Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was a German Lutheran missionary during the colonial period. He is often considered the patriarch of the American Lutheran Church. He was known for his preaching in Pennsylvania all the way down to Georgia. His is a story of devotion and dedication to sharing the Gospel.
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was born in 1711 in Germany. He was ordained in 1739 and in 1742 was sent by a request from German Lutherans in America who were in need of a pastor. He arrived first in Charleston, South Carolina on Sept 22. In his journals he writes a funny anecdote about trying to make his way to Philadelphia where he was called to pastor. He wanted a ship but was told the it was too dangerous. In response he wrote that “God was well able to preserve me on a little ship and, even if I were to swim there on a plank, his hand would not be shortened. Then I went back home again, considered that I was called, not to Charleston or Georgia but to Pennsylvania.”1 Muhlenberg did make it to Pennsylvania where he eventually helped found The Ministerium of Pennsylvania in 1748. It became the first permanent Lutheran synod in the Americas. Throughout his 45 years of ministry Muhlenberg worked with other Christian traditions and even preach to Dutch, Swedish and English congregations in their natives tongues. He died in 1787. His son Peter was a general during the Revolutionary War and become a US congressman. His son Frederick become the first Speaker of the House in the US Congress. And his son Henry jr. became a pastor.
The Reverend Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, was a true man of God. He helped found the American Lutheran church and preached the Gospel to all who would hear. We commemorate Henry Melchior Muhlenberg on Oct 7th.
Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your Servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we my by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Francis of Assisi is a popular Saint. He commonly was known as the patron saint of animals and the founder of the Franciscan Order of monks. I would like to offer a broader scope to his witness for Christ that we might learn from his example. St. Francis was born in 1181 in Italy. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He was known for wild living and his love of French culture. The name Francis comes from his nickname Francesco or “little Frenchman” in Italian. He spent time as a soldier and was even imprisoned. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he becomes so concerned with the plight of the poor that he took a vow of poverty. It was during this time that he become known for his love of animals, simplistic lifestyle and advocacy for the poor. He founded the Franciscan Order of monks as a result of many people who began to follow his example of poverty and service in Christ’s name. Later, legend says during the crusades he risked his own life to preach the Gospel to the Muslims. He even appeared before a Muslim ruler who although not converted respected Francis and offered him safe passage. 1 Later in life Francis received the stigmata or the wounds of Christ. Many saw this as God declaring Francis holy and being literally transformed into the image of Christ. He died in 1226.
Saint Francis is an example of living a life foolishly for Christ. He lived in poverty, service, and was unafraid to preach the Gospel through word and deed. He is a true example of what it means to be transformed into Christ’s Image. We commemorate Saint Francis on October 4th.
The following prayer is often attributed to Saint Francis,
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia. And Happy Easter.
Well here is my March Update. My March was spent mostly in preparation for Easter or Velka Noc. I was great to experience some of the very unique customs and celebrations. March was also filled with many guests and fun.
I have continued to teach English in school. I find it one of the most challenging things I do here. I try to plan exciting and interesting lessons but every week it is a gamble. Sometimes they seem interested and other times not. As my Slovak is getting better it makes teaching more difficult because they don’t want to speak English. Despite this frustration I keep trying, they are learning probably more than I think. I have also been teaching drum lessons to several of the kids. This is also a challenge because sometimes they kids show up and sometimes they don’t. I have to remind them to come often. When they do show up I enjoy it.
The weeks leading up to Velka Noc were a fun time in youth group. We took the time to read the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. We then made an illustrated timeline. It was amazing how many things we forget. We sometimes think we are familiar with story of Easter that we forget to remind ourselves of the details. It took us 2 weeks to read, draw and discuss the events. For me, it helped to get a better picture of the passion of Christ and just how great Christ’s love is for us. I can only hope that the youth somehow got as much out of it as I did.
Good Friday or Velky Piatok was a big service. We had about 400 people at the service. The church was packed. I sang with the choir and heard the kids’ choir sing. They had the brass ensemble perform and some people play guitar. It was fantastic. Communion is served only at larger events and significant times during the church year. It took about an hour for everyone to receive it.
The Saturday of Velka Noc, or Biela Sabotu, we had more youth than usual. Mostly from young people returning from school for the holiday. We played a quiz game about the events of the Resurrection and immediately after. With questions like, how many times did Jesus appear to his followers after his death? How many people saw Jesus Alive? The answers aren?t simple and it sparked some lively debate and thorough searching of the bible for answers. From what I have found Jesus appeared at least 5 times and he appeared to at least 20 people according to combined facts from all the gospels. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.
The Monday after Easter was filled with a very unusual tradition. The tradition involves young men getting girls wet and then hitting them with green branches called a Korbača. The girls then give the guys Chocolate and a Ribbon to be proudly displayed on the boy’s Korbača. Basically, this only process is a huge flirting ritual. I had one of the youth guys make me a Korbača.
Flo, one of the other volunteers from Germany, was leaving early Monday morning. We waited until midnight and went to visit Zorka, who is the vicar and lives next door in our building. We knocked on her door and when she opened it, she was rather surprised. Nothing quite like being splashed with water and being hit by Korbča and then reciting the rhyme goes with it. “Šibi rybymastnyryby, kus kolača od korbača” She then gave us a ribbon with her name on it and chocolate.
After Zorka we travel to another house that at 3 young ladies living there. When the first girl answered the door we surprised her with water. She then told us to wait so she could get her sister. At the same time the mother Shouted, “Already, it’s so early, quick give me your water buckets, I’ll go fill them.” It was quite a shock to see the mother and the other girls helping us. After all the girls had gone through the ritual we were invited in for coffee and snacks and each girl gave us a ribbon for our Korba?a. Well it was early in the morning so no one else was up so, we went to bed. Later in the morning at a more reasonable hour I went around the village with some of the other young men participated in this ritual at several other houses. It was a fun day and I met many nice girls.
They also traditionally have a small service. The Pastor arranges for all the doors to be locked except for one. Then when all the ladies file out of the Church he can hit them with his Korba?a. Apparently they considered it Good Luck, and wishes for Health and Beauty in the future when they are hit by a Korba?a. With the women being treated like it is often said they boys should watch out the next day but usually nothing happens.
March was also filled with a variety of Guests. Flo’s family arrived to spend Easter weekend in Vrbovce and then go to the High Tatry. It great to meet new people and see the family of people I work so closely with. His mother father and 2 younger sisters were quite a joy. Zorka and I were invited to join in their family Easter egg hunt/walk after the Service on Easter. When Flo and his family left for the High Tatry another group of guests arrived the next day. Oli had spent his Easter in Germany with family and arrived back with his Pastor and 2 friends. They spoke decent English and Oli was able to translate well. I also have been picking up a little German too so that helped. We had some interesting conversations about life in Slovakia. They were here in Vrbovce for about 3 days before they returned. After all these big events I was feeling a little tired and wanted to return to a somewhat normal routine.
Well, what I have I learned this month? I learned how Slovak’s celebrate Easter or Velka Noc. I learned and strange tradition of hit girls with sticks the day after Velka Noc. I have also been learning about patience and catching God’s plan. Much like the Disciple’s after Good Friday, I sometimes think, “Where is God?” When I’m frustrated with working on something I see no end to or I’m teaching English with kids who really have not interested or when I have to chase to remind kids to come to youth group or drum lessons all the time and then they don’t show up. The disciples heard everything Jesus said but they just weren’t sure what was next. On Easter and many times after Jesus reminded them, “I’m here! I’m Alive”.
We too need to be reminded that Jesus died for our sins but he is a Living God. When the 2 women went to take care of Jesus’ body in the tomb, they met an Angel who said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” We must ask this question to ourselves when we are frustrated or lack vision. The fact that Jesus was resurrected as he promised makes all his other promises more real. How can a dead God keep his promises? He can’t but Jesus is Alive.
I am reminding myself of God’s Grace everyday that he is working, he is living. I may not see results of my work now or even in a few months but God is there, walking with me through all my joys and frustrations.
Lord, Thank you that we worship you, a Living God One who keeps his Promises Help us to remember You are Alive and walking with us This is not another figure of speech, it is True You showed yourself to the Disciples And later gave of yourself to them your Holy Spirit. We are your Disciples too!!
In your Holy Name, a name that has power of the living and the dead Jesus Christ
God’s Blessings and Peace be with you, Christ’s Servant in Slovakia