God uses us the way He wills. At times that is a scary prayer. We don't know where it's leading. We don't know what the road will look like. Will it be hard? Will I even like being Christian anymore?
He promises that, yes, you will still love being Christian. Our Synod calls it being "free to be faithful." When we obey the Gospel call of God in Christ Jesus, we are free to be used by the Father of lights, for:
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." James 1:17-18
Freedom to worship and assemble in the light of the Gospel, surely, is one of those good and perfect gifts. Let's praise and thank Him for it!
You Have a New Mailing from the IRS
What kinds of thoughts go through your mind when you read the title of this article? What kinds of feelings race through your heart? Back in the Fall, soon after arriving here, we received an email from the Post Office indicating that something from the IRS was on the way. The Congress had just changed the different forms and schedules for the way all of us did our 2018 taxes, so I was worried. How badly did I mess things up? I wondered.
To our surprise, when we opened the mailing, it was a refund check for nearly $1400! I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I am guessing that I had mis-applied some educational tax credits that Yanti earned in 2018. *whoosh! what a relief*
Well, I have similar feelings when I read Ephesians 3:20-21. I have been gravitating to this text lately as people around town and around church ask me if our world can ever get better. If there is ever hope for the good people in this world. This short, two-verse passage is a real God send in that regard, because MOST ASSUREDLY, YES there is always hope for us in the church and in the world.
Let's take a few moments to live in the words. I will break them into "clauses" (parts of a sentence):
1. (20) "Now to the Powerful One,
2. the One who is able to do more than we could ask or think,
3. according to the power that He works deeply within us,
4. (21) to Him be glory in the church
5. and in Christ Jesus
6. into all generations, forever and ever, Amen."
Dunamis, from which we get the English word dynamite, is the "power" word twice used in the text. Saint Paul wants us to focus immediately on The Powerful One--on God the Father. The word "deeply" is not in there but I am trying to convey the "voice" that the verb is in: the middle voice. The middle voice in Greek is one that indicates that the doer of an action is intimately involved in the action that takes place--in this turn of phrase, in the action that takes place within us who believe the Good News about Jesus.
And so that is the IRS that *I'm* talking about today: God's Internal Renewal Service. He uses his Word, his Sacraments, and the gift of other Christian disciples to make it happen.
"God's Word is powerful and active; like a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing (conflicted, unsure) soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
"Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17
What amount of money or work hours are more valuable than this?
When people say that they can't make church because of work, I always think about this. How much more does God's IRS pay us back than the United States' IRS?
Loving our neighbors through the lens of God's Word
June 23, 2020
Friends in Christ,
A lot has been said in recent weeks about the sin of racism and how to address it. I want to share an important [ video ] from the creation ministry just to our south, Answers in Genesis. In this video, the biblical teaching that we are all one human race, only with different shades of brown skin, is clearly presented. This is what we believe, too! I invite you to engage with this material for just 30-45 minutes. Pray for family and friends and neighbors to accept the message of grace and love that God has for all of us in his Word.
**With this message, I don't intend to demean AT ALL the legitimate points brought up by Black Lives Matter. They are saying that there's still an equality problem in our society's life together after the practice of brutal and forced slave labor for black people less than 200 years ago. I believe them. It is easy for those of us with a more widely accepted skin tone to say that slavery was a long time ago, and folks should just get over it. We should respond with prayer, love, and respect for what they are saying at its root cause.**
But, from Genesis to Revelation, God's Word speaks clearly--about how all of us need to take the time to repent, to know and read God's law and Gospel, and receive His instruction for all of life. That is why:
God's Word is our great heritage / and shall be ours forever.
To spread its light from age to age / shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way, / in death it is our stay."
And why we pray:
"Lord, grant, while worlds endure, / we keep its teachings pure
throughout all generations."
Give one inch and the world takes a mile. Well, here we stand, "always prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us" (I Peter 3:14-16).
Yours in Christ,
A Statement from Pastor Dieterichs
"Wait, Listen, Engage--Please!"
The old joke back when I was an undergrad English major always went like: "What will you do with your English degree? Do you want fries or hot sauce with that?"
But it occurs to me that navigating the current state of affairs is exactly for what my education prepared me. While I wouldn't say English/literature majors rule the world, we do learn how to consider different points of view and the facts of each predicament in which we find ourselves. Much like law schools, we learn of speech and debate. We wrestle with our own biases and learn to recognize them. Thus, whether in business or in life, problems can be solved and if not solved "lived with" using a civil tone with others--and MOST of all people who are ideologically opposed to us--calling on judges or mediation if we cannot reach a suitable agreement.
When solutions are crafted together, it's not Kumbaya nonstop but something called "great business," "success," and/or "human flourishing." By contrast, we can all see what happens when solutions are not crafted together and we do what a Lutheran group, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, calls "peace breaking."
Stated briefly, peace breaking are all those things that people do when they're hacked off at each other to include: bullying, intimidation, threatening, litigation, kidnapping, property damage, and murder. And yet we cannot have "peace faking," either. Just the absence of conflict is not a good thing--and it certainly isn't a true or lasting peace! Playing the ostrich doesn't make real problems of race relations or police brutality go away.
And so we must all carefully assemble the true facts of a matter and then press consistently for a way forward. This is PEACE MAKING. This is what makes civilization civilization. This is what Jesus was about--he was both grace AND truth. We tell the truth with great love and patience; then we work together for the best society we can realize.
In theology, we make proper distinctions and carefully separate issues out before we go and make pronouncements, statements, or sermons about this or that. Thus Seminary provided yet another training for me in considered engagement with those problems and grey areas of life that constantly face us.
And I'm here to tell you: if I can do it, you can do it. One needn't be some giant intellectual personality in order to effect this small change of behavior in one'e life. One need only develop patience, love for the other, and REFUSE outright to participate in rhetoric/group think that demonizes other people. Simply refuse and then ask folks to please CALM DOWN and consider all of the facts. Let the trial happen. Watch as we will all be watching. Listen for how we as a civilization either improve or wreck the American Experiment.
Meanwhile, another day of general law and order has gone down in the record books here in America. Millions try to get into our country every day and month and year. They are waiting to get in. ... Do we appreciate what we have? Really? Are we thankful for police who risk their own safety for our well being? If so, we could show our gratitude with our own mouths and the way we speak and influence and either persuade or dissuade others to constructive ways of "living and moving and having our being."
Ambassadors of Reconciliation
Concordia Seminary--St. Louis (LCMS)
Truman State University
THE NOW AND THE NOT YET
Our present reality is that Jesus is not here, He has risen. He has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God/most powerful place in the universe. It is sad, yet we have the joy that is worked within us by the Holy Spirit, way down in our hearts, as the children sing.
Jesus has gone away, but is here in a different way. Jesus promised to be with us and shepherd us, and He does. Yet, just as God's salvation of all mankind is both now and not yet, Jesus's salvation is both now and not yet.
Case in point: Jesus hears us when we pray but does not speak His replies to praying Christians in a booming voice from heaven. To hear His blessed voice, we'll have to wait until heaven! But this does NOT mean that His salvation is a false salvation. It means that right now, we must wait in faith and hope for the Day of the Lord. We "see" Him working the way that we "see" the summer breeze going through the trees out in the world around us: by the evidence of His working in our lives.
Thankfully, nothing depends on our being able to perceive and/or explain God's working, necessarily. He calls us simply to trust and believe His promises. We suffer accidents and pain and pandemics. But we take heart--He has overcome the world! The Spirit works in us to believe that the Father sees our suffering. At an hour and minute only He knows, He will send Jesus and all the angels to end all suffering whatsoever and bring forth a new heavens and a new earth.
This pandemic has awakened many, but no doubt put some back to spiritual sleep. Sound the trumpet with me! Let them know they need to wake up! Arise, people of God! For a light has dawned upon our darkness that is unrivaled in all of history.
It is the salvation of God. Both now and not yet. Both received by faith and received by sight. And THAT is what we receive, talk about, and give thanks for at church. THAT is why we attend church.
Next week we will have that chance once again, albeit in a modified form. Some will not attend for a while longer. But we will worship together in spirit and in truth.
l" Pastor's Corner - May 16/17, 2020
One of the best moments I recall back in Seminary days was the realization that our Lutheran expression of the faith, or theology, is practical. How we should USE this or that in the church and in Christiain life is constantly discussed in our official documents.
In fact, our documents ("confessions": bookofconcord.org) are more than historical agreements or dead letters. They are living confessions of the faith! They are NOT the Bible for us, but they form and guide what a pastor actually preaches and teaches; the same goes for all of our deacons, deaconesses, Lutheran school principals, teachers, aides, etc. When you as an individual or a family use the Small Catechism, that is a part of our Confessions.
Why does this matter? For the same reason that, say, national policy and law matters. For example, in the United States it's our chosen doctrine/teaching/rule that ALL men are created equal and should have equal access to liberty, rights of ownership, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, we have stumbled and failed at times at keeping our own rule, but we have also accomplished great things along the way. This is the land of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, both unlikely heroes in a tough time, riding anyway for the good of this godly principle: that government for, by, and of the People (equal in God's eyes) shall never perish from the earth. NOW... here's the import...
Have you ever been to a place where everyone is NOT considered equal? Where access to opportunity is strictly forbidden, unless you have a particular gender, religion, or class status? The contrast is stunning, and bigger goals such as "justice for all" and "free enterprise" have no chance of even beginning to work! Those who are lesser, are kept lesser forever. They have no chance to rise, to do much of anything of significance, because they are held down.
Likewise, the principle that unites the global Lutheran Church is that you and I are declared innocent when it comes to salvation on account of the Person and Work of Jesus and not by anything we do, say, think, or add; and that, importantly, the gifts, merits, and righteousness of Jesus are given to everyone who believes through Word and Sacrament, the moment they believe it. You hear this a lot. So why does it MATTER?
Well, have you ever been in a church that doesn't teach this? Or that teaches salvation by grace, but has a list of requirements that you MUST follow in order to be right with the priest or pastor (which, not surprisingly, always has something to do with being right with God, also)? Friends, that is called coercion. That is called human striving and moralism. Sometimes it's downright a selling of salvation. And that is never, ever the Gospel.
The Gospel is hard to proclaim and difficult to stick to when people have freedom in that Gospel. But we carry on, trusting the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. "Do everything in good order." I Corinthians 14:40. We write bylaws for ourselves. But we trust God the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Leucke down at Nathan's school (Royal Redeemer Lutheran) calls it "having adventures in the Holy Spirit." Friends: use this beautiful theology of ours to freely serve and bless others as you are able. Those who do this have made Calvary a great congregation and place to serve.
Those of you who are new here can keep us a great place to fellowship as God's forgiven people, many years into the future. May God grant it for His sake!
216-972-4490 - This is a pandemic and, therefore, a crisis for many. Call me the second you have acute needs. If I can't help you personally, others are waiting to help you! Please call if you need something! -pd-
In every church, under regular circumstances, there are those who attend the worship services and just go home, and those who dig a little deeper in Bible study and other fellow worshipers. Which one are you as you read this? Which one can you be during this quarantine?
It strikes me--as me and my family hunkered down in our new home March 27th, praise be to God--that studying the Bible in a deeper way is like relocating. A spiritual relocation, if you will. What God is asking you to do in his Word is believe that the Word is alive and working now and changing you from the inside out. Think of the words of Holy Scripture:
"You who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light."
"And God said to Abram, 'Go'..."
"God has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light."
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
The Father calls you through his Holy Spirit and his Word: "O sinner, come home." Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling; BUT SOMETIMES IT'S A LOUD AND FIERCE CALL! Like, say, during a pandemic. The call is: REPENT! NOW! The same as it has always been, but that message is heightened in a time of war or pestilence or suffering or trials. Think of the free man who has been caught in a crime and put behind bars: this radical change in status is often the wake-up call he needed, to repent and seek God and live in his Word.
Life in the Word is a total relocation of our heart's desires. And at first, the old nature inside us will HATE it. Matthew 15:19-20 records Jesus putting it on the line for St Peter: our hearts are unclean, self-centered little nerds! Out of them come the impurities that infect mankind and make living on this earth even worse and more dangerous and more fraught with sorrow and heartache. But the Word of God is living and active; sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing (self-opposed, ambiguous, unsure) soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
And so Bible study is not just intellectual showmanship. It is not the pastor showing off his acumen with the Bible. It is not holy rollers rolling holier, or whatever insults the world may cast our way about our practices. Bible Study is spiritual relocation.
Once you get there--I promise you!--the place can't be better. There is plenty to eat and drink. There is sustenance for the road today, and sustenance for the road you're on tomorrow. Jesus is who he says he is. Jesus is the Savior of the world and the Bread of Life and the Living Water. When you eat and drink Him in your new house--your new habit of living in the Word of God--you have all that you need, and it never runs out.
And you don't need to worry about food supply chains. The supply will always be there. No matter our circumstance in this body and life.
Now, a good many times it takes more work than you thought to relocate yourself, your spirit, your soul. Just as it often takes lots, lots more work to physically relocate ourselves than we think! Like, say, to a new State many miles away! But the experience will be formative, instructive, deepening, and well worth the momentary discomforts. In Christ our Shepherd-Relocator,
Dear saints/holy ones of Christ Jesus, you who believe the Good Word and are baptized:
I hope that this quarantine provides some time for you really busy folks especially to slow down some and reflect on life in deeper ways. And that is one reason that I write. I would like to talk about the letter to the Christians in Ephesus (a Greek town) some more, after our look at Ephesians 5 with regard to marriage.
A read-through the letter itself in one or two sittings, perhaps during meals together, is worth its weight in gold. What follows is a brief sketch and notes to help you in that journey. I know that I'm assertive with things like this, but I am trying to model how you should be leading [your children and those newly baptized] into the Word and a life of faithfulness and using the Word in her life.
1. Opening: Ephesians 1:1-17 - "Apostle" literally means "sent one" and Paul declares that he's been sent by Christ Jesus himself. That's a pretty good credential I would say, wouldn't you? But notice that he doesn't say, "Because of that I'm going to set you people straight because you're all stupid" or similar. Instead he says "grace to you all and peace from God our Father and from the Lord (Master) Jesus Christ." Then he riffs on the blessing and redemption and grace that we have in this God of ours. On the inheritance (v. 11) that we've been given in all of it, to the praise of God's glory. How we are sealed in God with the Holy Spirit of promise (v 13, there's baptism), and he finishes by saying he mentions all of them in his prayers. That they would be given a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. (v. 17)
So that is the theme of this awesome letter, that saints (baptized believers) who read this letter will be given a spirit of wisdom in living, but also in knowing that these doctrines and teachings have been "revealed" to him and to us, and not made up by people.
2. Against the erroneous teaching of Gnosticism: Ephesians 1:18-23 - So there was this teaching going around called "Knowledge" in Greek or "Gnosticism" in English. They taught that the fullness of the divine essence was found "out there" in the universe, and that it's binary: good vs evil, light vs dark, spirit vs body. To them, the body is bad and must be overcome by the spirit. That, however, is NOT the teaching of the Christian Church as it was received from Jesus himself. Our teaching says that the "fullness of the deity" (God the Father) dwelt in Christ Jesus as a man, in a body--and that is the point of this section.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, he seated him at the right hand (most powerful place in a kingdom) and put all things in subjection to him. Thus Jesus is not spirit only in heaven, but a body also. And this Body has the power of God and ability to be everywhere at once, giving hope and real help in this life to those who believe it.
3. Made Alive in Christ - Ephesians 2 - this is one of the best "grace alone" passages in the Bible. Once again, his Body is important (v. 16) because it reconciles Jews and Gentiles into one new man, thus bringing peace (or shalom, as you might have heard it said, is not just happiness/quietness, but a right ordering of life and blessings in the Hebrew language.)
So then we are all of one household, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone/main part of that foundation. We are being built together, even as we speak, into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (v. 22)
4. How to Be Filled Up with the Fullness of God: (Ephesians 3) - Paul then goes into how he was called by the revelation of God's mystery and purpose in Christ Jesus, which He has now carried out (3:1-12). Then he asks them not to lose heart at his tribulations (he's in prison under house arrest for preaching the Gospel) in one of the most glowing, amazing, and comforting passages of the New Testament, Ephesians 3:13-21.
This is how we, too, can be filled with the fullness of God: allow the Spirit to strengthen us in our inner man (v. 16), allow ourselves to be rooted and grounded in (agape, self-giving) love by an in-dwelling Christ (v. 17), so that we will be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ (v. 18-19).
For God is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine (v 20-21).
5. The Church as the Body of Christ & Our Unity in/of the Spirit - Ephesians 4 - We are too therefore be diligent in "preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (shalom)" (4:3). That is because we are all one body and in one Spirit; there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all (v. 5-6). Don't get sidetracked by the more complex theological thoughts in verses 7-10. Paul, like Peter in I Peter 3, taught that Christ descended into hell on the Saturday before Easter to proclaim his victory over Satan and hell. And so Paul is just saying that Jesus went from there to ascending to the Father in heaven, so that he could fill all things. Anyway... Ephesians 4:11-16 is a very famous passage about the different roles we have in the church. Notice that the purpose is "equipping all the saints (that's you) for the work of service/ministry and the building up of the Body of Christ (the church)." (v 12) until we all attain to the unity of the faith, to knowledge and maturity, "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (v. 13)
That is why I am writing to you, dear [saints called according to his purpose], and I know it's pretty weird and maybe you won't read this, but that's my calling as your Pastor and Teacher (it's meant as one office in verse 11). Please seriously think about these things for yourselves and your families, okay?
The section in Ephesians 4:17-32 is going to be the text for my wedding homily, along with the verses that will be read in Ephesians 5:22-33. I always think to myself, 4:17 through 5:21 should also be read in every wedding service! It talks about not getting angry or letting bitterness or wrath infect your marriage or your church or your community. "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (4:32) That's how to live. But the HOW itself comes from the indwelling Jesus and Holy Spirit which we read about before. That is the point of attending Divine Service at a Lutheran Church: it's intended to give you the gifts of Word and Sacrament for the strengthening of your faith so that Jesus can dwell inside you and you can live the new life in Him.
There are additional words for children and "slaves"/house servants in Ephesians 6 (the despicable American-south slavery is NOT in view here; many doctors in fact were house servants in the old days, like they think St. Luke was). But that chapter is also for every age and status of person, slave or free so to speak: we must all put on the armor of God. Notice it does NOT say, "Go now and be really self-righteous and a holy roller who judges other people for their sins and being bad." It says, be very careful that you yourself do not fall or become a victim of the Devil's schemes.
And so that is the parting word for us from prisoner-for-the-Gospel Paul in this letter. Take up and USE the Word, faith, and peace--and fight the Deceiver who is trying to get lies into your family and to destroy it. Do it as a matter of ongoing importance, not just holidays to go see relatives. Or funerals to say goodbye for now to loved ones. Do it because every day the Devil is winning many battles on the soil of North America. That is because too many people have bought into the rationalistic, humanistic, evolutionary view of the world. And they think that is "science" and that "science" is above all religion and theology.
Well, Christians were right there along with the invention of science and the scientific method. We have no problem with it whatsoever! We have founded universities including Harvard and Yale and many of the top ones in our country. We did so in Europe and Eurasia and Russia; we have done so on every continent of the earth, really--at least in research teams to go and find out more about God's marvelous creation. But to make science a god is the wrong move and idolatry. It is obviously NOT the point of Christian science and investigation of what is true in our physical world versus what is untrue/false/narrow perception.
Much more to say, but please let that suffice for now, and call me with any questions. I am a pastor in your life. I must try to help you navigate a world that is dangerous and deceived in large part by Devil and in many parts by people who are blind to such things, and don't care.
Together we must walk in faith, but thankfully it's not just a blind crap shoot that God gives us! He has given us an outline of his working in the world and in Christ Jesus, for the life of the world.
Dearest friends of the Risen Christ,
Christ Jesus our Champion is neither dead nor canceled. Many have said this in the past week especially; and, 'Amen' to that!
One of the great treats, for me, in this "shelter at home" time has been getting to hear different preachers preach the Gospel. In normal times I would not get to hear this much preaching! On Monday of this week--Easter Monday--I heard one of the most powerful sermons I've ever heard from the chapel at the LCMS Seminary in Fort Wayne, by Professor Adam Koontz. My favorite section is worth quoting at length. First, you may want to read Luke 24 and the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus if you're not already familiar with it. In reference to the two men in the story, whose minds and hearts are opened by Jesus to understand the Scriptures, Professor Koontz said:
"They know His death; but they do not know that the world has changed because of His mighty resurrection. They know everything up to death. They know everything up to misery and fear and the darkness of the Friday past. They know all of that; they do not know His resurrection."
So what has to change? What has to change about us as we go through darkness? As we are well acquainted with sadness, whether now or in years to come—what must change in us so that Easter makes a change not only in the world but also in us, in His own believers.
I love how patient Jesus is with us. In answer to their arrogance, to the fact that they know it all already, He does not rebuke them at length. He says, very simply – very simply – that they are foolish and they are slow of heart. This means that, prior to Easter, the human heart is not big enough to contain the amazing joy and love that Easter brings. This means that what has to happen now is not that the way has to be made safe for us or everything made secure for us or everything comfortable in life promised to us, it means that our hearts must grow, more than they have ever before to understand all the love and the joy that the Lord has promised in the Scriptures and fulfilled in His Christ."
Did you catch that? Our hearts must grow to understand all the gifts of God in Christ Jesus! I had never thought of this text in that way, but the preacher was jamming on Jesus' gentle rebuke that they were being "foolish" and "slow of heart to believe" as well as the statement of the two men later in the text: "Were not our hearts burning within us?" (Luke 24:25, 32).
Don't miss this: you and I have a heart problem. We tend to look at problems and make them bigger than life and bigger than God. But they are just problems. Jesus lived this way perfectly. We can strive to get better at it: expand/grow/increase your heart.
When we believe that God has done what he said he would do, and that he has conquered the greatest enemies of our lives (sin, death, and the devil), we can put problems in perspective.
We can live as Easter people.
We can rejoice at Calvary because Bible study and worship once they return will not just be for comfort. They will be to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To be able to do this with other believers without reprisal or taxing from the government is... a real blessing. One without equal.
See you at church again very soon. When we will drink in Christ's words like Living Water for pilgrims walking through a dreary desert; when our hearts will burn within us because the Word is setting them on fire.
Friends in Christ:
Just an Easter note from your Pastor & family. Yanti and I, along with Jan my mother residing here with us, want to express our thanksgiving for you all as our "faith family" and for your awesome care and support of me as a worker and all of us as people. You REALLY know how to love a pastor!
Pastors are far from perfect, and most of us recognize our need for constant input and prayer support from our congregations. We, together, are "making disciples" the ways our Risen Lord Jesus commissioned us to do. This is our chief endeavor. Worship is wonderful and we strive to be back as soon as possible for taking in what our hymnal calls "Divine Service"--the time that God serves us with His Word and the Sacraments for the creation and sustaining of saving faith. But chiefly we are the Church whether or not we are meeting together in worship.
As a reminder, any member can make an appointment for a socially-distant time of prayer, devotion, and Holy Communion by calling the office and leaving a message or speaking with Lisa Klein, our office manager.
AND, I can only echo Pastor George Hansell, serving at Grace Lutheran Church in Lakewood. He sent out a written Easter sermon and in it he proclaims,
"I pray that your mind is, even as you go about your daily routines, focused on the reality that you are a child of God, that heaven is your true home, and that your journey will end with you being in the presence of the Christ, your Savior, for all eternity. It is my hope that you know that absolutely nothing in all creation, not even death itself, can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I pray that by the Spirit of our Risen Savior, that you see your life on earth as one of reflecting Jesus in every aspect and role of your life, that you see your life as a living sacrifice, a living Thank-you to the one who sacrificed Himself for you and then guaranteed you victory by His resurrection from the dead."
What more is there to say but "Amen!"??
Much joy and hope in our Glorious and Victorious Lord & Savior,
Office: (440) 845-0070
I must confess that this is a thought I have been struggling with. Will 2020 be the year remembered as having no Easter? Let’s take a look at this:
No Holy Week Services
No Easter Buffet
No Easter Egg Hunts
No huge family ham dinner
No CYNC Easter Candy
No Easter Hats and Corsages
No new coordinated family Easter outfits
No Easter Breakfast
No Easter Sunday Worship Gathering
While each of these things is nice and certainly has its place, is it correct to say that there is no Easter without them? That’s a short list of what’s missing. What isn’t missing? Let’s take a look at this:
Yes, Jesus lived a perfect life!
Yes, Jesus died a death He didn’t deserve!
Yes, Jesus rose from the dead!
YES, THe GRAVE IS STILL EMPTY!!
That really is the answer, isn’t it? We, the children of God can celebrate Easter every day for the rest of eternity because Christ has won the victory. The religious leaders, the unbelievers, the Romans, they couldn’t stop the resurrection of Jesus. Even Satan himself was no match for our loving Savior and His life-giving sacrifice.
Because the grave is empty we have a lifetime of Easter celebrating before us. Thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus for His amazing gift.
Happy Easter Calvary Family.
Deacon Hurst &
The Board of Elders
Wow. What a week. Driving in to the church parking lot is eerie when you read the sign: "Lenten Services suspended until further notice." Like the Catholic Diocese, we hope to be open soon and yet sooner than their announced date of "Easter"/April 12.
For now the egg hunt for Calvary kids and friends on April 11 is "on." Easter breakfast and Divine Services are "on" as well. But we will see. Our response as the Board of Elders has been out of great respect for the authorities who are asking us not to convene/get together in numbers larger than 10 for the time being.
We view our actions as love for the elderly population, not least of all our beloved fellow redeemed here at Calvary, some of whom fit into the category of "well aged"/matured/older than 65. :-)
😊 We are so immensely blessed to be able to stay in touch with you all as this unfolds, and to send you sermons, studies, and Internet links to great devotions. I will close with one link to our partners at Lutheran Hour Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri:
www.lhm.org - look around this Web site and enjoy a lot of great content for FREE and streaming anytime you'd like.
Joy, peace, and abundant life in Christ our Savior. (AND, if you need something, CALL US!!!)
"Welcome once again to worship at Calvary. Sometimes I wait until Thursday the week of to write this article, and this week I'm glad I did. Lots of news has been coming out, even in the last 12 hours, about the COVID-19 ("novel coronavirus") pandemic that has now entered our area. We are listening to the authorities and our SELC District officials closely and they have recommended a number of precautions for this weekend's services.
Many of these are about "social distancing" and your participation will help stop the spread of a new and potentially fatal disease.
1. If you begin coughing or feeling sick at today's service, please go home. Even the "garden-variety" flu is bad enough to keep away from others, especially our elderly members.
2. The Sharing of the Peace will be verbal only, please. Greet your neighbors with the peace of the Lord, but without physical contact.
3. Communion will be available in the individual cups only.
4. The Host/bread will be delivered in the hands only.
5. The Pastor will not shake hands at the conclusion of the service, but greet everyone verbally as they greet him.
No, we don't trust in human wisdom or understanding above the Lord. But we do take precautions when necessary. It all reminds me of Florence Nightingale, the nurse who began modern sterilization techniques back in the 19th century. For a few months, she studied right here in
Cleveland with the Deaconess Nursing School at which Yanti will soon be a student (God willing!). It has always been "trust God and wash your hands." It is still "trust God and wash your hands." One old pastor who addressed a student group at Seminary used to tell us, "Be brave and bold with great humility." And a time of pandemic is such a time--to be smart but also bold and brave to help those who need it the most.
The Lord will shepherd us as He always has. Joy in Him,
Today's New Order of Service
Welcome again to worship at Calvary. For all of the Sunday services in Lent, we will use this order of service, an order that was assembled from various ethnic church books back in 1941. In those days, just as the war was beginning, the Lutherans in America were mostly all united, in something called The Synodical Conference. They wrote a hymnal most people know as "the red hymnal" and
called it The Lutheran Hymnal.
I bring this up because, although the service uses lots of "thees and thys" and calls the Holy Spirit the Holy Ghost, it hearkens back to a time of unity and hope amid great struggle. The people of our land banded together to fight tyranny and eugenics (ethnic cleansing) and socialism the world over. Now THIS is something that worshipers at both of our services can get into!
It is sad, indeed, that those days of American Lutheran unity are gone. But this, too, is a part of our current struggle, and we should take inspiration from the faithful brethren who went bravely "into that great night," the bloodiest century known to man, the 20th century. We are in a fight for orthodoxy, for absolute truth, and for the reliability of God's Word. God and His Word have not been found wanting; it is our generation that creeps away from it, not seeming to care. But in these songs and especially the Offertory ("Create in me a clean heart, O God...") we sing prayers of renewal and unity and hope. Once again: amid great struggle.
The church back in 1941 could have said, "But there's too much to do to get ready for fighting Hitler." Or, "But I can't think about religion at a time like this." But that is the point: Christ is delivered in this service, and Christ is our Victor on every plain, every mountain, every sea, and every patch of sky. He calls all men to repentance and all nations to nonviolent solutions to conflicts. Good nations stop tyranny, but then pray for peace.
The Lord rejoices to hear His children sing. To see them receive the Body and Blood of His Son for communion with Him and with one another. You know something? In heaven it will always be a new service. It will always be "today's new service"--new and fresh and eternal. In view of heaven's joys,
A Modern Classic
I am bursting at the seams to tell you, fellow believers, about a book that everyone is invited to read this Lent. It is a modern classic: The Spirituality of the Cross by retired English professor Gene Edward Veith (pronounced "veeth").
I have pre-ordered the books, they are in the office, and yours for a suggested offering of $10. My friends, they are worth every penny. The real attraction and benefits of reading this book are found in these quotations:
1. “You don't need to die before you know where you stand with God.” The beauty of Lutheran theology is the biblical teaching that you can know, right now, where you stand with God.
2. We will talk about a “Calling into a kingdom that does not pass away.”
3. You will draw strength and inspiration for your faith expressly for “the messy realities of marriage, parenthood, the workplace, and society.”
4. Finally, after reading this book, the reader will “understand their citizenship in two kingdoms” in a deeper way that is applicable to daily life.
It is written by a layman, for the laity. The author experimented with Pentecostalism, Reformed theology, and others before landing on/with the Lutherans. He provides numerous stories and examples of what he means.
Finally, on this Valentine’s weekend I think it’s good to point out that he speaks of an “order of common love” among all Christians. This is not about Lutherans being better than other Christians. This is about what distinctives in the Lutheran teaching make it easier to be Christian, remain faithful, and receive a great amount of strength for the road ahead. You know, “love and stuff.” ☺
He leaves it to the reader to decide if Lutheran teaching is biblical and good. Or not. I feel assured the Spirit will speak to you through this second expanded edition of a modern classic.
We’ll begin on Ash Wednesday, when the books will be made available to all who attend worship that evening. If not, you can grab yours the First Sunday/weekend in Lent, February 29th or March 1st.
What Are You Celebrating Today?
Welcome to worship on this Superbowl Groundhog weekend! I know I am mixing secular holidays there, but to make a fun point I hope. An old-English saying goes:
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Come, winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go winter, come not again!
February 2nd, being 40 days after Christmas and the day for presenting Jewish boys in the temple (and it was no different for Jesus), was traditionally "Candlemas." Christians would light candles and sing songs and celebrate Christ as the light of the world. What an excellent tradition!
How the Germans would later associate this with hedgehogs or groundhogs, and the small mammal who predicts the length of winter, no one is sure, but it shows that people love traditions. What traditions do you have at your house?
What are you celebrating today? This weekend we mark several fun, worldly holidays but most importantly we celebrate the work of Christ in our lives. Here's to anything you do at home and church that celebrates his deep love for us and amazing grace... "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," St. Paul reminds us, and let it give you the hope it transmits so faithfully and so amazingly. In Him,
Seven Mission Priorities
Synod" means "walking together"
In its national Convention last year, our church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (usually just "LCMS"), named seven mission priorities. This Sunday we welcome new members and these are foremost on my mind as we prepare to receive them. What is our mission? How can we pull together to support not only Calvary but also our District and the Synod? Why is that important?
For the last 20 years especially it's been the trendy thing to say, "I am spiritual, but I don't support organized religion." One wonders if the same people who say that also go to hospitals. Because hospitals take organization. And without a board running what needs to be run; without oversight and accountability, a hospital would not even exist. And so the governing board benefits the hospital as an organization by enabling it to actually provide health care. Likewise, all of our congregations need mission support and the training of workers in order to continue.
I'll let you read the priorities yourself and let you evaluate if they are important or not. Our District will meet in Convention this April. I'm in need of volunteers to be "Lay delegates." One primary and one standby delegate. Will you answer the call?
1. Plant, sustain, and revitalize Lutheran churches
2. Support and expand theological education
3. Perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministries
4. Collaborate with the Synod's partners for greater effectiveness
5. Promote and nurture the well being of all church workers
6. Enhance education and youth ministry
7. Strengthen and support the Lutheran family in living out God's design.
The Synod is more than a repository for health coverage or legal aid. "Synod" literally means "walking together." For the sake of God's mission to the world in his Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus,