Peace Lutheran Church Sussex, Wisconsin

September 2013

September 12, 2013

In Utero Catechesis—The Word to the Child in the Womb

Central to the Church’s task of catechesis is the foundational belief that faith in Christ is created, sustained, and nurtured by the Word of God, and that Christ and all the blessings of His salvation come to us in no other way but through the divine Word. Thus, the Apostle Paul firmly asserts, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The miracle of faith, which is inextricably connected to the proclamation of the divine Word, is profoundly illustrated by Jesus when He opens both the ears and the mouth of the deaf mute by speaking a Word, “Ephatha!” (Be opened). The Word of God is not only that which faith believes; it is also that by which faith itself is created. The Catechism reinforces this by saying, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel” (Third Article Explanation).

The Word of God creates and gives the blessings of which it speaks!  This should cause us to rethink the timing of our catechesis. Parents, believing that children can’t really understand the Word of God and can’t really participate in such things as the Divine Service often keep their children away from the Divine Service and catechesis until they are older. This is a mistake!  In the meantime, these children are hearing all kinds of voices that are anything but God’s Word, and the voices that they are hearing are forming them in ways that are contrary to faith in Christ. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:14). Traditionally this has meant bringing children to baptism, Sunday School, catechesis, and Divine Services when they are young. But bringing children to God’s Word can begin even earlier than the preschool, toddler, or infant ages. Bringing the Word of God to children can begin while they are still in their mother’s wombs!

There are many examples from the Bible of faith and the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of children before they were born. In all of these examples the Word of God is directly involved. The Angel Gabriel prophesied that John the Baptist would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). At six months gestation in Elizabeth’s womb, the preborn John recognized the voice of Mary who

greeted him and his mother with the Word of God. Luke records that at the sound of Mary’s greeting, the babe leaped for joy in his mother’s womb (Luke 2:44). The Lord said of the Prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). These passages speak not only of the reality of infant faith, but that such faith is a miracle of the Holy Spirit through the Divine Word.

Since this is the case, it ought to be our holy joy and delight to speak the Word of God to our children while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. Confess the Creed, pray the Lord’s Prayer, recite the Ten Commandments, and sing hymns over the mother’s womb when she is pregnant and do it often. Come to church when you are pregnant and allow your unborn children to hear the singing of the liturgy and your own voice echoing the Word of God. In this regard, repetition of those texts and songs which are the most foundational to faith is critical: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei of the Liturgy. If children heard these things regularly before they were born, they would respond positively to them later after birth.

Over the past twenty years, scientists have learned that unborn children recognize words and sounds in the womb. Steven Ertelt, a reporter for Life News writes, “Babies learn to recognize words and sounds in the womb . . .  and the baby does so well at recognizing the words that he or she has memories of them after birth, research shows.”  Citing several scientific studies, Ertelt writes, “Research shows babies can distinguish between their native language and foreign languages when they’re just a few hours old.”  The bonding of a mother and child begins not at birth, but as the child begins to learn and recognize the voice of his mother while still in the womb. And when these words and sounds follow familiar patterns that are repeated often, like the confessing of the Creed or the signing of a familiar part of the liturgy, the response can be similar to that of the preborn John the Baptist.

Studies and reports like this should not surprise us as Christians. They are simply reinforcing what we already know to be true from God’s Word: communion with God, the mystery of faith in Christ, and our reception of all the wonderful gifts of salvation that Jesus has for us are all communicated to us by the oral Word of God. Why not let our children begin to receive them even before they are born!

In Christ, Pastor Bender

 An Apologetic of Beauty:  Proclaiming the Faith Through Song

 What if instead of offering arguments for the Christian faith, the church offered a song, so that drawn to the music, people paused to wonder about the longings of their heart, moved to hope that the words of the song could be so, and considered more deeply the proclamation of the gospel? Peace seeks to answer that question by sharing the gift of song in Sussex, Waukesha County, and the greater-Milwaukee area. By doing so, Peace reaches into its community through an “apologetic of beauty” rather than through a rational-based apologetic, or defense of the faith. In a culture which embraces a subjective view of truth and lacks Biblical literacy, objective beauty is a convincing, subtle argument which elicits joy in the hearer, a longing of the heart for the object of its satisfaction, and a desire to know more about the Christ proclaimed.

Reaching into the community through music, and especially the church’s song, has been a long-held vision of Pastor Bender. As Kathy May explained, “The human voice is the most personal of instruments which can be used in praise and service of our Lord. The Lutheran tradition has helped to encourage the people’s song through its hymns and chorales, using the vernacular language of the people, and allowing them to participate with their own voices.”  A confluence of Peace’s leadership encouraged outreach, through the cooperative efforts of the Academy’s Headmaster, Kimberly Hughes, and Kathy May, who together coordinated students, rehearsals, and appearances during and after school.

Often, students in the Academy have already heard the Church’s song in the Divine Service since birth. Yet, Peace’s children’s choir is comprised of students from its own elementary school as well as public and home schooled students from member and non-member parents. “The challenges arise when children come in to the Academy and Cherub choirs either without having been raised in a singing church or without having music played or sung to them in their infant and toddler years. Finding the ‘head voice’ can be a challenge, but with much one-on-one repetition and modeling and lots of trial and error on the part of the child, most children can be taught to sing,” explained Kathy. “The joy is watching them realize they are beginning to sound like the other children around them, and that they are now a legitimate part of the team. It’s a lovely sense of belonging to a team that’s not about beating someone else’s team, but about joining together to create something of beauty that is a blessing to those around them.”

Home schooling parent Becky Boehlke and her son, Samuel, agree, “After only a month or so of choir, I noticed a difference in the way Samuel was singing as we sat in church. Now, after three-and-a-half years, he is trying to harmonize, usually singing the alto part when he can. Some of our friends are trying the choir now, and after the first time they sang with the other choirs in church. Samuel said, ‘I think they like singing now!’” For Kathy, “Children know they are doing something of value when they see the reactions of those listening to them sing. Ultimately, our goal is for the children to be able to participate and share in the richness of the Church’s liturgy and hymnody.” 

Peace’s outreach has both immediate and long-term effects. When the children’s choir sang at the Sussex Community Center, Peace began a partnership with the community. “We were thrilled that Rev. Bender reached out to us, as we are always looking for meaningful partnerships with the Sussex Community Center. This partnership is especially great because of the close proximity of Peace Lutheran Church and Academy. The school children were able to walk down to our senior center on the day of the performance. Our staff and seniors were very impressed with the ‘angelic’ voices and lovely appearance of the school children. They performed at our Mother’s Day celebration lunch, so it was truly a special day! Many of our seniors do not have their family in the area, so it is especially meaningful to have interaction with children,” said Jean Horner, Senior Program Coordinator of the center.

Similar phrases resound from nearly every audience. Coupled with the Word of God, music speaks to the soul and stirs a desire to be united to it. At the Tree Lighting of Merton village, the children sang “Oh, Christmas Tree” as part of the festivities, but when the final words of “Silent Night” faded into the candlelight, Julie Ofori-Mattmüller, Deputy Clerk-Treasurer, Village of Merton, expressed her overwhelming emotion with a spontaneous hug for Kathy May. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were open to and welcomed sacred Christmas music,” said Kathy. 

When the choir sang the national anthem prior to a Milwaukee Brewer’s baseball game, it was a high point for the children. “A fourth grader told me that she’d never forget this, but you could see after they were done singing, those oldest boys cared about one thing only—being so close to those Major League players! The littlest children just seemed to take it all in stride and not even realize they had just sung for 30,000 people,” said Kathy.

During the Sussex “Lions Daze” parade, the final event for the singing season, Pastor Gary Gehlbach noticed many people were singing along with the children’s patriotic songs. If familiar national songs can generate unity among the multitudes, what could happen if the Church incorporated that same beauty within her church body? Could that unity of song and familiarity of word serve to create and to sustain identity in Christ, the Beautiful One?

 Johann Gerhard, Pastor-Theologian

 “Come, come, Lord, come” were the last words of Johann Gerhard, the greatest Lutheran theologian of his time, who died August 17, 1637. Born in October 17, 1582, in Quedlinburg, Saxony seventy-five miles west of Wittenberg and just north of the Harz mountains, Gerhard was made a theologian, as only Luther could articulate it, through prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio), and spiritual attack (tentatio).  His relatively brief life of fifty-five years endured life-threatening illness and physical infirmity. He witnessed death brought about by plague and the barbarity of the Thirty Years’ War. Intimately, he faced his own death, the death of his wife, and that of his infant children. At the age of fifteen. Gerhard developed consumption and dropsy, which left him bed-ridden for nearly a year, only to recover and become victim to the plague the following year. While the plague of Quedlinburg claimed over 3,000 lives, his life was spared, having received double-dose of antidote, an “error” to which Gerhard credits God as saving his life. Through the ministrations of his pastor Johann Arndt and the firm conviction that God had spared his life, Gerhard devoted himself to the study of theology. His early study of philosophy and theology were momentarily derailed for two years’ study of medicine. Following a severe sickness, he returned to the study of scripture, reading night and day, along with the study of the church fathers. Gerhard is credited with developing patrology. During Christmas of 1603, Gerhard is so near death that he writes his final confession of faith and last will. The physician bleeds his vein, and after three weeks, he recovers. In 1605, he falls ill again, during which Gerhard writes his popular Sacred Meditations, published 1606 as a student of theology. In the “Dedication,” he compares the theologian with the physician. “[T]he true goal of the theologian is the regeneration of the inner, spiritual man, which, as the Truth testifies, occurs through water and the Spirit (John 3). . . . The Creator suffices for me since, by means of my study of theology, I am able to gather that, as is true in medicine, the best theology is practical doctrine.”  So while Gerhard may be best known for his dogmatics (his Theological Commonplaces are being published in English for the first time by Concordia Publishing House), for Gerhard, all theology had its primary purpose in the care of souls and in the practical application of man’s salvation by faith in Christ. 

Gerhard is situated between two theological movements: pietists who are described as embracing a “warm and liberating devotion concerned with practical matters of faith and the cultivation of piety” and dogmaticians, described as “cold and lifeless orthodoxy concerned with the believer’s intellectual assent to pure teaching or doctrine” (Handbook of Consolations, trans. by Carl Beckwith, vii-viii). However, “What makes a figure like Johann Gerhard compelling and, in some sense, unique, is his ability to move freely from the rigor of the classroom lecture to the simplicity of the preached word, from the arena of polemical and ecclesial debate to the bedside of a sick and dying friend without compromising his theological commitments” (Handbook of Consolations, viii-ix).  Gerhard’s piety and dogma do not compete, but complement each other, like righteousness and peace have kissed, in Christ, “His concern is always the same: proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of all people”  (Handbook of Consolations, viii-ix). 

In addition to the Theological Commonplaces being published by Concordia, the publishing house has also recently published Matthew Harrison’s translation of Gerhard’s devotional Meditations on Divine Mercy (Exercitium Pietatis Quotidianum), a work accomplished when Harrison was Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Ministries. Harrison offers the work for the church, for those who have the vocation of mercy, “to which each of us is called by virtue of our Baptism and our participation in the Sacrament of the Altar.”

What each prayer offers is a fully, scripture-saturated meditation that addresses God in prayer and confession based upon the Word. Line upon line echoes the words of scripture, spoken as one’s own confession of sin and confession of faith in a merciful God who forgives on the basis of Christ. For example, “O  Holy God, just Judge, no one is innocent in Your sight. No one is free from the uncleanliness of sin (Job 14:4). I do not possess that glory that I must bring with me when I stand before your throne of judgment (Romans 3:23).” (Meditations, 36). Each of these confessions do not end in despair, or in a pietistic self-solution, but in looking to Jesus: “For these sins that I commit every day of my life, I offer to You, O holy Father, the precious blood of Your Son, which was poured out on the altar of the cross. His blood cleanses me from all my transgressions (I John 1:7)” (Meditations, 37). His prayers are thoroughly grounded in justification by grace through faith in the atoning work of Christ.

Similarly, in the final section regarding praying for others, Gerhard repeatedly speaks back to God the words of scripture, “O omnipotent, eternal, and merciful God, Lord of hosts, You remove kings and set up kings (Daniel 2:21). All powers in heaven and on earth are from You (Colossians 1:16)” (Meditations, 138). Gerhard gathers scriptures into meditations that help the reader to confess, pray, praise, and give thanks, not only by providing words to speak, but also by providing an example by which he may learn to pray.

 Alluded to earlier, another recent publication by Gerhard has recently appeared, Handbook of Consolations for the Fears and Trials That Oppress Us in the Struggle with Death (trans. by Carl Beckwith, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009). As Beckwith explains, the Handbook of Consolations falls in a category of Christian devotional writings referred to as “art of dying” literature. The writings serve as practical encouragement for those approaching death and those attending the sick and dying. This type of literature emerged amidst economic and social unrest caused by plague, disease, famine, and war. Gerhard’s intention in his devotional works, as well as his dogmatic works, was not to “add” to Luther but to carry on, just as Luther directed the people to the certainty of salvation in Christ’s saving work. “For Luther, the Reformation was not just about doctrine and the content of the faith but also about faithful dying and therefore faithful living. Such faithful living, praying, suffering, and dying, however, could only come about by preaching and teaching the purity of the Gospel and its peace and joy that passes all human understanding. When people know that they are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone, they can approach death with confident hope and assurance in God’s promise of salvation in Christ for them” (Handbook of Consolations, x).

The comfort of the Gospel that Luther taught, Gerhard continues in his Handbook of Consolations. His vast understanding of scripture, theology and church history accumulated through hours of meditation is presented in an easy-to-understand manner. The Handbook presents forty-some temptations, or trials, as a dialogue between the Tempted, who expresses the uncertainties that confront believers and the Comforter, who responds to these doubts through scripture and theological reflections of the Church Fathers. For this reason, the Handbook is suitable for all Christians who struggle with the temptations of life, not only those who are looking squarely at death. For example, the Tempted says, “I fear, therefore, that my faith has indeed perished and is utterly extinct. If my faith is extinct, what hope or salvation shall remain for me? I examine myself (2 Cor. 13:5) and, behold, I feel no faith in my heart” (Handbook of Consolations, 37). The Comforter, as the voice of Christ, encourages the tempted. In response, the Comforter says, “Truly, Christ dwells in your heart through faith, even if you do not clearly feel that indwelling grace (Eph. 3:17). Gerhard accomplishes his practical goal for theology. For Gerhard, pastor-theologian, the basis for the care of souls is the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ for our salvation; all pastoral care finds its source in the blessed exchange and our union with Christ in His body and blood. The Handbook provides the comfort of the Gospel, but also provides instruction for those at the bed of death and those who attend the dying.

At the time of the writing of the Handbook, Gerhard endured the death of his newborn son at seventeen weeks old. After finishing the work on May 1, 1611, his wife of failing health died May 30. As Gerhard wrote in his preface, these consolations were also for him. The Handbook Of Consolations provided the comfort of salvation in Christ alone and the assurance of eternal life for both the reader and its author: “Come, come, Lord, come.”

The publications are available through Concordia Publishing House, Repristination Press, and other on-line booksellers.

 

June 2013

June 6, 2013

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

The following is a guest article by Dr. David Scaer, Professor and Chairman of Systematic Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. The article was a faculty response to the Oklahoma tornado disaster. The article originally appeared May 28, 2013 on the website: ctsfw.edu. Reprinted with permission.

When an unanticipated tragedy strikes a community, two questions may come to mind. First, why does a good God allow such horrible evil? Or is God punishing the inhabitants for sins? Devastation by tornado in Moore, Okla., is hardly the first time these questions have been raised. The 18th century earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Portugal, gave the French philosopher Voltaire a reason to ridicule the existence of God. This is the theodicy question of how a benevolent omnipotent God can allow evil in the world. It might be better not to believe in God, so it is reasoned. Since Moore is in the middle part of America known as the Bible Belt, it is the second question that has been raised by some preachers. Was the devastation on May 20, 2013, a sign of God’s displeasure over the people’s sins? This is what some evangelical preachers recently claimed. To date, these sins have not been identified and so the devastated victims who have lost loved ones and property are left to look within themselves to discover what sins have brought this tragedy into their lives.

In spite of some warnings, the tornado took most in Moore by surprise. Some found refuge and were spared. Others did not. By the time the tornado moved on, it destroyed one school and left another in shambles. A recent count reports that 24 lives, eight of them children, were lost. While those children will never return to their classes, the surviving children returned to classes in other buildings to complete the school year. Moore suffered an unimaginable tragedy, but life in adjacent communities would go on as usual. It was as if the words of Jesus had been fulfilled that one was left and another taken (Matt. 24:11; Luke 17:34-35). This contrast between the fortunate and the unfortunate could not be greater. Piled up on one side of the street is the debris of the destroyed home fit now only for bulldozers. Facing the ugly destruction of houses dismantled into pieces of lumber, pink-colored insulation, shingles no longer attached to roofs and mangled furniture are houses that remain untouched on the other side of the street.

No shingle on the roof is out of place and no window broken. Their lawns are ready for Saturday morning suburban chores of fertilizing, watering and mowing. This contrast between devastation on one side of the street facing untouched homes on the other side of the street has given some reason to conclude that those who lost all they owned were greater sinners than those who escaped the tornado’s fury. Jesus already answered this dilemma when some asked whether those killed by the falling tower in Siloam were greater sinners than those who lived in Jerusalem. If we dare paraphrase Luke 13:4: “Or those 28 upon whom the school buildings and houses in Moore fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Oklahoma City–or for that matter, those who lived just across the street?” The answer is clear. Tragedies, even massive ones caused by tornadoes, are not signs of God’s displeasure over sin. (Curious is Jesus’ comparison of Siloam with Jerusalem, the city whose inhabitants rejected Him and put Him to death.)

Evangelical preachers who even suggest that God is carrying out vengeance on sin do not hold that Christ made atonement for all sin. This view that God punishes individual sins with particular punishments may be more common than we think and may appear among some Lutherans. In our secret hearts we may have similar thoughts. When we see others facing misfortune, it is tempting to say, at least to ourselves, that he or she had it coming. We can internalize our own tragedies and disappointments believing that God is punishing us for a particular sin. To escape the horror of thinking that God is punishing us, we can be led to unbelief. A God who does not care may not exist at all. This is a theodicy question of trying to answer how a good God can allow evil. An English New Testament scholar became an atheist when the Manchester United football (soccer) team was killed in a plane crash. Since God could not allow such evil, so he thought, God does not exist. Questions of God’s benevolence and His existence are not unknown in the Bible. Facing loss of children and property, Job is asked by his friends to search his soul to determine what sin had brought such horrible destruction. The book of Job concludes that even though we can ask the questions of why God allows such evils in our lives, the world’s Creator does not need our counsel and advice in how He accomplishes His will. From His cross Jesus faces the prospect that God might have forsaken Him. In the case of Job’s losses and Jesus’ death by crucifixion, God was at work accomplishing His will. In these cases as in most, God’s purposes may not be evident. As in the case of Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery, God’s purposes came to light later. Sometimes we will never live long enough to know God’s intentions. God is at work in an imperfect and corrupt world accomplishing His good will. From our perspective things often do not work out the way we want. This is hard to accept, but coming to accept these things is what faith is all about. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy will be done.” In facing death, Jesus prayed this prayer and through the evil of crucifixion God redeemed the world and showed His love for Jesus by raising Him from the dead.

For a moment let’s think about a popular view that misfortune, especially serious illnesses, should be viewed as God’s punishment for sin. So consequently, the afflicted person is asked to search his/her soul to discover the sin that brought about such evil. This spiritual exercise, if we dare call it this, is that the afflicted person is asked to repent. Such an approach is dreadfully wrong, especially in pastoral care, not only because it is a blatant denial of the central Christian teaching of vicarious atonement that Christ has suffered the guilt and consequences of both original sin and all actual sins, but the afflicted person may come to believe that he or she has committed an unforgivable sin. God is not kinder to unbelievers than believers (Matt. 5:45). Just as God’s favor cannot be measured by the good things one person has, so His wrath over sin cannot be measured and determined by the afflictions one suffers. Those whose homes were not destroyed were not any less sinful than those who suffered devastation. Drawing a conclusion about whom God loves by their life circumstances is simply wrong.

Every life is faced with the tragedy of the deaths of family and friends. Death is what life is all about. Destruction by a tornado is as massive as it is unpredictable. It is over almost as soon as it comes, but after affects last a long time. Tragedies by plane and automobile accidents are also unanticipated. If sudden death and destruction are not verdicts of God on sin and unbelief, then what are they? These are symptoms of a world that has been made subject to corruption. Every created thing is wasting away. Some lives deteriorate slowly through sickness and aging; others swiftly and without warning. Even if most of us will not know of sudden death like the deaths in Moore, death cannot be avoided. Our lives can be prolonged but not infinitely.

Before May 20, 2013, Moore, Okla., was unknown to most of us. “Moore” is now synonymous with unexpected destruction, devastation that no human collaborative action can prevent. A tornado wraps the tragedy of human life into one moment, but this distinction does not uniquely belong to the terror of ferocious winds. Other synonyms for unanticipated horror are “Sandy,” for the storm that wreaked havoc in November 2012 on the New York and New Jersey coasts. Or “Katrina.” “9/11” is not a mathematical equation or another day on the calendar, but the day in which in four successive moments a foreign power made a successful incursion onto American soil to destroy thousands of lives. Not far from Moore, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City brought a tragedy that can be numbered in the hundreds of deaths, but numbers are not the issue. The Columbine school massacre in Colorado found a replay in the Sandy Hook, Conn., school massacre. No value or price tag can put on any of these horrors, but they are reminders that life is short and that death should not be unexpected.

During the Great War (1914-1918), the phrase that there are no atheists in fox holes came into common usage. Stuck in a six-foot hole in the ground with no exit except to a hail of bullets overhead, “God” was the only alternative. We do not know whether God uses destruction by tornadoes to call people to faith. Undoubtedly, He can do this, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ creates faith. Tragedies, massive or small, give us an opportunity to assess our lives and realize we are all accountable to God who controls all things according to His will. They are not occasions to conclude that God is condemning those who are suffering from the tragedies as greater sinners than those who are spared. Should we think otherwise, we have misunderstood the work of Christ–and that’s a really serious matter. God’s condemnation of sin has happened once and for all in Christ’s death for sin, but there remains a more severe and irrevocable condemnation for those who by unbelief reject Christ. From the condemnation over unbelief there is no atonement and takes place at death. It cannot be seen in the tragedies we all face now. Remember that in what the world saw as the tragedy of crucifixion God was redeeming the world. In tragedies that we or others face, we learn that nothing in the world has permanent value. This can only be found in Christ. So our task of preaching the Gospel continues and must continue.

 Q & A: Financial Statements

Deacon Gatchell answers questions on church administration.

Q: Why are the financial numbers on the back of the bulletin different from the actual Financial Statements?

A: The numbers on the back of the bulletin are a snapshot of the weekly giving based on the information from the deposits done by the tellers who count the Sunday offerings. The Financial Statements are the official accounting of all the income and expenses of the congregation. There are several reasons why these two items are different: 1) Donors may contact Deacon after the Sunday offering has been deposited and published in the bulletin in order to make a correction. We do not go back make those corrections in the bulletin, they are done on the Financial Statements. 2) There are times that donors do not put their gifts into the offering plate. Some gifts are given by direct deposit and therefore are not part of the weekly offerings counted by the tellers. Other gifts are given anonymously directly to Deacon with a request that the amount not be published in the bulletin. 3) There are gifts given to the Academy or CCA and part of the gift is to be given to the Congregation.

The CCA is at home in South Dakota 

The CCA materials are used for the creation and sustaining of faith in Christ throughout the United States in day schools, Sunday schools, and among families. The materials have found their way to the home of Melanie Timmermann in Brookings, S.D. Melanie and her pharmacist-husband Steve have five children, ages eleven to seventeen. She and Steve grew up in American Lutheran Church (ALC) congregations before its merger into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Melanie had very little catechesis as a child. “Although I was confirmed when I was fourteen, I had never heard of the Small Catechism or the Book of Concord until I was well into my twenties or early thirties,” said Melanie. During the homeschooling days, she found out about the CCA materials through “Martin Loopers,” a confessional Lutheran homeschooling support e-mail list, at the referral of Susan Gehlbach. Melanie was attracted to the CCA materials because she appreciated the explanatory materials for the catechist, in this case, her and Steve as teacher-parents. “We mostly used the “Congregation At Prayer” in the early days, and we graduated to using the rest of the materials as our children grew,” said Melanie. She also likes the little extra things the CCA offers, such as the laminated wall charts and term cards. “One of my children loved playing games with the term cards,” said Melanie.

The materials have suited the Timmermanns as their children grew and had time and ability, “Our daily devotions were sometimes little more than a question and answer session after reading the Bible story. Sometimes with our older children, we would discuss more, based on the material covered in Lutheran Catechesis. Which products we used largely depended on what time of the church year it was and how old our children were at the time,” said Melanie. The couple have used a version of nearly everything the CCA publishes. “We haven’t made much use of the materials recently, but they were well used with our older three through the time they were confirmed. This past year has been lacking, although we use the wall charts every day. Whichever section is selected for memorization in catechesis is what is placed on our refrigerator for the week.”

The CCA materials have helped Melanie and Steve accomplish their goals as parents, but the publications have also helped Melanie’s own instruction in the faith. “Our main goal was to help our children really know the Bible stories and the catechism. I think what really happened is that I more thoroughly learned the stories and their connection to our Christian life. Because I wasn’t well-catechized, there was so much I didn’t know. There have been so many connections between Old and New Testament and the life of the Christian that were made clear to me. In turn, I was better able to share that with my children,” said Melanie. Further, Melanie has strengthened her local church, taking the materials into her Sunday school. She refers to the CCA resources when planning her fifth–sixth grade class lessons.

In the end, Melanie is thankful, “I deeply appreciate the efforts of Pastor Bender and the congregation at Peace for making these materials available. They are an invaluable resource for families and congregations.”

 Created in God’s Image: Sanctity of Life

Just as the Christmas season is not about Santa Claus, presents, trees and lights, sanctity of life is not ultimately about politics, a right to choose, the Constitution or its fourteenth amendment. Sanctity of life, the worth of human life ordained sacred, is about the Gospel, because human life is created in God’s image.

God is the source of life, all life (Gen 1:1-25), but human life, distinct from animals and angels, is ordained sacred because only Man is made in His Image. While the Church has struggled throughout her history to define that image and while it still remains a mystery, the Church recognizes that this image is an image of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). Further, the icon of this image is the family, male and female (Gen 1:26-27; Eph 5:31). Taken together, the Church asserts that knowledge, glory, and meaning for man lies not in himself, but in the Gospel of Christ. Humanity is “more human,” through the proclamation and affirmation of the Gospel, not less. Yet, humanism, the idea that man is the center of knowledge, glory and meaning, assaults the gift of life created by God with ideas, often political ones (as if man has better ideas: evolution, abortion, genocide, euthanasia, and totalitarian regimes which have caused the death of literally tens of millions). In the end, humanism assaults God’s creative work and the sanctity of life made in His image and replaces it with man’s own self-centeredness.

This dual relationship between the giving of life and the image of God is why in the giving of the Law, “You shall not murder,” a commandment which God has given to protect life is followed by “You shall not commit adultery,” a commandment which God had given to protect marriage and sexuality.

Spotting the obvious perversions and decadent demise of Western Civilization because of the murderous and adulterous heart of man, often advancing through bio-technology, is easy. We gasp at the latest, horrific revelation of inhumanity in the name of freedom and choice. However, the Christian may lean toward indifference rather than action, overwhelmed and fatigued by a chronic call to compassion, losing sight of Christ’s sacrifice and the power of sins forgiven. In sum, we weary of the Gospel, thinking we have learned all it has to teach. Yet, “We will always remain students of it, and it shall always be our teacher,” wrote Luther. “[People] receive life and salvation because of God’s kindness through Christ. There is no other way.” In a season of remembrance and commemoration, we offer the things which approach the threshold of God—life and family.

 

 

April 2013

April 11, 2013

“Yet In My Flesh I Shall See God!”

 How much care do we give our bodies over a lifetime?  We feed it, clothe it, put it to bed each night, bathe it, brush its teeth, comb its hair, trim its nails, moisturize its skin, and make it fragrant with sweet-smelling perfumes and colognes. Why?  Even though we may at times speak of our body as an “it,” the truth is: our bodies are part of our person—a part of who we are as human beings. What affects our bodies affects our souls and what affects our souls affects our bodies. To be a human being is to have a physical body which is animated by the soul that was breathed into us by God at creation. This is why Christians have taken such good care of the body and regarded it as sacred from the time of conception to its reverent burial in the grave in anticipation of the resurrection.

This is also why we celebrate with such devotion the conception and birth of the only begotten Son of God. When God’s Son became man, He became fully human—body and soul. There is no aspect of our salvation in Christ that did not involve Jesus’ body. He was conceived, born, lived, suffered, died, and was raised bodily from the dead for us. Even though we live with our bodies 24/7, we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of human life, that it is a mysterious union of body and soul that was created in the image of God. But it is an awesome mystery that is to be honored and cherished, for we simply have no life from God or with God that does not involve our bodies.

When we die, we are no longer whole. Our bodies and souls have been severed from each other. This is what death is all about. It is a brokenness and injury to our person, body and soul, which Christ came to fix. He redeemed us from sin, the cause of this separation of body and soul. He came to heal the breach caused by sin and to bring the body and the soul back together again into life and union with God. Central to the mystery of our salvation and life with God is the fact that we have no other life with God except that life that we share with Him in the physical union of our bodies and souls with the body and soul of Christ.

The prophet Job expressed this truth in his classic confession of faith in the resurrection of the body: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

In Christ, Pastor Bender

 Huzzah! Huzzah!

Students of Peace Lutheran Academy dressed in historical costume at their Medieval Feast held March 1 to experience history and literature. The dinner is an annual event for fifth through eighth grade students and is held during their study of William Shakespeare’s plays. This year, as part of their learning about Shakespeare’s background and the origins of the play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Judy Kastelle, Hudson, Wis., provided period costumes for the dinner, flawlessly matching personality and sizes in one up and down glance.

R. J. Frerking, grade six, experienced the sheer physical weight of authority and office as a 20 lb. overcoat, like that worn by King Henry VIII, was placed upon his shoulders. As for the girls, Sarah May, grade seven, was dressed as Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, putting layer after layer of under garments and ruby-toned and gold-trimmed skirting, reinforced by steel shanks and hoop skirts, before being laced up, like the strings of a shoe, into an outer bodice by her attendant, Pam Perry.

At the invitation of the academy, members of Peace’s Coffee Break Bible study joined the dinner. They dressed as jesters with fancy tights and bubble-panted guards to nobles and princes, expressing a full-array of Renaissance classes and occupations from serf to king.

The menu for this three-course royal “Wedding Feast of Theseus” featured Byzantine food from appetizers of olives and egg-and-lemon soup, with a second course of stuffed grape leaves and moussaka, with a final course of baked pudding and honey-sesame seed candy for dessert. While the hall was candle lit, it did not dim the volunteer cooks’ abilities nor darken the willingness of the students to taste something out of the Middle Ages, like keftedes, meatballs curiously seasoned with mint and cinnamon, dredged in barley flour, then fried. Students and adults enjoyed the pretense of lifting a cup of spiced blackcurrant “wine” in tankards or stoneware goblets. The wooded, evening setting, created by live trees aglow with blue light and ambient sounds of running water, transformed a school gymnasium into the imaginative forest of Shakespeare’s play, where fairies are real and love turns mortals into fools.

 More pictures of the Feast can be found on the academy website in the picture gallery.

 Preschool Fairs

Finding the “perfect” preschool from a variety of options—Montessori, Waldorf, traditional, classical; full-day, half-day, for two- three- and four-year olds, on top of the whole potty-training thing—can be a time-consuming task, especially for Mom. In response, parent support groups, like Moms & More, and a local business, The Big Backyard, have sponsored preschool fairs to make the decision easier. They have assembled local preschools in a central, neutral territory to let families do “one-stop” shopping for a preschool. Parents scan brochures, talk to teachers, and get the low-down on tuition and fees in one visit.

Having learned of the preschool fairs, Peace’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Sara Kohlmeier, and headmaster, Mrs. Kimberly Hughes, have attended three preschool fairs since January 2013: one in Germantown, one in New Berlin, and one in Brookfield,. “It’s nice to see what other preschools are offering and to chat with other teachers of young children. The Germantown fair produced the most leads for us as far as families we may be able to serve,” said Sara. A sponsoring club, MOMS, International, also provided a list of contact information for all of the families that attended their fair. “The New Berlin fair brought in the most people, but everyone we spoke with said that our location was too far away from where they lived or worked. The Brookfield fair was not very well attended.” Though both teachers extended invitations to the Academy and Preschool Open House held Jan. 27, no one from the fairs attended. Regardless, these families will be included in any publicity mailings sent for the 2013-14 school year.      

Parents who attend the fairs seek a wide variety of options in a preschool program. Some of those options are a two-year old program or a five-day per week four-year old program. Others express a desire for on-site childcare to eliminate the need for additional transportation to another facility, a convenient location near home or work, or a place where all of their children can be together, either infant care or before- and after-school programs for older children. “At Peace, we provide a safe, Christian environment where preschoolers can learn about their Lord and the world that He has created for them,” said Kimberly. After attending these fairs, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Kohlmeier thought it would be a good idea to hold a preschool fair at Peace. “That way, we would bring prospective parents into our building,” said Kimberly. Parish Council has approved the idea. Planning is being done, with a tentative date set for Saturday, April 27.

 Education Tailored to the Individual Child

An Interview with Sara Kohlmeier

Peace’s preschool offers small class sizes and Christian education. Sara Kohlmeier, preschool teacher, talks about the academy preschool. “I want all of the children to know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them so much that He sent His only Son to die for us and pay the price for our sin. The family atmosphere of the Academy is a unique quality that impresses the parents of the preschool children. Another wonderful aspect of our program is the small class sizes. I am able to tailor the curriculum to the needs of the individual children. I try to create a warm, loving environment for the children, and they have a bright, cheerful classroom with room to move and explore.”

Preschool Open House: May 2, 5:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

 Classical Education Is Wonder-full

Those eyes give the sense of “something more”—perhaps the stance of confidence in a dominating form that will not be moved, but still, those eyes of Rembrandt, in one of his last self-portraits, draw the glance. The portrait portrays Rembrandt’s self-confidence, courage, aged-assurance, or is it simply, the weighty maturity gained from trouble in a man not yet weary and withered by time? Looking upon Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist (ca. 1665), the observer looks into his eyes, but also sees through his eyes, taking into one’s self Rembrandt’s own image. Yet, while on a field trip to see the painting, as Matthias Woods said, with little explanation, “It was fuzzy.” Rembrandt painted to represent his life, but like his life, the painting was yet unfinished. As one example of the field trips which the academy students take, they have a two-fold purpose. They directly relate to something the students are studying, and they provide students with an opportunity to view, hear, or observe some part of the fine arts.

The academy students will attend the theater, whether a play, symphony, opera or ballet. “While we do not expect our students to love every play, symphony, or opera we attend, at least they will be able to appreciate it,” said Mrs. Hughes. “Appreciating it” is part of a Classical education. “Appreciating it” means that students have learned to think. In essence, they have learned to wonder.

Similarly, the feasts and festivals which the classes hold, from the “World Festival” or “States Festival” in the lower elementary classes or the “Jane Austen Tea” or the “Admiral’s Dining-In” or the Latin “Ides of March Festival” immerse the students in an environment and culture of long ago. “For the tea, the girls come dressed up and have learned the proper etiquette for the event,” said Mrs. Hughes who teaches upper elementary literature. The “Admiral’s Dining-In” is similar for the boys, but in the form of a naval dinner, military discipline, and the infamous “grog bowl.” Together, the students learn what society and the world was like during the Regency period and how different and similar it is to today. 

The festivals take the grammar student who has been gathering information in the lower grades and places them into a new world where they have to make decisions based on what they have read. In some ways, this is a culmination of the first (grammar) and second (logic) stages of the three-stage classical trivium. “The students’ discussion after these events is so much richer,” said Mrs. Hughes. “Classical education produces students who are able to think and learn on their own, who have a knowledge base that enables them to make wise decisions.” Classical education breaks things into parts, like noticing the two great circles behind Rembrandt’s portrait and the pyramid-shape formed by his figure, but it also puts them back together. “These students are then able to go out into the world and fulfill their God-given vocations,” said Mrs. Hughes. It is not an ability to destroy, to be only cynic and skeptic; it is an ability to love: to create and to believe in that “something more.”

 Fourth Annual Academy and Cherub Spring Concert

 A delightful evening of hymns and traditional, American songs will be performed at the Peace Lutheran Academy and Cherub Choir Spring Concert, Friday, May 17, 7 p.m. Directed by Kathy May and accompanied by instrumentalists, the children’s choirs consist of students (grades K-8) associated with Peace. Admission is free. Enjoy a fish fry dinner ($4-$10) before the concert. Take home dessert or fresh bakery at modest prices from the bake sale.

 

February 2013

February 1, 2013

Do You Have a Troubled Conscience?

Do you have a troubled conscience? Are you haunted by your sins? Are you assailed by the accusation that you are not a Christian? Do you feel as if your relationship with God is broken? Do you yearn for the restoration of the joy of your salvation? Do you desire to live in God’s love and mercy toward others? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then the Word of Jesus administered to you privately and individually by your pastor is for you! 

Jesus promises, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23). As Christians, the problems of life, Satan’s attacks, and the power of our own sinful flesh can cause us to stumble into “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice” (Catechism Sixth Petition). As believers in Christ, we have God’s forgiveness because of what Christ has done for us, but we all too often doubt Christ’s forgiveness because of the ongoing battle with sin. A troubled conscience can paralyze us. Because of this, Christ gives us the absolution to be received into our ears privately and individually where we need it the most.

The absolution is not only Christ’s forgiveness that gives to us the full assurance that our sins are forgiven before God, but it is also the very power of God whereby the Holy Spirit strengthens faith in Jesus and brings forth the fruits of faith in our lives. Christians receive the strength to live the Christian life, to love God, to serve their neighbor, and to forgive others by receiving Christ’s forgiveness repeatedly for themselves.

It is one of the greatest joys and privileges as your pastor to speak Christ’s forgiving word to you personally. Come and receive as often as you yearn for peace, freedom, and strength from your Lord.

In Christ,

Pastor Bender

Darwinism’s Attack on Christian Theology

The following was part of the To Everyone an Answer lecture series, delivered Nov. 11, 2012 by Pastor Bender.

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin proposed that diversity of species arose from natural selection, “evolving” from one species to another. By doing so, Darwin’s evolutionary theory broke with a Biblical, creationist’s worldview that a species reproduces “according to its kind” (Gen 1:12) in unique orders of creation. Darwin wrote in the area of biology; yet, his ideas have been developed, elaborated, modified, and assumed among many branches of science outside of biology to explain the beginning of the natural world. “Darwinism” has become an atheistic theory regarding the origin of life itself. As such, Darwinism is not, strictly speaking, “science.” It is a religion or “faith-system” that promotes atheism, and as such, it is an attack on Christian theology.

As a faith system, Darwinism contradicts the Bible’s teaching on creation, but it matters, because creation, including the historic Adam, is foundational to the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for man’s salvation. While the Church has not approached the creation account of Gen 1–3 as if it were a science book (and when she has, she often embraces an embarrassing fusion of ideas to form error), the Church proclaims Gen 1–3 to be God’s true revelation of His Word. Darwinism, using scientific rationalism, assumes “nature” is all that exists. It denies a “creation” and therefore, denies its Creator. Further, in denying the Creator of the creation, substituting for Him nature itself, Darwinism undermines the authority of Scripture.

 In undermining the Creator, Darwinism undermines all that the Creator purposefully intended for His creation, a purpose and intention revealed in the creation account of scripture, including Man. In this revelation, God spoke. To Man, made in the image of God, male and female, God said, “Have dominion” over the creation, and “Be fruitful and multiply.” If, however, God’s Word is not true and the source of life, but it is replaced with the belief that species evolve one to another, distinctions between Man and the whole of creation is obliterated. Productivity becomes chance; progeny become aborted fetuses; gender differences become accidents of genetics to be negated.

When evolutionary dogma is allowed to stand, or when is accepted in the Church, it is not a peripheral matter. Darwinism devalues life, including human life, and that affects everything human life touches (i.e., culture). In school curricula, in television, movies and in museums, people are inundated with a story that impacts all facets of life—marriage, family, and sexuality—from partial-birth abortions and abortifacients, to euthanasia and same-sex marriages. It affects the entire theology of Christ, of man, and of man’s salvation in Jesus. The only way Darwinism can be aligned with the Church is if she sacrifices her confession of faith in the Triune God, in the incarnation of the Son of God, and the creation of man in the image of God.

Denying that Man is made in the image of God—the Triune God—denies God’s love. For what God intended by His purposeful creation, foundational to “male and female,” “dominion” and “fruitfulness” is that Man would be a reflection of who God is and what God does, namely self-sacrificing love. If the Church allows Man to crawl out of the slime, then she has jettisoned Adam with his fall into sin as well as the entire, redemptive love-story of all mankind in Christ.

Observe that whether in the Creeds or in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, passages on creation move quickly from creation, to Man, to the fall of man into sin, to the redemption of Man in Christ. In the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” is followed by “And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” In the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible” is followed by “and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.” In Gen 3:14–19, the creation of man, the fall into sin, and God’s promise of salvation is concentrated in just five verses. Similarly, in the New Testament, Christ, the Word of life (1 John 1:1), is the creator of Man and by that Word, man lives and is redeemed (John 1:1–14).

The Church defends against Darwinism’s atheism with good theology. The Man whom God created, Adam, is assumed to be real by the writers of scripture; Adam is included in the genealogies (1 Chr 1:1; Luke 3:38), and it is on account of this historic “first Adam” that the “second Adam” Christ comes. What the first Adam failed to fulfill in “the image of God,” Christ fulfilled as the second Adam. He is the firstborn over all creation; He has dominion over the creation, holding all things together: He is intimately involved in it. That the Son of God became flesh and blood, that “He became man,” means that He is intimately involved with us.

According to the Bible’s story, all descended from the first Adam and all are redeemed in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. But the Bible’s story is not just a story. The apostle Paul assumes as a matter of fact the historicity of Adam and Christ Jesus, the second Adam, in Rom 5:12–18. Adam was real and his disobedience to become a sinner was real, just as the Eternal Word who became man to reconcile us, to give life by the historical act of obedience upon the cross, is real. Love is real.

The Church defends against Darwinism theologically, and Christians may work in the fields of biochemistry or geology, meeting the scientific claims of Darwinism with science. Yet, scientific evidence is of limited value in converting the heart. Apologetics, the defense of a religious system, does have its place to demonstrate that the arguments of science are lacking, but it is the Holy Spirit who produces faith. Christians, as Church, need to re-assert the narrative of scripture in all of its facets of Christ as a counter-cultural story. The preaching of Christ, crucified, is the historical narrative that flies in the face of the contemporary, nihilistic story of Darwinism. We, as Christians, need to hold vigorously and to plumb deeply our story, in our conversations, around the dinner table, about life, and about the world.

In conclusion, if our story should be false—which it is not—it is still a better story. In the words of Puddleglum, a character of C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, the story of God’s love in Christ licks the atheistic world hollow.

 CD recordings and printed handouts for all the lectures are available through the church office.

 Upcoming To Everyone an Answer Sunday lectures:

“Spiritual Affliction & Demonic Attacks” The devil is real and demons afflict Christians. This study will explore the ways in which Satan and his minions afflict Christians, the victory we have in Christ, and the weapons God gives us in spiritual warfare. Feb. 10, 5:00-6:30 p.m.

“Cyberspace and Christianity—the Blessings and the Curses” The internet affords many opportunities and dangers for Christians and the Church. This study will explore the blessings and curses associated with the cyberspace age in which we live. March 10, 5:00-6:30 p.m.

 Response and Reaction: “I like it!”

An Interview with Randy Kirk

 “It was a dark and stormy night . . . .” Well ok, the weather was not really a factor for Randy Kirk, who dared to venture out during a dark rain on Nov. 11, 2012 to attend the To Everyone an Answer’s second lecture, “Darwinism’s Attack on Christian Theology.” The Sunday evening meeting time, 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., works well with his schedule. It’s “kind of a ‘Sunday evening club’ focused on theological study. I like it!” said Randy.

The Darwin study was the second lecture of the series focused on contemporary issues facing the Christian; the first lecture, held on Oct. 11, 2012, was related to Christians and the government, a topic timed with the upcoming November  elections. “I’ve made both sessions. I really enjoy this kind of topical discussion. Both topics are subjects I think about often and find myself encountering in my daily life,” said Randy. For both topics, Pastor Bender provided a handout as a framework which outlined the discussion, but he also asked questions to establish the context for the topic among the group. Further, Pastor brought in material from other sources to underscore how popular culture views a topic. “I really enjoyed the form and structure of both presentations,” said Randy who works at Direct Supply, a supply chain company serving extended healthcare.

The format of the lectures provides great tools which allow Randy to continue the topic of conversation with his wife, Pam, who elected not to attend either topic. Through the lectures, Randy gains additional materials for numerous future discussions. As a husband, father of three, and employer, he encounters these subjects in his life regularly, and he is able to share what he has heard and learned.

Both theologically and physically, Randy left fed. “Having bread, some fruit, and some dessert items there [in Loehe hall] was a nice way to round out the soup,” said the self-professed vegan, who brought his own vegetarian soup to the chili supper.

Q & A: Designating Donations

Q: How do I know my donation will actually go where I want it to go? 

A: The congregation’s leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to see that gifts are used as requested by the donor. To ensure that it happens, the leadership has designated the Deacon to oversee that gifts are properly accounted for and used for the purposes that they were given. But, the donor needs to be as specific as possible when giving. For example, if someone wants to make a gift to pay down the mortgage principal, mark “mortgage principal” on the envelope. If a donor just writes “mortgage” or puts the gift into a mortgage envelope, the gift will go into the General Fund to help pay the monthly mortgage payment. If a donor wants to make sure that his gift is going to a specific item, call the Deacon and let him know. He can ensure that the gift is accounted for properly.

 Q: I got my year-end statement, and I think there was a mistake. Who do I contact to get it corrected? 

 A: Contact the Financial Secretary (currently, that is Randy Kirk) with any questions that you have about your statement.

 

 

 

Shepherd of Peace – Dec. 2012

December 6, 2012

Come, Lord Jesus

“Come, Lord Jesus” is the prayer of Advent. It expresses the yearning of the baptized faithful to be set free once and for all from the corruption of sin in our lives and the evil and suffering of this world. “Come, Lord Jesus” expresses the hope that one day we will live without sin, without pain, and without suffering. “Come, Lord Jesus” expresses the hope of the resurrection of the body and the belief that the joy of eternal life is found only in Him who loved us and died for our sins.

When the Son of God was born of Mary’s flesh, there was great joy as the angels sang of His birth and the shepherds and Wise Men went to the manger to worship. But the aged Simeon prophesied at Jesus’ presentation that the joyous birth of this Child would lead to bitter suffering and death. He was destined for the fall and rising of many. King Herod ordered the slaughter of innocent babies to try to kill Him. Mary and Joseph fled with the baby Jesus to Egypt.

Herod did not succeed in murdering the Christ child. But what Herod failed to do when Jesus was a baby, the High Priest and elders of the people succeeded in doing when Jesus was a man. They nailed Him to a cross. “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”  But it was all “for us and for our salvation” that He suffered and died. “The third day He rose again from the dead” and, from the position of authority at the Father’s right hand, “He shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.”

So we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Our yearning for Him is intensified by the things under which we suffer. But this is as it should be for through such suffering we learn of His love and we learn faith’s prayer ever more fervently: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Our yearning for Jesus is like His yearning for the Father from the cross. There He was with the weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders. There He was suffering our punishment, the wrath of God, and the condemnation of hell, and still He believed in the Father saying, “Father forgive them . . . I thirst for Thee . . . Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.” Jesus is our Savior because He never stopped believing. He never stopped yearning for the freedom from sin and for eternal life with the Father.

That’s why we who have been baptized into Christ are called His followers. We follow Him in faith. We follow Him in suffering. We follow Him in death. And we shall follow Him in the resurrection to eternal life. “Come, Lord Jesus” is the prayer of the baptized faithful.

In Christ,

Pastor Bender

Academy & Cherub Choirs Sing at Sussex Mill

From Sussex and Pewaukee, from Mequon, Milwaukee, and Grafton, from Mayville and Waterloo, gathering like the nations, “a multitude comes from the east and the west, to sit at the feast of salvation.” Almost every Friday afternoon, at the end of a long day and a long week of school, they trickle in from cars and vans to start rehearsal at 4:15 pm. They can be anywhere in age from kindergarten to eighth grade, and “like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, obeying the Lord’s invitation,” they gather to sing the grand anthem of salvation. They are the members of the Academy and Cherub choirs who attend public school or are homeschooled; they are children of members and non-members, committing to sing at divine services throughout the academic year and at special events.

One such special event was Nov. 16. Following Friday’s rehearsal-as-usual, stuffed with preparations for Thanksgiving, joined together with academy students, the combined Academy and Cherub choirs walked into the darkness and the word of God went out, singing. Like the Apostles to Jerusalem, the group headed north to Sussex Mill apartments, a residential retirement community that has long-supported the academy through fundraisers like the monthly fish fries. This year alone, the residents have purchased 250 dinners.

Directed by Pastor Bender and accompanied on piano by Kathy May with a crew of paparazzi parents, the choirs sang of the mercy of the Lord in English, German (“Ihr Kinderlein, kommet”), and Latin (“In Dulci Jubilo”). The thirty-minute concert was a “thank you” card for Sussex Mill’s support of the academy and an invitation to the Thanksgiving service, the Sussex Tree Lighting, and the service of Lessons and Carols. By the final note, the faces of the audience of forty residents and invited family members were smiling, brightened by the Lord’s music and His children.

  A gallery of pictures of the academy community sing at Sussex Mill can be found on our parish academy website under “Picture Gallery.”

 The Academy Choir will also be singing with Accompany of Kids (AOK) in their “An Extraordinary Merry Christmas” concert on Dec. 15, 7 pm, Menomonee Falls North Auditorium, N88 W16750 Garfield Dr. Tickets are available at the door: $8 Adult; $7 Student/Senior.

Successful Christmas Craft Fair

Laughter was heard from down the hall, the rooms buzzed lightly as sellers chatted with customers, and shoppers inquired about products from Gatchell’s Wood’N Crafts at the third annual Christmas craft and vendor fair Saturday, Nov. 10. As visitors entered the academy doors, enthusiastic volunteers greeted them and passed them a map for the displays of twenty-four vendors. Browsers turned into buyers, leaving with packages from Pampered Chef, Arbonne, or American Girl from tables in Loehe Hall, the Latin Room, and Mrs. Laubenstein’s classroom.

The steady traffic of customers, an increase over last year’s fair, was the result of improved advertising, a dose of good weather, and some personal invitations. Larry Martin’s neighbors came to visit, but when it became known they wanted to find a place for their sixth grade daughter to play in an orchestra, Larry introduced them to Jeannine Gabel, Kara Rhode and Sarah May, members of Peace’s string ensemble. Pastor Bender invited the family to attend church the following day. Other people who came looking for gifts admired the sanctuary woodwork, having met its craftsman, Al Gabel, at one of the booths.

“By making connections such as this within the community, we open avenues for future attendance in fundraising activities, we make possible connections with future students and student families, and we also have the opportunity to share the many blessings available at Peace Lutheran Church and Academy,” said Jim Frerking, Director of Financial Development. “The nearly $2,000 that was raised from the vendors, bake sale and concessions is a tremendous help to the Academy operations. Additionally, events such as this bring people and families into our building who may otherwise never have reason to visit us. As always, there was a dedicated group of academy students, former students, parents and friends of the academy who donated their time to help run the event and pull it off smoothly. Their continued service in this area is greatly appreciated.”

The Goods and Services Auction, Sunday, Feb. 24, 11–4 pm at Silver Springs Country Club, offers a live and silent auction, a fine-buffet lunch, and another opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to Peace.

 If you’re looking to promote your business at our auction through a donation of goods or services, call: 262-246-3200 or email: deacon@peacesussex.org.

 

Giving Q & A: Year-end Donations

Deacon Gatchell answers questions on church administration.

 

Q: As the year comes to a close, members often desire to give beyond their regular, monthly offering. What are some of the ways members can give or designate their offerings?

 

A: The easiest way for members to give extra is to give to the General Fund (that is the fund from which all operating items are paid from). To give to the General Fund, use one of the weekly offering envelopes or seasonal envelopes. Giving to the General Fund allows the leadership the most flexibility in taking care of the congregation’s financial obligations. If there is more than is needed, the extra will be put into the Money Market account and saved for a “rainy day” or to pay down on the Line of Credit.

Members can give to pay down the mortgage. To do this, use the Designated Gift envelope and write in “Mortgage Principal.”

Also, members can give to the Goehner Scholarship Fund which aids seminary and other church-work students from the congregation, to the 50/50 Fund, or to the Facilities/Grounds Endowment Fund. For gifts to these three items, use the Designated Gift envelope and check the appropriate item.

Additionally, gifts may be given to the academy or CCA.

 

Isaiah, Messiah, Handel and Bender

Performing his own version of textual coloring, Pastor Bender capped off Coffee Break Bible Study with an explanation of G.F. Handel’s Messiah. The popular oratorio describing the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ contains numerous quotations from Isaiah. For over a year, lectionary readings from Isaiah have been the topic of Bible study on Thursday morning.

Beginning with the opening call of the Gospel, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isa 40:1), the impact of Messiah on Pastor Bender’s life has been as a divine romance. Directing an imaginary choir and orchestra as a young child and singing arias himself as he got older, each passing recitative deepened his love and understanding of the scriptures which proclaim the Gospel of the Messiah that Handel’s Baroque music both enfolds and elaborates.

While Pastor expounded upon the oratorio, explaining how musical forms such as a da capo aria interplaying with the text allows for meditation upon the scriptures, students followed along with the printed words. Some students, like Ralph and Hilde Fischer, brought full scores of the masterpiece and were moving instinctively as the music played, directing silently and mouthing words they themselves have sung. Another student, Kathy May, was simultaneously caught up in the moment and transferred in time, flooded in family memories as the bass singer resounded the words, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible” (1 Cor 15:52).

In closing, Pastor taught that when Handel finished his well-known “Hallelujah Chorus,” purportedly, the composer said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself.” Yet, the brilliance of Handel’s Messiah, an inspired work written in twenty-three days, is eclipsed by the Son of God, the Beloved to whom the Scriptures and Handel’s music points. “You want to know what it is to be the “Everlasting Father,” the “Prince of Peace,” the one whose name is “Wonderful,” it is centered in Him who is the Lamb of God,” said Pastor.

Pastor Bender has begun a new Bible study, the Gospel of Luke, with occasional readings from Matthew Harrison’s A Little Book on Joy. Coffee Break Bible Study meets Thursdays, 9 am.

Shepherd of Peace Dec 2012

Coming Soon

January 29, 2012

Pastor Bender will be regularly posting the congregational newsletter, “Shepherd of Peace” online. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can read his first post in “The Catechist,” The Lutheran Catechesis Blog here: The Catechist