March 2016 LCMS Stewardship Newsletter Article

Published on March 6, 2016

Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance is turning away from sin, while we turn toward God for the forgiveness of sins. During Lent, we hear the Word of God and consider our lives in light of it. We confess our failures, and receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, and then commit ourselves to do better.

What does God say about giving to the Church? The Bible tells us. Our giving should be first fruits giving (Genesis 4:4; Proverbs 3:9). Our giving should be regular, on the first day of week, which has the Divine Service in mind (1 Corinthians 6:1–2). Our giving should be proportional: according to our income (1 Corinthians 16:1–2), according to what we have been given (2 Corinthians 8:12; Luke 12:48), our giving should be given with a spirit of eagerness and enthusiasm (2 Corinthians 9:2), generosity and liberality (2 Corinthians 8:20), cheerfully without compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our giving should be directed to those who teach us (Galatians 6:6–7) because a laborer is worthy of his hire, and we all know the going rate of such laborers in our communities (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Now consider your own giving in light of the Bible’s teaching. Are you giving of your first fruits, taking it out of your paycheck first, or does God get what’s left over? Are you giving voluntarily and cheerfully? Are you giving proportionally and generously? Are you giving with eagerness and enthusiasm? Are you giving to your local congregation, sharing all good things with the one who teaches you? If your answer to any of these is “No,” then repent. Turn away from your sin and toward God for forgiveness. Confess your failure. Receive absolution. And commit to do better. We know that the Spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. We believe, and we pray that God, through Word and Sacrament, would help our unbelief, our lack of trust in His ability to provide.

And this is precisely what God promises. This is what St. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth: ““The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may about in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor 9:6–15).

St. Paul tells us that the Lord of all will both supply and increase what you need to give to the church for its work in and for the world. He tells us that this work that God is doing in us will enrich and bless us in every way and through this it will produce thanksgiving to God. Everyone benefits. We will be blessed in our giving, and it will produce thanksgiving to God in those who receive it.

Giving to the church is not a burden, just like all of God’s teaching (1 John 5:2–4). They are not a burden because of He who gives it: the God who loves us and gave His only Son to die so that we may live. He loved us in that He sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons. . . . So we are no longer slaves, but sons, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4–5, 7). We are heirs. We receive the full rights of sons, a status that Christ our Lord achieved for us by His death, resurrection, and ascension.

So we strive to do what He asks because we are His children. And when we don’t, we repent. We confess our sins. We receive absolution. We desire to do better, praying that God would work in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

From Pastor Paul

Published on March 6, 2016

29th February, AD 2016

A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, the guilt of sinners bearing,
And laden with the sins of earth, none else the burden sharing;
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
That spotless life to offer,
He bears the stripes the wounds, the lies,
The mockery, and yet replies,
“All this I gladly suffer.”
LSB 438:1

Greetings and a Blessed Lent to you!
                                                                                          The Services of Holy Week
The month of March marks the final stages of Lent. This Sunday, 6 March is Laetare, “Refreshment Sunday.” Rose vestments symbolize the joy in the midst of sorrow as we hear from St. John the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” and we too are fed and nourished by Word and Sacrament. Passiontide begins on 13 March, Judica. The black sash will adorn the cross (placed when the Gospel says, Jesus hid himself), for it is during the final two weeks that we focus chiefly on Jesus’ Passion and when his glory is hidden in his suffering ultimately to be revealed in his death. Then finally 20 March marks Palmarum, Palm Sunday. Holy Week is the most significant week for the Christian Church. During those eight days services are offered here so that you can hear the passion narratives of our Lord (Matthew, Sunday; Mark, Tuesday; Luke, Wednesday; John, Friday) and mark the Institution of the Lord’s Supper (Maundy Thursday), Christ’s crucifixion (Good Friday), and the new birth and life we have in him (Easter Vigil). Finally, the Divine Service of Easter Sunday is the culmination of this most holy week when the Church sings her Alleluias, Glorias, and “This is the Feast.”

This year, since we have school during Holy Week, Matins (8:05am) will be offered on Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday Evening (7 pm) we will have the Divine Service for the Institution of the Lord’s Supper with the Stripping of the Altar. This also marks the beginning of the Triduum, the three days, leading up to Easter. On Good Friday, two services will be offered this year. The first at noon is the chief Service, which contains the reading of the St. John Passion, the singing of the reproaches (passages from the Scriptures which teach us of God’s mercy in the midst of our apostasy and sin), the Bidding Prayer, and a brief service of the Sacrament.

The second is the traditional Tenebrae (Candlelight) Evening Service at 7 pm. Easter Vigil this year will include the Service of Light, Readings, Baptism, Prayer, and the Easter Gospel. Finally Easter Sunday observes the restoration of all that we put away for Lent, Alleluia, Gloria, and “This is the Feast.” Gold vestments are used to symbolize the rising sun of Christ who has conquered death and the devil. The Gospel Procession with “Christians to the Paschal Victim (LSB 459/460)” teaches the faithful the significance of our Lord’s Resurrection and his continued presence among us as our risen Lord for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.

                                                                            The Vestments of the Pastoral Office
Lent and Holy Week mark times of great ceremony in the Lutheran Church. Along with those ceremonies (Gospel Processions, Procession of the Paschal Candle, Stripping of the Altar, Palm Procession, Veiling of the Cross) which teach the Gospel, the vestments of the pastor echo these same teachings and aid in placing the focus upon God’s person and work by covering up the pastor. At the basic level, the pastors’ vestments symbolize his office. The black clerical shirt and cassock (long black robe) represent the sinful state of the man in the office, while the white collar represents the pure preaching of the Gospel. The alb (long white robe with fitted sleeves) or surplice (long white robe with flowing sleeves) represents the purity of Christ, the white symbolizing the righteousness of Christ. For prayer services, American Lutherans place the stole (a symbol of the yoke of Christ) over the cassock and surplice/alb. The color matches the season: Violet for Lent; black for Good Friday; White for Maundy Thursday; Gold for Easter.

In the Western Tradition (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Anglican), fuller vestments have been used for Holy Communion. This has been true since the Middle Ages and remained true throughout the Reformation. American Lutheran practice has varied, but make no bones about it: liturgical vestments (chasubles, copes, etc.) are Lutheran. Lutherans throughout history have used these to teach the glory of Christ’s Work and the significance of His person when distributing Christ’s body and blood. The vestments for the Lord’s Supper consist of the amice (a protective white garment which adorns the neck), the alb (long white robe with fitted sleeves), the cincture (the rope belt), the stole, the maniple (the decorative wrist handkerchief), and the chasuble (the large colorful liturgical poncho, if you will). Here the man is fully covered in garments which portray not himself but the office that he fills. He is there to preach, teach, and deliver the forgiveness of sins. Sufficiently covered in the vestments of the Church, it should be clear that he is there only for the Bride of Christ, standing in Christ’s office and never for himself. Vestments cover the man and deliver our Lord and his death and resurrection.

Of course, other traditions use vestments as well (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Orthodox, etc.); but the Lutherans have always retained traditions for what they have taught and never for their own sakes (Apology XXIV). Lutheran congregations represent various methods of vestment usage, and this is okay. There is freedom in the Gospel in this, as in many other matters! Here at Immanuel, let us use the fullness of our Lutheran heritage to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel as we approach the blessed feast of Easter,

Blessed Lententide, Passiontide, and Eastertide.

In Christ,
Pastor Paul

Published in Newsletter
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The Table of Duties: Living the Christian Life

Published on December 15, 2015

"Various Holy Orders"

The Lutheran doctrine of vocation is a shining light for the comfort of the believer. It flows directly from the Creed and the confession of who God is. God is a God of order and He uses the order he has created and instituted on Earth to take care of His creation. The “Holy Orders,” as our Confessions call them, are the God-given duties that each of us holds: Government, Citizens, Husbands, Wives, Parents, Children, Workers, Employers, Pastors, Hearers, Youths, Widows and Everyone.

The Calling of Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Peter and Andrew

Vocation comes from the Latin vocatio, “calling.” But these are not callings that come from the inside, based upon feelings or emotions but those which God gives to us. God makes us members of families, governments, churches, and businesses; even if we would rather put ourselves at the center of every relationship. We need to be reminded frequently about vocation. Otherwise, like Korah of the Old Testament, we will seek to serve God in the ways that we see fit (Numbers 16). Instead vocation and the Table of Duties teach us what God’s ways are and how he works in the world.

He uses each vocation of the Christian as a mask. Christians alone have vocations, because this is how God works through the baptized and redeemed. Everyone (Christian and non-Christian) has an office; but Christians are called by God to work in the “various holy orders.” God has established government and families, but Christian rulers and Christian parents are pleasing to God because God works through them by His Spirit. This distinction is important for us to remember, for vocations do not merit God’s grace and favor but operate because of His grace and favor. This is how God works through believers.

We are called to remember this through the Table of Duties because history and the Scriptures are filled with examples of man’s attempt to serve God and the neighbor is his own way. Monasticism was Luther’s main “whipping boy” when it came to teaching about vocation. The Medieval “offices” of priest, nun, and monk were invented by the church as God pleasing tasks. Many still hold this opinion today. “You must really serve God, if you have chosen an occupation in the Church; unlike the rest of us.”

Yet, this is simply not true. The Office of the Holy Ministry (Office of Pastor) is pleasing to God because it distributes the means of grace. Your duties are truly Holy Orders because you are all priests (1 Peter 2). Christians offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving as priests, the holy nation set apart by the blood of Christ and the Spirit. Christians then also serve their neighbor as God works through them in these Holy Orders.
Each section of the Table of Duties (LSB, p. 328) contains only Bible verses which detail how God understands each position. This is based on 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 6. In Confirmation class and in our memory work we always include the Table of Duties, because here we learn how the 10 Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Supper are worked out in the lives of Christians to the glory of God.

“Created Orders for an Ordered Creation”

What is made very evident by the Table of Duties, as well as the totality of the Scriptures, is that God is a God of order. He has created everything to have an order and inner logic to it. Today’s culture cannot stand to have such order and thus everything is interchangeable. Mothers and fathers are not distinct in any way. Husbands and wives too have lost their distinctions, because male and female are treated as androgynous equals. Our current state of affairs, especially in America, leads one to despair because of the outright rejection of God’s created order.

But Christians have God’s Word and therefore do not need to lose heart or feel defeated as society continues to debase itself and abandon God’s gifts that have been preserved throughout the millennia. Government is given to the world so that all mankind would know that God is the” king of kings and lord of lords.” The rulers of earthly kingdoms are to care for the lands and peoples they rule according to Natural Law because this is how God has made all these things (Romans 13:1-4). Citizens are to respect and fear their governments because of the God who has established them for their good (Romans 13:5-7). Now of course, sinners sin; God knows this and Christians ought always to question the government that causes them to sin and reject God’s Word. But apart from this government is for the benefit of creation.

michelangelo_obed_grtThe estates of Marriage and parenting too are God’s good gifts, currently forsaken for personal gain and adulterous desires. God created male and female to be perfectly compatible. The woman was the help meet for man. Recent generations of egalitarianism and feminism have eroded the Scriptural background behind marriage and the roles of male and female. Now it is hard to tell whether conservative Christians have biblical principles or the principles of yesteryear (the 1950’s and a “Leave it to Beaver” notion of family roles). However the Table of Duties clarifies this. Husbands are to be considerate with their wives and women are to fear and respect their husbands. Eyebrows always rise when these topics come up; but we must talk about them for God has instituted marriage and families for his good purposes and for our benefit.

The relationships of pastor and hearer too are important. When one doubts who is to be a pastor, the Scriptures are very clear (1 Timothy 3:2-6). When hearers of the Word are tempted to do more and perhaps abandon their other vocations, the Scriptures too are clear on what they owe the pastor: his livelihood and sharing God’s gifts in theological discussion.

Much can be said about each portion of the Table of Duties. By these passages God clearly tells us how we are to live in which positions God has placed us. We ought not be afraid that we are not doing what God wants us to do, for he works through us by his Spirit how he pleases. When we have a concern or question we should follow the example of the Small Catechism and turn to God’s Word. Here we find clear instructions and admonishments so that we would attempt in all faith and earnestness to live a Christian life. As Luther concluded the Table of Duties, we here finish our treatment of the Small Catechism:

Let each his lesson learn with care,
And all the household well shall fare.

Rev. R. W. Paul
Ad Te Levavi, Advent I
29 November AD 2015
Pastor and Headmaster, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School

Christmas Congregational Dinner

Published on December 15, 2015

On Sunday December 13 with SS Children’s Program. This will be a carry-in dinner so bring your favorite dish (or dishes) and join us. Guests are always welcome.

Special Organ & Piano Music

Published on December 15, 2015

Prior to Christmas Eve Candlelight Service with Lessons and Carols at 7 p.m, there will be special organ & piano preludes by Laura Kunkel and Joyce Reid. Please come early to listen, enjoy and prepare for the service.