Desperate for One True Word

Biblical Text: Luke 3:1-15

What this sermon attempts to do is recreate the experience of John the Baptist. For a long time I don’t think this was really possible. We were too comfortable. But today, maybe we can start to hear John. Today we might just be able to listen to a Word in the wilderness.

Virtual Bulletin – 12/5

December 5th, 2021 – 2nd Sunday in Advent

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Dec 6th – Dec 12th

Monday………………..            Nicholas of Myra, Pastor (i.e. St. Nick)

Tuesday………………..           Ambrose of Milan

                                                 7:00pm             Elder’s Meeting

Wednesday…………….            2:30pm            Confirmation

Thursday……………….           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

LEADERSHIP ENCOURAGEMENT

As a church we are all accountable to each other before God. When we know of someone who is finding it difficult to attend services because of age or illness, or maybe even someone who has distanced himself or herself from our fellowship here at St. Mark, we congregants, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should be willing to step up and help a fellow Christian who needs encouragement. An encouraging, hand-written note or an email or a quick phone call can go a long way to give someone a spiritual boost. Maybe, as the holiday season is upon us, we might consider adding some church folks to our card list. In particular, remember to pray for folks who we have not seen in a very long time. “Praying…begging and pleading for all the saints” Ephesians 6:18

We are in the process of updating our church directory which is a rather tedious process. Be patient, it will be published in due course. However, in the meantime, if you wish to reach out to someone and are not sure of his or her current information, contact me so I can get it for you. The information that I have is reasonably accurate. 

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

John Donne in our time is best remembered as a poet, maybe for the Holy Sonnets. In his time, Donne was a preacher. His most common pulpit was St. Paul’s cross, the open air pulpit outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Although he was also often a preacher to the Royal household of Charles I. I’ve been dipping into and out of his sermons for a while now, they are great works of meditation. But I read one recently that I wanted to share some from. It was preached to King Charles in April of 1625 on Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” England was still in the middle of Reformation which would eventually lead to Charles losing his head in the English Civil War. But already the foundations seemed to be quaking.

Donne’s first words reflected on the verse and those before it, such that “until the foundations are being destroyed, the righteous should be quiet…now this should not prepare, this should not incline any man, to such indifference, as that it is all one to him,” but that “we remain awake, active and diligent, in assisting truth and resisting all approaches of error.” It was a call to faith in God and clear charitable eyes toward our neighbors. “In a word, we charge them with uncharitableness that they will so peremptorily exclude us from Heaven, for matters that do not pertain to Foundations.” Luther would call it “putting the best construction on everything.”  Not everything is truly foundational.

But his second part addressed the Christian calling when foundations are being destroyed. Donne identified four houses, and four foundations, in which God dwells: Church, State, Family, Individual Soul. If the walls of one collapse, there remain the walls of the those inside. Of course THE foundation of all is Christ, who cannot fail, but David in the Psalm was speaking of the foundations we build on that rock. And Donne identifies each: the Scriptures, the law, peace, and conscience. When these foundations are falling, what does the Christian do?

There is lots of wonderful wisdom in his treatment of each, especially in the individual soul portion where Donne sounds like Luther in reminding us that God has pardoned many greater sinners then ourselves “don’t think that he made you because he lacked someone to damn”, but this brought tears as it is the heart of the gospel. “All this then the righteous can do, though the foundations be destroyed. He can withdraw himself if the duties of the place make not his residence necessary. If he must remain, he can pray, and then he can suffer, and then he can rejoice in his sufferings, and he can witness that God is able to deliver us, and he will, but if not, we will serve no other gods. For the righteous hath forevermore this refuge, though the foundations be destroyed, all cannot be. He is safe in God, and then he is safe in his own conscience.”

The church might betray the scriptures, the state might adulterate the law, the family peace might be ripped apart, but by grace through faith in the work of Christ, we have a clean conscience before God Almighty. Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee. And while there, pray. It is not beyond the Father’s care.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Starting a New Series – “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 9th/10thth commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Next Year!
  • Sunday Morning: During Advent we will be looking at the OT/Gospel reading that is not the sermon text. Come Join!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!

Anticipation

Biblical Text: Jeremiah 33:14-16

It’s the first Sunday in Advent. The Gospel text is traditionally Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry, which is Jesus the King coming to Jerusalem. This sermon is based off of the Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah. Jeremiah is traditionally the prophet of doom and lamentation. But here he tells of fulfillment. God fulfills his promises. He fulfilled them to the heirs of Jacob. There was a greater fulfillment for Israel, a fulfillment we receive by faith. But behold, the days are coming when they will be fulfilled again. This sermon retells the covenants God has promised to his people.

Thanksgiving

Biblical Text: Colossians 1:1-17, Small Catechism 1st Article

Thanksgiving in connected to creation. It is also connected to the New Creation in Christ. Either everything falls apart, in which case Thanks and Praise are offensive, or is all hold together in Christ – the one thought whom is was all created and the firstborn of the new creation. Choosing to give thanks, is siding with creation which displays the love of God at all times.

Christ the King

Biblical Text: Mark 13:14-23, 24-37

The day on the church Calendar is the last Sunday of the Church Year, sometimes called Christ the King. The sermon completes our reading through Jesus’ last things sermon from Mark 13. You might call it the distinction between the end of a world, a time of tribulation, and the end of the world, the deliverance of Christ the King. The first of those we should be able to recognize by the “sign of the fig tree.” The last of those, we do not know, but we await that day. For that day is the day the Kingdom comes in its fullness. The Day of our deliverance.

Virtual Bulletin – 11/21

November 21, 2021 – Last Sunday of the Church Year

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 22nd – Nov 28th

Tuesday………………..            Clement, Pastor

                                                 2:30pm            Confirmation

Wednesday…………….            7:00pm             Thanksgiving Service

Thursday……………….           Thanksgiving

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

Clement is from what is called the first generation of Church Fathers. The Apostolic Age formally ends with the death of the Apostle John circa 100 AD, but John was the exception.  Most of the Apostles had died martyrs’ deaths by the 60s AD. They had established churches and “appointed elders (Titus 1:5) in every town.”  The three large figures immediately after were: Polycarp (who followed John), Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome who followed Peter. There is one surviving accepted letter from Clement to the Church of Corinth that for a spell was read as scripture. The main subject of that letter dealt with divisions within the church over leadership. (Some things never change. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians partly about that as well (1 Cor 3).) And Like Paul, Clement urged the Corinthians to “fix their eyes on the cross of Christ.” Clement, like most of the apostles, died a martyr around 100 AD. He was first exiled from Rome and then executed by being attached to an anchor and tossed into the sea. The anchor cross is often called a St. Clement Cross.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Jude is a short letter that probably should get more attention. It appears once in the lectionary, today, and we read a spare 5 verses. Those 5 verses capture the encouragement but neglect why the encouragement is needed. Jude 3 is the point of the letter: “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Why is such contention necessary?  That is verse 4: “certain people have crept in unnoticed…who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny Christ.” Verses 5-16 give the examples and why this contention for the faith is important. Although saving Israel out of Egypt, that generation lacked faith to enter the promised land and so died in the wilderness.  Angels having once been given positions of immense authority were locked in chains waiting for judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah indulged unnatural desires. Yet given these examples of God’s justice to those who fell away from the truth, their actions are repeated today. “People, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme holy ones…these people blaspheme all that they don’t understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”  Unreasoning animals instinctively know things that we by the supposed use of our reason deny. Why do we deny basic truths of creation? Because we have our own dreams. Does any of that sound familiar?

What are we to do? Contend for the faith. We have been told that this is always the case. “In the last time – the age of the church – there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions…but you, beloved…keep yourself in the love of God…have mercy on those who doubt, save others.” That summary of the vocation of all Christians resonates with me. First, watch yourself. James would say not many should be teachers. Paul would say “watchout for yourselves lest you fall (Gal 6:1).” Then, remaining in the love of God, extend that love to others by showing mercy.  Peter’s comment “love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)” comes to mind. Because it was the love of Christ shown to us when we were scoffers that saved us. Likewise, we don’t know who might be snatched out of the fire by the love and mercy we show them.  What is contending the for the faith?  It surely includes arguments, that is what Jude is doing, but the greatest contention is living it. Live it yourself, and then extend mercy and love toward others. This is the example of Christ.

Lord, you are able to keep our feet from stumbling and to present us blameless before your glory.  Keep us in the faith once delivered to the saints.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Off Thanksgiving; Starting a New Series – “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 8th commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  December 2nd?
  • Sunday Morning: Off this weekend, last day of box collection!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

THANKSGIVING EVE SERVICE: 7 PM on Wednesday

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

Thank you to everyone who helped this year. We still have two collection days, today after service and Monday morning.  That Sunday afternoon is usually a blitz, so if anyone is willing to help.

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!

Two Ditches of the 2nd Coming

Biblical Text: Mark 13:1-13

It is the end of the church year. Two Sunday’s hence, the start of Advent, is the church new year. And in the last two Sundays the texts turn to last things. In the year of Matthew you get the parables. In the year of Mark you get Jesus’ sermon itself from Mark 13. Which means it is the perfect time to preach the doctrine of the 2nd coming. There probably isn’t a more misunderstood doctrine with worse effects on Christian life than the 2nd coming. And the text itself isn’t easy to comprehend as there are at least 5 threads running through it, some of them very Jewish, others off in the future. What this sermon does is point out the two ditches that we often get stuck in when contemplating the 2nd Coming and why they are ditches. We shouldn’t necessarily feel back about these, because they are perennial. They are what the disciples wanted to turn towards. The second part of the sermon listens to Jesus’ answer to those disciples as they tried to steer him into the ditch. Jesus this week explains what it means for a Christian to watch or “be on your guard”. Once you are “on guard”, then next week he turns to some actual answers that we can hear about those last things.

Virtual Bulletin – 11/14

November 14, 2021 – 25th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 15th – Nov 21th

Monday- Monday……              OCC Collection Week (M-F 4-7PM, S 9am – noon, S noon – 3PM)

Monday………………..             6:00pm             Women’s Group

Wednesday…………..               2:30pm            Confirmation

                                                 7:30pm             Church Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Friday:………………….           Elizabeth of Hungary

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

Why does the Lutheran Church set aside a day to remember an 11th Century noblewoman? There are three reasons. The first is her example of Christian Charity. Before they were all merged, there were many hospitals named “St. Elizabeth’s” because of this Elizabeth, who spent the latter part of her life and her dowry building and running a hospital in Marburg and personally caring for the sick. The second is that her home in married life was the Wartburg Castle. The same Wartburg that sheltered Luther in hiding and translating the scriptures. The third is the toughest one. Elizabeth, after the tragic death of her husband, had pledged obedience to her confessor, a priest named Konrad. Konrad demanded an ascetic life and works to the point that Elizabeth died at age 24. During those 24 years she had three children, founded two hospitals and cared for untold sick often while managing the affairs of Thuringia. Elizabeth to the Lutheran is a proto-reminder of what can be lost when the freedom of the gospel is usurped. Repentance is not earned by obedience to ascetic acts handed out by priests but is itself the grace of God. Her hospital work came before Konrad. It was his usurping that brought it short.

LEADERSHIP ENCOURAGEMENT – by John Bayer

Once again we are nearing the close of another year when all kinds of pressures from the world around us begin to close in on us.  Thanksgiving dinner planning, Christmas shopping and all the holiday stress that goes along with it and, lest we forget, tax season are all just around the corner.  In our rear-view mirror though, is the final congregational meeting of 2021 signaling a general sigh of relief that that’s over, things are fine and no one nominated me for anything. Some have even learned to “peace out” rather than take that chance. 

Congregational meetings aren’t just business meetings or the ill-run staff meetings we may experience at work.  They are the people of God who have gathered, having selected biblically-qualified candidates to fill leadership roles, to think hard about the relationship between what ministry costs in time and money, and where we can use our talents and first fruits for Christ and the advancement of his ministry here at St. Mark.  We need to look long and deep at ourselves and ask, “am I giving my all to the cause of Christ here at St. Mark?”

Please be in prayer for our new leaders that they will lead in their respective positions in a manner worthy of the banner we carry.  Pray that they will execute their tasks in a manner that is above reproach and that their primary motivation is to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ the founder and sustainer of this congregation.  Do not neglect praying for Pastor Brown as he ministers to us.

[Elder John Butterazzi; Elder Katie Stanton; Elder Abel Acuña; Elder John Bayer Recording Sec. Ellen Brown; Financial Sec. Lisa Acuña; Treasurer, Wayne Warriner]

A big thank you goes out to my son, Michael, for his service to this congregation during the past two years.  I thank God we have a pastor and a president who were faithful to our Lord and Savior by keeping our doors open during a very difficult and challenging time in our lives. 

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

To recall, Hebrews is a collection of arguments for how Christ is greater than fixtures of the Israelite religion. Christ is higher than the angels. Christ is greater than Moses. Jesus is our great High Priest. When you have a change in priesthood, you have a change in covenant. It is this change in covenant that is being emphasized. “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities. (Heb 10:1).”  The law demanded sacrifices. The rounds of sacrifices continued year after year, season after season. But with the coming of Christ, those sacrifices were stopped. Until the coming of Jesus, “every priest stood daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin (Heb 10:11).” The sacrifices were but a shadow of the reality. The priest, the lamb slain, the blood on the altar, none of them removed the sin, although they were mandated. But like the law everywhere, they pointed to fulfillment. There would be a priest, a lamb, and blood more precious than that of bulls.

“When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb 10:12,14).” The single sacrifice of Christ has done for us what the continuing sacrifices never did, made us holy. And the holy have no need of further offering for sin (Heb 10:18), we can enter into the holy places (Heb 10:19).  Those holy places are no longer a Holy of Holies with the glory of God residing, but the presence of God himself. Jesus bid us to pray “Our Father”. He gives us himself from the altar. The Holy Spirit deigns to dwell with us most lowly by the pure water. And this communion with God – Father, Son and Spirit – has always been by faith. It was promised to Abram long ago, and he believed. “And he who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).” So, as the Day draws nears for full communion, let us hold fast to the confession of our hope, stirring each other up in love and good works. And may our faith stand in that day.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Starting a New Series – “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 7th commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  November 18th
  • Sunday Morning: The burial of Jesus and the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark .  Come Join!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

WOMENS GROUP

Monday @ 6 PM, here. Packing some shoe boxes

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

Collection week is November 15th – 22nd. (A week from Monday through the following Monday.) If you might consider helping this year.  Jobs: Greeting, Counting, Packing, Carrying. A sign-up sheet is up.  Even an hour would help.

Monday – Friday (15th – 19th): 4pm – 7 pm; Saturday 20th: 9am – Noon; Sunday 21st: Noon – 3 PM; Monday 22nd: 7am – 10am

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!