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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

Joseph, did you know?

The Pastor's Windshield for Christmas 2023

The Virgin Mary tends to be in the spotlight at Christmas – and for good reason. After all, she is the mother of our Lord Jesus! Christmas songs ask questions like “Mary, did you know?” and ponder how much she realized about what her Son and His future would be like. But what about Joseph? It’s a shame that he is sometimes the forgotten father figure of Christmas, but there’s much that we can learn from Joseph’s faithfulness as well.

The Gospels make it clear that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but His guardian. Joseph was likely a few years older than Mary. It is reasonably assumed that Joseph died sometime after the family’s Passover pilgrimage when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-52) and before Jesus’ ministry began when He was around thirty. When Jesus preached His first “sermon” at Nazareth (based on Isaiah 61), His neighbors still assumed that He was merely Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22). 

Admittedly, we have only a small amount of detail about Joseph. The Christmas narratives rightly place most of the focus on the coming of Jesus Himself. None of Joseph’s words are recorded for us. However, we can still draw some helpful conclusions about Joseph from his actions.

Joseph was a good man. Unlike his royal ancestors in the house of David, Joseph does not have any negative marks against his reputation. This does not mean that Joseph was without sin. He still needed the salvation provided by Jesus. Yet Joseph was also a faithful husband, a reliable tradesman, and an upright example for his children. Jesus was submissive to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) and while under their care, “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Joseph taught Jesus his trade (Mark 6:3), and he and Mary went on to have a large family (Mark 6:30). 

Joseph was quietly humble. I bet you can think of men in your family who exhibit a type of quiet strength. They don’t say a lot, but when they do speak, they mean what they say, and you listen. Joseph seems like the kind of man who kept his composure, yet he wasn’t afraid to take action for the good of his family.

Joseph was obedient to the Lord. On four occasions, the Lord’s angels instructed him through dreams, telling him to take Mary as his wife and to name her son, Jesus (Matt. 1:20-21); telling him to take his family and flee to Egypt (Matt 2:13); telling him to return home to Israel (Matt. 2:19); and telling him to beware of Herod’s son in Judea (Matt. 2:22). In all these cases, Joseph obeyed without question.

Joseph was faithful. When considering how to respond to Mary’s apparent infidelity, Joseph wanted to be faithful to God’s law prohibiting a man from marrying an adulterous woman, yet Joseph also wanted to deal kindly and quietly with Mary (Matt. 2:19). Joseph later saw that Jesus’ circumcision and Mary’s purification were carried out on schedule (Luke 2:21-24). Once their situation had settled down, they made annual pilgrimages from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41). Joseph seemingly instilled the custom of regular Sabbath worship in his family (Luke 4:16). 

Joseph was a protective husband and father.  Joseph protected Mary from potentially being stoned to death for adultery. He guided Mary to Bethlehem for the census while she was “great with child” (Luke 2:5). And later, Joseph shepherded his family safely to Egypt and eventually back home to Nazareth while taking care to steer clear of two ruthless kings. 

Fathers set a tone for their families, and both during the action-packed years around the first Christmas and during the normalcy of the years that followed, Joseph certainly did this for his family. 

May the Lord bless all Christian fathers with the courage, humility, and faithfulness of Joseph! And may God bless us all with steadfast faith in Joseph’s adopted Son, our Savior Jesus.

Grace & Peace,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

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