God’s Word for the Week:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty4 is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:1-11)
As our Christmas celebrations begin with Christ, we begin with the announcement. Isaiah prophecies about a proclaimer in the wilderness preparing the people for the coming Messiah, also known as the Christ. We know the proclaimer as John the Baptizer.
John proclaimed that we are sinners. We are people who need the Savior, who need the Messiah. John also shared with us, “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.” God declared after the baptism of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.” Here is the Shepherd of the sheep. He is here.
Will you come and worship Him? Join us for Divine Service, Bible study, and service to the needs of the community.
Oh Come to Jesus:
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64:1-9)
Christmas Begins with Christ:
One of the aspects of our time with God this Advent and Christmas seasons is to highlight the theme, “Christmas Begins with Christ.” (See note below) This coming Sunday, we will focus on the topic of “O Come to Jesus.” Isaiah is letting us know about the time when God will come down and be amongst His people. And that scares us because we know who we are; sinners. And we know God. That knowledge scares us. And we, like Isaiah, cry out, “Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever.”
Come, O Lord, and bring Your salvation to us. Bring Your life for us in Jesus. And that is what we celebrate this season. Open our hearts to Your life so that we will come to You and offer here Your worship and praise.
Will you come and worship Him? Join us for Divine Service, Bible study, and service to the needs of the community.
You know, it is interesting how things in life continue to change. The more that we want it to stay the same, the more things change.
Think about Worship:
We are so used to being in a Sanctuary with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet with this COVID-19 thing happening, we had to get use to online worship led by Pastors to empty houses. We have, and continue to use, www.twitch.tv/flchurch as our site for our online services.
After we started to get used to online only, then things changed to partially open houses of God. It started out at 25 percent of capacity with all the physical distancing. We have to, and continue to, make sure the Sanctuary is sanitized. We could only have 68 people in the Sanctuary at a time. That was tough. We added a second service so that everyone who was worshiping in God's house could come back in.
It didn't work out that way. Some came back. Most stayed with what they had gotten used to. Most of the people participated online still.
The restrictions for houses of God have relaxed again. We still have to maintain the six foot distancing between family units. We still can only use every other pew. We still have to sanitize everything. BUT now, we are open for more people to come together in person. So now we are back to one service that begins at 10:30am.
And what will be the result?
We don't know yet. We hope that members and guests that were coming before COVID-19 will start to return to the house of God.
I understand that it will take a little while for things and attendance to rebound and turn the other way; turn to the way of ministry again. To turn toward a new normal and a new blending of ways that we minister to people of the world.
And Maybe It's Time:
For a new and bold way to minister to people. We live in a digital age. We live in an age where people can see and hear pastors and teachers from their homes, as well as the house of God. Maybe it's time to look past "the way we've always done it before" and begin to embrace being the people where the love of Christ lives.
What Do you Think?
Is it time to embrace a new method of being Church, the people of God? Is it time to look at new opportunities to equip the faith, encourage the hope, in order to engage with love? Let's talk about.
Make a comment.
Monday, May 6, 2020
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
Hallelujah! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Opening Up for Worship:
I have some new information that needs to be shared with you as we prepare for Sunday’s worship services. I am looking forward to seeing you then.
Christ's church, the people of God where the love of Christ lives, is essential. The space, Faith Lutheran Church, both online and in person, is essential. And as an agency of God in Christ Jesus, we are opening up. WITH THIS LIMITATION.
1. Only allowed 25% of room capacity
We can only seat 63 total people in a worship service. This includes the people who need to be in attendance like musicians, sound booth people, Pastor James and myself. That means 53 people are allowed in at one time. That doesn’t allow all of us to be together. SO...
2. Need will have two services in order to allow for all to attend
One at 8:00am and at 11:00am. BECAUSE OF THE LIMITED SPACE, YOU...
3. Need to “make a reservation” for a worship service
Making sure that you have space for either worship service this Sunday, is easy. Go to https://dlwilliamsconsulting.eventsmart.com/events/may-10th-worship/ This link is on our website at www.faithhuntsville.org as well as our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/faithhuntsville
There is a lot of necessary information for you to read prior to registering. Please read it all before registering. Then follow the instructions.
You don’t think you can do that? Don’t be worried. Call the church office to help you out.
4. What Do We Need to Do?
We will use the entrance by the church offices ONLY. There will be a Meeter by the doors outside making sure it is safe for you and others to enter. When you arrive, you will be asked questions about your health. The questions are.
If so, we may have to ask you to not attend worship for at least two weeks. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please do not attend and check in with your doctor.
If you need to use the restroom, we will have a restroom host to open restrooms to one person at a time.
Once you are in the Narthex, we ask you to respect the physical distancing by staying between eight to ten feet apart. There are places where to stand marked on the floor. While you’re waiting to be seated, turn and talk to your “neighbor” and say, “Hi, It’s good to see you again.” An Usher will be standing by the center doors waiting for your arrival. From there you will be lead to a location in the Sanctuary for you to sit.
5. Wear a Mask challenge:
For added safety for you and others, we are asking you to wear a mask to worship until further notice.
It doesn’t have to be a specialized mask or hospital type mask. It can be made out of cloth. For example, I have one that is a former t-shirt.
So, let’s make this a fun challenge. Let’s see how many who are wearing a mask with a Christian theme on the front of it. It can be purchased or homemade. Let’s have some fun.
6. Will continue to livestream services
It is fine IF YOU DO NOT feel comfortable joining your brothers and sisters in the same space. We do not want to put any undo pressure on you nor put you at risk, to share the same space. If you in the “at risk” category, we want to tell you, “STAY HOME.” Just because we can meet together, doesn’t make it the right thing to do for you. We will ALWAYS offer the service of God online through www.twitch.tv/flchurch or use the app on your smart device. And when you’re ready, please join us.
It is our goal to be clear as crystal with you about everything. So if you have a question about any of the above information, call me at 214-681-8765 or at the church office, text me at the previous number, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you very soon.
Thank you for your patience and love.
God be with you, always,
1st Peter 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,...
Here is this phrase again. Jesus spoke it to Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:3. What does it mean? Nicodemus was confused by the phrase. He thought that he had to be physically reborn; like to become a baby and start over. Both Jesus and Peter do not refer to a physical rebirth. A physical rebirth will leave all of us in the same condition in which we started.
And what condition is that? Sinful, that's what. Flesh gives birth to flesh. Flesh is sin. It is the condition that every human being is in. And the sinful condition leads to death and separation from God.
I don't want to be separated from God. And that is why is it SO IMPORTANT for you and me to realize this rebirth of which Peter and Jesus speak has nothing to do with me and you. I has everything to do with God.
Look again at what Peter says, "According to His great mercy, He HAS CAUSED US to be born again." (Emphasis mine) This rebirth is not from ourselves. It is a gift from God. It is a living hope. It is something that is beyond ourselves. It is something that COMES FROM GOD. And this living hope came to us by means of and through Jesus' resurrection. Because He lives, we will live also with Him.
New Life that We Have:
When we believe in what Jesus did for us, we have a new life. This means the old was crucified. It is dead and buried. It was buried with Jesus. And there the old human sinful life stays. From that a new person, man and woman, boy and girl, arises from the grave. We arise from the grave forgiven and reborn. No longer does the sinful human nature and its' traps and will and schemes hold us. No longer does the devil influence us. He is DEAD AND BURIED along with our sinful nature. Jesus crushed that snake's head.
New Life we Will Have:
And this rebirth and new that we have is an inheritance that God gives to His children. To you and I who believe, this new life, this forever life, is kept for us in heaven. It is perfect, eternal, unspoiled, and it continues to shine brightly. We, by means of faith, lay claim to it. And we wait for it.
And we wait for it when we serve God. We don't sit on our hands waiting for Jesus to come back. We wait for it by living with the living hope of life. We have great opportunities to show and share this life with those who do not yet realize it.
Is to discern how to live in this born again life, especially in the time and challenges we face now. And let's dialogue on what and how we live in this new life today. Will you join me in conversation?
But the angel said to the women, “Stop being afraid [translation mine], for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay."
Soon and Very Soon:
In five days we will celebrate the climax to the greatest story ever told. We will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We will celebrate that Jesus died to save us from sin, death, hell, and the influence of Satan. We will celebrate that Jesus rose to life again and through His resurrection, we have life with Him now as well as forever.
In five days we will experience the great mercy that is God through Jesus.
Gloom and Sadness:
Yet for Mary and all the other followers of Jesus at the time, Easter was a distant hope. It wasn't a hope even. It was more of a wish. To them, at that time, after Jesus was betrayed, arrested, denied, abandoned, and crucified. To them, at that time, there was only a sliver of hope left. Their friend, their teacher, and their Lord was dead.
Yet Mary went to the tomb. It was her intent, along with the other women recorded in the other Gospel accounts, to finish the burial process that Joseph and Nicodemus could not finish. Much to her surprise the guards had fainted, the tombstone was rolled away, and an angel of the Lord was sitting on it waiting for her.
The Good News:
The angel, who was recognizing the fear and confusion welling up in her, said to her, "Stop being afraid, Mary. Let me replace that fear with joy by inviting you to see where Jesus used to be. He is no longer dead. He is alive! Go and look. Experience joy by knowing that your friend, your teacher, and your Lord IS ALIVE!"
Did Mary's fear "just disappear?" Not right away, no. As Matthew records later in the account, Mary and the others left the tomb with "fear and great joy!" So when did the fear finally pass? When she "ran" into Jesus. Jesus used the same phrase, "Stop being afraid." Once she met Jesus, face to face, did the fear finally pass. You can sense the calm that came over her after she was with Jesus. It could have been like the weight of the world was now off of her shoulders. She could finally be at peace.
Grace and Love Override Fear:
And it is the same with us. In many ways the fear we experience at the threshold of the unknown tries to dominate our lives. The ability to think through a situation or problem goes away because we are afraid more than we are thinking.
What are the unknowns? In the case of this COVID-19 scare, "How many more have to get sick and die?" "How much longer is this economic nightmare going to last?" "Am I going to catch it and die?"
That is why is so wonderful to hear God and His angel say to us, "Stop being afraid." God knows that we are afraid. He also knows that there is faith in each believer as well. So, when He says to us, "Stop being afraid," He is saying to you and I, "I know you're afraid. You don't have to be any longer. I am with you. I have saved you. I will bring down your anxiety and lift up your faith and trust in Me to take you through this trial. I am sending the Holy Spirit to you to remind you of all I have done for you. Now, let go of your fear and let me have it. I have you."
With God saying that to us, what great joy that brings. This joy permeates our entire being and gives to us His peace, that passes all of our fears and understanding. It does, and will, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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.