Heaven in Nebraska: Reflections on the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music



“How awesome is this place!

This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.”

Genesis 28:17


This July, several of Redeemer’s music staff and I attended the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music. Now, spending five days in Seward, Nebraska in late July may not sound like heaven on earth, especially for someone so acclimated to California weather, but it was. Why, you might ask?

Well, it wasn’t because the weather was incredibly perfect – no humidity, clean country air, and a refreshing breeze – though that was a welcomed surprise.

It wasn’t due to the fresh corn (Nebraska is called the Cornhusker state for good reason!) and home-style hospitality, though we were all satisfied.

It wasn’t on account of the excellent trip planning by Wayne Pereboom, though his organization was greatly appreciated.


It wasn’t even because of the beautiful sights and sounds of Lincoln, NE – home of the state capitol, though the magnificent structure is topped by a 19 ½ foot statue of Jesus the Sower (and it’s the third largest building in all of Nebraska).

How then did we find heaven in Nebraska?

Because Christ’s people were gathered to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word through liturgy, preaching, and church music.

Because the choirs, voices, and instruments resounded with the song of heaven here on earth.

Because we sang with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Because we were fed day in and day out the wholesome word of Christ by the Gospel’s handmaiden, music.

Because comfort was given to our consciences in the preaching and liturgy of the church; God was busy enacting consolation directly to our hearts and mind.

Because Jesus was there in his holy presence, to bring us the comfort we so desperately need. Comfort in sins forgiven. Comfort in a good conscience, absolved and prepared for the Lord’s Supper. Comfort in our Holy Baptism. Comfort in Jesus’ body and blood. Comfort in every bar, note, and word of the Divine Service. Comfort because Jesus was present for us.

And wherever Jesus is, there’s heaven. Heaven in Nebraska? Absolutely. Wherever Jesus is he brings all of heaven with him. Think about that the next time you come to Divine Service. You don’t have to go looking for Jesus in the far off fields of Nebraska. You simply have to go where Jesus promises to be present for you. Jesus brings heaven comes on earth in specific locations. So heaven comes to earth in your Baptism as the water is poured, the Word is spoken, and the Spirit descends. Heaven comes to earth, indeed is wide opened to you in Holy Absolution. Heaven comes to earth as Jesus feeds us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins at His table, whether that’s located in Seward, NE or Huntington Beach, CA, or wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments administered.

If you’re looking for consolation for a troubled conscience; if you’re looking for a safe haven in a wicked world; if you’re looking for rest and peace that knows no end; if you’re looking for heaven on earth – then come to the one place you can guarantee that Christ is present to give you comfort, forgiveness, shelter, and reconciliation in body and soul. Come to Redeemer, where heaven comes to earth and where comfort is freely given to us by Christ crucified and risen.

Comfort, comfort my people,     

says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,     

and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,    

 that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand     

double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2


About Pastor Sam Schuldheisz

Pastor Schuldheisz serves as Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Huntington Beach, CA. He graduated in 2004 from Concordia University Irvine. And he is a 2008 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pastor Schuldheisz is also blessed in marriage to his wife of 7 years, Natasha. Together they enjoy the blessings of parenthood with their daughter Zoe. And when he’s not writing sermons or changing diapers, he enjoys reading and writing about the works of the Inklings and other belletristic literature, and Christian apologetics. He’s even been known to answer to Pastor Samwise on occasion.


Heaven in Nebraska: Reflections on the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music — 14 Comments

  1. Why does Concordia Seward push and feature COWO at the university? It features mostly COWO with little liturgical worship.

  2. Pastor Schuldheisz,

    I’m glad you’ve given us a good report of the conference. Could someone please address the issue that GaiusKurios brought up about the teaching of COWO at our Concordias and the seminary in St. Louis? Was this diversity of worship forms discussed at the conference?


  3. Great report, Pastor. Too bad the same can’t be said of many LCMS churches on Sundays, as they are infested with anti & non-liturgical nonsense, screens, no vestments, no liturgy, and pastors trying to emulate mega-church preachers. The liturgical life of the LCMS is in chaos and shambles, of course, without any liturgical supervision in the church. What a shame.

  4. @Soldier of Christ #4

    “The liturgical life of the LCMS is in chaos and shambles, of course, without any liturgical supervision in the church. What a shame”.

    This is most certainly true! Pastors and congregations can add and delete responses from the Divine Service for the summer like the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria without so much as an explanation to why this is done. I believe Article X of the Formula of Concord is being abused. I’ll ask this question again of pastors and laity who were at the conference – was this issue of liturgical chaos discussed in Seward?


  5. Why not celebrate the good that was done at the conference? Many people worked hard to renew our situation. Let us be grateful to them. Congregations need to send more people to these conferences.

  6. @Richard Lewer #7
    Hi Richard,

    I do celebrate these conferences! I have gone to the Good Shepherd Institute at least four times since its’ beginning. I attended the Making the Case conference in Collinsville this year. My husband and I have been to many conferences about worship since the ’90’s. We go so that we can sing Matins, Evening Prayer and the complete DS. Seward was too far away for me to attend. Unfortunately, my home congregation hasn’t sung Matins or Evening Prayer in decades. We have a celebration/happy clap-type worship the first Sunday of the month. Why do I have to travel hundreds of miles to get a complete Divine Service? Every congregation around where I live does its own thing. It’s chaos and I’ve come to believe the LCMS can’t do a thing about it because every pastor/congregation interprets Article X of the FC as they wish.

    In Christ,

  7. @Diane #6
    Diane, as a fellow GSI attendee (going this year too, a plug for all)…I think we are not all in chaos.

    As for adding and deleting from the prescribed beautiful LSB liturgies, I contend, this helps make the DS (or Matins, etc.) refreshing and good, as we can alter portions within the constraints of the setting.

    Example, this week, we sing an entrance hymn, other times, we have had choir Psalm singing, etc. We chant an Introit, or I chant it, or we speak it, etc.

    We do Matins in the summer at times, Benidictus one week, Te Deum another, etc. Still liturgical, yet they congregation loves the variety, still within bounds.

    When I go to the GSI, they almost do liturgy too well, the choirs, etc. A tear comes to my eye when the kids sing, I can’t do that back at my Church. The orchestra plays, I got a junkie old pipe organ (no, a beautiful, albeit feisty Berghaus – I forgot the ranks).

    So I guess I am saying, we do alter the liturgy, but stay within (what I believe proper practice) guidelines. So when the congregation demands “gotta have more Psalms…”; I can do it

  8. Hi Pastor Ptrentice!

    Thanks for the reply. I plan on going to GSI this year also and you’re right, they do the liturgy so beautifully at Kramer Chapel. As I was told many years ago, there are many different stripes of Lutheran congregations and I just happen to be two blocks from an LCMS congregation that is basically a different ‘stripe’ than I am.

    In Christ

  9. The state of the liturgical life of Synod?

    I am sure it varies by area. In our three circuits there are 6 congregations with only liturgical worship. There is one, maybe two, with only contemporary worship. The rest have at least two services each weekend with at least one of each kind of service. The “contemporary” services are not of the style you would see on television. Our congregation haas a blended service on Saturday evening and two traditional services on Sunday morning with 60-80 people on Saturday and about 320+ at the liturgical services. It seems that most of the “contemporary” services include most of the parts of the liturgy. The most common thing left out is the “Gloria” and unfortunately the “Kyrie.” Our “team” has been able to find more songs with solid Lutheran lyrics. Not sure where they are getting them. I am retired and not able to get around as much lately.

    We all need to do more to explain the rhythm and meaning of the liturgy. I am sure many here are doing that. We cannot take it for granted as we may have in the 60’s.

    Synod is now doing more to publicize liturgical workshops and “Higher Things.” This is not an accident. I am hopeful.

  10. Thank you Pastor for the Good report of your time at Concordia University,Nebraska. It is true that the Liturgy is alive and well at this, our Concordia! Many Thanks, Krusty

  11. Pastor Schuldheisz, I fully agree, it was an amazing conference, with seminars and workshops in which to learn much. My one regret is that I missed both organ concerts, but that was because I was in choir practice. All in all the trade off was well worth it.

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