Playing music because–music

I’ve spent time off and on in worship bands in ELCA worshipping communities over the last 25 years or so. One of the toughest things for me about playing in an ELCA worship band is that this kind of playing just doesn’t happen very often.

It isn’t so much the skill of these two men–it’s the pure joy they have at just playing their instruments together and exploring what they can do. As a church musician, I’ve found too often we turn music into an utilitarian exercise. Music is a means to an end. Musicians are there to lead the congregation in song. Musicians are there to not draw attention to themselves. Musicians must do whatever it takes to stay out of the way.

But as a musician, music just moves me. It is not a utilitarian exercise. There are rules and rudimentary skills, yes. However, there is so much more to what music has to offer you and me. Music is one of the ways in which we can experience God.

I remember being asked, “Can Christians sing the blues?” The answer is yes. And Christians can sing Hard Rock, Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical, Pop, what ever music comes up–Christians can and I would argue should play the style.

In fact, I think we need to spend as much time gathered together as Christians enjoying where music takes us as we do following the little black notes in the hymn book, sheet music, chord chart, or choir music. Exploring music for the voice of God in big and little ways in the midst of the way the sounds of music move us.

Let’s play music because—music.

Children in Church


Psalm 95
1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Get to Work?

Another Pastor Matt had this gem on his blog today:

Prayer is so powerful, so amazing that it cannot help but change us. Prayer invites us into the mind and heart of God himself… and then sets us on a path to do what God desires. To bring it all together, true prayer is the revival of the Holy Spirit in us that compels us to do something and get busy

In Lent worship we have focused on bringing our prayers before God through our lips.  How can we bring our prayers before God with our hands and feet?

The Importance of the Sacraments

I found this article while I was preparing to preach for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday this weekend.
Peter J. Leithart makes the arguement that Protestants (Lutherans are Protestants) must have a high view of the efficacy of the sacraments. In his blog post he says:

Still, baptism is different from most ministry of the word. In worship, in most preaching and teaching, even in the absolution, the Word isn’t addressed to me by name. In baptism it is: “I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Baptism individualizes and personalizes God’s promise. At the font, there’s no doubt that the promise of forgiveness and justification is directed to me in particular. The difference is somewhat analogous to the difference between an Oscar winner telling the adoring crowd with all sincerity, “I love you all,” and that same Oscar winner saying, in the intimacy of private conversation, “Linda, I love you.”

In Baptism, we are named, claimed, and gifted for live in Christ. The promise is directly addressed to you. You are loved by God.!

Read the whole thing.
Pastor Matt


Working on my sermon for All Saints Sunday and putting it off like a good pastor so I thought I would share something on my blog.

All Saints preaching makes me think about all the pastors who have preached the Gospel at St John’s over the last 117 years makes me feel a bit small. 117 years of preaching about what it means to add our voices to the voices of the Communion of Saints–not just from our own congregation–but also from Christians throughout the centuries.

We can’t do this without each other. In order for us to grow, we need others to teach us and sometimes challenge us. We need others to hold our hand when the going gets tough. We need others to pray when the words won’t come from our own mouths. We need the witness of the living saints to testify to the faith handed down to us by the dead saints.

This weekend in worship, we will name the names of those who died this past year at St John’s. This year has been a tough one for the congregation in terms of the saints lost to death. People who were an important part of the inner workings of the congregation and our larger community are no longer with us. We rightly mourn the loss to our church and our community.

We will also name the names of those who were baptized this past year. The history for these new saints is yet to be written. We wait with eager participation to see how God will use them through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When these new saints are remembered for their contribution to the Body of Christ, what will be said about them?

And you–how are you living out God’s call in your life to be a part of this great cloud of witnesses? Did you know that you are an important part of God’s work in the world? We are all saints, reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and empowered to be Jesus’ disciples in the world created by God.

Pastor Matt