Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Evening Prayer, Wednesday, April 8

Please visit our Facebook page for a livestreamed service of Evening Prayer this evening at 7 p.m. The stream should begin between 6:50 and 6:55. You do not need to have a Facebook account to view the stream.

The order of service is below. (Click on 'Click here to read the whole post.') It helps to have a Lutheran Book of Worship for the musical settings, but you do not need one.

We rejoice to be together at the same time, singing the same songs, hearing the same Scripture, and praying the same prayers as we come ever closer to the celebration of the mystery of our salvation.


Monday, April 6, 2020

A Pastoral Letter on Living Without the Holy Communion


A Pastoral Letter on Living Without The Holy Communion in a Time of Pandemic

Monday in Holy Week 2020

To the members and friends of St Stephen Lutheran Church:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Maybe you are missing Holy Communion. I know I do. I have not gone so long without receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood for many years. It is also painful for me, as your pastor, not to be able to preside at the altar. It is my joy to administer the blessed Sacrament in your midst.

Some might ask, couldn’t we ‘commune virtually?’ For example, couldn’t I, as the pastor, eat bread and drink wine in my home during one of our livestreams, and everyone else could eat bread and drink wine (or crackers and grape juice, cookies and coffee, or whatever is on hand) at the same time in their own homes? This seems like it might be a creative response to this unique situation in which we cannot gather physically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many pastors and congregations are trying variants on the above, with more or less faithfulness in using only bread and wine. Perhaps your friends or family members are already participating in such services.

But, while I am very grateful that the Internet allows us to share the Word and prayer while we are physically separated, there is good reason to think that the Holy Communion is only celebrated when Christians are gathered together in one place, with an ordained minister present and presiding at the liturgy, using one bread and one cup by the Lord’s command.

Sermon Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020


What a drastic change from Sunday to Friday!

On Sunday afternoon Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. On Friday morning Jesus staggered out of Jerusalem carrying the cross. On Sunday, he rode in on the equivalent of a red carpet – a carpet of coats and palm branches. On Friday, the stones of the roads and the rocky hill bruised the feet which soon would be nailed to the cross. On Sunday, the crowds were cheering and praising God – on Friday the people were either silent or mocking him. On Sunday, his disciples were by his side – on Friday? Nowhere to be found. On Sunday, the mood was full of expectation of God’s victory – on Friday, the only expectation was death.  

Everything had changed – and yet one thing had not changed. The one thing that hadn’t changed was Jesus’ faith in his Father. Neither the Palm Sunday procession nor the procession to the cross was the object of Jesus’ faith. The object of Jesus’ faith was the Father.

This doesn’t mean that he had no emotions or feelings. On the contrary. We read that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was grieved and agitated. We hear his great cry from the cross, Eli, eli, lama sabachthani! (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)

And yet even in the moments of great fear, grief, and pain, Jesus prayed words of faith. In the garden he prayed that the cup would pass, yet prayed even more for the Father’s will to be done. The Father’s will was not specifically that Jesus would suffer, but it was that the connection between the Father and Jesus endure through suffering. The Father’s good and gracious will was that through the cross, the separation between God and humanity be overcome, the chasm bridged. And it is that good and gracious will which was accomplished.

I imagine the worst moment of Satan’s existence was when he heard Jesus say, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!’ Here everything seemed to be perfect for evil – the shouts of the crowd, the pain and the stench, the thirst and the coming death, and yet here was Jesus, still praying. And so in the midst of all this sin and death, holiness and life were still present.

Against appearances, all the expectations of Palm Sunday came true! On the cross, God made known his victory over his enemies, sin, death and the devil. The sin of humanity would not turn Jesus against his brothers and sisters. The devil could not stop him from praying. Death could not separate Jesus from his Father.

This Holy Week is going to look very different from last year’s. No eating together at the table. No silent reflective time together on Good Friday. On Sunday, no church packed with people, no sound of trumpets, no aroma of flowers. Everything will have changed – but what will not have changed? The promise in which we trust – that on the cross, Christ won our salvation. That the Father accepts his faithful act on behalf of all our unfaithfulness. Against all appearances, the news is good!

On this we base our trust – not our external circumstances, which we really shouldn’t have needed a global pandemic to know can change in a heartbeat. Just as Jesus’ trust and faith changed not one bit between Sunday and Friday, so our faith and trust need not change between last year and this. 

Indeed, let our faith and trust be strengthened, whether we are content and happy or anxious and grieving, whether we are together with people or alone, whether or not we are at high risk, whether or not we become sick, whether or not we die, let our faith in God be strong. For Jesus has gone through whatever humanity can go through and has come through with faith in God. That he did this for us. This is our hope, and our consolation, though everything should change, yet he not at all. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Sunday worship April 5, 2020 - Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

Please join us at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, April 5, for the Service of the Word and Prayer on Palm Sunday (The Sunday of the Passion).

The worship order can be found by clicking on the link that says 'Click here to read the whole post.'

Blessings
Pastor Maurice Frontz


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Evening Prayer, April 1, 2020

Evening Prayer (Vespers) will be livestreamed this evening, April 1, at 7 p.m. Please join us for a time of reflective prayer and meditation. The stream will go live at approximately 6:55 pm at facebook.com/ststephenpittsburgh. Click the 'Read the whole post' link to access the order of service.




Monday, March 30, 2020

Sermon March 29, 2020 - The Fifth Sunday in Lent


I’m sure if I start, you can finish with me:

‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.’

It’s one of the oldest nursery rhymes in the English language. It’s also incredibly versatile – so versatile that it’s been used to illustrate the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time, and is constant if and only if all processes are reversible. Or, as I understand it, that you can’t put Humpty together again. Lower entropy is order, solidity, and stability. Maximum entropy is chaos, dissolution, destruction. I’m pretty sure I’m right, but if I’m not, someone will correct me.

But it doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to understand that once the logs have been reduced to ash, you can’t burn them again;, and that you can’t unspill milk, so you shouldn’t cry over it, and that when Humpty Dumpty has a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will be of no help at all.