Archive for March 2011

Chapel at the International Center

A view from the balcony

Every day at 10:00 a.m., the building pauses for chapel. A beautiful, two-story, glass walled chapel with a black onyx altar from India, a Zimmer pipe organ, a balcony, and seating for about 200+ people is the place where employees and guests of the LCMS International Center spend about twenty minutes each day worshipping God. A gentle voice on the intercom reminds the building inhabitants that chapel is starting, and the many staff and visitors stop what they are doing and go to the second-floor chapel which looks out onto the busy I-44 freeway that flows east and west through St. Louis.

The Zimmer pipe organ

Over the last couple of months here at the IC, we have enjoyed a refreshing change in our chapel schedule. On Mondays, we follow the order of Matins, and a pastor from the Executive Office preaches. For several months now they have been preaching through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. This week Rev. Ray Hartwig, Secretary of Synod, preached on Galatians 2:11–14. He spoke of the hypocrisy that frustrated Paul and how precious the Gospel message is, encouraging us that nothing should ever defile the grace-filled Gospel message of Christ. Next Monday, Rev. Matt Harrison will preach, picking up where Rev. Hartwig left off.

On Tuesday mornings, a pastor from the staff preaches on one of the appointed readings from the previous Sunday, and we follow the order of Responsive Prayer 2 from Lutheran Service Book.

Rev. Weedon

On Wednesdays, Rev. William Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL, has been preaching a wonderful, question-and-answer format sermon series through the Small Catechism. He began in January by leading us through the Ten Commandments. This week he is finishing up the Apostles’ Creed. Next week he will begin taking us through the Lord’s Prayer.

On Thursday’s we follow the order of Daily Prayer: Morning from Lutheran Service Book, with a pastor from the staff preaching on one of the appointed readings from the previous Sunday.

Entering the chapel

I describe Friday as “open mic Friday,” and we include a variety of styles, formats and music to fill our chapel with worship. Last Friday, for instance, a “string band” (made up of guitar, mandolin, tambourine, and other instruments), led us through the order of Matins, a psalm, and a hymn for the Annunciation of our Lord. It was wonderful to hear “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” on these instruments! On most days, through, one of our small band of organists and pianists leads chapel attendees in liturgy and song on the organ or piano.

A view from the black onyx altar

I thank all the pastors and musicians who have given their time and effort to provide such  excellent worship services here at the International Center. Even though, on occasion, we break mid-meeting for chapel, it is always refreshing and truly a blessing to be able to hear God’s Word each day. If you are ever in St. Louis at 10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, please be sure to stop by and join us for chapel. You will be glad you did.

– Barb Below

A Little Christmas during Lent?

This was a homily preached this morning at the International Center Chapel, in observance of the Annunciation of Our Lord.

“A Little Christmas during Lent?”
Luke 1:26–38
The Annunciation, A.D. 2011

Well, here we are in the middle of a somber, Lutheran Lent, and up pops a little Christmas! But when you begin to count the months on your fingers from March 25 to December 25, it starts to make sense.

It made sense to the early church, too. They figured that since John the Baptizer must have been conceived in the fall, due to Zechariah’s priestly duties during the Hebrew month of Tishri, that Jesus’ conception, then, would have occurred six months later, as the Angel Gabriel declared to Mary in our text. So as one writer from the fourth century figured it: “Therefore, our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [that would be March 25], which is the day of the passion of our Lord and of his conception. For on the day that he was conceived, on the same [day] he suffered” (Talley, The Origins, p. 94). From conception to crucifixion. How fitting that the ancient church connected the two!

Martin Luther wrote: “[The angel Gabriel’s message resulted in] three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; [and] that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of the three. The Virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be the mother of God . . . This is the word of the prophet: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). This is for us the hardest point, not so much to believe that He is the son of the Virgin and God Himself, as to believe that this Son of God is ours” (Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, pp. 15–16).

In Jesus Christ—“the Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:19)—God spoke to man once and for all through a man. From the humble, human womb of Mary came a child, a man, a Savior! And on Calvary, this God-man/Word-made-flesh laid down his life for your sins—as God, delivering the outside help that we so desperately needed; and as man, to suffer and die in the place of men. That Word—the Word made flesh, crucified and risen for you—that Word was God’s final word to the ravages of sin in our lives.

For the heart that first began beating in Mary’s womb,
conceived by the Holy Spirit,
that was silenced on Calvary’s cross,
pierced by a Roman sword,
that was laid to rest in the stone cold tomb,
that began to beat again on the third day,
and that lives and reigns and sits at the right hand of the Father,
. . . that human heart still beats . . . for you . . . to give you life . . .
both now in this world, and forever in the life of the world to come.

I.N.I. Amen.

Rev. Jon D. Vieker