Monday, November 18, 2013

Time Between - Advent Awaits the Coming of Christ

(Much of this post comes from Rev. Gerike, Cantor of Reformation Lutheran Church, who writes on Unwrapping the Gifts)

Advent is also known as the “evening of the year.” Not only do we "wait" for the coming of Christ, but one of the themes is about dark v. light.  

The Advent Services will be about the Darkness vs. the Light. - the darkness of a world condemned, given over by God to its own sin, and the advancing beams of the Daystar, God of God, Light of Light, Jesus the Christ, the One who comes into such a world to bear its sin away. 

While Christmas songs, decorations and shopping occupy the thoughts of many, the Church emphasizes the Advent season as a time to look into the darkness of our situation before leaping too quickly or too cheaply into the light. Advent is a time for focusing on the gravity of the human predicament, the bleak condition of the world in which the Word was made flesh, which the Lamb of God took upon Himself.  

The Time Between

Advent represents the Church’s life because the Christian community lives in the great “Time Between.” The people of God live at the very frontier of the ages — the “Time Between” Christ’s first coming incognito in the stable of Bethlehem and His second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. In the “Time Between,” our lives are hidden with Christ in God: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4 ESV). 

Advent contains within itself a good balance of
  • the now and the not-­yet; 
  • the hidden and the revealed
  • the suffering and the glory 
— all held in a dynamic tension.

The Advent life is a healthy and holy tension that is every believer's daily life as well. It is a joyful anticipation and longing founded upon God’s promise, at the same time facing the reality of life's darkness. It is a life of dark and light, hope and fulfillment, first Advent and second Advent, terror and promise, the end and the beginning.

Thus it is no surprise that Advent is a season under stress because it is a season out of step, at cross-­‐purposes (for Cross purposes) with a society numb for more than a month with rehearsals, decorations and broadcasts.  "Come, Lord Jesus..."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Halloween and/or Reformation?

It's one of my favorite times of the year - Halloween and Reformation. The weather is cool and all kinds of fun is at hand.

Remember where Halloween comes from? 

It is the Eve of All Saints Day, November 1st. The church celebrated a day to remember those “saints” (believers) who died in the Christian faith. Hallowe’en means saints (hallowe) ‘en means eve. That’s why it is also called All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween has a long history.

Did you know that it was a tradition from about the third century? The church celebrated the lives of those believers who were killed because they believed in Jesus. Many Christians are persecuted and
killed today because they believe. That’s been in the news a lot lately.

If you believe that Jesus is the one true God who died for your sins, then you are a saint. Therefore, we have saints in heaven and saints on earth. Together, they make up the one holy Christian and Apostolic Church.

October 31st – Reformation Day

All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) and All Saints’ Day have a special place in the Christian Church because of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, Halloween, that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. He chose to challenge the corruption in the official church about the notion that salvation in Christ could be bought with money or works. All Saints are saved by Grace, through Faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ. It is the work of Christ, not man that saves.
On October 31, 1517 the Church of Christ began to return to the authority of Scripture alone over the traditions of man. Luther’s point was to return to salvation by Faith in Christ alone over the works of people as prescribed by humans. Reformation Day is when the Church returned to the biblical teaching of salvation by Grace alone, rather than one’s attempt to do good things to pay for entrance into heaven. The Church returned to reliance upon Christ alone and not upon self.
October 29th - So have a good time on Halloween. Enjoy your treats and getting dressed up. Enjoy our movie night and the food. Just don’t forget that Halloween is really about Scripture Alone, Faith Alone,  Grace Alone, and Christ Alone. (Latin, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Solus Christus.) 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sign Up For Youth Confirmation Class

Fifth through eighth graders SIGN UP for confirmation class.

This year's confirmation class will once again be a team effort. Mrs. Rezabeck Mr. Clark, Mr. Weber, and Pastor Sell will work closely together to develop a strong confirmation and junior high youth program. We will integrate a bunch of good times with learning the Christian faith. Check out OLS Confirmation Blog to learn more details. Parents, you can sign up your children online.

First Class and Parent Meeting - August 20th. 6 p.m.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Musician-Teacher and an Early Childhood Center - Strengthening OSL's Ministries

In my recent post about budget time, under "Blessings of the Unity of Our Church and School," I indicated that we are looking at two programs that we need to strengthen. Since we are pulling our budget together and need to approve it, we need to get these church and school strengthening programs in our budget.

Although it sounds like they are "new" ideas, they really are not, because,
  • OSL's leadership has been talking about these things for some time. 
  • The funding is mostly in place for both of these OSL strengthening proposals
  • They are making their way through our leadership and meetings and will arrive at the voters meeting soon.
Most Obvious Question: Why are we moving quickly? We need the teacher in place by August 1st.

Musician/Teacher and Early Childhood Center - More info and job description

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guess What Time It Is? It's ... Budget Days at OSL

My new favorite commercial is Geico's "It's Hump Day." I love how obnoxious the camel is in the commercial. He reminds me of me.

Well it's budget time at OSL and I feel like I'm being the camel in the commercial driving Mike Z crazy, among others, namely our leadership. Mike is so laid back and I'm Mr. hyper camel. "Mike, Mike, Mike, you know... Blair, Blair, Blair, you know... George, George, George, you know... Marty, Marty, Marty, you know..."

Whoo! Whoo! It's budget days...

Budget planning is always hard. It feels personal for those on staff. It's pressure-filled going into "thee voters meeting." It's a huge commitment in time by our leadership. It's a major financial commitment on the part of the congregation to try and fund the budget.

BACK TO JESUS - Such comfort. Such hope. Such peace.

But let's get back to why we go through this. Jesus and the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. 

As we gather in church around Christ's Word and Sacraments, He gathers us as His Bride whom He purchased with His blood. He holds us up as cleansed, spotless, and holy. He brings the saints in heaven and on earth who trust in His work together. Such comfort. Such hope. Such peace.

We have agreed that we want this message available to the families in our community, so our Church has a full blown school. The parents can count on us to help raise their children in the truth of God's Word and bring His mercy to bear in the gifts of creation (education).

God calls each member of our congregation to support her ministries with time, talent, and funding. Together, we confess that all of the gifts of creation are from God. He calls upon us to use them wisely and to give from our blessings to support the blessings of the Church.

Some of the hardest decisions and meetings took place over the last 5 years. Thank God for all of you who have been so faithful and have worked so hard. Thank you!


Pragmatically speaking, "no budget, no mission" explains how we go about serving the community with God's Word. OSL has been through a lot in the last five years. She has great leadership all the way around. Everyone only wants what's best for the Kingdom of God manifested on San Simeon Way in Fenton. We have the stability to look forward and plan things with a purpose and vision to serve our members and our community.

I've always looked at budgets as they are really our work programs so that we can serve the Lord by loving our neighbors with what we do. That's why we sacrifice and put forward our "first fruits" in time, talent, and treasure, so that we can get to work sowing the seeds that God grows into His kingdom.


So here we go. It's my first round of budget planning. That's always dangerous. :) When a new pastor steps into the congregation to whom God has called him, everything is a "fresh start." As the senior pastor, it is my role to give guidance and shepherd the Lord's church in all of her ministries, using the administrative gifts that I've learned over the years - all the while repenting and drawing strength from His forgiveness. I pray for wisdom and try to administer according to the accepted practices of church administration. Well, that applies to budget planning as well.

Sure it's hard and some meetings are emotional, but they are worth every moment of discussion and number crunching.

The satisfaction and blessings of this hard work come in,
  • the families that are strengthened and provided stability in God's Word;
  • the joy of baptizing the children; 
  • the answers that I get during the children's message; 
  • the comfort of salvation to the grieving family planning a funeral; 
  • the singing of the children in chapel; 
  • the graduation ceremonies and the fun of confirmation classes; 
  • how people come together in a time of crisis;
  • singing with the congregation and the school children, words that reflect God's Words;
  • and so on.

Every indication from our leadership is that we are all ready to move forward with our "fresh start." We are ready to see beyond the past and move forward with the church and school and develop her programs into the future.

As I've indicated in the last couple of months, we need to plan for our future We need to move away from the band-aid approach to our budget and staffing issues and see the amazing gifts the Lord has given us and how we can move forward with a purpose. We will have quite a few staffing changes in the next several years and we need to plan for that. We need to talk about strengthening our ministry support in the church and school and wisely set a direction to continue to improve what the Lord has given to us.


OSL has a great school. The foundation and quality of education is spectacular. The church members have renewed their excitement over and over again in both the church and school.

The demographic reality is that we are poised to move forward and build both the church and school up and welcome new families and members into both. We have unified our budget in the last several years and we have a clear picture of what the beginning of our "fresh start" looks like.

There will be a couple of new things that we are bringing forward, things that we have planned for from major gifts. The one plan is to use the funds set aside for new ministry. We are thinking about a musician/teacher to strengthen the music programs in both the church and school.

The other one is a renewed look at our infrastructure and support for our ministries. This will be the easy one because we have used them in the past. This is important because over the next several years we will need to make adjustments with the demographic reality of our faculty. In other words, ONLY by pure numbers, it appears that we are facing a turn over due to general retirement practices. We need to be prepared for this so that we are not re-inventing the wheel with every new "hire" or call process.

Please keep us all in your prayers and let's talk it all through, make wise decisions, repent of our sins and rejoice in God's mercy and the constant showering of blessings he gives.

Whoo! Whoo! It's budget days!

Finally, in case you were wondering, my former favorite was the Geico rhetorical question commercials. The link is a video that strings them together. What a hoot!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Invite Your Friends! Become a Member of OSL.

Do you know anyone who wants to learn about the mercy of God? Have any friends looking for a church to join? Any new school families interested in joining our church?

New Class for Membership begins July 7th.

Now is the time to get the word out. Invite your friends, relatives, anyone, to become a member of OSL. On July 7th at 9:15 a.m.  Pastor Sell will teach a class about God's Word to become a member of OSL.  The class will be every Sunday through August 25th.

Pastor will explain
how God is present in your life.
why forgiveness is free.
and show you from the bible, how your children and grandchildren receive forgiveness, at any age.
the power of God's miracles in your life.
where heaven is on earth in worship.
These things and so much more to strengthen your life in Christ.

God is calling you in His Word to learn about Him (Mt. 28: 20).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Free to be Faithful - Fourth of July and the Christian

Many have already been on vacation and enjoying the slow pace of summer. I've taken the opportunity to work on a whole host of administration duties, organizing, writing and implementing forms for the office writing the confirmation handbook, etc. The summer pace brings on the celebration of Independence Day - The Fourth of July.

What a blessing it is to live in the U.S.A. After traveling to third world countries, I will never forget the relief I felt when the pilot would announce that "We've entered U.S. airspace." Flying from Africa, through Amsterdam, and then home, the plane would erupt with applause. Whew! It hits you how blessed we are to have the freedoms our country guarantees her citizens.

Is Trouble Brewing?

Trouble is brewing. The First Amendment guarantees our freedom to practice our religion. This time, the attack on our religious freedoms is coming from something that is a hot political topic. It is in the form of medical care. It began with a Health and Human Service policy that is a full frontal attack on religious freedom. It is couched in a move toward public health care.

Lutherans in the Public Square

Lutherans have a wonderful understanding of how the Christian citizen is involved in the community and politics (Two Kingdom Theology). As a church, we don't promote any political candidate or push ourselves into policy debates. EXCEPT when the politics and policy try to move to our altar and force us to live against God's Word.

HHS and the LCMS

Here is the problem and the not so subtle attack. HHS has implemented a policy that requires religious institutions to provide "medicine" and "health care" for abortion. Behind the policy is the view that only the altar and pulpit are "true" religious institutions. In other words, all 501c3's - the tax code that provides nonprofit status to religious institutions - are threatened with health care policy that forces them to provide and pay for a practice that is against our religious beliefs. This means that such policy from HHS will force Concordia Plans, schools, universities, hospitals, etc. to provide abortifacients. This is a very dangerous precedent.

Will the Federal Intrusion into the Church Stop There?

I wonder...

Well, my brain is hurting from trying to think of an instance where and when the power and authority of the federal government has been stopped and reversed. I'll let you answer this question for yourself. However, we know that homosexual marriage is formally pushed by our government, that the LGBT movement is now publicly considered a legally protected minority. Hmm. What does this mean for our schools?

Pray for our church and the bold confession of Christ's Word.

Here is a video from President Harrison, the president of the LCMS. This year, we will be doing a bible study about the church and society.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Feeling Lost? Forlorn? Kinda Down? Jesus and Your Depression.

British artist William Dyce’s depiction of Ecclesiastes’ refrain that everything is meaningless
William Dyce (1806-1864) titled
“Omnia Vanitas” - “Everything is vanity” 
God is chiefly characterized by love and mercy that leads Him to forgive our sins. 

We do praise our Lord when He calls us together into His merciful presence. We praise Him, not only for His presence but also that He makes us holy by forgiving our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Life is filled with countless emotional swings, from joy and excitement to sorrow and depression, yes even death. Often, depression looks like laziness, irresponsibility, and even rudeness.

Sometimes we wonder if it is all worth it (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23). Most likely, you know someone - who is in emotional pain; who is depressed; who struggles emotionally; someone who needs help. How does a Christian deal with emotional problems and depression?

Depression and the Christian

I dare not try to deal with this topic as if there is a quick fix. There isn't. However, I can, only in the big picture of Christianity, say that sin - (not sins) - the state of a sinful world - is what brings our misery and depression. The hope and help is in Christ's cross of suffering, where He paid for sin (condition) and all of our actual sins. He knows the pain and suffering that we go through. His mercy and love is the gift that comes to you by faith in His work. Each day is a resurrection in our baptisms. Each day is a merciful new beginning. Each day is a victory the Christ earned for you. 

Depression as a Calling - Feels Like a Crisis of Faith

Dealing with depression, like all vocations, is a call from God to make use of the gifts He gives you in scripture and creation. Gifts of creation are friendship, doctors, medicine, church, counselors; hospitals, and family. He is present through creation, using all of these resources because He is their creator. 

It may feel like a crisis of faith, but rather it is the strength of your faith. Your faith is God's work, not yours. 

He is present for mercy and forgiveness through Our Savior in Word and Sacraments. He calls you in your worse times of anxiety, fear, and loathing to rejoice in His presence and be fed with His body and blood. It is the presence of God that feeds you with the Eternal Feast of Victory. This victory is yours by faith, and still, emotionally, humanly, you will still struggle. But faith has conquered it because Christ conquered it. It doesn't mean it will go away. It means He now walks through it with you and gives you strength to work through it.

God will use your emotional problems and even depression to strengthen you. Then in the same comfort you received from God, you will serve others so that they might know of His mercy and hope; His comfort and victory; His peace and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Resource and Blog - A Free Download

I Trust When Dark My Road is a free 100 page booklet from LCMS World Relief and Human Care that talks about a Lutheran view of depression. It is written by Pastor Todd Pepperkorn, who is a pastor in California. You can download the booklet here.

Pastor Peperkorn's blog is a realistic walk through life for those who suffer from depression. As you can imagine, it is sometimes dark, sometimes a trigger for so many emotions, however, there are so many insights to life with depression and you will learn a lot. You can also learn about other resources and how the struggle continues.

Grant peace, we pray, In mercy, Lord;

Peace in our time, oh send us.

For there is none on earth but You, None other to defend us.

You only, Lord, can fight for us. Amen. (LSB 778)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Music and Jesus: The Perfect Mix of Creation and Salvation, Rock on!

Ok, I'm a baby boomer. I get it. I grew up with rock 'n roll. A friend of mine still puts the classic rock station on the radio when he picks me up and we head out for a coffee or a cigar.

My friends and I would attend an average 10 concerts a summer after we graduated from high school. It was our very own little summer concert tour. If you've ever attended a live rock show, you know the thrill, the excitement, the fun. My favorite rock concert always has been and will be Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. I saw Springsteen  4 times.

If you're going to do something, do it right.

My dad raised me in true blue collar fashion. He would always tell me, "if you're going to do something, do it right." When it comes to music, it fits there as well. When "Bruce" puts on a show, it was incredible. It was the whole package, the heart felt music, the rough voice, the audience participation, the lights, the saxophone solos by "Clarence." His shows lasted 3.5 - 4 hours. He does Rock, right. That's why he's a classic.

Luther and Bruce - Music and Message

You're kidding me. Only a Lutheran Pastor would put Martin Luther, the church's classic, number one reformer, in the same phrase as the Boss (Springsteen's nickname). Luther understood the power of music, the importance of songs/hymns, and the gift it is from creation (Listen to two musical giants, Schalk and Bouman on the gift of music. 30 second clips).

Christianity gets music in church as well as Springsteen gets rock 'n roll. Of music, Luther wrote,
Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. The devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God. 
Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
Youth should be taught this art... for it makes fine skillful people
Our Savior has a wonderful history of music. However, notice how music is used in the church. Like everything in church, it serves Christ. It is a treasure that is next to the Word. Whatever music is used in church it must only be the scaffold that supports God's word, the proclamation of law and gospel.

Church Music Reflects the Words of God.

Music is the second most important thing in church. Lutherans believe that the most important thing is faithfulness to God's Word. God calls us to repentance for our sin. He then calls us into His holy presence to receive forgiveness that Jesus earned for us. No instrument, can get in the way of the message. The music will never be elevated or louder than the Word.

Bruce is no Luther

That's the difference between Bruce and Luther - between church and a great rock concert. Those of us who can appreciate great musical entertainment, even rock, know that when we go to hear the Boss and the band "rock it out," it is about the music! The music creates the mood, the atmosphere; the fun that goes with enjoying a rock show. The audience "gets into it" because of the music. The words aren't really that important.

However, in the church, music's purpose is not the music, the fun, the atmosphere. In church, music is
the unseen marriage of created gifts that bear the holy Word of God. Music in church is the humble servant that prepares the feast of the life saving body and blood of Jesus to be given to the festal saints. The music only reflects the theology of the Lord. In turn, we give thanks for the gifts the Lord gives. The music brings Jesus into our presence so that He may save us with Cup of the New Testament.

In other words, let Springsteen do his thing and give us a great show. Let Christ's Bride prepare the banquet so that we may hear, taste, and sing the holy words that God gave to us - in order to say back to him. The former is 62 years old and when he dies so does his music and shows. When Jesus died, the music of His Bride was empowered to sing forever because He rose from the dead. The Bride's music implants the Word into our very being unto life everlasting.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Up Up and Away - What is Ascension?

I'm showing my age - again. When I think of Ascension, my silly little mind thinks of the Fifth Dimension song, "Up Up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon." Or, with my kids, the movie Up was a big hit.

Up is always a something that fascinates us, probably because gravity keeps us down.

Easter's celebration highlights Jesus' life as divine and human. The miracle of the Ascension is a revelation of Christ's power as God, but it reveals the company of heaven in His humanity.

Forty days after Easter, Christ went up to heaven by His own will and power (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51 Acts 1). According to Acts, it seems that the Ascension took place on Mount Olivet.

Jesus Himself spoke of His Ascension (John 6:63; 20:17). 

Ascension and You!
Ascension is point in Christ's life where He says goodbye to the physical world as you and I see it. The person, Jesus Christ, in His humanity and divinity assume the power and glory of the eternal God. 

The eternal gift of God in the Ascension is that Jesus in His humanity is everywhere, all-powerful, the sovereign God who is not in heaven, but is the God that is even above the heavens. Being beyond the glory of heaven places the God-man in the authority only reserved for God as the creator.

His Ascension catapults him into the God-man who not only is above all, but more importantly for us poor sinners, is with us in our sinful miserable world that He may suffer with us as God and man. He does not, in His humanity, stay in heaven!

The power and glory of the Ascension is what places Him back into service here on earth in the Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. His Ascension as the personal God-man Jesus is exactly why Lutheran s believe the true body and blood is in the Lord's Supper. His humanity is not in heaven, rather, because He is God, His humanity is where God is and wills to be. God Himself, for our salvation, commits himself to be in the Word, Baptism, and Lord's Supper. 

The Ascension unites heaven on earth. He does not take us to heaven, rather, He brings eternity above all power to earth.

He Ascends so that He might be here in His fullness! Thanks be to God for Jesus' full presence in our lives and the life of the Church. He Ascends that forgiveness flows from water, word, bread, and wine in the same mystery of the Word becomes flesh.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lutherans Know How to Party - Festivities in the Church

The victorious season of Easter is an ongoing party in Christ's Church. Lutherans know how to  party. It isn't wrong to have fun or a good time.

Did you realize that the lives of believers in the Old and New Testament revolved around the important parties of the year? They celebrated and threw a party - called a festival/feast - every chance they could.

Parties are not frivolous or just an opportunity to have fun. Rather, they happen because something needs to be celebrated and remembered. 

We all remember the importance of our family parties that surround our birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. The feasts we love are all prompted by very important events in life that need to be remembered.
The OT festivities revolved around things that God did to protect and care for His people.

The Seventh Day

The first and most important festival that was held was... wait for it... the day that God rested (Gen. 2:3), yes, the Sabbath. Remembering the seventh day (Ex. 31:17) of the week celebrates the gift of creation. It's the one that got everything started - literally. Later, it was used to remember that God delivered the children of Israel from Egypt's slavery (Dt. 5:12-14). It was also the day that the priests would replace the "bread of presence" in the temple (Lev. 24:8). We remember the bread in the temple because God provides for every need through creation.

This is the Feast of Victory...

Remembering the resurrection with celebrations of Christ's life continues today as the New Testament church rejoices in God's continued work on earth. This is how God saves His people, how He rescues us in the midst of a sinful/evil world.

However, the Lutheran party is not only remembering God's work for us from the past, but it is the present work of God for us in our lives and where He gathers us. While we are gathered in His presence in both Word and Sacrament, He gives us the life giving bread and wine from heaven, His body and blood. The feast in which we participate is a holy one that unites heaven and earth.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Death is Swallowed up in Victory - How Believers Die

So now I've participated in two funerals from Our Savior. One of the great blessings of creation is how our Lord has permitted us to learn more about medicine and curing diseases. At the same time, the medicines that prolong life, in some cases, prolongs our earthly suffering. As much as we try to avoid death, death still happens to everyone.

For the Christian, like with all things in a sinful world, faith in Christ, makes death - life. Christ makes suffering - joy. Jesus makes defeat - victory. Our Savior makes pain - relief.

One of the great tools of The Faith is our hymnody. Lutherans are known as the singing church. The struggle we have in our culture is to maintain the substance of The Faith in the songs of the singing church.

For this reason, it is important that we, as believers, hand down the great gifts the Lord has given to us. Our children, along with the congregation sing so well and we are blessed in the faithfulness that is so apparent in what we sing.

Funerals are an important part of the singing church and the development of our children in The Faith. Maybe for your daily devotions for this month, include the following hymn. Notice the incredible message of victory over sin, death and the devil. The imagery is stunning and bold. We win. Satan loses. We live. Sin dies. Hell crushed. Heaven opens.

At the Lamb's High Feast LSB Hymn 633

1 At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who has washed us in the tide
Flowing from His pierc├Ęd side.

2 Praise we Him, whose love divine Gives His sacred blood for wine,
Gives His body for the feast—
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

3 Where the paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword; Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.

4 Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, paschal bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we manna from above.

5 Mighty Victim from the sky,
Hell’s fierce pow’rs beneath You lie;
You have conquered in the fight,
You have brought us life and light.

6 Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall;
You have opened paradise,
And Your saints in You shall rise.

Believers pass through the door of death, surrounded by angels and archangels, trusting in the victory of Christ, and persevere in the blood of the Lamb until the doors of paradise burst open to receive us.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Visitors Welcome! If You Know the Secret Handshake?

So you come to OSLCS to visit on a Sunday morning. You are driving down 141. You see the cool sign with red letters. You turn into our campus. The curved road takes you into our parking lot. Then what?

You need the secret handshake?

How do we get into church? Where is the door? Are there any signs that help?

The moment you drive into our parking lot you see a possibility of three doors to enter so that you can hear God's Word.

"Hey, there's the circle drive. That must be how you get in. Right?" No. Wrong handshake.

Hm. "Where is the church? I see a sign that tells me how to get to the school but not how to get into church."

Finally, you see people going into a small door with a numerical key pad to get in. Sure, it is eventually unlocked. But for a visitor, does it look like our "main entrance" to a church service?  Does this picture say, "Welcome to Our Savior? Come on in!"

To a visitor, it
kind of looks like a secret door with a secret code. Then, once you
walk in it, it is a dark hallway. Don't stop and talk to someone or you'll be in the way of traffic. Once you get into the narthex... keep moving, or you'll block traffic again and since people are moving through, how do I get a bulletin and get into church to sit down?

Then, it is even tighter if there is a table in the narthex to sign up for something...

Getting People Back in the Pews

I'm learning that getting into church and understanding where to go is quite an obstacle course. I know that this is stirring the pot a bit. Please forgive me if I'm ruffling feathers.

The one thing that has been consistently stated to me by all boards, members, etc., is that we need to get our people back into the pews. We need to get more visitors. We need to get out to the community and invite people to Our Savior. Amen!

Wouldn't it be nice if, when a visitor comes into church, they meet our gracious and loving members   in something like this? I wonder how much it would cost to build a reception area like this?

We have great facilities. We have a great congregation. People are so nice. I just hope we'll make it easier for visitors - not people who already know the secret entrance - to get into our church and see what we have to offer. Give them a chance to meet all of our warm and friendly believers and chat.

Over the next couple of months we will be talking about this at our various meetings. It seems that we have such an obvious entrance - by the activity center - with an elevator and a beautiful lobby to welcome people - and easy access to the church, our bible studies and our church/school office. Let's hope we can come up with a solution.

We want to welcome visitors in an obvious manner. Hopefully we really don't need a secret handshake to get into church and hear God's Word.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Oh Ya! Prove it!

When were you ever 100% sure about something? Our life-experience teaches us that taxes and death are sure. It's April. When taking "write offs" the IRS wants us to prove them, usually with receipts.

How can you ever be sure about anything? It's the reason why so many of us struggle with insecurities, a low self-esteem, or outright terror.

There are times throughout our life when we trusted someone, but then found out they lied. Sometimes we forget things and don't follow through with things to which we committed ourselves. Then there are the times, when it's no one person's fault, things just go wrong.

What is amazing about the resurrection of Jesus is the amount of evidence that history, archeology, and many other sciences have established that provide plenty of proof that Jesus was alive after His crucifixion. Yet, our salvation isn't based upon what man can prove. Forgiveness and mercy is based upon what God said happened.

I Can't Blame Thomas

The bible is the historical account of God's actions on earth. Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead. Who can blame him? He finally had his chance and Jesus proved that He was alive, still Thomas had to put his hand into Christ's side. Wow!

God knows we need proof. So in His mercy and grace He gave it to us in the historical records - the bible. His Word is complete and perfect and it still gives us proof that is better than what Thomas received. Thomas didn't receive forgiveness of sins when He put His hand in Jesus' side. However, you and I participate in the resurrected Christ in the Word-Given sacramental life. The sacraments are BETTER than putting our hands in the side of Jesus because in them He gives us forgiveness, which is the victory over sin, death and the devil!

He is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pr. Sell
Mt. 28:19-20

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Dead Husband is the Living Lord

Christians and their pastors bring God's comfort and message that our Husband was killed. That's the Good News. He did it to protect us. To save us. To give us victory over sin, death and the devil.

The Groom of the Bride was mercilessly slaughtered. He didn't deserve it. He didn't do anything wrong. But someone had to do it. Only God could do it right. Jesus is the Groom and the Church is the bride (Rev. 19:7). The height of the glory of God is in His death.

Our Husband stepped in front of the Evil One (Mt. 6:13) to protect us from Satan's acerbic and wicked arrows of death. The Father condemned Jesus to hell as He poured out His wrath for the sin in the world and throughout history - then, now, and until the Last Day. Cross and suffering is the glory of every Christian.

Why, then, is Easter such a glorious day?

Because Easter is "in your face." The resurrection of our Groom is a victorious celebration. It is our, "I told you so!" It is when Christ's bride has the "right" to have attitude.

We have the right and responsibility to get into the world's face and tell people, "Oh yes He did!"

He did pay for your sins.

He did suffer eternal death for you.

He did crushed Satan's head.

The attitude is because of God's mercy.

He does forgive you.

He does give you peace.

He does give you the resurrection. 

He does give you His resurrected body and blood for the forgiveness of sins every time you go to communion. Today's church is about then, today and forever. Attending church is how He delivers His
gifts of salvation. Our attitude is one of grace, mercy and thanksgiving. We are not afraid to live our lives and serve where He places us. He makes us parents, children, neighbors, employers and employees. 

Easter is not only about the day that Christ rose from the dead, rather it is about our daily baptized life, where the resurrection is meaningful (Rom. 6: 3-4).  Our attitude about Easter is because of the work of Jesus. The death of the Bride's Husband becomes the life of the Living Lord. 

He is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! 

Mt. 28:19, 20 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week - Salvation in Suffering

When you are hurt. When you are down.
When you are depressed.
When you are confused.
When you can't go any further.

Holy Week is for you!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holy Week, Holy LIfe, and Our Savior Fenton

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy!

It is a comfort to live the life of Christ throughout the Church Year. The most Holiest of times is Holy Week. It is the last week of Christ's life. It is the beginning of forever.

Choose One? No Way!

It is easy to look at our schedules this week and think, "Wow, a bunch of Services to choose from." As if the instructions from God reads, "For Holy Week, since you have to attend church once a week, choose from one of the following..."

Going to church is not about how often you go. Rather, it is a matter of God calling you into His holy presences for the forgiveness of sins. This is why believers attend church to receive forgiveness and meet with God as He speaks to us.

Holy Week

Holy Week is participating in the will of God in His last days. From Palm Sunday to Easter, it provides Christ's Bride (the Church) the opportunity to be comforted with the gifts that Jesus earned for us. The Lord's Supper is central to the life of the Church. It is where Jesus' resurrection takes place and in, with, and under the bread and wine He forgives your sins.

Please join us all week.

"Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Christ Triumphantly Enters Jerusalem: Palm Sunday

Lamb of God, by Tom Dubois 
Palm Sunday

It is a glorious event hidden to the eye without faith. The fact is that were you to see Jesus riding a dirty stinky donkey, you wouldn't think it a special event. He was a man who smelled like all other men. Dusty and dirty would be his clothes and feet.

So whats' the big deal? That man was God, who was riding on a donkey with the stench of humanity.

The people shouted out,

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest. (Mt. 21:9-11)
When Christ entered Jerusalem, some of those present wanted someone to fight against the civil authorities. Others understood that this was the promised Messiah from the Old Testament.

The Vocabulary and Culture of Believers

This event was so important that immediately the Christian Church grabbed hold of the events and made the words spoken that day a focus of her understanding of God's presence on earth. The very sustenance of the Church.

Around Jerusalem and into the churches, the people of God began to sing "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest." (I'm sure they used LCMS' maroon hymnal.) So important are these words that identify the God who was slaughtered for our sins, that the church has used them ever since. Believers know that these words echo the words of the prophets and the fulfillment of their prophecies in Jesus.

The donkey rider on Palm Sunday is God. He is man. He is the payment for the sins of the world. He is the Sacrificial Lamb. This Messiah rode this exciting day, knowing it was His ride to death to endure the wrath of God.

Our Savior's Palm Sunday (PARENTS see News)

Please join us this Palm Sunday as our children remind us of the simplicity of faith that accepts the complexity of Jesus' death and resurrection. The children will process down the aisle of our church, singing the Palm Sunday hymn that we all remember from our childhood. They and we - will declare,

Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, 
Hosanna in the highest.

These are the words that prepare us for the Lord's Supper. Jesus is present. At church. In His Supper. Then, in Christ's Holy Feast the same Jesus whose sin-bearing body rode on the donkey, will call us to the victory feast of His resurrected Body and Blood. Forgiveness will flow from our altar.

Bring your children to join in the celebration!

Mt. 28:19-20

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nerve Racking First Weekend

Who had more questions about Pastor Sell's first weekend in the pulpit? Pastor Sell or the congregation?

From my (Pr. Sell's) point of view, it was I.

As I said after the service, everyone was still awake... that's a good start. :)

Sure, I went over the bulletin when Gail sent it to me for my approval. Sure, I've prayed the liturgy before with many congregations. I've preached many children's sermons before. Used Divine Service I from the hymnal. I've celebrated communion too many times to count.

However, this was still different. Why? Because it was my first time shepherding Christ's flock at Our Savior.

Thanks for your patience as I began to familiarize myself with the sacred space of our church and her procedures inside and outside of the service. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you at the Congregational Assembly on Tuesday (7:10) night.

Sunday Morning Bible Study

Since I'm still familiarizing myself with things around OSL Church and School, My Sunday Bible Study is on Mt. 28. It is a four week study on the Great Commission. That will take us through two Sundays after Easter (No Bible study on Easter Sunday).

The Great Commission is exactly what you think it is - getting the Gospel out to the world. However, this study will put that common understanding into the context of Christ, His authority He gave to the Apostles, the Church (all believers), the Holy Spirit and the sacramental life.

Please join us for an in depth study in four weeks.

Up Next - Continued Preparation for Holy Week

Peace be with you.
Mt. 28:19-20

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Installation Pictures

Ah! These are the fun pictures from the March 10, 2013 installation service. Enjoy the fruits of  Gary Johnson's labor. He does a great job of recording our history in pictures at Our Savior.

By the way, "I don't have a bald spot!" Denial can be good. :)