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February 2019

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How long have you been going to church?  For some of you, it has been all your life.  For others, it might be a new experience. 

The difficulty with doing something regularly is we might be distracted away from the very reason we do something.  We need to eat every day to nourish our bodies.  We have been taught the healthy eating habits. We know the good foods. And yet we don’t eat like we are supposed to, we eat things that are not good for us.  We eat too much of what is not. Instead of eating for nutrition and health we eat for comfort, we eat for pleasure we eat too much of the wrong things.  Even something as foundational as eating to sustain us can be unhealthy. 

Our life in worship can be the same. People go to church for all kinds of reasons. Some go because mom or dad make them, some go out of habit, some go for social interaction, or because of the programs or out of guilt.  Some because they need the strength and nourishment that only Jesus’ life death and resurrection can give. 

Have you ever thought about why you go or don’t go?  The season of Lent is quickly upon us. Lent helps us see why worship, more importantly, what happens in worship is fundamental to our Christian life.  

In the Ash Wednesday service, we are placed face to face with our sin. You stand before the pastor as he takes his thumb and traces a black cross on your forehead and says, “from dust you came and to dust you shall return”.  How’s that for a reality check!  On Ash Wednesday we are reminded without any doubt we are sinners, sinners who have no excuses and will die because of the sin of Adam and Even handed down to us, and our very own unwillingness to keep God’s law.  Your sin of thought, word, and deed will kill you.  It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. That is the primary reason we gather in worship. 

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Lent refocuses us to see what is of most importance in worship. Our sin will kill us! In every Divine Service, we bring with us the evidence we are sinners.  Thoughts that have gone into the dark hidden places where a child of God should not dwell.  Words that have no good intent, they only serve to make the rumor juicier or tear down my neighbor.  Deeds that are completely selfish and self-serving.  The evidence is overwhelming that I am a sinner.

Worship is the place where God meets us with the cure for our curse.  The reason we go to worship is because I am a sinner that will die for my sin if someone does not forgive me.  Worship is where Jesus meets me with the cure for my curse, the hope for my hopelessness and the salvation for my soul.  Every week in Worship Jesus meets me with His holy absolution.  Every week He preaches His words of pardon and peace into our ears through the pastor.  Every week He sets a wedding feast for us at His house and at His altar to be with us. Take and eat, take and drink, for you, for your forgiveness. That is the central reason we gather in worship, to receive Jesus and His promises to us. 

On Ash Wednesday our sins are traced on our forehead with the ash of last year’s palm branches. We are sinners that is clear. That simple act reminds us why worship is important. Apart from Christ we have no hope, no forgiveness, and no salvation. In each Divine Service we hear good Gospel news. Jesus died your death. Jesus paid your price. Jesus blood cured your curse and has made you holy. 

A picture containing indoor, wall, table, smallDescription automatically generatedGathering in Worship every week is repetitive, no doubt.  If you can find a week that you don’t sin in thought word and deed, feel free to opt out of worship.  Until then, come and receive the greatest Good news ever.  Jesus died for you. Jesus loves you.  Jesus on the cross, in the grave, out of the tomb and giving His words of hope and promise to you. 

You are a sinner, but you have a mighty Savior who has redeemed you and wants to forgive you and remind you of who you are because of Him. 

This is why we go.

Pastor Randy

Epiphany and stealing the wise men

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. You already know the guilty party. It was the end of November and my first year as a pastor. I was rummaging through the top of the bell tower, trying to find the nativity scene. Back in the corner, surrounded by old church artifacts that were almost worthless, but good Germans would never throw out, I found a wonderful, hand painted nativity. By the dust and other things stored around it, it was easy to see this nativity had not seen the light of day in quite a while. I convinced the leadership that we should put this up. Before long we had a new stable made to house the holy family and shepherds. We hauled the whole gang outside, dusted them off and set the scene for Christmas.

Early the next morning I got a frantic call from one of the church members that had set up the nativity with us the night before. “Pastor someone stole the wise men!” She was frantic. She was going to call the sheriff’s office right after she got off the phone with me. It was there on the phone I had to admit I was the thief. I stole the wise men.

In my zeal as a new pastor I wanted to make sure this beautiful nativity was telling the correct story. The wise men don’t arrive until Jan 6th when we celebrate Epiphany. But as you know almost every nativity scene has all the players all at once. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in the manger, the shepherds and flock as well as other animals, wisemen and camels all around the Baby Jesus. That was my bad. I apologized and restored the wise man to their appropriate place so the story was complete.

I learned a valuable lesson from that. First don’t steal the wisemen without telling the congregation what you are doing. That was the first of many lessons on communication. The second was even more important. There is a difference between the cultural Christmas and the real story of Christmas.

Cultural Christmas is not concerned with the story being right. Cultural Christmas starts somewhere around Halloween and ends Dec. 26th or if you are lucky Jan 1st, then it is packed away, and the next cultural holiday extravaganza is on deck.

The real story of Christmas starts about 6000 years ago when Adam and Eve were in the perfect place with a perfect God. When they disobeyed God and sin and death became a reality Christmas began. God made a promise to send a Savior. The Prophets of the Old Testament kept telling and retelling the promise. And when the time was right the virgin gave birth to a Son that was promised, without the help of a man. The promise of salvation took on our flesh and blood and became man and dwelt among us.

The second part of the story, the part that gives you and me the promise of this Savior starts in January. St. Matthew tells us about it. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

The story of the wise men includes us in the Christmas story. These Magi or magicians were not Jewish. The story of Christmas, the promise of a Savior was given to the Hebrews, the Jews, God’s chosen people. The story of the Wisemen is our Christmas. The star that led them to Jesus was the light that promised all people, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, Israeli, or German the sure and certain hope of Salvation. God’s promise of a Savior was not just for the Jews it was for us.

Pastor's Thoughts - Church Year Begins

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QUESTION: Why does the church year begin at Advent, what is the history of Advent, and what is the history behind the Advent candles and wreath?

ANSWER: The word “advent" is from the Latin word for “coming,” and as such, describes the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ into the flesh.

Advent begins the church year because the church year begins where Jesus' earthly life began — in the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation. After Advent comes Christmas, which is about his birth; then Epiphany, about his miracles and ministry; then Lent, about his Calvary-bound mission; then Easter, about his resurrection and the sending of the apostles; and then Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost, with the sending of the Holy Spirit.

The first half of the church year (approximately December through June) highlights the life of Christ. The second half (approximately June through November) highlights the teachings of Christ. The parables and miracles play a big part here. That's "the church year in a nutshell," and it should help reveal how Advent fits into "the big picture."

Advent specifically focuses on Christ's "coming," but Christ's coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future.

The readings which highlight Christ's coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings, which highlight Christ's coming in the future, focus on his "second coming" on the Last Day at the end of time. And the readings that highlight Christ's coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle.

The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. "Gaudete" means "Rejoice!" in Latin, which is taken from Phil. 4:4.

("Rejoice! ... the Lord is near"). Hence a "pink" candle was used to signify "rejoicing." Some also included a white "Christ candle" in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (Dec. 25 to Jan. 5).

The concept of giving each candle a name, i.e., Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherd and Angel, etc., is a relatively novel phenomenon and probably originates with certain entrepreneurial publishers seeking to sell Advent candles and devotional booklets.

This information and much more can be found at

https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/worship-and-congregational-life#advent

 

Pastor's Thoughts - Advent

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Wait! Stop! Halt!  Hold your ponies, hold the reindeer, hold the mistletoe!  Don’t Christmas yet!  Advent first!  Advent first?  What does that mean?  It means wait and prepare.  

From the end of September, the commercial world has been getting ready for Christmas. Even before the pumpkin spice and the turkey was put away the Christmas holiday was peeking through.  But there is a tremendous difference between the Christmas Holiday and the celebration of Christmas.  The world outside of the church sees Christmas through financial eyes. Inside the church we see Christmas for what it is, Christ coming to us! God is keeping His promise to Eve and all mankind in the birth of our Savior.  Realizing that sets us apart from the world around us and the secular celebration of Christmas.  Realizing why Christ is coming into our world brings us to Advent before Christmas. 
Advent means coming, and when someone is coming over to your house you prepare.  If you knew the President or some other national dignitary was on their way to your house, you would prepare.  You would look at all the rooms and see what could be cleaned, what could and should be thrown out.  That is what happens in the season of Advent.  We look at all the rooms of our lives and see where sin is cluttering things up.  We see the garbage of our sin that needs to be taken out.  We prepare, we Advent by repenting, realizing how much of a mess sin has made in our lives. null

We Advent when we sing the hymns of Advent that retell the hope of a Savior promised in the Old Testament. 

Here is the first verse of Savior of the Nations Come. LSB 332

Savior of the nations, come,

Virgin’s Son make here Your home!

Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,

That the Lord chose such a birth.

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We Advent when we prepare for the Savior of the Nations, the Savior of all mankind, to reign and rule our thoughts words and deeds.  Everything in our lives is ordered by and because of this promised coming of Jesus.  We Advent when we keep Christmas as a celebration of God’s faithfulness and not a secular holiday celebration.   

After we have Advented, repented and prepared, then comes CHRISTMAS!!!  Not the holiday but the celebration!  God had kept his promises in a very physical way.  God became man!  Jesus the only begotten Son of God now is born of a Virgin, just as Isaiah promised.  Here is our hope, promise and Salvation.  When the world outside the church is taking down their Christmas trees the children of God are celebrating and singing Joy to the World the Savior reigns! (The choir is practicing that as I write). 

 After we Advent we Christmas, or better yet after God Advents us He Christmases us.  He gives us our Christ, our hope and salvation.  The heart of our celebration of Christmas is not commercial, it’s a promise made and fulfilled by our Loving God, to love you and save you and give you eternal hope.

Don’t Christmas before you Advent!

Pastor Randy.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our prayer for you and your family is that God our loving Father that sent Jesus into our Word will continue to show you His great love.   We pray that this Advent and Christmas your faith will be strengthened, and your joy will be increases.   God’ richest blessing a very Merry Advent and Christmas!

Pastor Randy and Vonda.

All Saints Day November 1st 2018

If there is every a time when I get nostalgic its all saints day. I start to think about all the funerals...all the friends I have preached for and to. I remember the sadness and loss that is very prominent at the funeral. But then I remember this hymn verse from "For all the Saints". "And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again and hearts are strong, Alleluia, Alleluia!" vs 5. I remember the hope that I preached at every funeral. Christ is risen! Death has been defeated! The dear saint of God that we miss,now rests from their labors, rests in Jesus.

We are reminded of this victory every time we receive Holy Communion. When we hear the Proper Preface we are reminded of the Christian victory over death through Christ's resurrection. The Proper Preface ends with this All Saints day reminder, "with angles and arc angles and all the company of heaven"! The saints of God that now rest are with Jesus gathered around the throne at the marriage feast of the lamb! Angles and Arc Angles are with them. Our family and friends that have died in faith find their peace with Jesus. Our children that we have not met because of miscarriage, or abortion are resting in the perfect peace that only Jesus can give. All the saints of generation ago, Abraham, Noah, Isaiah, Matthew, John, and the Baptizer John, and the unending list of faithful men and woman of the Bible will be there also. They are victorious over death, not victorious on their own, but victorious because Jesus has walked that valley first. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, and He gives that victory to us through the cross, the tomb the resurrection. He continues to give us His victory in Baptism, in forgiveness, in His Supper with His very Body and Blood.

A very blessed All Saints day to you dear baptized Saint! Soon, very soon, our battle will be over and we will be with those who now rest!!

 

Vote Pro Life Nov. 6

file:///C:/Users/bswan/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image002.jpgIt’s time to vote!   What a great and unique opportunity we have in this great Nation to be a part of electing who will serve us.   You have heard the quote “with great power comes great responsibility”.  No place is that more clearly defined than at the voting booth.   We, in electing those that will serve us are giving them great power.  We have the responsibility to know who we are electing and what they will stand for or give in on. That is not an easy task.

Each of us have issues we believe are very important.  When we choose a candidate, we want to know if they will support that issue or not.  Unfortunately, a candidate can say things that they do not mean to look good to those who ask the question.  A great way to see what a candidate supports is to see how they have voted on those matters. 

As the body of Christ, we bring a unique perspective to the voting process.  When we vote we are guided not just by what we feel or think, we are guided by the Sanctified life given to us when we were brought from the death of unbelief to the life of Christ.  As baptized children of God our perspective in the voting booth must be driven by our Christian world view. Our Christian word view is guided first and foremost by God’s Word and His 10 commandments given to us. 

When I choose which political candidate I am going to give my approval to, and therefore give great power, there is one question that must be answered first.  Are they prolife?   If they are I will further investigate them to see if what they say, and how they have voted in the past, lines up with what I am looking for in a political candidate.  If they are not prolife the candidate is immediately dismissed. 

That may sound idealistic and simplistic but that is what God calls us to do.  The 5th commandment, “You shall not kill” is very clear.  We do not have the authority to take life through abortion.  Every life God gives, even those given through rape or incest or other less than perfect situations is a life God has created.

King Solomon in the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about life and how we are to support it, “ Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy”. Proverbs 31:8-9

It is our responsibility to defend those who can not speak for themselves.  When a woman has an abortion the child living in her does not get to defend themselves!  We have that ability at the voting booth. 

King Solomon also writes “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,18 a heart that devises wicked plans,feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers”. Proverbs 6:16-19 

When we support political candidates that will not defend the rights of the unborn we are supporting those that “shed innocent blood.”  That is not who we are as the body of Christ. 

file:///C:/Users/bswan/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image004.pngYou have a great gift and responsibility on Tuesday November 6th.  You have the right to vote and elect those who will use the power we give to them to lead us.  Please pray about your choices and pray for the candidates.   Please do your homework on each candidate.  You can find where each political candidate stands on life issues at SD Right to life https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/9835f7_6acbfff0dc55477ea5608913b90493a0.pdf

God’s richest blessing to you as you vote!!

Pastor Randy

 

 

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