Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Second Sunday of Easter, Series A May 1, 2011

Lessons for the Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 5:29-42 ~ The apostles were beaten, but they continued proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ.
Psalm 148 (antiphon v. 13)
1 Peter 1:3-9 ~ Our faith that Jesus is the Christ is strengthened through suffering.
John 20:19-31 ~ Through the marks of Jesus’ suffering, we may believe He is the Christ.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: Jesus Gives a Wounded Peace.
The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus! They continued proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah. An old Jewish legend explains that the Messiah is a wounded healer. He is the One who, through his death, "has given us a new birth into a living hope." He has promised us salvation, "although now for a little while we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." He is the One who sends us out into the world, just as the Father sent him, to forgive the sins of those who need to be restored to the fellowship. Jesus puts the community back together again by the power of his wounded hands and side.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, from this side of your empty tomb, even the cross doesn't look so bad, but help me remember that your suffering was great and your victory majestic, so that in my own trials I may be certain of your strength and triumph for me with its promise of a living hope and an eternal inheritance. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Jesus sends us to those who are separated from the community to use all our resources as we extend the peace of restored fellowship with God and with each other. He has provided the greatest tool for reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins won by his wounds and guaranteed by his resurrection.

OFFERING PRAYER: Your peace You give, O Lord, peace in Your name.
Your hope You place in us, the lost to reclaim;
Your love embraces us, covering all blame.
Bless these our gifts, O Lord, to honor Your name.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Even in this post-Easter glow, our relationship with others in the body of Christ is often fragmented by pride, mistrust, or carelessness. Just as Jesus actively set about restoring the broken peace among the disciples, so he compels us to reach out to one another with the reconciling power of his forgiveness as we restore one another to the fellowship. Only in the unity of the faith we have through the living hope of the resurrected Christ, are we able to endure the suffering and trials of a community giving vital witness to our risen Lord.

This Week at Mt. Olive

A blessed Paschaltide to all!

The Epistle at yesterday's Sunrise Service was the familiar beginning of Paul's great treatise on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Every year, I tell the confirmands that one question they will undoubtedly have to answer is where the Gospel is located in the Bible and what that Gospel is. Many of us, of course, gravitate toward what is commonly called The Gospel in a Nutshell, John 3:16.

For the confirmands, and I would urge for us all, special attention needs to be given to 1 Corinthians 15:3 and following, what Paul calls of first importance. Here is the Gospel! "That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." This is the first importance, the center of our faith.

Many today will tell us we need to DO the Gospel or LIVE the Gospel. I'd say that's incorrect. We need to know and believe the Gospel, that which is at the center of our faith: "That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."

This week at Mt. Olive the activity level subsides quite a bit. There is no Lutheran Book Club on Tuesday, and no Bible Study on Wednesday.

There will, however, be Guitar Practice on Thursday evening, unless otherwise noted.

I will be out of the office Monday, Tuesday, and perhaps Wednesday, getting some much needed "catch up" time.

Some notes of thanks are in order. I praise God for:
The Altar Guild - keeping up with the services, the Sacraments, and the appointments of the sanctuary was done in the usual, excellent manner.
Mary Hanelt - Mary kept up numerous sign changes over the past week, sometimes once a day.
Kim and the Sunday School Staff - It may sound like a band, but this band provided the Palm Sunday activities, the Resurrection Egg Hunt, and yesterday's convocation; all gave excellent opportunities for learning the Gospel.
The elders and organist - Keeping up with the services and what needed to be done was, again, excellent.
The breakfast providers - 0430 and you all functioned well! 'Nuff said.
The bulletin folders - you know who you are! - Your fingertips are probably worn off by now, but praise God for your needed work!
The choir - you taught us a new hymn yesterday!

There are many others I need to include in my prayers of praise to our risen Lord whose names escape me right now. I'll try to include them in the future.

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc (Corpus Christi)
Doris and Burt Nelson, Ruby Rieder, Ann Cleveland, Emmet and Emma Wright, Walter and Pearly Theiss (Houston), Norene Estes (Oklahoma)
The holy Church throughout the world as she rejoices in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 25
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

Wednesday, April 27
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

Thursday, April 28
7 p.m.
Guitar practice

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…1 Corinthians 15:14-20a

One of the questions that our kids always struggle with in confirmation instruction is: “What is the basis of our faith and life in Christ?” The answer they always want to give is Jesus’ death on the cross. And that is important! But it’s not the answer. The answer is: Christ’s resurrection. Why is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead the very foundation of our faith and life as Christian people?

1. Christ’s resurrection proves that he is the Son of God. Romans 1:4

2. Christi’s resurrection proves that his doctrine is true. John2:19; John 8:28

3. Christ’s resurrection proves that God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the reconciliation of the world. Romans 4:25

4. Christ’s resurrection proves that all Christians will rise to eternal life. John 11:25-25

If Christ had not been raised from death
Our faith would be in vain,
Our preaching but a waste of breath,
Our sin and guilt remain.
But now the Lord is ris’n indeed;
He rules in earth and heav’n:
His Gospel meets a world of need—
In Christ we are forgiv’n.

If Christ still lay within the tomb
Then death would be the end,
And we should face our final doom
With neither guide nor friend.
But now the Savior is raised up,
So when a Christian dies
We mourn, yet look to God in hope—
In Christ the saints arise!

If Christ had not been truly raised
His Church would live a lie;
His name should nevermore be praised,
His words deserve to die.
But now our great Redeemer lives;
Through Him we are restored;
His Word endures, His Church revives
In Christ, our risen Lord.

Let us pray:
Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

The most important week in the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. That's how I defined Holy Week for the confirmands last month. The week begins with Palm Sunday, the day on which our Lord entered Jerusalem to the shouts of "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" With these words, Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed King, the King of God's people Israel. This morning at both services, palm branches followed the cross and were placed at its foot, calling to mind the palms strewn in the road before our Lord Jesus, who was riding a donkey. With the palms once again, we proclaim Christ our King, and we prepare to celebrate His coronation ceremony yet we journey to the cross.

Many thanks to the Sunday School students who participated in the palm procession at both services this morning. Your service is greatly appreciated!

Resurrection Egg Hunt News:
Though many deliveries were made today (Thank you very much!), we are still in need of: plastic eggs; individually wrapped, non-chocolate candy that will fit in the eggs; stickers. Much help will be needed on Friday morning for egg stuffing and other preps. I'm told there will be sustenance and coffee that morning.

More Resurrection Egg Hunt News:
Fliers about the the Resurrection Egg Hunt will be available Tuesday evening, Thursday, and Friday. Take some home and give them to your neighbors!
Also, I'll be distributing some of these fliers in the neighborhoods around the church on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m. It's also a good walking time! Anyone who wishes is welcome to join me.

Good Friday Tenebrae News:
I'm still in need of young people to be readers and leaders Friday evening. If you wish to help, please give me a blast.

This is going to be short. Here the schedule for the week:
Tuesday, April 19:
The Way of the Cross, 7:15 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20:
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
(Yes, we will have Bible Study at 9;30 a.m.)

Thursday, April 21:
Divine Service, 12:15 and 7:15 p.m.

Friday, April 22
Resurrection Egg Hunt preparations, 9 a.m. to noon
Service of the Seven Words, 12:15 p.m.
Tenebrae (Darkness) Service, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 23
Resurrection Egg Hunt, 10 a.m. to noon
Also, the altar guild will be setting up the sanctuary all day

Sunday, April 24 - The Resurrection of Our Lord
Sunrise Service, 6:30 a.m.
Easter Breakfast, 7:30 a.m. (after the sunrise service)
Festival Services, 8 and 10:30 a.m.
Sunday School, 9:15 a.m.

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc (Corpus Christi)
Doris Nelson, Walter and Pearly Theiss (Houston), Ann Cleveland, Emmet and Emma Wright, Ruby Rieder, Norene Estes (Oklahoma)
Many people at Mt. Olive who are going to be very busy over the next week:
- The Altar Guild
- The Sunday School teachers
- The young people of Mt. Olive
- The Elders and organist
- God's people at Mt. Olive as they travel the road to the cross.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion, Series A April 17, 2011

Lessons for the Sunday of the Passion
Processional: John 12:12-19 ~ The Triumphal Entry of the Lord’s Messiah
Isaiah 50:4–9a ~ Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Psalm 118:19–29 (ant. v. 26) or Psalm 31:9–16 (ant. v. 5)
Philippians 2:5–11 ~ At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend and every tongue confess.
Matthew 26:1–27:66 ~ The Passion of our Lord
or Matthew 27:11-66 (shortened alternative)

GATHERING THE TEXTS: “In Lowly Pomp, Ride on to Die!”
Traditionally Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but already the lessons look forward to His Passion or suffering and death. As in Isaiah’s third Servant Song, Jesus “set His face like flint” against the suffering that lay ahead of Him beyond the palm branches and hosannas. Having taken the form of a servant, Jesus humbled Himself even to death on the cross. By His obedient sacrifice for the sins of all the world, He is proclaimed Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father!

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, most humble King, with songs of praise I welcome you! Yet, like the crowds in Jerusalem so long ago, I would like to see you rule without the suffering of the cross. Help me embrace the crucifixion as your gift of love to me and all sinners. Help me be a faithful witness to your death for the redemption of the world. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: The greatest blessings in our lives are not the material things we work so hard to have, but rather the relationships that express and are fulfilled by love. Jesus has filled our lives with His love as He humbled Himself to lift us up. Whatever we can do to share His love is done with bended knee and praising tongue.

OFFERING PRAYER: With bending knee and praising tongue, O Lord,
Enable us to bless Your holy name,
And with these gifts, ease burdens that are hard,
So all may know that Christ has borne our blame.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: With the crowds in the streets of Jerusalem and the courtyard of Pilate’s Praetorium, we are too easily influenced by personal advantage, and willingly sacrifice integrity and compassion for power and prestige. For our advantage, Jesus willingly sacrificed power and position to exercise integrity and practice compassion. We are promised that His blood is upon us to make us holy in God’s sight!

Monday, April 11, 2011

This Week At Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

From The Augsburg Confession, Article XII:
1] Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted 2] and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these 3] two parts: One is contrition, that is, 4] terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of 5] the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts 6] the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

Monday night, Mt. Olive hosts missionaries Vladimir Mitnitski and his wife Julia from Jews for Jesus. They will be presenting a program titled Christ in the Passover through a model seder. In this presentation, each participant has the opportunity to sample the various parts of the Passover meal. Vladimir and Julia will be linking the various parts of the Passover meal to their fulfillment in Christ. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. and will probably be about an hour and a half. If you are planning to come, please give me a blast so I can make sure we have enough of the elements - and I want you to be able to come!

Resurrection Egg Hunt News: This is one of the two major events held at Mt. Olive each year which engages our community. Currently, we are in great need of the following items:
Plastic Eggs
Individually wrapped, non-chocolate candy

These items can be purchased at dollar stores in our area. If you're in one of them, please make it a point to provide these greatly needed items for this important outreach event!

Tuesday evening is the monthly LWML meeting.

Wednesday is the last day of Lenten services for Lent 2011. In the evening, this will be the last of the evening meals, as well. We continue to receive a freewill offering at these meals to be given to LCMS World Relief and Human Care for purchasing water filters in Haiti - $30 each. The meal this week is provided by the Church Council and includes chili and hot dogs. Lenten Midday Prayer is held at 12:15 p.m. Lenten Evening Prayer is held at 7:15 p.m. This week's theme: Father, Forgive Our Misplaced Sorrow.

Thursday, contrary to what I told someone earlier today, there will be guitar practice - I counted the days wrong. I hope to have the songs ready by Tuesday evening.

Finally, did I mention that we need plastic eggs and individually wrapped candy for the Resurrection Egg Hunt?

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc (Corpus Christi)
Doris Nelson, Daniel Lopez (Stephanie Waterman's friend), Emmet and Emma Wright, Ann Cleveland, Ruby Rieder
The pastors of our circuit as they near a very busy holy week, and our brothers and sisters at Trinity and Lord of Life who are calling pastors

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 11
Zumba is canceled!
7 p.m.
Christ in the Passover Model Seder

Tuesday, April 12
6:30 p.m.
LWML Meeting

Wednesday, April 13
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (1 John)

12:15 p.m.
Lenten Midday Prayer

5:30 p.m.
Lenten Meal

6:15 p.m.

7:15 p.m.
Lenten Evening Prayer

Thursday, April 14
7 p.m.
Guitar Practice

God bless!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There Is No Condemnation For Those In Christ

All of us can look back upon our lives with at least some regret. There were opportunities to do good for others that we missed out on and will never get back. There were harsh words we have spoken that will never be forgotten. There were decisions we made that still have painful consequences today. And there were wrongs that we have done that still haunt us. All of us can look back upon our lives with regrets.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t have to look back very far at all. We recognize that within us is a daily struggle to do and say and think what is pleasing to our heavenly Father—a struggle in which we don’t always succeed. These regrets over the sins of the past --and this present struggle against the flesh—is nothing new and we are not alone in it.

Before Paul became a Christian, he was persecutor of Christ and his people. He had plenty of regrets about the past. He also experienced the ongoing struggles of being a child of God trying to live a life of faithfulness each day while burdened with the flesh and tempted by the devil.

In the chapter preceding our text today he talks about that struggle: not doing the good he wanted-- but doing the evil he didn’t want to do. Every Christian can understand his struggle and can add their voice to his as he says: What a wretched person I am. Who will set me free? When it comes to past regrets and present struggles, life seems so hopeless at times! But it’s not!

The Good News for us is that Christ has set us free from the condemnation of our sins—past and present. He sets us free to live a new life empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. And he sets us free from the fear of death and the grave. The Bible says:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

It is an unchangeable law of God that death is the punishment for sin. God told Adam and Eve that the day they ate of the forbidden tree they would die. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write that the wages of sin is death. Death always follows sin.

In our Old Testament lesson today, the LORD brings Ezekiel out into the midst of a great valley filled with human bones—representing the whole house of Israel—their lack of faith and their loss of hope and their spiritual death--and the LORD asks Ezekiel: “Can these bones live”? In other words, is there any hope for people when the sins of the past and the failures of the present have brought spiritual death?

When we look at our own lives—our past failures and our present struggles, we can’t help but ask the same thing. Because of our sins and our doubts and our unceasing daily struggle against the world, our flesh, and the devil we too can say with Israel: “Our bones are dried up—our hope is lost—we are clean cut off! Can these bones live?” In other words, is there any hope for us? God says: yes!

The Good News for us today- just like it was all those years ago for the Israelites- is that what the Law cannot do in us (that is make us into new, living, people who are right in God’s sight) God has graciously done for us—lifting the condemnation that we justly deserve for the sins of the past and our failures of today.

When the LORD asked Ezekiel about the possibility of dry bones coming to life, Ezekiel wisely referred the question back to the LORD because if there was any hope for life for them, it would have to come from God alone.

And that is what we see as that great valley of death becomes a place of life by the power of the Holy Spirit—a dramatic, visible picture of God himself setting us free from sin and death and breathing new, spiritual life into us.

God says: I will cause breath to enter you—I will open your graves—I will put my Spirit in you. Just as in the beginning, when God was the only one who could breathe life into the man he had formed from the earth--so in the same way God alone is responsible for breathing new, spiritual life into his people. The Bible says that:

God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In his real human flesh, Jesus fulfilled every righteous requirement of the law for us. In his real human flesh nailed upon the cross, God condemned every sin of every person who has lived or ever will live. In his real human flesh—in his life and death and resurrection—Christ set us free from the condemnation of the law-- and from the burden of our past --and gave us new life.

Our past failures and our current struggles are a powerful condemnation of our sinful flesh, but God’s condemnation of sin in the perfectly holy flesh of his Son Jesus Christ crucified on the cross is more powerful still.

And he has given this to us as a gift in Word and Sacrament by the power of the Holy Spirit who not only sets us free from condemnation of the past and the burden of the present--but he also sets us free and empowers us to live a new and different kind of life. The Bible says that:

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

During the public examination of catechumens today you are going to hear the children make a very important biblical distinction between the blessings God gives in Word and Sacrament and how to personally benefit from them.

I will ask them: What is the blessing of Baptism and Absolution and Holy Communion? And they will answer: forgiveness of sins. And then I will ask them: who receives the benefit of these gracious gifts of God? And they will answer: those who have faith.

That biblical distinction between the blessing given and who receives the benefit- goes all the way back to the cross. Jesus Christ died on the cross for all people. His shed blood there has atoned for the sins of all people. His work as Savior has reconciled the Father to the world and justified all people. But to benefit from his life and his work it is necessary to have faith in him.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ—those who, as St. Paul says, set their mind on the Spirit—are the only ones who can lay claim to the promises that there is no condemnation for them. They are the only ones whose lives are filled with joy and peace because they know that they are forgiven and death is a conquered enemy.

But those who walk according to the flesh—those whose minds are fixed upon satisfying the lusts of the flesh—those who continue to live unrepentant, sinful lives in open hostility to God, turning their backs on his gift of a Son-- earn for themselves eternal death-- because it is impossible for a person who does not have faith in Jesus Christ to please God and live according to his will. The Bible says that:

The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Those without the Holy Spirit see God’s law as a terrible imposition upon them—they see it as nothing but condemnation—they see it as a terrible judge from which there is no escape. And in all of this they are correct for it cannot be otherwise.

For those who do not have the forgiveness of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—a holy God and his will for their lives will always be a terror for them.

But we do not know God that way. Through faith in Jesus we know God as our loving heavenly Father and we submit to his law not as some terrible burden or unwelcome imposition—but as a glorious opportunity to show that we are his children by living our lives guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in us—God’s own guarantee that we are his children and we will live with him forever. The Bible says that:

If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

We heard earlier in our sermon that there is an inescapable connection between sin and death and all of us will die some day if the Lord does not come first. It’s been that way since the time of our first parents. It was that way in Bethany when Lazarus breathed his last.

When Jesus arrived on the scene, Lazarus had already been dead for days and as devoutly as Mary and Martha believed in the Lord—to see their brother rise from the dead seemed beyond hope. But when Jesus called out to him, “Lazarus, come out!”—he rose from the dead and came out of his grave.

The fact that Lazarus had been dead for four days was absolutely no impediment to the One who is in himself the resurrection and the life. Neither is four decades or four centuries or four thousand years. The grave could not hold Jesus and it will not hold those in whom Jesus lives by his Spirit.

Yes, our bodies are as good as dead because of sin—we have a daily reminder of that in our struggle against our flesh. But these same bodies, now broken by sin, will be raised from the grave on the Last Day, never to die again-- by the power of the same Spirit who raised Jesus’ body from the grave.

Just as there is an inescapable connection between our sin and death-- so there is an even greater connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our eternal life.
The Good News for us today, even as we look back at the past with regrets—even as we experience the struggles against the sinful flesh right now-- and even as we face our own death in the future-- is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

There is no condemnation because Jesus has set us free from our sins (past and present)—set us free to lead holy lives right now empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit—and has set us free forever from the power of death to destroy us eternally. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Amen.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Lord Jesus, Come!"--A Poem by Rev. Gil Franke

“Lord Jesus, Come!”

He who testifies to these things says,
"Surely I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! – Revelation 22:20 ESV

“Lord Jesus, come! The one You love is sick!”
From Bethany the sisters sent this prayer.
His own disciples urged Him to be quick
to heal His friend, but Jesus lingered there.
The men complained, “We’ve wasted two whole days!”
But Jesus said, “This will not end in death;
When all is done, you’ll sing the Father’s praise.”
But still their friend was dead before they left.
To grieving sisters, Jesus, weeping, said,
“I am the resurrection and the life.
Believe in me and he will live instead!”
Then called His friend from death into the Light!
For Jesus’ Word has power to make us whole
And give us Life in body, heart, and soul.

Lord Jesus, come! And by Your word of power
redeem us from the darkness of this hour.
Forth from Your tomb You stepped on Easter morn
that by Your Spirit, we may be reborn. Amen.

Gil Franke, 2/27/08

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Lent 5, Series A April 10, 2011

Lessons for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
Ezekiel 37:1–14 ~ Ezekiel saw that God can revive dried bones as well as the dried hopes of His people.
Psalm 130 (ant. v. 7)
Romans 8:1–11 ~ Those who are in Christ are no longer dead because of sin, but alive through the Spirit.
John 11:17–45 (46–53) ~ After Jesus raised Lazarus, the leaders of the people began plotting to kill Jesus.
OR John 11:17–27, 38–53

GATHERING THE TEXTS: The Gift of the Spirit is Life.
When the people of Israel thought they had no hope because they were exiled to Babylon, God showed Ezekiel that his Spirit can make even dry bones live again. That same Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead and gives us life as God's children. After Jesus raised Lazarus, Caiaphas, speaking by the Spirit, was ready to sacrifice Jesus' life for the life of Israel.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, you are indeed the Resurrection and the Life. You have given and continue to keep me in the true faith. Strengthen my trust and comfort me with the assurance of life everlasting through the power of your redeeming death and triumphant resurrection. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: We have been given new life in Christ and spiritual gifts to use for the church’s nurture and mission.

OFFERING PRAYER: Spirit power, O mighty breath of God,
Fill our hearts with hope to meet the day.
Send us out to breathe new life abroad;
Use our gifts to share Your living way.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We scheme to oppose whatever threatens our power or authority, just as the chief priests and Pharisees did after Lazarus was raised to life again. While death is at work in our power grab, the Spirit of God is at work in Jesus’ life and through his death. God restores life to our hopeless existence through the gift of His Spirit in the power of Christ.

This Week At Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

From the Large Catechism, concerning Holy Baptism:
6] In these words (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16) you must note, in the first place, that here stand God's commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat. 7] For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism 8] excellent, glorious, and exalted, for which we contend and fight chiefly, because the world is now so full of sects clamoring that Baptism is an external thing, and that external things are of no benefit. But let it be ever so much an external thing, here stand God's Word and command which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. But what God institutes and commands cannot be a vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it were of less value than a straw.

Lenten midweek services continue this week on Wednesday. This week, the theme is Father, Forgive Us When We Despise Our Savior's Claim, based on Mark 15:16-20. Midday Prayer is held at 12:15 p.m., and Evening Prayer is held at 7:15 p.m. Again this week, a meal is being served, beginning at 5:30 p.m., this week by the Fellowship Committee.

The Church Council is meeting tomorrow evening (Monday) at 7 p.m. This change is taking place for this month only so that we may welcome Jews for Jesus missionary Vladimir Mitnitsky next week.

Speaking of missionary Mitnitsky, he and his wife will present "Christ in the Passover" model seder next Monday evening at 7 p.m. If you are planning to attend, please make sure you let us know. Tickets aren't necessary, but we want to be sure we have enough of the elements so that everyone is included. And, for the elements, the list of things needed are included on a list on the narthex table. If you're able to provide something, please don't hesitate to sign up!

There will be no guitar rehearsal this week, as Jonathan and I have a prior band commitment that evening. If you'd like to have the songs and hymns for 1 MAY, please send me a blast - I'll glad to provide them.

Finally, we have been blessed recently to host a number of guests at our services. Praise God that He has led these people into our midst. I'd like to ask a special favor: please make sure to introduce yourselves folks you don't know. Our greeters do fantastic duty. Let's make sure we complement their efforts by being friendly to our neighbors.

Prayer Concerns:
The Winston family (a friend of Jonathan), and the Peebles family (friends of Kathy) who have both suffered the death of a loved one in the past few weeks.
Doris Nelson, David Simonds, Emmet and Emma Wright, Ann Cleveland, Ruby Rieder, Walter and Pearly Theiss (Houston), Norene Estes (Oklahoma)
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen (Corpus Christi)
The holy Church as she continues to proclaim Christ crucified in this Lententide
The Altar Guild, Greeter corps, and Board of Elders whose service becomes incredibly busy this time of year, that God would sustain and strengthen them

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, April 4
6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7 p.m.
Church Council

Tuesday, April 5
Pastor out during the day for Circuit Conference

7 p.m.
Lutheran Book Club (starting "Why I Am a Lutheran")

Wednesday, April 6
8:30 a.m.
School Chapel

9:30 a.m.
Bible Study (1 John)

12;15 p.m.
Lenten Midday Prayer

5:30 p.m.
Lenten meal

6:15 p.m.
Choir rehearsal

7:15 p.m.
Lenten Evening Prayer

Monday, April 11
7 p.m.
Christ in the Passover - Model Seder
presented by Jews for Jesus

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

Walk As Children Of Light

“At one time you were darkness…” With those simple words- and with that powerful image -Paul conveys the terrible truth about the plight of mankind apart from God: darkness --and along with it-- despair and death. So it is for all people apart from faith in Jesus Christ who is the light and life of the world.

It has become fashionable in our day and time (when speaking of the human condition) to talk about moral ambiguities-- and shades of gray--and different perspectives and experiences and values. The average person on the street when asked about their relationship with God and eternity will freely admit that of course they are no Mother Teresa but neither are they an Adolf Hitler --and so they ought to make it into heaven.

But the bible knows absolutely nothing of a moral middle ground where the vast majority of “pretty good” human beings supposedly reside. Biblically, there are ONLY two options for humanity when it comes to our standing before God: darkness or light—and spiritual darkness is our birthright and inheritance.

The painful, frightening truth, is that every person who is born into this world—while biologically alive—is born spiritually dead—lost in the darkness of unbelief-- and unless rescued from that darkness—unless they are born again—unless the Light of the Lord shines upon them—they will remain there in darkness and death for eternity.

That is the dark shadow of death that the devil’s deception in the garden has cast over all humanity-- and we were all at one time a part of it-- simply by being born.
We tend to forget that. We were born to Christian parents, raised in the Christian faith, and we are believing members of the church today. In our memory, there never was a time that we were anything other than what we are now: alive in the light of the Lord—and thanks be to God for that godly heritage from those who came before us!

But there are those who know, and have experienced, the truth of what Paul is talking about: those who were adult converts to the Christian faith and lived the great part of their life in sin and unbelief—those who were raised in a Christian home and fell away from the faith in unholy living only to return to the light of the Lord as adults—those who sat in church pews as hypocrites before coming to faith.

These folks know by experience the truth of which Paul speaks concerning the tragic spiritual darkness of mankind apart from Christ. For the rest of us, we will simply have to believe what God’s Word says about us—that we were at one time: darkness—dead in sin and trespasses simply because we are Adam’s children.

It is important to remember where we have come from spiritually, because forgetting this—failing to recognize how desperate our plight was as we were born into this world—we will never fully realize the wonder and glory of what has followed—that now we are “light in the Lord” because “God…called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Whether it was in the first few weeks of our life when our parents brought us to the waters of Holy Baptism-- or whether it was in childhood and a friend brought us to Sunday School or VBS and we heard about Jesus for the first time in our lives--or whether it was later on in life through the preaching of the Gospel or the witness of a friend—Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, shone into our sin-darkened lives and dispelled the dark shadow of death.

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”
Imagine how someone rescued from being lost in a dark cave must feel! Imagine how the African slaves felt on the day of their emancipation! Imagine how someone who receives a new organ must feel towards the donor! And these priceless gifts of rescue and freedom and light benefit us only in this life.

How much greater and enduring is what Christ has done for us: rescuing us from the darkness of death by his resurrection—setting us free from sin by his death on the cross—giving us a new heart and mind by the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament. “For at one time you were darkness, but NOW you are light in the Lord.”

“You ARE light in the Lord.”
It’s more than a little important that the Bible does not say: “you must be light!”--“you ought to be light!”--“you should try to be light!” But the Bible says: you are “light in the Lord”. Through faith in the Light of the World Jesus Christ you are now a part of his body the Church, that shining city of truth and life set upon a hill drawing all men to herself--and your purpose in life-- is to let the light of Jesus Christ shine through you in all that you say and do.

Because we are light in the Lord through faith in Christ, the Bible says that we are to, “Walk as children of light”. What does this mean? It means that the light and life of Jesus Christ that has shone into our live, dispelling the darkness of sin and death--is now to shine from our lives bearing witness to the world as to who we are in Christ. Our lives- and how we live them-the things that we say and do—our attitudes and priorities-- are to be a reflection of the light of Christ that has shined upon us.

And so what does this kind of shining life look like against the dark shadows of this dying world? It has two parts. First of all it is a life that bears abundant spiritual fruit. The bible says, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” The old King James Version of the Bible does a better job with this verse than modern translations when it says that we are to walk as children of light, producing fruits of the Spirit, PROVING what is acceptable to the Lord.

The picture behind that Greek word that our Bible translates as “try to discern” or to “prove” as the King James translates it, is that of a craftsman who works in fine metals and puts a proof-mark on what he makes to identifies it as his own creation.
That is what Paul is talking about when it comes to walking as children of the light. When we produce spiritual fruit such as “goodness, righteousness, and truth”, that is God’s “proof mark” on us that shows the world around us that we are his own—filled with his Holy Spirit—connected to the true vine of Jesus Christ—living lives like his and bearing the spiritual fruit of our fellowship with him.

Secondly and conversely, the Bible says that those who walk as children of the light:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

It is a spiritual impossibility to live in the light of Christ and continue to have a part in the darkness of the unbelieving world—to have, at one and the same time, fellowship with God and fellowship with the Devil. It is simply impossible!

The child of God has nothing to do with the sins of this dark world but rather by the light of Jesus Christ that shines from their lives--exposes them for the demonic darkness that they are.

All around us we see a world living in dark delusion—a world that has turned the truth of God upside down—a world that calls that which is evil, good—a world that regards moral and spiritual darkness as light. In this dark world: abortion is a right, homosexuality is acceptable, greed is a virtue, and self-interest is the mark of success.

Those who walk in the light of Jesus Christ have a responsibility—in their lives and with their lips—not only to passively refuse to have fellowship with evil, but to actively and purposefully expose it—calling it what it is—to let the bright, shining light of God’s Word reveal it for the darkness and death that it is.

As the people of God, we are called to be salt and light in a dark and decaying world—we have a prophetic responsibility to those who will not see and will not hear the truth-- to unashamedly show with our lives and speak with our mouths that which is good and true and righteous.

We do that by living morally upright lives in our families and marriages-- in contrast to the immorality and faithlessness that we see all around us.

We do that by being modest in our lifestyle and prudent in our finances and generous in our giving-- in contrast to the greed and selfishness that engulfs our nation.

We do that by making use of our rights as Christian citizens to vote--in opposition to those who would enshrine perversion in our nation’s laws-- and in support of what nature and reason reveal to be true.

And we do that by speaking out against the great moral evils of our day such as abortion-- rather than falling into the silent apathy and self-satisfaction that deadens our unbelieving neighbors’ souls in spiritual slumber.

The Bible says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” In these words to us today from the living God of the universe, there is a wake-up call for the Christian and for the unbeliever-- and a glorious promise for both.

For Christians, this is a wake-up call to be done with the lazy, lax distortion of Christianity that is so common today.

We have been rescued from darkness and death! The Light of Jesus Christi has shone into our lives! God has a call and claim upon our lives-- to walk as children of the light—to leave behind the disengaged, disinterested Christianity that fills so many churches today—to live the most glorious, exciting kind of life there is—a life: concerned for others, thoughtful about what we see and hear, actively involved in the Lord’s mission.

For the unbeliever it is a wake-up call to rise from the darkness of sin and death. God says: Arise! Arise! My Son has forgiven your sins upon the cross and he raised you up from the dead in his own resurrection. His love and light and life shines upon you! Arise! Arise and walk in newness of life!

For all of us, this is a day to remember where we were: lost in darkness. This is a day to give thanks to God for where we are right now—living in the glorious light of his Son Jesus. And this is a day to recommit ourselves to letting his light shine forth from our lives into the darkness of the world around us. Amen.