Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I must begin by thanking you for the wonderful gift you gave me on the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination! This gift will make possible a trip to Europe which I have been wanting to make for a long time. And how wonderful that you have arranged for our good friend Pastor Roy Coats to accompany me! I will go to Germany to see the towns where my German forbears lived before emigrating to America. With the help of Pastor Coats, I’m sure this will be a wonderful experience. Thank you very much! I especially thank everyone who had a hand in making this happen.
I was very happy with the anniversary celebration, both the Divine Service and the luncheon which followed. I was so happy that my old friend Pastor James Bauman, whom I’ve known since I was 19 years old was able to preach the sermon. I was deeply moved. And how delightful that Trent Demarest was able to be with us and read the lessons! Our organist Marie Herrington did such a marvelous job with the music. Her choice of Communion music delighted me – Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus (“Hail true Body” – an anthem adoring Christ present in the Holy Sacrament) which is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Many thanks also to our cantor Paul Techau; the acolytes, Dominick Carmichael-Myrie and Ted Jones; and the ushers: Eugene James, Ron Lang, James Smallwood. And thanks also to everyone who had a hand in preparing and serving the delicious lunch which followed.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Gabe Purviance and Judy Volkman who are taking a well-earned rest from serving on the Church Council. Both of them have been a blessing to me and our whole congregation.
As of this writing we have yet to find someone to serve as sexton. During the weeks since Mr. Hawkins died we have become increasingly aware of just how much he did here at Our Saviour. He truly loved this Church and we must all be truly grateful for his faithfulness in so many ways.
We have now been using the Lutheran Service Book since the beginning of May. During these weeks we have used Divine Service III which is the familiar Order of Holy Communion as found in The Lutheran Hymnal, the” red book.” From July through October we will be using Divine Service I which is the liturgy we know from Lutheran Worship, the “blue book.” Although the music remains exactly the same, the text of the liturgy is enriched with some prayers surrounding the Consecration of the bread and wine to be the body and blood of our Lord.
In early Lutheranism the elevation of the host and the chalice at the Consecration was widely retained not least as an expression of faith in the Real Presence of the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament. This is a custom of which Dr. Luther approved as can be seen in his reform of the historic liturgy, his German Mass and Order of Service of 1526. There he has this to say: “We do not want to abolish the elevation but retain it because it goes well with the German Sanctus and signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, and yet Christ’s body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the sacrament. In each case he is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives his body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us.” The elevation is accompanied by the ringing of a bell. This was done to let those unable to come to church know that the Consecration has taken place.
The Real Presence of the Savior in the Sacrament is surely a miracle of the love of God. Although Reformed Protestantism has since the sixteenth century denied this, we Lutherans have continued to confess as has the Church since the days of the apostles that the Sacrament of the Altar is – as we learned to say in the Catechism – “the true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.” This Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper makes of every Lord’s Day a day of great joy. Just as the risen Lord appeared to the faithful women and to His apostles on the first Easter Day, so on every Lord’s Day He continues to bless us with His saving presence in the Holy Sacrament. And so not only Easter Day but every Lord’s Day is kept in joyful celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. If we truly know and believe this, we will be eager to be present at the Divine Service and receive the life-giving body and blood of Jesus every Lord’s Day and whenever else the Sacrament is celebrated.
Sunday, July 22, is Saint Mary Magdalene’s Day. Our Lord freed her from the power of the devil and from then on she was among the faithful women who accompanied Him and who, when His disciples forsook Him and fled, continued to follow Him all the way to the cross and saw where He was buried. Arriving at the tomb very early on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene found the open tomb and was the first to see the risen Lord (John 20:11-18). And so on July 22 the Church gives thanks for this witness to the Lord’s resurrection.
Our outreach to the community continues with our free flea markets which take place on the second Saturday of the month, this month July 14th, and next month on August 11th. Volunteers are as always needed to greet our visitors and welcome them to Our Saviour.
Vacation Bible School this year takes place July 16-20. As usual Pastor Coats will be here to help and also Vicar Matthew Schettler from Immanuel Church at Loch Raven and Belvedere except on Wednesday when he has other commitments. I am very grateful to Mary Techau who has taken the lead in making this happen. If you know of children who might come to VBS call the church (410.235.9553) and I will see to it that they are contacted.
In recent weeks I have found myself reading over and over again the Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln given on March 4, 1865. (It can easily be found online.) Given just a few weeks before the end of the Civil War and his assassination, it is in my judgment something that can be read with great profit by every American. Among other things it breathes a spirit of humility before God whose judgments are unsearchable, whose ways are past finding out. Lincoln’s words will not provide answers to our present conflicts and perplexities but his words may well provide a perspective formed by a man who has clearly wrestled with God. Needless to say, every Christian will remember our country and its leaders in prayer not only at the Divine Service on Sundays but every day of the week.
Let me just say again how grateful I am for your love and support. Please keep me in your prayers as you are in mine.