Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sermon Christmas Day

‘And the Word became flesh
and dwelt [tabernacled] among us,
and we have seen his glory;
the glory as of a father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

The book of Exodus records
that Moses the murderer was fleeing for his life.
In the wilderness,
he was brought up short by a strange sight,
a bush that was on fire,
but which retained its shape and its leaves and its branches
despite the light and heat that so obviously emanated from it.
He must have thought that he was out of his mind.
But a voice told him to take off his shoes,
and he did so,
because he was in the presence
of the God of his fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and this God was going to lead his people out of slavery.

Christmas Eve Sermon

The word ‘grace’ can have a number of different meanings.
We speak of the fluid beauty of a dancer’s steps,
or the effortless ease by which some people
adroitly handle themselves in public.
Someone is ‘gracious,’
they overlook other people’s faults,
and take us by surprise with kindness.
We have a ‘grace period,’
in which we are able to make up
what should have been done earlier.
Our worship space today is ‘graced’
with the greenery and the candles and the poinsettias.
We are graced with the music of the organ and the choir.

Happy St Stephen's Day!!!

The First Deacon :

The First Martyr:
'The birth of Jesus is more than a commemoration of his birthday. His birth into this world prefigures the birth into the next world of his martyrs, who follow in his train. The birth of Christ is a judgment on the persecution and rejection of God and his word, and means joy for those who remain faithful and steadfast even in the face of great persecution. These are days of judgment as well as joy. 
'On what in Germany is called 'second Christmas day,' the church celebrates another birth, the birth into heaven of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. His feast day is yet another way of declaring the church's confidence that the outcome of the Christian struggle is certain. It is a further testimony to the kingdom made ready for God's epople, prepared now for those who would 'take it by force' (Matt. 11:12). 
'Stephen, who, Luke reports, was 'full of grace and power and did great wonders among the people,' was the first of the band of martyrs to follow Christ through death into life and is therefore sometimes called 'Proto-martyr.' His devotion to the faith, his love for his persecutors, and his dramatic death by stoning that is reported in detail in Acts 6-7 make this deacon and martyr a much-revered figure among the saints.'
- Philip Pfatteicher 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Worship

Please join us for our Christmas Worship Services:

Christmas Eve at 7:30 pm

Christmas Day at 10:30 am

We look forward to seeing everyone there.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sermon 4th Sunday of Advent

Sermon 3rd Sunday of Advent

Day by day,
the anticipation builds.
Day by day,
people open another door on their Advent calendar,
today, we light another candle on the Advent wreath.
Day by day,
we are given more and more glimpses of the day of rejoicing to come.
While our secular rites of Christmas
have been largely made devoid of their explicitly Christian meaning,
for the initated,
they still resound with the themes of Christ.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sermon 2nd Sunday of Advent

‘In the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius…’
Luke starts chapter 3 of his Gospel
in the style of a good historian.
After marking the time based upon the beginning of Tiberius’s accession
to the throne of the Roman Empire,
Luke goes on to list the many men
who ruled on behalf of the Emperor in the lands of the Jews:
Pontius Pilate, and Herod Antipas and Philip and Lysanias.
He mentions the religious leaders:
the high priest at the time, Caiaphas,
advised by the last high priest, his father, Annas.
Finally, after all of this,
Luke gets to what happened when,
something he could have mentioned without the names and dates,
‘The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.’

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sermon November 15, 2015

I was all set to preach a very interesting sermon
on Hebrews 10 and the approachability of God
and then Paris happened.

Obviously it makes no sense for me to pretend
that I have any idea how to solve the problem
of the so-called ‘Islamic State.’
That’s in the hands of others.

What I can do as a pastor,
what I am called to do as a pastor,
is proclaim the Good News of God.

The good news is this:
that one day evil will be eradicated.
The book of Daniel tells us of the time
when the dead will rise,
some to punishment,
and some to salvation.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sermon - Reformation Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reformation Sunday: October 25, 2015
St Stephen Lutheran Church
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, STS

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

It used to be that a good sermon was viewed as
‘three points and a poem.’
I won’t have a poem at the end of the sermon,
because we have enough wonderful poetry in the hymns,
so you don’t need to hear something from me.
But I do want to make three points
about how I think the heritage of the Lutheran reformation
can still inform our lives
and the life of the Church today.

I’ll start at the beginning:
with the very first thesis of the famous 95 theses
which were posted by Fr. Martin Luther in Wittenberg in 1517.
‘When our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’
he intended the entire life of the believer
to be one of repentance.’

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sermon Sunday September 6th, 2015

I was having dinner with a colleague a couple of weeks ago,

and in talking about how things were going in his parish,

he told me about a couple who had recently joined.

Unfortunately, they can’t come every Sunday,

because they both work at Wal-Mart.

They hate doing Sundays at Wal-Mart,

not just because they have to miss worship,

but because it’s the busiest day of the week.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Photos from Rodef Shalom Biblical Gardens

If you are in the Pittsburgh area, I recommend a trip here. Such a wonderful and peaceful place.

Rodef Shalom Biblical Gardens

Here are some photos from our recent group outing.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Introduction to the Sunday readings - Trinity

May 31, 2015 - The Holy Trinity

The mystery of the one God in three persons

Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev
It is very appropriate that the feast honoring the Holy Trinity occurs the Sunday after Pentecost. On Pentecost we heard Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would guide the disciples ‘into all truth.’ In the early centuries of the Church, God’s people examined the Scripture and meditated upon the Lordship of Jesus and his prayer to his Father. In examining Scriptures such as the ones we will read today, the Church was guided by the Holy Spirit into the mystery of the Trinity – one God in three persons, the Son being made human for the sake of the world.

We confess the Athanasian Creed every Trinity Sunday. This creed was first used in the early sixth century. It can be intimidating because of its length and because of the condemnations of those who do not hold to the Trinitarian faith. However, these very condemnations indicate just how important the Church believes faith in the Trinity to be.

The creed was written in order to counter many errors in understanding the Trinity. Chief among these beliefs was that the Son was a creature of the Father, the first of his works in time. While this would seem to guard the uniqueness of God, the creed insists that the unity of God is seen in the relationship of three eternal ‘persons’ (an imperfect translation of a Greek word, hypostasis.
These three persons share one divine essence or ‘being,’ and in their unity of love are coeternal and coequal.

For if the Son of God is truly eternal with his Father, begotten, not made, then in his incarnation God himself has entered into our existence: in Jesus, God himself has become a human being and lived a human life. Some believed that God could not become a human being, and even among those who did, there was disagreement about the particular mode of his humanity. Were these disagreements mere theological hair-splitting? Not according to the Church, which held to the argument ‘What has not been assumed cannot be redeemed.’ If God the Son does not assume humanity, then his obedience to his Father and his acceptance of death do not count for us. But if Jesus takes up humanity for the world’s sake, then we are truly brought into his eternal life and given a share in the Spirit which he shares with the Father. We too may pray to his heavenly ‘Abba,’ his Father, believing that we are his children and Christ's brothers or sisters.

Do we have trouble understanding the mystery of the Holy Trinity, or do we have doubts? Does this mean we are among those who are ‘condemned?’ We take comfort in the fact that even the most learned and subtle theologians of the Church cannot fully exhaust or understand God’s mystery. I personally agree with Pastor Frank Senn, a renowned historian of creeds and liturgy, who writes that a lack of full understanding is not what is condemned in the Creed. Rather, it is the outright rejection of the Trinitarian faith by those who do understand it (perhaps especially by theologians responsible for teaching the faithful) which is condemned.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon Seventh Sunday of Easter 5-17-15

Easter 7B – May 17, 2015
St Stephen Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA
The Rev. Maurice C Frontz III, STS

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

He ascended into heaven,
and he is seated at the right hand of the Father.
When I was younger,
I had this image of God the Father on his heavenly throne,
and on his right (which would be left from my perspective)
Jesus sitting on a lower throne.
Truth be told, it’s hard to get rid of that image.
I doubt that it will ever be erased from my imagination
until I see God face-to-face.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sermon Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 10, 2015

Easter 6B – May 10, 2015
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
St Stephen Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA
The Rev. Maurice C Frontz III, STS

Alleluia! Christ is risen!               He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Can you remember the best sermon you ever heard?
It might have been a wedding sermon,
although I would be surprised if it was your wedding sermon.
Most couples are too nervous to listen very closely
to the sermon at their wedding,
although I remember some couples
that hung on my every word,
their faces filled with joy and hope
and awe and reverence for the moment.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Your Questions Please! Bread, Wine - And Water?

Someone asked me why I put a little water in the chalice of wine before communion. It’s not a ‘necessary’ thing; in other words, if we didn’t do it, the Eucharist would not be ruined. Most Lutherans probably don’t mix the wine with water. So, what’s the point?

Before I begin, a confession: sometimes I do things that I don’t understand myself. I pick up things and assume there is a good reason, because there are usually reasons behind tradition. So it is with this particular ritual action.

This tradition of a mixed cup of wine and water comes from the early Church. Around 155 A.D., in his first Apology (that is, his ‘defense’ of the faith), Justyn Martyr gives an account of the worship of the Church, saying, among other things, ‘There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands.’

Originally this was simply good Greco-Roman social custom – to dilute strong wine with water for what we would call ‘social drinking.’ But the wine and the water together came to symbolize the unity of Christ’s divinity and humanity. The water symbolized humanity; the wine divinity. Once water is added to wine, it can no longer be separated. So it is with Christ, who is both God and man, and yet he is one indissoluble person. The cup of mixed wine and water symbolized and illustrated this developing doctrine of the Church.

So, while it is not nearly as important as using wine (which is done according to the Lord’s command), the continued practice of mixing wine and water is both a connection to the ancient tradition of the Church and can be a helpful testimony to the identity of the Christ who is present in the Eucharist.

Sources: Senn, Frank. Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.