Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Friday, March 23, 2018
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Friday, March 2, 2018
Palm Sunday—Sunday, March 25th: 9:00 am—Divine Service in English and 6:00 pm Divine Service in Spanish. These services will include the distribution of palms, as we remember our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Maundy Thursday—Thursday, March 29th, 6:30 pm— Divine Service. On this holy night, we will recall our Lord’s final meal with His disciples in which He instituted the Holy Communion in which you and I share His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. This service has “fallen on hard times” in our churches in recent years, but it is one of the most sacred and meaningful gatherings of worshipers during the Church Year. Please consider gathering with your Church family for this special service.
Good Friday—Friday, March 30th, 12 Noon through 3:00 pm—Tre Ore Service. This annual service observed together with our LCMS sisters and brothers throughout the Stateline area will be held at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Rockton (511 W Rockton Rd, Rockton, IL ). As the Church keeps vigil at the foot of the Cross during the hours of darkness in our Lord’s Passion, we will hear sermons from the pastors of our churches and experience wonderful anthems presented by our choirs.
Easter Sunday—Sunday, April 1st
7:45 am: Easter Breakfast Potluck—members whose last names begin with “M” through “Z” are asked to bring a breakfast main course item to share, while members whose last names begin with “A” through “L” are asked to bring a breakfast dessert or fruit dish.
9:00 am: Divine Service for Easter
10:30 am: Easter Egg Hunt in the Gym. All children (including high school students) are invited to participate. In the coming weeks, members are invited to bring in wrapped candies which will be placed in the plastic eggs that we have retained from previous years. We are grateful for everyone’s generosity!
6:00 pm: Divine Service for Easter in Spanish.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Our Old Testament lesson for this week is drawn from the book of Jonah. This very short book – only four chapters – is one of the most powerful writings of the whole Old Testament. The common theme running through the book is God’s unrelenting pursuit of sinners. God is not chasing them in order to punish, but in order to save them. The book opens with God calling Jonah to preach a message of judgment to the people of Nineveh – the capitol city of a ruthless enemy of Israel and practically everyone else in their region. While the reader is inclined to conjure up images of doom and gloom (and indeed the message was just that), Jonah knew that this message would bring Israel’s enemies to repentance and save them from the looming destruction which God was planning to carry out. Thus, Jonah defies God and heads off in another direction. God pursues Jonah in his attempt to cut himself off from God. It is rarely a good plotline to kill off your main character in the first act, but to the reader it appears to be the case when Jonah volunteers to have the sailors throw him overboard. However, God is at the center of this book – not Jonah – and God rescues Jonah in a miraculous way by sending a great fish to swallow him up from the waves which would have otherwise drowned him. Incidentally, when the terror-stricken sailors reach land they worship Jonah’s God. After being unceremoniously deposited on the land by the great fish, Jonah is now ready to follow God’s leading and goes to Nineveh with the Word he is to proclaim. Just as he feared, Nineveh repents – from the King down to the people occupying the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Our contemporary phrase “triggered” is a marvelous description for Jonah’s response to all of this. It is unbearable to him to look on as God relents from the disaster which He would have carried out. The book ends with God, Who pursued Nineveh with an intent to forgive, pursuing Jonah again. Jonah’s soul is ensnared by a self-righteous indignation which threatens to rob him of the forgiveness and restoration of a forgiving and reconciling God. The book of Jonah foreshadows the saving work of Christ Jesus upon the Cross through which there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God for all who believe that by His death Jesus has answered for all of their sins. At the Cross, we see the ultimate pursuit of sinners by a forgiving and reconciling God.
In Christ Jesus,
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Friday, December 29, 2017
Friday, December 22, 2017
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Our Advent wreaths lack the symmetry which typically accompanies our worship appointments. For example, there is a candle on each side of the altar and a candelabra on each side of the chancel. We also have a credence table on each side of the chancel and a torch on either side of the pulpit. The Church loves symmetry. Consequently, the Advent Wreath - with its three blue candles and one which is rose-colored - will undoubtedly perplex those who are unfamiliar with our Advent customs. While there is something inside of me which says “they ought all to be blue!”, I love this pink candle that messes up the symmetric beauty which our wreath would otherwise possess. I love it because it announces that our Advent waiting is almost over and the celebration of our Lord’s birth draws ever near. This rose-colored candle is appointed to bear witness to today’s appointed theme – “Rejoice!”
It is for this reason that the third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called “Gaudete Sunday.” The word “gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice” and is the first word in the traditional introit (introductory psalmody establishing the tone for the day’s service). This psalmody is drawn from the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. . . .” (Philippians 4:4-5).
Gaudete Sunday carries with it a much-needed reminder for us during what has become a very hectic and stressful time. In our culture, Christmas has become a spectacle of unrealistic expectations which can drain us of our anticipation, our hope, and our joy. The unrealistic expectations show up in the form of too many events to attend, excessive busyness, and a felt-need to purchase things which we may not be able to afford. I am not so naïve as to believe that it is an easy thing for us to simply say “enough is enough” and immediately cease our participation in all of this chaos. However, I am optimistic enough to think that within the rigors of our holiday schedules we might take a few moments to read through the first two chapters of Luke and reflect on the miracle of a God Who took up our flesh in order to redeem us from our sins that we might live with Him for eternity. It truly is a most wonderful time of year and so I pray that we don’t miss its wonder by allowing ourselves to be swept up in the urgency of less important things. Gaudete!
In Christ Jesus,
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Welcome to the year of St. Mark! Our churches follow an order of Sunday readings called a lectionary. A large number of congregations in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod follow the same three-year cycle of readings that we read here at St. John’s. Since the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in what they highlight from Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection it is fitting for us to read primarily from one of those gospels each year. In this way, we have the year of St. Matthew, followed by the year of St. Mark, and we finish with the year of St. Luke. While St. John’s gospel certainly shares a lot of similarities with the other three evangelists, the highlights which he shares are needed for the narration of certain events every year. Consequently, we read from John during each of the three years in our lectionary cycle. Additionally, since Mark’s gospel is only sixteen chapters in length, it makes sense to flesh out the order of readings with a significant amount of material from John.
Since Mark was a disciple of Peter and traveled with him as he taught and preached, it is not unrealistic to describe his gospel as notes from the preaching of St. Peter. However, it is also clear that Mark has borrowed from Matthew’s accounts in the “first gospel.” While Mark sometimes abbreviates events which Matthew provides in greater detail, there is a “punch” of urgency to Mark’s narration which I thoroughly enjoy. I have often recommended Mark to people who are beginning to read the Bible for the first time. To study Mark is to have one’s whole life placed squarely at the foot of Jesus’ Cross. In fact, as we shall see this year, Jesus is not really known apart from the Cross – even to His disciples.
I would be remiss if I ended this note without saying at least something in brief regarding the Old Testament and Epistle readings for each week. Typically, the Old Testament reading is selected to correspond with the appointed Gospel reading. When we read them both together, we frequently notice that the OT lesson either prophetically foreshadows what is being described in the Gospel lesson or touches upon a similar theme. The Epistle lesson is most commonly a semi-continuous reading from an epistle of the NT. What we mean by “semi-continuous” is that the lessons for a period of three to five weeks will be drawn from the same part of an epistle, but instead of giving us the whole epistle consecutively we turn our attention after a few weeks to a series of readings from another epistle. While these readings often highlight similar themes as the OT and Gospel lessons, their purpose instead is to provide a serial reading from week-to-week.
Blessed Advent to you!
In Christ Jesus,
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Saturday, December 2, 2017
During this first week of Advent, I would like to remind us of the symbolic meaning of the Advent Wreath. The lighting of these five candles (three blue, one rose, and one white) marks our journey from darkness into the brilliant light of our Incarnate Lord. Each week, we light an additional candle on our wreath until Christmas evening arrives - when the whole wreath is illumined. On a practical level, the wreath is arranged like a clock, in that we light first the candle at the nine o’clock position, and then work our way around counter-clockwise – with the Christ Candle in the center. In the Church’s observance of Advent, these candles each have a special meaning. On the first Sunday, we light the “Prophets’” candle, as we remember those messengers whom God sent in days of old to announce Christ Jesus’ coming. The following week, we add the lighting of the “Bethlehem” candle, which reminds us that according to the prophecy of Micah, Christ Jesus was born in Bethlehem. On the third Sunday in Advent, we light the rose colored candle. This candle is a different color in order to highlight the joy announced in the traditional naming of this particular day as Gaudete Sunday. This word (“Gah-dah-tay”), which is fun to say, is from the Latin meaning “rejoice.” This rose-colored candle is the “Shepherds’” candle, and we remember the good news of great joy that was announced to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. On the fourth Sunday in Advent, we light the “Angels’” candle, and recall the angelic announcements delivered to Mary, Zechariah, and Joseph – as well as their appearance to the shepherds announcing Jesus’ birth. Finally, on Christmas eve, we light the “Christ Candle.” This candle – the largest on the wreath – has stood there unlit all through Advent, and on that Holy night it is illuminated for the first time. It symbolizes the coming of our Lord into our midst – who is God with us – the one whom prophets foretold, Bethlehem received, shepherds were told, and angels announced. May your Advent be filled with the hope that is known only when there is something to be anticipated, longed for, and received with great joy!
In Christ Jesus,
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Thursday, August 31, 2017
We can help the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod support our congregations in Texas who are caring for their neighbors . . .
As LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison calls on Lutherans to give generously for Hurricane Harvey recovery, Disaster Response Director Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson talks about spiritual care and walking alongside the Texas district on the long road ahead. For regular updates check www.lcms.org.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Monday, July 31, 2017
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Monday, July 10, 2017
Saturday, July 8, 2017
One of my favorite resources produced by the Church for the Church is the daily devotional Portals of Prayer. In order to place this valuable resource into the hands of our members, we have a standing subscription for both the regular and large-print issues. In fact, each of our homebound members receives a copy of the large-print volume when it comes out each quarter.
I was delighted to learn this week that Concordia Publishing House has now released an app which is available on both the Android and iPhone platforms. You can download the app from either the Google Play or iTunes store for your device. The app enables you to read each day’s devotion right from your smartphone or tablet. The subscription cost is $9.99 per year. If you prefer listening to audio rather than reading, you are in luck, the app has an audio feature in which the prayers, Scripture, and devotion can be read to you. You can also use the app to search the previous 7 years of devotions.
The Android app can be installed on your device by going to https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.cph.portals_of_prayer&pcampaignid=MKT-Other-global-all-co-prtnr-py-PartBadge-Mar2515-1
You can access the iPhone/iPad app by going to https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/portals-of-prayer/id1139206276
If you do not have a smartphone or tablet, but would like to access Portals of Prayer via your computer, please go to https://www.cph.org/portals. You can subscribe to Portals in the Amazon Kindle Store and then read the devotional in your internet browser via the Kindle Cloud Reader. Of course, if you have a Kindle, you can read it on that device as well.
Certainly, we will continue to make the Portals available to you each quarter in its original paper form. It is wonderful to have these digital resources available—particularly as we hope to attract younger readers—but paper is not going away any time soon. I was surprised to learn that this excellent publication has been in print since 1937! What a gift to God’s people!
In Christ Jesus,
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Last Spring, our Church Council approved the video recoding of our Sunday morning services and uploading the videos to the internet. Unfortunately, other parish responsibilities have prevented me from learning how to fully use my video editing software to begin implementing this. In the meantime, Facebook has added live video streaming capabilities which allow people to video something and have it appear live on their Facebook page for others to view. Additionally, those videos are saved to the site and can be viewed later. This has become such a popular medium that I am going to use it for our services rather than Vimeo—which is the site that I was going to use.
Beginning this morning, our worship service will be broadcasted live on the internet via Facebook. This means that members who cannot be present with us can view the service live. Since Facebook stores the videos that are recorded on this platform, people can also go to our site and view them whenever they like. Additionally, these videos are a wonderful outreach tool—in that members can share the videos with others in order to introduce them to our worship services. It is human nature that we feel less apprehensive about trying something new when we know what to expect. Perhaps viewing a service online can be a helpful bridge to their attending worship with us.
We will begin recording following the “sharing of the peace,” discontinue recording during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, and then continue recording at the Nunc Dimittis. Consequently, no one needs to feel self-conscious when they come to the altar rail since the camera will not be recording. Additionally, we will not be panning the congregation. It is very important to me that we take every precaution to safeguard the sanctity of your worship experience, even as we seek to open this experience to others.
Going forward, we will be placing a smart tv in the nursery so that we can livestream the service down there for parents who would like to take their children to the nursey.
The address of our Facebook video archives is: https://www.facebook.com/stjohnslutheranbeloit/publishing_tools/?section=VIDEOS&sort=created_time_descending
This is very long and so it is more likely that people will find our videos just by visiting our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/stjohnslutheranbeloit. A helpful service of Facebook is that all 132 people who have liked our page will receive a notice of each new video. Facebook users will also have the option to share these videos on their own pages. Hopefully this will work without complications . . . .
In Christ Jesus,
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Tomorrow our churches will celebrate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. On this day in the year 1530, two Christian men who were living out their vocations before God as chancellors in Saxony, Christian Beyer and Gregor Bruc appeared before Charles the Fifth, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to present him with a document which outlined what they, their preachers, and their people believed, taught, and confessed before God and man. Mr. Beyer read the document to Charles in its entirety, which took more than two hours. This document, called the Augsburg Confession or Augustana because it was presented in Augsburg, clearly explains what Lutherans teach. It is particularly Lutheran, but because it teaches only what the Bible teaches it is substantially Christian. The purpose of this document was to explain how the teachings of Luther and his colleagues were upholding what the Church had always taught on the basis of Scripture and where errors in the Church’s teaching had been corrected in our churches. This confession is divided into 28 articles—21 outlining what the Bible teaches regarding the Christian faith and 7 explaining errors which had crept into the teaching of the Church in the Middle Ages and how our reformers had corrected them.
Of the 28 articles, the chief article is article 4:
 Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works.  People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins.  God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4 [3:21–26; 4:5]). (Paul Timothy McCain. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: Second Edition (Kindle Locations 620-624). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition).
As Lutheran Christians gear up to observe the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation on October 31, we continue to emphasize that “it’s still all about Jesus.” The sacrifices and work offered by theologians and princes were made in order that Christians would know the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ who died in the place of sinners so that everyone who believes in Him will receive the free gift of everlasting life with God. In observing this special anniversary of the Reformation, we are not celebrating a church split but the recovery of the Gospel among Christians who were without it.
You can read the full text of the Augsburg Confession by going to http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php
In Christ Jesus,
Friday, June 23, 2017
Thursday, June 15, 2017
On Tuesday evening, we had the special privilege of spending time with Pastor Micah Wildauer and his lovely family. Pastor Wildauer and his wife, Robin, have four children: Samuel, Elizabeth, David, and Lydia. God has blessed St. John's so that we are able to contribute toward the missionary work of Pastor Wildauer in Dapaong, Togo, Africa. Our Synod’s website describes his work as follows: “Micah teaches courses in Lutheran theology at The Centre Luthérien d’Etudes Théologiques (CLET), or Lutheran Center for Theological Studies, in Dapaong, Togo, West Africa. CLET is the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Togo (ELT). He also teaches some distance learning and continuing education courses throughout Francophone West Africa as needed. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he coordinates visiting professors to CLET.”
On Tuesday evening, Pastor Wildauer described these activities in detail and also spoke about his family’s experiences in France and Togo. Before they could begin their time in Africa, the Wildauer’s needed to learn French - which is the primary language spoken in Togo. They completed intensive French language studies over several months in France before moving to Togo.
It was wonderful to hear Pastor Wildauer speak some French for us and even offer the evening’s benediction in the language in which his teaching is given. The stories which Pastor Wildauer shared about the school and the students were heart-warming and inspiring. I was surprised to learn that many of the students who come to the seminary are from countries in Africa whose cultures differ from that of Togo, to the extent that their families are as alien as the Wildauer’s. I was also surprised to learn that when most of the students arrive at the seminary they are not able to return home until after their three years of instruction is completed. It was delightful to hear about the increased church-planting that is occurring in Africa because of the work of these students. When you make gifts to St. John’s marked “missions” you are helping to equip students who will take the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ to persons who may never have heard anything about it! This past Sunday, our Gospel lesson from Matthew 28 described Jesus’ plan for disciples making disciples. If Pastor Wildauer were only to go around the villages in the area of Togo preaching, he would reach only those people with whom he came into contact, but by his teaching of the men who are coming to him at the seminary he is multiplying the reach of his message by each student who hears his teaching.
Please pray for the Wildauer’s and ask our Father in Heaven that He will not only bless them but also multiply the impact of their work for the sake of the Gospel and the building of His Kingdom!
In Christ Jesus,