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- Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) published a newsletterReadThe Redeemer ReporterMonthly Newsletter of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Knox, IN
From the Pastor...
Welcome to the “new normal”! COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes on us all and made it almost impossible to live the way we did before its onset. The way we interact with each other, the way we work, the way we enjoy entertainment, the way we enjoy going out for meals, the way we educate our children, and the way we practice our religion – all of these have been impacted by COVID and changed the ways we engage in these activities. It’s been quite a year, and the bad news is that COVID isn’t over! Things have improved considerably compared to this time last year; vaccines have made it possible for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet the social changes brought about by the pandemic are probably permanent, as we adjust to life in a world where the virus is always with us.
One of the changes brought about by COVID for Christians has been its impact on the way we worship. When churches, including Our Redeemer, shut down we tried to help people remain faithful in Worship through online streaming Services. The technology that allowed us to do that (and to continue to do that) is and was a blessing from God.
Influential Christian leaders in the country did warn pastors about one important unintended consequence of COVID on congregations – we would lose people. People would become used to sleeping in on Sundays, or opt to continue watching Worship Services online. Behavior repeated over a period of time can easily become a habit, and not going to church will become a habit for some people. So went the warning.
So let me offer a reminder to us all why coming to church is so important. While this might seem self-serving, as if I’m mainly concerned about numbers, this reminder comes from genuine concern about people’s spiritual well-being.
We don’t come to church for worship because we are obligated to, as if God is keeping track of our attendance. No one gets into heaven because of their church attendance record.
We come to church because that is where God has promised to come to us with His gifts of Word and Sacrament that create and sustain saving faith!
Lutherans do not believe that faith is something we do, a decision that we make to “believe.” That would make faith/belief a good work and no one is saved by good works. Lutherans believe that faith is a gift given to us by God through His Word and Sacraments. Look at these three passages from the Bible:
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
- “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
- “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...” (Romans 1:16)
So, saving faith/belief is an capacity that we receive as a gift from God when we hear the Gospel (the Good News about free salvation in Jesus), because God uses the Gospel not just to deliver information to us, but to deliver the Holy Spirit to us, and the Spirit gives us the capacity to trust in Jesus as our Savior.
Saving faith is 100% dependent on hearing God’s Word and receiving the Sacraments. Without regularly receiving them faith withers and fades and eventually dies. Think of it like this: faith is something that needs to be fed, constantly.
When we start skipping church on a regular basis, we are beginning the process of starving our faith. The result could be spiritually catastrophic.
So, we don’t go to church because we “have to,” or because God needs our worship; we go to church because that’s where God creates, strengthens, and feeds our faith. It’s where He comes to serve us by giving us the forgiveness won by Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Certainly, missing church on occasion is not a problem. The problem comes when we willingly and willfully avoid attending church on a consistent basis.
COVID-19’s disruption to our normal pattern of weekly worship may have offered you the idea that staying home from church is desirable for various reasons. It may also have offered you the temptation of thinking that watching Worship online as a steady diet is a perfectly acceptable option.
Don’t give in to the temptation that the pandemic offers you! Come to church! Not because you have to, but because you need to. The Lord has good gifts to give you at church!
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric Gawura
Parables of the Kingdom sermon series starts in August
What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it at? Who are the citizens of the Kingdom? When will it appear and how? What is life in the Kingdom like?
Discover the answers to these questions and much more! Join us for a six week sermon series that starts the weekend of August 14/15 and runs through September 18/19 titled "Parables of the Kingdom." Find out what Jesus has to tell you about God's Kingdom from chapter 13 of Matthew's Gospel.
Parables of the Kingdom (Series) Begins in August
Beginning the weekend of August 14/15, 2021 is a Sermon Series on Jesus's parables about the Kingdom of God from the 13th chapter of Matthew's Gospel. What is the Kingdom of God? What is it like? When will it appear? How does it grow? Where is it at? Who are the citizens of the Kingdom of God? Discover the answer to these questions and more. The Series runs from August 14/15 through September 13/14. Join us as we discover theses stories of the Kingdom!