Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day

October 31, 1517
"Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Lutther..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sew Prayerful--Prayer Quilts

St. Paul's has initiated a wonderful caring ministry to our shut-in members, led by JoEllen Graziadei. Called "Sew Prayerful," the group meets to assemble prayer quilts once a month.

The prayer quilts features strings that can be knotted to symbolize prayers that have been said on each shut-in's behalf. I have the distinct pleasure of delivering the completed quilts. One look at Rose Makee's face (above) lets you know how treasured and well received they are. Below left, her husband Ken admires his new quilt. Ken and Rose both live at the same elder care facility.

Sew Prayerful will meet for the next time at St. Paul's on Friday, October 30 at 9:30 a.m. For more information, please contact JoEllen at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Ministry a Success

St. Paul's Youth Group, under the supervision of Ed and Linda Prib, sold over seventy pumpkins Saturday and Sunday, along with thirty-plus loaves of pumpkin bread. A verse of Scripture was attached to each item. Thanks to everyone who supported this well-received event--and special thanks to the Pribs for coming up with the idea, organizing it, and leading the youth in carrying it out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hymn Stanza of the Week: Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand

Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand
Nicolai F. S. Grundtvig; TLH 467, stanza 6

Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
Th' altar recalls Christ's sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hit the Homiletical Ball

Imagine a tennis player who concentrates on looking good but forgets to get the ball over the net. The point is: Hit the ball! The object of any sermon technique has to be getting the Gospel across to people. Is the message getting through? Are the people believing the Gospel and relishing the grace of God? The motto behind all homiletical method must be: Hit the ball! Do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of winning lost souls for Christ. The pastor who gets hung up on pure technique for its own sake is actually self-centered, like a tennis player looking at his own shadow. The foremost question in his mind is "How am I doing?" but the preacher who employs technique in service of the goal is always asking, "How is he (the listener) doing?"

Dr. James Bollhagen

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There's Always More With Jesus

Mark 10: 17--22

One of the keys to a good conversation is asking good questions. When you ask thoughtful questions, it shows you are interested in the person you’re talking to, and if you ask the right questions, you may unlock some great insight or information from the person you’ve questioned. That’s why we like to watch or read interviews of people who interest us. A thought-provoking question can produce a fascinating answer.
Then again, sometimes a question can be not thought-provoking, just provocative. An intrusive or ill-timed question can stop a conversation in its tracks.
Questions. We even have them about the Christian faith. That’s normal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as I said, the right question can unlock some things that help us to understand or deal with an issue more fully. But sometimes people ask the wrong question. That’s OK, if they’re open enough to be challenged in their thinking. If not, though; if a person is stuck on a bad question and can’t proceed until they get an answer that “makes sense,” then that person might prevent themselves from hearing something they need to hear.
For an example, we need look no further than today’s Gospel lesson. A rich young man, who was obviously a “winner” by the world’s standards, comes to Jesus with a question. It is an understandable question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It is a revealing question, probably much more so than that young man realized—because by asking “What must I do…” he put the burden on himself to do what needed to be done. It is the natural, human question to ask; it is the question that all man-made religion is based on; and it is the wrong question. Or maybe it would better to say that the question rests on a faulty assumption—that we can do something to inherit eternal life; that the ball is in our court, so to speak. At any rate, it would seem that this successful guy is coming to Jesus to find out what he needs to do to make an already exemplary life just a little bit more polished.
This view of Jesus creeps into the thinking of many people, Christians included. “Look how good a job I’m doing with my life, Lord,” we say, “just give me your seal of approval and I’ll continue to do a great job on my own.”
But Jesus will not settle for that. He is not content to be a divine Dr. Phil, dispensing advice or affirming our good decisions. And the way he answers the rich young man shows it. Jesus demands much of this man, much more than expected. Jesus asks the young man to give up the one thing that was closest to his heart—his wealth. Jesus doesn’t argue with this so called “winner” about his claim to have kept the Law from his youth. With this demand to sell his possessions and give to the poor, Jesus is asking, are you living in the Spirit of the Law? Do you really love your neighbor as yourself? And the rich young man comes to a sad realization. No, I don’t. I don’t love my neighbor as myself. I love the stuff that I’ve got. He went away full of sorrow, because he didn’t get the answer he had hoped. At that point in time, he must’ve been thinking, “if that’s what it takes to earn eternal life, I don’t think I can do it.” He was disheartened, because Jesus has basically answered his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life” by saying, “There is nothing you can do. You’re serving a false God right now. Repent of that and I’ll show you the way.” And tragically, the rich man doesn’t think he can.
This is not “Jesus the nice guy” we’ve come to prefer. This is Jesus the truth-teller, and He won’t settle for surface-level stuff. Where we prefer a Jesus who affirms that we’re basically good people, the real Jesus confronts the sinner whose gossip, grudges, and insufficient charity toward others is proof that our wishful thinking is wrong. Where we prefer a Jesus who compliments our faithfulness to home and family, the real Jesus confronts the sinner whose secret thoughts and actions are often quite unfaithful. Where we prefer a Jesus who blindly gives us whatever we ask for, he confronts the sinner who typically forgets to say “thank you.” He confronts the sinner because he loves the sinner, just like he loved the rich young man and wanted to help him. He makes it clear: “There’s nothing you can do to inherit eternal life.” Once we finally believe that, then he can say, “There’s nothing you can do; but there is something I can do.” This is the great news of the Gospel.
Jesus wanted to be more than a wise teacher for the rich young man. When it says in verse 21 that Jesus loved him that means he was willing to go to the cross for him. Jesus had already predicted his death twice and he was about to do it again. In love, Jesus was willing to do what this successful person could not—what none of us could ever do—and that is deal with sin, and make its curse go away, once and for all. When we let ourselves think of Jesus, nailed to a cross for us, we are confronted with the severity of our sin—and the incredible mercy of God. There, at the cross, Jesus is punished not for his sin but for yours and mine. Why? He loves you.
Jesus required that wealthy young man to give up everything for him. He could not. Neither can we. Therefore Jesus gave up everything for us, to the extent that he would bleed and die and be forsaken by His Father, all so that he could say, “This is what I have done for you, so that you can inherit eternal life.”
Jesus demanded much more than the young man expected. But He also gives much more than expected. To those who are broken and remorseful; to those who repent of a self-righteous attitude; to those who have tried to fix themselves and are ready to give up, Jesus holds out his gifts, bought and paid for with his blood. Here is forgiveness. Here is peace with God. Here is meaning and life. Here is confidence in the face of our own suffering. Here is certainty in the face of our own death. Here is the promise of life with God that lasts forever—eternal life in which praise and worship and unity and service and love will never end. All of it brought about not by what I have done but by what Jesus has done by suffering, dying, rising from the tomb, and ascending into heaven to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to His Church. What must you do to be saved? Look away from yourself and trust that Jesus has done it all. Trust that his mercy covers you. Trust that baptismal waters cover you. Trust that the robe of Jesus’ holiness covers you. Trust that with Jesus, there is always more grace, more mercy, more forgiveness, than we can comprehend

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Jesus! and Shall It Ever Be

Jesus! and Shall It Ever Be
Joseph Grigg; stanzas 5 and 6 (TLH 346)

Ashamed of Jesus? Yes I may
When I've no guilt to wash away,
No tear to wipe, no good to crave,
No fear to quell, no soul to save.

Till then--nor is my boasting vain--
Till then I boast a Savior slain;
and oh, may this my glory be,
That Christ is not ashamed of me!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Whose Side Are You On?

On whose side is the pastor? Is he in a self-defense mode on the side of his office, or is he on the people's side? Don't try to answer, because the whole premise of the question is wrong. A pastor may at times have to defend the unique position and role of his office against naysayers, just as Moses had to defend his own mediatorial position (Numbers 12 and 16). But the question is still wrong. It presupposes that the pastor and the laypeople are sides pitted against one another and engaged in some kind of contest to get the most attention. The pastor and the laity constitute the same side, the Church, in the midst of a sinful world.

Laypeople are going to make mistakes and fail to get jobs done, but they should be given responsibility in the church. The church is not a place where people are granted forgiveness only if they can first prove that they don't need it.

Dr. James Bollhagen

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take Up Your Cross

In giving of ourselves for Christ, we have given up nothing because Christ is everything. He is all in all. The true followers of Jesus are not the ones who answer the polls correctly in identifying who he is, but rather, they have the faith that brings the crucified Christ to expression in their own lives.

Dr. David P. Scaer

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Make Some Noise for Lutheran Women's Missionary League!

What weighs 32 1/4 pounds and spreads the Gospel message? That would be $253.43 in noisy mites. Combine that with the $181 of quiet mites collected on LWML Weekend and you have a total of $434.43 that will be sent to the LWML Ohio District. We pray that God will richly bless the various missions of the LWML in the Ohio District and around the world. To learn more about the LWML go to . Please continue to "feed" your mites boxes and return them to church on a regular basis.

Thank You,
Billie Lelle - Friendship Circle Treasurer

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do I Benefit from Christ's Death?

The afflicted person says: Christ died for everyone; but not everyone benefits from his death. How can I know that Christ's gracious work will help me? How can I be sure that I have a share in all that Christ has earned for us through his suffering and death?

The comforter says: God gives you the Word of His Gospel and in it He gives you all the grace of His Son. He stretches out his hand the whole day (Isaiah 65: 2). He calls and invites everyone. He is certainly calling you, too. What God offers you in his mercy, grasp with the hand of faith. What you believe, you receive. Faith grasps Christ, and in Christ it grasps God's grace, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life.

John Gerhard

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Family: God's Idea

A young mother went down to her baby’s nursery one night and was surprised to find her husband peering down at their newborn child. She could tell he was captivated by the scene as he stood there looking at their beautiful sleeping infant. She was so touched that she tiptoed up behind him and slipped her arm through his, saying, “Honey, what are you thinking about?" And he said, “I just can’t believe we got this crib for under a hundred dollars!”
A woman was surprised by her 7 year old grandson one morning. He had made her coffee. She proceeded to then drink the worst cup of coffee in her life. When she got to the bottom there were three little green army men in the cup. She said, "What are the army men doing in my coffee?" Her grandson said, "Grandma, it says on TV, “The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.”
To live in relationship with other human beings is God’s design. It is his intent for us to give and receive love from others—especially from those who share each day with us—the people we call family.
Today’s reading from Genesis shows the Lord putting the first family together. “It is not good for man to be alone,” said the Lord, and so he created Eve to be with Adam. This is no small thing. We are created to need relationship with others. Psychologists continue to report what the Bible has said from its opening chapters: It is not good for us to be alone. The more healthy relationships we have, the better off we’ll be. By the Lord’s design, that network of relationships begins with our family. The Bible paints a clear picture: He gave a man and a woman to one another, to share love, companionship, and to know the joy of creation with the blessing of children, and to know the further joy of their ongoing care.
There’s just one problem, and it’s a doozy; the problem of sin. The first family disobeyed God and put their wishes before His; the results: agony in childbirth; hard toil in the fields; and eventually, death. With the introduction of sin, you can see the relationship between Adam and Eve starting to crack. Once their sin is discovered, they start playing the blame game. That’s really a rather familiar pattern, isn’t it?
Sin had and still has a devastating effect on the relationships that matter most to us. In an awful perversion of God’s intent, sin can twist the relationships meant to nurture us into relationships that damage us. The very people who were meant to love and serve us instead hate and harm us, giving us permanent scars in our souls. This is not the way things are supposed to be. Jesus makes that abundantly clear in the Gospel lesson, where he condemns the practice of easy divorce, using phrases from Genesis to set up this statement: What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. Sin leads to the disintegration of relationships; the disintegration of relationships, especially in the family, leads to disintegration of our society; this is one of the most profound “ripple effects” of sin, and it affects everyone. You would be hard pressed to find someone whose life has not been made miserable by the implosion of a family, whether their own or someone else’s.
Sin complicates even the best of relationships. The fact is that by nature we sin against others every day. That means we have more opportunities to sin against our families than anyone else. We want to have our way. We can be needless cruel to those we profess to love. We have a hard time remembering Scripture, but we can remember how a family member “stepped on our toes” in exquisite detail. It would seem that our family relationships are doomed to fail. They would be, if it were not for the intervention of Jesus Christ in our lives.
The Son of God submitted to His Father’s will. In the words of the writer of Hebrews, for a little while, he was made lower than the angels. He became truly human, for the purpose of “tasting death for everyone.” That means that by becoming human and suffering and dying on a cross, he tasted the death of our selfishness. He tasted the death of our sin—the sin that wreaks havoc on our relationships. He tasted our death—the death that we should have died for hating instead of loving—an eternal, awful death—a death whereby relationship with God the Father is broken. He tasted it for you and me. He tasted it and he swallowed it, and it killed him. Yet in doing so, death was swallowed up forever, and when Easter rolled around, and Jesus walked out of that tomb very much alive, things would never be the same for his people again. You see, Jesus’ death and resurrection means that our sin has been swallowed up. It’s gone. We are forgiven an insurmountable debt. That means there is a new beginning available to you, truly a new life to live. It is what some call “the Jesus life,” a life that has accessed our hearts and minds through Baptism and the Word of God. Because Jesus loves you, and proved his love for you by being nailed to the cross for you, He is not ashamed to call you his brother. He is not ashamed to call you his sister. He is the way to love our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, relatives and friends. See how Jesus expresses His love by humbly serving his disciples with a towel and a bowl. See how Jesus speaks the truth in love to his friends and followers. See how Jesus lays down his life for his friends; dying to self and dying for them. See how he forgives, even as our sin nails him to the tree of life. Service. Telling the truth. Sacrificing. Forgiving. Relationships thrive when Jesus is allowed to be part of them, because he brings these qualities to the table. Let Jesus into your relationships. I’m convinced that the primary place that we live out our Christian faith is in our families. Yes, we have more opportunities to sin against our families than anyone else, but that also means we have more opportunities with them to really exercise our Christianity. That happens when we confess our sin to one another and practice the art of speaking and living in forgiveness with one another. We can only do this because Jesus is not ashamed to call you his brother or sister. We can only do this because he proved that love by dying and rising. But that means we can do this, by the baptismal power that connects us to our Savior. Our family can be an oasis of forgiveness and unconditional love. Jesus has already begun to reverse the mess created by Adam and Eve and the serpent’s temptation. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil—the tree that brought so much sin and heartache into the world, has been trumped by the Tree of Life, the cross of Jesus, the Son of God, our brother who loves us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hymn Stanzas of the Week: Not What These Hands Have Done

Not What These Hands Have Done (TLH 389)
Horatius Bonar, stanzas 1 and 3

Not what these hands have done can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.

Friday, October 2, 2009

True Christian Victory

We're victorious not when we grow up and stop needing to rely on Jesus so much. We're victorious when we rely on him more every day. Every day remembering our Baptism and who we are as children of God. Every day dying and rising with Christ. Every day receiving his victory, life, and salvation. Growing not up and away from him, but growing into him. The Spirit taking the life of Christ and giving it to you. "He will take what is mine and give it to you."

Rev. James Douthwaite

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Warriors of the Word

In our day there is great fatigue for the fight against false doctrine, indeed a willful rejection of this fight. Men who wield the sword of the Spirit are decried as destroyers of the peace and as people who hinder the building of the Church. Indeed, if we are cognizant of the fact that the Church only and alone is built upon the Word of God, then we will regard it as completely self-evident that we must defend against those who would tear down this foundation. Because the life of the Church is precious to us, there are times when one must do more defending than instructing. So it was in the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The enemies sought to hinder the building. Thus one-half of the young men did the work and the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and armor. And even each of those who were doing the construction was equipped with a sword.

Rev. Matthew C. Harrison