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Friday, September 30, 2011

Prague Conference -- Lutheranism in the 21st Century

Streets of Prague
In the tradition of the Klaipeda Conferences sponsored by Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne (Russia Project) in the 1990s and early 2000s, the LCMS Church Relations (President's Office) in cooperation with CTSFW with the support of a generous donor are hosting a conference on Lutheranism in the 21st Century. President Harrison will be attending as will a number of Presidents and Bishops from around the world. As able we will post more details of the conference.

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Prague Brochure Letter FINAL 05272011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saint Michael and All Angels

Saint Michael from Mission Socorro, El Paso, TX
Today is the celebration of Saint Michael and All Angels. Ironically, we are departing for Prague where we will be at a conference hosted by Saint Michael's Congregation. For a past blog post on Saint Michael's see this. Here is a radio interview about Saint Michael and a Lutheran Witness story.

More updates from Prague.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prague Orloj or the Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague Orloj or "Prague Astronomical Clock"
With the Church of Our Lady before Týn in Background
Yesterday, President Harrison left for Prague for a conference on Lutheranism in the 21st century. I leave tomorrow for the same conference. The conference is being held at St. Michael's Congregation in Prague. Nearly nine months ago, I was in Prague making preparations for the conference. While making preparations, I had an opportunity to see the Prague Orloj or the "Prague Astronomical Clock."



The clock itself is 601 years old. In September 2010, the clock celebrated its 600th anniversary. The clock was installed in 1410. It is, if not the oldest, among the oldest working astronomical clocks in the world. Wikipedia notes: "The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; 'The Walk of the Apostles', a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months."

Close Up of the Clock / Astrolab
On the day I was in the square, at noon when the clock struck, trumpeters and others added to the revelry. After the Reformation, Prague became somewhat of an important place for astronomy. Although Luther and Melanchthon were not keen on the views of Copernicus, other Lutherans from Wittenberg were. Eventually, two Lutheran astronomers ended up in Prague, Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) and Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Besides studying the laws of planetary motion, Tycho Brahe led an adventurous life by loosing part of his nose in a dual, and taking the daughter of a Lutheran pastor as his common law wife (he couldn't marry her legally because Tycho was a noble and she was a peasant). Tycho Brahe is buried in Prague at the Church of Our Lady before Týn, just a short distance from the Prague Orloj. Kepler studied with a student of Philip Melanchthon. He had strong theological views and practiced Lutheranism in Prague, despite the fact that the two official religions in Prague were Catholicism and Utraquism. He later was denied return to the University of Tübingen in Württemburg for suspicion of holding Calvinistic views due to his long stay in Prague. Kepler developed the laws of planetary motion, contributing to a scientific revolution. Prague (and the astronomers clock) was an important contributor to astronomy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

A Statue in Prague Dedicated to Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler

In honor of the 600th anniversary, a video was made and projected onto the Prague Orloj, providing a glimpse of 600 years of human history in 10 minutes. It is worthwhile to view the video below.



 There are even a couple of iPhone apps that simulate the Prague Orloj:

Prague Orloj By Jiri Sklenar
($1.99)
Orloj By anyware(Free)

The Prague Orloj from the view of a satellite.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Nature Photos

Morning Coffee at Lake

This past weekend, I was out at Innsbrook Conference Center for a missionary retreat (perhaps another post will discuss what we covered). The conference center was located about 45 minutes West of Saint Louis. I thought I would post a few nature photos. All photos were taken with an iPhone 4 and were processed with Instagram.

Golden Rod
Gnarly Tree
Log in the Lake
Milk Thistle





Deer Print







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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study by Albert Collver: A Review by Robert Zagore

Pastor Robert Zagore of Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI, wrote a book review for Logia on the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study published by CPH. Logia is a quarterly journal published by The Luther Academy. You can read about Logia here. The review is posted below but can be found at Logia's Blogia site. A special thanks to both Pastor Zagore and Logia for the book review.

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WMLT Bible Study
SEP• 22•11

A new Bible study and DVD presentation, Witness, Mercy, Life Together [Witness Mercy Life Together Bible Study by Albert B. Collver, Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. 64 pages. $5.99.]


has been published as a rally-cry-educational-let’s-work-together piece by Dr. Albert Collver and the LCMS President Matthew Harrison. Many pastors who receive it in the mail will have a conditioned response, ‘we’ve seen this before.’ Every publishing house, every administration and (it seems) most pastors seek to build the church into a savvy social organization using marketing surveys, demographic insights and the effective use of technology. Slogans and catch phrases inform believers about the church’s core competencies, strategic goals, and mission. Books and “Bible Studies” show how their’s is really the Lord’s plan updated and informed by the insights of the modern mind. How strange and welcomed therefore is the new Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod theme and emphasis which is built on something altogether different. “Witness, Mercy and Life Together” is the new Synodical emphasis put forward by LCMS President Matthew Harrison and his administrative staff. The emphasis is not a focus-group-tested slogan set forth to move forward with strategic objectives. “Witness,” “Mercy,” and “Life Together” are words the Lord has spoken describing the work of His church. The church is purest and most beautiful when she is defined and described by the Lord. Through His eyes she stands as, “a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). It is indescribably refreshing to the weary to hear those words applied to us. That is the point of the new study by Dr. Albert Collver, to hear what the Lord has said about His church and embrace it as a gift. From the start one can tell this theme and Bible study are much different than the usual “grow more, give more, get more” fare.

The difference becomes obvious in Lesson One, “Witness.” In the church-speak world the word witness has become shorthand for an intentional conversation by which believers help an unbeliever make a decision for Christ and therefore grow the kingdom. “Lesson One” should really be called “Round One” because Collver gently wrestles the word back to its Biblical intent, “The Lord saves souls, but He locates His saving Gospel in the Church, and He uses people within the Church as his instruments to proclaim the Gospel” (p.14). The leader’s guide, the accompanying Steven Starke hymn, and the impressive concordance of Biblical usage thoroughly equip students and leaders to complete the journey which brings the word “witness” back from Law to Gospel.

“Round Two,” builds on this gift and extends it. Throughout history, well-intented but misguided people have declared that pure doctrine and the desire to save the lost are antagonistic goals. Systematicians have sometimes made doctrine devoid of proclamation. Mysticism, pietism, the theological descendants of Dwight Moody decry doctrinal and confessional subscription as anti-missional. The LCMS is certainly no stranger to this battle. Collver however beautifully and convincingly demonstrates that these two stand together in the Lord’s church, “A witness that does not confess what Jesus taught is not a Christian witness. Likewise, a confession that does not witness is not a New Testament confession. . .Telling about Jesus and doctrine go together” (p.18). The leaders’ guide to this section is especially strong. As Collver presents a precisely written and beautiful summary of how true doctrine is manifest in Christ coming to us according to His promise—which is the only hope of the world. With very little modification the leaders’ guide could become a great Christmas sermon.

Lesson three, wrestles the word “mercy” (his translation of the Greek word diakonia) back into it’s Biblical sense, “Being rooted in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us on the cross, mercy means feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, and caring for the orphans and widows. Diakonia, then is caring for our neighbor in concrete and effective ways because of what Jesus has done for us” (p.22). Collver does not speak of himself, but his experience as a parish pastor and as an executive in LCMS World Relief and Human Care fills this far-too-brief study with an authenticity and understanding that is known by one who has “done the hard work” (Proverbs 14:23).

Lesson four, “Life Together” leads through a study of the Biblical word koinonia. Once again the word is rescued and revived from its more unworthy uses. In common usage koinonia and its common translation fellowship have lost their Biblical, sacramental foundation and have come to refer to donuts. Collver’s study and leaders’ guide demonstrates with great skill that our fellowship and unity are not founded on liking each other (think of St. Paul and Barnabas), but on a doctrinal and sacramental unity that transcends men, personalities and time. If the LCMS (and any denomination) would escape their bondage to bickering and infighting it will only be as people who have a bond that is deeper than human affronts and leadership cults. “Life Together” rightly teaches Divine fellowship that flows from the Gospel as the hope and substance of churchly interaction. Reconciliation with Christ through His cross enables reconciliation with others. Individual gifts find their fruit and proper use through their incorporation in the Body of Christ.

Lesson five, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” speaks of the history of conflict in days of the apostles. The obvious conclusion is that the unity of the church has always been under assault from without and from within. The only proper response and the only faithful response of the church is to return to the mission which can be summarized by the Bible’s words witness, mercy and life together. It is indeed commendable that the author would take this approach to a topic so important at this stage of the LCMS’s life. The approach is Biblical, evangelical and draws us to the Gospel and the need for the faithful administration of the Word and Sacraments.

The accompanying DVD shows LCMS President Harrison presenting these same doctrines in a way that is winsome, pastoral, humorous and demonstrates a tremendous grasp of the practical application of Lutheran theology. While the production quality is not wonderful, it is hard to imagine a faithful non-partisan who could fail to be edified and delighted by Harrison’s presentations.

The study is designed to be used in any adult or teen level Bible class and can be used with great profit. Pastors may find that its most enduring value will be as a “new member’s” class or a follow-up to Catechism and confirmation classes. Many congregations offer special classes for those who wish to join by transfer or reaffirmation of faith; it is hard to imagine a better study for such use.

The Bible studies, leaders’ guide and DVD are not fundraising, team building or leadership training devices that use pop psychology and marketing techniques to win hearts. They are Biblical, sacramental, genuine, doctrinally solid, studies on the nature of the Church. It is easily the most useful item to come out of the Synodical Office Building since the sainted A. L. Barry’s What About series; and in many ways, it is more important. One can pray that the Biblical emphases in these studies will come to mark President Harrison’s term of office. If so, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is entering a period of great importance in this dark and fallen world. “The world is longing for what we have,” Harrison cries out in the presentation. If the LCMS and her leaders can maintain a strong Biblical witness, shown forth in mercy and lived out in our life together, she will truly be, “a radiant church.”

Robert Zagore is Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Traverse City, MI.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

El Paso Mission Trail

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

From September 15 - 18, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) held its meeting in El Paso, Texas, to hold its regular meeting as well as a consultation on immigration. The CTCR is divided up into three committees. I sit on committee 1 for church relations. Committee 1 visited the El Paso Mission Trail and saw three churches.

Mission Trail, El Paso, Texas
Mission Trail runs from Ysleta to Socorro to San Elizario and is about nine miles long. It is a segment of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior), which was the trail that extended from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Along this route, are missions, churches, forts. It is the oldest road in the Americas and was once the longest.

Presidio Chapel San Elizario
Since we drove out of El Paso, the first mission we saw was the Presidio Chapel San Elizario. This was original built in 1684. In 1789, the French renamed it after San Elcear, the French patron of soliders. The settlement that grew up around the church became known as San Elizario.

Sanctuary of San Elizario
Cherub holding holy water at San Elizario
Note that the cherub has painted toe nails. I don't remember that as a description found in the Bible.

Cherub's painted toes at San Elizario

Presidio Chapel San Elizario
From Presidio Chapel San Elizario, we traveled along Mission Trail to Mission Socorro. Socorro means "help," and originally served the Piro Indians who fled during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The church was founded October 13, 1680, but did not a permanent mission until 1691, when it had 60 Piro Indian families and 15 Spanish families.

Mission Socorro
Mission Socorro has an interior buit from carved cottonwood and cypress. The church is considered one of the best examples of Indian and Spanish design.

Sanctuary of Mission Socorro
The altar area was rather elaborate, or appears so. Apparently, it is wood painted to seem like gold.

Chancel of Mission Socorro
An enlargement of the Lord's Supper.


Interestingly, many of these churches use electric candles.

Note the sign saying these are electric candles
A few of the professors from Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne and Concordia Seminary St. Louis.

Roland Ziegler, Larry Rast, Tom Egger, Jeff Oschwald
After Mission Socorro, we traveled to Mission Ysleta.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is part of the Ysleta Mission. It is the oldest continuously active parish in the state of Texas.
Bell from Ysleta Mission
The first Mass was held 12 October 1680 at Ysleta. This areas was prone to frequent flooding. As a result the church had to be rebuilt several times, most recently in 1851.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Mount Carmel served the Tigua Indians. The Tigua's patron saint is San Antonio de Padua. The feast is celebrated on June 13 with traditional dances.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), also known as blessed Catherine, was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior in New York. She is the patron of the environment and ecology. She suffering the loss of her mother and the disfigurement of her face to small pox at the age of four. She was baptized as a teenager and later died at the age of 24 with her last recorded words, "Jesus, I love you." She is the first Native American to be "blessed."

Chancel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Roland Ziegler and I got our photo taken.
Al Collver and Roland Ziegler
The journey along El Paso's Mission Trail was very educational. Learned much about the mission work of the 17th and 18th century Americas.

View from the Hotel



Monday, September 12, 2011

WMLT and Grace Lutheran Church Strasburg, IL

Witness, Mercy, Life Together Banners at Grace Lutheran
This weekend, after the Board for International Mission (BIM) meeting, my family and I traveled to Strasburg, Illinois for a mission festival at Grace Lutheran Church. The congregation is almost 115 years old. Their pastor is Michael Mohr, a former classmate of mine. It was a pleasure to be there and preach on Luke 24:48, "You are witnesses of these things." When I entered the sanctuary, I was pleasantly surprised to see see banners for Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. 

For the past four weeks, the congregation has been going through the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study published by CPH. A woman in the congregation made the banners for the promotion of Witness, Mercy, Life Together in the congregation. 

Thank you for your hospitality.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

St Michael and All Angels - Interview and Article

Todd Wilken and Al Collver at the Issues, Etc. Studio

Today, Todd Wilken interviewed me on Issues, Etc. about St. Michael and All Angels. To listen to the interview click below or download it here.






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The Lutheran Witness Article on St. Michael and All Angels can be found below.
St Michael and All Angels From LW Sept 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

WMLT Bible Study Interview on KFUO AM Studio A

WMLT Bible Study
Yesterday, Roland Lettner of KFUO-AM's Studio A had me on his program to talk about the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study available from CPH. You can listen to it below or download it by clicking here.




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