Sunday, June 29, 2008

St. Paul's Lutheran Church - Des Peres, MO - 29 June 2008

Blessed Sunday! Today I joined the congregation of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Des Peres, MO to receive God's Word. There are many, beautiful stained glass windows, which do not show up well in the picture at left. Also, the large cross over the altar, which is centered over the altar, is quite intricate. This picture does a better job of conveying the sanctuary's beauty.

I looked at the church website yesterday, in order that I might choose a bible study to participate in. After listening to the lesson presented by Pastor Femmel from 8 June, I had decided to go to the class "You Don't See that Everyday". Today the class was taught by Rev. Chris Mitchell, of Concordia Publishing House; Rev. Femmel was "occupied" with the baptism of his daughter, Christine, at St. Paul's south location today. Rev. Mitchell presented the Exodus 14 narrative of the parting of the Red Sea and briefly discussed some of the weaknesses of the arguments against the biblical account. (I enjoyed a delightful conversation with Rev. Mitchell and his wife, Carol, after the class; we ended up entering the 10:45 worship service late as a result! It turns out that Rev. Mitchell is both the series editor and an author of the Concordia Commentary Series.)

This morning's sermon was given by Pastor Tim Seban. It tied together the Old Testament (Jeremiah 28:5-9) and Gospel (Matthew 10:34-42) lessons beautifully. He drew a parallel between ancient Israel's desire to ignore Jeremiah, the faithful "nay-sayer", in preference to the false prophets that said what they wished to hear and our natural tendency to do the same. He called attention to Jesus' own observation that his coming would pit one against another - even within families - on account of the faith.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the natural, rational conclusion of sinful human flesh! We do not want to hear that we are sinners! We prefer the prophets that tell us that right and wrong are "relative" and each person ultimately defines his or her own reality.

We do not want to accept that God has created a "rule" that is above our reach! That's not fair. We want to hear the prophets who say that a "loving" God must be a "fair" God; then these prophets insist that God's justice must satisfy our self-centered, "I get mine" concept of "fair". Perhaps we can find a prophet who will tell us that God puts the "rule" within our reach after we have claimed him for ourselves? (And if you aren't living up to the rule, perhaps you need to question whether you really claimed God's promises for you!)

We do not want to accept that we cannot do it on our own! We do not want anyone "doing for us"! Please, we say, give us the prophets who tell us that our own decision is the spark that ignites the Lord's fire. Give us, instead, the prophets that tell us the Lord will get us started, but we must bring his grace to its fullness.

But God's "scandalous" news is Good News for sinners indeed: Jesus is God in the flesh and he died in the place of sinful humanity - once for all! By grace alone, through faith alone, we are redeemed and restored before God in heaven on account of Jesus' blood! His merit - alone - paid the cost of admission to the kingdom; we add nothing to the Son's sacrifice.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ted Drewes - Yum!

I am very happy to report that this will be my last weekend on campus alone before Heather and the kids join me here! While Hebrew has been coming pretty easily to date, I'm struggling a little with a new grammatical construction. So I'll be pretty occupied this weekend with studying, which affords me little time to obsess about being alone.

However, I took a break on Friday evening to take in a St. Louis landmark - Ted Drewes' frozen custard! A group of my fellow seminarians and I packed up into a car a little while after dinner, and drove down to the Drewes' establishment. Although I am ordinarily a "vanilla man" (which Heather finds amusing for some reason ), I lost myself in the moment and went in for a cherry "conecrete". (Pictured at left are Josh, Jason, a clearly disturbed individual and Dan.)

Sound good? Well, we can go when you visit!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Christ Lutheran Church - Noblesville, IN - 22 June 2008

Homecoming! This past weekend, my parents picked me up from St. Louis and we drove together over to Noblesville, Indiana for the biannual Muller family reunion. For those of you who are quick to put the pieces together, Noblesville is also where my wife and kids are staying with Heather's parents. So the best part of the weekend was visiting my immediate family!
This visit afforded my family the opportunity to join with the congregation of Christ Lutheran in Noblesville to worship our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. This is the congregation where I was confirmed in the faith and at which I maintained my membership until Heather and I moved to California after graduating from Purdue. Although the "face" of the congregation has changed considerably since I last visited, it was a great blessing to see so many familiar faces.

The congregation worshipped God according to the order of Matins in the Lutheran Service Book and Rev. Adrian Piazza proclaimed the sermon, which was titled "Servants of Righteousness" and based on Romans 6:12-23. I was especially thankful for Rev. Piazza's preaching that the "freedom" won for us in Christ is not a liberty for us to "do as we please", which would be nothing more than indulging our sinful nature. Our "freedom" is that, as we are forgiven in Christ, we are now free to live as our loving Creator made us to be, bringing glory to him and demonstrating His love towards everyone around us. (I asked if Rev. Piazza had been reading Luther's Bondage of the Will to prepare for the sermon; he said "no".)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Assassin's Game

Although I did not elect to participate in this game, I thought everyone would enjoy hearing about it.

The assassin's game is played using little squirt guns. Each person is assigned a target (from the pool of players) and their objective is to "kill" that person by squirting them with their squirt gun. These "kills" cannot take place inside a building, while someone is working or during a time window on Sunday morning. If attacked, the target's only option is to run to a "safe place" (i.e. inside).

If a person successfully "kills" their target, they are assigned another. If a person is "killed", they are done with the game and their current "target" will be reassigned. "In the end, there can be only one." (Fans of the Highlander series will appreciate the quote.)

Sounds kind of juvenile, doesn't it? Well, it turns out it serves a terrific purpose (which is why it is being played): most of the participants don't know one another. A whole new batch of people has just arrived at the seminary, and the current students and faculty don't know them. In order to "kill" someone, you have to learn who they are. Generally, since buildings to "escape to" are plentiful on campus, you also have to learn something about them so you can come up with a way to surprise them.

Members of the faculty and the employee staff have gotten in on the game, too. (I understand that Dr. Voelz, the Dean of the Faculty, is still "alive", and I know who is trying to "hit" him.) Some people are way over the top with the game; however, it has provided everyone with plenty of entertainment.

As an aside: although I did not elect to play, I have been an "accessory" to a couple of "hits". Just doin' my part to help people get to know one another...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Settling In

One week into the summer term. The picture above is the building named Mezger Hall; the room you see immediately on the corner on the second floor is my room. As you probably remember from earlier posts, I am living on campus by myself while Heather and the kids are staying in Indiana with her parents. This will continue until 1 July, when Heather and the kids will join me here on campus at our apartment in "The Woods" (the married student housing complex on the west side of campus - stay tuned for a post when we move in).

This is the front view of the Chapel of Saints Timothy and Titus, viewed from the welcome center. I walk past this chapel on my way to meals every day; I worship the risen Christ with the seminary community in this chapel every day in the middle of the morning class period. (There is also a Compline service on Tuesdays and Thursday nights which is solemn and beautiful. Perhaps I will write about that on another occasion. For those of you with access to a Lutheran Service Book, it is found on page 253.)

This picture is taken from the interior of the quad to the east of the chapel. The building across the quad and pictured here is Graebner Hall. This is a nice view, but the really important feature of the quad is to the left...

Wartburg Commons! This building is the cafeteria; without Wartburg, I would starve. Although I am looking forward to Heather and the kids' arrival on 7/2 and a return to Heather's home cooking, the food at the cafeteria is suprisingly good.

This is the other great thing about Wartburg Commons: good conversation. The three seminary students pictured here are (from left) Sarah, Bill and Matt. These are all first year seminarians; Sarah is in the deaconess program and the other two are in the M.Div program. This picture was taken near the close of a two hour conversation that started over lunch on Saturday.
The picture below is Luther Tower. In side this tower is a carillon of bells. Two (and sometimes three) of the xxx bells are used to call the seminary community to chapel each day; however, in the month of June the full carillon of 49 bells is being put through its paces during the carillon recital series.

Saint Johns Lutheran Church - St. Louis, MO - 15 June 2008

Although I had originally intended to join the congregation of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church for worship this morning, my Mezger floor mate, Mike, invited me to join him at St. Johns Lutheran Church in St. Louis, where he is assigned for field work. (I will undoubtedly submit a post later in the summer talking about the Resident Field Education program, but that can wait.)

This morning's service included a rare treat for me: Divine Service III from page 184 of the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). What is so special about that, you ask? Divine III is the order of worship from"The Lutheran Hymnal" (the "red book", as I came to know it as a child). Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, my home congregation, had only started using the LSB during the last month before my family departed for seminary, and they had not used Divine III yet.) It was amazing how comfortable and easy it was to slip back into that setting for worship; I guess a familiar worship liturgy is like riding a bicycle - you never really forget how.
David Benning, one of the two field workers at this congregation, preached the sermon. His text was Matthew 10:21-33 and he brought together these words of God through a number of foci: our inability to do the works of God, Jesus Christ's having done the works of God in our place and for our forgiveness, and our work in carrying this message to those who do not yet know Jesus. I was particularly pleased, and directly encouraged, by his addressing our fears in sharing this Good News with those around us. We need not be afraid! The Word does its work by the Spirit; we are carried along as the "means", or instrument, by which this Word goes forth.

It occurred to me as I listened that I have, on many occasions in life, been afraid to engage unbelief for fear that I would not be "successful". I have feared that I might fail to put together a complete and irrefutable argument for Christ. But I realize that a deeper fear was this: What did it say of my own faith that I could not answer every question or refute every counter argument? (As though by not entering into discussion and thereby discovering that I did not already know everything, I might somehow avoid not knowing everying... how foolish!)

The essence of this fear is made manifest when it is re-expressed in this way: What if I'm not the one person in the world who knows all there is to know about this subject so that I cannot be toppled by force of reason? Do you know anyone that meets this qualification in any field of endeavor? Jesus said: "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." (Luke 12:11-12)
By the grace of God, I have grown in my willingness to speak of the Almighty Father and the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, for my sins - whether I am "ready or not". I will always pray that my unbelieving friends, family, co-workers and the strangers I meet will be made alive in Christ through the strengthening of their faith as we share conversation with one another, but I will stick to my job (i.e. proclaiming the Gospel) and trust the Spirit to accomplish his (i.e. calling, enlightening, sanctifying, and preserving each of us and all of us in the faith).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Latest from Ole and Lena

Lena bragged, “Ole can yump higher than a haystack.”
Ya, cuz haystacks can’t yump.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Greentree Community Church – Kirkwood, MO – 8 June ‘08

On the Sunday prior to the start of classes, Heather, the kids and I joined our hosts, Jeff and Julie, at Greentree Community Church for worship. This congregation, which is associated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, typically gathers for worship in Kirkwood North Middle School at 0900 and 1045 on Sundays.

Rev. Dr. Tom Ricks presented the sermon, which emphasized the cost of discipleship. This sermon continued the congregation’s one-and-a-half year series on Luke; today’s sermon was based on Luke 9:18-25.

During our time together, Rev. Ricks also highlighted the upcoming “20:28” event. Greentree has, for the past several years, conducted a large service ministry event. Members of the congregation have gathered together and then dispersed across the greater St. Louis metropolitan area to “celebrate the grace of God through service”. At the time of Sunday’s service, the Spirit had led 367 members of the congregation to sign up to participate!

Redeemer Lutheran Church - Springfield, MO - 1 June '08

On 1 June, Heather, the kids, and I joined the congregation of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Springfield, MO for worship. My parents, Art and Dorothy Rosenkoetter, were recently received into membership with this congregation.

Reverend Sippy led the congregation in worship, including the Lord’s Supper, and presented the sermon. (Reverend Maas, the congregation’s associate pastor, was out of town participating in the ordination service of the congregation’s newest called pastor, Rev. Adam Parvey.) Pastor Sippy’s message exhorted the priesthood of all believers to proclaim Christ in both word and deed.

Unfortunately, our camera battery was low, so I was only able to take the two pictures below. The first picture is a view of the old sanctuary. This sanctuary was actually the second one built; we were told that the original sanctuary was destroyed shortly after the original structure was destroyed shortly after its being constructed in the sixties. (The roof of the new sanctuary can actually be seen in this first picture on the far side of the building.) This area is now used as a chapel and for large group Bible studies.

This second picture is taken from the opposite side of the building; however, once again, it is focused on the structure of the old sanctuary. (The new sanctuary is actually to the left, after you enter the doors visible in the picture.) You can see the architecture of the previous sanctuary is the one popular in the 50s and 60s.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Check In

Yesterday (Friday) was check-in day at the seminary. Although I will be staying with my family at Jeff and Julie Miller’s house through Saturday night, I suspect the check-in needs to be on a day when the administrative offices are open. My room is at Metzger Hall; it will be home for me until our family’s apartment in the Woods opens up.

The past week in Missouri (with my parents before and now with the Miller’s) has been an “interesting” weather experience. We have hunkered down through two tornado-producing storm systems; the first was in Rogersville, the second during check-in at the seminary!

After checking-into the room and running an errand to the campus switchboard, I dropped by the Admissions Office. (On my way to the switchboard, I had seen the admissions staff gathered around a computer. The last time I had seen that was a week before, when the staff was tracking a tornado that had been passing to the north and east of St. Louis.) They told me that a tornado warning was in effect and the system was about to hit Clayton; they urged us not to get back on the road to return to the Millers' house.

So we hung out in the commons of Metzger Hall with Jason, the generous soul who volunteered to be my “welcome to the seminary” partner. He is a fourth year seminarian who lives at the other end of the hall. He sat with us through the whole storm and invited us to join him for dinner at the cafeteria afterwards. (For those who take a dim view of cafeteria food, you should know that the CSL cafeteria is actually quite good!) Mike, a second year seminarian who also lives at Metzger, joined us for dinner, too!

Although the tornado systems passed to the south of the seminary, the rain definitely did not. The first picture below is of Heather and the kids in front of the Luther statue after dinner; the second is the price I paid for rejecting Jason’s generous offer of his umbrella after dinner.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Generous You, Grateful Me

On my last Sunday worshiping with Good Shepherd (18 May), the congregation gave me a couple of gifts.

Before the services, Dale Skovgaard presented me a copy of the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures – specifically, the Biblia Hebraica (Stuttgartensia). On the recommendation of Dale’s son, Rev. Eric Skovgaard of Elm Grove Lutheran Church, the Men’s Fellowship secured a copy of the large print edition of the text for me. I certainly would not want to miss a jot or a tittle! Many, many thanks!

In addition, the congregation provided a generous financial gift to assist my family in addressing the expenses we are about to experience following this path. We are very humbled to be so provided for by our family in Christ!

It is difficult to comprehend the good gifts we have experienced in such abundance these past days and weeks. It seems we must confess as Peter after the abundant catch of fish: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” May Jesus’ reply be our comfort and the disciples response our own: “Jesus said, ‘Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:8-11)

Brian in Bristow

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had spent my last two weeks in Virginia living with a friend of mine in Bristow, Virginia. At the time you read that post, you might have thought: who on earth would agree to live with Brian for two weeks!?!? This is a fair question; it would have to be someone with a great deal of patience who has already “lived with” Brian for a while.

Brian Herzog (hopefully I can add a picture later) was a co-worker of mine on my last program while working with TASC. We worked together for about two and half years out of the TASC Lincoln Center in McLean. (Yes, you heard me right; Brian commuted from Bristow to McLean for more than two and a half years.) Brian tolerated me as both a co-worker on our program and as a section manager for the period of time we worked together in McLean. So he knew what he was getting into and STILL agreed to let me stay with him.

As you can see Brian is selfless, long-suffering and crazy. I enjoyed staying with him, but I am afraid I brought him much misery. During the move, David struggled with an unsettled stomach, which he passed on to Heather and me as I left them in Noblesville. Well, although the unsettled stomach did not seem serious to me, it apparently was quite a stomach bug. A week after I arrived, during which I was busy and very poor company, Brian came down with a far more serious version of the symptoms my family had experienced.

What a terrific host; what a lousy house guest!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Homeless and Jobless

I (Brian) resigned from TRW in Redondo Beach, CA in 2002 to start work for TASC in Chantilly, VA. One of my TRW managers’ parting advice was “take a month off”. His reasoning was that you never have as good of an opportunity to take a long vacation as when you are “between jobs”.

At the time, Heather and I were without children, we had been fortunate in the sale of our home, and my management at TASC was encouraging me to take all the time I needed before showing up for my first day. But I was eager to “get started” and “make my mark”; I only took off enough time to drive across country. In retrospect, I wish I would have considered my managers’ advice more seriously.

Since we were not able to delay the closing of our house nor could we rent back afterwards, there is a month between the day we settled on our house and the start of summer Hebrew next Monday. It would have been tempting to turn that month into a long vacation, but Confirmation Sunday was scheduled for almost two weeks after the settlement. I wanted to complete the year with my confirmands and needed to make arrangements to stay in the area for another couple of weeks anyway; so I figured I might as well be gainfully employed during that time, too.

(As an aside for those of you reading this because you are considering the ministry and seminary: I also needed my family to remain covered under insurance during the period between the settlement of our house and the start of summer Hebrew. Resigning early to take a month-long vacation would have created some “coverage problems” that would have been expensive to rectify!)

As I already noted in an earlier post, Heather, David John and Emily were staying with Heather’s parents, Tom and Sarah, in Noblesville from the time we moved out of our Virginia home. At the end of my last work day with TASC, I packed up my car and returned to Indiana to reunite with my family. We stayed there with Mom and Dad Clark for a few days, enjoying David’s second birthday celebration, joining West Noblesville Community Church for worship and a Memorial Day sail! (Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures from our stay in Noblesville available at the time of this posting. I will try to update this posting later.)

We left the following Tuesday for Rogersville, MO, where my parents now live. Just as the stay in Noblesville was pleasant, this visit has been nice as well. Most of the pictures below are from our activities while here. We have visited the zoo in Springfield, played lots of backyard baseball, ran through sprinklers to beat the heat, joined in worship with the congregation of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Springfield, enjoyed a perfect night of minor league baseball as the Springfield Cardinals defeated the Corpus Christi Hooks, and taken tractor rides with “pa-paw”.

On Thursday, we are going to return to the St. Louis area, where we will again impose on the hospitality of “Hotel Miller” for a few more nights. (Thanks again, Jeff, Julie and Jaime!) We had originally planned for Heather and the kids to simply drop me off at the seminary and continue back to Noblesville, since our apartment will probably not be available until early- to mid- July. However, the admissions staff at the seminary has organized a “welcome summer language students and their families” party on Sunday night, and we are eager for the whole family to participate. Class will start Monday morning, which is when Heather and the kids will actually return to Noblesville.

Our Lord blesses His creation with all things “for the support and needs of the body”. We have so much to be thankful for! Like Luther in the Small Catechism, we also include “good friends, good neighbors and the like” when we thank God for providing “daily bread”. Our Christian brothers and sisters are providing us with food, shelter, and fellowship during our period of transition. To each of them: thank you very much!