Library

The library consists of several topics from the website that are discussed in greater detail here.  Each entry will consist of several sub-topics that can be expanded for details.

Table of Contents

Liturgy Parts

I WHITE St. John's Lutheran Church“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” How many times have we heard those words? And yet, they testify with renewed freshness to our identity as children of God who’ve been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Wouldn’t it be something if God’s faithful would remember that every time they heard the words of the Invocation, perhaps tracing the sign of the cross as a visible reminder?

St. Paul beautifully captures the eternal significance of our baptism into Christ when he writes to the Galatians that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

We are clothed with his righteousness. Unlike the man in the parable of the wedding feast who had no wedding garment, when we stand before our Judge on the Last Day, we will be clothed and covered, robed in the purity of Christ.

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Already now, in this heaven on earth we call worship, we stand with boldness before the Triune God who has claimed us and named us.

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We can indeed approach God with confidence. And yet, because we stand on this side of our Lord’s final return, we still have with us the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We have not yet faced the final judgment.

And so, with sin still working in us, the condemnation of God’s Law must still confront us, lest we have any delusions that we might have something to boast of before our mighty Judge.

Above all else, Confession and Absolution keep us honest — honest with ourselves and honest before God. The act of confession is not some work that we lay before the Father’s throne; rather, it is the simple acknowledgment that God’s Word is true and right and that when we measure ourselves against its demands, we come up short.

God’s Word says “you shall not give false testimony,” but in truth, we have lied and gossiped and slandered. And so, the Christian confesses: “Lord, Your Word is true; I have sinned.” here are three basic ways to handle sin and guilt. One is to ignore or minimize them. We’ve all been tempted in that direction more than a few times. Isn’t that, after all, what our sinful human nature is all about?

Another way is to institutionalize them, especially the guilt part. After all, if you can keep people feeling just guilty enough, you will keep them coming back for more.

The third way is to give sin and guilt their proper due, and then to silence them. That is the way of God’s absolution. With his forgiveness, our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

Christians know that, but they also need to hear it often. We need to be reminded that those familiar words, “I forgive you all your sins,” are not just some impersonal announcement. They say what they mean and accomplish what they promise. Jesus himself said to his disciples that the sins they forgive are forgiven (John 20:23).

The last and greatest absolution that will ever be spoken to us will be at the last judgment. In the final pages of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis provides a marvelous description of this event.

As each individual comes before Aslan —the lion who is Lewis’ figure for Christ — one of two things happens: either the person gazes directly into Aslan’s face and recognizes his forgiving countenance, or, upon seeing the lion’s stern demeanor, passes into his long shadow, forever to be separated from Christ.

In the Confession and Absolution, we are being readied for our appearance before Christ on the Last Day. And hidden behind those comforting words that our sins are forgiven is the invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

When our Lord speaks those words to us at the Last Day, Confession and Absolution as we know it will cease, for we will then bask in the eternal absolution of the Lamb.

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In this world of sin and death, Christians have plenty of chances to join in the brief, yet all-inclusive prayer of the Kyrie: “Lord, have mercy.”

All around us we see the results of hatred, envy, lust, and greed. Surely, the world is in need of God’s mercy. It’s no wonder that the church, in her worship, pleads before God on behalf of the whole world. It’s a prayer that no one else is going pray.

Yet, when we cry out, “Lord, have mercy,” there is confidence in our voices because we know that God is indeed merciful. He desires to bring relief to the suffering that is all around us.

Our prayer may not always bring an immediate response — at least, not the response that we are seeking — but even then, we commend ourselves and the whole world to a merciful God.

Like the confession of sins, however, our cry for mercy will be silenced in heaven. There we will see the results of God’s mercy, as before the throne and in front of the Lamb will stand all the redeemed — not one of them worthy of the honor.

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On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels let loose their earth-shattering song of praise: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

On that specific occasion, their praise gave utterance to the good news that the Son of God had come in the flesh. Heaven had come down to earth! And ever since, the Church has continued to rejoice in this miracle of our salvation.

The opening words of the Gloria in Excelsis are followed by a hymn of praise to the Triune God. One can imagine the faithful singing these words in heaven: “We praise you, we bless you, we worship you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.”

Our focus is on the incarnate Son of God, the only-begotten Son, the Lamb of God, and only Son of the Father. And if that isn’t enough to name this One who is the object of our worship and praise, twice we sing, “you take away the sin of the world.”

There it is, the heart and substance of the Christian faith. In heaven we will be gathered around the throne and the Lamb, confessing that he alone is holy, he alone is the Lord.

In more recent times, the Lutheran Church in North America has made a significant contribution to the church’s liturgy through the alternate Hymn of Praise, “This is the Feast.”

Drawing directly from the description of heaven in the Revelation to St. John, our voices are joined to that heavenly throng as we sing with them:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12)

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Frequently we conclude the reading of Holy Scripture with the phrase, “This is the Word of the Lord!” More than just a “word” from God, this is his revelation in which he makes known to us his will, most specifically, his merciful will that desires our salvation.

Ultimately, this word points us to the Word, the incarnate Son of God. He is God’s final and full revelation to us, the mirror of the Father’s heart.

That is the point that the writer to the Hebrews makes in the opening verses of his epistle: “In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2a).

Only through him — God’s only Son — are we able to know the Father’s favor and grace.

In the sermon, the Word of God is brought to bear on the lives of the hearers. This is the equivalent of sitting at the feet of Jesus. But it’s more than mere instruction.

Through the sermon, God speaks to us with his two-edged sword of condemnation and promise, Law and Gospel. The subject of the sermon is both God and us.

Through the sermon, we come to a better understanding of ourselves, especially our need for God’s forgiveness. But we also come face to face with God’s mercy and love.

Week after week, God’s faithful hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, preparing them, in a sense, for that final day when Jesus calls them to their eternal reward.

Frequently we conclude the reading of Holy Scripture with the phrase, “This is the Word of the Lord!” More than just a “word” from God, this is his revelation in which he makes known to us his will, most specifically, his merciful will that desires our salvation.

Ultimately, this word points us to the Word, the incarnate Son of God. He is God’s final and full revelation to us, the mirror of the Father’s heart.

That is the point that the writer to the Hebrews makes in the opening verses of his epistle: “In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2a).

Only through him — God’s only Son — are we able to know the Father’s favor and grace.

In the sermon, the Word of God is brought to bear on the lives of the hearers. This is the equivalent of sitting at the feet of Jesus. But it’s more than mere instruction.

Through the sermon, God speaks to us with his two-edged sword of condemnation and promise, Law, and Gospel. The subject of the sermon is both God and us.

Through the sermon, we come to a better understanding of ourselves, especially our need for God’s forgiveness. But we also come face to face with God’s mercy and love.

Week after week, God’s faithful hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, preparing them, in a sense, for that final day when Jesus calls them to their eternal reward.

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In the course of his earthly ministry, Jesus put this hard question to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” He wasn’t asking for the opinions of the crowds. He wanted a confession of faith.

In reality, this confession is no different than the confession of sins. In both, we acknowledge that what God has said is true. When we confess our sins, we acknowledge the truth that God speaks about us — that we are sinners. When we confess the faith of the church in the creed, our confession speaks about God — who he is and what he has done.

In every age, the same question is put to the church: who do you say that I am? As we open our mouths and begin, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty …,” we confess a profound truth that has passed over the lips of Christians in every generation.

This confession of the Triune God is the property of no single individual, but of the whole church, including the whole company of heaven. There are more than a few saints and martyrs who put their lives on the line as they defended the truths that we confess in the creeds.

Think of Athanasius, that faithful fourth-century pastor and confessor, who was exiled numerous times for his defense of the truth against the false teachers of his day. Or Luther, who stood firm against the combined might of the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire.

In our own day, there are faithful Christians who risk their lives — and sometimes die — to confess these truths.

In the Revelation to St. John, we find confession going on in heaven. Just listen to the snippets of the grand confession that swirls around God’s throne:

In the same way, as we stand on holy ground where Jesus comes in his Word and Sacraments, we join that noble company of saints and martyrs, confessing these holy truths concerning the Triune God.

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“What shall I render to the Lord?” Truth is, we have nothing to render him. We brought nothing into this world, and we will take nothing with us when we depart.

As Jesus so poignantly tells us, our treasures are already stored up for us in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). There is, however, an offering that we do make, both now in our worship and one day in heaven itself. It is the sacrifice of thanksgiving as we call on the name of the Lord (Ps. 116:17).

In the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (Article 24), this eucharistic sacrifice is carefully distinguished from the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifice for sins belongs to him alone.

Every time we try to grab that honor for ourselves, we come up short — very short. But when we recognize our rightful place — that we are on the receiving end of God’s merciful goodness — then the sacrifice of thanksgiving cannot help but pour forth from our lips as we give our thanks to the One who gave everything for us.

The giving of our firstfruits, whether it is money or possessions, time or talents, is also a part of this sacrifice of thanksgiving. Our mouths cannot remain separated from the rest of our bodies. If the thanksgiving is flowing from our lips, then it will also find expression in the giving of our very selves for the sake of Christ and the neighbor.

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If any part of the service has been recognized as providing a glimpse of heaven, it’s the Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

This is the eternal song of the angels who hover over the throne of God in the vision of heaven that was given to Isaiah (Is. 6:1-4). Such was the splendor of their song that the very foundations of the threshold of the temple trembled at the sound.

At first glance, these words appear to be out of place at this point in the service. Nevertheless, the reality is that there is nothing in this entire world that compares with the miracle of Jesus’ bodily presence to feed his people.

In this meal, God is breaking into our world to give us life. No wonder our repeated cry is “Hosanna in the highest,” for what is more needed in this dying world than the Lord’s salvation?

The second half of the Sanctus contains a statement as bold as the first. Here we have our own little Palm Sunday. Just as the crowds cried out to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, so do we declare, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 21:9; Ps. 118:26).

Heaven continues to break into our world as Jesus, our humble king, comes riding into our midst in the Lord’s name. This confession in the Sanctus of Jesus’ real presence is so significant that Luther proposed moving the Sanctus after the Words of Institution in order to highlight the reality of the words we sing.

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Among many Christians, the words of Jesus that we often refer to as the Words of Institution are nothing more than a historical report: this is what Jesus did and what he said. Period.

We have been blessed to know, however, that these words mean much more. They do what they say.

According to the command of Christ, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper not as a mere meal of remembrance but as a Sacrament by which Jesus himself comes to us. We don’t transport ourselves back in time; rather, he comes to us and brings heaven down to earth for our benefit.

Of course in heaven we won’t receive the Lord’s Supper. There we will have Jesus — the Bread of heaven — in all his fullness. But for now, as we wait for his return, he establishes his own beachhead in our sin-infested world, coming as our defender and deliverer, offering his own body and blood as the medicine of immortality.

Here we find strength for the journey as Christ dwells in us and we in him. And the more we partake of this sacred food, the greater our desire becomes to be with Christ forever.

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Turning again to the Revelation to St. John, at one point John sees a scroll in the right hand of the One who was sitting on the throne. A “strong angel” puts forth the challenge, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

Then, between the throne and the elders, the Lamb comes into view. Undoubtedly the most significant feature in John’s description of this Lamb is that it is a lamb who appears to have been slain.

When we sing the Agnus Dei, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us,” we are preaching and praying all at once. It was, after all, with these very words that John the Baptizer pointed his disciples to Jesus (John 1:29, 36).

As we prepare to feast on the Lamb of our salvation, we do indeed proclaim him who gave his life for us. Here is the Lamb of God! Yet we also pray to him who is now present in his body and blood.

We pray for mercy, mercy from the One who showed the true depths of mercy and compassion as he was silently led to slaughter, dying like a lamb shorn of all its honor.

Returning one more time to the apostle John’s vision of heaven, we later hear his description of the saints in white robes.

“Who are they?” John is asked. The answer: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:13-14).

This is the blood of our redemption, the propitiatory sacrifice that was foreshadowed at the first Passover when the blood of the year-old lambs was sprinkled on the doorpost as a sign that blood had already been shed in that house.

So it is at every celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The blood of the Lamb is poured out for our drinking and his flesh for our eating. Clearly, God’s mercy is shown, and his peace rests on us.

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Try for a moment to picture the heavenly throng standing before the throne of God on the Last Day. The numbers will be staggering.

And yet, united as we all are to Christ, the Bridegroom, we will be one — his elect Bride. As the faithful make their way to the altar to feast on the Bread of Life in the distribution, they are given a glimpse of that holy Bride.

Oh yes, we see all of her warts and blemishes: the petty bickering over trivial matters, the deep disagreements on more weighty issues, and the painful ways in which we sometimes treat one another.

Yet, by our common confession of the truth, we are one in Christ. As Christ gives himself to us in this holy meal, he strengthens that unity and bids us love one another with a deep and abiding love. How can it be any other way, as we are sent from the table with the blessing to depart in peace?

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Another Lutheran contribution to the church’s liturgy is the use of the Nunc Dimittis as the post-communion canticle: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace.”

At first glance, it appears that we’re taking the words of Simeon completely out of context. After all, what does his experience have to do with ours?

How can Holy Communion ever compare to Simeon’s unique honor of holding the infant Jesus in his arms during the child’s first visit to the temple at the tender age of 40 days (Luke 2:25-38)?

Of course, we would love to have been in the temple and shared in the experience with Simeon. For that matter, we would give anything to have been the first — along with the shepherds — to see the infant Jesus or to have been with the Magi as they offered their gifts to him.

But, as Luther so insightfully taught, we don’t find Christ in those places. Through the events of his incarnation, birth, crucifixion, and resurrection our Lord has accomplished our salvation.

But the benefits of his saving work — forgiveness, life, and salvation — are distributed to us through his means of grace, his Word and Sacraments. We can’t go back to stand with Simeon in the temple. The good news is that we don’t have to.

So when, following our reception of the Lord’s Supper, we sing Simeon’s ancient song of faith — “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace”
— nothing could be more appropriate. Indeed, our eyes have seen his salvation. Better yet, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).

So, what could be better than holding the infant Jesus in our arms? How about eating and drinking his body and blood given for the forgiveness of our sins? This truly is heaven on earth, because here we have Jesus and all his benefits.

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“The Lord bless you and keep you.”

Recall again the words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats: “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom.”

The blessing that God speaks to us in the Benediction prepares us for that final summons. Throughout the Divine Service, God is forming us in his likeness as he establishes in us a deeper and more lasting faith toward him and a persistent and steadfast love for one another.

“The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.”

In their reports of Jesus’ Transfiguration, the evangelists tell us that Jesus shone more brightly than the sun, prompting Peter to say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

In heaven, we will have the same response because it will be good — very good — to be in the presence of the Light of the world.

For the moment, we see only dimly, but then we will see face to face. Still, it is good to be here even now, in this heaven on earth that we call worship, for already here God showers us with his grace.

“The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.”

We Christians are truly blessed in that God does not hide his face from us. In all other religions, there is ultimately doubt as to their gods’ attitudes toward them.

How can it be otherwise, given that their gods are the creation of their own imaginations? But ours is the creator of heaven and earth.

To be sure, he is a stern judge who holds the sinner accountable. But in the person of his only Son, we see our Father’s true nature, his fatherly heart of love. That is the countenance that he lifts up toward us in his holy Word and Sacraments as he reveals his mercy and grace.

Where the Lord blesses and makes his face shine and lifts up his gracious countenance on us, there is peace. Not the peace of this world, but peace between God and his faithful people.

We know that peace because even now, in Word and Sacraments, we have Jesus and all his benefits. And in heaven, we will rest in his eternal peace.

Church Year and Colors

church year St. John's Lutheran Church

The first half of the Church year commemorates the key historical events of the life of Jesus Christ’s earthly life, death, resurrection, and ascension to power at the right hand of  God the Father. The second half of the church year celebrates the life of the church. The Church Year highlights those signs and works of Jesus recorded in the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

For centuries, Christians have used color during the Church Year to emphasize the redemptive action of God through His Son. Color plays an important role in the life of God’s worshiping people. It complements the message of the seasons and helps commemorate occasions during the church year. Color allows us to see and celebrate the Light of Life, Jesus Christ. It serves to help communicate the message of salvation available to all people.

The Church year is divided into three sections: The Time of Christmas, the Time of Easter, and the Time of the Church.

The Season of Advent

advent St. John's Lutheran ChurchThe church year begins with the season of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. The word Advent is from the Latin, meaning “coming into”. The virgin birth of Jesus in Advent is the historical account of God’s promised hope coming into our world. Jesus the Messiah/Christ came to save the world from the power of sin and death. Jesus is the world’s only true hope of salvation from sin, death and hell and delivers us to eternal life in heaven with God. We become adopted sons and daughters of God and are in fellowship with God. 

The color of Advent is blue or violet. Advent is a preparatory time of waiting and watching, for God’s promised Messiah. This is a time of preparation and hope. Blue, the color of the sky, helps convey this powerful message. Our Christian faith rests on the sure hope, our waiting expectantly,  that Christ, who became incarnate, in human flesh, will also return on the Last Day through that same blue sky He ascended into almost 2000 years ago.

The Season of Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th and ends on December 24th, Christmas Eve, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary.

The Season of Christmas

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While Advent is the season of hope, Christmas celebrates the day that hope arrived, and God’s promise to send a Savior was fulfilled. On Christmas, we celebrate that time in our human history when Jesus, the long-awaited promised Messiah, actually came to save us. When God acted to save us from our sins, He did not send a prophet or even an angel. He sent His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary. True God and true man-made human but without sin dwelling in Him. Jesus as such was and is the only one who can set us free from our sins.

White is the color for Christmas. White symbolizes the divinity, eternity, purity, light, joy, and the glory of God in Jesus the Christ. Jesus, God’s Son, the King of heaven and earth, was born in Bethlehem as was foretold by the prophet Micah. The Son of God was an actual baby lying in a manger. The whole world has cause to rejoice for God sent His Son as our Savior.

The Season of Christmas begins on the eve of December 24th and continues through January 5th. Because of the importance of this one event in human history, the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and what it means for our salvation, the season of Christmas is extended to allow us more time to celebrate this time of great joy.

The Season of Epiphany

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The word “Epiphany” means revealing. The Season of Epiphany presents the message that Jesus Christ is God revealing Himself to the world, to Jews and gentiles alike. The Epiphany of Our Lord falls on January 6th  and commemorates the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. This has often been called the Gentile Christmas.

On the first Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. As recorded in Sacred Scripture the Triune God is clearly revealed, and Jesus voluntarily receives the anointing by the Father through the Holy Spirit thereby becoming mankind’s representative and Savior. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” as John the Baptizer declares. Throughout the Season of Epiphany, we focus on Jesus being revealed to His disciples and the world through His life, miracles, and words as well as through God’s theophanies (special signs like the burning bush, tongues of fire, a voice from heaven, that show God’s presence).

The color of the Season of Epiphany is green, the color of growth. Epiphany emphasizes the growth of Jesus’ ministry and reminds us to grow in the Word of God. “The knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

The Season of Lent

AdventThe Time of Easter begins with the Season of Lent. To prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord on Easter Sunday, we take a season of forty days to focus on our need to repent of our sins and our need for a Savior. This season of repentance and preparation is called the Season of Lent. The Sundays of Lent are not counted as part of the forty days.

Following the Sunday of Transfiguration, the ultimate Epiphany, the Season of Lent begins on the following Wednesday. Called Ash Wednesday, it begins a forty-day period of penitence. Ash Wednesday is named from the practice of applying ashes to worshipers’ foreheads in the shape of the cross to remind the penitent of sacrifice paid for their sins. It reminds us that we are all sinners who will stand before God on judgment day and need our Savior. All will stand before Holy God and give an account of their life. Those whose name is written in the book of life will spend eternity with Him in heaven. All others will be condemned to the fires of hell.

The color for Ash Wednesday is black or violet and calls for sober reflection on the cost of Jesus’ life for our redemption. Without Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday, when the sky turned dark and hid the light of the sun, there would be no bright Light of the Son of God to live in, nor new life in Christ to enjoy. We would still be without hope and helpless in our sins had not Jesus taken our sins and guilt upon Himself.

Scarlet (or violet or purple), the colors of royalty and repentance, are the colors of the rest of the Season of Lent. Violet, scarlet, and purple were very cherished and expensive colors in the world in which Jesus lived. Jesus, the King of the Jews, was forced to wear a purple robe in mocking disrespect. As the soldiers mocked and tormented Him, the Scriptures record they placed on Him a   “purple garment” to ridicule Him. The Scriptures also say that King Herod also did much the same. Scarlet (or violet or purple) is used during this penitential season of Lent as a vivid reminder of the contempt and scorn Jesus suffered, and the subsequent sacrifice Jesus made shedding his blood and giving His life for our eternal salvation. How will this irony of these royal colors play out for all who mocked Him on Judgment Day, when Jesus as King of kings and Lord of Lords returns for our Judgment?

Holy Week

holy week St. John's Lutheran ChurchThe week before Easter is Holy Week. During this week we focus on the events of Jesus’ Passion. The first day of Holy Week is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday was the day crowds cheered Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, welcoming Him with palm branches and shouts of hosanna (Lord save us!). The color for Palm Sunday continues to be purple or scarlet or violet, as we deepen our preparation for the coming Passion. The Church now can utilize this day as the Sunday of the Passion, which has been added to the liturgical calendar at this point in recent years. It may be celebrated also this Sunday.

On Maundy (Holy) Thursday we celebrate Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper. We worship our Lord, who comes to serve us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. White is the color we may use to express our joy in this Sacrament of the Altar. Using the Jewish Passover meal, the celebration of remembrance of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt by the Children of God, Jesus gives new meaning to this mandatory celebration of the Jews. Jesus took the bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:24–25) “For this is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”(Mat.26:28) Here we see Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, is the Passover Lamb giving Himself for our salvation, and establishing an exodus from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. He gives His life and righteousness to us by giving Himself in this sacred meal.

At the close of the Maundy Thursday service, the candles are extinguished before the altar is stripped.  The stripping proceeds in a deliberate and orderly manner.  The stripping of the altar (and washing) is an ancient feature of Maundy Thursday, symbolic of the humiliation of Jesus at the soldier’s hands. 

On Good Friday we recall the climactic event in the life of our Lord on earth, the crucifixion. It is called Good Friday because at this time in the life of Christ Jesus He completed His mission to defeat death, sin, and hell for us with His sacrificial death. Black or None is the color of Good Friday. The church remains with no color until the morning of Easter. A Tenebrae Service (Service of Darkness) where the light is progressively removed and a loud noise reminding us of the shutting of the tomb by the large stone rolled in front of the entrance of the tomb is made.

The Easter Season

easter morning St. John's Lutheran ChurchEaster, the Day of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, is the high point celebration of the Church Year. The early church recognized the importance of this feast since it was the first festival observed annually by Christians. Easter is the time of greatest joy because, by the resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus proved that He is the victor over sin, death, and the grave.

The color or of the Easter Season is white or gold which represents our risen Lord’s holiness and God’s glory.

The day of Ascension is the closing of the Easter Season. After forty days appearing to the disciples and comforting them, showing them that He, in bodily, form truly rose from the dead.  Before their eyes on the Mount of Olives Jesus ascended into heaven and a cloud took Him from their sight.  Two Angels appeared and promised that this same Jesus would return one day just as they had seen Him ascend into heaven.

Pentecost

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Fifty days after Easter, on the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples. The Holy Spirit has been sent by Jesus and the Father in order to give His Spirit to His church empowering it to preach the Good News of Jesus to all nations.

Red is the color of Pentecost and represents the theophany of the tongues of fire that came upon the Apostles. They then spoke in different languages and began the ministry of making disciples.  The Holy Spirit calls and enables every Christian to be members of the body of Christ, His Church.  He empowers and commissioned it to preach the good news of God’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to all and make disciples of all nations. Every Christian is made a partner with God for this mission through His Holy Spirit.  God in Christ Jesus has made us slaves to no man and servants to all.

The Season After Pentecost

cross and dark clouds St. John's Lutheran ChurchThe Season After Pentecost is also known as the Time of the Church. It begins with Trinity Sunday and makes up the longest portion of the Church Year. This is the time we focus on growing together in the life of the Holy Trinity. All three persons, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work to build God’s church and save His people.

trinity St. John's Lutheran Church

On the Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates the Holy Trinity. Again, the color of white is used to represent the holiness, purity, and the glory of God, Who makes Himself known as Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to be baptized into this name by Jesus Christ. This is what He has revealed of Himself in His Holy Scripture.  This great mystery the true Christian Church accepts and confesses in faith.  One God in three persons never confusing the persons or dividing the substance.  The One and only God who declares that there are no other gods. Jesus declares,  “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He is the only way to salvation.  Yes, it is exclusive. It is God’s way, not man’s way.  He tells us His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  Will you submit to Almighty God and His Word, or will you be blotted out of the book of life? Think long and hard on this, for you must live with your choice forever.  Your choice is white or black.

Green is the color for the remaining Sundays in the Season After Pentecost. Green is the color of growth and life and reminds us that we need to continue to grow in our relationship with God. During this time we focus on the teachings of our Lord and how they are applied in our lives and the life of the church. We learn to love and know God and walk in His ways. To God be the glory and honor forever and ever, Amen! At this time in the Church Year, our Lord has ascended into heaven and has sent His Spirit. We now await the end of time, when our Lord will gather the faithful to celebrate “the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.”

Coming to the end. Church Year ends with the emphasis on the End of Time and the return of Christ.  Jesus returns in glory with the heavenly hosts on the clouds of heaven as Judge of Heaven and Earth. The last Sunday of the church year is celebrated as Christ the King Sunday or the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Then the cycle begins again: the Time of Christmas, the Time of Easter, and the Time of the Church being repeated again and again until our Lord returns. We are to be ready for His return now, today.  Are you ready?

Lutheranism in Utah
The Story of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod

 

The story of Lutheranism in Utah is a record of persistent prayers, consecrated and self-sacrificing service, unswerving loyalty to Jesus and His Truth, and hopeful determination in the face of many difficulties and obstacles. It is the story of the mustard seed of Lutheranism being planted in the “Zion” of Mormonism.

In 1847, the Mormon pioneers, under the leadership of Brigham Young, possessed the then barren and unpromising Salt Lake Valley as a haven of refuge and citadel of Mormonism. These Mormon colonizers had been in Utah for twenty years before the first Protestant church or school was established in the territory.

Two events – the driving of the Golden Spike on Promontory Point, completing the first continental railroad, and the discovery of valuable minerals in the Bingham Canyon region by soldiers quartered at what is now Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City – brought increasing numbers of non-Mormon folk into the state. Protestant churches sought to follow such people with the established church and the larger denominations organized churches and schools primarily to satisfy the needs of the Gentiles (non-Mormons) in the area.

As these churches and schools grew in number and scattered through the territory, there grew up a clashing of cultures – that of the Mormon and non-Mormon – which led the mission board to send missionary workers to the Gentile communities and to the Mormon towns with the aim of giving to all an appreciation of the New Testament Gospel as understood by the Protestants. The friction between these cultures was made more severe by the fact that Utah was a pioneer area and that the passions of men were given freer rein than was later the case.

The contrast between these cultures centered primarily in differing views about God, the family, the state, and authority in religion. The Mormon Church taught that God was a being of flesh and bones, marriage was for time and eternity and might be polygamous, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Mormons had scriptures that were thought to be as authoritative as Christ’s teachings and they believed that the theocratic government of the Mormon Church had total authority in religion.

In their first forty-three years in Utah, the Mormons built an expensive temple but developed no free public-school system. It was not until 1890 that the Gentile government in Salt Lake City was able to set up the first public school system in the state. Thus, one appreciates the work of the Protestants and Lutherans in particular, in establishing their schools and churches in this area.

The first Lutheran work to be done in the state of Utah was motivated by the fact that there was a large proportion of inhabitants of Scandinavian extraction in and near Salt Lake City. The Evangelical Lutheran Augustan Synod of North America seems to be the first Lutheran body active here. They began work in Salt Lake City, July 18, 1882.

The Evangelical Lutheran Augustan Synod of North America felt a responsibility toward these people. Upon the recommendation of Dr. John Telen, the Augustan synod decided to undertake a mission in Utah. Dr. S. M. Hill responded to the call and came to Salt Lake City in 1882.

The first meetings were held in St. Mark’s Episcopal Schoolhouse, and on the July date previously mentioned, the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized with five charter members. In 1885, the church building located on the corner of 2nd South and 4th East was constructed at a cost of $7,000 under the direction of Dr. J. A. Krantz who served the congregation as pastor from 1885 to 1891. A Day School was organized and continued to function for many years.

Numerous preaching stations were maintained throughout Utah. The pastor in Salt Lake City served in such places as Sandy, Bingham Canyon, Park City, Ogden, Eureka, and Provo. The Zion Church radio program during the 1940s in an attempt at serving scattered Lutherans all over the state.

The United Evangelical Lutheran Church started mission work in Ogden, Logan, and Spanish Fork about the turn of the century, but turned the work over to other synods: The Ogden field to the Augustan Synod and the Spanish Fork field to the Synodical Conference. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church decided long ago to center its missionary efforts out here on one congregation, namely Tabor Lutheran church, then located at First Avenue and ”E” Street, Salt Lake City, which indeed from the beginning was the main point of the mission. The purpose was to build up one strong congregation and otherwise, at least for that time being, to leave the rest of the field to others.

Old St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church inand Parsonage downtown Salt Lake City.The first records of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod date back to 1885 when some of the people who later helped establish St. John’s congregation attended a Lutheran church served by a Pastor Kuhr, located on 5th West and 7th South. The first Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Church was organized by Rev. Otto Kuhr of the New York Ministerium of the General Council. At first, Kuhr held German services at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church until a site was purchased. Construction began July 3, 1894, on a chapel at 700 South and 500 West.

Cornerstone laying and dedication were held on September 9, 1894. Pastor Kuhr changed the name of his group to the Erste Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Johnnes Germeinde. The site proved to be too far removed from the city center. Kurh began holding additional services at St. Mark’s Episcopal school. August 1, 1897, Kuhr left Salt Lake City, later becoming a missionary to Brazil.

Old School Recess 3 St. John's Lutheran ChurchIn 1893 the Rev. W. H. Behrens came to the field as a missionary for the Missouri-Synod. Services were held in the Auditorium Building, 2nd West and 4th South and he lived at the St. Elmo Hotel, Main and 3rd South Street. In 1894 Pastor Behrens accepted a call to Tacoma, Washington. During his brief stay, records show that five were baptized, there were three private communions, and fourteen communed in public services, while two couples were married.

Shortly, after Kuhr’s departure, Rev. Herman Hoffman (1898-1900), a General Council minister from Wisconsin, accepted a call to Salt Lake City. Since very few people attended at the west side chapel, Hoffman began holding services at Zion Lutheran Church. He also continued a free Lutheran Parochial school there.

In an attempt to efficiently serve the German Lutherans, he reorganized St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in early 1898. But on June 4th of that year, President Weiskotten of the Missouri Board of the General Council informed the congregation that the Synod’s support would cease after July 1. The congregation then turned to President Philip von Rohr of the Wisconsin Synod for possible financial help. But this request was denied in 1899.

Determined to water the mustard seed of Lutheranism, deacons H. Blank, William Redeker, and W. Allens, under the leadership of Pastor H. Hoffman, turned to the Missouri Synod for support, contacting Pastor Buehler of San Francisco, California, President of the Western District of the Missouri Synod.

Pastor Buehler inquired as to the doctrinal position of the congregation and its pastor and a visitation was made by a Pastor Obermeyer of St. Louis. After more correspondence with Professor A. L. Graebner of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and with Professor F. Pieper of Concordia Seminary and President of the Missouri Synod, Pastor Hoffman resigned, and a call was extended to Rev. J. R. Graebner who began the first work of the Missouri Synod in Utah in 1900. During his pastorate, which continued to 1904, the first property was purchased at 130 East 7th South Street for $2,100, and the congregation incorporated in September 1903.

After the Rev. Graebner was called to Fort Wayne, Indiana, a chaplain stationed at Ft. Douglas, Rev. Paul Brockman, a member of the Wisconsin Synod, served the little congregation in the Norwegian church building until 1905.

Rev. William J. Lankow (1905-1913) of Tacoma, Washington, became pastor in the summer of 1905 and continued to hold services in the Norwegian church until the Germans dedicated their church at 130 East 700 South.

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Salt Lake City. 1805Construction began in September. Dedication services in German and English were held December 17, 1905. In 1906, a parsonage was erected for $1,500 through a loan by a Lutheran in Wisconsin. And in 1908 Pastor Lankow designed and built the Christian Day School.

The story goes that this first church, designed, and erected by a Mr. Warren for $5,000, was pointed out by guides in charge of tours, as the “tiniest church in· town.”

The mustard seed had a way of growing in spite of its original size and difficulties. The school that was organized in 1909 with twenty-three pupils in eight grades was taught by a Mr. H. Plueger (1909-1914). Then by the student pastor Arnold Grumm (1914), who later became vice president of Synod. In 1915 student pastor, Lawrence Meyer, who later became Director of Publicity for Synod, taught the school, and from 1915 to 1918 a Mr. J. B. Dubberstein, taught the grades. The school had become a flourishing institution but in the years that followed the work progressed slowly and although the congregation grew somewhat in numbers the parochial school lost ground and was closed in 1918.

When the Rev. W. J. Lankow accepted a call away from Salt Lake City he was succeeded by Rev. H. Ruphoff who served here for a short time, 1913 to 1914. Then student pastor Arnold Grumrn (1914-1915) served the flock for a year. He was followed by student pastor Lawrence Meyer in the school and pulpit. The congregation was once again served by a full-time pastor when Rev. William Schmoock accepted the church’s call. He served here from 1915 to 1918.

 

During World War I, the Rev. John C. Kaiser, who served as chaplain in the United States Army during World War II, served as pastor from 1918 to 1922. These were trying years since many members were still German and the German language was still being used in the services.

The government required the congregation to use the English language in worship and in the school. The school, then under Mr. B. J. Dubberstein (1915-1918) closed in 1918 because to the difficulty of switching from German to English. However, English services gave the struggling congregation many mission opportunities.

Pastor Kaiser was succeeded by the Rev. J. A. Schlichting (1922-1926) who came from Buhl, Idaho, to take over the work, which included English and German services each week. Progress was marked and the congregation, which was still receiving a subsidy to carry on its work, became self-sustaining.

The work in the Sunday School took a decided upswing so that the old school which was now being used as the parish hall, was enlarged to double its size. During this time, the Walther League (1922) and Mission Society we reorganized to assist the pastor in his mission activities and to appeal to the women who were more conversant with the English than the German. It was also during Pastor Schlichting’s ministry here that the congregation which had been a part of the California District was assigned to the new Colorado District.

The Rev. F. E. Schumann became the pastor of this church, St. John’s, in 1926, coming from Syracuse, New York, with his bride, who assisted him greatly during the nineteen years of his pastorate, which ended in 1945.

He served with marked success. During this period, the greatest progress was made at home, and in the establishment of new congregations and mission places. On December 1, 1929, Pastor Schumann took over the Icelandic Lutheran Church in Spanish Fork. On December 14, 1930, the Rev. Bunde Skov, became the first resident pastor in Provo, also taking charge of the congregation in Spanish fork.

In February 1931, Pastor Schumann began work in Murray by instructing a family of ten in their home. This group grew so that in July 1931, public services were begun in the Methodist church building in Murray. In the meantime, work was also begun in Ogden which the Rev. E. C. Schmidt, candidate from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis Missouri, took over as the first resident pastor in August 1931. Through radio broadcasts in 1927 and 1928 contacts were made in Logan. On August 29, 1932, Pastor John Feiertag, graduate from. Concordia Seminary came to Murray to take over that field as the first resident pastor.

Because of the aggressive mission activity of the church during this time an assistant, Rev. Paul Hansen, was employed to serve the congregation for a time in its activity in Utah and western Wyoming. Later, Pastor Hansen served the Ogden Church until he entered the Army as a chaplain during World War II.

July 1935 marked the reopening of the Christian Day School that had been closed in 1918. Mr. Raymond Mueller of Seward, Nebraska, was called to serve as the teacher and principal. With this school the Christian Day School system of our church was again firmly established in Utah, and, at one time, schools were operating in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Murray, and Provo.

During the ministry of Pastor Schumann, a number of men were inspired to prepare themselves for the ministry. The first was the Rev. George Fisher, then the Rev. Carl Witte, the Rev. Carl Losser, the Rev. Clayton Hammel, and the Rev. Ben Bauer.

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Salt Lake City. 1837The year 1937 records the beginning of a vast building program. On December 19, 1937, the new St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was dedicated at 1030 South 500 East across from Liberty Park. Ground had been broken at this new site on June 24th of the same year.

In May 1941 under the pastorate of Rev. Allen Schuldheiss, who had taken over the Murray congregation on July 30, 1936, the Murray Methodist Church building was purchased then remodeled and dedicated on October 11, 1941, as Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church. Pastor Paul G. Hansen had been called into the Ogden field in February 1938, after serving as Pastor Schumann’s assistant in Salt Lake City from August 1937. Besides the Ogden field, Pastor Hansen, as previously stated, served Logan, Evanston, Wyoming, and Rock Springs, Wyoming thus initiating the work in the western part of that state. On July 11, 1943, Pastor Hansen dedicated his newly built church in Ogden (St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church), on the corner of 28th and Quincy.

Pastor Charles M. Looker, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois, was installed as pastor in Provo, July 18, 1943. On April 16, 1944, he dedicated his newly constructed chapel in Provo, (St. Marks Evangelical Lutheran Church). Pastor Norbert Reschke was installed as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Murray on October 10, 1943, and began active work in Tooele. 0n July 9, 1944 candidate Clemens Harms, of Scottsbluff Nebraska, was ordained in Salt Lake City at St. John’s to take over the Logan, Brigham City, and Preston, Idaho field, residing at Logan. Thus, the work in all the larger centers of population was established and enlarged, congregations organized, and churches built.

In May 1945, Pastor Schumann accepted a Call to Pittsburgh and the Rev. R. E. Schultz became his successor. Under the leadership of Pastor Schultz nine lots and a house were purchased in an unchurched area in the southeast section of the city.   It was proposed to build both a church and a parochial school there. This became Redeemer Lutheran Church.

In February 1950, Aid Association for Lutherans agreed to loan $35,000 to St. John’s for their new school addition, with groundbreaking ceremonies following on March 12, 1950. The day school continued to serve the congregation until 1971 when it was closed. In 1984, St. John’s offered its educational facility to Salt Lake Lutheran High School for eight years, until the high school moved to its own campus at 4120 South 900 East.

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Salt Lake City.Since Pastor Schulz, there have been six pastors called to serve St. John’s congregation: Pastor I. Brandt (1953-1958), Pastor C. Stockamp (1958-1967), Pastor I. Meinzen (1968-1975), Pastor R. J. Schrank (1976-1993), Pastor J. Mau (1994-1999), Pastor B. Lindemood (2000-2013), and Pastor H. Malone (2013- present).

St. John’s Community Child Development Center (CCDC) was established by the congregation in 1998 under the direction of Pastor Jon Mau. The Sudanese Ministry began in 1997 when 3 young Sudanese men came to the church looking for help with the needs of the newly arrived Sudanese refugees.

Under the direction of Pastor Malone, both the CCDC and the Sudanese Ministry continue. The CCDC has been providing preeminent childcare and early childhood education to Salt Lake City for over two decades and has grown to four locations, bringing Jesus into the lives of over 300 families.

The Sudanese ministry has grown to include mission trips to South Sudan to plant Lutheran Churches and train native Sudanese church leaders. One member of the congregation in South Sudan was trained and ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan (ELCS) to serve the Lutheran congregations in that area. One local member of St. John’s Sudanese Ministry is currently completing his education and training under the mentorship of Pastor Malone to become an ordained LCMS Pastor to Salt Lake’s Sudanese congregation.

The Sudanese ministry in Akobo continues. Pastor Malone, representing St. John’s, taught the Book of St. John at the Sudanese Seminary in Yambio for two weeks in 2018 as part of the Lutheran Heritage Seminary Education program. St. John’s Sudanese Ministry supported the Akobo mission ministry by supplying funds to rebuild their church in war-torn South Sudan and continued active involvement with Pastor Stevens and his refugee camp mission outreach program.

St. John’s LCMS continues its gospel ministry of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ to individuals, families, and the community into this new millennium.

From these humble beginnings, St. John’s is the mother or grandmother congregation of Utah LCMS churches in:

  • St. Mark’s, Provo (1931-2019)
  • St. Paul’s, Ogden (1940)
  • Christ, Murray (1941)
  • Trinity, Layton (1949-2010)
  • Redeemer, Salt Lake City (1950)
  • First Lutheran, Tooele (1953)
  • Cross of Christ, Bountiful (1958)
  • Calvary, Midvale (1959-1970)
  • Our Savior, Vernal (1960)
  • Holy Trinity, Logan (1962)
  • Faith, Roosevelt (1974-1994)
  • Trinity, Cedar City (1976)
  • Good Shepherd, Richfield (1977)
  • Trinity, St. George ( 1978)
  • Grace, Sandy out of Christ (1982)
  • Zion, Kanab out of Richfield (1997)
  • Holy Trinity, Riverton out of Grace (2009)


This history has been produced by:

Excerpts from “Utah Centennial History of Protestant Churches”, Westminster College and “Faith to Move Mountains” by Lyle Schaefer, 1969.
Based on historical research by Pastor R. J. Schrank, 1998, and 2015.
Compiled by Susan Roberts, 2020