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April 14th, 2020

Chapel – 4/14/20

This reflection was written by my father-in-law Al Senske.  I shared his story about helping a farmer in Africa and receiving an unexpected gift – a very short-handled hoe. During his ministry he served as the superintendent of Lutheran schools and led LCMS World Relief which gave him the experience below. He enjoys following Valley Lutheran on Facebook and especially appreciates the music department.  

I’m sharing with you an inspiring Holy Week experience I will never forget.

While I was working with the German and Hungarian Lutheran Churches in Romania during Holy Week of 1993, a farmer confessed to me, “Easter brings hope of eternal Iife. But it provides no hope for us here now.”

 I wonder how many people, including Lutherans, have similar thoughts today, 2020, during this virus pandemic crises?  My fellow European Lutherans felt a desperate lack of hope. There were many circumstances that could justifiably cause them to feel that way. (Note:  This was just after the fall of communism. People had nothing. They were starving.)

 Bishop Arpad Moses, leader of the Hungarian Lutherans, based in Cluj, described his people as being destitute, suffering and feeling hopeless. Dr. Christopher Klein, the German Lutheran bishop headquartered in Sibiu told me, “Sometimes it feels like I am presiding over a dying church.”

To my questions, “How can your fellow Lutherans help? How can we provide hope?” Their unanimous answers were, “Just your being here listening to our story has already provided hope.” We then engaged in some realistic planning of the ways we could fulfill some of their needs with the funding of LCMS World Relief.  Their planning was sound (and later reports proved it to be effective). At the conclusion of our meeting I was asked to join the group inside their local Jimbor Lutheran Church. After walking halfway down the center aisle we stopped, held hands, and sang a lusty stanza of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Never before, nor since, have I heard this hymn sound so hopeful.

As I said “Goodbye” to Bishop Klein he said, “I greatly appreciate that you came and that you wanted to learn more about our church and its “human care” needs. He added, “General prayers are always helpful, but now you know what specifics to pray for – which makes praying even more effective.”

 An unusual long-standing custom in those churches was that their church attendance on Maundy Thursday was always higher than on Easter or Christmas. There’s probably a lesson we can learn from that as well.


LORD – help us to pass it on! Amen.


Psalm 46 is the text for A Mighty Fortress is Our God, and the source of the verse that has meant so much to us in recent weeks.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I will remember this year’s last chapel as we closed by standing and singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  The accompanying virtual choir is inspiring because it includes Christians from around the world who are likely battling the same virus as are we.   

Be specific in your prayer today.  Pray for your family, friends, and neighbors’ specific needs.  Pray for your community, school and church’s specific needs. Pray for your own specific needs. 

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Contributed by: Dr. John Brandt

The Saginaw Valley Lutheran High School Association, operating Valley Lutheran High School, admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, and physical handicap to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national and ethnic origin, genetic information, and physical handicap in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school administered programs.