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