Monday, December 28, 2009

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

Holiness! That's the focus of Luke 2:22-24. When the devout Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the temple, it was an issue of holiness. Mary, having endured the bloody event of childbirth, went for the necessity of ritual cleansing, to be counted again among God's people Israel. Cleansing meant being brought into the presence of holiness. The infant Jesus, being the firstborn of Mary, was to be dedicated to the Lord as commanded in Exodus 13. Again, Jesus, though true God, was also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, and thus followed the Law and was dedicated to the holy God.

I sometimes wonder about the issue of holiness. For Simeon and Anna, the other two figures in today's Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), holiness was real. Seeing the Christ of God in their midst, they rejoiced in His holiness that would bring about the consolation and redemption of God's people. What about us? When we come into the place where God has promised to come among us in His chosen means, we are brought into the presence of holiness. Do we treat worship that way? Do we expect the righteous and holy Christ to come among us in His body and blood?

Praise God that our holiness is grounded in our Lord Jesus Christ. I said this morning that we NEVER go directly to God. Demanding to stand in the presence of true holiness would mean certain death for us sinners. Rather, we always approach the throne of God through Christ, because in Christ God has first come to us.

Only a couple of events, but one of which I want to bring to your attention. On Thursday night (New Year's Eve), there is a Family Game Night at 6:30 p.m. Bring a snack to share and your favorite game. Word has it that the bell will again sound at midnight!

I'll be out of the office all week, but will be back for worship on Sunday, when Confirmation Instruction will begin again.

Please remember in prayer:
Those who serve in our armed forces: Andrew Epley (Iraq), Michael Baker (returned from deployment), Rob Vadney (Ft. Sill), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen, Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi), William Worley (NAS Kingsville)

Those who travel, that they be kept safe and given joyful homecomings

The Church throughout the world, as she proclaims the infant Christ and looks to His return in glory

Those who are ill, undergoing treatments, recovering, and dying, that they may be comforted by the peace that passes all understanding, who is Christ Himself

Those who mourn the loss of loved ones, that they may be comforted by the news of a blessed resurrection and a happy reunion in heaven.

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, December 28
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 30
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 31
Game Night, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, January 1
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

First Sunday after Christmas, Series C December 27, 2009

Lessons for First Sunday after Christmas (Lutheran Service Book)

Exodus 13:1-3a, 11-15 -~ God’s people remembered their rescue from Egypt at the cost of the firstborn sons.
Psalm 111 -
Colossians 3:12-17 ~ Those redeemed by God’s grace give up their complaints to live in the peace of Christ.
Luke 2:22-40 ~ Mary and Joseph presented Jesus, who was recognized as God’s redemption for His people.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: God’s Strong Hand for Redemption
Through all succeeding generations, the people of Israel redeemed their first born sons with the sacrifice of a lamb or dove, remembering how God had rescued them from Egypt at the great cost of the first born sons of all the land. God’s own Son, born in the flesh, first son of Mary, was presented to the Lord along with two turtledoves, but Himself became the redeeming sacrifice for all of Israel, and not for Israel alone but even for the nations. God’s strong hand has redeemed His people from bondage to sin and death. He calls upon those who have been rescued to sacrifice their complaints against each other and so live with the peace of Christ in their hearts.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Almighty God, redeeming Lord, as You have given Yourself to rescue me from the bondage of sin, so let me give up my right to seek payment for grievances against me so that I may live in the peace of Christ with all my neighbors. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: To remember the cost of their freedom from slavery, the Israelites returned an offering to the Lord for their first born sons. When we have an opportunity to invest the time and treasure of our lives in the service of God’s kingdom, it should remind us that we have been set free from the servitude of our self interest.

OFFERING PRAYER: A lamb for the first-born won the release
Of Israel’s children from Pharaoh’s domain.
Now bless these gifts, Lord, to show forth Your peace
In service to all those for whom Jesus came.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: The purchase of their first born reminded the Israelites of God’s redemptive hand in Egypt. God calls upon us to remember the sacrifice of His own Son and the great cost by which we were redeemed from the bondage of sin and death, but we spend more energy remembering grievances we have over the way we have been treated by others. God will never forget His steadfast love for us, expressed and completed in the gift of His grace in Christ Jesus. We live in the peace of God’s redeeming love when we forget our complaints against others and forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Week at Mt. Olive

Greetings, fellow redeemed!

This evening, I brought the sermon you all heard this morning to Trinity, Refugio. We same the sang Christmas carols, but without accompaniment - that's a capella for you music types. With the singers present, seven in all, we filled the sanctuary with the sounds of God's promises at Christmas. Talk about belting out Christmas songs!

That's what is so powerful about old (I'm talking centuries here) Christmas songs - the words of the carols recite God's promises fulfilled in Christ. Look at Hark the Herald Angels Sing; all the truths of the Second Article of the Creed are contained in that hymn. Go to Of the Father's Love Begotten and you get the truth of God the Son, begotten from eternity. Sing From Heaven Above to Earth I Come and the earth-changing words of the angel to the shepherds are recited yet again. Praise God for those early hymn writers and the powerful hymns they produced!

The food pantry at Mt. Olive continues to provide individuals and families. While we cannot provide huge amounts of food, we do provide for at least a meal or two. Over the past week, I've filled at least three or four requests for food, and Mary has filled a couple more. What this means is that our food pantry has an ongoing need for certain items: breakfast cereals; canned soups, vegetables, and fruits; plastic shopping bags for food distribution.

This week is filled with Christmas opportunities and services.

Monday is time for ONE LAST CHRISTMAS PROGRAM REHEARSAL at 7 p.m. Musicians and singers, please try to be there somewhat earlier.

Tuesday is a great opportunity for Jr. Youth. Mixing some work and fellowship. the Jr. Youth continue the tradition of Christmas cookie baking, and then taking those cookies to some of shut in members. Needed for this service are: sheet pans, rolling pins, cooling racks, sprinkles. More info will be coming tonight or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, choir rehearsal will be held at the regular time. Also on Wednesday, we'll get together to have a quick look at the Candlelight Service with available Sr. Youth.

Thursday, services begin! Here's the Schedule

Christmas Eve Christmas Program, 6:30 p.m.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, 11 p.m.

Christmas Day Divine Service, 9:30 a.m.

One group that I ask you to keep in your prayers during this Christmas week is the Altar Guild. These women of faith perform a great service to the Church of our Lord Jesus, getting the proper appointments ready and readying the elements for the Holy Eucharist. With the many color changes over the next few days, the Altar Guild will again perform their duties with distinction.

Please remember in prayer:
Those who serve in our armed forces, especially Andrew Epley (Iraq), Michael Baker (returned from deployment), Rob Vadney (Ft. Sill), Edwin Rodriguez and Richard Rhode (North Carolina), William Worley (Kingsville), Ryan Radtke, John, Sorensen, and Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi)

The families of those who serve in our armed forces

Those who have lost loved ones recently, for whom this holiday season will be difficult

Those who travel

The poor, the unemployed, the underemployed, and the homeless

In Christ,
Pastor Kevin Jennings

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, December 21
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.
Girl Scouts (?), 6:30 p.m.
Christmas Program rehearsal, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, December 22
Jr. Youth Cookie Baking and Christmas Caroling, 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 23
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Candlelight Service practice and music practice, 7 p.m.

Thursday, December 24
Children's Christmas Program, 6:30 p.m.
Lessons and Carols Candlelight Service, 11 p.m.

Friday, December 25
Christmas Day Divine Service, 9:30 a.m.

Monday, December 14, 2009

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good morning, fellow redeemed!

Gaudete Sunday was yesterday, the Sunday of rejoicing during the season of Advent. I love the cartoon classic, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." I'm not sure if I'm more drawn to the Dr. Seuss simplicity or the grinch himself. But, there is a misleading element: The joy of Christmas is not community or having hands to clasp.

In reading Zephaniah, the Old Testament lesson yesterday, we learn just who rejoices, and what His rejoicing is about:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (3:17)

The rejoicing is the rejoicing of our Lord! The true God rejoices over His restoring love in Jesus Christ. God in the flesh is present with His people, and He rejoices. God with us, Immanuel, is present, and His presence brings, in turn, our own rejoicing.

Wednesday will be last of the Advent Midweek Services. In the theme of hearing the Advent stories, this week we hear Mary's story. Advent services are at 12:15 p.m. (Midday Prayer) and 7:15 p.m. (Vespers).

Thursday brings us Mt. Olive Lutheran School's Christmas Program at 7:15 p.m.

This coming Sunday, December 20, there will be no Confirmation Class. However, there will be Christmas Program practice at the regular time (2 p.m.). There will also be a practice on Monday, December 21, at 6 p.m. It's important that we have as many people as possible at these practices to prepare for the Christmas service on 6:30 p.m.

It's time for one of my fatherly lecture:
With the beginning of the Christmas break this week, I want to impress on all of you the importance of traveling safely. While some will not be going anywhere other than church or to visit some relatives in town, please remember that many serious accidents take place less than five miles from home. I encourage all of you to practice good safety that we already know: drive at a safe speed, wear safety belts, keep distractions in vehicles to a minimum, and, most importantly, if you're drinking, don't drive.

Please Remember in Prayer:
All those serving in our armed forces: Andrew Epley (Iraq), Michael Baker (returned from deployment), Rob Vadney (Ft. Sill), Edwin Rodriguez and Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, John Sorenson, Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi), William Worley (NAS Kingsville)
The Church throughout the world as she proclaims the birth of her Lord
The pastors of our circuit and our circuit counselor, Pastor Eckert, during this busy Christmas season
The new officers for Mt. Olive elected yesterday
All who are traveling this season, that they be kept safe
The families of those who have lost loved ones this past year, as they deal with grief in this blessed season

In Christ,
Pastor Kevin Jennings

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, December 14
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 16
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Prayer at Midday, 12:15 p.m.
Vespers, 7:15 p.m.

Thursday, December 17
School Christmas Program, 7:15 p.m.

Looking Ahead:
Sunday, December 20
Divine Service, 8 and 10:30 a.m.
Sunday School and Adult Bible Class, 9:15 a.m.
Jr. Youth to The Nutcracker, TBA (performance begins at 2 p.m.)
Christmas Program Practice, 2 p.m.

Monday, December 21
Christmas Program Practice, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, December 22
Jr. Youth Cookie Baking and Caroling, TBA

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts for the Week

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Series C December 20, 2009

Lessons for The Fourth Sunday in Advent (Lutheran Service Book)

Micah 5:2-5a ~ The birth of Israel’s ruler in Bethlehem was to signal the gathering of God’s flock.
Psalm 80:1-7 (antiphon: v. 7)
Hebrews 10:5-10 ~ God took on our flesh in Christ and offered up His body to make us holy by His sacrifice.
Luke 1:39-45 (46-56) ~ Elizabeth and Mary greeted each other and praised God for His mercy incarnate.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: God is Coming in Person!
God’s love is revealed specifically and personally: our Ruler, born in Bethlehem; the Messiah willingly sacrificing His own body for us; Mary nourishing the unborn Savior and rejoicing in God’s mercy shown to her, and through her to God’s people. God Himself came to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah, to carry out His Father’s will in rescuing us from the power of sin and death: God in the flesh – God in person!

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Dear Father in heaven, with love You sent Your Son to give His life for me. May every gift I give this Christmas time may be tinged with love as unselfish as Your love for me, that I may give the greater gift as well by sharing the meaning of the Christ Child with my family and friends. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God works His universal love through the particularity of His presence in the person of Jesus, born in Bethlehem. God uses particular offerings from our individual lives to bring His message of grace to all people. In the gifts we give and the words we speak, God’s love is expressed for all to see and hear.

OFFERING PRAYER: Now bless these gifts, O Lord, we pray, which from our lives we bring
That they may work a mighty deed and glory to your name,
As with the angel hosts of old we lift our voice to sing,
And marvel at Your holy birth in little Bethlehem.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We cannot imagine why the Mighty God would come to us in the person of Jesus, born in little Bethlehem. We turn God’s love around and look for things about ourselves that make us ‘lovable’ to Him. We think it must be something we said, or something we did, or just something about us, but in God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of our Savior, we see that His choice is pure grace on His part. “The Mighty One has done great things for us” – “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts for This Sunday

Third Sunday in Advent, Series C December 13, 2009

Lessons for The Third Sunday in Advent (Lutheran Service Book)

Zephaniah 3:14–20 ~ When God Himself comes as King, His people will rejoice and celebrate.
Psalm 85 (Antiphon: v. 2)
Philippians 4:4–7 ~ With joyful thanks we await the Lord’s return, with His peace filling our lives.
Luke 7:18–28 (29–35) ~ Jesus reassured John by pointing out His healing deeds which brought great joy.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: A Lift for Heavy Hearts
Our heavy hearts are lifted by the news that His love overcomes our failures. Zephaniah assured the people of Zion that God, who was always the true King of Israel, would come to set right all those things ruined by earthly kings. In Jesus, we see that our King has come, just as John’s messengers were told, for the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the poor rejoice. Today our hearts are lifted up with joy and filled with peace as we welcome Christ, our King.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, in this Advent season, restore to me the joy of your salvation as you assure me that my sins are forgiven. Let me be a messenger of that joy as I share the reason for this season with others. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Just as we rejoice in God’s good gifts to us, we sorrow at the suffering in our world caused by abuse of power and selfish motives. Christ came as King to heal and restore all things. He uses His people in that task. Redeemed by Him, we show Christ-like kindness to those who need good news.

OFFERING PRAYER: Our hearts are filled with joy today,
For Christ our King sets all things right!
With healing power He leads the way!
Lord, bless these gifts with righteous might.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: There is so much going on in our lives that would keep God at a distance. How can we rejoice at God’s coming when His presence is a threat? Instead of rejoicing, we are easily offended by any implication of our wrong-doing! But God will not let our attitude, or our sins, keep Him away! He comes to us with His love, as the healing and restoring King, claiming us as His own. His embrace in Christ Jesus sets our hearts at peace, and our souls rejoicing!

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

How do we prepare for the Lord's arrival? That's the question of Advent. To be sure, we prepare for the Lord's first advent in our celebration of Christmas. Is that what we're really about during these weeks before Christmas? Look at the busy schedules, the endless angst over gifts, and the over-taxed family. When Christmas arrives, it always seems to be about a cute little story more than anything else - the reason for the season or some other such thing. Isn't this really true God coming in the flesh, the Creator of the universe becoming man?

But, as much as we prepare for the celebration of the first advent of our Lord, how do we prepare for the second advent, when our Lord returns as judge of the living and the dead? Are we expecting God the Son in the flesh to appear in glory? Will He really understand all those times we attributed understanding to Him as an excuse to ignore His gifts and treat Him with disdain?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God . . . . We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience.

The Lord spoke through Malachi, telling that He would indeed come suddenly, unexpectedly to His temple among His people. He would be the refiner of gold and silver and the caustic soap that cleans the worst of stains. Our Lord Jesus, true God in the flesh, is that purifier and launderer. He washes us in His blood to make us whiter than snow. In other words, as unable to make ourselves prepared for our Lord's arrival as we are, so much more is our Lord Jesus able to prepare us - that's the message of Advent. Our Lord purifies and and cleanses us through His dying and rising.

Lest we believe that being Christian is as easy as some say, know that it is a painful, exacting life, for it means enduring the purifying fire of our Lord. It means seeing ourselves as God's Word sees us - that, in spite of our feeling that we're all good at heart, we really aren't. Our Lord brings us through death into His life. Yet, in this life, every day is a life of contrition and repentance, and a life of fleeing back to our Lord's promise at our Baptism. As tough as that sounds, it's great news, for it tells us of our Lord who brings us through death into life, bringing us to look to His appearing in glory.

Today is also the day of St. Nicholas of Myra:
Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. A.D. 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, although there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of Turkey today) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of "Sinte Klaas" (Dutch for Saint Nicholas, in English "Santa Claus"), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe. [From “Commemorations Biographies,” Lutheran Service Book, LCMS Commission on Worship]

Today's Christmas Program rehearsal was, in a word, fantastic. Through the assistance of Bethany Waddle, Matthew Catherman, Dawn Johnson, and other adults, most of the songs in the program are well on their way to being learned. A few readings need to be added, but it will be a joyful task. Please pray for these young people who will be telling the story of God's salvation in this years Children's Christmas Service. Rehearsal continues next Sunday at 2 p.m.

I want to issue a gentle reminder of next Sunday's schedule: Divine Service at 9:30 a.m., Sunday School and Voters Meeting at 10:30 a.m., and Meal at 11:30 a.m. This particular meeting is important, as we need to do the business of next year's budget.

Wednesday of this week continues the Advent preparatory services with the theme of Advent Stories. Last week was Zechariah; this week will bring us Elizabeth. Advent Prayer at Midday is held at 12:15 p.m., and Advent Vespers is held at 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday night, the LWML has its annual Christmas Dinner at Olive Garden. If you haven't done so already and you wish to attend, please call the Church Office to add your name to the list. Also from the LWML:
Bake Sale on Sunday! One given for the bake sale: it's always good!

Many thanks to the many folks who participated in decorating the church on Sunday morning!

Special Prayer Concerns:
Members of the Armed Forces: Andrew Epley (awaiting deployment), Michael Baker (returned from deployment), Rob Vadney (Oklahoma), Richard Rhode, Edwin Rodriguez (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen, Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi), Bill Worley (NAS Kingsville)
Pastors and the congregations committed to their care in this busy season
The sick, the unemployed, the homeless, and the despairing, that our Lord would move us to reflect His great love

In Christ,
Pastor Kevin Jennings

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, December 7
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m., Youth Room
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m. Fellowship Hall
Church Council, 7 p.m., Overflow

Tuesday, December 8
LWML Dinner at Olive Garden

Wednesday, December 9
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Advent Prayer at Midday, 12:15 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Advent Vespers, 7:15 p.m.

Thursday, December 10
Cub Scout Pack 278 Christmas Caroling, 5:15 p.m.

Sunday, December 13
Divine Service, 9:30 a.m.
Sunday School, 10:30 a.m.
Voters Meeting, 10:30 a.m.
Meal, 11:30 a.m.
Confirmation Instruction, 12:30 p.m.
Christmas Program Rehearsal, 2 p.m.
Sr. Youth, 6 p.m.