Monday, September 5, 2016

Hirtenbrief 9-2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Really, Christians Must Attend Worship Services?
God's Word tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers, be educated on His Word for our spiritual growth, partake of the good gifts of the Means of Grace, and finally, hear that all our sins are forgiven by the shed blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, your Savior. The early church “...devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). We should, we must, follow this model of devotion. Back then, they had no designated church building, but, "... every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46). Wherever the meeting takes place, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers, the teaching of God's Word, and receiving the Sacrament of the Altar.
Attendance in Worship Services (and for that matter Adult Bible Class and Sunday School) is not just a "good suggestion"; it's God's will for believers, for you! The writer of Hebrews says we should, "…not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (10:25). Even in the Early Church, some were falling away and stopped meeting together. We need the encouragement that worship services and education classes provide. And the approach of the End Times should prompt us to be even more devoted to going to Church (and education classes!).
Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12); encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13); "spur" one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24); serve one another (Galatians 5:13); instruct one another (Romans 15:14); honor one another (Romans 12:10); and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). When a person trusts Jesus for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its "body parts" need to be present and working (1 Cor. 12:14-20). It's not enough to just attend church; we should be involved, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4: 11-13).
These reasons and more, Church and Sunday morning education class attendance, participation, and fellowship are to be regular aspects of a believer's life. Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are " ... like living stones ... being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (l Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God's "spiritual house," we naturally have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church "gathers together."
What is Regular Church Attendance?
Many Christians have countless misconceptions about church attendance. Once a week, once a month, once every couple of months, the responses would be as varied as the number of people that you asked. Sometimes, I wonder if the question really is, "How often do I need to go to church to keep God happy?" This is a myth. People view worship as something that they do for God. This error rips the Gospel out of one's worship life. Instead, we should view worship as something that God does for me!
This understanding of God's service (Gottesdienst) to us is emphasized in worship services. What's the first thing we sinners will do in worship services? We confess our sins. Throughout our life, we hate, insult, offend, lust, get angry, lie, cheat and steal. We sin! Therefore, we need forgiveness! If we are going to enter into the presence of The Holy and Just God, our sin must be forgiven. In fact, it is this need for forgiveness that drives us into His presence. He is the One that judges and He is the only One that can forgive us.
When we confess our sins in worship service, God's called and ordained servant declares to you the gracious forgiveness of all your sins. Jesus told His disciples, "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (John 20:23). When God's servant forgives your sins they are really forgiven! God comes to you through His servant and lifts the terrible burden of your guilt. This why Christians go to Church! That's why you're here this morning!!!
Another delusion that I hear about worship is that we come, mainly, to offer songs and prayers of thanks and praise. This is true, to a degree; yet it's not the main focus. We don't come to say something to God, but to listen to what He has to say to us and receive what He comes to give to us! Therefore, the second focus of our divine service is the Word of God and the Sacraments.
Every Sunday His Word is read and a sermon is delivered on a particular text. Jesus said to His disciples, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). We come to Church to listen to God speak to us through His messenger. In the Law, God reveals our sins to us. He shows us that we fall short of His glory and deserve eternal death. But via His sweet Gospel, He tells you that He loves you so much that He sacrificed Jesus, His only begotten Son, to save you from hell. Once again God comes to you with the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross - for you! This He proclaims and serves to you in His Body and Blood! This why Christians go to Church!
What is regular church attendance? Regular attendance is taking advantage of every opportunity that God gives you to hear His Word, to receive absolution, and the Lord's Supper. Our need and desire for the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross motivates us to seek every opportunity to partake of Word and Sacrament. It is any wonder why the writer of the book of Hebrews (10:25) urges us to meet together?
My earnest prayer for each of you is that you attend Church, Adult Bible Class and Sunday School every Lord's Day! It's for your Eternal Benefit!
Your brother in Christ,

Pastor Patterson

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hirtenbrief 7-2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let the Little Children Come to JESUS!
Our Lord gives parents the vocation of bringing their children to Him. Jesus wants the children to come to Him, and He wants their parents to bring them. So parents, bring your children to church in order that they may meet Jesus.
This challenge is not only for parents; it's also for other worshipers. Here are some practical helps.

Helps for Parents
·         Bring your children to church (and Sunday School) (after all, they can't get there by themselves). Bring them from their youngest days all the way through their teen years. If you bring them to church and Sunday School as regularly as you teach them to brush their teeth or say "Please" and "Thank you," it will become a God-pleasing habit for the rest of their lives (just as, hopefully, teeth-brushing and good manners will).
·         Teach your children that "going to church and Sunday School" is where they get to be with Jesus. Children think in literal, concrete terms. "Going to church" is only about a building. Being "with Jesus" is more specific, more concrete, and more relational.
·         Sit up front. Children learn by observation. Let them see what's happening at and around the altar. They'll observe and appreciate how sacred things are done. When children sit in the back pews, they can only see the backs of people's heads or, when the congregation is standing ... , (well, it obvious!). Bring them to Sunday School where they also learn about Jesus and what He's done for them. I think that it's wonderful that we have two young men sitting up front! Parents, it's O.K. to sit up front with your children. They may just surprise you!
·         Teach your children the repeating portions of the liturgy.
Encourage them to learn and repeat the Kyrie, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and other repeating responses. Teach these things at home, and encourage them to join in during the Divine Service. We teach them these things also in chapel prior to Sunday School and CWS (Christian Weekday School).
·         Model reverent participation for your children. Children learn by observing their parents. If parents display reverent behavior during the Worship Service and come to Adult Bible Class, their children will, over time, absorb that behavior, then mimic it, and then make it their own.

·         Be patient! Parents, it may seem as though you "get nothing" out of the Worship Service. But hold on to God's promises more than your undivided attention. God is rich in His grace! He still gives you His Word, in words and song, and His Body and Blood. What you do hear and receive is still edifying.

Helps for Worshipers
·         Be patient! Yes, children - even unhappy, screaming children - are a delight to our Lord. He has died for them and baptized them, and He wants them to come to Him in the Divine Service. And understand, with compassion, that sometimes children need to be removed temporarily in order to settle down. (Besides that, our Lord gives a big, burly angel to protect each of these little ones (Matthew 18:10)).
·         Encourage young parents. Instead of giving a look of impatience, offer a consoling, compassionate demeanor. Tell our young parents that, yes, you want their children in Worship Service and in Sunday School, because, after all, it's the place where they get to hear and receive Jesus Himself (just as you do!).
·         Offer to help young parents. Sit with them in their pew. Assist them in holding the hymnal for their children. Let the children sit on your lap. And encourage the children to participate in Worship Service.
So, parents, yes, bring your children to church and Sunday School and keep them "in church"-except for the occasional boisterous outburst. But bring them back in, so that they don't miss Jesus. But, parents, by all means, bring them to Jesus and teach them how to receive His gifts.
Your brother in Christ,

Pastor Patterson