By Paul Koch

Our lives, whether it is within the church or without, are defined by boundaries. Sometimes our boundaries are logistical and physical like the walls of my home or the doors to the church. They keep us safe and secure and define the space in which we move and interact. Then again our boundaries can be social ones, like the mean kids in Junior High who wouldn’t let me sit at their table at lunch or the inevitable clicks that form at the office or even in churches. These boundaries are defined in some way by similar interests, abilities, or accomplishments. There are also boundaries prescribed by morality and ethics. There are acts and desires that are classified as sins or good works, things are declared to be clean and unclean. These help us to live a particular way to walk a particular path.

By Paul Koch

This week, I gathered together with a decent-sized group of my colleagues for a monthly meeting in which we receive the gifts of our Lord together, study theology, and discuss matters pertaining to our district of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. We have a good group of guys, and I always do my best to try and attend these gatherings. After all, there will usually be passionate disagreements about practice, heartfelt please for future endeavors, lots of laughs at the expense of some brother who didn’t show, and certainly a beer or two during lunch.

By Paul Koch

Being a pastor affords the privilege to be involved in people’s lives at very intimate moments. From sitting beside a dying grandmother to presiding over a wedding or welcoming a new member into the congregation I have cherished these events. As I’ve attempted to proclaim he Word of God into that moment, time and again, I have found that I’ve been changed and impacted by what is happening. From the look of pride and joy on a father’s face as his child confesses the faith of the family before the congregation. Or the final worlds of assurance from a saint that is longing to meet her Lord face to face. These moments leave their mark. They serve as vivid reminders to me of just what this life of faith is about.

By Cindy Koch

I watched your face when I said that to you. Your eyes widen just a little. Your chin shifts back as the syllables sink in. You heard me, but it seems like the words must mean something else. We are better than what? What is she really saying here? You look right and left wondering if anyone else is listening. Consciously the muscles in your face try to relax. You try to take a deep breath and attempt to understand what I really said, but I can still see the exposed panic in your eyes.

By Paul Koch

The reading before us today from Matthew 16 is an incredibly important text. It was at the heart of much of the struggles during the great Reformation of the church. The question of the power and the authority of the Pope were centered on this text very text. And the power and authority of the Pope had everything to do with the confession of faith that Luther and the other Reformers were defending. Did they have the right to speak against the established church of the day? Where they operating outside the will and command of our Lord by disobeying the Pope and his minions? And then when you actually look at the words of the text, you find that there is a much deeper question that is at the heart of it all. And that question is asked by our Lord; “Who do you say that I am?”

By Paul Koch

Back in 2006, our church body released a new hymnal for use in all congregations under the title Lutheran Service Book. As far as hymnbooks go, and within my limited experience, I think this is one a real gem. The resources bound into this one book are invaluable. As soon as it was in print, my congregation ordered enough to replace all our old hymnals. When the first box showed up, I eagerly opened it up and took one of the first copies for myself. The church’s hymnbook became my hymnbook.

By Paul Koch

What an incredible week it was here at Grace Lutheran Church! A week of great stories, and games, and food, and songs, and fun. It was, of course, Vacation Bible School this past week and the theme was outstanding. This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the church. Martin Luther is the center figure in that work, as we think of him standing before the Holy Roman Emperor confessing that he would not be moved from the Word of God.  Luther’s most famous hymn was “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” in which we sing, “Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage. His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgement must prevail! One little word subdues him.” It was just that, that trust in God’s work that defined our VBS theme: A Mighty Fortress.

By Joel A. Hess

The Church is dying. We need to save the Church. Why are people leaving? If we don’t get more young families in here, we won’t be here anymore. Christians need to have more kids. Ugh! Have you heard people desperately exclaim these concerns and questions? Probably. Barna Research regularly releases stats to frighten Western church bodies. We see numbers thrown out about diminishing worship attendance. We are given statistics upon statistics about the general perception of Christianity and religion. We have been told that Church needs to do something, anything, to keep afloat.

By Paul Koch

I love maps. But, I don’t think we often use maps these days. Remember when you used to have an L.A. freeway map in your car so you could navigate the impossible web of intersecting arteries to arrive at your destination? Today you simply use Google Maps or Waze or some other app. But maps, good old difficult to fold maps, are still great resources. In fact, part of the curriculum that we use with our own children has a cartography component; they learn to read and navigate using a map. One of the first things that they learn to make sense of a map, is they must understand the key. Every map has a key that tells you what the symbols on the map mean; from distances, to road types, to values of elevation gain on a topographic map. A map without the key loses its precision and its reliability. The key is crucial.