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Looking to Lent - 2023

The Pastor's Windshield for February 2023
Lent is almost here! Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, marks the beginning of Lent. Christians have been observing this season for around 1,700 years!  The word “Lent” means spring. As the natural world revives each spring, in Lent we remember the new life which Christ won for us through His suffering, death, and resurrection. In remembrance of Christ’s 40 days of fasting and facing temptation in the wilderness, the season is 40 days long (not including Sundays). Lent is a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter. With its focus on the cross, Lent can also be a more somber and penitential time of the Church Year. 
I’d like to share some Lenten encouragements with you based on the Apostle Peter’s words in Acts chapter 3. In the second recorded sermon from early Christianity, Peter preaches, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:18-21)
Peter tells us that God kept His promise in sending Christ to suffer as our Savior. As we prepare for Lent, let’s focus on three of the things that Peter also highlights in this passage:  Repentance, Refreshment, and Restoration
Lent is a time to turn to the Lord in repentance. Biblically, repentance means a change of heart. God creates such a change in our hearts when He leads us to turn from our sin and turn toward Him for mercy and forgiveness. To use Peter’s expression, the Lord blots out our sins (Acts 3:19) because Jesus died for those sins at the cross.
Repentance is a gift from God, worked through His Word and Holy Spirit as He leads us to recognize and experience contrition over our sin (both our sinful condition as well as specific sins we’ve committed).
Lent reminds us of the great price that Christ paid to take away our sins: giving His life and shedding His blood for us. The hymn “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” reminds us that if we “think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great” that at the cross we “may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load..." And praise God that Christ has borne the heavy load of our sin!
Lent is also a time to be refreshed in our Christian faith. Peter uses the expression “times of refreshing” in Acts 3:20. This is the only time the Bible uses this phrase, but it seems to refer to the New Testament in which we are living. We also note that this refreshment follows the Lord’s forgiveness. What could be more “refreshing” than the assurance that Christ has removed your sins and paved the path to eternal life for you?
Our Lord continues to refresh us as we receive His Absolution, remember our Baptism, and receive His gifts in the Lord’s Supper. God also offers us refreshment through His people and the encouragement of walking with one another in our common faith and life in Christ Jesus. 
He refreshes us as we grow in His Word, and Lent is an especially great time to begin, renew, or add to your prayer and devotional practices. (Please let me know if you’d like any ideas!) The additional worship services on Wednesdays and during Holy Week also provide opportunities to be refreshed in the Word of our Lord. 
Finally, Lent reminds us of how Christ has restored our relationship with God through His cross. Even in the midst of Lent, we also look forward to celebrating Easter. We celebrate the fact that God raised Jesus from the tomb and restored Him to life. But Peter’s words in Acts 3:21 point us ahead to a greater restoration that is still to come, but which is previewed for us by Jesus’ resurrection. When Christ returns on the Last Day, God will restore all things – both His creation and you and me. He will raise us from our graves and restore us in body and soul to enjoy everlasting life with Him!
Lastly, here’s a little detail that’s worth noting: the upcoming Sundays are described as “in” Lent rather than “of” Lent. Even while we focus on Christ’s suffering and cross for our sins, we continue to give thanks for His Easter triumph and the restoration that is ours because of it.  I look forward to sharing this Lenten journey with you this year!
Peace in Christ,
                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Reaching Out with LASSIE

The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, January 15, 2023
You may remember the fictional dog, Lassie, from the shows, movies, or books that featured her. Lassie was portrayed as a beautiful Collie, a dog breed that’s known for friendliness and affection.
Those positive characteristics of Collies makes “LASSIE” an appropriate acronym for some basic points about Christian outreach. In your witness of Christ in your daily life, the six elements of “LASSIE” would be helpful for you to remember and to practice. “LASSIE” stands for Listen, Ask, Seek, Share, Invite, and Encourage. These elements of relational evangelism are not necessarily sequential but are all positive things to keep in mind as you reach out to loved ones and neighbors with the Gospel. Here are some more thoughts:
Listen – The book of Proverbs emphasizes listening. Proverbs 17:27 says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” You might think that the first step in witnessing would be opening your mouth to talk about Jesus. Hopefully you get to that point, but first, be a listener. Get to know the unique person in front of you.
Ask – Jesus loved to ask questions. For example, He asked His disciples questions like, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-14) You don’t have to start with Jesus’ very direct questions, but as part of your listening, try asking open-ended questions that will help you learn more about the other person and encourage further discussion.
Seek – When Paul was in the city of Athens, he sought a point of connection between the local people and their beliefs and the Christian Gospel. He began his message by referring to an altar in Athens which was inscribed “To the unknown god” (Acts 17:23). As you seek a point of connection for beginning to share the Gospel, perhaps it will be something the person has said in your conversations, something they experienced previously in life, a struggle they’re having, some change in their life, etc.
Share – Peter tells us to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Sharing your Christian faith means telling someone why you have hope. Perhaps you might say, “I have hope because of God’s promises” or “What gives me hope is that Jesus died and rose again for me.” You might also share a specific verse from God’s Word which is a source of hope to you. After all, only our Lord’s Word can truly be called “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Invite – As Jesus was beginning to gather His disciples, Philip appealed to a skeptical Nathaniel with a simple invitation: “Come and see” (John 1:46). We can invite others to “come and see” as well. Perhaps you invite someone to share a meal with you and you witness by offering a meal prayer beforehand. Perhaps you invite someone to attend a church function such as a meal or Bible study. If you think they’re ready to do so, you can invite them to come meet your pastor or to attend a worship service with you.
Encourage – Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). You might encourage this person to continue thinking about something you’ve said or written to them. You’ll be an encouragement by doing such things as following up with them, checking in, sending them a card, emailing them a devotion, letting them know you’re praying for them, or by personally praying with them.
Each of us has room to grow in reaching out to our loved ones and neighbors with the love of Jesus, but keeping in mind these simple ideas gives us a good place to start!
I’d also like to invite and encourage you to attend the “Each One Reach One” Workshop at St. Matthew on Sat, Feb. 11, 2023 from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Rev. Bill Zwick will be with us to lead us in Bible study and discussion while sharing more practical ideas about sharing your faith. Please RSVP to the church office and mark your calendars for this helpful event.
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke

What Christmas is All About

The Pastor's Windshield for Sun, Dec 4, 2022
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is one of the classic TV shows that we watch at our house each Christmas season. Charlie Brown wasn’t having the best Christmas. With all the hubbub and commercialism, he wondered, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” 
What is it all about? The festivities? The parties, concerts, decorations, shopping, baking, ugly sweaters, etc.? Such things may make the season more enjoyable, but there can also be too much activity, too much on the credit card, and too little time to stop and reflect.
What about family? That’s one of the most typical answers: “Christmastime is about family and togetherness.” That’s true, to some extent. It can be a great blessing to gather with loved ones, but for some families, that’s not the case. Either family members aren’t getting along, or it’s simply not possible for everyone to get together. 
Christmas means more than celebrating in a certain place with certain people. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in who we’re celebrating with rather than the One we’re celebrating …
What about neighborliness? “Christmas is about giving” we hear each year. Christmas is a great time for generosity, friendliness, and hospitality, but we’re called to love our neighbors the other 11 months of the year as well. It’s not that we shouldn’t do these caring things for others at Christmas. It’s just that we don’t need to think that this is the whole point of Christmas! 
Christmas really isn’t about what we do!  It’s actually bigger and better than our traditions and celebrations and gift giving.
Leave it to Linus to tell Charlie Brown – and tell us – what Christmas is all about. Linus simply shares the Christmas Gospel,from Luke chapter 2. The angels’ Christmas message is short and sweet, and easy to miss amid our stress and activities but it’s the heart of Christmas:
“‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased.’” (Luke 2:10-14)
The angels have the answer: Christmas is all about Jesus! It isn’t about us or what we do. It’s about a Person, a baby, the Son of Mary, yet also the Almighty Lord – the Son of God!                 
Christmas is about Jesus coming to save you from your sins. That may not seem like much of a Christmas-y message. But Matthew tells us that the Christmas Child will be named “Jesus” because He will save His people from their sins. Unto you is born a Savior, because the world isn’t right, and because you and I aren’t right. We’re not living as God made us to live. Worse yet, we can’t! You and I need a Savior! Without a Savior, we’re stuck in our sin, sin that cuts us off from God and eternity. The Good News is that Christmas is all about Jesus coming for the cross, where He took away our sins!
Christmas is also about Jesus relieving your fears. “Fear not!” doesn’t sound like a very Christmas-y message, but it’s one of the most oft-repeated phrases in Scripture because fear is one of our greatest struggles, both in Bible times and for us today. Fear surroundsthe first Christmas: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds are all afraid when mighty angels suddenly show up.
But in the midst of all this fear, God comes!  And He comes in such a way at Bethlehem that we would not be terrified but comforted by Him. He comes gently and humbly. Jesus comes to us fearful people as one of us – a baby in Bethlehem – and yet as more than one of us – as our Savior from sin and its consequences, including our fears and anxieties.
Whether you have a “Charlie Brown Christmas” or the time of your life, the words of the carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, speak to us this Advent and Christmas:
And you, beneath your heavy load,  By care and guilt bent low,
Who toil along a dreary way,  With painful steps and slow:
Look up, for golden is the hour,  Come swiftly on the wing,
The Prince was born to bring you peace;  Of Him, the angels sing.
Let’s look up this Christmas season to our Prince of Peace, Jesus, and let’s share what Christmas is all about: Unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”  
Peace in Christ,
                  Pastor Kory Janneke

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