President Harrison preaches at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Oconomowoc, WI
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 4, 2015
We do not always know how to pray, so Christ gives us words in the prayer He has taught us. You never have to doubt your prayer when the words are given by Christ Himself. That same wisdom gave birth to our hymnal. While no hymnal is divinely inspired, we are blessed when the liturgy we chant is taken from Scripture and when many of the hymns we sing have been sung by the faithful for centuries, standing the test of time. Our hymnal has passed through scrutinizing theological review to ensure that it will us faithfully. And does it ever serve us well! Consider the order of service for Holy Matrimony found on page 275. Following the invocation, you hear these wonderful words that capture the beauty of marriage. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. This is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin.” Later, it continues, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.” In other words, marriage is a blessing, a gift from God.
Christ gave marriage to man and woman when there was no sin. That is just how blessed an estate it is; built into the fabric of God’s good creation. But creation is now fallen, tainted with sin. Still marriage remains God’s blessed, holy gift. From the fall, marriage has been under attack. Satan hates all of God’s gifts, but he has particular disdain for marriage. In the fall, Satan seeks to undo what God had done in marriage. The two became one flesh by God’s grace. At the fall, Adam turns on his wife. God calls Adam to account for his sin and what does he do? He blames his wife – “the woman whom you gave me, she gave me the fruit!” Instead of confessing marriage as a gift, Adam blames it for his fall. And Satan smiled in delight. Satan attacked marriage then and he’s still attacking marriage today. You see it all around us. It is symptomatic of how much sin has blinded our age that we have become confused about what has been understood throughout history. Marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. That has been under attack throughout the ages. Abraham looked outside his union with Sarah for a son. David perverted marriage by becoming culturally relevant by means of polygamy. But in our age, marriage has been redefined to be whatever you want. When marriage can mean everything, then it means nothing. Which shouldn’t surprise us because we are just like the hard-hearted folk of Moses’ day. Jesus says that Moses allowed for divorce because of their hardness of heart. Can the age of no-fault divorce be any different?
We rightly point out where our age has gone astray. But are we willing to point out where we have gone astray? And we certainly have abused marriage because we are sinners. And that is what sinners do. The fall perverts our view of everything. It perverts the most central reality of marriage. Marriage is a gift; it is not a human invention to be manipulated and re-engineered. Marriage is a gift. More specifically, woman is a gift to man. God looked upon Adam and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So the Lord created the woman and brought her to the man. Woman was given to man. Perhaps that is why I have observed men struggle more than women when a spouse dies. Certainly, losing a husband is hard for a loving wife. And certainly a husband is a gift from God to a woman. Yet I have discussed with other pastors how we often find a widower tied to his wife’s grave for months and years. Man needs woman. But that is perverted by some men to commandeer control over their wives, treating her as a servant rather than bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It happens in the Church as husbands will pervert God’s word so that they might justify their domineering control of their wives. The Biblical teaching of headship is used to force a wife into submission rather than to live in sacrificial love toward her. The Biblical teaching of the one-flesh union will be perverted into the requirement that she be available for his every physical demand.
Our perversion of marriage pours over into children. The Lord loves life, so He brings life from the one-flesh union as children are conceived and born. Today, we rejoice that the Lord’s gift of marriage has led to another child being brought to the font that she might be an heir of everlasting life. Still, in our sin, we have perverted the gift of children. On one hand, we commoditize children so that they are desired based upon economic stability or they are feigned because the economics are not right at this time. Others will overreact to such a de-valuation of children by turning them into a legalistic requirement of marriage. Children are not a commodity nor are they a burden of the law. Children are a gift within the one-flesh union.
If only that were the only way we have abused marriage. We have also treated it as an idol. That is the temptation with all of God’s gifts, pervert them to be the end-all rather than a gift from He who alone is our all. We have idolized marriage by seeing a man or a woman as somehow less without marriage. Similarly, we are tempted to see those one-flesh unions who have not been blessed with children as somehow less than those who have been given children. Was Jesus somehow less because He did not marry and did not father children? What about St. Paul?
Dignity, value and worth is found in one place. It is found in union with Christ. That allows for marriage to be seen in its proper light. Marriage is not for me to gain stature, dignity or whatever. Marriage is for me to serve another in a unique way. And if Christ has not united you with another, you can still serve others with all the beauty and dignity that is yours as a child of God. And if Christ has not blessed your one-flesh union with a child, you can still love and cherish your spouse faithfully and serve all those whom Christ has placed in your life.
Christ brings the woman to Adam who says, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” The depth and beauty of those words is only surpassed by God’s own words. “This is why a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Two become one. It is a mystery. If you think you have “two become one” all figured out; you don’t. It is a mystery that transcends our understanding. It is like the two natures in Christ. He is at the same time fully human and fully divine. How can that be? It’s a mystery. It is like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons in one God. How can that be? It’s a mystery. I can no more wrap my mind around “two become one” than I can wrap my mind around the two natures in Christ or the Trinity. I cannot fully comprehend it; but I can confess it. I can love and cherish it.
Love and cherish the mystery of two become one because it is a reflection of the greater mystery which is the one-flesh union of Christ and His bride the Church. Jesus sealed His marriage to His bride by shedding His blood for her that she might be cleansed and made holy. Christ gives His body and blood under bread and wine to His Church that His union with His bride might be tangible and real. Christ binds Himself bodily to His bride. This is where we find answer to how our sinful age attacks marriage. You will honor marriage as the one-flesh union of man and woman until death parts them because it proclaims Christ’s union with the Church. Christian men, you will not domineer your wife, for Christ does not domineer His bride. He serves her, perfectly, selflessly, sacrificially, completely. Whether you are married or single, engaged or divorced, widowed or yearning for a spouse, with a herd of children or praying fervently for just one child to be given, you will look to one place for fulfillment; you will look to Christ. The union which makes you whole, complete, never in doubt about your value, confident in your place in this world and in the world to come is the union in which Christ unites Himself with you by His body and blood.
Rev. Kevin Golden, PhD
Pastor, Village Lutheran Church
Alexandre Vieira, Pastor Luke Brown, Dr. Albert Collver
At St. John’s Lutheran, Alliceville, Kansas
13 September 2015
A couple of months ago, Pastor Luke Brown of St. John’s Lutheran in Aliceville, Kansas (about 340 miles from St. Louis) contacted the International Center to see if his church could have a mission festival featuring the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI). He also ideally wanted to have a student attend who was benefiting from GSI.
Once at St. John’s, I asked Pastor Brown why he wanted to have a presentation on the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI). Pastor Brown replied, “I went to the Synod Convention in 2013 and I saw the GSI video and heard how our Synod was helping to train future church leaders. I thought this would be something my congregation would want to know about.”
Alexandre Vieira, a Concordia Seminary St Louis Ph.D. student from Brazil, leading Bible class and presenting on the IELB (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil). Dr. Collver preached on Luke 24:48, “You are witnesses of these things.”
St. John’s Lutheran showed hospitality after the service with a potluck.
The Lutheran world is small. In Aliceville, Kansas, I met the grandmother of Rev. Michael Meyer, who works at disaster response at the International Center. I also met the parents of my seminary classmate, Rev. John Rhodes.
Thank you Pastor Luke Brown and the members of St. John’s Lutheran in Aliceville, Kansas for inviting us, for your interest in the Global Seminary Initiative, and for your hospitality. Also thanks to Alexandre Vieira for agreeing to leave St. Louis for a long drive and for his Bible study.
— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.
(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS)
(Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)
9 – 10 September 2015, Saint Louis, MO
Representatives of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church met Sept. 9-10 in St. Louis, MO to continue their bi-annual consultations. The series of meetings began December, 2011, at the invitation of President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS as the church bodies seek greater understanding of the other church, ways that there may be cooperation in externals, and be mutually supportive, in spite of differences that exist. Normally, a representative of the Lutheran Church-Canada has participated in the meetings.
This consultation was the second meeting focusing on Holy Scripture. Four questions were presented and discussed: How did the Bible get here? What kind of book is the Bible? Which method is most suitable for interpreting the Bible? What is the proper use of the Bible?
In addition to presentation of Church body reports, other areas of common concern were discussed, including the recent Supreme Court Obergefell decision, the challenge to marriage in North America today, response to the persecution of Christians today.
The representatives will meet again in March 2016.
Representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations-Assistant to the President; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Representing the NALC were the Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop; the Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus; the Rev. Mark Chavez, General Secretary; the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.
David Wendel, email@example.com
Larry Vogel, firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Paul’s Church in Odessa
Welcome to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church . ln our city it is known as “Kircha”, the German word for ‘church’, because St. Paul’s is the old German church in Odessa.
The history of this church
At the change of the 18th. to the 19th. century Catherine II and her successor, Tsar Alexander I, invited settlers from Germany to “New Russia”, as they called the region around the Black Sea at that time. Many craftsmen and farmers followed this invitation. They settled in newly founded villages along the Black Sea coast. Under Richelieu they con tributed to the construction of Odessa. ln 1827 they built their first church on this site.
ln the course of the 19th century the congregation grew rapidly. Salesmen and manufacturers moved into the area, as well as officers, civil servants and university teachers. By the end of the 19th century approximately 10,000 Germans lived in Odessa. Their centre was the so-called “Lutheran yard” around the church. Apart from the houses for the pastors and the organist there were also two orphanages, an old people’s home and several school buildings. When the church became too small the Germans built a new, larger church. lt was consecrated in 1897. lts builder was the famous architect, Hermann Scheurembrandt, who also built many other buildings in the city. During the reconstruction works a few years ago the labourers discovered an iron box in the ground containing the foundation stone document with Scheurembrandt’s signature on it. You can see this in one of the display cases.
The new St. Paul’s Church was built in New-Romanesque style. There were large galleries. On the left and right and a further small balcony above the main entrance where the organ was situated. The vault and the galleries were out of dark oak. That is why the in terior of the church was also rather dark. When the Orthodox church was blown up in 1937 the Bolsheviks also closed St. Paul’s Church. During the period of communism the church became very derelict. Also in 1937 the last German pastor was shot without any trial. ln 1941 the organist Theophil Richter, father of the famous pianist Swjatoslaw Richter, suffered the same fate. For many decades there was no church life at all.
Theophil Richter, organist martyr of St. Paul’s
After the Second World War the building was used as a sports hall. Toilets and showers were installed where the altar had been. This did the building no good as water leaked into the brickwork, causing big cracks in the walls. The entire building began to tip backwards.
ln 1966 it was planned to pull the church down and replace it by a students’ residence. However, the citizens of Odessa protested – particularly the professors and students of the music conservatory and the university. They did a real sit-in strike around the church. A delegation travelled to Moscow and achieved a decision from the minister of culture that the church would not be demolished. Thus, during the darkest period of our country, the citizens of Odessa saved St. Paul’s church from demolition.
Later the church was due to be changed into a concert hall. However, during the night of 9th May flames came out of the tower. The whole church burnt out. Even today many believe that the church was set to fire on purpose. Ever since then a ruin stood in the centre of Odessa, without a roof, its spires completely gutted by the fire and with destroyed walls. For years it was exposed to wind and weather. On the boards to the right and left of the entrance you can see photos from that time.
ln 1990 the Lutheran congregation was founded again in Odessa. ln 1992 this congregation made an application to retrieve the old people’s home and the ruin. The newly founded German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, together with its Bavarian partner church, first of all then rebuilt the old people’s home. The neighbouring “House of the Church” was then opened in 2002. After that the restoration of the church began.
The concept for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s
The outside of the church was reconstructed to a large extent as it had been originally. The interior, however,had been completely destroyed. Therefore, entire new plans had to be created. ln addition, the apse had been so badly damaged that it had to be demolished. ln its place – that was the plan – a new building should be erected, resembling the style of the church outside but containing modern offices inside.
The church interior
History even has its effect on present times. This had to be taken into consideration when redesigning a church like St. Paul’s. Therefore, in memory of the victims of persecution and violence, a commemoration plaque was put up in the entrance hall, under the tower. Representing the many other victims, the names of pastor Karl Vogel and the organist,Theophil Richter, are mentioned – both were shot by Stalin’s henchmen. The carved wooden cross is a present made by Andreas Loquai from Pottmes/Upper Bavaria and the two baroque angels probably come from a catholic church in the Ural. ‘
However, Christian faith does not stagnate in recollections. The big glass door invites one to go further into the church itself. lt greets you, the visitors, with the sentence that the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” ln eight languages, both ancient and new, from north and south, east and west, this greeting welcomes you. This is the wish of our church for you as guests or citizens of Odessa, the city of 137 nationali ties.
Perhaps you were surprised on entering the church; maybe you expected something completely different. Within the historical walls one finds a modern, light church which was designed by the Swabian artist, Tobias Kammerer (born in 1968). Straightaway you will notice the large surfaces in different colours. They have to be so big in order to give their effect as the church has very large walls. Do not try to recognize any figures immediately. First of all, just let the colours make their impression on you.
The red and gold colours are dominant on the wall behind the altar. The windows are mainly governed by the colours yellow, white and orange. And finally, on the ceiling, you see predominantly the colour blue. This choice of colours is based on Christian colour symbolism, as is also to be found in the Orthodox Church.
Red and gold behind the altar. ln old times these were the colours of the king’s coat. Red symbolizes suffering and death, gold the victory and the abundance. The cross of Jesus Christ on the wall behind the altar is placed on a red surface, but is surrounded by gold. White, silver and orange in the big opal glass windows. When the sun falls into the church, in the morning from the left and in the afternoon from the right, these colours intensify and symbolize the light, the sun, God’s creation and thus refer to the creator himself. The blue on the ceiling. Blue: this is, of course, the colour of the sky and the sea. The artist leaves it open to your imagination. What do · you see? The open heavens with the radiant golden cross as a sign of hope of redemption and eternal life; the sea and the contour lines of a ship with sails, a ship where people enter in.
The ship is an old symbol for the church. The people there above us are perhaps the Christians of older times who belonged to the church before us. But they are also those of today who are invited into this ship. Christian community bridges time and space. lt is the community which is led by God’s spirit. So three colours dominate the whole of the church. They stand for the three persons of the Holy Trinity. The white-yellow-orange of the windows stands for God, the Father, the red and gold for Christ, the Redeemer, and the blue for the Holy Spirit. This colour concept thus reflects the old Christian statement of faith: “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit … “
An Orthodox church must always be decorated in accordance with the valid canonic rules. This is different in the western churches. We like to put something of our presentday approach to life into our churches. Here the artist did this by creating a bright, lightflooded room in which he used rich and beautiful colours.
Tobias Kammerer has included traditional elements in his modern artistic concept. When you enter the church, you see the big crucifix on the wall behind the altar: Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross and whom God raised from death, is in the centre of the Evangelical Lutheran faith. This carving of Christ is about 250 years old. lt dates from the baroque period,such as the two wooden figures to the left. They depict the apostles Peter and Paul. The figures were donated by the catholic diocese of Regensburg – a wonderful gesture of ecumenical fellowship.
lf you look closer at the wall behind the altar you will not only see thin but also broader coloured lines, both around the cross and starting from the cross outwards. Take notice of the wide blue ribbon to the left of the cross. lt leads down to the ground between the two apostles, then changes into high-grade steel and ends at the baptismal font. There the people are joined with Jesus Christ for ever by the sacrament of baptism. This blue and white shining ribbon symbolizes the baptismal water which joins the baptised person directly with Jesus Christ. ln the corner to the right of the entrance there is an icon of the Mother of God from the Western Ukraine. An old woman saved it from a burning village church during the revolution and kept it in her house until a few years ago. When she became old and her daughter’s life was saved after surviving a very severe accident she then donated this precious icon to St. Paul’s. ln front of the icon is a good place for praying and lighting a candle. Take your time to let the room and its artistic decoration make its impression on you. Explore with your eyes and your fantasy.
The organ was donated by a Lutheran congregation in Nurnberg. lt has 1674 pipes, distributed in 27 stops over 2 manuals and pedal. lt was constructed in 1965 by the Bavarian firm named Steinmeyer. Music and the singing of hymns in church is very important for our Evangelical-Lutheran tradition. With this organ St. Paul’s has a big concert organ which is suitable for both accompanying church services and playing at concerts. A word about the bells: The four bells were cast in a foundry in Bavaria and are named St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s and Christ’s bell. Bells are ringing again in the tower of St. Paul’s after more than 70 years. Finally, a short remark about the display cases on the left and the boards on the wall at the back. They tell you about the history of the Germans, our congregation and the reconstruction of the church.