Vas Ist Das

If your German isn’t as good as it used to be, or never was, the English translation for “vas ist das” is “what is this?” These words were spoken often in the home of Martin Luther, and also weekly by Dr. Phil Ruge-Jones during vespers services at St. James Trinity Lutheran Church.


Pastor Ruge-Jones, former professor of theology at Texas Lutheran University for almost two decades, recently moved to Eau Claire with his wife, Pastor Lori Ruge-Jones, who is now the pastor at University Lutheran Church. Despite busily buying a home and getting settled into their new community, Pastor Phil accepted the invitation from St. James Trinity to speak about Martin Luther and some of the questions that Luther pondered such as: how should we live; what has God done for us; what should our response be to God’s gift; and how does God continue to sustain us. During these vespers messages, the congregants were encouraged to consider these questions and hear about how they might shape their own life of faith.


We are currently in a crisis of leadership in our world. At home, the national political leadership is contentious and feels unstable at best. In Syria, weapons of war are used to murder innocent Syrian citizens. The leaders in North Korea threaten their neighbors and others with military actions potentially leading to mass destruction. In such critical times, how can we learn from the lessons of the Reformation? How can the Passion of Christ and God’s promise of salvation guide us? Pastor Ruge-Jones responds to these questions by suggesting that God shows us what leadership should be, gives examples of what it means to sacrifice for others, and lets us experience His presence. We are to trust His divine leadership, serve others, and be comforted in difficult times by His caring touch in our lives.


Martin Luther also lived through destructive times. Pastor Phil presented several of Martin Luther’s teachings during his weekly vespers services. Through reaching back into history, learning from Luther’s life and writings, and sharing our individual and collective stories with one another, we build bridges of continuity. Hopefully these lessons of faith will extend into the next generation and beyond.


The people of St. James Trinity extend a warm thank you to Dr. Ruge-Jones for sharing his messages. We thank him for his humor, realism, knowledge, creativity, sharing, playing with our babies, and touching our lives. It is a blessing to share “one faith” with this very talented teacher.