Lent is often a time we talk about giving things up. I am calling on you to give up a little of your time each day by taking something on for lent.
Please join me in a Lenten prayer campaign. During these weeks as we journey toward the cross and pause before it in worship, let’s take time each day for those who walk with us at St. Paul’s. It could be each morning when you wake up or while you are waiting for your coffee to brew. It could be as you drive to work or ride the commuter train. It could be when you take a break, have lunch, or after dinner but take time each day for these special pray-ers.
Now the format is up to you, but if you need help getting started try this:
Begin by giving thanks for the people who serve, as individuals and groups, those you can name and those you can’t. Another time, give thanks for the things that have gone well here.
Give thanks for St. Paul’s school ministry and ask the Lord to move more families to send their children to it to be nurtured in His Word.
Then pray for the people who aren’t here. The ones you haven’t seen for a while. Ask the Lord’s help to bring them back to His house and to His table.
Ask the Lord to bring more of our people to feed on His Word in Bible Class.
Ask Him for new opportunities to share His Word.
Then take a moment to think about how you can help answer these prayers. Ask the Lord to guide you and give you strength to be part of His answer to our requests. You can be one to say thank you to those who serve, to encour-age them and to join in the work. You can be one helping to bring folks to the Lord’s house and one to join in the study of His Word.
Come join me this Lent as we stand before the cross.
Summertime is rolling in and things are moving to the summer mode. Lots of things are happening around the country, around town and at St. Paul’s.
We are beginning our summer schedule with the added service on Monday and the single Bible class at 9:30. This year it is from a book written by a father to help parents teach their children the faith.
Martin Luther was not only a pastor and professor and writer of books but a Christian father who knew very well that the faith is above all taught and learned at home. He knew that children learn first and most from their parents. They learn from what the parents say to them and most of all from how they live.
Luther wrote his Small Catechism to aid parents in teaching their children in words and he wrote the Large Catechism to help move those words into life. We will be looking at this practical application, this living the faith handbook in the Sunday Morning Bible Class this summer. The Large Catechism is the “teacher’s notes”, the life of faith applications of these core teachings of Christianity.
Here is Luther telling it straight up and straight out to go straight into your life. Join us. It will be a blessing for all.
Do you like to hear and to tell stories? Most people do. We tell lots of stories as part of our conversations. We tell stories of things we have done and said. We tell the story of things that happened around us and we tell stories that were told to us. These stories give us joy. Have you thought about what an important role the story plays at church?
Though many stories are told around here, the Church is here to tell just one story, Jesus’ story. The Church is here to tell the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We are here to tell the story of why He had to come and what a blessing it is that He did. Jesus’ story is the story we are to tell, to share with each other, our family, our friends and especially with those who have not heard it. But how do we do that? What would we say? Well it is what the Church is here to tell you, so think about how that is done. Think about the church year and how it tells the story of Jesus and of our salvation each year.
Let’s quickly walk through it to get your thoughts started. The church year begins with Advent, the season of waiting. How the people waited for and longed for their Savior to come and how we wait for our Savior to return. Then Christmas and the Savior is born. Jesus comes as a human, to take our place under the law, and as divine, in order that He can fulfill the law for us. We have a great need and Jesus comes to meet that need. In Epiphany He reveals Himself, and God the Father speaks on His behalf. Jesus reveals His divine power in His miracles. He reveals that God is active here among us. He is the beloved Son of God.
Then there is Lent, when we are shown our great need for our Savior and the forgiveness of sins that He comes to secure for us. This comes clearest on Good Friday when we see the punishment our Lord took for our sin and on Maundy Thursday when Jesus distributes that forgiveness along with His body and blood for us to eat and to drink. Then we celebrate His resurrection. God the Father declares Jesus’ work sufficient and accepted and us free in His sight. Jesus shows Himself alive and tells His church to share His story. Then He ascends to the right hand of God to be our advocate with the Father.
The church year takes us through Jesus’ story each year. In that way we hear it and learn it. We become more comfortable with it. We can use its outline to be ready to tell Jesus’ story to those who need to hear. We can use it to tell the whole story of our salvation or just one part that someone needs to hear at the time. We can begin at Christmas and tell Jesus’ whole life to someone who does not know Him, or simply remember that He is at the Father’s right hand and offer to pray for someone in need. So the Church is about Jesus’ story. We are here to be blessed by it and to share it and He is with us through it all.
I’ve often talked about confessing the faith using the creeds. We use them word for word in church, sometimes even adding the meanings from Luther’s Small Catechism. We can also use them as an outline with which to build our own confession of the faith.
I encourage confirmation students to not just learn the words of the creeds to be able to recite them, but make them part of you; understand what they are saying, believe and trust in the teachings they express. The more familiar you become with who God is and what He has done for you, the more comfortable you’ll be talking about it. With the creeds and catechism as a guide, you can form your answers to questions like: What do you mean by God? Who is Jesus and what did He do? Why is that important to me? And you can think of more.
As you work through questions like these, you will grow in the faith and be more ready to express the faith in your own words. Then you can indeed always be ready to express the “reason for the hope that is in you”.
You too can be ready to speak the truth in love and share the wonderful gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You’ll be able to share it with your family, friends, neighbors and anyone you come in contact with. You’ll be able to share with them this most wonderful gift of God.
In every Divine Service we say “the Creed”, usually the Apostles when there is a baptism and the Nicene Creed when we are receiving the Lord’s Supper. We often do it because it is “part of the service” but it’s meant to be much more.
These two creeds and the Athanasian Creed are the creeds of the Church, the great statements of the Church’s faith. Each of these creeds has its own strength. The Apostle’s Creed is a clear and concise outline of Christian doctrine. With it we confess faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Nicene Creed pays special attention to Christ’s divine nature which is present along with His human nature. With it we confess Christ as the God-man savior from sin.
The Athanasian Creed takes on the massive task of explaining both the wonder of the Trinity and the miracle of Jesus’ two natures. With it we confess what we cannot comprehend about the God who created, redeemed and sanctified us.
When we confess the creed in church we confess our faith with one another and to one another. We share the faith and we share in the faith with one another. We fill up with the words of the faith. We learn the faith and we speak the faith. It is a teaching moment and a time of encouragement.
In church we are speaking out faith to our family and friends. Then we take the faith we have learned and share what we believe with family and friends at home, work, school and in the neighborhood. Using the creeds as a guide we take the Church’s confession to heart. Then we speak the faith and share it as our faith, as our words and in our own words.
So with the Creeds we confess, we learn, we share and we encourage. Also with the help of the Creeds we can take our faith into the world and share its blessings with all around us. May God give us the opportunities and the courage and words to meet them.
We’ve just had Reformation Day and people are starting to look forward to the 500th anniversary of “The Reformation.” I often wonder how much people think about the effects of the Reformation.
There may be other things, but I want to keep our focus on how it affected our faith life. The Reformation was really about returning the church’s focus to the Gospel and the Scriptures from which it comes. When Martin Luther showed that the church teaches salvation comes when God gives us Christ’s righteousness, so much changed in the life of the Christian. Salvation came as God’s gift of grace received by faith. We remember that with the phrases by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Salvation by grace is massively important because it touches us in all parts of our faith life. One way that is easily overlooked is the way this truth changed worship. We no longer “sacrificed the Mass.” We received the Sacrament in the Divine Service. That changes the direction from “us doing for God” to “God giving us His gifts.” That is a blessing we continue to enjoy today.
Rather than being in church to “earn points” or “do enough” to please God, He invites us to come and receive from Him. God gives us the forgiveness of sins. He speaks to us His Word the Bible. Most intimate of all, Jesus our Lord touches us with his body and blood, coming to us with the bread and wine of the Lords Supper. As we share in these blessed gifts of God each week, they He bless you with his peace.
I haven’t traveled much recently. I don’t really remember much about the last airline flight I took but one thing has been brought back to mind. During the safety briefing they always tell those traveling with small children to be sure their mask is in place before assisting the child. That sounds a little strange. Some have even commented that it seems wrong, but I do understand.
If there really is a loss of cabin pressure and you need the masks, it makes sense that you won’t be able to help your children if you aren’t getting oxygen yourself. The instructions are to make sure you are in shape and able to help your children. I know that seems backwards because doing it the other way around seems to be about caring for your children, about doing something for them. But the truth is if you’re not breathing, you can’t help them.
As I said, this was brought to my thoughts recently. I thought of it as I reflected on how often parents are sure to have their babies baptized, how they send them to Sunday school and how they want their children to be confirmed. That struck me as being like wanting to get the oxygen mask on their kids. Now these are good things but that is when it occurred to me “Do the parents have their masks in place?”
In the biblical languages the word for "spirit" and the word for "breath" are the same. As parents we need to be breathing. We need to have our mask in place in order to assist our children. The breath of our faith life is the Holy Spirit; the Spirit who comes and gives life in Holy Baptism.
To sustain that life, the Spirit breathed out the Bible for us. We need to be in God’s Word to ensure our “mask” is in place, and we are breathing and to then help our children breath that inspired Word of God.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This month a team from Synod will join us in an effort to strengthen our outreach to our community by offering classes and workshops to improve our witnessing and assimilation skills and procedures.
You will be hearing more about this as we continue to prepare for their arrival.There are many ways you can be involved in this effort called “The 72 Project”. I hope you will participate in several of these opportunities. One aspect we need your help with right now. Please join me in praying for God’s blessings on this effort.
From now until April 12th please pray the Lord will bless and guide the efforts of our leadership team and prepare the members of St. Paul’s for participation in this project.From April 13th to the 17th please add prayers for the Lord’s protection and blessing on the project team as they travel from their homes. From April 18th to May 7th please pray the Lord will bless and guide the team and the congregation members who participate.And on April 8th please pray the Lord will protect the team as they travel home.Most of all begin now asking the Lord to direct and bless you in your participation in this project and its application to your life.
May this time with the team and time spent in prayer be a blessing to us all.
Perhaps you have heard us talk about Stephen Ministry, seen information in the bulletin, the pew tracts or heard about it in your small groups. It is possible that you have wondered what it’s all about. It could be that you have even considered becoming a part of this ministry at St. Paul’s. We would like to give everyone at St. Paul’s a chance to understand and utilize this valuable ministry.
What do Stephen Ministers do? A Stephen Minister is a caring, compassionate friend who is there to listen to someone in need and walk alongside that person in a Christ centered fashion. The Stephen Minister is ready to be the person who might be of help as a confidential, active listener and compassionate care giver. All Stephen Ministers attend an extensive training program over several weeks to gain the skills of listening and caring. Stephen Ministers are not trained counselors and don’t pretend to be. They are simply there to help people who are experiencing challenges, hurts or crises. A friend who will not give advice, will not judge, but will be a sounding board when they just need to talk. Stephen Ministers care in a one on one relationship only.
Who needs Stephen Ministry? Stephen Ministers are there for those who are dealing with an illness/hospitalization, family frustrations and challenges, the stress of moving, death or serious loss, financial setbacks, faith issues, loneliness and the list goes on. There is no charge for this service. Confidentiality is one of the key components of our ministry. We do not share the names of our care receivers with any-one else, including the other members of the ministry.
If you know of someone who you think would benefit from a Stephen Minister, or if you would be interested in having a Stephen Minister, please contact me. I would also like to talk with you if you are a caring person, a good listener and have been looking for a way to get involved in a truly rewarding ministry.
We are in the season of epiphany. Epiphany means revealing. During this season we read of Jesus being revealed to the disciples and to the people as the Messiah and as the Son of God.
God the Father first used a star to reveal Jesus the Messiah’s birth to the Magi. Then He spoke at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and later on the mount of Transfiguration. Jesus revealed Himself to be the Messiah by calling disciples and showing them glimpses of His divine power and authority.
Jesus has now given us the task of revealing Him to the world. As baptized members of His body we are called to share our faith and give the reason for the hope that is in us. We do that directly person-to-person and we do it by supporting the work of Christ’s body the Church.
You as the St. Paul’s congregation have a way to support that work throughout our county, across our nation and around the world through donations to “Missions Monthly”. This month those funds will be distributed to help fund the broadcasting of the Lutheran Hour in our area. Additionally, support will be sent to the Rebuilding the Breach Ministry for their Bakery House and Lydia House projects and to the Gloria Dei Hispanic Mission in Valparaiso. Finally, through these mission dollars you will join the People of the Book Lutheran Outreach (POBLO) in their work to bring the Gospel of Christ to the people from Muslim lands.
Missions Monthly is a way for us to be part of Christ’s “epiphany” to people of other languages and in other places. It provides means for us to be part of revealing Christ across cultures and around the world. It also provides us with great opportunities to be about the work Christ gave His Church to do. Please keep your heart open to such opportunities and your eyes open for the opportunities He gives you across the table and around the block.
Rev. Don Stock is the Associate Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church in Munster, Indiana.