What a Week

Over the past week or so there have been so many things that would have been worth writing about, but with everything going on I just didn’t have the time or attention to do it. What I’m going to do now is just make a list of all the activity. If you need more info on any of these, leave a comment.

  • Sudden cancellation of Issues, etc. This was a good, Lutheran radio show that I listened to via podcast. The situations surrounding the show’s cancellation are mysterious, to say the least. It has sparked a great deal of controversy among those who listened to the show. I’ll miss listening to it; I hope something comes along to take its place.
  • Maundy Thursday, stripping of the altar, Psalm 88
  • Good Friday Service of Darkness, Psalm 22, Psalm 51, Isaiah 55 (Quaerite Dominum…), Lord, let at last your angels come…
  • Drive to San Jose to pick up Seminarians (Saturday), getting lost in San Jose, late night…
  • Sunrise Service, beginning outside at sunrise, Seminary brass quartet, Paschal candle, choir, Psalm 118…
  • Seminary Chorus concert: edifying and refreshing, memories from my years in the chorus came flooding back, good to see and talk with the men…
  • Easter Monday, catch-up on things waiting until after Easter, Stockton Children’s Museum, sick calls…
  • Call deliberations continue: calling, discussing, thinking, praying…

The Pastor’s Study

Is the room in which the pastor works a study or an office? It’s the place that he has his desk, his library, probably a computer and usually much more. It’s the place that he meets with people, makes phone calls, plans and prepares for so many things. But above all, this room is the place where the pastor studies.

As long as I can remember, it has always been important to me to have a specific place set aside just for study. Already in grade school I always had a desk in my bedroom. I’m sure I didn’t always do my homework there (I didn’t always do my homework). But I always had a place for it. In college I always carved out a corner of the dorm room for my desk and work space. When I came home from school in the summers I managed to clear out a space in the basement at home and later in an extra room at the farm to put my desk, computer, and now growing theological library. When we moved to Kewaskum (WI) after getting married, I had a whole room to use as a study. I even have pictures of many of these spaces. Gallery of images of the spaces I have used for studying

In Kewaskum, I purposefully referred to the room as my study. It made sense, since that’s what I did there. That’s where I did the bulk of my studying for my first two years at Sem. But when I moved to Wauwatosa for vicar year, I moved my library to St. John’s. There I had a decent sized room to store all my books and a decent desk to work at. (I heard stories about how St. John’s vicars used to get this little closet-like room down in the basement next to the stage.) The room was right in the church office, next to where the church secretaries worked. It was right next to where the other pastors worked. It was an office. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t study there. In fact, I did some of my best studying in that room, especially in the early morning hours before the others would show up.

Our setup at St. Peter is rather similar. Pastor Janke and I are right next door to each other, just across the narthex from the church office. It’s a very efficient and convenient location. A couple months ago I even re-arranged the furniture in there to allow me to work more efficiently (my bookcases are now right behind my desk so I don’t have to walk around the desk to get at them).

But I have noticed something very interesting about that room. I noticed that when I’m really trying to study, when I’m trying to meditate on a portion of God’s Word, trying to pray, I found that it hasn’t been the best place. I found that it was sometimes better to go somewhere else. I’ve often carried my laptop into church to write sermons. I’ve sat in the pews in an empty sanctuary to pray and sing. It’s not that I can’t use that room to do those things, but it does seem to come more naturally in other places at times. I still have not been able to lay my finger on exactly what makes it that way. Is it the fact that I do so many other things there? Is it the fact that there are so many other things there?

Could it also be (in part) the way I view that room? Is it an office or a study? Is there a psychological difference between a room called an office and a study? Does it say something about what is expected of the time I spend there? Is the office the place where I coordinate and administrate and meet and strategize? But maybe a study is where a pastor meditates and supplicates and counsels and absolves. I’m wondering if my name for that room could be a constant reminder to me of what is my main task there. Perhaps it could be a reminder to others that this is the place where their pastor prepares to serve them by studying the Scripture, by spending hours reading and approaching God on their behalf.

There is a fantastic quote from George Stöckhardt on the work that a pastor does in his study that’s worth hearing:

A pastor must not simply regard it as a good way to relax from his official duties when he can on occasion, in moments of leisure, engross himself in Scripture and theology. No, here he has God’s command. The apostle of Jesus Christ makes the demand of every Christian bishop that he occupy himself constantly with doctrine and Scripture . . .  This quiet, solitary work in his study does not have the same glamour as other portions of his pastoral activity, as when the pastor has direct contact with the congregation and its members, and is more tedious, demands more exertion and mental effort than any other official act. Therefore, a pastor is well nigh tempted to dispense with this duty and labor much more easily and much more quickly than with other official duties. But there he had better consider that the apostle, where he begins to set forth the real work of a bishop, mentions continuing pursuit of doctrine, of Scripture, as the main duty of a bishop and as a necessary basis and requisite for all wholesome speaking, teaching, exhorting, and rebuking."

So if you hear me referring to that room at church with my name on the door as my study, you’ll know why.

I am baptized

I always enjoy teaching catechism. But there are some days, some moments when it really strikes me what a true privilege and honor it is to open up the Scriptures to these young people and allow them to see the beauty and the comfort that God gives to us in his Word.

We’re in the middle of the section on Baptism and today we talked about the power and blessings of baptism. We started out by talking about important days and why the day of our baptism was perhaps the most significant day in our lives. [The image to the right is one of the slides I use in another lesson on baptism. Oct. 22 is the date I was baptized.]

But there was one point during the class, and I can’t remember exactly when it was—perhaps it was while we discussed Titus 3 and how God pours his kindness and love into our hearts like a mighty flood, or perhaps when we talked about how in baptism we are connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and how baptism funnels everything Jesus won for the world on the cross to the one whose name is called at baptism "I baptize you", Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but in baptism he shows that he did it all for me—at one point during the class today one of the students just says, "Wow. That’s cool."

#8 — O Dearest Jesus (CW 117)

I’m not sure I can add much to the Lenten hymns that I’m about to add to the list. I’ve already noted those classic themes common to most Lutheran lenten hymns.

  1. "It is my sins for which you Lord must languish"
  2. "To do your will shall be my sole endeavor"

This morning I started listening to one of my favorite recordings—J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. I particularly love the way these hymns weave in and out of the passion narrative. Herzliebster Jesu is one of the hymns that he uses. Like I said, I’m not sure I can really add anything.

O dearest Jesus, what law have you broken
That such sharp sentence should on you be spoken?
Of what great crime have you to make confession—
What dark transgression?

They crown your head with thorns, they smite, they scourge you;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge you;
They give you gall to drink, they still decry you;
They crucify you.

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which you, Lord, must languish;
Yes, all that wrath, the woe that you inherit,
This I do merit.

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt his servants owe him,
Who would not know him.

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
We forfeited our lives, yet are aquitted—
God is committed!

I’ll think upon your mercy without ceasing,
That earth’s vain joys to me no more be pleasing;
To do your will shall be my chief endeavor
Henceforth forever.

And when, dear Lord, before your throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns your saints forever raise you,
I too shall praise you.

Call to El Paso, TX

As many of you have already heard, I received a Call to serve as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in El Paso, TX. At this point I don’t have many details, and during this week I will be trying to focus on preparations for and observation of Holy Week here at St. Peter. I would appreciate your prayers during this time.

Children’s Hosanna

Yesterday our preschool and kindergarten classes sang in church. Here’s a clip of their song.

In Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday, it makes note of the fact that children were present for Jesus’ triumphal entry. And they were participating. In fact, as Matthew records it, it was the children’s shouts of "Hosanna" that bother the Jewish leaders.

But Jesus shows, as he does so often, that he wants to be associated with the children. He wants to be with them, he wants them to believe in him, he wants them to acknowledge him, he wants them to be fed with his Word. Did these children completely understand what they were saying? Maybe not. But that doesn’t seem to bother Jesus. He knew what they were doing. And more importantly, he knew what he was doing for them and in them. And even today, Jesus knows what he is doing in the hearts of the children who hear his Word and he wants to receive their shouts of praise.


I realized yesterday that some of you may have not have heard the news.

Large_211217Pastor Janke has decided to decline nomination as district president at this summer’s district convention. Since I was originally assigned to St. Peter as a pastoral assistant to the district president, obviously, it means change for us.  Since that news was announced, Pastor Janke also received a call to serve at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Jefferson, WI.

So while I know that things will change around here, I have no idea how. It’s possible that we might both continue to serve here. One of us might take a call elsewhere. Both of us could take a call. In any case, it will mean change.

But I don’t even attempt to know which path would be better or which I would prefer. At this point in time, I have one Call, and that is to serve as pastor at St. Peter. And since that is the case, there is nothing else I would rather do. Ever since I have been here, I have understood that things would likely not stay the same for very long. Until that point, all I will do is to continue to serve as faithfully as possible in this vocation.

For several years, I have found this prayer to be helpful to me in so many situations. This is no exception. I have the german prayer framed by the door to my study. It’s from a lecture by C.F.W. Walther, given to future pastors, and recorded in the book The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel. Roughly translated… (I don’t have the translation with me. I think the quote is around page 70 of the English.)

O, my dear Lord Jesus, you are mine, therefore I wish to be yours. Everything that I do and have, my body and soul, my abilities and gifts, my entire life should be consecrated to you, to you alone. Lay upon me whatever you wish, and I will gladly bear it. Lead me always, through pain or joy, through fortune or misfortune, lead me through shame or honor, through people’s favor or their disfavor, lead me through a long life, or should I die an early death: I will rejoice in it all. Only go before me, I will follow you!

Seminary Chorus

I’ve received a number of comments on the recording of the Seminary men singing the Agnus Dei. One of the reasons I posted that clip was to give a preview of what we’re going to have here on Easter Sunday, when the Seminary Chorus is going to be in Modesto for Easter Sunday. They will be here as a part of their tour of Nevada and California.

Some people have commented that this was just what they needed—especially on a busy Wednesday in Lent. It brought me back to those lenten Wednesdays at Sem when I lived up in Kewaskum, about a 40 minute drive from school. Classes went from 7:30am to 12:30pm, when we would quickly eat lunch in the cafeteria. I would then drive up to West Bend to work until about 4:00, then rush home so that I could teach catechism to a couple 6th graders at St. Lucas. As soon as that was done I had to get back in the car and drive down to some church in the Milwaukee where the Seminary Chorus was singing for a 7:00 service. When I finally got home around 9:00 it was time to get started on preparing for another day of classes.

Chorus2Those were long days, but I remember how much I appreciated being able to sing with that group. The songs we sang were, I assume, encouraging and edifying to the people of those congregations. But the message of Scripture carried by those songs was encouraging and edifying to me, and it was just what I needed on those long days of Lent.

The first time I heard the Seminary Chorus was in high school. The year was 1995. That spring was also the last time the choir toured California, but they also made a stop in Minnesota at my home congregation. As a sophomore in high school I was already on track towards the pastoral ministry. I was in my second year of Latin and knew exactly what I needed to be ready for MLC. But hearing the Seminary Chorus in concert solidified my desires and made me look forward to wearing those blue robes.

Humanly speaking, the Seminary Chorus had a large part in my becoming a pastor. It sparked the interest in a curious high schooler, encouraged a busy seminarian, and I’m looking forward to next Sunday when I pray they will again encourage a Californian congregation as they celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

#7 — My loved ones, rest securely (CW 587)

Hannah has been sick the past several days. Friday night Hannah and Andrew were both sick. Andrew seems to have bounced back quickly, but Hannah has taken a little longer.

Just a few minutes ago I tucked her into bed and sang to her a few stanzas that I commonly use at bedtime. I remember learning these two stanzas in 1st grade. I remember Mrs. Kraus putting the words on the overhead projector. I remember trying to find this hymn in the hymnal at home. It was difficult because we didn’t learn the first stanza.

Here are stanzas we sing at bedtime. Notice that the first stanza appeals to Jesus’ love as the reason he should watch over us. Jesus’ love is an objective truth that we already know. It gives us confidence to ask for his care and protection. The last stanza seems to be directed to those loves ones who are about to go to sleep. We pray that Jesus’ love, protection, and care rest on them as they "rest beneath night’s shadow" (st. 1).

Dvc00082Lord Jesus, since you love me,

Oh, spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though Satan would assail me,
Your mercy will not fail me;
I rest in your protecting arm.

My loved ones, rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may he send you
And bid his hosts attend you
And through the night watch o’er your beds.

The picture here is Hannah when she was a baby.

Agnus Dei

One fond memory I have from the Seminary is the daily chapel services. In particular, I remember singing the Agnus Dei once a week during Lent. We sang it in Latin, usually in four parts. Very often the organist stopped playing so that the student body sings acapella.

The chapel services at the Seminary are now available by podcast. I downloaded a recent service in which they sang the Agnus Dei, and cropped it out for you.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace. Amen.

WLS Daily Chapel Podcast