Lutheran Astronaut’s View of God’s Creation–The Work of His Hands

Apollo (full stack) by Revell

The Work of His Hands, by astronaut Jeff Williams, was a project that I enjoyed working on in my capacity as editor at Concordia Publishing House. The book features pictures of Earth taken while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 13 (2006). While we at CPH were were finishing the final edits and alts for The Work of His Hands, Col. Williams was actually serving his second six-month stay aboard ISS as a Flight Engineer on Expedition 21 and then Commanded of Expedition 22. He and his crew launched from Baikonur on Soyuz TMA 16 on September 30, 2009. During this time on the ISS Col. Williams  saw the arrival of two space shuttle missions; the integration of major additions to the structure of the ISS, namely the Russian Mini-Research Module, the US Tranquility Module, and the Cupola ( a boon for the astronauts’ earth observation); and went on two “space walks” outside the station. This, his third flight into space, concluded on March 18, 2010, with the Soyuz TMA 16 landing in Kazakhstan.

I grew up breathing the excitement generated by JFK’s announcement that we were going to the moon. I built model rockets, model orbital modules, and model lunar landers; I shot-off CO2-powered rockets in the ball field, and I attached notes to “weather balloons” hoping to hear from far off locations when the note finally landed (if not the balloon). Working on The Work of His Hands was the closest thing to revisiting the heady days of childhood-remembered I have experienced. Add to that getting e-mail from Col. Williams while he was aboard the ISS, well, you get the idea–I was twelve all over again.

This video features some great footage from inside the ISS, shot by Col. Williams on his last mission, Expedition 21/22, and we get to hear Col. Williams talk about his faith as he reflects on his unique perspective viewing the work of God’s hands.


Oh, and no, none of my boyhood models remain.

On the Radio – Talking About Lutheranism 101

I am never impressed hearing myself during these opportunities… evidently my favorite word in talking about Lutheranism 101 is “ah.” I don’t realize, as I am trying to speak, that I do this–evidently it is my thinking word. Good golly, I hate listening to interviews where an otherwise interesting topic is punctuated by frequent “ahs.” Those of you who do interviews and public presentations, how do you break this unconscious habit, what do you do to give yourself room to think as you’re responding to a question?

Click on the microphone to hear the interview. Studio A with Rolland Lettner on KFUO.

Why Lutheranism 101?

Why Lutheranism 101? Don’t people already read and memorize the Small Catechism? Isn’t it enough to point someone to the Augsburg Confession?

Well, no.

As a pastor, I am painfully aware that not everyone has read the Small Catechism. Many people don’t know about the Lutheran Confessions. We meet visitors every Sunday who simply don’t know what this Church business is all about.

The fact is that, by and large, people don’t know about religion in general or the specific beliefs and teaching of their religion. They just don’t know.

In the New York Times, reporter Laurie Goodstine begins her story on the latest Pew Forum on Religion survey with these words:

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Americans are a religious people without knowledge of religion [In a previous survey, Pew Research Center reported that nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults say that religion is “very important” in their lives]. Other reports have demonstrated that Americans are a spiritual people, but much of what Americans call spirituality is not connected to true faith in Jesus Christ.

Americans. These are the people in the pews in our churches on any given weekend. These are the people congregations and individual members are reaching out to find new members.

Goodson goes on to report:

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Within the Lutheran Church, what would a survey among our members show? One, five, ten or more years after confirmation, what has been retained? What was never taught or understood in the first place? If asked by someone outside the Lutheran Church, “What does Lutheranism mean to you?” or “Why are you a Lutheran?”, what would the average Lutheran’s response be, beyond emotions, that is?

In their Executive Report, Pew states:

More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity. Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish.

Here another finding cited in the Pew Forum Executive Report:

Many Americans are devoted readers of Scripture: More than a third (37%) say they read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, not counting worship services. But Americans as a whole are much less inclined to read other books about religion. Nearly half of Americans who are affiliated with a religion (48%) say they “seldom” or “never” read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion, and 70% say they seldom or never read books or visit websites about other religions.

The reality is that the average American is more likely to spend a half-hour watching television than an half-hour reading a religion book.

This is the reality for which Lutheranism 101 was written.

Should we still read our Catechism, our Confessions? Should we point people to the Book of Concord? Absolutely! Other than Scripture, Lutheranism 101 points to our Confessions the most for a clear exposition of the Lutheran faith.

With its open and engaging layout, written in a more popular style and allowing for associations and connections to be made, and even a bit of humor designed to “bring home” theological ideas, Lutheranism 101 is another quality resource to educate and inspire Lutherans, give Lutherans tools to better witness and confess what they believe, and introduce those who know little or nothing about Lutheranism to the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

You can take Pew Forum’s 15 question mini quiz here and see how you compare with the average American.

And to learn more about Lutheranism or the book, Lutheranism 101, check out

Editor Talks About Lutheranism 101 — Video

Lutheranism 101 has been, in one form or another, a part of the Blog My Soul environment almost from the beginning some six years ago back on Blogger. Now, working at Concordia Publishing House, I’ve been able to work together with some forty other contributors to put together a book on the basics of Lutheranism. And we titled it, Lutheranism 101. Together with the launch of the book, CPH launched a new blog,, to get the word out about how awesome it is to be Lutheran.

This is a short video by our CPH correspondent Paula Smith, to help promote the book.

Martin Luther’s Writings on the Web

Eventually, when you want to learn more about Lutheranism, you will want to read the work of Martin Luther. For those of us who don’t necessarily want to add the American edition of Luther’s Worksto the library, it is fortunate that a number of websites that have the writings of Martin Luther for the reading. Here are some I have found.

Martin Luther: Man Who Changed the World, CPH

• The first place to go to read Luther are his most beloved texts: the Small Catechism (sometimes called Luther’s Little Instruction Book) and the Large Catechism. These can be readily found  within the Book of Concord. You will also find here Luther’s Schmalkald Articles.

• Project Wittenberg is probably the most extensive and well-known on-line collection of Luther’s writings.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) page for Martin Luther mirrors some of Project Wittenberg content but also has a few more writings. has a great collection of Luther’s sermons along with a few other writings.

The Internet Sacred Texts Collection features a collection of  nine of Luther’s sermons.

Two site of note don’t have content of their own, but point to primary source document elsewhere on the Web:

• The Lutheran Theology Website has a great list of links to Luther’s writings as well as tons of great information.

Beggars All has aggregated a great list of Luther’s writings.

Did I miss a site with a nice collection of Luther’s works?

Lutheranism 101

The new blog for Lutheranism 101 went live today. While I still have a kink or two to work out, it is already shaping up to be an interesting project.

Lutheranism 101 is designed to give you a quick, usable, and comprehensive overview of Lutheran faith and practice. While we have tried not to grind any axes, we would be less than living, breathing human beings if we told you that what you have here is totally impartial and neutral. First, we must acknowledge that we are writing about Lutheranism from an American perspective. So in discussions of customs, history, and missions, Lutherans in other parts of the world (and there are many!) will have a different perspective. We are also writing from within a tradition in the Lutheran Church that is identified as orthodox and confessional. The term orthodox simply means correct or right belief. The term confessional has come to mean different things to different people, but at its heart these two terms signify those who model what they believe, teach, and confess on God’s Word and the historic teachings (Confessions) of the Lutheran Church as they are contained in the Book of Concord. Finally, we have to acknowledge that Lutheranism 101 does not cover the entire length and breadth of our subject. However, it is a good place to start your exploration of Lutheran belief and practice. is an online extension of the book Lutheranism 101 by Concordia Publishing House. The book will be available in October, Click on the banner image above, or use the link in the sidebar, to get access to the website. If you would like to download a sample of the book, or order the book, use this link.

PrayNow — Treasury of Daily Prayer content for your iPhone

PrayNow, the application that brings Treasury of Daily Prayer content to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, is now available from the iTunes App Store.

Check it out here.

iTunes App Store Description:

PrayNow is the daily prayer app that places the Scriptures at the center of daily meditation and prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Daily prayer should be central to what we do as a Christians. Yet it is so easy for the pressures and stresses of daily life to crowd out the time for meaningful prayer.

PrayNow is designed to meet the needs of the Christian who wishes to follow a disciplined order of daily prayer centered in the Scriptures and to use the rich resources of the church’s ancient daily orders of prayers with writings from the Church Fathers.

PrayNow provides you with the following:

• Complete texts for each day:

o A reading from the Psalms

o An Old Testament reading

o A New Testament reading

o A selection from a writing by a church father

o A hymn stanza

o A prayer for the day

• Complete orders for daily prayer:

o Matins

o Vespers

o Compline

• Features the feasts, festivals, and commemorations of the Christian Church Year

• The full text of the Psalms is available with, or without, chant notation

• A full collection of prayers for the days of the week and for various aspects of your life in Christ

Technical Features

o Full texts for every day appear automatically according to the calendar

o Dynamic calendar allows you to display text for any day

o Choose between five different fonts

o Fully scalable font size

o Night reading mode

o Bookmarking capabilities

Summer Reading: Book of Concord

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (CPH)

Pastor Johann Caauwe over at A Shepherd’s Story is starting a summer-read of the Book of Concord and invites us to read with him. For many, the more relaxed schedules of summer allow for adding some extra reading to a daily devotion, or for others, replacing the regular devotion with a project like reading of the Book of Concord over the Summer.

Pastor Caauwe offers some useful links:

The summer schedule using Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions here.

The summer schedule using other popular editions of the book of Concord: Triglot, Tappert, or KolbWengert or Die Bekenntnis-Schriften here.

You can read the Book of Concord on line right here.

And you can participate in a discussion of the daily readings here.

Luther’s Works–new volume now available


Luther's Works, #69

At the turn of the millennium Life magazine rated Martin Luther as the third most important person of the last 1,000 years. His confession of the Gospel of Christ has given direction and purpose to many both inside and outside the Lutheran Church. Still after nearly five hundred years since the Reformation began, the writings of Martin Luther continue to inform and inspire preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ arond the world. Therefore it is a shame, that while the fifty-five volumes of the American Edition is the most extensive collection of Luther’s works in English, it doesn’t contain even one half of all Luther’s writings.

But with the publishing of Luther’s Works, American Edition, Volume 69, that is all about to change. Concordia Publishing House has embarked on a historic project to translate and publish 20 new volumes of Luther’s Works that have never been translated into English. A team of scholars and translators have been at work. This first volume in the new series demonstrates that this team is committed to ensuring that the new editions of Luther meets the highest levels of scholarship and quality.

In announcing the publishing of this first volume in the Luther’s Works extension, my colleauge Dr. Benjamin Mayes writes:

Volumes 22–24 of Luther’s Works: American Edition did not give us all of Luther’s preaching on the Gospel of John. Now, in the new volume 69, we have Luther’s exposition of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, as well as his preached meditations on the entire passion and resurrection of our Lord according to John. In LW 69, Luther is an expert guide through the mysteries of Lent and Easter. Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown’s introductions and footnotes in many ways surpass the scholarly apparatus of the old series. Brown sets Luther’s commentary in the context of patristic, medieval, and contemporary Reformation commentaries on John in order to show what was most important to Luther as he preached on Christ’s passion.

The last part of our new volume is truly unique. For the first time, we have collected and translated all of Luther’s sermons on John 20:19–31, where Jesus breathes on His disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and bestows on them His authority to forgive and retain sins. This passage, which is quoted and explained in many editions of the Small Catechism, as well as in the twenty-eighth article of the Augsburg Confession, has been the center of not a little controversy over the years. The sermons here in LW 69 show in what ways Luther’s explanation of this passage changed through his career, and in what ways it stayed the same. In every sermon Luther’s concern to uphold the forgiveness of sins through the word of absolution is clear and heartening.

Whether, you are new to Luther, or whether you have been using the American Edition for years, I encourage you to check out this great collection of sermons.

You can order you copy of volume 69 at the website, or you can go here to find out more about the new series and even become a subscriber.

Treasury of Daily Prayer: It is Christmas morning!

The first two cases of Treasury of Daily Prayer have arrived by FedEx in advance of the main shipment coming by freight.

It is like Christmas morning! And I am both the toymaker who ultimately finds joy in the fact that other are enjoying his creation AND the child who eagerly tears open the wrapping and can’t wait to begin to play.

And what a playground it is. I turn it over in my hands, I carefully break in the binding, I flip through the pages stopping here, stopping there. There are certainly words on these pages, important words, God’s words. But I see so much more as I look at the pages, trail my fingers over the smooth surface, around one rounded corner and than another. I see on these pages my assisting editors, who through extended e-mails and phone calls “caught” the vision of what I hoped this resource would be, and then poured themselves into the project, loving it and caring for it every bit as much as I do. I see e-mails almost without number that flew between Dave Petersen, myself, and the numerous contributors of the writings from the Church fathers. Todd Peperkorn, whose own personal attachment and knowledge of the Psalms so wonderfully shaped the daily psalmody. The love for our hymnic heritage that is evident in Henry Gerike’s selection of hymnody. Nathan Higgins, a fan of the Book of Concord, who took the pencil-sketch idea for Lenten catechesis and crafted a masterpiece. Arthur Just, chairman of the LSB lectionary committee, drew upon his deep love and knowledge of the collects and matched them to the texts, and then wrote 157 new collects as well. I am humbled and very proud to call each of these men not only brothers in the Ministry, but my friends.

The indents, the paragraphs, the precisely placed punctuation and breathing marks, all stand as a testimony to Dawn Weinstock. Dawn invested, literally, hundreds of hours in manuscript preparation, copy editing, the securing of permissions, the assembly of the acknowledgments, and more. With care and dedication she followed behind straightening, correcting, and rejoicing in the details. She quite simply made me look better than I am.

The beautiful typography and the elegant layout of the Treasury come from the hand of artist Stacy Johnston, our designer extraordinare. She listened so carefully to my hopes and dreams; and then with her years of experience and her immense talent, she saw what 3,000+ pages of manuscript and notes could be. And it is.

There are so many more hands that assisted in making this dream, this effort, this obsession come to pass in the beautiful way that it has—in deep gratitude, I will always see and cherish each of them as part of the treasure that is the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Behind the pages, yet as essential to the Treasury as is the spine to a book, is the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, especially the Lectionary Committee of what came to be know as Lutheran Service Book. It was these dedicated individuals who set out the first sketches for an all-in-one resource that would be centered on God’s Word and faithfully express the richness of our Lutheran heritage and understanding of prayer and meditation. Their work to establish the Daily Lectionary and the expanded sanctoral calendar is the beating heart of the Treasury.

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone be the Glory!