A Few Favorites

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Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Te Deum Laudamus

Every Wednesday, we pray Matins at church. We usually read an Old Testament selection from a daily lectionary. Then I usually comment on the Epistle from Sunday. Today, we commemorated the Lutheran hymnwriters Nicolai, Heermann, and Gerhardt and sang the Queen of Chorales. The other thing we regularly do is pray by name for the members of the congregation. 

But every week I look forward most to singing the Te Deum Laudamus. Today, this sight gave me all the more reason to sing, and I think the angels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, and Church throughout the world rejoice at this, too.

Praying Alone

Praying together is better than praying alone. My favorite hour of prayer is at the close of day, and the prayers of Compline just can’t be beat.

I usually pray these alone. If I’m at church late, I’ll do it in my study. When we have an evening meeting I invite others to join me, but I usually still end up alone.

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At home, I will often sing the closing portion to some of the kids before bed, “Guide us waking, O Lord…,” the Nunc Dimittis, and blessing them with “The almighty and merciful Lord—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—bless you and keep you.”

It was an uncommon delight, then, to lead the praying of Compline at this summer’s Return to Wittenberg conference. There is something so mutually consoling about these bedtime prayers of the Church, when some portion of the Church gathers at the end of a day to speak to one another, to listen, to sing, and to pray.

The setting of the beautiful chapel at Wisconsin Lutheran College certainly didn’t hurt! The back and forth responses, the unison, acapella singing. The final night of the conference we also sang Paul Gerhardt’s “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow.”

It was significantly better than praying alone.

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Compline at Return to Wittenberg (Photo by Jonathan Mayer)

And yet, it is true that Christians never pray alone. Because our Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father,” even when we pray by ourselves, we are never alone. Christian prayer is always corporate. Our voice always joins with the whole Church in addressing our heavenly Father, trusting that he will hear our voice. Together, even if we pray alone. In addition—even if there were no one on the planet to pray with us, even then we would not pray alone because Jesus himself prays for us and with us.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Happy Birthday Lydia

DSC_7473Today our Lydia turns four. As many of you know, I have had the practice of creating a slideshow of pictures from the previous year for each of the kids’ birthdays. Unfortunately, I got behind last spring and didn’t make one for Isaiah (April) or Andrew (May).

But in the last three days I finished the boys’ videos and I did Lydia’s this afternoon. Unfortunately, Lydia’s isn’t very long, since I haven’t had the time or opportunity to take many pictures recently. But doing this work has motivated me to find the time and make some opportunities. The links to the kids’ videos are below.

Isaiah’s 2nd Birthday

Andrew’s 5th Birthday

Lydia’s 4th Birthday

Lutheranism in America

This morning I listened to a segment of the radio show "Issues, etc." with an interview of WELS President Mark Schroeder. The topic was the current state of Lutheranism in America, with special attention to the role of the WELS and LCMS in maintaining confessional Lutheranism today. 

You can listen to the segment by clicking on the link below, or clicking on the player embedded at the bottom of this post.

Catching Up

I realize that it's been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. I don't know where the time goes. But I do have a few ideas that I hope to write about shortly. In the meantime, here are a few quick updates on what we've been up to here.

  • Military Contact Pastor's Conference — was held here in El Paso at the beginning of November. Especially valuable to have that held here. We got to tour Fort Bliss and meet with the installation chaplain. Ministry to the military is a large part of our work here, and will only increase as Fort Bliss expands by 300% in the next few years.
  • Year of Jubilee — Last Sunday we took the time to give attention to the synod's Year of Jubilee celebration/offering. It was a nice opportunity to study something that many people didn't know much about. 
  • Scenic Drive — Last Friday we took the kids for a little drive to a little park up on Scenic Drive that overlooks El Paso. You can see some of the pictures from that here
  • Thanksgiving — We held a service this evening. Tomorrow we'll be having dinner at a member's house. 
  • Advent —I'm pretty excited to start another church year. I realize that it means that busy times are ahead, but I wouldn't trade Advent for anything. I've been thinking lately about how much the church year reflects our life in Christ. Someday I'll write a post on that.

Worship, Music & the Arts

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Late last night I returned from Minnesota, where I spent the week at the Nation Worship Conference. For several days now I have been thinking about how I could possibly describe the event. It’s so hard, because the experience of being at this event is really quite overwhelming. It was more than I could even take in while I was there. How could I capture it and put it into words? I can’t re-create the powerful sermons. Even a recording couldn’t reproduce the sounds of the instruments and voices. It’s hard to summarize the content of the many interesting and informational presentations. 

I think that eventually there will be photos and video recordings of some of the services, concerts, and presentations available and you may be able to get a glimpse of what it was like. But it won’t match the experience of being there. 

Would it help for me to say that it was like a foretaste of heaven? A multitude of Jesus’ believers gathered to hear Jesus’ Word and to join in communion with him and praise him by proclaiming the wondrous things he has done? But as good as it was, it wasn’t heaven. Yet it, just like every time we gather for worship, was a foretaste. And that is true whether it was 1200 people led by pipes and strings and brass and percussion or if it is 100 people in a city in the southwest. When we gather around Word and Sacrament we are as close as we get to Jesus this side of heaven—intimately connected to him through his means of grace.

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But it is precisely because our worship is such an important event (even when it’s a smaller group with more modest accompaniment) that we give this event our attention. That’s what makes it so important to learn about worship and music—so that in our worship the gospel predominates, the people of God can participate, the history of the church is honored, and that the best gifts of God are employed. 

I am very excited about the contents of the new Supplement that was highlighted at the conference. There are many wonderful hymns in this publication and I’m looking forward to making use of them.

The two images in this post are from previous conferences. I’m actually in both of the pictures. While I enjoyed participating the services in past conferences, it was kind of nice not to have any real responsibilities at the conference so that I could just attend. It was really nice to visit with so many people, including many classmates, some members of former congregations, and most of my siblings. Some of those I knew were coming; others were an unexpected treat.

Call

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!