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.

God’s Mercy

In view of God’s Mercy — A series of services for the Season of Lent

Lent is a season when we take a look at our lives in view of God’s mercy toward us in the sacrifice of his Son for us on the cross. We, in turn, are called by God, especially during this time of repentance and reflection, to be living sacrifices for him, displaying our devotion to him in word and deed. Jesus helps us to see the richness of God’s mercy in his life, death and resurrection. During this series we will look at God’s mercy in the ashes of Ash Wednesday, the midst of temptation, suffering, betrayal, in relationships, in service, in the bread and wine, and finally in the cross and empty tomb.

It can be easy enough to be reminded of the bad parts of life and the suffering that we endure as sinners living in a sinful world. Though I’m sure you have heard the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, it is always good to be reminded of it again. It is always good to hear of God’s mercy anew. During the Lenten season, these services offer us an opportunity to hear of God’s mercy in a slightly different way and can help you to gain a fresh perspective on what God has done for you through His Son, Jesus.

Pastor Mehl

(un)conditional love

If you are going to decorate for February, chances are that hearts will be in the mix because Valentine’s Day falls in February. Love is a multifaceted thing that can be seen from a bunch of different angles. As I write this, I am thinking about the readings for this coming Sunday, January 30th, where 1 Corinthians 13 is the reading. Because it behooves me to plan ahead these days, I happen to know that the Sunday of February 20th also contains a few verses from Luke 6 on the topic of love. I do not plan to preach on either reading so maybe I will talk a bit about them here.

In Sunday morning Bible class we have been working through a study on forgiveness. This last Sunday it came up in the study that we often attach conditions to our forgiveness of people. We usually expect a      person to be sorry and say so, we expect them to look and act like they are sorry, we expect them to make things right and if these conditions are met, they earn our forgiveness. In some ways this reflects how we often show love to others. In the case of love, the conditions are a little different though. They might be something like expecting that the person be “lovable” (they are funny or see things the way we do etc.). We might want to see some kind of return on our investment of love. We might ask ourselves what we are getting in return for loving this person if anything. How they feel about us can make a difference. We may ask ourselves what the point is of showing love to someone who does not love us back (or even hates us). If someone meets the conditions; if they are lovable and add some value to our lives and love us in return, then they have earned   our love.

These kinds of conditions for love are not terribly controversial because they are entirely too practical. Of course, you would love someone like that. Why not? Jesus knows this kind of a person is easy to love when He says in Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even Sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Jesus isn’t saying that you shouldn’t love those who are easy to love, He is just saying that Christian love is a bit wider than that. He tells us a few verses later in that passage that you should “love your enemies”.

As is rather obvious, this is impractical. You can’t just forgive someone who isn’t sorry. They’ll just keep doing whatever it is again and again. You can’t love people who are your enemies. They’ll take advantage of you. And yet, Jesus flips the coin to show us the other side when He says in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

The difficulty of how hard it is to forgive and to love and be merciful to other people is directly proportional to how much God forgives and loves and is merciful to us. It is hard to understand what           unconditional love is until you are asked to love someone unconditionally. We may fall into the trap of thinking that it is easy for God to love us, that He gets something out of His love for us and that is why we    receive good things from Him. But this is not true. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us even though we are unlovable. He loves us even though we cannot give Him anything. He loves us even though we are His   enemies. This is not a transaction with God. He loves you. Period.

When Paul describes this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13:7 he says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This is how God loves us. We could simply take this forgiveness and deliberately transgress again and again. We could take advantage of God’s forgiveness. When it comes to our response to God’s love He seems to be after volunteers not hostages.

Yes, it is un-humanly hard to love unconditionally. We want it to be easier. We want something in return. We want a give-and-take kind of a relationship with people. But God calls us to a love that is deeper than   that. He knows it is a hard ask. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is nothing like being loved unconditionally, by God or anyone else.