Epistle

March 2017

In the last weeks I have prayerfully contemplated the congregational meeting held on January 23rd and where we go from there. I could not help but recall an inaugural address given by President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. This address came to my mind because this was one of the speeches we had to analyze in my high school speech class. It is considered to be one of the great and unforgettable messages ever given. The key statement in that speech was: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Perhaps those of you who originally heard those words can still hear them in your mind today.

Without getting into any thoughts along party lines or the evaluation of President Kennedy’s term of office, I would like to look at the words of that speech from a Scriptural perspective as it speaks to our relationship to Christ and His Church. In preparation for this article I read President Kennedy’s whole inaugural address once again. A few things struck me with application to our congregation here at St. Paul’s.

President Kennedy opened his speech with these words: “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom.” Is this not true for us as Christians? Our celebration of life is founded upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:15, “Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and was raised again.” As we gather around God’s Word and receive His Supper on Sundays, we celebrate the truth that Jesus paid the debt of our sins and rose again from the grave. We are no longer bound by sin or Satan, but we are freed to live our lives to the glory and honor of Jesus Christ.

In the middle of his speech, President Kennedy said: “In your hands, my fellow citizens more than mine will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.” Is not what President Kennedy said about our citizenship in the United States also true with regard to our Christianity? Each generation in the church has been called by God to testify about the Savior. If we don’t share Christ, Christ cannot be known by man. The Apostle Paul wrote: “How can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of Whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them” (Romans 10:14)? If you and I are not actively involved in proclaiming the Gospel, the world will become spiritually illiterate concerning the things of God. This is why God calls every Christian to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15).

President Kennedy ends his speech with the words: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” The Lord speaks to us in a similar way about our freedom in Christ and what we are to do with it. In Deuteronomy 10:12, the Lord says: “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

As I close out this article, may each of us consider the words of the hymn, I Gave My Life for Thee (The Lutheran Hymnal, 405). The first five verses speak of what Jesus did for us that we might be His forgiven and redeemed children. In verse 6 the hymnwriter has Jesus speaking to us with these words: “Oh, let thy life be given, Thy years for Me be spent, World’s fetters all be riven, And joy with suffering blent! I gave Myself for thee: Give thou thyself to Me.”

A Malfunctioning Organ

From the Desk of Pastor Rohde

 

Back on November 17, 2017, Loretta and I were headed on a five day vacation to Wisconsin. On the way we stopped for breakfast in Rolling Prairie. When we returned to the car and continued our journey, I told Loretta that I was gaining way too much weight. I felt bloated as if I had an inner tube around my waist. That feeling continued off and on throughout our vacation. After returning home I continued to feel bloated. Along with that feeling, I had some heartburn and I did a lot of belching. Finally, I decided to go to the doctor and have my annual wellness physical and mention my physical discomfort to him. Doctor Kolbe requested I have an ultrasound of my gallbladder. It showed that I had gallstones. Gallbladder surgery was scheduled for January 10th to remove this member of my body that was no longer functioning according to the purpose for which God created it.

I was pondering all this one night at 2:30 in the morning when God’s Word about the body of Christ, the local Christian congregation, came to me. In I Corinthians 12, Paul describes the Christian congregation, this way: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body…. If one part suffers, every part suffers with in…. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it” (verses 12, 26, 27).

We may have our view of what it means to be a member of a Christian congregation, but our view may not be God’s view. Since the church is God’s body, His description of her and His concept of church membership is what really matters. God sees membership in the church like various organs of the body that are working together for the common good. Each of us has different gifts, talents, and abilities. When we work together in Christian love the congregation functions well. However, when the parts of the body cease to function as God equipped them to do, the whole body is affected negatively. Hence, I used the illustration of my gallbladder.

If St. Paul’s Congregation closed her doors, would your life be affected? If it would not, that means there is a spiritual problem with your connection to God’s people and your activity within the body of Christ. You are malfunctioning. Anytime an organ in our body or a member in the congregation is not active according to God’s design the whole body becomes negatively affected.

Paul reminds us that we are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part of it (I Corinthians 12:27). Peter goes on to encourage us to excel in the gifts God has given each one of us and be an active, functioning member in the body of Christ (I Peter 4:10). We are one body through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, worshipping and working together to build the body of Christ and bring the message of Jesus’ saving work to all people.

One side note as I conclude this article. Being a shut-in member of the congregation does not make one a failing organ in the body of Christ. A failing member in the body of Christ is one who shuts himself off from gathering together with brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, Bible study, fellowship and service.

May God help each one of us to reconsider our place in God’s body by virtue of His grace and use whatever gifts and abilities He gives us to serve and encourage one another in the things of God.

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