Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sunday, October 1st, is Family Day. This year is the 125th anniversary of our congregation which was founded in 1892 by laymen who were members of Immanuel Church, then on Caroline Street in east Baltimore. And so the preacher for Family Day this year will the Rev. Charles Minetree who is the present Pastor of Immanuel Church, now at Loch Raven and Belvedere. We look forward to welcoming him and hearing him preach. After Divine Service there will as usual be a splendid meal in the undercroft. Fried chicken and roast pork will be served and everyone is invited to bring a side dish. Family Day is always one of the happiest events of the year and so I hope you will be present and bring friends and neighbors with you.
But this year marks not only the 125th anniversary of our congregation but also the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg his ninety five theses. These theses or propositions were simply intended for debate among theologians but they quickly became known throughout Europe and were in a real sense the spark which ignited the Reformation. Dr. Luther’s theses were a clear call to repentance and faith in the Gospel: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ says ‘Repent,’ he means that the whole life of Christians should be one repentance”(Thesis 1); “The true treasure of the Church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God”(Thesis 62). The Reformation was in essence a great movement of repentance, of turning away from everything that had come to obscure the blessed truth that sinners are justified – put right with God – by grace through faith in Christ Jesus who died for our sins and rose again for our justification. And so repentance is the keynote at every anniversary of the Reformation. We realize how we ourselves have sinned by coldness and indifference to these precious gifts of God and by our failure truly to love one another and all our fellow human beings as Christ has loved us. And so there is no place in our celebration for any kind of smug self-satisfaction but only for deep repentance, gratitude, and the ancient prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful people, and kindle in us the fire of Your love!”
As the life of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ when here in this world was such that His divine glory was hidden in “the form of a servant,” in all He suffered and endured for us sinners, just so the glory of the one holy Church which is His Body and Bride is hidden under the sufferings, sins, and divisions among us who profess and call ourselves Christians. Never in this age will the Church be free from the temptation of the world, our sinful nature, and the devil. And so we pray – in the words of Nicholas Selneccer (1532-1592) – that God would preserve us steadfast in faith to the end:
In these last days of sore distress,
Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness,
That we keep pure till life is spent
Thy holy Word and Sacrament.
Yes, “Thy holy Word and Sacrament“! It is a cause for deep sadness that so many nominal Lutherans have today abandoned the Sacrament according to Christ’s institution. We see this in those – nominally! – Lutheran churches which now invite to their altars members of churches which deny that the consecrated bread and wine are – as Christ says – His true body and blood, churches which have no objection to their people receiving Communion in churches which deny the Real Presence. As Dr. Luther so clearly saw, “this Sacrament is the Gospel” for here we truly receive that which Christ sacrificed for our salvation on the altar of the cross for forgiveness of sins, for life and for salvation. “This Sacrament is the Gospel” and so the beating heart and center of the Church’s life through all the ages. And so we pray – in the words of Samuel Kinner (1603-1668):
For Thy consoling Supper, Lord,
Be praised throughout the ages!
Preserve it for in every place
The world against it rages.
Grant that this Sacrament may be
A blessed comfort unto me
When living and when dying.
Sunday, October 29th is Reformation Sunday. There will be a Festival Divine Service at the usual time. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon there will be a Joint Reformation Service at Emmanuel Church in Catonsville. The Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, senior assistant to the President of Synod, will preach. A dinner will follow the service.
Do remember that through October 29th there is an exhibit at the Walters Art Museum: Uncertain Times: Martin Luther’s Remedies for the Soul. If a number of us are interested in going, we can perhaps plan a visit for members and friends. The Walters Art Museum is one of Baltimore’s treasures. It is a place I have loved since I was a little boy.
And do remember that plans are underway for a musical celebration of the Reformation Anniversary here in our church on the afternoon of Sunday, November 19th. Mr. Matthew Gerhardt will be our guest organist. He comes highly recommended, has studied in Europe and has in fact played the organ at Saint Thomas Church in Leipzig where Johann Sebastian Bach was for many years organist and choirmaster. Bach was both a pious Lutheran Christian and one of the greatest musicians of all time. How he managed to do all that he did is beyond my comprehension! He was among other things a married man with a great many children yet still managed to compose a cantata for every Sunday and festival of the Church Year, music which still gives glory to God and enormous pleasure to all who hear it.
And speaking of music, one of the items to be considered at the Voters Meeting on October 15th is the possibility of acquiring our Synod’s new hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book published in 2007. About 85 percent of Synod’s congregations have adopted it for use in their worship. This new book combines what is best both in The Lutheran Hymnal– the “red book” – published in 1941 and Lutheran Worship – the “blue book” published in 1982. Several copies of the Lutheran Service Book will be available for members to borrow and examine. No decision will be made at the October Voters meeting. We hope to make a decision at the January Voters Meeting after there has been ample time to examine and discuss the book. I am more than willing to answer any questions you may have (Telephone: 410.554.9994; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Darlene Grant is now a resident at Caton Manor Nursing Home, 3330 Wilkens Avenue in Baltimore. Peter Buchanan was in Good Samaritan Hospital for a few days but is again at home as of this writing. Remember them in your prayers and also all those whose names appear in the Sunday bulletin.
I am told that the lengthy process of placing our church building on the City of Baltimore’s register of historic buildings is coming to an end. We are especially grateful to Mary Pat Clark of the Baltimore City Council for her continuing support of this project. She is a true friend of our congregation.
Looking ahead to December, there will be a Christmas Bazaar here on Saturday, December 2nd, 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M. The cost of a table will be $25.00 with any profits going to the person who pays for the table. There will also be a table with good things to eat and to drink. More information about this will be given in due course.
In last month’s newsletter I neglected to mention that our wonderful bells can again be played from the organ console. It took far too long to remedy the situation but we can now be thankful that we can again enjoy them and that they continue to be a witness to our Church’s presence here on the corner of 33rd Street and The Alameda.
As I think of all the blessings we enjoy in this congregation, my thoughts often turn to some words of the 16th Psalm (verse 6): “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”
Remember me in your prayers as you are in mine.
Works of Mercy
The last Free Flea Market was held on September 9th. Many thanks to the loyal volunteers who assisted during these 5 months and to those who donated items to be distributed. Attendance was a little lower in September. 33 Attended and 309 items distributed (the day was sunny so I guess many were out enjoying it!) As a total, we assisted 215 individuals by distributing 1,750 items. I think that is pretty good for a small congregation! The Lord has given us bounty and this has been shared with those who need it.
Plans are being made to distribute coats in November at Waverly School. If you have coats, especially children’s, please drop them off at the church. A definite date will be announced later.
As in the past, it is our intention to provide Thanksgiving dinners for ten needy families from the Waverly Elementary/Middle School which is located here in our community. We have monies designated for the turkeys, thanks to our soup supper collections. We will be collecting dinner items, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, boxed mashed potatoes, canned sweet potatoes, string beans, etc. The dinner boxes are packed according to family size; the families will pick up their boxes from the church on the week of Thanksgiving. We’re looking forward to another successful Thanksgiving food drive. Many thanks for your continued generosity in this annual food sharing project.