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A Devotion on the First Commandment

"The Hub"

What does a Ferris Wheel - much less any wheel - have to do with the Ten Commandments? 

This summer in our Sunday services, we're focusing on the meaning of God's commandments. The First Commandment gets the most detail in the original passage. The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17, but the First Commandment is the focus of the first six verses.

The First Commandment is this: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). Martin Luther offers this explanation of the meaning of the First Commandment: "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." This First Commandment is the foundation for each of the individual commandments that follow. Commandments 2-10 spell out the most important ways in which we are meant to fear, love, and trust in God in our daily lives. 

This is why I think about the First Commandment as the "hub" of the commandments. Looking at the Ferris Wheel above, you see a clear hub at the center. Connected to it are the spokes which form the connecting structure of the wheel. (You see the same structure on a bicycle wheel or other type of wheel.) A commandment such as the Eighth Commandment is one of those "spokes" among the Ten Commandments. By teaching us that we are not to speak falsely against our neighbors, God is first teaching us one of the ways in which we fear, love, and trust Him

The point is that the Lord our God is the center of the commandments, but more than that, He's the center of everything: our lives, the church, and the whole creation! 

However, an honest assessment of our lives reveals that we have treated God as anything but the center. The commandments are necessary and good in teaching us about the true God and His will for our lives, but they will always show our sins and shortcomings. 

Ultimately, our hope is not found in our level of obedience to God’s laws but in the One who fulfilled the whole Law of God in our place – His Son, Jesus Christ. Trusting Him for forgiveness and salvation, we make it our aim as Christians to fear, love, and trust our God who is much more than the Lawgiver. He is our Savior. God be praised for that!

Ten(der) Commandments

The Pastor's Windshield article for June 2023

What do you think of when you hear about the Ten Commandments? Are they a relic from the past? Truths that need to be recovered? Oppressive rules? 

In the view of many people, the Ten Commandments represent a harsh, judgmental, impersonal God who is basically a cosmic killjoy, wanting to stamp out all the fun in life by telling us not to do all the things that we want to do. But is this really the case?

What about you? Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the Ten Commandments, or it has been so long since you’ve looked closely at them that you’ve largely forgotten their details.

Whatever your first impressions, level of familiarity, or past experiences, I want to invite you to explore the Commandments with me on Sundays this summer at St. Matthew. On June 18th (Father’s Day), I’ll have an introductory message about the Ten Commandments with specific focus on the context in which the Lord first taught these words to His people. Together, we’ll see that the Commandments have much to teach us about God our Father and about our identity as His children.

Now it is true that the Ten Commandments are mostly arranged to state what we shall not to – “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), for example. And, you shouldn’t misuse the Lord’s name, be unfaithful to your spouse, tell lies or spread gossip about your neighbor, and so on. 

These are prohibitions. We need them, even though our human nature is inclined to resist prohibitions. For a historical example, think of the Prohibition era in American history. Prohibiting the sale of alcohol was well-intentioned by some, but vehemently resisted by many around the country and subverted by the widespread production of homebrewed alcohol. 

We naturally don’t like to be prohibited from doing whatever things we might feel like doing. We love our independence, and yet, as creatures, we are dependent upon our Creator for life and all that fills and sustains it! Everything that we are and have and anticipate comes only from His generous, fatherly hand.

So, if God is so generous and caring, why does He give us these prohibitions? The important thing to remember about the Ten Commandments (and godly laws in general) is that they are given to protect us. God first wants to protect our relationship with Him. He wants to protect our families, marriages, and relationships with our neighbors. And ultimately, God wants to protect our hearts, as He tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

As we focus on the Ten Commandments this summer, we’ll do so through the lens of both God’s Law and Gospel. We’ll consider what the Commandments are prohibiting and what they are protecting. We’ll see how the Commandments show us our sinfulness (and societal sins as well), but we’ll also see how Christ alone fulfills the commandments in our place and provides the life-saving forgiveness and deliverance we all desperately need. 

In general, the Ten Commandments reveal what is good and God-pleasing (God’s will for our lives), and they simply remind us of what is good for us. They don’t provide a path for saving ourselves, but they do show us how to respond to our Father who lovingly saves us through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

These are at least some introductory thoughts about the Commandments. I invite you to join us this summer at St. Matthew as we rediscover our Lord’s “Ten(der) Commandments”!

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

The Next 25 Years

The Next 25 Years

The Pastor's Windshield for May 2023
I look forward to celebrating our church’s 25th anniversary with you this Sun, May 21, 2023. For more than a quarter century, the Lord has worked through so many members of His body to build up this congregation and get us to this point. In Sunday’s service, we’ll remember all the saints of St. Matthew who have faithfully departed in Christ. At the same time, we thank the Lord for the saints alongside us today as we continue to look forward in faith and anticipate the work of the Lord in this place in the years to come. 
The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews painted a picture of the saints who have come before us as well as those running with us when he wrote these words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-4a)
Like the first century Christians to whom those words were originally addressed, we, too, are surrounded by a great cloud of Christian witnesses. We are indebted to them for passing on the faith, generation after generation. And we especially thank the Lord for the saints who established and furthered the ministry of St. Matthew from the late 1990s up to today. Because of their faithfulness, stewardship, and commitment to Christ Jesus and His Gospel, we can not only celebrate the “Silver Anniversary” of our congregation but also look forward to the years to come!
So much has changed in the past 25 years. Back in 1998, who could have predicted the world of smartphones and artificial intelligence that we have today? Or how about the challenges our world has faced? 9-11-01 and the war on terrorism, the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing hostility toward Christians and biblical truth, and so many other changes could not have even been imagined 25 years ago. 
Much will change in the next 25 years. We don’t know exactly what our congregation, community, or society will face in that time. But we do know, of course, that no matter what is to come, our Savior will be the one constant with each of us and this congregation. God will continue to be “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”(Psalm 46:1), just as He has been in ages past.
Confident in Him and in His grace and strength for us in His Word and Sacraments, we forge ahead! Encouraged by the example of brothers and sisters in the Lord who have come before us and who serve together with us, we set our sights on future ministry opportunities. 
But whether we’re living in 1998 or 2038, we continue to “[fix our eyes on] Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and remember His cross and suffering for our salvation “so that [we] may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:4).
Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, St. Paul wrote a similar word of encouragement for us: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Jesus lives and He reigns over us and for the sake of His church! Because of that, we can be sure that our service to Him and to His people is not in vain. Let’s commit ourselves to keep “abounding in the work of the Lord,” praying that for the next 25 years and beyond, this congregation might continue to build upon the one, solid foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord, that the lost may be found and the found may be fed by the Word of God …
Finally, I ask you to join me for a brief Bible Study this Sunday, May 21 from 9:00-9:30am as we do a little dreaming together about the next 25 years!
Peace in Christ,
                        Pastor Kory Janneke