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.