Pentecost – 15 May 2016
100th Anniversary of Lutheran Memorial Chapel in Shorewood, WI
Genesis 11 & John 14:26 & Acts 2:4
Pastor Albert Collver


To the Church of God in Shorewood, Wisconsin, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called
to be saints together with all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, Grace to you and
peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!


It is a great honor and privilege to be here with you on this centennial celebration,
where I had the opportunity to serve as a vicar. During my vicarage here, some of you had to
endure beginning sermons that covered everything from the Garden of Eden all the way to the
return of the Lord and every doctrine in between in one sermon. Well, there should be some
improvement today as the texts only cover from the Tower of Babel to the day of Pentecost in
Acts. When Pastor Wieting and I discussed the centennial celebration and the way that past
anniversaries had been celebrated at Luther Memorial Chapel, I told him that this past year I
was invited to preach at the Synod Convention for our partner church in Nigeria. The church
had about 6,000 people in it, and the service lasted for 8 hours. When the service began in the
morning, the temperature outside was 90 degrees, and when it finished it was 104 degrees.
Don’t worry I only preached 1 hour of the 8-hour service, and today my sermon has three parts:
remember, repent, and rejoice. Each part will last no more than 15 minutes. In Nigeria, it was a
great joy and encouragement to see 6,000 people attending a festival service. My heart has no
less joy today seeing the sanctuary filled for the centennial of Lutheran Memorial Chapel.
A century of blessings received and given out here at Lutheran Memorial Chapel. How
appropriate to celebrate this century of blessing in Shorewood on the birthday of the New
Testament church, on Pentecost Sunday almost 2,000 years ago, and it precedes the 500th
anniversary of the Reformation. It is hard to imagine that Pastor Kissling did not have the 400th
anniversary of the Reformation in mind when this congregation was founded in 1916, and it
may well be part of the reason the congregation’s name changed to Luther Memorial Chapel in
1917 during the 400th celebration of the Reformation. As Lutheran Memorial Chapel began the
proclamation of the Gospel here in Milwaukee, the world was plunged into a world war that
took millions of lives. In the midst of world uncertainty, Lutheran Memorial Chapel was a
beacon of hope first to Milwaukee and then to the world.

Pentecost – 15 May 2016
100th Anniversary of Lutheran Memorial Chapel in Shorewood, WI
Genesis 11 & John 14:26 & Acts 2:4
Pastor Albert Collver


To the Church of God in Shorewood, Wisconsin, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called
to be saints together with all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, Grace to you and
peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!


It is a great honor and privilege to be here with you on this centennial celebration,
where I had the opportunity to serve as a vicar. During my vicarage here, some of you had to
endure beginning sermons that covered everything from the Garden of Eden all the way to the
return of the Lord and every doctrine in between in one sermon. Well, there should be some
improvement today as the texts only cover from the Tower of Babel to the day of Pentecost in
Acts. When Pastor Wieting and I discussed the centennial celebration and the way that past
anniversaries had been celebrated at Luther Memorial Chapel, I told him that this past year I
was invited to preach at the Synod Convention for our partner church in Nigeria. The church
had about 6,000 people in it, and the service lasted for 8 hours. When the service began in the
morning, the temperature outside was 90 degrees, and when it finished it was 104 degrees.
Don’t worry I only preached 1 hour of the 8-hour service, and today my sermon has three parts:
remember, repent, and rejoice. Each part will last no more than 15 minutes. In Nigeria, it was a
great joy and encouragement to see 6,000 people attending a festival service. My heart has no
less joy today seeing the sanctuary filled for the centennial of Lutheran Memorial Chapel.
A century of blessings received and given out here at Lutheran Memorial Chapel. How
appropriate to celebrate this century of blessing in Shorewood on the birthday of the New
Testament church, on Pentecost Sunday almost 2,000 years ago, and it precedes the 500th
anniversary of the Reformation. It is hard to imagine that Pastor Kissling did not have the 400th
anniversary of the Reformation in mind when this congregation was founded in 1916, and it
may well be part of the reason the congregation’s name changed to Luther Memorial Chapel in
1917 during the 400th celebration of the Reformation. As Lutheran Memorial Chapel began the
proclamation of the Gospel here in Milwaukee, the world was plunged into a world war that
took millions of lives. In the midst of world uncertainty, Lutheran Memorial Chapel was a
beacon of hope first to Milwaukee and then to the world.


The congregation had an interest in mission also and reached out to the community.
Around the same time as Luther Memorial Chapel was established in the community and when
it constructed the present building in the late-teens and early 20s, Swedish missionaries
established the mother church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This modest congregation that began
with the baptism of eight or so Ethiopians would become by the beginning of the 21st century
the largest Lutheran church in the world with about 7.5 million members, and growing by three
quarters of a million people a year. Yet, the same doctrine and teaching that serves as the
cornerstone of Lutheran Memorial is what attracts the church in Ethiopia to the Missouri
Synod, scripture alone with solid Lutheran teaching. During the 1930s, the Missouri Synod
began mission work in Nigeria. No doubt, Luther Memorial through her offerings to the District
and Synod supported this work during the Great Depression because of her love for the Gospel
of Jesus. This foundation drives both local and international mission, Christ alone and scripture
alone. Luther Memorial continues to participates in this work and now works with international
students as a campus ministry.


To remember or chronicle all the events that Luther Memorial has seen over the past
century, or even to recount the more than quarter century of Pastor Wieting’s time at Luther
Memorial would take us more than 8 hours. Indeed, today is a time of thanksgiving and
rejoicing for all that the Lord has done here at Luther Memorial Chapel. How the world has
changed since her founding? How many threats and trials the congregation has faced. How
many threats and challenges are still to come? Yet the Lord has promised to be faithful and that
the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. We remember all that the Lord has done
through the congregation and pastors of Luther Memorial Chapel. We also remember the
Lord’s faithfulness in preserving this congregation through many trials and challenges. We
remember his faithfulness to us, as the Lord has been faithful to his people and to his church in
ages past.


At the first, centennial Reformation celebration in 1617, the world was once again
thrown into a world war that consumed all of Europe killing more than a third of its population.
During this time of uncertainty when the world wanted to wipe out the church of the
Reformation, the court preacher of Saxony told how an anniversary should be celebrated. He
did not just invent these from his head, but rather he studied how the Israelites and the ancient
church celebrated major events. He called for it to be “a remembrance festival,” “a praise and
thanksgiving festival,” “a prayer festival,” and “a repentance festival.” In all these festival
activities, the focus is on what the Lord has done through his church. We remember how the
Lord has used Luther Memorial Chapel, both the congregation and the pastors, this past
century as we did a few moments ago and will continue to do today. We offer praise,
thanksgiving, and prayers for the Lord’s work at Luther Memorial Chapel. We also repent. At
first, it may seem strange that an anniversary celebration involves repentance. Yet, repent and
believe the Gospel is the call sign of the Reformation. Jesus in his earthly ministry preached
repentance. On this anniversary celebration on Pentecost, we repent.


In the reading from Genesis for Pentecost, we hear of the tower of Babel. The chapter
begins by saying, “the whole earth had one language and the same words.” How much different
this world would be if we all spoke the same language. How much easier traveling the world
would be. How much strife, racism, murder and war have been caused in the history of the
world because we no longer speak one language and have the same words. The people decided
to build a tower into the heavens to make a name for themselves. At that moment, these
people decided to live as if God no longer mattered. Notice what happens, the text says, “the
Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.” (Genesis
11:5) When the Scriptures say, “the Lord came down to see,” it does not mean that the Lord
was in heaven unaware what was taking place on earth. The Lord sees all and knows all. Rather,
it means that the Lord has decided to act and judge the sinful deeds of the earth. The Lord
came down to see the tower. Notice he did not send lighting bolts to destroy the tower. He did
not rain fire from heaven upon the tower. He did not send angels or smash it with his almighty
hand. He did not send a Flood to destroy the world, rather he chose a judgment much more far
reaching than a Flood which destroyed the entire world. The Lord confused their language, so
that they no longer had the same words. The people dispersed because they could no longer
work together for this evil purpose and they scattered over the face of all the earth. The text
does not specify but it is quite likely that families were separated and pulled apart by the
change in language. Friends could no longer communicate with one another. In one sense, this
marked the beginning of tribalism, racism, and nationalism as people separated over
differences in language and united in the language they spoke with others. The loss of the same
words, the loss of a common language, causes division as we have seen in the politics of our
own country. The loss of same words, of a common language is a result of sin and the
judgment of God upon the earth. Sin divides people; sin causes separation. When the Lord
judged the Tower of Babel he magnified the effect of sin by dividing and separating the people
into different languages.


The Lord’s judgment of the Tower of Babel still affects us today, besides the obvious
need to learn foreign languages. Over the past century, how many divisions and separation of
people has this world seen? How many divisions, separations, and strife have occurred within
the walls of Luther Memorial Chapel? How has our sin against one another divided, ripping
people apart and destroying harmony and peace with one another? How often has this
happened in our personal lives and in our own families? Sin divides us, the multitude of
languages in the world is merely as symptom of the division caused by sin. Divisions within the
congregation is caused by sin. Divisions in the Synod and in the church at large in the world is
the result of this sin. With division and separation comes loneliness and despair. We need to
repent of our sin. We need to repent of our contribution to the division our society and culture
causes. We need to repent for how our confused language has caused division and separation
within our families and among our friends and in our church. Our sin has dispersed us over the
earth, and separated us one from another. Repent and believe the Gospel.


Every conversion, every reformation, and every anniversary celebration should begin
with repentance. This is why the divine service begins with Confession and Absolution. We
confess our sins and hear the words of Jesus say, “I forgive you all your sins.” This leads us to
thanksgiving, joy, and praise. It leads us to confessing the faith to each other, to our
community, and to the world. Remember that Saint Peter confessed his sin of denying Jesus
three times before the miracle of Pentecost. Jesus forgave Peter as he has forgiven you and me.
The miracle of Pentecost undid the judgment the Lord brought to the Tower of Babel.
The Apostles filled with the Holy Spirit began to speak in other languages. Yet, the miracle was
not so much about the Apostles speaking many languages as it was a miracle of hearing. The
peoples, who had been scattered over the face of the earth, heard that Jesus was born of the
Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, and was crucified and rose again to forgive the sins
of his people and grant them peace. Peace is the opposite of division. When there is peace
people are drawn together to be in harmony with one another. Pentecost is about undoing the
division caused by sin, manifested most clearly by the restoration of speaking one language
with the same words.


In the church, we speak the same words no matter what language we use here on earth.
In some Lutheran churches in the world, service is conducted in dozens of languages in each
country on every Sunday. Luther Memorial Chapel for a time held services both in English and
German. The two languages might even have caused some internal division and strife within
the congregation at times. Yet in Christ, it was one congregation, one people, because the
church of God speaks the same words, it same-says what God himself. The Lord’s Word calls us
sinners; the Lord’s Word calls us to repent and gives us the forgiveness of Jesus. In the church,
we confess the same faith; this is why we speak the the Creed together. In the church, we
repent and confess of our sins together. In the church we hear the saving Word of God
together. In church, we receive the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ’s
church, we hear the same words, “I forgive you all your sins.” And in the church, we speak
these same words of repentance and forgiveness to those in the community and in the world.
The miracle of Pentecost ends the divisions that separate people and unites them with the
peace of Christ into his church.


This is what Luther Memorial Chapel has been about for the past hundred years. Luther
Memorial Chapel has been celebrating Pentecost by bringing separated and divided people
together through the peace of Christ. The miracle of undoing a confused language happens
here in preaching the faith and in the giving of the Sacrament. As a result, we say the same
words to the world. Luther Memorial Chapel is a beacon for the unity we have in Christ Jesus,
calling people to hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you.” We give thanks for the many blessings
the Lord has bestowed on Luther Memorial Chapel this past century and we pray that the Lord
give this congregation one hundred more years of faithful preaching, teaching, and bringing
together separated people in Christ Jesus!
Go in peace!
Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a