Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Do you ever worry about the future for our country? Do you worry about the future for your children or your grandchildren? Do you worry about the future of the Christian Church?
We live in changing times. America is possibly the most affluent country to ever exist. Yet, our material blessings and our affluence can teach us to trust ourselves, or to trust our resources, rather than trusting our Creator, our Provider, our Savior. That causes me concern for the future.
We are blessed in America with freedom to use the gift of life to live as we believe best. Yet, this freedom is often used for harmful behaviors such as substance abuse, and for behaviors that can hurt others. That also causes me concern for the future.
We live in a culture where the heritage of our country is a Biblical heritage. Even the Declaration of Independence states that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. . . “ But, this heritage that has helped build our freedom and our prosperity is often attacked today as a negative influence in our culture. And, often if Christians try to engage in conversation about beliefs and values, that conversation is shut down. This too causes me concern for the future.
Nevertheless, I want to share with you a number of reasons I have of hope for the future. First of all, this week is Vacation Bible School week at St. John. There are about 100 preschool to elementary aged children running around learning, singing, playing, and eating. We have about 50 adult and youth helpers leading the children through the different places of learning. The children are eager to learn. I watch the smiles on their faces and their playful interactions with one another, and I have hope for the future. What a blessing to see these young lives joyfully growing in a knowledge of God’s care and His love. I am especially thankful that 4 of my grandchildren are also among those growing to know God’s love for them.
But, even in this positive setting, I still see reasons for concern. Most of these little children have been taught and know that they are special. This is a Christian truth we do want to teach. Each of us have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by our loving Creator and Father. However, sometimes I see this knowledge of being a special, unique, child of God, express itself in an individualism that causes concern. I hear things like, “I know I’m supposed to do craft that way. But, I want to do it my way.” Or, “I know we’re can play games now. But, I don’t want to play.” Or, “I know it’s time to sing . . . and dance. But, I don’t want to do that.”
It is good to know that we are special individuals in God’s creative and loving plan. But, God has blessed us individually so that we can work together in His Body, the Church, to do His work. There is a time when individualism becomes a problem because people won’t work together. There is a time that being a special individual can be a special kind of selfishness.
Yet, as I watch these children . . . I also see myself. I too know I am a child of God, special because He formed and made me. But, all you have to do is ask my wife if there are times that my “unique” behavior can lead to chaos in our family, or cause some “issues.” I do not set out with that purpose, but I know that there are times that my “individual” behavior, even when intended well, needs restraining.
Martin Luther taught in his Small Catechism that all of us, children AND parents, need a new start daily. In the section on baptism Luther asks, “What does such baptizing with water indicate?”His answer is, “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” As a man who looked first to Scripture for His answers, Luther asks again, “Where is this written?” Luther’s answer from Scripture is, “St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)”
In other words, we all struggle with our selfish, individual, sinful nature. We can see that struggle in our country. We can see that struggle in our churches. We can see this struggle in our children. We can see this struggle with sin in ourselves! So, every day we need a new start. Luther teaches that our sinful self, our Old Adam, needs to die every day so God can make us new in Jesus. According to Romans 6, one source of this new life is God’s work in our baptisms.
But, there is another reason why I am even more hopeful for the future as these 150 people gather to learn about God’s love at VBS through His Word. In 1 Peter, God inspired Peter to write about a new life based on God’s love. Listen to another source of this new life we all need. “. . . love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1 Peter 1:22 b -23 ESV) All of us need a new start every day. God works new life in us, we are born again, through His WORD! And this week, the Word of God is working in these 150 people that together we might die to sin with Jesus and rise to new life with Him. God’s word works in the hearts of these 150 individuals to live and work together as beloved and saved children of God.
In fact, on Wednesday I saw this new life in action. As I was helping to teach, one young girl from our congregation called me over. “Pastor Rockey. I want to be baptized.” I talked to her mom later that day and we now have a tentative time for her baptism. See how God’s Word works new life!
So, I have hope. In a world of individuals who can act selfishly, God is working new life of faith in our young people, through His Word and through the Sacrament of baptism. Praise the Lord!
A Child of God, Thankful for the Power of God’s Word to Create New Life!
P.S. Here are some recent baptism pictures. Please join in welcoming these new members of God’s family at St. John.
P.P.P.S. Here are some pictures from a fishing trip my son, Josh, and his kids. Annabelle, the youngest, was the only one to catch a fish. https://photos.app.goo.gl/tSukMkknLNRxH1gc6
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.