|Saint John's Evangelical Lutheran Church|
Each year around this time, I usually encourage you to make your way to the Lord’s house, especially for every opportunity during Holy Week, as we make the final journey to the cross and empty tomb with Jesus. If you have never gone through the complete rhythm of Palm/Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday to Good Friday to the Great Vigil of Easter and on into Easter Dawn and Morning, I would highly recommend it. There is no more moving time, and there is no other time that is so filled with the ups and downs of life and faith, all of it oozing with the grace of God revealed in Christ. If you have done this before, you know how amazing a time it is, and I would encourage you to come again and hear “the old, old story.”
The reason for my annual encouragement is because all of this is the essence of our life in Christ. What our Lord accomplishes in these Holy Days is what gives us forgiveness and hope and joy and life. The forgiveness won is what leads us to the Divine Service week in and week out. We need that forgiving grace and the comfort of the freedom that it provides us. And the Easter resurrection is what gives us hope as we await the Last Day when our bodies will be like His glorious body and we shall live with Him and all the saints forever. However, that resurrection is not just a distant hope. It helps us now. In our time of trial and loss, we remember Christ’s victory. When the weight of sin brings great burden upon us, the resurrection fills us with peace in knowing that Christ has lifted our burden from us. And when our last hour comes, we depart this life in joy knowing that our life is hidden safely with Christ in God for all eternity.
So, Easter and its promise goes with us, not just for one day or every time we face the loss of a loved one, but each and every day. We struggle against death, but always, the Gospel predominates and hope abounds. Each morning we awake is a reminder of the great day of resurrection, and of the new life our Lord has called us to, for one day we shall sleep and wake up and arise into that heavenly life. To quote Luther, “Just as Christ won the victory only through struggle, so also must we. If his resurrection is to work in us, we too cannot escape the struggle with death. God has permitted the old man to be at hand. The resurrection lays hold and says that whatever is of us is nothing, and I believe that when the resurrection begins to work in me, then sin and the bad conscience are dead with Christ. But from this follows that the body must die. I feel sin and death in me. The body delights in sin and fears death, and this war we must carry on as long as we live. The Lord assails us with many sufferings. Death assaults me, but I have Christ who is risen from the dead, as I also shall rise. I will hold to this. The resurrection consists not in words, but in life and power. The heart should take inward delight in this and be joyful. Outwardly, I must die as Christ died, but the gospel is a jubilant word, which the flesh hears gladly.”
As we have prayed this Lent, may we come to Pascha with cleansed hearts, that we may keep the feast in sincerity and truth. Then may the joy of Easter fill us all, that our life in Christ may flourish, and our hope and joy be fixed upon Christ who has died for us, but more than that, has been raised, and now brings us to where he is eternally! A blessed Eastertide to you all!
The world against me rages,
~ Pastor Noack
On behalf of Kristin, Abigail, and myself, we would like to thank you for the wonderful luncheon last month. It is truly an honor to be with you and to serve alongside you in the Lord’s vineyard. We also want to wish all of you a blessed Easter as we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection and live together in the hope of our life together in the kingdom of God for all eternity!
What are you giving up for Lent?
For many Christians, Lent offers the opportunity to discipline oneself through fasting. People give up something that they particularly enjoy (chocolate, all sweets, soda, etc.) for this period of time and then have the opportunity to enjoy it again on Easter.
I recommend giving something else up during Lent (and during the whole year every year). Give up your cares, concerns, sins, and worries to God in prayer. Give up the things that you often fear, love, and trust into the hands of our heavenly Father – the One whom we are to fear, love, and trust above all other things.
In order to make this kind of “giving up” a regular practice during Lent, it sometimes helps to have a specific plan. For example, you could pray a petition of the Lord’s Prayer each day of the week. Perhaps you could say prayers related to that petition before meals, during your morning and evening commute, when you rise, before going to bed, etc. The content of your prayers each day could be based on the following themes each day:
Sunday: Pray “Hallowed be Thy Name” by asking that you, your friends, relatives, and fellow Christians be given a greater desire to hear God’s Word, a better understanding of it, and the strength to live according to it.
Monday: Pray “Thy Kingdom Come” by asking that particular people become Christians – become members of God’s Kingdom. Pray for pastors, missionaries, Christian teachers, and all those who proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ. Pray that you would continue to make it your first priority to join fellow members of God’s Kingdom in the Divine Service and that His gracious rule would pervade every area of our lives.
Tuesday: Pray “Thy Will Be Done” by asking that God would bring about what is best in your life and the lives of others. Pray that you would love others according to God’s Will as it is revealed in His Word even when the devil, the world and your sinful nature tempt you to live contrary to God’s Will.
Wednesday: Pray “Give us this day our daily bread” by giving thanks for all of the good gifts that God has given you (food, clothing, parents, children, etc.) and asking Him to provide for your needs and the needs of others according to His Will.
Thursday: Pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” by confessing your own sins in thought, word, and deed as well as your failures to do what is good and believing that God has forgiven you because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Then pray for those who have sinned against you, declaring that they are forgiven and asking that they believe in the forgiveness Christ won for them.
Friday: Pray “Lead us not into temptation” by asking that God would keep you and others from falling into sin as a result of the temptations of the devil, the world, and each individual’s sinful nature.
Saturday: Pray “But deliver us from evil” by asking that God would deliver you and all people from evils, sins, and temptation. Ask that God would come, as He has promised, to destroy sin, suffering, and evil once and for all and raise us – body and soul – to new and eternal life.
So during Lent, don’t just give up a few desserts, chocolate, or soda but give up all your cares, worries, and sins into the hands of your Father in heaven. Then join your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ each week in the Divine Service to receive back from Him the forgiveness he so richly bestows because of Christ.