Monday, April 26, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good morning, fellow redeemed!

Just back from the Jr. Youth Camping Trip to Garner State Park. Great experience! If you want the Sports Center version, ask any of the chaperons or the kids. If you'd like the highlight reel of Friday night, ask any of the drivers, keeping this one word in mind: hail.

Revelation 7 is the great picture of the Church, both militant and triumphant. This week, take a look at this great chapter of God's revelation to St. John. One thing: 144,000 = 12 x 12 (the twelve tribes times the twelve apostles, God's holy Church throughout all ages and times) x 10 x 10 x 10 (all of them).

Daily prayer can become a real challenge. I once kept a written record of petitions for a few months, only to review those and think about how puny most of the stuff I wrote actually was. I thought to myself, "A guide for daily prayer would be really helpful." Lutheran Service Book has provided an excellent resource for guiding daily prayer. Beginning on p. 294 is a section titled, "Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families." On the following four pages are orders to be used at different times of the day. Following this is a daily lectionary that covers most of the Bible, including a chart to help guide the praying of the Psalms on p. 304. But, on p. 204 is a list of suggestions to help set the pattern of daily prayer. For instance, on Mondays, it's suggested we pray: For faith to live in the promises of Holy Baptism; for one's calling and daily work; for the unemployed; for the salvation and well-being of our neighbor; for schools, colleges, and seminaries; for good government and for peace.

Adult Information Class continues Tuesday evening as we get into the worship service and the Means of Grace.

This coming Sunday will be Guitar Worship at both services. To that end, rehearsal will be Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m.

Zumba Aerobics has some great music for dancing! Zumba is held each week on Monday and Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Please keep Bob and Kathy Vadney and their family in your prayers this week as their son, Rob, is being deployed with the U. S. Army to Afghanistan. Also, please continue to keep Deysi Epley and Christina in your prayers as Deysi's husband, Andrew, is deployed to Iraq.

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (being deployed), Andrew Epley (Iraq), William Worley (Kingsville), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen, Dru Blanc, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi)
The holy Church throughout the world as she continues to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 26:
Zumba Aerobics, 6 p.m.
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 27
Pastor's Information Class, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 28
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Philippians 4), 9:30 a.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 29
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Guitar Worship Rehearsal, 7:30 p.m.

God bless!

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Easter 5, Series C May 2, 2010

Lessons for Fifth Sunday of Easter (Lutheran Service Book)

Acts 11:1-18 – With a word, God cleanses the unclean.
Psalm 148 (antiphon: v 13)
Revelation 21:1-7 – In Christ, God has made us His people in a brand new world.
John 16:12-22 – Jesus acknowledged that His people are works in progress, but the end is assured!
OR John 13:31-35 – In Jesus’ sacrificial love, God is glorified, and we have a new pattern for loving.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: God Changes Everything for Good.
Often we take note of change with regret and dismay, but in Christ, God has changed things for good! By His sacrificial love, Christ has given glory to God through His redemptive plan for all humanity. In His superlative love, Christ has given us a pattern and a command to love one another. By His Word in the flesh, the Father has spoken and cleansed us sinners of our guilt. The One who is the Beginning and the End has made all things new, for good!

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, in the beginning You called me into being and at the end You will welcome me into Your new Jerusalem. As I recognize the magnitude of Your sacrificial love that has cleansed my life from sin, fill me with a purpose to love Your people the way You see them. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God does not regard us as unclean, but with His Word incarnate, has called us His own, now and for eternity. How we treat others in the moments and with the matter of our lives must be patterned by Jesus’ sacrificial love for us.

OFFERING PRAYER: With Your Word in human flesh,
Lord, You banished cruel death!
Grant that we may live our days
To show Your love in many ways.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Jesus’ command, “Love one another as I have loved you,” is still far out of our reach! But He promised the Holy Spirit who would lead His followers into all truth. Like the disciples, we are sometimes reluctant to go where the Spirit leads, especially when it involves extending the Gospel to people with whom we aren’t accustomed to dealing. God’s unconditional love in the sacrifice of His Son is power and pattern for a change in our lives that we will catch up to in the new Jerusalem.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Paul to Pastors: Care for the Flock!

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the first lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Luke writes that:

Paul sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

What an enormous difference Jesus makes in our lives! Last week we heard about a young man named Saul whom the bible tells us went “from house to house, dragging off men and women and committing them to prison.” He was proud and violent and zealous in his hatred for the Lord and his people—radically committed to their persecution and destruction.

Twenty years later, the Bible tells us that this same man was once again going from house to house—but now he was testifying to the need for repentance and faith in Jesus. Twenty years later he was humble and tender-hearted and absolutely committed to doing all in his power to bring people to faith in Jesus—and for his efforts—he was undergoing all manner of trials and tribulations and persecutions-- and he knew that more were to follow.

The same man had been radically and eternally changed from a profaner of Jesus Christ to a preacher for Jesus Christ—from a persecutor of the cause of Christ to one of those persecuted for that same cause. And as much as the people of God were terrified twenty years before at the sound of his name, now when they heard his name they knew the power of the Risen Christ to convert even his most powerful enemies—for they saw it in Paul’s life.

It is no accident that Luke uses this same phrase “from house to house” as bookends to mark those twenty years of Paul’s life before Christ and after Christ because he wants us to have the same awe at the power and goodness of the Risen Christ in changing lives-- as those early Christians had-- when they saw with their own eyes what Jesus had accomplished in the life of Paul.

We need this firm faith-- that the power and the goodness of the Risen Christ continues to this day—because we are still confronted with situations and circumstances and people that we faithlessly regard as beyond God’s help.

For couples in the midst of marital strife whose marriage seems beyond repair—for parents whose children who are on the wrong path—for that loved one who does not know Jesus—the story of Paul’s life is an incredible testimony to the enduring power of Jesus Christ to renew that which is beyond human help.

With Jesus there is no hopeless situation-- and there are no hopeless people--for the grace of God extends into even the deepest, darkest parts of our human experience. Paul said:

I am going to Jerusalem…not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me—I once was lost but now am found—was blind but now I see. Amazing grace. John Newton, the author of that hymn, knew it to be true. He was an atheist who made his living in the slave trade and yet who was converted to Christ and the work of the Gospel. Amazing grace. Paul knew it to be true—he never forgot what he had been and he counted himself the foremost among sinners-- and yet he knew that God’s love for him on account of Christ had taken all his sins away-- and his own life was a testimony to that Good News of God’s gracious love that extends to even the worst of sinners.

God in his infinite mercy reached out to Paul—while he was still a sinner—and forgave him in Christ. From that moment on, it didn’t matter what life held for him—imprisonment—afflictions—martyrdom—his life was given over to the Lord wholeheartedly.

Our conversion to Christ may not be as dramatic as Paul’s or John Newton’s—but it is no less real. When we were still sinners, Christ died for us—while we were spiritually blind and dead in our trespasses—the Holy Spirit opened our eyes of faith and gave us spiritual life and saved us eternally.

Our testimony to the grace of God in our lives may not be as far-ranging in its influence and impact as that of Paul’s or John Newton’s—but it is no less true—and no less significant for those around us who need to know about God’s love and Christ’s power to heal all that is broken. That is our vocation as Christians.

Paul will not go where we go this week. John Newton will not speak to those we speak to this week. This is the course that the Lord has laid out FOR US—this is the ministry that WE have received from the Lord.

From the moment that we were saved—our lives (which were given to us by the Lord) became his—and their value and significance is found in yielding them to his service for the sake of his kingdom—for the sake of those who desperately need to know about the God who loves them and has shed his life’s blood for them. Paul said:

I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Much of what we have talked about so far, even though it was spoken originally to the pastors of the church at Ephesus, is just as relevant to all of us-- no matter what our vocation. But at this place in Paul’s words, a shift takes place that is more directly tied to the work of pastors.

It may not be readily apparent, but when Paul says that he is “innocent of the blood of all of you” he is referencing the words from the prophet Ezekiel that deal with the responsibilities of those charged with the spiritual welfare of the people of God. And Ezekiel likens that responsibility to that of being a watchman.

In the ancient world, a watchman would take his place on the walls of a town. If he saw danger approaching, he had a solemn responsibility to warn the people. If he did that faithfully—and they still would not listen—they bore the responsibility for their own destruction—but if he failed in his work---is he didn’t speak up and the people were destroyed—he was held responsible for their deaths.

From the moment those words were spoken by Ezekiel, this was recognized as one of the chief responsibilities of those who were called by God to provide spiritual care to his people. Paul did this. He called the Ephesians to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus. He taught them everything profitable for their salvation. He declared to them the whole counsel of God. Whether they listened or not---whether they believed or not—he had done what God commanded him to do.

Pastors have a solemn obligation to do exactly what Paul did: to call people to repentance and faith—to teach everything necessary for salvation—to preach the whole counsel of God without compromise.—to be able to truthfully say: Thus saith the Lord at the end of every sermon and Bible study. No man charged with the spiritual care of God’s people has any right whatsoever to change God’s Word or ignore God’s Word or explain away God’s Word and any pastor who does this-- is responsible to Almighty God for the souls that he has destroyed.

This ought to strike a holy fear in the heart of every pastor-- but it also ought to get our attention too—for each of us—in the context our daily relationships—has a responsibility as priests before God: to warn those we love if we discover they have wandered away from the Lord—to call them back to faith in Christ—to speak simply but sincerely to those who don’t believe in Jesus of their need for salvation.

It is eternal life itself that is at stake and sadly today, among pastors-- and among the people they serve—there is a shameful, dangerous willingness to downplay, ignore, change and outright deny God’s Word. It happened in Paul’s day and he knew it would continue to happen and so it has to this day. He said:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

For the last several weeks we have talked the persecution that the early Christians faced (first from the Jews then from the Roman Empire) and how they remained faithful to Christ—sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

But there was an even more dangerous persecution that was about to take place—more dangerous because its source was not outside the church—easily recognized—but it would now come from inside the church. Wolves in sheep’s clothing—adorning their soul-destroying, false teaching with all the right-sounding words would draw people away from Christ. And so it continues to this day throughout Christendom in places where the people of God ought only to hear the Word of God—instead hear lies spoken in God’s name.

This is a grievous sin. The men who are called by the Holy Spirit to care for the flock of the Good Shepherd have absolutely no right to speak any word save that of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus said of his flock: my sheep listen to my voice and so it is his voice alone that must be heard in the church--and his alone. But not only to pastors is this warning given, but also to you, the people of God—to the lambs of Christ’s flock.

150 years ago, C.F.W. Walther, the founding pastor of our church body, preached a very famous sermon entitled, “The Sheep Judge Their Shepherds.” And in this sermon Walther emphasized what Paul is saying to us today in these verses—that all of us must pay careful attention to what we hear preached and taught in church—that it is not permissible to simply accept at face value what is preached here and in other places—but that we who are listening, have a solemn responsibility to make sure that the pastor is preaching God’s Word and especially that he is preaching Jesus Christ because...

It is only that word of the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the sins of the world—which is able to save. Paul said:

I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

After his conversion to Christ, Paul was a tireless worker for the kingdom of God. He suffered every manner of hardship imaginable—he endured every kind of trial—and finally martyrdom, but he knew that it was not his striving or his efforts or sacrifices that brought people to Christ—but the powerful words of God’s grace that were really responsible for changing his life and the lives of those who came to faith in Christ.

That is important for the church to remember—especially this congregation. We are beginning to do some long-term planning—thinking seriously about the most effective ways to reach the community around us with the Good News of Jesus. And I think this is a wise thing to do.

But what we must always remember that it is not new methods and slick marketing that changes people’s lives—but Jesus. And he does that through his words of grace in Word and Sacrament. We are built up in our faith when we hear God’s Word and receive his sacraments. The blessed inheritance of forgiveness of sins and eternal life are bestowed upon us again and again each time we gather for worship.

And these gifts of God’s grace are now, and will always be, the most important thing that St. Paul Lutheran Church has to give to those around us as the people of God in this place.

Just as Paul did two thousand years ago, we can confidently commend ourselves and our congregation and the people of this community into the hands of Almighty God, trusting that his blessing rests upon us as we are about his work. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Series C April 25, 2010

Lessons for Fourth Sunday of Easter (Lutheran Service Book)

Acts 20:17–35 ~ Paul charged the elders of the church in Ephesus to remain faithful shepherds to the flock.
Psalm 23 (Antiphon: Psalm 23:1)
Revelation 7:9–17 ~ The Lamb of God, whose blood cleanses the redeemed, is the Shepherd of His people.
John 10:22–30 ~ Jesus identified Himself as the Shepherd who watches over the sheep and is the Messiah.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Gathered from Every Nation and Tribe
Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us of Jesus' promise: "I have other sheep; ...there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:16). St. John gave us a picture of the multitude in heaven who are gathered from every nation and tribe, "redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, who has become their Shepherd." Jesus explained that He is the Shepherd who gives the good gift of eternal life to His sheep; no one can snatch them out of His hand.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, my loving Shepherd, You have gathered me into Your one flock through the working of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel. Help me show Your loving kindness in the way I live, and keep me safe in the strength of Your hand so that I may join the multitude before Your throne who are singing Your praises forever. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: St. Paul knew that how he was able to help the weak and give to those in need would show that he was one of Jesus’ flock, redeemed by the One who gave even His life to rescue us from the power of sin and death. Just as Jesus’ works identified Him as the Christ, so our works identify us as belonging to Him.

OFFERING PRAYER: No more hunger; no more thirst!
All the power of sin is burst!
Shepherd, from Your heav’nly throne,
Give us love for all Your own.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We think belonging to Christ’s flock is as simple as learning the right answer: “Tell us plainly!” It isn’t just having the facts right; it is a matter of relationship. Those who do not hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him are not part of His flock. Those who belong to Him can be identified by the things they do, just as the works of the Shepherd show who He is. Sheep of the Shepherd work to preserve the flock in the peace and redemption won by Him who gave His blood to wash them clean. Even the little shepherds who work for Him are intent on feeding and leading the sheep.

Monday, April 19, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

Again this week, there were three really great texts for preaching! Of course, it's usually best when the pastor preaches on only one.

Here's the second reading for today, Revelation 5:1-14:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. [2] And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" [3] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, [4] and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. [5] And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
[6] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. [8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. [9] And they sang a new song, saying,

"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
[10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth."
[11] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, [12] saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" [13] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" [14] And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

A Lamb who had been slain, what a picture that must have been for John. But pay attention to the sights and sounds: The Father almighty holds a scroll that, as we would learn in later chapters, contain the unfolding events of calamity and judgment. Problem: There was no one in all creation worthy to open the seven seals on the scroll. That is, there was no one able to bring about the events that would lead up to the Last Day and vindication of God's people until the Lamb who had been slain, who was a corpse and was no alive, appeared in the throne room of the Father. Praise upon praise erupts in the throne room. What a sound!

The other night, I attended a worship service in which many contemporary praise songs were sung. I'm always amazed at these songs because many are, in a phrase, shallow. One particular song kept saying that the Lamb was worthy. Over and over again, those who knew the song sang about the Lamb being worthy. Why is the Lamb worthy? That question was never answered in the song. John answers it in Revelation, though: The Lamb is worthy because He was slain and is now alive! With His blood, the Lamb has ransomed all people! That's why the Lamb is worthy!

The other question that could have been asked was: Of what is the Lamb worthy? Again, the song never answered the question. Again, John answers the question in Revelation: The Lamb is worthy to receive all that the Father has.

By the way, if you're looking for a song that tells these thing, look in Divine Service, Setting 1 in Lutheran Service Book. You'll find the song there.

This week at Mt. Olive the Jr. Youth and some guests from Sr. Youth will be journeying to Garner State Park for a weekend of camping fun. I'm praying that we're kept dry during our time there.

One of the great evangelism invitations in the church is this: Pastor's starting another information class! Truthfully, I'm in the middle of one right now, but I invite you and your friends to attend. We have great questions and discussion. Many life long Lutherans assume they know everything after finishing confirmation, no matter how many years ago that may have been. This is an opportunity for Lutherans, too, as you get to hear and discuss. And, if you're not careful, you just might learn something. The class meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the overflow area. Tuesday night's topic: Justification, Worship, and the Creeds.

Don't you just hate exercising alone? I know that question well! Zumba Aerobics meets at Mt. Olive each Monday and Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. And, you won't be alone!

Will I be at Zumba? No - I'm usually involved in something else during those times. But, that doesn't mean Mt. Olive can't start another fitness group, like bicycling. If anyone is "jazzed" about starting a group, send me a blast or give me a call!

Many of you have asked me about Kathy's dad and my aunt. Suffice it to say that I praise God for your concern and your prayers as we go through these difficult times. Thank you, my heavenly Father, for the kingdom of priests at Mt. Olive who are interceding for my family!

Brothers and Sisters, Please Pray:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (preparing for deployment), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi), William Worley (Kingsville)
Dru Blanc's grandmother, recovering from surgery
Emmet Wright, undergoing tests
The baptized at Mt. Olive, that they may be kept firm in the faith, and kept from the evil one
The pastors of Circuit 27 (our circuit), that they may continue to proclaim faithfully the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and be strengthened to minister to the souls entrusted to their care

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 19
Zumba Aerobics, 6 p.m.
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Board of Elders, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 20
Pastor's Information Class, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 21
San Jacinto Day!
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study (Philippians 4), 9:30 a.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6 p.m.
Guitar Worship Rehearsal, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 22
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
STARC, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 23
Jr. Youth Camping Trip, 4:30 p.m.

God bless!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Risen Christ Converts His Enemies

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the first lesson for the day from Acts chapter 9. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

On February 16 of this year in Mosul, Iraq a young man named Zia Toma was gunned down by Muslim extremists as he left church—just the latest in a long line of Christian martyrs—millions deep—stretching back in time to the days of the early church and a man named Stephen who was the first Christian martyr.

Last week we heard how the early church faced persecution from the unbelieving Jews and that quickly grew from oppression and imprisonment-- to murder. Stephen was a leader in the early church who courageously bore witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ and after a particularly powerful sermon was attacked by a mob, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem and stoned to death.

We don’t know the name of anyone in that mob save one: a young Pharisee named Saul—born about the same time as Jesus—taught by the greatest rabbi of the day—a rising star in his community—who stood by watching with approval as stone after stone rained down upon Stephen until he was dead.

You would think that brutal, gruesome experience would have elicited some compassion from Saul—some measure of human kindness—but it didn’t—instead he became the foremost persecutor of the church—entering into the homes of the Christians—dragging both men and women off to jail—and wanting to do even more. Luke tells us that:

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Immediately before his ascension into heaven, Jesus gathered his disciples together and told them that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In other words, the Good News of salvation would go forth into the world in ever-increasing circles, reaching more & more people through their witness.

But the devil was right there too—doing every thing in his power—in those same ever-increasing circles-- to tear down the Christian faith. And the tool that he chose to undo the Gospel and persecute the church was Saul of Tarsus—the young man who stood by while Stephen died—the young man who wanted to expand the persecution of the church—the young man who by virtue of his intelligence and zeal and ruthlessness—was the best possible choice to tear down Christianity and destroy what Jesus had done for the world in his dying and rising.

But what we are going to see today in God’s Word—what is the best possible news for us when we confront a world that is increasingly opposed to Christianity—is that the risen Christ has the power to convert his enemies—and he has blessed us, his people, with an important work to do-- to that end. Luke writes that:

As Paul went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

When we hear the story of Zia Toma in Iraq and when we read about what is happening to Christians in the Sudan and when we see on television the outright hatred and contempt that is directed against the Christian message—the emotions that we feel are not love for neighbor and a desire to do good to those who mistreat us, are they? And yet-- God loves them.

The Bible says that: God loves the world and sent his Son—and that word “world” means everybody in the world—even God’s enemies. The Bible says that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins but for the sins of the world—dying, not just for the good folks, but for the persecutors of his people as well. God loves the world—even his enemies. Jesus shed his life’s blood for the world—even his persecutors.

Saul was an enemy of God and a persecutor of Christ’s people and a more dangerous obstacle to the mission of the church has never existed than that man—and yet Jesus loved him and intervened in his life in a mighty and miraculous way to save him and make sure that the mission of saving the world went forward.

We may shake our heads in wonder at God’s love for his enemies—we may think that we could come up with a better solution regarding those who persecute the church—but God’s love for his enemies and his desire to convert his persecutors IS the story of Christ’s salvation-- and it encompasses us too—and in exactly the same way.

It’s easy to see that Saul was at odds with God—what is much more difficult to see is that every person in the world by nature—including us—are in the same place.

The Bible says that we are sinful from conception—that Adam’s sin and rebellion has passed to each of us—that the old self is corrupt—that we are by nature children of wrath—that the intentions of our heart are evil from our youth—and the carnal mind is at war against God. And the biblical point is this: if the love of God and the salvation of Jesus do not extend someone like Saul—then neither do they extend to us.

But of course they do! The risen Christ came into our lives just as certainly as he did for Paul on the Road to Damascus—perhaps not as dramatically—but no less real for that--maybe it was in Holy Baptism when we were just babies—maybe it was later in life as we heard his voice in the preaching of the Word—but his love for us would not let us continue as his enemies and he came to us and converted us and made us his people. The Good News of God’s love for his enemies and Christ’s salvation of his enemies for Saul and for us is this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That is the message that has changed our lives for time and eternity—that is the message that Christ wants all people to know---that is the message that changes our hearts when it comes to our enemies and makes us love them and desire their salvation-- just as Christ loves them and desires their salvation. Luke writes that:

There was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

God loved us while we were still sinners—Christ shed his blood for us when we were by nature his enemies—and having experienced that for ourselves he intends that we extend that to others through our witness. It’s important to note that while the risen Christ did miraculously appear to Saul, Saul’s actual conversion to faith in Jesus Christ did not occur at a snap of God’s fingers or through some magical way—it came through the mission and ministry of the church—through the people of God—just like our conversion did.

Someone brought us to Holy Baptism. Someone taught us in Sunday School. Someone preached to us. Someone witnessed to us about Jesus. Someone brought us to church. God used those who were already his people as the means through which he brought us into his kingdom—and that’s the way it worked for Saul through a man named Ananias.

We talked last week about how we hear the word “go” again and again in the Easter story and in the church’s story as it shares the message of Easter and so it is today: the Lord comes to Ananias and says “GO”! In fact, he has to tell him twice because Ananias has some serious reservations about the mission he is sent on. Doesn’t the Lord know that Saul is a persecutor? Doesn’t God know Saul wants to destroy the church? Doesn’t God know what kind of man Saul is?

Well, yeah—he does—he’s God—and he knows all things. And the problem does not lie with the Lord or his plan but with Ananias for whom the words that he has heard about what a terrible man Saul is-- are more powerful than the Word of the Lord that tells him to “GO”!

Ananias had an obedience problem and a faith problem. That the Lord told him to “go” should have been all he needed to immediately drop everything else and go. Those of us who have Jesus as a Savior also have him as their Lord to whom we are to yield our absolute obedience. But Ananias also had a faith problem—he cold only see what was in front of him in an angry, murderous man—he couldn’t see what Saul could become through the gracious work of the Lord.

We Christians today still struggle with the same discipleship challenges of obedience and faith. The Lord has told us to “go” with the Good News of his life and yet we are very comfortable remaining in the comfort zones of people and places that we already know. And we look out at a world of people around us who have real problems and that’s all that we can see-- instead of what they can become if only they knew Jesus. The work of bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ does not go forward magically at the snap of the fingers—it goes forward through us his people who obey his command to make disciples of all nations and who believe his promise that he can change the lives of even the most hardened enemies of the church-- just like he did for Saul who went from being a persecutor to a preacher.

The power of the risen Christ to convert his enemies has not changed or diminished in the last two thousand years and is still being accomplished today in every place where his Word is preached and his sacraments are administered. Luke writes:

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on Saul he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

In that moment of witness, through the waters of Holy Baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit—Saul went from being an enemy of Jesus and a persecutor of the church to a child of God and a brother to all the other believers in God’s family. From that moment on, every time he talked about baptism he would talk about being raised from death to life. From that moment on, every time he talked about the church he would talk about a family of faith. From that moment on, when he talked about the work of the Holy Spirit in human hearts, he would liken it to a blind man regaining his sight.

Saul was changed for time and eternity when the Holy Spirit took residence in his heart and he came to faith in Jesus. But also significant was what happened to Ananias. He learned in a powerful way that it wasn’t enough from God’s perspective just for he and his to be Christians, but that God wanted to add to his people through his witness. He learned the importance of being obedient to the Lord’s mission and in having faith in the Lord’s vision of salvation that encompasses the whole world. He learned the power of the risen Christ who could convert even his worst enemies. We need to learn the same.

These lessons from Saul’s conversion really were the turning point in the life of the church. The mission of Jesus Christ would go forth into a world that did not know him and were opposed to him and hated him—it would go forth in confidence and courage because the people of God knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that the power of the risen Christ was infinitely greater than his enemies—that in fact, the mission of Christ would go forth in through the witness of those who were formerly his persecutors but were now his preachers. Luke writes that:

For some days Saul was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

This is what Jesus had in mind all along—Saul was a completely changed man by the power of the risen Christ—but he didn’t lose what he was before. He was still zealous and intelligent—he was still dedicated and fearless—it was all just converted to the cause of proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. As powerful an enemy of Christianity as he was, he now became its greatest champion--and countless millions of people have come to Christ through his apostolic ministry. This is the joyous privilege of being a part of our Lord’s mission: he does not demand of us results—but that we would be obedient and faithful and trust that the Risen Christ can convert his enemies. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Third Sunday of Easter, Series C April 18, 2010

Lessons for Third Sunday of Easter (Lutheran Service Book)

Acts 9:1-22 – Jesus confronted Saul and called him from persecuting to proclaiming the Way.
Psalm 30 (antiphon: vv. 11a, 12b)
Revelation 5:(1-7) 8-14 – The hosts of heaven sing praise to the Lamb, slain to purchase people for God.
John 21:1-14 (15-19) – After He rose, Jesus appeared to the disciples at the sea of Galilee to re-instate Peter.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: A Joy that Cannot be Quieted!
A dejected band of disciples who went out to the sea of Galilee for some rest and recreation came back to shore with a miraculous catch of fish and a new joy for life! Gathered around a breakfast campfire, they learned about forgiveness first hand as Jesus reinstated Peter in ministry. Later, the young rabbi, Saul, called from persecuting followers of The Way and claimed by Jesus for service in His mission, joyfully proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Savior! Even the angels in heaven cannot help but sing the praises of the Lamb of God who was slain for the redemption of the world!

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lamb of God, you have called me by name and claimed me for service in your kingdom. By your death you have redeemed me; by your resurrection you have empowered me. Fill me with your Spirit that I may tell everyone that you are my Lord and Savior. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God has called us to use our material goods to proclaim the victory Christ has won for all the tribes and nations of the world. Often He has to reassure us that by His grace we are still useful to Him in the task of extending His kingdom in Christ Jesus.

OFFERING PRAYER: Worthy are You, O Lamb of God, who with Your blood
Purchased people from every nation and tribe.
Bless our power and wealth, our wisdom and strength for good,
That Your Kingdom be honored and Your name glorified. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God has brought about a great change for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection! He calls us to turn from our former life and embrace the renewal He has accomplished. Although we often resist this new life and sometimes even oppose it, God empowers us to live in the forgiveness and acceptance of His grace. He fills us with a great joy as we celebrate the Lamb, who has opened the scroll of God’s good news, proclaiming His defeat of Satan and victory over death won for us.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Yesterday, I used the Acts 5 text as the text for the sermon. Thus, two other magnificent Biblical texts were read, but not preached. So, here's the Revelation 1:4-18 text:
4John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
8“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Imagine a church where local persecutions have been the norm. Imagine a church where, in your local society, you are misunderstood as cannibals and, worst of all, only worship one god. Imagine a church where lies are told about you on a regular basis about your beliefs, your character, and those lies bring the government to execute your pastor and board of elders, take the property of many of your members, and you yourself risk losing your family if you don't "rat out" your fellow church members. Imagine a church where your beloved bishop, whom you have known all your life, is exiled, probably never to be seen again. Imagine a church where the temptation to teach error abounds because, well, it's safe and acceptable in your society.

The questions in such a church will abound. Will we ever have another pastor? Will the Church survive? Will the faith of us Christians survive? Jesus answers that question in these verses of Revelation: Fear not! I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Think for just a moment about which kingdoms of the earth have outlasted the Christian faith. Having trouble thinking of one? That's because the Church of the eternal Lord Jesus continues to outlast finite earthly kingdoms. Though the church is persecuted, though it is downtrodden, though its members may be put to death, the Church survives because the Lord who has the keys to Death and Hell continues to rule.

Yesterday, I used an illustration that shows the truth of Jesus' words to John. Faced with the reality that their church body may be sapped of every earthly trapping, would the church continue. The leader for that particular church body said that, as long as there was someone to preach the Gospel, as long as there was access to a little water for baptizing, as long as there was access to bread and wine to celebrate the Eucharist, the Church would continue, and perhaps even thrive.

O Lord Jesus Christ, in these trying times, we look to You, the First and Last, the one who was dead and now is alive forevermore, the one who has earned the right to hold the keys of death and Hades. Preserve Your Church by Your Holy Word. By Your Holy Spirit, may she be a beacon of light and hope in this dark world, that those who are of the faith now will be preserved in the true faith, and that many will be called by the Gospel to faith in you. For Your mercy's sake. Amen

This week at Mt. Olive is a little more subdued.

LWML will be meeting Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m.

One event of note: Guitar Worship practice will begin again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. I look forward to this, because I always learn from these gifted musicians!

I will be out of the office until Thursday. Thus, there will be no Adult Instruction Tuesday evening or Wednesday Morning Bible Study.

Prayer Concerns:
Lilo Carson, hospitalized
Emmet Wright, undergoing tests
Those who serve in our armed forces, especially Rob Vadney who prepares for deployment later this month.

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 12
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 13
LWML, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 14
Zumba Aerobics, 7 p.m.
Guitar Worship Rehearsal, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 15
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 17
Confirmation Banner Workshop, 10 a.m.
Jr. Youth Campout Meeting, 12 p.m.

God bless!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We Are Witnesses!

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the First Lesson appointed for this day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

A few years ago, several of the ladies in our congregation worked together to make paraments for Easter Sunday—absolutely beautiful gold paraments that we use just once a year. When Easter Sunday is over, the banners and paraments are taken down and put away for next year—and that’s O.K. because the chief celebration of the Christian Church—our Lord’s resurrection from the dead—is worthy of such a special gift.

But what’s not O.K. is to treat Easter itself in that way--making it a once a year kind of thing. On Easter, we rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection—we sing those beautiful Easter hymns that are full of joy and gladness—we add the alleluias back in the liturgy—the church is packed--it's a great and glorious day! And by the next Sunday we're back to the normal, ordinary business of life. And that’s just how it is-ordinary.

But think about that! On Easter Sunday the most incredible, joyous, life-changing new is proclaimed: that Christ has been raised from the dead—a message that changed the direction of the cosmos—and a week later it’s all just back to normal. And that’s too bad-- and it ought not be that way-- because everything, absolutely everything is different for us—forever-- because Christ has been raised from the dead.

What we are going to do over these next seven Sundays in Easter season, is follow the early church in those weeks and months and years after our Lord’s resurrection and see what this Good News meant for them—how it changed their lives-- and how it still has the power to change our lives too. Luke writes that

Many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

I’m sure that most of us saw the news from Bay Area Fellowship during the Easter weekend—it was on the front page of the paper two different times and was the lead-in story on all the area TV stations—a multi-million dollar promotion—giving away cash and cars—to get people to attend their church for Easter. And they did—in droves. I’m also sure that many of us have strong opinions about their promotion. But no matter what we think of it—I think we will still agree that if nothing else—the scale of it was impressive.

For those who disagree with the methodology—and I’m one of them—if I dig around my heart a little bit, I think I will find some envy. Man, if only we could do that—bring in thousands upon thousands—or even hundreds upon hundreds of people to hear the Good News of our Lord’s resurrection—how cool would that be!

It’s the same feeling we get from reading about what was happening in the early church—signs and wonders being done by the hands of the apostles—multitudes of new believers added to the Lord—miraculous spiritual and physical healings. And we say to ourselves, If only we had a bunch of money—if only we had a bunch of miracles—then we would really have something to work with—then the Sunday after Easter would be as great as the Sunday of Easter.

But dear friends in Christ, that is the worst kind of spiritual blindness—and dare I say contempt—for the blessings of the resurrected Lord that are bestowed in this place Sunday after Sunday. When children and adults are baptized at this font they are delivered from the dominion of the devil and brought into God’s family. When the Gospel is preached in this place and sins are forgiven in absolution, people are raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. When Holy Communion is celebrated, the risen Christ makes himself present according to his body and blood no less present than when we appeared to the disciples in the upper room.

What we need in this congregation and in our lives as Christians is not millions of dollars or dramatic miracles-- but a renewed faith and joy in the Easter blessings that we take for granted: a lifetime of guilt taken away—an eternal life given—the presence of the Lord experienced. Blessings that are present in this place each Sunday—blessings that every person in the world needs—blessings that the Lord wants us to share.

Each of us are witnesses to these things: how people’s lives can be changed by Jesus—how people can be delivered and set free from those things that oppress them—how people can live with hope in the midst of hardship. This is the power of the resurrected Christ that goes on and on in our lives—this is the message that he wants us to share—even in the face of persecution. Luke writes that:

The high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

If there is one word that is common to the Easter Season—one word that is spoken again and again by Jesus and the angelic messengers—it is the word “go!” The angels at the tomb to the faithful women: go and tell the disciples! Jesus to Mary Magdalene: go and tell my brothers! Jesus to his disciples before the ascension: go into all the world and make disciples! And here in our text, the angel to the apostles: go and stand in the temple and speak the words of life! Again and again and again: Go and tell! Go and share! Go and witness! Go and make disciples! And the early church needed to hear that message.

The disciples and the other early Christians were no different than us by nature. They were perfectly willing to keep the Good News of Christ’s resurrection to themselves. This Sunday we see them hiding out in fear behind locked doors. Next Sunday we will see them going back to fishing for fish-- instead of fishing for men. And so again and again Jesus commands them to go and tell the Good News of his life.

And that command—that mission—that heavenly purpose for their lives-- takes them directly into the very places they would rather not have gone—places of persecution. Initially, it was to their kinsmen, the Jews, like we see today. In the Gospel lesson we are told they are hiding out in fear of the Jews-- but it is to them first of all—those closest to them—those they knew best--that Jesus wanted the Good News of his resurrection to go forth.

I think that all of us can understand their fear, can’t we? Maybe we have a loved one who doesn’t believe in Jesus—maybe it’s a friend at school—maybe it’s a co-worker or neighbor—someone we care about-someone we interact with on a daily basis—someone who needs Jesus. And yet it is BECAUSE of that closeness that we find it so hard to witness. We wonder and worry: what will happened to our relationship if I talk about Jesus—will they think I am judging them—will they listen to what I have to say, because the Lord and they both know I’m not a perfect Christian.

We are blessed in this country where in large measure we don’t face outright persecution—but neither should we doubt that there are forces that oppose our witness—usually it our own fears and doubts—but sometimes it is opposition and resistance from those we love and care about.

The disciples were facing strong opposition from the Sadducees—those Jews in charge of the temple—and we understand why—if the person and work of Jesus were true—then there was simply no need for any of it anymore. And because of this opposition that came from the temple Jews—the apostles ended up in jail. But they were not in it alone. They were commanded to be about the Lord’s mission and they could count on the Lord’s help and so during the night they were set free by the Lord.

Those looking in from the outside couldn’t understand it—they couldn’t figure it out—after all, they had the power—they had the prison—they thought they were in control. And when told that the ones they put in jail were no longer there, they were perplexed and wondered what it would all come to.

As well they might! The world has been looking on in wonder for the last two thousand years of the church’s history at how twelve disciples has been turned into billions—how the poverty of the early church has been translated into a world full of people fed and clothed and sheltered and healed in Jesus’ name every day—how a handful of peasants, speaking a regional dialect has turned into a world-wide community of people in every nation speaking hundreds of languages in a vast array of cultures.

The persecutors of the early Christians wondered what it would all come to-- and we are blessed to know the answer to that in a world full of Christians—and that gives us every reason to witness with conviction and face the future with courage.
Do not think for a minute that the Lord who set these disciples free and sent them directly into the midst of their persecutors-- is even the tiniest bit less involved in his church and in the lives of his people today--than he was back then. He is still the Lord of power and might who opens locked doors for the sake of the world’s salvation.

We can see it in the world around us and we can see it in the people we know. All of us have friends or family or fellow members here at St. Paul who, if you were just looking from the outside—not perceiving the power of the Lord—would be some of the most unlikely people to have a place in the Church. But they do—because the Lord loves them—because he has opened doors so that they can be saved—because someone witnessed to them.

We need to learn and re-learn that lesson. Much too often we see only the persecution of those who oppose us—we see only the problems of those who are broken by sin—and these impediments prevent our witness. Instead, we need to see the power of the risen Lord who stands ready even at this moment and even in this place to push forward his saving work through our witness—just like he did back then. Luke writes that:

When they had brought the disciples, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

This summer our church body will meet in its national convention and besides other kinds of agenda items to be discussed and voted on, we will elect a whole range of leaders including a president. I know Pres. Kieschnick but I’ve also met Pres. Barry and Pres. Bohlman. They are all good men—Pres. Barry now gone to be with the Lord. But my personal favorite among all of them was the man who took over after Pres. Barry died and that is Pres. Robert Kuhn. Just a plain old mid-western Lutheran pastor—a suit and tie—crew cut kind of guy.

And I remember hearing him reflect on his many years in parish ministry and someone asked him what he would do different and he said that he would make sure that—in each and every sermon—in a simple, straight-forward kind of way—he explained the way of salvation. I’ve never forgotten that and it’s exactly what we see the apostles doing.

The Lord did his part and opened the way for their witness and they took full advantage of it. To all who opposed them and persecuted them--to all within the sound of their voice they said: Jesus died on the cross and rose again and ascended into heaven so that you might repent and believe in him and receive forgiveness of your sins and eternal life.

That is the simple, straight-forward message of the Gospel and we are witnesses of the Spirit-filled power of those words—in the history of the church—in this congregation—and in our own lives. We are not the people that we were before we first heard that message—we are new people, born-again by water and Spirit through the obedience of faith.

And God invites us on this Sunday AFTER Easter to turn our backs on the ordinary and take our rightful place as his witnesses to the extraordinary things he has done- and is still doing- in his crucified and risen Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

Redeemed - a great name to have! We heard from Job this morning during the Sunrise service:
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[25] For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
[26] And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,

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As Job confidently cried out for his Redeemer, we are given that Redeemer – God in the flesh. Where we cannot make anything right, He comes and makes all things new, restored, right. Today, in the greatest redemption, we celebrate His resurrection. This is not a dead redeemer – He is alive, forever – our redeemer lives!
Even the old enemy with its gaping jaws is now defeated. Our redeemer lives, and death the devourer is itself swallowed up by our Lord Jesus in His resurrection!
What's more, because our Redeemer who died now lives, you and I and all who cling to Christ by faith will stand in our flesh before God. Even though death will do its number on our bodies, our Redeemer lives, and because He lives, we will be raised in the flesh.

Things are settling down after the celebration of our Lord's resurrection. To say the least, it was a great morning to rejoice with the people of God!

One thing missing from today's bulletin was the list of Easter lilies. With all the activity this past week, that was one thing that slipped through the cracks. That list will be in this coming Sunday's bulletin.

One exception to this week's activities: Zumba aerobics will be only Monday this week, as the school staff will be going through CPR and First Aid in the Fellowship Hall.

Choir, you have the week off.

Next Sunday will be the rescheduled first quarter voters meeting. Thus, the schedule is as follows:
9:30 a.m. Divine Service
10:30 a.m. Sunday School, Voters Meeting
11:30 a.m. Meal
12:30 p.m. Confirmation Instruction

Next Sunday is also the LWML Bake Sale! If you're inclined, it's time to get those ovens going! If you're inclined to purchase and eat, this is your opportunity!

By the way, I'll be out of the office on Monday and at Circuit Conference on Tuesday. I'll be back in full swing on Wednesday.

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces: Rob Vadney (preparing for deployment), John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Dru Blanc, John Sorenson, Ryan Radtke, Michael Baker (Corpus Christi), William Worley (Kingsville)
Thanksgiving for the Altar Guild, the choir and director, the organist, for a fantastic Lent and Eastertide

This Week at Mt. Olive
Monday, April 5
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 6
Pastor's Information Class, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 7
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
School staff CPR and First Aid, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 8
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.

Next Sunday, April 11
Divine Service, 9:30 a.m.
Sunday School, 10:30 a.m.
Voters meeting, 10:30 a.m.
Meal, 11:30 a.m.
Confirmation Instruction, 12:30 a.m.

God bless!

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Second Sunday of Easter April 11, 2010

Lessons for Second Sunday of Easter (Lutheran Service Book

Acts 5:12-20 (21-32) – No threat could silence the apostles, who proclaimed Jesus’ redeeming work.

Psalm 148 (antiphon: v. 13)
Revelation 1:4-18 – Jesus appeared to John on Patmos to give him a message and the courage to tell it.
John 20:19-31 – Jesus’ risen presence with His disciples overcame their fear and empowered their faith.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: When the Lord Speaks...
..we believe! After the apostles’ miraculous release from jail, they could not be silenced, but continued proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. In response to the Lord’s words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” the Apostle John wrote the Book of the Revelation. One week Thomas lamented the fact that he was trapped in unbelief, and the next week, in response to Jesus’ command: “Stop doubting and believe,” Thomas exclaimed in faith, "My Lord and my God!"

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, you were dead, but now you are alive for ever and ever! By your death you show me how to die confident of forgiveness for my sins; in your resurrection, teach me how to live trusting in your love to uphold me in all I do. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Although sin and death held us in bondage, Jesus has claimed our lives by His victory over death, which He has made our own! All that we have and are belongs to the One who is First and Last and Always! We cannot help but use our talents, our resources, our lives to proclaim His Lordship and His Love.

OFFERING PRAYER: Alpha and Omega, First and Last of all things,
You have rescued us from death, and Yours You named us!
You are both our source of life and goal of living.
Use these gifts to tell the world that You have claimed us!

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: The presence of the risen Christ in our lives is over-whelming! He stops our doubts and creates faith in our hearts! He propels us to obey God at all costs! He is the First and the Last, who encompasses death but lives forevermore! And yet we live our complacent lives as though Christ is only a distant memory and a child’s fairy tale! Still He comes to us, searching us out, putting our hands into His side, compelling our faith with His forgiveness.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Resurrection of our Lord, Series C April 4, 2010

Lessons for the Resurrection of our Lord (Lutheran Service Book) (for Easter Day, not Sunrise or Evening)

Isaiah 65:17-25 – Isaiah described the age of God’s restoration ushered in by the risen Messiah.
Psalm 16 (antiphon: v. 10)
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 – Just as Adam’s sin brought death to all, Christ by His death has brought us life.
Luke 24:1-12 – The angels’ words to the women at the tomb brought Peter himself to see that it was empty.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Easter Triumph! Easter Joy!
The bewildering message of the angels to the women on Easter morning was quickly investigated by other disciples, who were amazed and wondered at its meaning. Still today those who trust confidently in our God’s redeeming power, as Job did centuries before, know that Jesus’ resurrection gives promise of our own. He has given us victory over the sting of death and the power of sin so that our mortal bodies may be raised immortal, and we may serve him in love for all eternity!

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to you, O God!” You have given me victory over sin and death through my Lord Jesus Christ! What joyous celebration, dear Lord, is mine today because you have conquered death and given me life! Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: In the new heaven and new earth, the world redeemed by Christ’s victory, homes and vineyards, all the things that bless our daily lives, will be means to praise our gracious God who has rescued us from sin and death. Even our material goods in this life have been redeemed and dedicated to God’s ultimate goal.

OFFERING PRAYER: Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Our lives are claimed in victory;
Our deeds proclaim God’s love story.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: The message today is all proclamation of the amazing event that death has been defeated and the victory over sin has been won for us!! We are convicted by our timidity which does not celebrate the victory. We consider such a tale nonsense, like the creation of a new world where children are not doomed to misfortune and where lambs and lions are good neighbors! The power of the victory does not depend on our comprehension, but has been secured by Jesus’ death and sealed by His resurrection, so that, with Peter, we are left wondering what has happened, that God should care for us so much.