Barb Below

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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


My elliptical machine has a display screen on it where you can monitor your distance, time, calories burned and heart rate while you work out. I especially like watching my heart rate during the last few minutes when I sprint to the end. Sprinting is good. You are intensely focused on the goal and block out the rest of the world and you can even block out any pain you feel in your ankles, knees or lungs. There is great satisfaction when you reach your goal after pushing yourself hard – past beyond what you thought you could do. The problem though is you can’t sprint forever. Eventually you have to stop.

During these economic times, many people feel like they can’t afford to stop. On the other hand, they secretly know they can’t sprint forever. They work longer hours, work on weekends, work all day and then come home and work at night, take phone calls from work but don’t return phone calls from a family member, work on emails rather than working out at the gym. The demands are great, the burdens are heavy, and many people struggle with complicated challenges and circumstances. How long can people last sprinting like this?

It is true that every situation will demand a different level of effort and every person will have to decide how to “run their race,” when to sprint and when to pull back and rest.

Here are a couple of thoughts I’ve had for myself. Maybe they are helpful to you.

1.  Don’t forget the rest of the race. There is a whole lot of the race that happens before the sprint. If you are running a long race, like most of us do with our jobs, family, and church, you can’t sprint the entire race. Believe me, you will eventually lose. Manage the race prior to the sprint and then the sprint, when necessary, is doable.

2. Challenge any preconceived limitations and the lies. Messages you tell yourself like “I can’t do that” or “I’m afraid what might happen” or “what if I fail” or “just this one time” or “I’ll make it up to my child this weekend” get in the way of healthy living.  Lies and fears often times fool us into unnecessarily sprinting, giving up too soon, or not even trying.

3. Watch the display screen. Listen to people around you for clues as to whether or not you need to start sprinting or to rest. Their input is invaluable for monitoring your progress. Stay in God’s Word and listen to His voice. Remind yourself of God’s grace, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.

Every time I catch myself sprinting unnecessarily through life, I need to run to the cross in confession to God for making myself out to be more powerful than He. My faith is certain that God gives strength but my sinful side does not want to be weak.

Martin Luther wrote about this battle between sprinting and resting in his commentary on Isaiah 40:29 – “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength”. His words really struck a chord with me:

“God gives strength to the weary, the oppressed, and the troubled. The emphasis lies on the word “faint”, but we look for the stress on the word “power”. It is as if God were saying: “You must be weary and emptied, so that there is now way out for you. Then I will give you strength. First you must become nothing, then consolation and strength will come.” This happened to me, Martin Luther, who against my will came up against the whole world, and then God helped me. Summary” The Word of God is the Word of those who are lying under sin and weakness. Therefore let us learn to console ourselves when we are afflicted and say, “What I do not have and what I  cannot do, that Christ has and can do.”

Luther’s Works: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66, (p.31)

Incredibly powerful words about our powerful God!

– Barb Below