Thanksgiving Eve Service

Join us November 22, at 7:00 pm, for a special Thanksgiving Eve Service with Holy Communion.

It’s a perfect time to reflect on all our many blessings and to give thanks to our Lord and Savior for all that we have.

O Give Thanks unto the Lord, He is good and His mercies endure forever.” 


Theology of the Cross

THESIS 26. The law says, “do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “believe this,” and everything is already done.

Permit me, if you will, a deep dive into an aspect of the Reformation. In 1517 Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. The 95 Theses were 95 arguments that Luther wished to debate. As you may know, these 95 Theses caused quite a stir in the church of Luther’s day. Yet, Luther was hardly the first theologian        to claim something outlandish in the church. Wild things had been said before and what usually happened was the theologians would split hairs and walk their statements back. A year after the 95 Theses were posted, (that is, in 1518) there was a meeting in Heidelberg of Augustinian Monks of which Luther was a part. It was expected that Luther would take this opportunity to walk back some of the more outlandish things he claimed the year before. What happened,    however, was that Luther let fly with what we now call the Heidelberg Disputation. He prepared 28 further theses (arguments) that were a bit sharper and more developed than the 95. While Luther’s 95 Theses may be more famous, the 28 theses of his Heidelberg Disputation are arguably more “Lutheran”. One monk who was there to hear them delivered remarked that there was this crazy brother who, “propounded some paradoxes, which not only went farther than most could follow him, but appeared to some heretical.” Let’s have a brief look at thesis 26.

When Luther says that “The law says, “do this,” and it is never done.”, we should probably define what he means by “law.” For our purposes in this case, the “law” is anything good that God says you are supposed to do. Some synonyms might be ‘good works’ or the 10 Commandments or living the Christian life. One might think of the young man who comes up to Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him, “You know the [10] Commandments.” To which the man replies, “All these I have kept.” Jesus then points out that there are even more good works to do when He tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. In this story from Mark chapter 10, Jesus is demonstrating that there are always more good works to do. It is true that you can get to heaven by being perfect, by doing all the good works, but that path to heaven is only open to Jesus. For us mere mortals, the law will never get us to heaven. The law only shows us, like it did for this man from Mark 10, where we have failed to do what we should. The law only shows us our sin.

If what I have just said in the previous paragraph seems rather basic to you it’s probably because you’ve listened to a lot of pastors over the years who are either Lutheran or were influenced by Luther in one way or another. For Luther to suggest that it was impossible for a person to be perfect and thereby earn heaven was a novel notion at the time. In Luther’s day, people would’ve been more inclined to look at Jesus’ words as helpful to the young man in Mark chapter 10 because He was telling him what to do next. He was being helpful by giving him more good works to do. What     Luther and others before and since have learned is that though we are told by God’s word to do good works, we will  never be able to check that off our to-do list. “The law says, “do this,” and it is never done.”

So, if being good is not going to get you to heaven, how do you get there? “Grace says, “believe this,” and     everything is already done.” How do you get to heaven? That job is already done, by Jesus, on the cross. This is what has come to be known as the ‘Theology of the Cross’. It is the concept that Jesus alone has done the all the good works     necessary for you to go to heaven. God alone makes you good enough to get into paradise. Salvation is truly salvation, you being saved from something as opposed to you being rewarded for your good work. Grace is a gift, not payment from God. Believing this is to let Jesus be the one who has done all things for you on the cross.

If that paragraph also sounds like something you have heard before, it is because of the Reformation. It can be surprising how much of what we might think of as normal or standard messages about Jesus were thought of as novel “paradoxes” that might have even been “heretical” 500 years ago. Today there are many Christians of many different stripes that would comfortably point to Jesus and say that He alone is the reason they will find themselves in heaven. Luther wouldn’t have it any other way, except that “many Christians” might be too few. It would be best that all people know that the work of salvation is finished. Believing that Jesus has died on the cross for you is to have the assurance that everything, everything necessary for your salvation, is already done.

Paster Mehl

Worship This Summer

TLDR = Keep an eye out for new tunes and new words in worship.

About a month or so ago, I announced at the beginning of church that I would be introducing some new elements to the service. These are not going to be completely new things, more like rewording’s of things that we’ve already done or perhaps new ways of doing them. Since there’s only so much I can explain at the beginning of a church service, I thought I would take the time here in a newsletter article to further explain what I have in mind.

There are two main elements that I wish to introduce. One would be material from the Concordia Publishing House resource ‘Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish’. The other would be Divine Service setting Two. Creative Worship for the Lutheran parish is a resource that CPH puts out for people who plan worship services. It includes a great number of different elements such as suggested hymns, choir pieces, handbell pieces, preludes, postludes and some rewording’s of parts of the service such as Confession & Absolution, Prayer of Thanksgiving, Post Communion Collect, and the like.

I certainly don’t plan on using all that this resource has to offer, but I do plan to use some of it and indeed I already have been. You may have noticed when you come to the congregation responses for Confession & Absolution, for instance, that the words are not entirely the same familiar ones that you have said many times in the past. It’s not that the words were bad, it’s just that I think there is opportunity for some variety. When you say the same thing over and over again you kind of stop thinking about what the words say. When you are forced to read different words that say the same thing it causes one to think about those words again, perhaps in a different way, that might cause you to think about both your own sin and how Jesus takes that sin away. The people who put this resource together have clearly also taken the opportunity to weave themes and elements from the day’s readings into these other parts of the service which, I believe, elevate the worship experience as a whole.

So, if you find yourself stumbling over new words where you expected to find old ones it may be that I’m using new material. Maybe you can see this as an opportunity to think about what those words are saying. And if those words are bringing in themes from the readings, it’s also an opportunity to think about what those particular passages from scripture are saying about you and especially about your Savior. This summer …

… I also plan to introduce Divine Service Setting Two. Settle in for a brief history of Lutheran hymnals. We will begin our story with The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH). Since many people know these hymnals by their color, I feel compelled to state that I have two colors of The Lutheran Hymnal on my shelf, navy and red. Both colors were used widely in the Lutheran Church and are the exact same in content. The copyright for The Lutheran Hymnal is 1941, however, the “thee’s” and “thou’s” used throughout this hymnal hearkened back to an even older style of English language than was commonly used in the 40s. This has the effect of making the hymnal seem even older than it is.

Sometime in the 1970s, Lutherans in America figured they should probably update their hymnal. So, four major Lutheran synods in the United States (including the LCMS) put together a committee to do just that. This committee produced a (dark green) hymnal called Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW), copyright 1978. Alas, the LCMS had some irreconcilable theological differences with this group and decided to make their own (heather blue) hymnal called Lutheran Worship (LW) copyright 1982. Because the LW hymnal was largely based on the controversial LBW hymnal, many LCMS congregations viewed it with suspicion and decided not to adopt it in favor of keeping TLH.

At the turn of the century, the LCMS once again got that hankering for a new hymnal and put together the (maroon) Lutheran Service Book (LSB) copyright 2006. LSB has five different settings for worship in it. LSB Setting One is based on the most common setting from LW. LSB Setting Two is based on a less common setting from LW. LSB Setting Three is based on the communion service from TLH (those of you familiar with “5 and 15”, this would be 15). LSB Setting Four, I believe, is unique to Lutheran Service Book. LSB Setting Five is the bones of a service onto which one can insert various hymns for the different sung parts of the liturgy. (It’s probably best if we just forget about Setting Five).

My normal pattern of service settings that I use here at Good Shepherd has been 1,4,3,4 repeating. I have used this setup since I introduced Setting Four to us a number of years ago. I think we’ve got it. So I would like to introduce Setting Two. Since Setting Two is from LW, many of you may not be familiar with the sung parts of the liturgy. Personally, I grew up using LW so these parts of the liturgy are all familiar to me, which makes it difficult for me to gauge how hard it will be for you all to learn. In any case, my plan is to introduce the songs from Setting Two to us gradually between now and Christmas.

Similar to my reasoning behind using Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish as a resource, using more service settings for worship will introduce more variety into our Sunday mornings. Once we have mastered Setting Two I plan on using it in a rotation of 1,2,3,4 repeating. This effectively puts a month between each service setting and its sung parts of the liturgy. My hope is that this results in a balance of familiarity and variety. Because we print out virtually our entire service in the bulletin and do not go to the hymnal for the parts of the liturgy, much of what I have described will be happening behind the scenes, so to speak. Which is to say, you don’t really need to do anything different. I just thought I would take this opportunity to explain my thinking along these lines and perhaps answer any questions that you might have when encountering new aspects of our worship service. I’ll see you in church.

~ Paster Mehl

Sunday School Sings

Our Sunday School children will be singing in the service on Sunday, May 1. They enjoy sharing what they’ve been working on in opening with the congregation.