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Gospel for You

One of the greatest gifts given to us from God is the gift of the Gospel, which in the narrow sense delivers the goods to us from His Word, Baptism, Absolution, the Lord's Supper and the mutual conversation and the consolation of the Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

That's a mouthful, and considering the gifts within the Gospel in the focused sense engage us, using more than one of our senses, we are given such wonderful blessings daily through our eyes (reading His words of forgiveness), our ears (forgiveness spoken to us, both in Divine Worship and outside the worship service) and touch and taste (taking the Body and Blood into our mouths in the Lord's Supper). The Gospel in the narrower sense is what makes all the difference as it is through this work of our Lord Jesus that we receive the very things that connect us to His saving works from the cross. 

In subsequent  blogs I will talk about the Gospel in the wider sense, so you get the bigger picture.

Blessings to you this day in Christ Jesus.

Delta, Omicron Etc.

When I was at the seminary, I learned the Hebrew and Greek alphabet, so when I hear about variants D and O, I think in terms of the Bible--the NT part of it. I think I read that there were almost 17 variants to the COVID, but don't quote me as there are probably more. No matter what is reported, no matter who reports it and no matter where it goes, we will have sickness, disease and death with us until the Lord Jesus returns. We also have the Lord Jesus right now, so we have our Good Shepherd and Great Physician with us through all things. That is a given, so we do not face these things alone.

There are so many things we face in life that if we cower under the fear of everything we would never get anything done. Sooner or later, we face the moment of truth where we realize that our life is in danger, whether manmade or nature-based. It will not do for us to be afraid of it all, but I cannot tell you what to do from a safe, warm office. It is only when we go out into the world around us that we find the messiness of a world on the ropes.

Having said that, our congregation is still meeting in our Family Life Center, and it will be like this indefinitely. Oh boy. 

So, with that, we next look at a mundane and quiet topic, Anfectung (German) or Afflictions. People seem to think that because bad things happen to people either they are evil or there is no God. One of those is true and the other is patently false. 

Still, we cannot pull back the layer of mystery that enshrouds our lives, so afflictions cannot always be attributed directly to our behavior (unless it is driven by an addiction or whatever that leads to illness or death). As our confessions state this: 

"Therefore afflictions are not always punishments for certain past deeds, but they are the works of God, intended for our profit, and that the power of God might be made more manifest in our weakness [how He can help in the midst of death]." 

Look at 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9 and if you have a reference Bible, you may want to follow where such a statement can originate in the Old Testament. This arises from the article on repentance, article XII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. God works in the midst of the storms and He can make them go away or intensify, depending on the situation. This is noted throughout discussions of afflictions. 

Read Isaiah 28:21; John 9:2 and following; Jeremiah 49:12. Also, look at the outcomes of John the Baptizer and even the Christ Himself. On this side of heaven there is a veil that covers over the picture so we can only see just so much, but there is much, much more to be seen...so let the eyes of faith that the Holy Spirit gave you in your Baptism help you keep focused on the Christ Who is for you and not against you.

Church Growth

Often there is a book that comes out about church growth, and for years I have gone back and forth about church growth, meaning numeric growth. No, I do not believe that people are the main reason for true church growth; yes, I believe we as individual congregations are responsible for welcoming and being open to allow people into the church. We can certainly show people the door when we want. That to me is what happens when a congregation gets so insulated that it becomes a club, where only the insiders understand what is going on and people from the outside are forced into a mold that makes only sense to an insider. 

In my first parish, the very first day my wife came into the church to worship the Lord, she chose a pew that ten minutes later an elderly woman approached and said to her, "I believe you are sitting in my spot,"

I watched this, heard the words, and thought I was witnessing one of those movies where silly things like that happened. What made it more intense for me was that this was my wife, and at that point no one else was in the building but us three.

Thankfully my wife is a wonderful forgiver--she married me--and she soon sat arm in arm with this dear woman. But one could take from this that the church had grown dreadfully insulated that such an odd thing like that could happen. 

Thankfully the church does not stand or fall on such circumstances. The Church is held together by the Lord and not by human engineering, structuring or other hubris. Jesus reminds us that the church will prevail against the gates of hell, and that He is with her through all ages. These assurances do not mean that individual congregations or even denominations will not close or die; those are the visible parts of the church. The hidden Church will prevail because that is up to God and He will in no way deny His gifts of Baptism, Absolution or Lord's Supper from her. 

He will nourish and sustain her through every time, attack and trial. She prevails because her foundation is Jesus Christ and He will never leave her or forsake her, but He calls her to faithfulness to Him and His teachings. We have His word on it. Just as each of us can expect the Lord to help us and strengthen us throughout life, so can we expect Him to do the same for his One, Holy, United Church.

Happy New Year

We just moved into the season of Advent, the preamble to Christmas, and in this season of hope, we are also ahead of the world. This is the New Year of the Holy Church, which we just heard the definition in last week's Lutheran Confession selection. Being ahead of the curve means we can see forever from our perspective as watchers of God. Watchers are also warners: we must speak to a dying world of the life through repentance and forgiveness. God called us to not keep the message of salvation through Christ to ourselves. We are to speak boldly with humility and reverence to those who are dying. How do we find these people anyway?

We pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the field and we ask the Lord to send souls who need to be confronted and comforted by His Holy Word that cuts to the heart of the matter of sin, but also sends the healing Word of Christ crucified.

This time we explore the Church in the world and how people fit into her. And Holy Church talk is Kingdom of God talk because the Church is truly and rightly called the Kingdom of God. But what does the Church resemble? From the Apology (or defense) of the Augsburg Confession:

"For it is necessary to understand what it is that principally makes us members, and that, living members, of the Church. If we will define the Church only as an outward polity of the good and wicked, men will not understand that the kingdom of Christ is righteousness of heart and the gift of the Holy Ghost [that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, as nevertheless it is; that therein Christ inwardly rules, strengthens, and comforts hearts, and imparts the Holy Ghost and various spiritual gifts], but they will judge that it is only the outward observance of certain forms of worship and rites."

Herman Sasse (a German Lutheran pastor and theologian) called the differences found in the outward and inward Church the difference between the visible and the hidden Church. 

As we continue this study of the Church, it is helpful to understand that the Church is found everywhere. But it is found, not where men say it is found, but it has a personal connection with a believer. The Apology continues:

"But the Gospel [which is preached in the Church] brings not merely the shadow of eternal things, but the eternal things themselves, the Holy Ghost and righteousness, by which we are righteous before God. [But every true Christian is even here upon earth partaker of eternal blessings, even of eternal comfort, of eternal life, and of the Holy Ghost, and of righteousness which is from God, until he will be completely saved in the world to come.]"

We will continue with more of the Church...

Mi Familia

The title is not about my family by blood, but the Family of God by adoption. This Family is called the One, Holy Church, and it is enumerated in the Holy Bible and confessed throughout our Lutheran Confessions. I will only mention where we hear of in the Augsburg Confession, Article VII: You are here: Of the Church.

1 Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2 And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and

3 the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.

4 As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6.

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

How does this affect us? We welcome all who wish to join with us in the understanding of these key points, elucidated in Holy Scripture and believed on and confessed by the Church throughout the ages. We are thankful for this unity and this is brought about by the Holy Spirit gathering the Church, as spoken in the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

And to that we can only say Amen.

Forward

Forward

General George Patton had a few well-tried and proven mantras, but one sticks out in this time of "war": Never pay for the same real estate twice." He meant do not retreat from hard-gained territory only to have to take it back again. It costs in lives. He was always going forward. So are we.

We as a church do not want to move back in that we are too far forward to retreat back into our safe past. We are not retreating anymore. And while we are worshiping in our family life center, and have been for over a year, it works for us. Initially we thought we might go back to our old sanctuary, but we have adapted the FLC for worship and for now, there is no looking back.

While we do this, we keep our eyes on the Lord and He will guide us through all these times and the times to come.

Psalm 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

God bless and keep you always.

 

Keep Watch!

Our Lord Jesus reminds us to keep watch as we live out our days and wait for His return. In Matthew 24=25; Mark 13; and Luke 21, Jesus warns to His followers to be alert and awake for they do not know the day or the hour of His return. He uses many examples of people, plants and signs from the heavens to be watchful. At the same time, He reminds them not to attempt to figure out the times or assume that others do. Too many failed groups who thought and believed they knew the day and hour have come and gone, and we still wait faithfully for His return. At the same time, we want to avail ourselves of Jesus's gifts to strengthen, nourish, enliven, prepare and keep us close to Him by way of His Word and Sacraments. Noah spent a long time to build the ark, thereby giving people time to repent of their evil. God was using this time to proclaim His judgement, and He still uses time for people to repent, receive mercy and trust in Him with all their heart. God would rather have the person repent and live than die in their sins.

Advent, this month before Christmas, reminds us that while we wait and mark the days before the annual celebration of the Lord Christ breaking into His world He created as one of us, we also look forward to His final return as the Conquering Judge, who will separate the sheep from the goats. He came to save us from judgment against sin by becoming as sin, so that through His sacrifice we might become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Corinthians 5:21),

This time also reminds us that the calendar of the Church is ahead of the calendar we use daily. December, the last month of the year, is the first month of the Church's new year. We are so blessed that the Lord has brought us through so much, yet we still have much to experience as we continue down this road. Please keep close to God's Word, and as we enter into Advent, keep the prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus," in your vocabulary.

Mark 13:32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Originally posted on November 23, 2020 3:41 PM by Scott Lemmermann

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