Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
FAMILY DAY this year is SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14th. This is always one of the highlights of our year, We will have lunch following Divine Service. Sandwiches will be provided but everyone is invited to bring a side dish to share. There is a sign-up sheet for this on the piano in the front of the nave. Our guest preacher this year is the Rev. Noah Rogness who serves as Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the United States Army Pastoral Care Advisory Team. Before going to seminary Noah had served in the United States Army and was deployed to Afghanistan. Pastor Rogness is a dear friend of mine. I first got to know him ten years ago when he was serving as assistant to Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan Shaw who preached at the Easter Vigil here at Our Saviour in 2017. Chaplain Shaw now serves at the Pentagon as the Director of Operations of the United States Army Chaplain Corps.
The Sunday morning Bible Class meets at 9:45 and we are continuing our study of the Letter to the Hebrews. On October 28 and on the following two Sundays the class will be led by Joshua Rystedt who is completing course work with Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin, in order to prepare for entrance into seminary. He will also assist in the Divine Service and will accompany me on several visits to members no longer able to come to Church.
The regular Voters Meeting will be held following Divine Service on October 21st. Every member of Our Saviour who is eighteen years old or older is eligible to participate and vote. Among other things we will be considering the schedule for our observance of Thanksgiving and of the Christmas season.
On Saturday, October 27th, the 19th Annual Meeting of the Baltimore City Historical Society will be held in our Church at 2:00 P.M. A reception in the undercroft will follow. The Historical Society will be meeting here because our Church has now been placed on the Society’s register of historic buildings. A building placed on the register has a sign briefly summarizing its history; planning for ours is almost complete. It will be placed on the 33rd Street side of our Church. The Society’s website says that the Society is dedicated to “preserving, curating and telling Baltimore’s story.”
The end of October always brings Reformation Sunday. As faithful Lutherans we believe that through Dr. Luther God restored to the Church the holy Gospel in its purity and the Sacraments as instituted by Christ Himself. But we must never assume an attitude of pride and condescension toward our fellow Christians, let alone a malicious joy in their trials and tribulations! One of the greatest faithful Lutheran teachers of the last century — some would say the greatest of them all — Dr. Hermann Sasse (1895-1976) had this to say in connection with the hundredth anniversary of the First Vatican Council of the Roman Church which had taken place in 1870:
If the century that has passed since the last solemn session of Vatican I has taught us one thing, it is that there is a solidarity or a common destiny that binds together a divided Christendom. Every great event in the history of one church is the concern of all. Church history should have taught us this long since. Today we are learning this better from year to year. Victory and defeat, glory and shame of one church are shared by all. Therefore each individual church should be the keeper of her sisters. To know this is the beginning of true ecumenicity.
It is no secret that the Roman Catholic Church is going through a terrible crisis — perhaps its worst since the Reformation – in connection with not only predatory sexual behavior on the part of some of its clergy but also distressing evidence that many in positions of authority deliberately covered this up and so permitted this evil to continue. Nor is that all. There also seems to be a growing uncertainty concerning doctrine and practice at the highest levels of that Church, including the Pope himself. Nor is that all! For when we look at the rest of Western Christendom today we see here in many places what increasingly approaches apostasy, an abandonment of the authority of God’s Word and the doctrine solemnly confessed in the three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. And so we must pray for all Christendom that God would — as we say in the Bidding Prayer every Good Friday – “defend it against all the assaults and temptations of the devil and preserve it on the true foundation, Jesus Christ.”
On Reformation Sunday all four hymns sung in the Divine Service will be hymns of Dr. Luther. It is noteworthy that two of them were not entirely new. The first stanza of that wonderful hymn, “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord!” had been in use for a hundred years, and the first stanza of that other hymn, “To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray,” had been sung for more than two hundred years before Luther was born. He simply added some beautiful stanzas to each of these already well loved hymns. This is significant! It shows that, not only in the liturgy but also in the hymnody of the Church, the Lutheran Reformation was truly a reformation and in no sense a revolution. As has often been said, the difference between the Church before and after the Reformation is like that of a garden before and after it has been weeded: those weeds are gone but it is still the same garden — that same Church which has been in the world since the first Pentecost and will continue until our risen and ascended Lord appears in glory at the Last Day. One sign of that continuity is that in our worship we use both words and music hallowed by centuries of use.
Since July we have been using Divine Service I in the Lutheran Service Book. This is the familiar service from the blue hymnal, Lutheran Worship. Beginning on Reformation Sunday and continuing until the end of January we will be using Divine Service Ill which is the familiar service from the red book, The Lutheran Hymnal. We are learning some hymns which are perhaps new to many of us. For a number of weeks we sang that delightfully joyful hymn, “In Thee is Gladness.” Beginning on October 7 we will be singing each week, “Lord Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor,” a hymn in which we rejoice in the Real Presence of the Savior under the humble forms of the consecrated bread and wine.
God has given so much to us here at Our Saviour: we are truly a family in Christ. Visitors quickly notice this! We are privileged to worship in a church building of astonishing beauty which wordlessly invites us to prayer. We are blessed with a remarkably talented organist, Marie Herrington. All of us were saddened when after more than a half century Don Weber was no longer able to continue his faithful service here. Yet I believe that in Marie we have found a worthy successor. She has many gifts, not least her ability to accompany the hymns in a way which truly expresses the words we sing, a way that truly lifts the heart! Before concluding this letter let me gently remind you to inform me when you or a loved one or a friend is ill or in need of pastoral care. That’s what pastors are for! And do let me know if you are in need of a ride to church. I will make every effort to see that one is provided. The best phone number to reach me is 410.554.9994. It has an answering machine and I regularly check it as I also do my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are in my prayers. Do remember me in yours.
WORKS OF MERCY
During the four free flea markets this year, we have distributed over a 1000 items! We can be proud that we are meeting a need in our community. There is one more Free Flea Market scheduled for November 10th. We will be distributing winter items at that time, including coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. And there will also be Christmas items. So if you have any winter clothes items or Christmas decorations to donate, please get them to me by November 5th. The Lord has blessed us with bounty and we are sharing that with those who need it.
– Judy Volkman