Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest

Preaching at chapel, speaking at an award dinner for Pastor Cynthia Forde, then speaking to a group of students with Pastor Rick Rouse.

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1 Thessalonians 4:11

Aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.
In this way you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.
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Really hoppy kids at Tree of Life Conroe on Easter

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World Playgound CD

We have loved this CD for 15 years.


Zichronot M’Africa (Memories of Africa) is from the 1999 album World Playground: A Musical Adventure For Kids by Putumayo World Music. It is sung in Hebrew by a group of children. It tells of the traumatic night of “Operation Solomon” in 1991, when Ethiopian Jews were airlifted in great numbers to Israel to escape war and famine in Ethiopia.


Nichnasnu l’tzeepor g’dola im knafyim mee-barzel,
Eema ktsat bachta v’aba rov hazman shatak.
Achar kach hu amar lee: ben, hachutza tistakel,
Achchav shamayim ananim, ba-sof zeh eretz Yisrael.
Basefer has’farim catuv shehee tova,
Chalav efshar lishtot sham m’toch ha’adama.
Avraham aveenu asa bah et habreet,
Umekomenu sham, Elohim al zeh hichlit.
Nichnasnu l’tzeepor g’dola im knafayim mee-barzel,
Eema ktsat bachta v’aba rov hazman shatak.
Hu yada shekol ma sheh haya holech l’hishtanot,
Shalom lach Africa, hakol b’yom echad nimchak.
Hayom hu m’chapes poh et Yitschak aveenu,
Midaber k’tsat lifamin al ha’aretz ba ha’eenu.
Mazkir sheh lo haya sham tov, et zeh anee yode’a,
Ach b’einav anee ro’eh, hu k’tsat mitga’age’a.
Nichnasu l’tzeepor g’dola im knafayim mee-barzel,
Eema ktsat bachta v’aba rov hazman shatak.
Hadlet nis’gara al kol ma sheh haya,
Zichronot m’Africa shel ra’av ve’shel avak.


We stepped into a great big bird
With enormous iron wings
Mama softly cried, and papa never said a thing
Then once he turned to me and said
“Son, take a look around
Although the sky is full of clouds
You’ll soon see Israel on the ground.”
The Bible says the land is very good and sweet
It flows with milk and honey
From every mountain peak
Sometimes, he speaks to me
Of the land we used to live in
Reminding me of hardships there
Of dust and drought he tells
But how he’s longing in his eyes
I can see very well

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Easter 2A – April 27, 2014

Acts 2:14a, 22-32 - Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon (part 1). This man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Psalm 16 - Protect me O God, for in you I take refuge.

1 Peter 1:3-9 - Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31 - When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Easter 2: What Sunday is It?

In the Lutheran lectionary, John 20:19-31 is the gospel text for Easter 2, all three years, A, B, and C. “Doubting Thomas” owns the Sunday after Easter. Here are a couple of Luther’s sermons on John 20:19-31 from 1521-2: “The Fruit of Faith” and “Of True Godliness“.

But the Sunday after Easter is known for other things as well. Low Sunday (due to low attendance since everyone came last week). It is known as Quasi Modo Sunday. Octave Sunday. The Sunday after Easter is also often remembered in some churches as Holy Humor Sunday.

Low Sunday

This coming Sunday is often called “Low Sunday”, presumably in contrast to the thronging masses of Easter. Many churches will double their worship attendance on Easter. The evangelically-minded pastor will use this as an opportunity to swell the flock by casting nets, inviting newcomers into ministry opportunities, and following up diligently with visitors, like a shepherd seeking a lost sheep. In larger congregations, this work will be shared by well-trained teams of people gifted in evangelism.

But the Sunday after Easter can sometimes feel like a letdown. In previous congregations I reported to the council the attendance on the Sunday after Easter and the Sunday after Christmas over a period of years. They probably reflect more honestly the health and trajectory of a congregation than the bloated Easter or Christmas attendance.

Building momentum on these “low” days can be done, however. First of all, never say “low” Sunday. People hear it and plan to not come, feeling it will be a dud. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Second, launch a series on Easter that is so compelling people will want to come back. Third, schedule some fun things on that day: a lunch, a reception of new members, a spring fellowship event, or other things.

Holy Humor Sunday

Holy Humor Sunday is an old Easter custom that was started by the Greeks in the early centuries of Christianity.  “For everything there is a season… a time to weep and a time to laugh.” (Eccl. 3: 1, 4)

Churches in 15th century Bavaria used to celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Risus Paschalis (‘God’s Joke’ or ‘the Easter laugh’).  Priests would deliberately include amusing stories and jokes in their sermons in an attempt to make the faithful laugh.  After the service, churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced.  It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ – the supreme joke God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead.

The observance of Risus Paschalis was officially outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century.  Perhaps people were having too much fun.

Today many churches celebrate the grace and mercy of God through the gift of laughter and joy.  Others call Easter 2 Holy Humor Sunday. Some churches decorate their sanctuaries with helium-filled balloons with joyful Scriptural messages, cardboard butterflies (a symbol of the resurrection), smiley faces, and posters emblazoned with messages like, “Christ is Risen!  Smile!”

Octave Sunday

This coming Sunday is also called Octave Sunday, as it is the eighth day after Easter. In the Eastern Rite, the hymns sung on each of the eight days following Easter had the same tone. The eight days were to be considered as a single day or celebration.

Quasi Modo Sunday

QuasiThis Sunday has also been known as Quasi Modo Sunday after the introit for the day: Quasi modo geniti infantes,  rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus, meaning, “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: If it be that you have tasted that the Lord is sweet.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)

Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is so named because he is left at the cathedral on the Sunday after Easter 1467.

Doubting Thomas Sunday

We know the Sunday after Easter more fully as St. Thomas Sunday, though some may call it Doubting Thomas Sunday. The church chose to lift up Thomas’ confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!” over his doubt.

Doubting people impress me. They’re real. They have critical thinking skills. Far from whitewashing their intellect, they probe. It’s what led Luther to the Reformation. He was told that these steps he was ascending on his knees in Rome were the same steps Jesus’ ascended, mysteriously transmigrated from Jerusalem. But the mortar looked, well, fairly recent…

Nancy Rockwell says, “Like a breath of fresh air, Doubting Thomas enters the over-lilyed atmosphere of Easter.”

I loved the Episcopal Ad Project piece that said, “Jesus died to take away your sins, not your brains.” There’s a Facebook group called The Doubting Thomas Society: Faith for the Skeptical. Their front page quote is Martin Luther: “Only God and certain madmen have no doubts.”

Ed Marquart (Grace Seattle) reminds us, “Doubts, questions, and skepticism often lead to deeper faith and larger faith.”

I get to wondering as I ponder the story, why wasn’t Thomas with the disciples on Easter evening? Where was he? What was he doing? Why not all locked up in fear like the rest of the posse? Maybe he’s not as afraid. Not so easily spooked. Remember, it was Thomas who urged the disciples to go on to Bethany in spite of the danger: “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (John 11:16) Maybe he was the disciple with moxie.

He certainly wasn’t quiet or afraid to speak his mind. When the poetic Jesus of John’s gospel (and so many cinematic productions) says mystically (with dramatic sound track in the background), “And ye know the way, whither I go…” It’s Thomas who interrupts, “Wait. Time out. Stop the music. We do not have a clue where you are going. We do not know the way, mostly because you’ve been speaking in riddles and Elizabethan English (sic). So why don’t you just cut the mumbo jumbo and tell us plainly what the heck you’re talking about? (My paraphrase) Thomas is a bottom-line kind of guy.

I’ve always found it interesting that they were locked up in their room by “fear.” It’s a profound image. Fear traps us. It immobilizes us. One thing is as certain for our church today as it was for those Easter evening disciples: Fear is not the way forward. Fear of the world will keep us locked behind the doors of our churches in an illusion of safety.

How do you move from fear to faith?

Jesus’ antidote is offering peace. Three times he greets them with a word of peace. “Peace be with you.” This is important. Jesus uses a similar image to still the sea: “Peace, be still.” Jesus knows that fear immobilizes them like a rabbit frozen before the hunter. But they have work to do. Peace and love will free them from their bonds of fear, so they can go out; go forward, for perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

Jesus’ hopeful and encouraging words are followed immediately with a sending, as usual: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Ominous words. Humility, foot washing, entering Jerusalem on a colt, being obedient even to death on a cross, that’s how Jesus was sent. And now sends us.

In past congregations, whenever we were growing, doing our best evangelism, we were operating on faith in spite of our fears and worries. Also, there were lots of doubters showing up. Seekers were looking and sensing something “spiritual” was going on. How you treat these folks, how you relate to them really matters.

Kids of stalwart members confided in me, “I don’t believe in organized religion.” But then they’d go on the mission trip because they knew something important was happening. Something that mattered. In the midst of it all, God would often show up for them in surprising ways.

Confirmands would “shock” me with their professed atheism, anarchism, or nihilism. Unbelieving spouses of members would help with a meal, mow a widow’s yard, serve a meal to the homeless folks living in our building. One spouse told me he was a Buddhist, yet he would come and meditate during worship, then comment on the sermon as he shook my hand. We’re all at different places in our journey toward Christ. A congregation is not a group of unflinching believers, but a team of seekers, searching together. The church is filled with people on all parts of the spectrum. Apparently Jesus disciples ran the same spectrum. One disciple betrayed him. Another disciple denied him. And Thomas simply doubted.

In Matthew 28, the Great Commission says Jesus went up the mountain to the disciples. Some worshiped him, but “some doubted.” Jesus doesn’t chastise the doubters. It doesn’t faze him. He commissions them all anyway. “Go, make disciples.”

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Three Days’ Bulletin example

The Three Days 2014.pdf

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A prayer for Good Friday

Merciful God, your Son was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to himself. Grant that we who have been born out of his wounded side may at all times find mercy in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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