Wednesday, November 26, 2008

December 2008

Set Sorrow Aside

One of my own favorite lines from a Christmas Carol in our choir’s repertoire is from the Sans Day Carol “Aye, and therefore be merry; set sorrow aside! Christ Jesus our Savior was born at this tide.” We have even named our recent Christmas CD from those lines: Set Sorrow Aside! St. Paul’s Mixed Chorus at Christmas.

Many people say that Christmas is a more difficult time of year for them, particularly if they have lost loved ones during that time, since at times when families traditionally gather, an absence will be more acutely felt. That is all quite understandable, of course, and our hearts always go out to those who are sad.

For them in particular, a question arises. How are we to set sorrow aside, when it can be so acutely felt at Christmas? What is the secret of doing this? Can it be done?

St. Paul’s answer is to say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11). So it can be done. To any who find Christmastime difficult, I would suggest first that they come to believe this: there is a way in which contentment can gained, or, to put it another way, Yes, there is a way to set sorrow aside when sorrow wants to descend and intrude during the holidays.

That way is the way of faith. Faith is the Christian heart’s battle and war against sorrow. And faith’s struggle with sorrows is bolstered by attention to the words of the Gospel: “Christ Jesus our Savior was born at this tide.”

If that sounds trite, perhaps it is because it is not quite understood. The appearance of Christ in the flesh, in the humble and troubled times and land around Bethlehem, means that He has most certainly come to the rescue of all who are troubled. He has come to do for us what none of us can do for ourselves. His poverty is to provide us with the otherwise unattainable heavenly riches. His humility is to set us at last in the Kingdom of His glory, where every tear is wiped away. His suffering in our flesh is to bring healing to our flesh. And His resurrection is a foretaste of the resurrection of our own flesh.

So therefore all things—yes, all things—are under the dominion of His grace, so that we may have confidence that every sorrow shall be done away at last. To know this is to find courage to weather whatever sorrow may come to assail us. Think of sorrow as an unwelcome interloper in your heart and then take up the armor of God, and be confident that it can and shall be overcome. If we must sorrow, it will be but for a little while, as He Himself has said.

Christmas is a time of year which is brimming with these tidings. It is the tidings of Christ and His holy nativity which are precisely the balm for sorrowing souls! Here is strength for the battle, and encouragement for the weary fighter.

Aye, and therefore be merry; set sorrow aside! Christ Jesus our Savior was born at this tide.

+ Pastor Eckardt

December Birthdays

12/13 Michael Eckardt
12/13 Lynn Woller
12/15 Andrew Carlson
12/16 Lillian Freeburg
12/20 Peter Eckardt
12/20 Rachel Rowe
12/22 William Dolieslager
12/25 Robert Melchin
12/30 Matthew Woller
12/31 Scott Schoen

December Ushers

Allan Kraklow, Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells, Bob Bock

Shut ins

Mary Hamilton at home; Ruth Snider at home; Mark Baker at home, and Anna Baker at home. Jack Stewart and Evelyn Heinrich at Kewanee Care; Mirilda Greiert at Courtyard Estates; Elva Garrison at Avon Nursing Home; Ruth Melchin at Hillcrest Home; Jane Melchin at Lutheran Home, Peoria.

Choir Rehearsals during December

Since Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Wednesdays this year, thus eliminating choir rehearsals on both of those nights, we had to schedule a couple special choir rehearsals to make up for time which would be lost. Therefore all choir members please note the two special choir rehearsals set for Tuesday evening, December 23rd, and Tuesday evening, December 30th, both at 7:00. PLEASE make every effort to attend: our Choral Vespers is scheduled a little early this year, on January 4th, the first Sunday in January.

December Anniversaries

Altar Guild Notes

For Advent, the color is Violet throughout. We will be observing St. Nicholas’ Day at the 5:30 mass on the Saturday, December 6th and St. Lucia’s day at the 5:30 mass on Saturday, December 13th, but since these are not major Saints’ Days (they are Third Class), the altar color will remain violet.

The altar color changes to white beginning on Christmas Eve, December 24th and remains white through the end of the month.

There are three Christ Masses: the first is at 7pm on Christmas Eve, the second follows at Midnight, and the third is at 10 am on Christmas Day.

At the 5:30 p.m. Saturday mass on December 27th, we will observe St. John the Evangelist’s Day (color is white).

On New Year’s Eve, December 31st, we will observe the Circumcision and Name of Jesus at 7 p.m. There is no mass scheduled for New Year’s Day.

Individual cups are in less demand as more people are becoming accustomed to the use of the chalice. Therefore it is only necessary to set out six individual cups on a normal Sunday.

Christmas Choral Vespers

Plan ahead! This year’s Choral Vespers is scheduled a little earlier: Sunday night, January 4th, with two days of Theological Reflection to follow, culminating on Epiphany, January 6th. The Them for the retreat is “A Prophet Like unto Me: The Christology of the Moses and the Exodus.”

Sealing the Driveway

Your trustees have arranged for the patching and sealing of the driveway (it should be done by the time this newsletter is in your hands) for the economical sum of $2,000.00. As economical as this is, it still places a strain on the budget. Any special offering to help offset this cost would be greatly appreciated. -The Trustees

Megan Eckardt Update

Since we learned on November 1st of the diagnosis of Megan Eckardt (Peter’s wife) with cancer, we have been overwhelmed with kind wishes and the news of how many people have been praying for her. We are all confident of God’s lovingkindness and mercy, and do not doubt that He hears our prayers and will grant us His help in time of need, in accordance with His goodwill in Christ.

A website has been set up in Megan’s name for anyone who would like to express well wishes and comments. Click here.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been so thoughtful to our family in this challenging and difficult time.

+ Pastor Eckardt


To order Poinettias, please contact Judy in the office or sign up on the sheet in the narthex. Cost is $12.00. You may order as many as you like!

Decorating the Church

The decorating of the church is going to happen in stages throughout Advent, as an extension of the idea of lighting a new candle on the Advent wreath each succeeding Sunday.

The first Sunday in Advent (Nov. 30) you will see the garland and Advent wreath only. The second Sunday (Dec. 7) the window decorations will be in place as well. The third Sunday (Dec. 14) the tree will be up, but unlit. The fourth Sunday (Dec. 21) the ornaments will be on the tree and the Nativity will be in place. On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24 in the evening) the poinsettias will adorn the chancel.

Volunteers are sought to help with the putting up of the tree, which is scheduled for Saturday, December 13th at 9:00 in the morning.

Our servers

We have added Phil Johnson to our list of regular acolytes, with Michael Eckardt, Joey Eckardt, and Drew Clapper.

Our Latest Brochure

The latest update to our brochure is inserted in the newsletter this month. Use it! Take it with you and find someone to give it to, with an invitation to join us as a visitor to St. Paul’s!

The Lighter Side

Only in America

Only in America......can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
Only in America......are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
Only in drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
Only in people order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
Only in banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
Only in we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
Only in we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
Only in we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
Only in we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.
Only in they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

Making Evangelism Simpler?

Burnell F Eckardt Jr.
A reprint from Gottesdienst Christmas 1997

There have been various attempts, through the years, to condense the fundamentals of the Gospel into simple words for the purposes of evangelism. We think, for example, of the Kennedy evangelism outline, or of the Five Spiritual Laws once quite popular among fundamentalists. Much has also been said about John 3.16 as the Gospel in a nutshell, since it is so simple, which is probably the rationale behind the expenditure of great sums of money on the part of some to get end zone seats at Super Bowls so we can all see such a Bible reference between the goal posts every time an extra point is kicked.

The appeal of making the Gospel simple is great, especially in a culture where virtually everything is made simple. Dinners, computers, cars, and modes of entertainment are all made simple. The pace of our culture does not provide time for the undertaking of too much complicated stuff. Even a consideration of the most popular types of movies suggests that what attracts us most is what is easiest to follow. Complicated, intricate plots might win Academy Awards, but it's the special effects that score at the box office. Instant gratification sells.

It is therefore quite understandable that the culture of the Christian liturgy should be attacked for its increasing irrelevancy, and especially its alleged inability to be helpful for evangelism. It's simply too complicated. Where meditation is required, instant results will not be realized. So, the gurus of contemporary worship claim, we must hit people with sound bites and repeated attention-capturing devices, and above all, keep everything as simple as it can be. Remove all big words, use only familiar, lilting tunes, and, in essence, follow the bouncing ball.

This calls for a reply, especially from a journal which is quite ostensibly dedicated to the preservation of Gottesdienst, the Divine Service, in all its liturgical ceremony.


Keep it simple, they insist, at all cost.

Well, what if we follow that line of reasoning, of keeping it simple, in the name of evangelizing, teaching, and helping people to keep the simple faith?

First we'd have to take out all the hymns with any kind of depth, in preference for those with simple mantras repeated over and over. One example which comes to mind is the popular praise song "Alleluia." The first two stanzas go like this:

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

How I love Him. How I love Him. How I love Him. How I love Him.
How I love Him. How I love Him. How I love Him. How I love Him.

Next, we'd have to remove any Scripture readings which are too complicated or lengthy. (Never mind that it's the Word of God; we're interested in getting people saved!)

As for the sermons, they must take care not to be too scriptural, because the Bible is just too often too deep. Instead, give them simple stories and easy-to-remember outlines. Something bite-sized for the newcomer to take home and retain.

The drift of these instructions, one can easily see, is simplicity. After all, the reasoning goes, Christianity is simple. All ya gotta do is believe, as it has often been opined, against what is thought to be excessive ceremony. Why make it any more complicated than that?

Well then, why stop here? If it's that simple (which, of course, it isn't), perhaps life in the Church would be much easier if we adopted a yet simpler approach to reaching the lost. Maybe we could do something radically simpler.

That is, why have church at all? Whoever insists on raw simplicity above all things will have to answer this question, for the moment one adds anything at all to all ya gotta do is believe, it will have to be justified for anyone who insists on this kind of simplicity. Want to sing a hymn? Whatever for? All ya gotta do is believe! Or why sit there and listen to someone preach a twenty-minute sermon? All ya gotta do is believe! Even the mindless chatter of How I love Him, How I love Him, etc. will have to be justified. What if I should simply decide to stay home altogether? What's wrong with that? All ya gotta do is believe! What if, while having firmly planted in my mind the fact that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life, I choose to go fishing or golfing? I left home believing, and I returned home believing. See, it's simple! Why, one could even claim that one who goes to church might just be denying the great simplicity of all ya gotta do is believe. If it's that simple, then stay home! Stay in bed! Or go play! But don't come to church, because if you do, you might just be implying that it's not all that simple.

Perhaps, rather than building all those churches, going to all the trouble of conducting all those services, preaching all those sermons, and administering the Sacrament to all those people, we ought simply to appoint phone brigades. The pastor (or telephone minister) of a congregation could simply retain a membership list from which, once a year, to make brief telephone calls to every member. The exchange could go something like this:

Pastor: Hi, this is Pastor Bob. Say, I'm just calling to make sure you still believe in Jesus. Do you?
Member: Yep, still do!
Pastor: Great! Keep it up. I'll call again next year.
Member: Thanks, Pastor!

Imagine all the trouble avoided by such an approach! No delinquent lists, no meetings, no calls, no conflicts, no problems, no organist, no choirs, no preachers. How much simpler life would be for the Church, if we'd all just take to heart the simplicity of all ya gotta do is believe!

(Of course, there would be no funding for the position of telephone minister, but perhaps none would be needed. Such simple phone calls would surely not take up much of his time, most of which could therefore be spent in some other means of self-support. Perhaps he could earn a living working for some firm which employs telephone solicitation, and then his calls could serve both purposes at once.

Pastor: Say, by the way, before I hang up, have you ever given serious thought to putting thermal windows in your home? Prices will never be lower; if I could have just a few minutes of your time . . .)

The flaw in this line of thinking is, in fact, contained within the sentence: All ya gotta do is believe! Since believing is itself the antithesis of doing, as St. Paul makes abundantly clear in his epistle to the Romans, therefore believing cannot be something ya gotta do. Indeed, what ya gotta do is keep the Commandments! And since ya cannot do that as God requires, faith becomes requisite for anyone who would be saved. But faith is not doing; faith is being still and knowing that God is God. Faith is trusting the doing of Another, namely, of Christ.

Moreover, faith is not innate, does not come from within. It is born of the Word: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10.17). Faith and the Word of God are always found together, therefore. Faith, born of the Word, ever desires to hear the Word, as it is written: The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes (Song of Songs 2.8).

But the Word, it happens, is not entirely simple. In fact, it is incomprehensible to innate reason. Christian people and pastors must therefore be ever wary of appeals to simplicity, for while it is true that the Gospel may in some respects be called simple (since it is a unity), the simplicity of it is only comprehended by those who believe; as for those who do not believe, it must be maintained that no amount of reasoned simplicity will bring them to faith. Only the Gospel itself will do that, and by its own power. Let us stick to the liturgy, therefore, for therein is the Gospel abundantly and clearly stated, working to bring faith and life to a lost and dying humanity.

St. Paul’s On the Air

Every Sunday morning at 7:35 on WKEI, AM radio 1450. We keep hearing kudos from folks who listen regularly, so tune in, and spread the word!

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443

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