Music: God’s gift for teaching

I don’t just like music.  I love music.  I love everything about music – the beauty, the talent, the dedication, and above all its ability to communicate.  Music is an incredibly powerful tool for teaching people.  The way that music wraps our emotions around its lyrical finger and entrances the mind is almost supernatural.  The song “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber nails the power of music perfectly although just a bit creepily.  Yet, it is none the less true.  Music is powerful.

Back in the days of the Reformation, Luther and his contemporaries recognized the power of music.  And they put it to use to teach the faith.  They began to write hymns that taught the faith.  They put the parts of the catechism to music.  They took Biblical truths and wrote them in meter and rhyme.  And people learned.  I see it play out today.  When I ask kids to look something up in the Bible, I can hear them sing the song “These are the Books of the Bible.”  And while it makes me smile, it is a great example of the power of music.  Using music to teach the faith is probably one of our greatest traditions.  One we lost for a bit in our rush to write exciting songs where we ended up with a bunch of music that really didn’t say much of anything.   But over the past few years there have been some artists who remembered the power of music to teach and began to write good music once again.  We played host to one of those groups of artists a few years ago when we hosted Koine.  They are still a going concern.  In fact, they recently released an album to teach the theology of the Divine Service.

They take us through the ebb and flow of the service so that we may see the Divine Service as God visiting with us.  I’d encourage you to listen to the album and soak in the words.  Hear how we come empty handed, confessing our sins and then God visits us and renews us in Word, in body and blood, and we reply in prayer and thanksgiving.



The Dash

Job 5:7  ‘Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.’  Job 8:9 ‘for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.’   Job 14:1  ‘Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.’  You gotta hand it to Job, he sure could throw a wet blanket on life’s party!  Course, you can understand that given his situation.  Remember the story – Had everything, was on top of the world; then God took it all from him.  You can understand why he said the things that he said.  Funny thing though, this is what the first Chapter of the story tells us:  ‘In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.’   Job lived by this philosophy:  ‘You only control the Dash’.

Ever look at a tombstone?  They usually have a date the person was born, and a date the person died, separated by a ‘dash’.  We only control the dash – the time in between.  We do not control how God chooses to bless us, or challenge us, we only control our Attitude to the situations God lays before us.  It has been said:  ‘The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.’  

It’s times like these that ought to lead us to surrender everything to Christ.  Even after loosing everything, Job said this in Chapter 19  ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.’  What a great profession of Faith in our Risen Lord!  So, when your eulogy’s being read with your life’s actions to rehash…Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spend your dash??  (‘The Dash’ is a famous poem by Linda Ellis and can be read at this website: )


Praying Hands

Ever hear of Albert or Albrecht Durer?  They were brothers and both were promising artists..  Both wanted to go to college, but couldn’t afford it, so they hatched a scheme.  They flipped a coin; looser went to work in the mines to help pay for the other’s schooling.  Albert lost the toss and went into the mines; Albrecht went to school.  He became famous; a wonderful artist.  Time came for him to go home, and return the favor.  Long story short – Albert was unable to attend school because his hands were so broken and racked with arthritis he couldn’t hold a brush anymore.  This inspired his loving brother to produce one of the most famous artistic creations the world has ever known.  We call his work ‘The Praying Hands’.  (A replica of his brothers hands.)    The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look and remember, no one ever makes it alone!

Christ Have Mercy, How to Put Your Faith in Action’ (by Matthew Harrison) talks about relationships!  We were made for a relationship with God and with each other.  James 4 says ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you.’  My daughter graduated Salutatorian from her High School class and there was a lot of haughty talk about her accomplishment until I reminded her it was a rather small class!  She lost sight of the fact that self-made people often worship their creator.  (Think about that one).   I would urge you to do two things this week.  First, make a list of 10 people who helped you become who you are today and thank God for their presence in your life.  Second, pick someone who helped you in your life, and send them a thank you card.  Thank You Lord, for all the people You have placed in my life; the people who have befriended me; who have nurtured me; who have helped shape my character!  Ephesians 4:   ‘….walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’



An old Chinese Proverb says:  “If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.”  What does that have to do with Our Savior Lutheran Church – one word: ‘Vision’.   Charles Swindoll said ‘Vision encompasses vast vistas outside the realm of the predictable, the safe, the expected.’  Proverbs 29 says ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish…’  A ‘vision’ is forward-looking; it calls us to the future.  There is another saying:  regret looks back; worry looks around, and faith looks up.  Without faith and hope, there can be no vision.

 (From a sermon, The Risk Taking Church by Stephen Sheane)  ‘There are only 3 kinds of churches.  There is the under-taking church.  The undertaking church is one that is always looking backwards. All that people ever talk about are the “good old days”.  Franklin Field said ‘Poor eyes limit your sight; poor vision limits your deeds.’  Then there is the care-taking church.  It seems to always be in maintenance mode, just trying to keep it’s head above the water.  The number one questions is always “do we have the money now to support this”?  Finally, there is the risk-taking church.  The risk taking church is always looking forward. They believe that the best is yet to come. They invest all they have today so that they can be all that God wants them to be tomorrow.    A blind man’s world is bounded by the limits of his touch; an ignorant man’s world by the limits of his knowledge; a great man’s world by the limits of his vision.’

Lord, we do not want to be under-takers; or care-takers of Your Church on earth.  We do not want to be limited by our regret, or our worry, but, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, may we boldly, by faith, be risk-takers, empowered to bring a message of hope, healing and new life to our congregation, our community and the world around us, In Jesus’ Name we pray.  Amen.  A vision without a task is a dream; a task without a vision is drudgery; a vision and a task is the hope of the world.  Let us continue to be a church where God is seen, love is felt and lives are changed!



I’m the son of a carpenter…….. No, I’m not writing about Jesus, I’m writing in the ‘first person’ about me; my dad was a carpenter.  When my dad’s church decided to remodel their 100-year-old sanctuary, my dad did the work.  New altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rails, and of course, new 20 foot tall oak cross.  Beautiful white-stained oak, framed with a red and gold tapestry; very inspirational and ‘modern’ for 1962.  One of my proudest accomplishments in life is having the opportunity to build the LCMS Cross in our sanctuary!  For me, it’s another connection to my earthly father – as in ‘Like father, like son’.  But it’s more than that, it’s a connection to my Heavenly Father too.

I think of the words to that well-known hymn I grew up with ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.  Or those words from ‘Alas, and did my Savior Bleed’ and this stanza: ‘Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears, Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.’  Or maybe the most inspirational of all ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and these words:  ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.’

In a way, the cross my dad built was a testimony to his faith, and I feel the same way about the one I built –  it is a testimony to our Lord and when I see it, I think about these words in Hebrews 12:  ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’  In a month when we celebrate the Reformation and Martin Luther, let us fix our eyes on the Cross and on our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.



Do you have any vices?  You know, those ‘little’ things you do, that you know you shouldn’t.  The dictionary says a ‘vice’ is an immoral, degrading, or evil habit or practice.  I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to vices.  I collect toy trains.  Sometimes, I buy them when I know I shouldn’t – especially when I hide what I’m doing from my wife. Then, I know I’ve gone too far.  It’s a little embarrassing when she looks at the train layout and I have to fess-up about the purchase of a rather expensive engine that we didn’t discuss beforehand.

Even the most ‘innocent’ habit can become immoral, degrading or evil.  I looked up ‘Shopaholic’ on the Internet, and this is what it says:  ‘Compulsive behavior’, usually associated with an emotional high, or adrenaline rush.   Any ‘compulsive behavior’ can overshadow relationships with family and friends.

I don’t know if I’m, by definition, a ‘shopoholic’, but I do know that if you dance with the devil, he will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay.   The god of materialism has certainly enticed many in America today to value the worthless, while disregarding priceless wealth!  Solomon says this is Ecclesiastes 5:   ‘Whoever loves money, never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.’  Paul says this in 1 Timothy: ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’

I know for me personally, I am happiest when I take these verses in Hebrews to heart:  ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


Stand and Wait

One of my favorite poets is John Milton; often compared with Shakespeare as one of the truly great English writers.  After going blind,  Milton wrote the poem ‘On His Blindness’.  In the last line, he reflects that even with his disability, he has a place in God’s world, he wrote these famous words ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’  A more modern reading would be: ‘Those people who only stand and wait also serve.’

Did you ever notice at a ‘State dinner’, there are always servants (or “servers”) standing by, in addition to the servers who are bringing food, pouring beverages and clearing dishes.  Or, maybe you haven’t noticed those other servers who stand in the background because they stand so still, they look like “part of the furniture,” “part of the wallpaper.”

I am struck by the number of people we have at Our Savior that provide critical services to us that we never think of – the bulletin folders; the altar people; the food preparers and servers; the drivers; the yard maintainers – and the list goes on and on!  These are the unsung heroes of Faith, the people who ‘Stand and Wait’.  This is what the Lord says of them:  (Matthew 25)  ‘ 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

On behalf of a grateful congregation Thank You for your service; your reward is great in Heaven! (verse 40) – 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’


Why are you a Christian? My Story

1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)  “ …be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…”

Last month, I asked you to put in writing ‘Your Story’.  Hope you did.  Thought you might like to hear mine:

I like to say I was born in the Lutheran Church, but that isn’t exactly accurate.  I was raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod from the time I was two years old – I cannot remember a time when the Church wasn’t the main thing in my life.  It seemed like my family had no social life outside Church – all our friends were there and we were constantly doing stuff – working, playing, serving, worshipping – everything together there.  (Almost) everything was accompanied by a meal too – oh, those potlucks and sauerkraut suppers!

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel God was real.  I saw Him in a thousand faces: my Sunday School teachers, my choir leaders, the Pastors, the church-workers and of course, all those wonderful Christian people we knew at Church!  Most of all, I saw Him in my Mother, and my Father.  They lived God’s love, as an example to me and my brother.  Were any of these people perfect?  No, sinners all!  But, somehow, for me, what I ‘caught’ was ‘the saint’, not ‘the sinner’.  What I felt was the love, joy, peace, patience – the fruit of the Christian character – they didn’t only ‘tell’ me about Jesus and His love – they ‘showed’ me; everyone of them!

That’s why I’m a Christian, and what my faith means!  I hope I can pass along to others, what was given to me!