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February 2019 Pastor C

In a few short weeks, the Church will be moving into the Season of Lent.  The forty days of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Pasion Sunday, which is the beginning of Holy Week.
 
Lent is traditionally a time for meditation, reflection, and self-examination.  It is a time for us to “count the cost for my sins.”  For you see it was not the Jewish leadership, it was not the Romans, but it was our sins that put Christ on the cross.  Had we not rebelled against God and his Word, there would have been no need for Christ to suffer and die on the cross.
    
Sadly, the Church is losing the significance of Lent.  Church “gurus” tell us that people don’t want to hear about sin, sacrifice, and death.  They want to hear a message that is happy and joyful.  Don’t “beat me up” by talking about sin, sacrifice, and death.  Those things turn people off.
   
Many churches skip Lent altogether.   They go right from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  “Don’t weigh me down, don’t burden me with a crown of thorns, nails, and crosses.”  “Instead, I want to be told that I am a good person and that if I believe in Jesus, nothing bad will ever happen to me and I will become rich and famous.”
 
Hmmm... How does one justify that kind of thinking, preaching, and teaching with Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, let him pick up his cross and deny himself and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”?
 
The heart of God’s Word is that of “sacrificial love.”  A sacrificial love that is displayed when a Father gives up his Son to pay for the sins of all people.  A sacrificial love that is displayed when the Son says, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
 
Lent is not so much a time for grieving, but a time to reflect and meditate on God’s unfailing, sacrificial love for someone like me.  As the old hymn goes, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
 
Lent is a time to understand that I did nothing to receive God’s grace, rather I am a recipient of God’s grace because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
   
To bypass Lent and go directly to Easter is to fail to understand exactly what it cost God to save us from sin and death.

Veritas, 
Curt

January 2019 Pastor C

“The NEW YEAR is one of the most important things in life. Comes to us very clean, it’s perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes that we have learned something from LAST YEAR.”

For far too many of us the things that drive us, the things that give us meaning, the things we believe will bring us satisfaction are wealth, fame, and power. Since early on we were told that wealth, fame, and power were the signs of success. The reality is that these things are what the “world” says are important. Jesus said, “You are in the world, but don’t be of the world.” What Jesus meant by that was to place the meaning of your life in something far greater than what the world has to offer. The Word of God tells us that if we want to walk in the light, instead of stumbling around in the dark, we should embrace the “3 F’s.”

1. FAITH in God. It means worshipping, not when there is nothing else to do or when it is convenient, but worshipping regularly every Sunday or on Wednesday, spending time in God’s Word, spending time daily in prayer, spending time in daily devotions. Draw closer to God in 2019.

2. FAMILY. That means making quality time for our families. Sharing our values, our beliefs, and our FAITH with our families. The faith is to be passed on parent to child, parent to child. The less time we, as parents, spend in our relationship with God, the less our children will spend with God, and their children’s children, until one day there may be no more faith.

3. FRIENDS. That means developing friendships with other people who share our values and our FAITH. Choose friends wisely. Choose friends who are walking in the light of God. Friends who will support you and your FAITH, not people who will lead you away from God and His truth. Friends who have your “SIX” and will not betray you.

This NEW YEAR comes to us clean and perfect. For 2019, let the 3 F’s lead you into God’s LIGHT!

Veritas,

Curt

December 2018 Pastor C

The wind blows sharp and cold off the “Lake” as you walk along Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in December. But thankfully, as you walk down the stairs to Lower Wacker Drive, the wind is no longer a factor.

I noticed the flickering Christmas lights and the yellowing tinsel that hung, as a celebration of the season, in the window of the Billy Goat Tavern. As I entered I looked around and saw the usual crowd. The Luciano brothers who ran a midnight auto supply out of their garage, Aldreman Jack Hayes, who never met a bribe he didn’t take, and Mary Jane Schmidt, who never met a man she didn’t like.

Back in a corner booth were my two good friends, Martin Luther, the reformer, and Philip Melancthon, writer of the Augsburg Confession. As I walked to the back booth I held up three fingers and Jack, the bartender, nodded.

I stood at the booth watching Melancthon reading the “Trib,” and Luther working on his Christmas Eve sermon. Melancthon peered over the “Trib” and said, “What happened to our Cubs? Where was Bryant’s head and what was up with Baez and the big ‘hug”?

Luther didn’t look up from his notes and said, “Sit down, Joe. Good to see you.” Jack brought us our three beers and we toasted. “To 2019 and may the Christ return!”

“Got your Christmas sermon done, Joe?” asked Luther. “I’m struggling,” I replied. “How do you take the same old thing and make it relevant?”

Luther gave me a sideways look and said, “What is wrong with you? Think of the angel’s message, Joe. ‘Today a savior has been born to you.’ It is new, it is refreshing, it is a hope; a sure and certain hope that God has, is, and will act again. The world is dying. People are looking for hope in all the wrong places. It is up to us, the faithful, to declare that the coming of Christ in Bethlehem was not a one time event, but a foretelling, a promise of God’s Kingdom coming in its completeness. The message is that Christ came to fulfill all your hopes, and He is coming again to make all things right and new. That’s the message of Christmas.”

I looked up, and for the first time I saw hope in the eyes of all that were in the tavern.

I left the Billy Goat realizing that Christmas was not a one time event, but a promise of what is to come.

A blessed Christmas to all!

Veritas, Curt

November 2018 Pastor C

   On October 3, 1789 President George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving for November 26, 1789.  In part he said: 
 
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…” 
 
Less than a hundred years later, President Abraham Lincoln in his Thanksgiving Proclamation said this:
 
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” 
 
Too often we forget or just take for granted all the blessings we have received from God almighty over this past year.  We tend to focus on the things that have gone wrong and totally forget to thank God for all that He has given us out of a gracious heart.  So, where does one start in offering thanks
 
If you are reading this, you ought to give thanks to God for another day of life, because tomorrow is promised to no one. 
 
If you had a roof over you head, you ought to give thanks to God. 
 
If you had clothes on your back and food on the table today, you ought to give thanks to God.
   
If you and your family are in reasonably good health, you ought to give thanks to God. 
 
If during this past year you had the opportunity to speak your mind, cast a vote, or worship in any way you chose, you ought to give thanks to God.
 
If your children and grandchildren are happy and healthy, you ought to give thanks to God.
 
If you have income from a job or from a pension, you ought to give thanks to God. 
 
If you have a friend who will put up with your griping, will comfort you when you mourn, will laugh with you when times are good, then you ought to give thanks to God.
   
Perhaps the Psalmist said it best in Psalm 106:1 - “Praise the Lord!  O give THANKS to the Lord, for He is good; for his stead fast love endures forever.” 
 
Veritas,
Curt

October 2018 Pastor C

Ask someone what is significant about October 31, and the vast majority of people will say, “Halloween.” The reality is that October 31 marks the five hundred and first anniversary of the Reformation. A priest, named Martin Luther, hung 95 theses (discussion statements) on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The goal of these discussion statements was to have the Church take a serious look at itself and see if it was being true to the teachings of the Word of God.

Every institution, including the church, needs to take a serious look at itself from time to time to see if it is being true to its foundational principles. Luther believed that the foundational principle of the Church was, and is, the Word of God. One of the phrases that came out of the Reformation was that of “Sola Scriptura” which means “Scripture Alone.”

The guiding force, the “true North,” for the Church is the Word of God and the Word of God alone. The Church’s sole reason for existing is to follow and proclaim the Word of God. Everything that the church does is driven by the Word of God and is done for the express purpose of proclaiming the Word of God.

Jesus’ command to the Church was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”

The mission statement of Immanuel Lutheran Church is quite simple. “To Proclaim, Live, and Share God’s Word.” Our sermons, our Sunday School, our youth, and our educational programs are grounded in the fact that we have, are now, and always will proclaim God’s Word and God’s Word alone.

“To live,” means that the decisions we make in life, are guided by God’s Word and by God’s Word alone. Living it out means we are kind, caring, forgiving, and loving. The Word of God literally affects me in the way I relate to others, my work, leisure time activities, and the list goes on and on.

“To share,” means that I support those who go to the ends of the earth bringing God’s Word to those who have never heard it. It means providing for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. “To share” also means that I am not ashamed to share my faith, my belief in God with others.

If the Word of God is not the final authority on all matters of faith and life, are we the Church?

Veritas, Curt 

September 2018 Pastor C

In this month of September we celebrate a holiday called, Labor Day. It’s original intent was to celebrate, to pay homage to the laborer: i.e. the factory worker, the electrician, the stone mason, the assembly line worker, etc. But over the years it has kind of lost its original intent.

So, to kind of bring us back to what this holiday is really all about, let me tell you about a phone call I got the other day from a good friend. I recognized the number, it was my good friend and mentor Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer. We talked about family, work, baseball, and what was up with these last three Star Wars movies.

“Joe,” he continued, he always called me Joe, “I think you folks in the good old USA have kind of lost the significance of Labor Day. Perhaps what you should do is re-name it to, ‘The Priesthood of All Believers Day.’”

The Priesthood of All Believers was a concept that Marty had developed during the Reformation. In short what he meant by that was, everyone has a vocation (life calling from God). No vocation is more important than any other. The stone mason, the pastor, the lawyer, the teacher, the plumber, the stay at home parent, the farmer, the doctor, the sanitation expert, all are called by God to a ministry. Each one of us is called, is chosen by God for a particular way to serve, to share the faith through our vocations.

Luther said that in reality our vocations were not only ways to serve people, but to serve God as well. Each one of us has his own ministry. The pastor has a Word and Sacrament ministry, the doctor a healing ministry. the lawyer a justice ministry. The farmer a ministry of feeding people, the teacher. a ministry of education. The builder is not just building a house or an office for people, but he is building a building for God.

Marty said, “If each one of us truly believed that we were called to our vocations by God, then as we carried out our vocations we would understand that we were not just serving people, but serving God as well and just think how different would be the way you look at your vocation.”

Psalm 127: 1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

So, on this first Monday in September both Martin Luther and I wish you a “Happy Priesthood of all believers day.”

Veritas, Curt 

August 2018 Pastor C

From Pastor "C"

I saw an article the other day put together by a pediatrician who works with terminally ill
children. He asked each of these dying children, “What is really important in life?” We
read in Isaiah 11:6 that, “…a little child shall lead them.” So, take a moment and let
these little children lead you.


1. Spend less time on line and more time with people. Real relationships, lasting
relationships happen in real life not in the artificial online world.


2. Dogs make life better. There is no more faithful companion than a dog. You can
tell your dog your secrets and they will share them with no one. They will never betray
you and they will love you unconditionally.


3. Spend more time with parents. Call your parents, write you parents, eat dinner
with your parents, go to a movie with your parents, sit on the porch with your parents.

4. Read more. Not in magazines or on line. Get a book, a classic, and read it.

5. Worrying is a waste of time. And when the end comes we all wish we had a little
more time. Don’t waste time worrying about things that will, in the vast majority of
cases, never happen.

6. Everyone loves the beach. Feel the sand between your toes. Breathe the fresh
sea air. Build a sand castle. Sit and watch the waves roll in and let those waves carry
your worries back out to sea.

7. Be kind. You can’t make it any clearer than that.

8. Laugh. Make jokes, laugh at yourself, laugh with others, laugh til you cry. It makes
life a whole lot easier.

9. Toys. Take time to play with your toys. Less time on line and watching TV. Play
with your toys.

10. More time with my family. Turn off the computer, turn off the TV, turn off your cell
phone, turn off the tunes and spend time with your family because the day is coming
when they won’t be there any more.

11. EAT MORE ICE CREAM! Don’t know what to do? Feeling alone? Feeling down
in the dumps? Go get an ice cream cone.

Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and give it to you abundantly.” These
kids got the message. There are no guarantees that you will live a long life. But no
one, no power anywhere can stop you form living a FULL LIFE.

Veritas,
Curt

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