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Completing the Journey

The Pastor's Windshield for March 2024

 Sometimes the last stage of a journey is the most difficult … Several years ago, our family was traveling home after a long road trip. It was late at night and Heidi and I were both very tired. We had to make several stops to get out and stretch and to switch drivers. Eventually, I reached the point where my eyes just couldn’t stay open. Thankfully, I was able to pull off the interstate and Heidi drove for about the last 45 minutes. Home was so close, but it was a real challenge to get there that night. 

Maybe it hasn’t happened to you with a road trip, but in some other life situation. The last semester of your education may have been the hardest. You had “senioritus” and were just ready to be done. Or you were counting down the years (or even the days!) until your retirement. You were ready for that change of pace or to put the stress of your workplace behind you. Or how often have you started something (a project, a book, or maybe a diet or exercise plan), but you had trouble completing it? I’ve been there.

And it can happen with life itself – for some people, the final days of life are the hardest, due to pain or infirmity. It’s also hard to walk that journey alongside of loved ones who are suffering. You’ve probably been there, too. 

In Holy Week (which begins on Palm Sunday), we complete our journey through the yearly Lenten season. Like me, you may be ready for the brighter Easter season around the corner. But it’s important that we first complete our journey through Lent and remember these critical days in the life of our Lord and what He accomplished for us.

Jesus’ journey through the original Holy Week began on a high note – a celebratory parade as he rode into Jerusalem ahead of the Passover festival, welcomed by crowds of palm-waving Jews.

During that week, Jesus preached His final sermons in the temple courts, especially focusing on the theme of the Day of the Lord – His coming for the final judgment. Then, on Thursday evening, Jesus ate His last Passover meal with His disciples, and also left them with a meal instituting His new covenant: His body and blood in Holy Communion.

After breaking bread with the disciples, Jesus faced the hardest hours of His journey. He agonized in prayer in the garden. He was betrayed by His friend. He was tried and convicted of crimes and blasphemies He hadn’t committed. He endured a brutal flogging at the hands of Roman soldiers. Finally, He allowed Himself to be nailed onto the cross, on which He would experience a humiliating, excruciating death.

Jesus completed His arduous journey for you. He didn’t stop short when the time came to climb one last hill, a place known as “the skull” or Golgatha

Finally, in midafternoon on Good Friday, He uttered the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), because not only was His suffering finished, but also your salvation. Jesus had completed everything necessary to redeem you from hell and eternal suffering and to win everlasting life for you.

Jesus’ journey also changes our journeys. Because of His suffering, death, and resurrection, you are now on a different journey, one filled with hope and forgiveness and grace and headed toward the life everlasting, your resurrection, and the renewal of all things. 

I look forward to completing this Lenten journey with you and then beginning a new one, filled with the hope of Easter!

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!

In lowly pomp ride on to die.

Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain.

Then take, O Christ, Thy power and reign!

Lutheran Service Book 441:5

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Kory Janneke

Lenten Opportunities

The Pastor's Windshield for February 2024

The season of Lent comes early this year! On Wednesday, February 14, “Ash Wednesday”, we begin the 40-day season of Lent. Here are a few thoughts and reminders for you as we approach the Lenten season this year.

Alleluia On Hold – one small Lenten observance involves pausing the singing of “Alleluia!” until Easter Sunday. This is a little reminder of the more somber nature of the Lenten season. We look forward to praising the Lord with our Alleluias on both Transfiguration Sunday (Feb. 11) and then on Easter Sunday (March 31) and beyond.

Ash Wednesday – On this day, Christians hear the solemn pronouncement that “you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). We receive the imposition of ashes as an ancient symbol of repentance. However, the ashes are applied in the sign of the cross, which also marks us as those redeemed by Christ the crucified. Our 6:30pm Ash Wednesday service will begin with the imposition of ashes. I will also be available in the church sanctuary from Noon-2:00pm on Ash Wednesday for anyone who would like to receive the ashes earlier in the day.

Confession and Absolution – While the whole Christian life is one of repentance, the Lenten season provides a specific opportunity to return to the Lord in repentance and faith. Most of our worship services as Lutheran Christians begin with corporate confession and absolution. However, individual confession and absolution is another opportunity to consider. Participating in individual confession and absolution enables you to confess your sins either generally or specifically and then to hear Christ’s Word of absolution applied directly to you. I’ll be available in the church sanctuary from Noon-2:00pm on Ash Wednesday for any who choose to participate. As a reminder, you can contact me to arrange for individual confession and absolution at other times as well. You can review the rites of individual confession and absolution in Luther’s Small Catechism or in our Lutheran Service Book hymnal in preparation (LSB. P. 292-293).

Midweek Lenten Services – After Ash Wednesday, we’ll have five additional Wednesday Lenten services from Feb. 21 – March 20. We’ll follow a simple order of service on these nights called the Service of Prayer and Preaching. The Gospel readings and sermons will center on the theme “On the Night that He Was Betrayed.” We’ll focus on the Thursday night before Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. (We often call that day “Maundy” or “Holy Thursday”). The Gospels include several full chapters full of detail on this pivotal night in Jesus’ life. We’ll be focusing most of our attention on the passages in John’s Gospel, especially chapters 13-17. I hope you’ll join us for our Wednesday services!

Fasting – Christians may choose to fast in some way during Lent as a method of denying our sinful flesh and fixing our attention on Jesus. However, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:16-18, fasting is not to be done for show but as a private expression of faith in the Lord. You may choose to give up some form of food, drink, or technology. Alternatively, you may choose to add something like additional time in prayer or personal devotions during Lent. 

As I’ll be sharing in my sermon on Feb. 11, whether you add or subtract anything from your days this Lenten season, the best way to observe Lent is simply by focusing on Jesus and His death and resurrection for you.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Kory Janneke

Be Well, Serve Well

The Pastor's Windshield for January 2024

“Be Well, Serve Well” – sounds like a slogan from a gym or an insurance company, doesn’t it? Actually, it is from an insurance provider, Concordia Plan Services, which provides benefits for LCMS church workers and their families. 

Simple as it may sound, there’s truth to this slogan, so let’s build on it a little. It’s important for those serving the Lord’s Church as pastors, teachers, youth workers, missionaries, etc., to tend to their health so that they can have the energy they need for serving God’s people. As best they can, they ought to work at “being well” (holistically) so they can serve well. 

The same applies to Christian men and women in general. Our overall wellness affects our capacity to serve one another in the body of Christ and also our Christian witness to those outside of the Church. This isn’t to say that true Christians won’t get sick, struggle with emotional scars, or run into other hard times. 

Our Lord works through real people with real life problems. Just look at any of the men and women of faith from either the Old or New Testaments in Scripture – all of them were sinful people who dealt with the problems wrought by their own sin, the sins of others, and by the fallen condition of this world. Yet the Lord still chose them, and His strength was at work in their lives despite their weaknesses. 

We further confess as Christians that we are God’s creatures. He lovingly made us; thus, our lives are accountable to Him. He desires that we exercise faithful stewardship of everything He has given us, including our bodies and minds. Doing so also better positions us for loving and helping our neighbors in our daily lives.

Whether or not you’ve made any new year’s resolutions for 2024, it’s worth examining how we can pursue greater wellness in various areas of our lives. 

Beginning on Sun, Jan. 14, 2024, I’ll be facilitating a new Sunday Bible study at 9:00am each week in which we’ll discuss the topic of wellness both in the Scriptures and in our lives. I hope that this class might be an encouragement for you, and, to borrow a line from this week’s sermon, I invite you to “Come and See” what it’s like!

The graphic below was developed by a Lutheran committee on health and wellness in 1997, but I think it still makes a good starting place for this conversation.

Before we talk about health, we need to remember who we are in Christ, our baptismal identity. Drawing daily strength and renewal from His grace and forgiveness, we seek to continue growing in our physical, emotional, relational, intellectual, vocational, financial, and especially spiritual well-being, which involves and relates to all areas of our lives.

As Lutheran Christians, when we talk about “vocation” we’re not just referring to our day jobs but also to our other God-given “callings” (the root meaning of vocation) as disciples, family members, neighbors, caregivers, citizens, etc. It is for the sake of our neighbors whom we interact with in these callings that our Lord would have us “be well” so we can “serve well.”

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Kory Janneke

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