February 6, 2008


My life flows on in endless song; above earth's lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.


No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing? (Refrain)

What though my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth. (Refrain)

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his! How can I keep from singing? (Refrain)

Text: Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

I can see myself in heaven, standing there in front of God, singing a breathtakingly beautiful aria with the celestial choir. 

There is at least one problem with this scenario. I sing like a frog. My future as a soloist is as bleak in heaven as it has been here on earth. 

I was one of those kids told to lip-synch during the Sunday school Christmas program. My beloved grandfather used to call me Little Missy One-Note. Now that I’m grown up, Papa Tom sings bass and Mama Dallas can’t quite hit high tenor.

I really shouldn’t sing in public, at least not loud enough for anyone to hear. I shouldn’t. But on any given Sunday you’ll find me in church, belting out the tunes with gusto. 

The songs of the church are the songs of my heart. They are the birthing songs, the baptizing songs, the marrying songs, the burying songs, the songs of growing up and growing old. They are the songs my memory sings when I wake in the middle of the night.

Lent, the season of introspection, has officially begun. I feel the ashes on my forehead. Lent is a time for sorrow and repentance, a time to remember the ultimate sacrifice God made for his creation. Maybe I should just sit quietly in thoughtful silence, hearing again the story of Jesus on the road to crucifixion. But I know how the story ends. The Lord my Savior liveth.

My toes are tapping and my heart is jumping. Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

Bless you, Lord, for the grace we have received through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Teach us to sing, Lord, so that we will be brave enough to sing for you.

Dallas Cronk

The First Thursday of Lent

February 7, 2008


Editor's note: Lyrics for the hymn “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry,” (text and music by John Ylvisaker) are not available for electronic distribution. Text and music can be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship #732 and With One Voice #770.

This is considered by many to be a baptismal hymn, but I chose it to be sung at my mother’s memorial service.

 A few days after the funeral, one of my neighbors commented on the song’s wonderful lyrics. She said, “Your mother could have sung those words to you.” True enough. My mother was there for the first part of my life journey and witnessed many of the milestones: my birth, my baptism, my wild teenage years, and the years when my children were born and were young. But God was there for all of those wonderful, and not so wonderful, years as well.

It is so reassuring to know that even though my mother is no longer here to witness my milestones and guide me, my heavenly Father is still here. He is with me always, giving me strength and comfort and joy and the promise of a life after this one.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being there for me in the past and for continuing to be there in the future. I thank you for all of the blessings you have showered upon me, including parents who brought me to you when I was a child.

Susayn Brandes

The First Friday of Lent

February 8, 2008


I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.


And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of his voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me within my heart is ringing. (Refrain)

I’d stay in the garden with him, though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go; through the voice of woe, his voice to me is calling. (Refrain)

Text: Charles Webb
Used by permission
. © 1989 United Methodist Publishing House

You will not find my favorite hymn in a Lutheran hymnal. It is a favorite for two reasons. It is the song my mother sang, always slightly off-key, as she rocked my younger siblings and probably me, too. And the message, whether sung by my mother or the congregation, is always the same: “I am his own.” 

There is a saying that good parents raise their children to know right from wrong, but forgive them and continue to love and support them if they do wrong. When I was a child, this hymn reminded me that mine were good parents. Now, it reminds me that our heavenly Father is also a good parent. He tells us how he wants us to act, but he forgives us when we fail, and he always supports us.

Is the garden an ordinary one? The Garden of Eden? Or a heavenly garden? It doesn’t matter. The message is that God loves us, no matter what, and that Christ died to keep it that way.

Lord, continue to remind us, as we see the marvels of this worldly garden, that we are your own. 

Jolene Dougherty

The First Saturday of Lent

February 9, 2008


 Earth and all stars! Loud rushing planets! Sing to the Lord a new song!
Hail, wind, and rain! Loud blowing snowstorm! Sing to the Lord a new song!


God has done marvelous things. I too sing praises with a new song!

Trumpet and pipes! Loud clashing cymbals! Sing to the Lord a new song!
Harp, lute, and lyre! Loud humming cellos! Sing to the Lord a new song! (Refrain)

Engines and steel! Loud pounding hammers! Sing to the Lord a new song!
Limestone and beams! Loud building workers! Sing to the Lord a new song! (Refrain)

Classrooms and labs! Loud boiling test tubes! Sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band! Loud cheering people! Sing to the Lord a new song! (Refrain)

Knowledge and truth! Loud sounding wisdom! Sing to the Lord a new song!
Daughter and son! Loud praying members! Sing to the Lord a new song! (Refrain)

Text: Herbert F. Brokering, b. 1926
Used by permission.  © 1968 Augsburg Publishing House, admin. Augsburg Fortress.

I love to sing and make music, and I enjoy this hymn because of all the things that are singing. I feel that I am in wonderful company when everything praises God or is urged to do so, depending on how you interpret the “sing to the Lord a new song!” — as a statement or as an admonition to sing. Throughout the verses, we hear the natural universe, weather, musical instruments, industry and construction, schools, sports enthusiasts, knowledge and truth.

Have you ever noticed that people are mentioned directly only a few times? The loud building workers; the athletes, band, loud cheering fans; the daughter and son (of God); the loud praying members.

Why loud planets, loud snowstorms, loud wisdom, cymbals, hammers, test tubes and members? Think about the last time you were ecstatically happy, thrilled. Could you whisper your enthusiasm? Of course not. So when we are truly aware of God’s presence everywhere and in everything, we make a joyful noise. Our praise is new as we see things anew and express our personal praise. We are aware of God’s presence in our lives. We appreciate the marvelous things God has done, and we can rest assured that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age. Sing a new song!

Dear omnipresent and loving God, we thank you for everything large and small, near and far in your wonderful creation. Help us praise you loudly, both in song and in our lives.  

Dr. Eunice Doman Myers

The First Sunday of Lent

February 10, 2008


Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise!

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light;
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render; oh, help us to see
 'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

Text: Walter Chalmers Smith, 1824-1908, alt.

This hymn brought comfort at my mother’s funeral. Each of my two daughters chose it for her wedding. It was relevant on all occasions. What I love most about it is that it relays the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. God is always with us. He never changes.

The verse, “We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee,” is reminiscent of  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die. …”  God gave us life. He gave us our very essence. Our time on earth is so short compared with eternity. 

God will eternally be our God, and we will be with him for eternity. This is the promise he gave us when he sent his Son to die for our sins. We do not have to earn this gift. All we have to do is to believe and be baptized.

Thank you, God, for sending your son to die for our sins. Thank you for the comfort you have given us when those we love die — the comfort of knowing they have gone home to be with you. Thank you for your promise of eternal life. 

Judy McDiffett

The First Monday of Lent

February 11, 2008


Lost in the night do the people yet languish, longing for morning the darkness to vanquish,
plaintively heaving a sigh full of anguish. Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?

Must we be vainly awaiting the morrow? Shall those who have light no light let us borrow,
giving no heed to our burden of sorrow? Will you help us soon? Will you help us soon?

Sorrowing wand’rers, in darkness yet dwelling, dawned has the day of a radiance excelling,
death’s dreaded darkness forever dispelling. Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!

Light o’er the land of the needy is beaming; rivers of life through its deserts are streaming,
bringing all peoples a Savior redeeming. Come and save us soon! Come and save us soon!

Text: Finnish song; tr. Olav Lee, 1859-1943, alt.
© 1932 Augsburg Publishing House, admin. Augsburg Fortress

I first heard and sang this hymn in the seminary choir in Chicago in 1961. A tenor from Latvia sang the first verse in a beautiful, haunting voice that I can hear in my head to this day. He was part of a church full of Latvians who had fled their country during the second world war. For a time they were lost in the night and languished, longing for morning their darkness to vanquish. They were plaintively sighing with hearts full of anguish. The Lutheran World Federation helped them find "morning" and a new day in the United States. They represent all the lost people, refugees from war, all over the world.

There are people with a burden of sorrow everywhere. And we who have light must not only lend it to them, but give it freely for them to keep. We won't lose any light that we share. The most moving experiences of my life have been when people with burdens of inner pain from mental, emotional and physical abuse received help from people who knew how to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of fear and anger. Help came soon. Christ came and helped through loving people.

The death of loved ones brings the deepest shadows. My first funeral was for a 19-year-old girl who was killed in an automobile accident. Her father, mother and younger sister were sorrowing wanderers for a long period of grieving. The power of Christ's light coming to them gave them the dawning of a new day of radiance.

Dear Lord, planet Earth is a land of the needy. Let the light of Christ come to us as awareness of our oneness with you and all other people. Help us to keep on singing for the rivers of life to stream through the deserts, bringing all people the Savior’s redeeming.

The Rev. Paul Reimers, retired

The First Tuesday of Lent

February 12, 2008


Holy God, holy and glorious, glory most sublime,
you come as one among us into human time, and we behold your glory.

 Holy God, holy and powerful, power without peer,
you bend to us in weakness; emptied you draw near, and we behold your power.

Holy God, holy and beautiful, beauty unsurpassed,
you are despised, rejected; scorned, you hold us fast, and we behold your beauty.

Holy God, holy and only wise, wisdom of great price,
you choose the way of folly: God the crucified, and we behold your wisdom.

Holy God, holy and living one, life that never ends,
you show your love by dying, dying for your friends, and we behold you living.

Text: Susan R. Briehl, b. 1952
Used by permission.  © 2000 GIA Publications.  All rights reserved.

I learned this song just a couple of years ago, and it immediately became a favorite. I enjoy singing it, but it is the words that get me every time.

God comes to us in totally unexpected ways — in fact, the exact opposite of what we expect or what we see. We know that God is glorious, powerful, beautiful, only wise and very much alive. But we learn these truths by seeing the exact opposite in the life of Christ.

Not so long ago, we were celebrating the birth of Christ and experiencing the awe and wonder of God coming among us. Christ, the Word made flesh, stooped to earth and became human. And in that act of humbling himself, Christ showed us his true glory. As we journey toward the cross during these days of Lent, we hear about the life of Jesus.

He reaches out to those in greatest need, allowing himself to be vulnerable. And in that weakness, we see his incredible power. We see and experience Christ’s beauty in spite of, and possibly in light of, the ways in which he was rejected by those closest to him. As we hear again about Christ’s final days, we may wonder about the decisions that led to Christ’s crucifixion and see them as a way of folly. Yet, we know the whole story, and we see the infinite wisdom in Christ’s death and resurrection — the act that saves us from our sins.

That leads to the final verse, and the best news of all. Christ shows his love for us by dying, but we behold him living. During Lent, we reflect on our own weakness, the ways in which we have despised and rejected God, and our many ways of folly. We recognize our need for forgiveness — our need for a Savior. In that need, we cling to the One who is holy, glorious, powerful, beautiful and only wise — and who lives among us now and forever.

Holy God, you are more than we can ever expect or understand. May we always cling to you and continue to be amazed by the incredible ways you come to us and surprise us each and every day. In your holy name we pray.

The Rev. Kristin Neitzel, Associate Pastor

The Second Wednesday of Lent

February 13, 2008


Keep me safe, O God, I take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone; my happiness lies in you alone.”


O, Lord, you are the center of my life; I will always praise you.
I will always keep you in my sight.

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight; since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. (Refrain)

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even in safety shall my body rest.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay. (Refrain)

You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand, at your right hand happiness forever. (Refrain)

Text: Paul Inwood, Ladies of the Grail
Used by permission  © 1963 GIA, The Grail

The words of this hymn, taken from Psalm 16, denote the centrality of God that we as Christians must have in our lives. I recently started taking yoga classes. In the midst of some of our contortions, the instructor says “...resist away from your core.” The “core,” on this level, refers to the heart. As the life-giving organ of the body, it takes and receives the life-giving blood of our lives.

So it is with God, for he is both the centrifugal and centripetal force of our lives.  We revolve around and evolve from his divine love. St. Augustine, the famous theologian, said in one of his sermons, “Listen to me, you who are poor: What is lacking if you have God? Listen to me, you who are rich: What do you possess if you do not have God?”

Trying to navigate this material world without God is like riding on a bus full of people with all the shades pulled down. The bus passes through a breath-taking landscape of verdant hills, lush valleys and crystal streams. The people inside, however, merely squabble over the best seats and never see any of it. May we be open to God’s love at all times with eyes that see and hearts that love!

Loving Father, let us always remember that your son reveals his presence in every detail of our lives. May we cling to this presence always as the center of our very being.

Joanne T. Ehrlich

The Second Thursday of Lent

February 14, 2008


My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.


On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. (Refrain)

His oath, his covenant, his blood sustain me in the raging flood;
when all supports are washed away, he then is all my hope and stay. (Refrain)

When he shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in him be found,
clothed in his righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before the throne! (Refrain)

Text: Edward Mote, 1797-1874, alt. 

The hymn above and a contemporary Christian song together show a paradox that is present in our lives. Artist Todd Agnew has a song entitled “If You Wanted Me.” Part of it is about Peter’s response to Jesus walking out on water and inviting Peter to come to him: “If you wanted me to walk on water, why did you make the solid ground seem so right?”

Jesus urges us to have faith in him. Oftentimes, we need answers to our questions before we can make the plunge. These two songs present conflicting images. One shows Christ as the rock, solid and firm. The other portrays an enduring test of faith, telling us that we are to walk into places that we know are unstable – or sinking sand.

So which is it? Matthew 14 tells us the story of Jesus walking on water. Peter asks Jesus, “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus answers, “Come.”

Come. This invitation clears the paradox up for us, and for Peter.

“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” is referred to as the Navy hymn. One verse reads, “In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” In the storms of our lives, the places where we find ourselves unsure, our faith in Christ is our anchor. We can stand on the rock of Christ, the rock of salvation. Christ invites us to come into the places in our lives that we are unsure of – and come closer to him. This is the solid ground, the firm anchor that holds us closely. As our relationship with Christ deepens, the raging sea turns into a rock.

Father, we thank you for the solid ground you give us. Invite us to walk with you in unfamiliar situations, trusting in your grace and mercy. Provide for us when we feel we are sinking and give us courage for uneasy times in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray.

 Chris Deines

The Second Friday of Lent

February 15, 2008


Day by day, your mercies, Lord, attend me, bringing comfort to my anxious soul.
Day by day, the blessings, Lord, you send me draw me nearer to my heav’nly goal.
Love divine, beyond all mortal measure, brings to naught the burdens of my quest;
Savior, lead me to the home I treasure, where at last I’ll find eternal rest.

Day by day, I know you will provide me strength to serve and wisdom to obey;
I will seek your loving will to guide me o’er the paths I struggle day by day.
I will fear no evil of the morrow, I will trust in your enduring grace.
Savior, help me bear life’s pain and sorrow till in glory I behold your face.

Oh, what joy to know that you are near me when my burdens grow too great to bear;
oh, what joy to know that you will hear me when I come, O Lord, to you in prayer.
Day by day, no matter what betide me, you will hold me ever in your hand.
Savior, with your presence here to guide me, I will reach at last the promised land

Text: Carolina Sandell Berg, 1832-1903; tr. Robert Leaf, b. 1936
Used by permission. Tr. © 1992 Augsburg Fortress

God is present in our daily lives. His loving will guides us along the path we travel in his kingdom and opens doors of service that add significant meaning to our lives and the lives of others.

As faithful Christians, we seek to do God’s will and to live our lives day by day in such a manner that we strengthen our relationship with God and with other people. We serve God by participating in the worship and social life of the church and in the outreach programs that serve our community.

Yet our daily lives are not lived entirely in our church community. Do we practice our Christian faith in the world community as we relate to our family, our co-workers, our friends and neighbors?

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 35)

With a living faith like this, how can we keep from singing? The song of life is the song of faith, joy and love. Let us sing it with the sure hope of salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Heavenly Father, bless me with the strength to serve, the wisdom to obey and the joy of a song in my heart.

Marjorie Bender

The Second Saturday of Lent

February 16, 2008


As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship you.

You alone are my strength, my shield; to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship you.

I want you more than gold or silver. Only you can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy giver and the apple of my eye. (Refrain)

You're my friend and you're my brother, even though you are a king.
I love you more than any other, so much more than anything. (Refrain)

Text: Michael Joncas
Used by permission  © 1996 GIA Publications, Inc.

My husband and I did not know one another as children. Yet our childhoods mirrored one another in many ways. We both attended camp nearly every summer. We spent that one week away from our homes and, most of all, our parents. We felt a little more freedom than usual. We grew as individuals. 

During those weeks away from home, we made new friends. We looked forward to seeing these friends each summer, and we just knew that these friendships would last a lifetime. 

At camp, we also grew in our faith in God. While our parents were far away, God was close to our hearts. We learned God would always be there for us. Our personal relationships with God grew stronger and deeper.

During the Lenten season, we are reminded of our childhoods with Easter egg hunts, candy and new church clothes. But we can also reflect on the times in our childhood when we learned what it truly means to have God in our hearts. Although we are older now, we continue to build on the foundation of faith that was laid years ago. With each day, we long to worship you.”

Dear Lord, we pray that during this Lenten season we will grow and build upon our personal relationship with you.   

Dulcinea Rakestraw

The Second Sunday of Lent

February 17, 2008


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,
All ye, all ye lands!
Serve the Lord, the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!

Hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Glory hallelujah!

Text: Psalm 100:1-2, King James Version

I remember when I went to church camp for the first time. My brothers had gone camping multiple times with the Boy Scouts, including weeklong stays at summer camp. This was my first time to be away from my parents for a whole week. Of course, my two older brothers were at the same camp, but there were no parents.

We did the normal camp things: slept in bunks in cabins; hiked everywhere in the hot, humid Louisiana summer; made crafts; swam; played group games; and went to chapel twice a day. Chapel was a place, but it was not limited to a building. I can remember having services outside in the evening.

Chapel was memorable for its music, which hit an emotional chord that ever since has been related to my “happy” feelings. I can still picture a long-haired, ratty-jean-wearing counselor (it was the early ‘70s) strumming his acoustic guitar.

This is the song I remember. I knew I would always have the words since I had just received my first Bible. Psalm 100. Even I could remember the location — basically in the center of the book. This was my first connection with being able to find something personally meaningful in the Bible.

I remembered this song as my husband and I planned our wedding ceremony. I wanted to share the pleasure it gave me with everyone who came to share the joy of our union. My childhood pastor recited the verses of Psalm 100 in place of singing since we didn’t have music. The words alone still evoked the same happy feelings for me.

Dear Lord, please know that I serve you with gladness. You have given me everything that makes me happy, including these beautiful words and my family. Let me share your never-ending goodness with the rest of the world.

Karen Vlamis

The Second Monday of Lent

February 18, 2008


A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious;
he breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod and wins salvation glorious.
The old satanic foe has sworn to work us woe!
With craft and dreadful might he arms himself to fight.
On earth he has no equal.

No strength of ours can match his might!  We would be lost, rejected.
But now a champion comes to fight, whom God himself elected.
You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is he!
Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son, adored.
He holds the field victorious.

God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes, who fear it;
for God himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse,
though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!

Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546; tr. Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978
Used by permission.  © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, admin. Augsburg Fortress

Martin Luther — along with being a reformer, a theologian, a fiery preacher and a Bible translator — was also an exceptional musician. He wrote, “I am strongly persuaded that after theology, there is no art that can be placed on a level with music, for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy to the heart.”

I love music, too. So Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” is not only a treasured Lutheran hymn; it’s also beautiful music. Lutherans sing it on Reformation Sunday as a reminder of the trials Martin Luther faced as he challenged the religious hierarchy of his day.

“A Mighty Fortress,” based on Psalm 46, reflects Luther’s awareness of his own – and our own –  intense struggle with Satan. In difficulty and danger, God is with us.

Luther’s words give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, truth to the disheartened and belief to the unbeliever. There is nothing that can keep God from being our salvation. He is our strength, our warrior, our helper. He is with us forever.

Our God, our mighty fortress, keep us this day from harm, from evil. Continue to strengthen us in our beliefs and in our struggles. We love you for loving us.

Barbara Orsak

The Second Tuesday of Lent

February 19, 2008


Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
praise him, all creatures here below;
praise him above, ye heav’nly host;
praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Text: Thomas Ken, 1637-1711

My mother’s side of the family is crazy — not exactly certifiably crazy, but the religions are several times plural and the lifestyles are diverse.

My grandparents are divorced. My grandma’s family was German Lutheran, and my grandpa’s father was a Methodist minister. My great-aunt is a practicing Unitarian from the Deep South.

My mom’s sister married a Jewish man, and they live in California. When my two cousins were little, they asked “Are we Christmas tree or menorah?” They’ve been menorah ever since, although one is married to a Hindu man from India.

My uncle used to live on a communal farm, and he follows the Muslim teachings of a Sufi mystic from Sri Lanka. But if you ask him, he’ll tell you, “Me and Jesus are tight, man.”

My other uncle has kids with a woman who was raised Jewish. They have chosen not to marry. They’re undecided between Christmas tree and menorah, but he might be more of an agnostic.

The prospect of saying grace before a family meal has this Kansas farmer’s daughter running for the hills! We’ve had reunions, confirmations, bat mitzvahs and weddings, and we’ve discovered a solution: We all sing the doxology. 

Although I love the simple words and melody, it’s become a running joke. Potential awkwardness dissipates when we launch into our rousing (and slightly off-key) rendition of “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.”  We avoid tiptoeing through the minefield of religion and theology with these four lines. This verse brings joy and amusement at a time when our differences could be most heightened. Anyway, the sooner we can get to the conversation of the actual meal, the sooner we can all talk politics!

Dear God, help me look for similarities before pointing out differences. Teach me that normal is not another word for “my way.” Allow me to appreciate opportunities of diversity.                                                                                                                                   

Jennifer Worrel

The Third Wednesday of Lent

February 20, 2008


(It Is Well with My Soul)

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.


It is well (it is well)
with my soul, (with my soul,)
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has shed his own blood for my soul. (Refrain)

He lives--oh, the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to his cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Refrain)

Lord, hasten the day when our faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend; even so it is well with my soul. (Refrain)

Text: Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888

Music has been a huge part of my life, from my first memories of singing “Christmas Bells” in Sunday school, standing in a circle, holding hands, swaying back and forth. I think I was about three.

One of my favorite hymns over the years is this one. I am so fond of it that I have chosen it to be sung at my memorial service. I’m a firm believer in being prepared. Even before I took the time to examine the verses, I was drawn to the refrain: “It is well with my soul.”

What does it mean to have your soul at peace?

The verses speak to the trials and sorrows of life that will surely come to us. Life will be hard.  Yet we are encouraged by the knowledge that no matter what happens, we will be saved because Christ has shed his blood for us. He fully recognizes our weaknesses and knows we cannot save ourselves.

But we can be prepared. We need only to recognize that all is well with our souls since Christ has given himself. 

Heavenly Father, continue to remind us that our souls can be at peace because you are our risen Savior. Keep us secure in the knowledge of this, our most blessed gift.

Suzanne Koch

The Third Thursday of Lent

February 21, 2008


Morning has broken like the first morning; blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

 Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where God's feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning, born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise ev'ry morning,
God's recreation of the new day!

Text: Eleanor Farjeon, 1881-1965
Text © Miss E. Farjeon Will Trust, by permission of David Higham Associates.

Sometimes, it’s all a matter of how we see things.

For instance, when I was growing up as a Catholic boy, Martin Luther’s tune for “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was not the great anthem of faith I now know it to be. Rather, it was the title music for the children’s series “Davey and Goliath.” And “We Plow the Fields and Scatter” was not a hymn but a beautiful, lilting song in the musical “Godspell.”

Then there’s the hymn I knew as a delicate, piano-backed piece by musician Cat Stevens. I first heard “Morning Has Broken” as a slightly different pop song back in the early 1970s, when I was in middle school. The tune is catchy, but the lyrics are lovely. Imagine my surprise later to hear it sung in church!

I needn’t have been surprised, really. The lyrics celebrate the world around us, the wonders that we see every day. The song of the blackbird, the dew on the grass, the sweet rainfall – all things we may take for granted. But the hymn sees these things for what they are – wonders to appreciate. “Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s recreation of the new day!”

Many years have passed since I first heard this lyric. The world has changed, of course.  Heck, even Cat Stevens changed – he became Yusaf Islam after converting to Islam. Still, each day in this troubling world, God shows us the splendors of the world he made. No matter our names or faiths, we can certainly still agree on that.

Dear Lord, thank you for the wonders you show us each day, in this world you made. Help us to open our eyes to these and to know we need to appreciate them more. 

Ken Hobart

The Third Friday of Lent

February 22, 2008


O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the op’ning day.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last and our eternal home.

Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Psalm 90 provides the scriptural foundation for this hymn. It has always been one of my favorites because it captures the infinite timelessness of God compared with my temporary nature. Its text makes it a standard hymn for All Saints Sunday. 

The Lutheran Book of Worship contains six of the original nine verses. My favorite verse is the last one printed above.

This hymn has been sung on a number of important occasions. It was the closing hymn for the last service held on the Titanic. It has been vocalized at the funerals of a number of our presidents the last being the memorial service of President Gerald Ford. Years ago when I was in the choir at Gustavus Adolphus College, we would sing this hymn at the conclusion of a concert. It was offered as a statement of faith and a prayer of thanksgiving. 

This song was sung at our wedding. I have requested that it be included in my funeral service. 

Father, I rest in the knowledge that you are always there for me past, present and future. I thank you for your love and guidance, for you are “our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”   

The Rev. Richard Monson, Interim Pastor

The Third Saturday of Lent

February 23, 2008


Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end? Thy joys when shall I see?

 O happy harbor of the saints, O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found, no grief, no care, no toil.

Thy gardens and thy gallant walks continually are green;
there grow such sweet and pleasant flow'rs as nowhere else are seen.

There trees forevermore bear fruit and evermore do spring;
there evermore the angels sit and evermore do sing.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, God grant that I may see
thine endless joy, and of the same partaker ever be!

Text: F.B.P., 16th cent.

Back in seminary days, when Paul had no car and no money, we walked to church and other places.  To use the time, we memorized some hymns. One of the first ones I typed onto a recipe card was “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.”  We liked the tune and the words, and it was short. The idea of a beautiful garden full of trees and flowers and angels was very appealing in the middle of Chicago.  We really had no sorrows in our lives at that point, but that didn't make the thought of heaven any less appealing!

When we moved to northeast Wichita, it seemed as if we were surrounded by cemeteries. People have been living and dying here for a long time. But death seems distant in our everyday lives until someone we love is touched by it. We treasure memories of friends like Virginia Leikvold, who left her love of music as a gift for us, a glimpse into the angels' songs in Jerusalem.

While we were in Tanzania last July, we saw little shops lining the road, selling fruits and vegetables and fabrics. There also were little carpenter shops, especially on the road that led past the big hospital. Some specialized in wooden caskets, displaying them on the ground along the edge of the road. Many of the caskets were small — painted white with blue or pink trim, maybe even with a few bows. Each time we drove on the road, we were reminded that big and small alike were dying every day. The Ashira pastor said he had about 45 funerals a year, and most of them were not for old people. My friend Kaanaeli said her village had funerals every week, and all families were touched by the plague of AIDS. Young mothers and fathers were dying. Their children were dying. This would seem hopeless, except that we have been promised a happy home in a beautiful kingdom, and the music of angels will welcome us.  What a glorious thought!

Father God, what a comfort it is to know that death is not the end of life, but the beginning of seeing the joys of eternal life.   

Glennyce Reimers

The Third Sunday of Lent

February 24, 2008


Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love!
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, praising thee, their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the gloom of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.

All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heav’n reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird, and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
wellspring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other.  Lift us to the joy divine!

Text: Henry van Dyke, 1852-1933

I love the melody of this hymn. I could sit and listen to it over and over. But a great hymn is the combination of beautiful music and inspiring words. Together they make a stream of faith that we can jump in and let flow over us. This assignment forced me to look closer at the words. To my surprise, they really speak to me. They are about many of the things I love. Each verse intertwines God and his creation. The hymn relates the joy of God and the joy in God we all feel. It tells how this love can bring us happiness and take away our fear.

When I hear Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the words of this hymn flow through my head. I realize I have always known and loved them. I feel comfort in this song. We all find comfort in the hymns that have been with us all our lives.

The song takes us into God’s world. It lays out before us the many wonders God has created and entrusted to us, from the heavens above to the grandeur that surrounds us. The hymn touches on all of the reasons I love the outdoors.

God has built an awesome sight. The earth’s visual aspects are unchallenged. But “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” reminds me of the beautiful music to be heard in nature. It reminds me that we need to stop and listen to the song God is singing. I often admire the beauty of the blue jays, but when did I last listen to their song? I’m drawn to the mountain waterfalls to take a picture, but I never try to record it. I am missing half of God’s creation.

The verses also remind us of God’s forgiveness and blessings. These blessings transcend God’s creation, and we need to transcend our petty differences to live together and care for that which has been entrusted to us. We have forgotten how delicate the environment truly is. The earth should be handled like fine china. If it is abused, it will break and become useless.

Dear Lord, we speak to you in voices raised in song. We pray that our hymns glorify and exalt you.  Teach us to also listen to the songs you are singing to us. Let us find exaltation in your hymns. Only when we come together, with harmony between our songs and your songs, can we truly find the peace on earth you have provided us, not as a substitute for heaven but as a small glimpse into its magnitude.

Bob Weaver

The Third Monday of Lent

February 25, 2008


(Nun danket alle Gott) 

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who, from our mothers' arms, has blest us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
and keep us all in grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all harm in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son, and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven,
the one eternal God, whom earth and heav'n adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Text: Martin Rinkhart, 1586-1649; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878

My first exposure to this hymn of thanksgiving came when I read the account of a family of German immigrants who arrived in the United States shortly after the Civil War. The account was written in 1925 by a woman who had made the journey as a 7-year- old girl. The crossing was stormy and lasted seven weeks. When the ship reached America, the girl’s mother read a scripture, and then they all sang “Nun danket alle Gott.”

The hymn had been written by Martin Rinkhart, a Lutheran pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony, during the Thirty Years War in the 1600s. The town had been under siege. Starvation and the plague were rampant. People fought in the streets over a dead rat! Pastor Rinkhart buried more than 4,000 people.

When peace finally began to dawn on Germany, he wrote the words to this hymn, expressing his gratitude to God. The Peace of Westphalia, a collection of treaties, finally ended the war in 1648. Pastor Rinkhart died in 1649, having served his parish for 31 years.

When we think of the hardships that lay ahead of the immigrant family and the problems that faced Pastor Rinkhart and his parish at the end of a terrible war, we can only wonder that they could still thank God for his blessings. How can we, who have been even more blessed, fail to be even more grateful for the blessings he has showered on us?  

Heavenly Father, as we sing this wonderful hymn of thanksgiving, help us to appreciate all the blessings you have bestowed on us. We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. 

Leslie Riggle

The Third Tuesday of Lent

February 26, 2008


Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.


This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior, all the day long:
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love. (Refrain)

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love. (Refrain)

Text: Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915

I have been a Lutheran all my life and have come to rely on assurances:

  • Just as I am sure Jell-O salad will be served at our next congregational dinner, I am assured of God’s love for all of us.Just as I am sure Jell-O salad will be served at our next congregational dinner, I am assured of God’s love for all of us.

  • Just as I am sure all verses of a Lutheran hymn will be sung, I am assured of God’s promise of forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross.

  • Just as I am sure doughnuts and coffee will be served at Sunday fellowship hour, I am assured of eternal life in heaven if I believe in God.

These assurances comfort me when my world is chaotic and confusing. These blessed assurances help me focus on what God has planned for me, so I can get back on track to deal with life. These assurances can be some of the examples we use to spread the good news of God’s love to those who haven’t heard his story yet. These blessed assurances can remind us of the paradise that awaits us in heaven when one day our life on earth is done.

Dear Lord, thank you for the blessed assurance that you are always with us whenever our world is turned upside down. I pray that you send us out this Lenten season to share the story of Jesus’ death on the cross and glorious resurrection!

Sheryl Johnson

The Fourth Wednesday of Lent

February 27, 2008


Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come,

Just as I am; thy love unknown has broken ev’ry barrier down;
now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Text: Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871 

Whenever I hear this hymn, I envision my father standing at the bathroom sink while shaving on Sunday mornings. Unlike the other days of the week, his Sunday shave was accompanied by hymn singing. My dad always arose early to complete his daily shave — necessary in a house with four daughters and one bathroom — but on Sundays, his shaving was loud and joyous. It became our Sunday alarm clock.

This hymn fits my dad so perfectly. He is the most humble man I know. As the only male in a family of six, he was happy to let the females rule the roost. The lessons my dad taught me about life are so important to me. Give unconditional love to your children. Be kind to others. Judge not, that you be not judged. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is how my dad has always lived his life, and I am so proud of him. Today, at 90, he still lives a quiet, humble life, ever thankful, kind and loving.   

So, just as my dad used this hymn as a Sunday morning alarm clock, we can use it as a wake-up call for our lives. Just as we seek to be accepted “just as we are,” we can strive to be more accepting of others, to follow Jesus’ example of loving kindness to all we meet. After all, isn’t love and mercy the message of Christianity?

Dear Father, in a world that is often full of conflict and strife, help us to be true to ourselves and to be more accepting of others, moving us closer to a world of peace. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Maureen Hofrenning

The Fourth Thursday of Lent

February 28, 2008


You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in this shadow for life,
say to the Lord “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust.”


“And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

 Snares of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear,
under God’s wings your refuge with faithfulness your shield. (Refrain)

For to the angels God’s given a command to guard you in all of your ways;
upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (Refrain)

Text: Michael Joncas, b. 1951
Used by permission.  © 1979 OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213 All rights reserved.

Last October, my 73-year-old father died of lung cancer. The cancer first appeared in March. After he underwent extensive treatments, it was said to be gone. It was not. Cancer was discovered again in late September. He went downhill quickly and died surrounded by all of his children.

His death felt like a cruel betrayal — he had suffered so much and appeared to make it, only to be brought down again and taken from us.

So I sat in the pew of my father’s church in Topeka for his funeral. It was great that many people had come to pay tribute to him, but still… I had already cried many tears, and I hoped I could make it through the funeral without losing it. I was doing OK. Then, the service closed with “On Eagle’s Wings.”

This hymn — with its lovely, simple melody and inspiring lyrics — has always moved me. Now, it lifted me out of my sorrow and brought me to the best hope of that hard day.

It assured me that my father had been raised up, as on eagle’s wings, and was now in the palm of God’s hand. So here, in a church not my own, that hymn made me feel at home. I grieved that day — and I still do on occasion — but “On Eagle’s Wings” reminded me that my father’s death was not the end of the story. It carries on.

Dear Lord, you are with us in times wonderful and hard, always sheltering us with your love, until that day that you take us in your hand. Thank you for such wonderful love.

Ken Hobart

The Fourth Friday of Lent

February 29, 2008


What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear –
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness – take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious savior still our refuge – take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Text: Joseph Scriven, 1820-1886

My first connection to this hymn dates to an early Sunday school class. My teacher encouraged me to pray and ask God’s forgiveness for my sins. I was cautious about opening up that whole can of worms. A 6-year-old with a kid sister can muster quite a list of sins.

I had tried a few times to confess sins to my father, and I had been sent to my room to ponder the error of my ways. I decided to clam up about sins.

Dad came up with a new approach. He told me he could look into my eyes and tell whether I was being truthful. He tried those X-ray eyes on me, and darned if he couldn’t make it work. 

My Sunday school teacher asked about my friends. Did I have special friends I could sit down and talk with, friends I could trust? I told her about my best friends, but Jesus wasn’t on the list. I loved Jesus, but I had not thought of him as my friend. The teacher described a picture of Jesus sitting at his father’s side while I was praying … father and son, my friends in the heavenly kingdom.

We went through all the verses of the hymn. Line by line, I began to understand. I have a friend in Jesus, a friend who knows my every weakness and loves me anyway. (That’s even better than my dad’s eye trick!) I can share my sorrows with Jesus, my faithful friend; I can even share my sins. With Jesus as my friend, I can take everything to God in prayer.

Thank you, Lord, for sharing your son, my friend Jesus, with us. And thank you for inspiring all the little miracles that happen every week in Sunday school classes around the world.

Tom Cronk

The Fourth Saturday of Lent

March 1, 2008


Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art:
thou my best thought both by day and by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

 Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my soul's shelter, and thou my high tow'r,
raise thou me heav'nward, O Pow'r of my pow'r.

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, the first in my heart,
great God of heaven, my treasure thou art.

Light of my soul, after victory won,
may I reach heaven's joys, O heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Text: Irish, 8th cent.; vers. Eleanor H. Hull, 1860-1935, alt.; tr. Mary E. Byrne, 1880-1931

When I listen to this hymn, I feel I am listening to a prayer. The words are attributed to Dallan Forgaill, an 8th Century Irish monk.

Verse 3 states, “Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always: thou and thou only, the first in my heart, great God of heaven, my treasure thou art.” These words are a map of how we should live our lives, and where our focus should be: on the treasure that awaits us in heaven.

I think of our young people and their journey to find the meaning of life; it’s a journey fraught with temptations. The temptations they face are the same temptations humankind has faced for centuries. This hymn, written more than 1,200 years ago, demonstrates that some things were not all that different in Dallan Forgaill’s time. 

“Riches I heed not” is a philosophy almost foreign in today’s world. We are bombarded from every direction about the value of money and the freedom money can give. Who among us does not want to be wealthy? But true wealth does not come from money in the bank, or from stocks and bonds. True wealth is found in our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is my hope and prayer we can all focus on the true meaning of life and understand the true treasure of life, which to me is, “I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.”

“Be though my wisdom, and thou my true word; I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord. Thou my soul’s shelter, and thou my high tow’r, raise thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.”

Judy McDiffett

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 2, 2008


This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears
all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world; the birds their carols raise;
the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world; he shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me ev’rywhere.

This is my Father’s world; oh, let me not forget
that, though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring; God reigns, let the earth be glad!

Text: Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858-1901

These lyrics give praise to the beauty of God’s creation. How truly blessed we are to be stewards of his earthly kingdom.

Early every morning our Alaskan Malamute, Pasha Bear, and I go for a walk. We both look forward to our stroll. For Pasha Bear, it’s a time to do the things doggies doo. For me, it’s a time to reconnect with God and take in the beauty of his creation. Pasha Bear and I return home each morning refreshed as we take on a new day.

This hymn also speaks to me about whether we, as God’s people, are good stewards of his creation. What about climate change and global warming? Just take a look around.

Scientists recently warned that carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere 35 percent faster than previously reported. The Arctic ice is melting, and glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. Last summer, the southeastern part of the United States was running out of water because of a record drought. In Kansas, controversy exists about whether two coal-fired plants should be built at the expense of further hurting our environment and at the risk of causing greater public health and safety concerns. Clearly, our environment is becoming more polluted as our natural resources continue to dwindle.

God must be disappointed. We have not been good stewards. The Lenten season is a time for self-examination. May we, as God’s children, learn to become more concerned about being good stewards of his beautiful world.

Thank you, God, for the beauty of your creation. We pray we can become a changed people so that we can truly give praise to the hymn, “This Is My Father’s World.” 

Larry Ehrlich

The Fourth Monday of Lent

March 3, 2008


I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.


I love to tell the story;
I’ll sing this theme in glory
and tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

I love to tell the story: how pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet!
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own holy word. (Refrain)

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
I’ll sing the old, old story that I have loved so long. (Refrain)

Text: Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911

God so loved the world that he blessed us with music. From the soft sounds of a lullaby to the inspiration of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” the whole world sings!  Even the deaf sing with their hands.

Lord God, you’ve blessed us with this wonderful thing called music. Thank you! Thank you for talented people who write music, sing and play instruments for our enjoyment. Bless their voices and their efforts to praise you, bringing the good news in music to all who love you and praise your holy name. I thank you, Lord, for allowing me to tell the old, old story.

Twila Black

The Fourth Tuesday of Lent

March 4, 2008



Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.

 Kneels at the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet,
master who acts as a slave to them. (Refrain)

Neighbors are wealthy and poor, varied in color and race,
neighbors are near us and far away. (Refrain)

These are the ones we will serve, these are the ones we will love;
all these are neighbors to us and you. (Refrain)

Kneel at the feet of our friends, silently washing their feet:
this is the way we will live with you. (Refrain)

Text: Tom Colvin, 1925-2000, alt.
Used by permission © 1969 Hope Publishing Company (ASCAP), Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved..

Several years ago, when I served as a teacher for a second-grade Bible study class, the children read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and then participated in a foot-washing service in class. I wondered whether second-graders could be serious and gain some understanding from the experience, so I had each one repeat as he or she washed a friend’s feet: “I am doing this because you are my friend and I care for you.” It was truly a remarkable lesson. The students were serious, loving and, indeed, nearly reverent. I think the idea of humbling oneself to be of service to another was, for the moment, understood.

Similarly, when I served as a helper on a recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic, part of my assignment was teaching children how to wash their hands and clean their fingernails. Washing their little soiled hands and speaking gently to them in a language they didn’t understand was a humbling and touching lesson for me.

We can serve others in so many ways, both locally and globally. We have only to seize the opportunity. We all know there are so many needs to be met. In the serving line at the Saturday morning breakfast for the homeless, we meet so many who have needs we can only imagine. Multiple races, different circumstances and many disabilities are represented. It becomes clear that these are our neighbors. As the hymn says, “These are the ones we will serve, these are the ones we will love; all these are neighbors to us and you.”

Gracious and loving Lord, we praise you for our many blessings and ask for your loving guidance, that we may share our abundance with those in need. Grant that we will serve you with humility and with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Lotus Gerards

The Fifth Wednesday of Lent

March 5, 2008


Let us break bread together on our knees;
let us break bread together on our knees.


When I fall on my knees,
with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

Let us drink wine together on our knees;
let us drink wine together on our knees. (Refrain)

Let us praise God together on our knees;
let us praise God together on our knees. (Refrain)

Text: African American spiritual

When I think about meaningful hymns, my thoughts rush back to childhood Sundays and my Mom playing KFRM radio on a great big console TV/radio/stereo before and after church. We heard a wide mix of artists, from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Mahalia Jackson to Etta James. We listened to that music until Sunday dinner was served. We had a house full of boys interested in sports, and it was often a struggle to get the music turned off for the afternoon football or basketball game. Mercifully, as far as the boys were concerned, the program ended around 1 p.m.

I remember most the tunes we had sung at church, the ones that Mom, as we were getting dinner ready, was moved to sing out loud along with the radio. Almost always those were the hymns that everyone at church knew best and sang loudest. Those sounds stirred my soul even though I wasn’t very musical. I still feel that way when we sing old spirituals, or when we have string and brass musicians in the choir loft, especially on Easter Sunday.

The most meaningful part of worship for me is communion. The hymn that everyone seems to know best and sing with the most soul and conviction is “Let Us Break Bread Together.” Most in the congregation have their eyes up and heads back, with mouths punctuating every word. Some folks, though, close their eyes, feeling every note deeply. You can almost see their hearts are wide open, soaking in the soulful refrain. “When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.”

And it still gives me goose bumps.

Lord, help us remember that we celebrate the gift of your son every time we sing to you.

Bruce Brittain

The Fifth Thursday of Lent

March 6, 2008


O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed;


Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, how great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, how great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;  (Refrain)

But when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
that on the cross my burden gladly bearing
he bled and died to take away my sin; (Refrain)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim,
“My God, how great thou art!”  (Refrain)

Text: Carl G. Boberg, 1859-1940; tr. and adapt. Stuart K. Hine, 1899-1989.
Used by permission.  ©1953 S.K. Hine, assigned to Manna Music, Inc.,
35255 Brooten Road, Pacific City, OR 97135 (ASCAP).
Renewed 1981. All rights reserved. (ASCAP)

How can anyone read the words of this hymn and not be awed at God’s power?  How can anyone not be thrilled at the words?

As a Christian, I know that everything everything is created by our God. This hymn voices my belief in that God. The writer includes every aspect of our lives and nature: the forest, the birds, the mountains, the brook, the breeze. In this era of concerns about the universe, the land, the waters, this hymn reminds us that God created everything we love. We must be responsible and take care of these natural creations, if we are going to honor our God. This hymn could be considered a striving for ecological perfection.

The hymn also reminds us that Christ died for us, for our sins. I must agree with the song: “I scarce can take it in.” How unbelievable that a man, Jesus Christ, would die for me and my sins. I am truly blessed. This is truly a God, a Christ for all times, for all peoples, for all places: a God for the universe. Thus, I sing, “How great thou art.”

Holy Lord and God, thank you for the beauty of your universe. Help me to appreciate not only the gifts of nature, but the true gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Continue to remind me how great thou art.

Barbara Orsak

The Fifth Friday of Lent

March 7, 2008



Keep your eye on God.
God is. He always was. He always will be.
No matter what … it is God.
He is gracious and merciful.
It is most important that I know Thee.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts, fears, and emotions – time, all related…
All made from one… all made in one.
Blessed be his name.
Thought waves – heat waves – all vibrations – all paths lead to God.  Thank you, God.
His way … it is so lovely … it is gracious.
It is merciful – thank you, God.

John Coltrane 1923-1967
Impulse Record A-77 December 9, 1964; reissued MCA 29020

 John Coltrane’s seminal 1964 jazz album, “A Love Supreme,” was more than another in a series of groundbreaking recordings — it was his thank you to God. It was a suite in four parts — “Acknowledgment,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance” and “Psalm” — and each is an essential part of this gift.

“Acknowledgment” opens with the swoosh of a Chinese gong — a sure sign that this is no conventional jazz album. After his solo, this section concludes with Coltrane, or Trane, playing the trademark four-note theme “A Love Supreme” 37 times in a wide variety of keys. Lewis Porter, author of “John Coltrane: His Life and Music,” interprets this as showing that God is present in all keys. This seems reasonable given Trane’s oft-quoted statement that he believed in all religions. The movement from the saxophone into a chant draws upon a method of acknowledging God that has been used for thousands of years.

“Resolution” is Trane’s musical statement renouncing a “period of irresolution” during which he was addicted to heroin, alcohol and cigarettes, all of which he simultaneously kicked cold turkey.

Trane writes that “No road is an easy one but they all go back to God.” In “Pursuance” the Coltrane Quartet pursues many innovative roads with tremendous energy and innovation, drawing inspiration from each other and spurring each other on — the essence of jazz.

“Psalm” concludes this musical masterpiece by uniting poetry and music with Trane’s musical narration of the text he wrote for this album. As many times as I have listened to “A Love Supreme,” I gained newfound understanding when I simultaneously read along with the text, noting the ad-libs identified by Porter.

“May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain it is all with God — in all ways and forever.”  (John Coltrane, liner notes, “A Love Supreme,” originally recorded 1964, released by Impulse Records.)

Ted Vlamis

The Fifth Saturday of Lent

March 8, 2008


This little light of mine, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
this little light of mine, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
this little light of mine, I'm goin'-a let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Ev'rywhere I go, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
ev'rywhere I go, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
ev'rywhere I go, I'm goin'-a let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Jesus gave it to me, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
Jesus gave it to me, I'm goin'-a let it shine;
Jesus gave it to me, I'm goin'-a let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Text: African American spiritual

This African American spiritual is one of our grandson Blake’s favorite Sunday school hymns, and I dedicate this devotion in his memory.

The Bible has more than 40 references to light. Most are spoken by or about Jesus, who refers to himself as “… the light of the world.” (John 8:12)

But the verse that most closely coincides with this hymn is part of our baptismal liturgy: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The “light” in this hymn and verse refers to each of us as children of our heavenly Father, created by God, in his image. Our faith is the fuel for our light. And by living our lives each day as we have been commanded, we shine and glow and become like John  “... a witness to testify to the light (Jesus Christ), so that all might believe through him.” (John 1:7) Our actions, our attitudes, our interactions each day reflect our true light, as the second verse attests: “Everywhere I go, I’m goin’-a let it shine.”

Then the third verse wraps it all up and tells us exactly how our light originated. “Jesus gave it to me, I’m goin’-a let it shine.”

Father, allow our light to be a bright beacon, each day reflecting our faith and love for you. Help us to always do what is pleasing in your sight as our light attests to your grace.

Bob L. Livingston

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 9, 2008


Beautiful Savior, king of creation, Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love thee, truly I'd serve thee, light of my soul, my joy, my crown.

 Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands, robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer; Jesus is purer. He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine; fair is the moonlight; bright the sparkling stars on high.
Jesus shines brighter; Jesus shines purer than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations, Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be thine!

Text: Gesangbuch, Münster, 1677; tr. Joseph A. Seiss, 1823-1904

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this hymn. It’s been my favorite for as long as I can remember. The music is beautiful in itself. I love to hear the organist play it. The words portray Jesus in so many wonderful ways — Son of God, Son of Man, King, Lord, Joy, Crown — nearly all the descriptions of him we need in just four short verses.

I always feel peace and calm when singing this hymn. I love the outdoors, and the comparisons to sunshine, moonlight, meadows, flowers and stars are meaningful to me. I often feel closer to Jesus when I am outside, especially in places of exceptional beauty. Nothing people have built compares to our earth, to the beauty that God made for us to enjoy. Jesus is like these parts of nature, but fairer, purer and brighter. He is beyond anything beautiful that we can see or imagine. This is hard to even think about, but with faith we can believe that someday we will see Jesus in all his beauty.

Even in this time for contemplation and repentance during Lent, Jesus is our light. He is always with us, no matter what life brings us. “He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.” Let us continue our somber Lenten journey knowing that Jesus has conquered all things. He has died on the cross for us; there is no greater beauty than that.

Beautiful Savior, help me to sing this song of praise and adoration every day. When I see my favorite mountains, flowers and plains, let me feel closer to you. In your name I pray.

Marsha Meili

The Fifth Monday of Lent

March 10, 2008


You have come down to the lakeshore seeking neither the wise nor the wealthy,
but only asking for me to follow.


Sweet Lord, you have looked into my eyes; kindly smiling, you’ve called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat; now with you, I will seek other seas.

You know full well what I have, Lord; neither treasure nor weapons for conquest,
just these my fish nets and will for working.  (Refrain)

You need my hands, my exhaustion, working love for the rest of the weary –
a love that’s willing to go on loving.  (Refrain) 

You who have fished other waters; you, the longing of souls that are yearning:
O loving Friend, you have come to call me.  (Refrain)

Text: Cesareo Gabarain, 1936-1991; Tr. Madeleine Forell Marshall, b. 1946
Used by permission.  © 1979 OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213 All rights reserved. 

As Jesus came down to the lakeshore of Galilee, he found Peter and Andrew, James and John. Jesus was looking for volunteers. He was conducting his own job fair. For Jesus, a specialist in job placement, this was personal. The recruits would be working for, with, around and under his direct supervision. We do not know what conversation took place that day. Only the words of Jesus: “Come, follow me; I will make you fish for people.”

Even today Jesus continues to seek out those who will follow him. It does not matter who we are man or woman, child, teenager, senior citizen or where we have been in our lives. Jesus calls us to follow. As common, ordinary people, we are called to carry the Gospel message, the good news of Christ, to all the world. And the greatest job benefit ever offered is in the words of Jesus: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The call to discipleship, to follow Jesus, is for each and every one of us. Jesus is looking for personnel in a very personal way. “You have come to call me.”  From the very beginning, the coming of Jesus was personal. The angel said to the shepherds: “I am bringing you good news, for to you this day is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”  And, in the words of our baptism:  “I baptize you.” And as Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion: “This is my body, my blood, given and shed for you.”

Jesus, still today, is personally looking, searching, asking us to follow him. The first disciples had no idea what they were getting into when they began to follow Jesus. Nor do we. So, will we say “yes”? Will we answer his call to “follow me”?

Jesus, I thank you for your promise to always be with me. Lord, when you ask me to follow you, how can I keep from singing the good news of Jesus to all the world?

Larry Frank, Parish Ministry Associate

The Fifth Tuesday of Lent

March 11, 2008


 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Text: African American spiritual, alt.

I like “time travel” movies. When and where would you like to go? One of my dream destinations is the Holy Land at about the time John baptized Jesus. (My other choice would be 365 days in the future to retrieve next year’s Wall Street Journal with 2008 stock prices.)

Imagine following Jesus through his years of public ministry. Every descriptive superlative I can think of is so overused that it would trivialize the experience. What would it be like to witness the miracles? Could you get invited to the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine? Think of all the other miracles — plus sermons, speeches and parables.

But eventually you would come to his last week — Holy Week. Could you bear to witness those events? What if, by time travel, you were there when they crucified him, nailed him to the tree and laid him in the tomb? Should you get involved in some way to try to stop it? Or would it be OK to just leave it in God’s hands, knowing that everything would end well?

Without time travel, you can “be there” as nearly every major modern tragedy is happening, or has just happened. Flip on the TV or log onto a computer. CNN televises from Baghdad as we are bombing it. Watch a broadcast of a day in the life of refugees nearly anywhere in the world — Darfur, Middle East, New Orleans. Go to and see any number of very recent tragedies. Is it enough to passively watch and leave it in God’s hands?  Aren’t you God’s hand to those in need?

Heavenly Father, grant us fortitude to act for those less fortunate, to sing out when events demand our efforts.

Keith Martin

The Sixth Wednesday of Lent

March 12, 2008


Lift ev’ry voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise high as the list’ning skies; let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on, till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
yet, with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our parents sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
thou who hast by thy might led us into the light: keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.

Text: James Weldon Johnson, 1871-1938

Like much of academia during the early 1960s, the University of Iowa was a hotbed of intellectual and political unrest. The mood of orators on the student soapbox was strident, and the rhetoric was punctuated with fire. In fact, the campus was ablaze. Young men burned their draft cards; young women burned their bras. Together they burned books, flags and even buildings. Hell, no, I won’t go!

Vietnam wasn’t the only the only war zone during those unsettled times. The flames of righteous indignation rose up from Mississippi and Alabama, fanned by ignorance and hatred. Americans died on American soil, most of them young black men whose only crime was that they were young black men. 

Not many white people knew about the “underground railroad” that ran north from Mississippi to Chicago and Detroit. It wasn’t a railroad at all, just a series of friendly spots along the way where a tired black man in search of sanctuary could wash his hands and rest his weary soul.

One of the stops on the “railroad” was a flat roof immediately adjacent to my 2nd floor apartment. Travelers slept on the roof but could access the building through a walk-in window. My roommate and I welcomed them to come through the window and use our plumbing before they slept under the Iowa stars.

I often sat with the travelers on the rooftop after dark, smoking cigarettes and inventing a better world.  They could have been bitter as they made the long trip north, sleeping on rooftops far from home, but they didn’t seem to be. They seemed optimistic that a new day would soon be dawning and that, when it did, they would be standing in the light of justice. I pray they found what they were looking for.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears … teach us to sing the songs of justice and equality.  Give us strength to fight for the oppressed, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to care for those who travel alone. We pray in Jesus’ name.

Dallas Cronk

The Sixth Thursday of Lent

March 13, 2008


Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever child-like, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

 Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Text: Jan Struther, 1901-1953
Used by permission.  © 1931 Oxford University Press

.When I was a sophomore in high school, I got a job as a disc jockey, working from 6 a.m. to noon on Sunday mornings. I took the job to get out of going to church.

Once confirmed, teenagers become an endangered species in church and I was no exception. I didn’t like the high school Sunday school teacher, and I thought the youth parent-leaders were hypocrites. Singing hymns left them stuck in my head all day, and I didn’t even like those songs!

So for two years, I worked as a DJ. I played pop music for two hours, and then Casey’s Top 40 from 8 a.m. to noon.  Every 20 minutes, I did the weather report as “Jenna Jordan.” I was the only female on-air personality, so I also got to ride on parade floats, judge Halloween contests and dress up as the station mascot.

But I also got to get up at 5 a.m. And go to work in a building with questionable heat. And use a bathroom that six men had used all week. And I missed Easter morning with my family twice. 

One Easter, my mom left an Easter basket in my car. I was so excited to eat jelly beans, I fumbled to open the bag while walking into work. The beans flew everywhere! Not to waste my Easter treat, I crawled around in the parking space, picking up the candy.  I was 17, on my knees, in a chilly pre-dawn street, thinking “Happy Easter to me.”

I realized that the sacrifices I made to get away from church were successful in making me miss it!  I soon resigned my position and eventually made it back to a pew on Sunday morning.

Lord, give us the strength to run toward you and not away. Forgive us for not always seeking you.  Remind us with gentleness that you are always with us.

Jennifer Worrel

The Sixth Friday of Lent

March 14, 2008


I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in deepest sin my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send? 


Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

 I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them. They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send? (Refrain)

I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them. My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.  Whom shall I send? (Refrain)

Text: Daniel L. Schutte, b. 1946
Used by permission. 
 © 1981 OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213 All rights reserved.

This hymn took on special meaning almost 19 years ago when our nephew, Michael, was ordained as a priest. He chose it for his first mass. His mother, my husband’s sister, died of cancer when Mike was only 15 years old. Her deep and passionate faith had a profound and lasting influence on him. He had responded to our Lord’s call and dedicated his life to serving. We felt joy and happiness for him as he began his ministry.

God calls us to serve him in many ways, using our varied gifts to reach out to others. Do you ever awaken in the night thinking about someone who is in need of help? The next morning you may feel that you should take some kind of action, but you lack the confidence to do anything on your own. Just remember that our Lord will always lead you, if you will only ask and reach out to him.

The words of this hymn inspire me to try to be more aware of the needs of others and be willing to help to say, “Here I am Lord. Send me!”

Lord, help us be open to hearing your call and willing to serve in your holy name. 

Barbara Lee

The Sixth Saturday of Lent

March 15, 2008



Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
all our hearts are filled with gladness.
Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
all our hearts are filled with gladness.

Christ the Lord to us said: I am wine, I am bread,
I am wine, I am bread, give to all who thirst and hunger. (Refrain)

Now he sends us all out, strong in faith, free of doubt,
strong in faith, free of doubt. Tell to all the joyful gospel. (Refrain)

Text: South African, tr. Freedom Is Coming, 1984
English text © 1984 Utryck, admin. Walton Music Corp.
Used by permission. License Number L13316

Knowing God’s love puts a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  So does this hymn.

The message is clear: God is the wine and the bread; he will provide us with everything we need. God asks us to go out and spread the good news of his love to the entire world!  God wants us to be strong in our faith with no reservations. He wants us to share the news of Jesus with our neighbors, friends, strangers and enemies.

We should be proud to admit to everyone: I am a child of God!  But that is not always easy to do. There are times when we are ashamed to admit we are children of God. There are times when we are afraid to admit we are children of God. There are times when we are embarrassed to admit we are children of God.

I have faced situations when I kept quiet rather than admit I attend church regularly and know Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am ashamed of myself at these times, but thankful because I know God can and does forgive me. During this Lenten season, I hope we all remember how Jesus stood up to everyone around him and said, “I am a child of God!” Let’s stand up and spread the news of God’s love for all people and be proud to do so.

Dear Lord, give us the courage to go out into the world and tell others the story of how Jesus died on the cross for us all. Let each of our voices be heard as we tell the world: I am a child of God!

Sheryl Johnson


March 16, 2008


O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded, with thorns thine only crown;
O sacred head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.

How pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn;
how does thy face now languish, which once was bright as morn!
Thy grief and bitter passion were all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.

What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.

Text: Paul Gerhardt 1607-1676

 Passion/Palm Sunday is an interesting time in Lent. The day begins with a joyous procession including palm branches and music. We hail Jesus, the King, who rides into Jerusalem to the delight of the cheering crowds. However, by mid-morning, the tone turns more somber. During the reading of the Passion, we cry out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, is greeted by a taunting, jeering crowd on his way to the cross.

I feel a sense of grief and sadness for the way Jesus was treated that day and for my betrayal of him every day. And yet, because of Christ’s sacrifice, all who believe in the promise of forgiveness may have eternal life.

This hymn has been sung by Christians for centuries and expresses the hope that Christ has given to us through his passion and death on the cross. Many composers have created larger works based on it, including Johann Sebastian Bach in his St. Matthew Passion. The last verse provides all we need to remember when we come to the end of our earthly journey.  Faith in Jesus as our Savior gives us strength to deal with the pain and adversity of this life and promises us the joy of life eternal in Christ’s love.

Lord, be my consolation; shield me when I must die;
remind me of thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
These eyes, new faith receiving, from thee shall never move;
for all who die believing die safely in thy love. 

Marlene Hallstrom, Associate in Ministry

Monday of Holy Week

March 17, 2008



 One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
One cup of blessing which we bless;
And we, though many throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.

Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man no more. (Refrain)

Many the gifts, many the works, one in the Lord of all. (Refrain)

Grain for the fields, scattered and grown, gathered to one for all. (Refrain) 

Text: John Foley b. 1939
Used by permission.  © 1978 OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213 All rights reserved.

Communion is an important sacrament to Christians. We may have different beliefs about what the bread and wine mean. We all know they represent the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some believe the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood. Lutherans believe that within the Eucharistic celebration, the body and blood of Jesus Christ are objectively present “in, with and under” the bread and wine.

Jesus is the common thread for all Christians. This communion of the eating of Jesus’ body and the drinking of Jesus’ blood is a celebration of him sacrificing his life that we may live. All we have to do is believe in him.

Recently I watched a television reporter interviewing a boy evangelist. She was questioning the boy’s ability to fully understand his Christian beliefs. Her question to him was: “I am a Buddhist. I can’t go to heaven even though I am a good person?” His answer was, “No!”

The boy’s answer might not strike you as politically correct, but Jesus tells us we must believe in him to receive everlasting life. We cannot achieve it through good works.

Christians understand that God gave his loving son to atone for all our sins. All that is required of us is to believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he died for our sins, overcame death and was resurrected. The only thing standing in the way of his gift is us. We have the freedom to believe and accept Jesus in our hearts or not. God doesn’t make the choice. We do.  

Heavenly Father, we ask for your strength as we face our everyday trials and tribulations. Help us remember that celebrating Holy Communion is our way of confessing our sins while witnessing our faith.

Richard McDiffett

Tuesday of Holy Week

March 18, 2008


Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descending comes full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful his own self for heav'nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way;
as the Light of light, descending from the realms of endless day,
comes, the pow'rs of hell to vanquish, as the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph, cherubim with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry:
"Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!"

Text: Liturgy of St. James; tr. Gerard Moultrie, 1829-1885, alt. 

If I were asked to choose my favorite song in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book, I couldn’t. I would not be able to narrow it down to only one. Way too many speak to me spiritually, emotionally and aesthetically.

But this hymn – this worshipful meditation – would be close to the top of my list. The words, fittingly matched with a hauntingly beautiful melody, call me to consider just who it is (creator of the universes, and more) that we call God! And to respond with worship … with worship!

Some of my other favorites are what are called “praise” songs. And yes! praise to our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is certainly called for. Indeed it is probably inseparable from worship.

Other old favorites contain important challenges to holy living or faithful service and witness. I could go on and on. These emphases, and many others, are important for the deepening of my faith and strengthening of my discipleship. But the words of worship voiced in this hymn need to literally infuse my very being – consciously and subconsciously – every day of my life that, together with “the rank on rank” of heavenly hosts, I might hold our God in awed adoration.

To realize the astonishing truth that our God is also our heavenly Father – Abba, Father (which some have said means “Daddy”) – is almost more than I can handle. My response can only be an awed and heartfelt worship!  Thanks, praise and adoration!

And so, omnipotent, high and holy God,
Beautiful Savior, we worship and adore you,
Amen and Amen!

Wil Johnson

Wednesday of Holy Week

March 19, 2008


Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

 I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me!

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes,
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Text: Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847

It’s a tradition in my family to sing to children after bedtime prayers to help them settle down for sleep. I can’t remember not knowing the first, second and fifth verses of “Abide with Me,” which Mom included in the bedtime songfest at least twice a week.

Even when I was really young, the notion of where one day fits with respect to forever took root. And it continues to grow. The best days and the rottenest days of my young life were all small. When I’d look at the good days, with games, trees to climb, creeks to explore, they were just small tastes of what was still coming. When I’d look at the bad days, they became more like bumps in the road, and not all that tough.

The constant prayer in this song is that Jesus stay close. A good or a bad day is still truly and honestly good or bad, but whether it’s good or bad is not so important when Jesus abides with me. The hymn has helped me pay attention to how God is always near and how his hand is at work.

It’s also good to know that God isn’t changing. I’m changing. The world around me is changing. And the way in which I see and understand the world is changing. Day turns to night, time passes by, and things are different. But God was, is and will be the same. God is right there next to me. He shines through any gloom and points me to the skies.

Jesus, thank you for coming to us and staying with us. Please help us remember that you’re always with us, keeping us your own.

Tim Meyer


March 20, 2008


Lord, whose love in humble service bore the weight of human need,
who upon the cross, forsaken, worked your mercy’s perfect deed:
we, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart;
consecrating to your purpose ev’ry gift which you impart.

Still your children wander homeless; still the hungry cry for bread;
still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead.
As you, Lord, in deep compassion healed the sick and freed the soul,
by your Spirit send your power to our world to make it whole.

As we worship, grant us vision, till your love’s revealing light
in its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight,
making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear,
stirring us to ardent service, your abundant life to share.

Called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go,
to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show;
hope and health, good will and comfort, counsel, aid, and peace we give,
that your servants, Lord, in freedom may your mercy know and live.

Text: Albert F. Bayley, 1901-1984. Used by permission.  © 1961 Oxford University Press

Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper. Jesus was together with his disciples in fellowship and friendship, Passover tradition and remembrance, covenant and commitment, closeness and caring, danger and betrayal. We join him and them, this Holy Thursday.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and Paul (1 Corinthians 11) offer accounts of Jesus giving himself in the bread and wine of the first Holy Communion: “This is my body... This is my blood...” He becomes part of us, and we part of him, one body. That is meaningful to me for living each day with hope, forgiveness, comfort and peace.

There is more. In John’s Gospel, Jesus kneels and washes the dirty feet of his disciples, a humble servant’s task. He said, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8) In acts of simple caring, we become part of him, and he of us. I imagine him washing and embracing me. Jesus reveals his new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) I experience his caring today through you.

That inspires and moves me to try to serve in useful ways. Jesus encourages us all to be as Christ to one another. We worshipers gather at the holy table and move out into the hungry, hurting, hoping world with God’s gifts of life and grace. There are holy, humble moments in our everyday work, aspirations, decisions and relationships: our everyday communion with the world around us. This hymn sings it well.

Gracious God, thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ, in his holy supper and in his servants who share your caring love. May we carry your love into our world today.

The Rev. Sally Fahrenthold, retired


March 21, 2008


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

 Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Text: African American spiritual, alt.

This African-American spiritual compels us to bridge time and space, and place ourselves squarely in events central to the Christian faith. “Were you there,” the song asks rhetorically, knowing full well we were. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?... when they nailed him to the tree?...when they pierced him in the side?... when the sun refused to shine?... when they laid him in the tomb?”

I remember many Good Friday services, some at Reformation, when the central focus was a large wooden cross. This hymn was sung with deep emotion in a dimly lit sanctuary as we contemplated the death of Jesus. And there was little doubt that somehow, by faith, what had taken place back then in Bible times was really part of the present. And the present, filled with burden and guilt, somehow was transported back to the day when Christ himself was lifted up.

The liturgy says, “In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (p. 227, Evangelical Lutheran Worship) In the mystery of God, time ceases. The past is made present and the present is taken to the past. Even now in faith we are given a foretaste of the future.

Holy Week, indeed the whole of the church year, is not simply the remembering of the teachings and events of Jesus’ life in the past. The liturgies take us deeply into the life of Jesus, into the mysteries of God and the gift of salvation. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  Yes, and most importantly, we were there receiving life and salvation from our Lord.

The Rev. Gerald Mansholt,
Bishop, Central States Synod

Saturday of Holy Week

March 22, 2008


"I am the Bread of life. You who come to me shall not hunger,
and who believe in me shall not thirst.
No one can come to me unless the Father beckons."


"And I will raise you up, and I will raise you up, and I will raise you up on the last day."

"The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,
and if you eat of this bread, you shall live forever, you shall live forever."  (Refrain)

"Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood,
and drink of his blood, you shall not have life within you."  (Refrain)

"I am the resurrection, I am the life.
If you believe in me, even though you die, you shall live forever." ( Refrain)

Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, who have come into the world.  (Refrain)

Text: Suzanne Toolan, RSM, b. 1927, based on John 6
Text © 1966, 1970, 1986, 1993 GIA Publications, Inc., 7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago, IL 60638. 800.442.3358.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

When Roman Catholics pray the rosary, they contemplate four sets of mysteries in the life of Jesus: the joyous mysteries, the glorious mysteries, the luminous mysteries and the sorrowful mysteries. The sorrowful mysteries include the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion.

As Lutherans, we spend much of Holy Week contemplating these same mysteries. As humans, we spend much of our lives contemplating our own pain. Knowing Christ does not take away our pain. Yet, somehow, the suffering of Christ can give us hope to live through the hard times. Let’s face it whatever our problems, Jesus’ problems were worse: He was illegitimate, poor, transient, homeless, misunderstood, pressured to perform, unjustly accused, abandoned and killed.

Jesus’ life was much harder than our lives. Even as we contemplate Christ’s suffering, we know that his story did not end in suffering. And neither will ours. Knowing Christ heals us.

The 20th century theologian Frederick Buechner said, “The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.” Through his suffering, we are healed.

Lord Jesus, you know our sorrows. In all our suffering, you are with us. That is your promise. There is nothing we suffer that you do not know. Through you, we gain strength and find hope to keep living. Thank you. 

Quinn Gorges, Seminarian


March 23, 2008


Now all the vault of heav'n resounds in praise of love that still abounds:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!" Sing, choirs of angels, loud and clear!
Repeat their song of glory here: "
Christ has triumphed! He is living!" Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 Eternal is the gift he brings, therefore our heart with rapture sings:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!" Now still he comes to give us life
and by his presence stills all strife.
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!" Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Oh, fill us, Lord, with dauntless love; set heart and will on things above
that we conquer through your triumph; grant grace sufficient for life's day
that by our lives we truly say:
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!" Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Adoring praises now we bring and with the heav'nly blessed sing:
"Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!" Be to the Father, and our Lord,
to Spirit blest, most holy God,
all the glory, never ending! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 Text: Paul Z. Strodach, 1876-1947, alt.
Used by permission.  © 1958 Augsburg Fortress Publishers

My favorite part of Easter worship is the opening hymn. During Lent, the mood has been solemn. We have reflected on our need for repentance, heard the story of Christ’s passion and looked forward to the good news of this day: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

When I was growing up, nothing seemed to express that good news as well as the opening hymn in my home church. After the darkness of Good Friday, we gathered on Easter to proclaim the good news. As we stood to sing, the usual organ was joined by a brass choir. Trumpets, trombones and French horns rang out. It was as if I could actually hear the vault of heaven resounding!

What a joyous day! What terrific news! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christ has triumphed over death and the grave. But we could not celebrate the great glory of this day without the days that preceded it. Easter Sunday couldn’t come without Good Friday. We have once again heard the story of Christ’s crucifixion, of his burial in the tomb. Yet today, the tomb is empty!

Hear the message the angel shared with the women who went to see Christ’s tomb on that first Easter morning: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him’” (Matthew 28:5-7).

The women at the tomb shared the message from the angel the message that leads us to join with choirs of angels as we sing out the good news today and every day! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! With that news in hand, how can we keep from singing?

Holy and living One, help us to always sing your praise and share the good news of your death and resurrection, not just on this day, but every day. We pray in the name of your son, the risen and living One, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Rev. Kristin Neitzel, Associate Pastor