Please read the letter that I am sending out to the Church of Faith Lutheran Church and School
Monday, March 30, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you through our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Imagine your worst fear. What would that be? I am sure that this COVID-19 is bringing out your worst fears. What can I share with you that will bring peace and comfort to you?
HALLELUJAH! CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! HALLELUJAH!
The resurrection of Jesus, our Savior and Lord brings you comfort. He faced death, which is our worst fear. Jesus faced sin, the bare unadulterated sin of the entire world for all the ages. That includes you and I. Jesus faced the worst of the worst; man’s inhumanity to man. Jesus faced it with the strength and power of the entire godhead. And, like a lamb before its’ shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. With a quite strength, Jesus facedown sin’s greatest weapon; fear.
By means of Jesus’ death, which forgave us of all of our sins, and resurrection, which gave us freedom from sin and life now as well as forever, we have the power to face down our worst fear.
Use that power, that comes to us from the Holy Spirit, to open your eyes to the promises of life from God. Use that power to be stewards of our lives right now, in the face of uncertainty and seemingly hopelessness. Be smart about yourselves. Limit the face to face contact. Use the phone to call people and hear their voices. Use the computer to see people you’re talking to; apps like Skype, FaceTime, or zoom.us. There are ways to be insulated but not isolated. Write a letter, send a card. By means of this, you are practicing safe distancing and, we pray, slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
Keep Easter in your minds and hearts. Your new life that Jesus gave you nearly two thousand years ago is powerful, and grace filled. Use it. Be smart.
Your servant in Christ,
It's amazing what a little hope, faith, and power will do for you. God bless you and lift you up in your life with His grace.
Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be mad known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoicing at this time is difficult, even for Christians who have the joy of the Lord in their hearts.
At the same time, rejoicing is the act of a joyous person. It is sharing joy. It comes from a state of being, not an emotion.
For example, happiness. Happiness is like sadness. It is an emotion. It is also an emotion that can go away as quickly as it comes. If I said, "Don't worry, be happy," you would think I was quoting a Bobby McFarren song. You would also think me a bit daft.
And I would. Yet if I asked you to be joyous and rejoice, then you would think that I had gone off the deep end.
Rejoice in the Lord:
Now re-read the passage above. Don't read it silently. Read it loudly. Read it with joy. What key words did you hear God say to you through those words?
Let me spell out a few as you read it aloud again.
Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS
The Lord IS AT HAND.
do not be ANXIOUS about ANYTHING
and the PEACE OF GOD
With everything going on right now, especially now, rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. REJOICE!
Let's spend some time talking about joy. About what things are you joyous today; in this current situation. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
There is a lot being shared about COVID-19. I would love to say that the scare is over. Unfortunately, it isn't, yet.
So What's Happening?
On Sunday afternoon, the CDC, recommended that people restrict gatherings to groups of 50 and less. This has a major impact on our ability to worship as a congregation. For further details from the CDC click the link below.
Then, at 2:30 CDT, President Trump, along with the Coronavirus task force, announced that we restrict group gatherings to 10 people or less for the next two weeks.
So What's Next?
After much dialogue, the Elders of Faith approved going to an online worship service for ONLY:
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 live at 6:30,
Sunday, March 22, 2020 live at 10:30am,
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 live at 6:30pm, and
Sunday, March 29, 2020 live at 10:30am.
Going online with these four services gives us an opportunity to explore creative gathering ideas for the remaining six weeks as we limit gathering to 50 people. More information will be shared with you as soon as possible.
For the next two weeks, Sunday School classes will not meet as well. Any other gathering here at Faith will be held if and only if the attendance is 10 people or less.
There are two questions I know that you are asking right now.
In order to be a part of the online worship experience go to www.twitch.tv. Type in “flchurch” in the search bar at the top of the page. Then click the icon and you will be a part of our service.
And WE WILL gather around God’s Word and His Sacraments when the crisis is abated. At that time, please do not forsake gathering together.
Finally, allow me to share with you some comfort and peace from the Word of God in Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
No matter what we have to do in order to keep ourselves safe from outbreak, know that God has His people and their conditions in His protective care.
So, let us be diligent and take the opportunity to use the time at home for personal family devotion and prayer time.
Your servant in Christ,
Matthew 26:36-37, 40-41:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. ... And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Have you ever been so tired that you couldn't keep your eyes open? All of us have, from time to time. I generally start "nodding off" about 10:00 or so in the evening while watching TV. I honestly inherited that from my parents who, every evening while watching the 11:00 news, would fall asleep in their chairs. They would wake up long enough to catch the weather forecast, then go to bed.
The Flesh is Weak:
It's hard to stay up, especially when you have been going all day long.
Now try to connect to the apostles that night when Jesus was arrested. They had a long day. It is the celebration week of the Passover. They ate the meal with Jesus. Yet it was very different than before. Jesus tells them about the betrayal. Judas walks out and nobody understood why. Jesus then changes the meal from a remembrance of the Exodus to a celebration of His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And now it's late. They walked from the house through the Kidron Valley and back up the Mount of Olives to a spot called, Gethsemane.
They're tired. They're probably thinking, "Jesus, I'll try to stay awake for you. But I'm so tired. Just let me rest my eyes for a couple of seconds. I'm with you, Jesus. But I'm so tired."
We're the Same:
We have problems "staying awake" for Jesus. We lose sight of what we're supposed to be. We lose sight to the new life that Jesus gave. We go back to the ways of the flesh. We go back to the things that our nature wants. We'll say things like, "Jesus, I know that I shouldn't buy that 90 inch TV. I know I don't need it. That money I could give to the Church for Your work. But I really want it. It'll be only one time. ..."
How many times have we "rationalized" our behaviors because we were weak? Too many times. How many times does Jesus come to us by means of the Holy Spirit and chastise us for our "lack of faith" and weakness? Too many times.
And this is Why Jesus Came:
How many times does Jesus have to remind us of our weakness and frailties? How many times does God have to convict us of our sins and selfishness?
Jesus died to forgive us of ALL of our sins. He is the ONE TIME sacrifice for ALL SIN of ALL PEOPLE over ALL TIME. Jesus gave up His body and shed His blood so that you and I have forgiveness.
We have a new life! This life has the strength to say, "I am with You, Jesus. I am living the life You recreated me to have. You gave to me the Holy Spirit who gives me the strength to resist the weakness of my flesh. I have a new life. I will be diligent. I will be strong."
And how does the Spirit strengthen us? He uses His Word, the Holy Bible. He also uses your brothers and sisters in the faith to encourage you when you feel the weakness of the flesh trying to kick in. The Spirit uses Bible studies and small groups. The Spirit uses the gathering of the people of God in worship. Through song, praise, prayer, and proclamation, the Spirit equips you for your daily life. Do not let your weakness of distractions to keep you from coming to be in the presence of God. Join together to receive the pure grace of God.
Want to Know More?
Come and join us each week for Sunday School for all ages at 9:15am. Then stay for worship and the Service of the Word at 10:30am.
And I am always open for conversation. Just comment on the blog.
Pastor Robert Hemsath joined Faith Lutheran Church and School as the Senior Pastor in January 2017. Pastor Hemsath comes to FLC from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waxahachie, TX. He has also served congregations in Aberdeen, ID and Pocatello, ID. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 20 years.