Then the Devil took him into the holy city. He placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you.
And they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written:
You shall not test the Lord your God.” (Matthew 4:5-7 EHV)
As we return to public worship, one concern that God-fearing Christians might have is, “are we putting God to the test?” And we most certainly think of the verses above, which are part of the temptation of Jesus. Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the temple, about 450 feet above the Kidron valley below, and told Jesus to cast himself down. He even cited a passage: Psalm 91:11-12. The words that Satan quoted have given Christians much comfort throughout the ages in all kinds of situations—many have turned to these words during this pandemic. And rightfully so—God promises us to send his angels to guard and protect us. We know that God and his angels are watching over us and take care of us—often in ways that we cannot see. And yet Jesus corrected Satan for his improper use of Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 that we shouldn’t put God to the test.
So again, as we return to public worship are we expressing our faith in him as we show our trust in his care and protection, or are we sinning by unnecessarily putting him to the test—essentially making him save us when it shouldn’t be necessary?
If Jesus would have thrown himself down from the top of the temple, he certainly would have died without the Father interfering. That is most assuredly putting God to the test. It would be putting God to the test to do the same thing—to jump off a cliff expecting God to save you. It would be putting God to the test to drive down I-41 going the wrong way. And you could say that it would be putting God to the test to run through the ICU of Bellin hospital in Green Bay without any protective equipment while touching every doorknob and handrail! All three would be putting God to the test, because you are unnecessarily making him act on your behalf (and in the first two cases, saving you from certain death—and possible death in the third case).
But the fact remains that nothing we do is without risk. The Lord is always watching over us and sending his angels to protect us because we are always putting ourselves at risk. Anytime we get in a vehicle we are putting ourselves at risk of a car accident. Anytime we go out in public we are putting ourselves at risk of catching any number of different viruses. Over time, as we eat too much or not get enough exercise, we put ourselves at risk of a heart attack. Simply living our lives is not putting God to the test. Joining in a public worship service and singing praises to God in the midst of a pandemic is not putting God to the test—it is not a sin. Is there some risk involved? Sure, there is a chance you might catch the virus, there is a chance you might have symptoms, and there is a chance you might die from the virus. There is also a chance (albeit lesser) that you die in a car accident on the way to worship. But there is also a greater chance that you have a heart attack while sitting in the pew and die.
So, here some advice to consider: educate yourselves on this virus—how contagious it is, the true death rate, and so on. Read the plan that the council has come up with about returning to public worship at St. John (a link can be found below), including our plan for social distancing and sanitizing. As that document says at the beginning, “We give you this information so you can make an educated decision about whether or not it is worth the perceived risks to attend worship in public at this time.” Again, be informed and make an educated decision—just don’t worry about whether or not it’s a sin. And, no matter what decision you make at this time, you will not be looked-down upon or criticized.
One more thing about the passage above, specifically Psalm 91. The “Doubting Thomas” inside all of us might say, “If God promises to send his angels to protect us so that we will not even strike our foot against a stone, then why do bad things happen to us all the time, why do so many suffer, why are so many people dying from this virus? Does God not keep his Word?” Perhaps the well-known Romans 8:28 is a good answer to that question, We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. No matter what happens in our lives—no matter what God allows to befall us, it will be used for our good, for the eternal well-being of God’s people. Even if it is death, it will be for our good. For the death of a believer is a blessed thing for it brings about the beginning of a perfect life with our Savior in Paradise!
Pastor Andrew Frey
Returning to Public Worship:
As mentioned above, our council met on Monday and have written a plan pertaining to our return to public worship. This document will be sent out this week along with June’s Newsletter and Calendar. While we rejoice that after two months, we are able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, we want to do so in a safe manner. Please look over the document carefully. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact one of the Pastors or any of the council members.
Please click on the following link to access the document: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EaBy-IahwepIjjaHxkS5IbMBC7X1SDx1pug80s5jAzCihQ?e=fJjd64
As we go forward, we will continue live-streaming our services and posting our worship folders online. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us. More information can be found below.
For the time being, we’ll still hold on-line Bible Studies—Thursdays with Pastor Gartner on the distinction between law and gospel; while Pastor Frey’s class will have to find a different time and/or day starting in June. If you are interested in joining us, please contact us.
Quarterly Voters Meeting:
Our second quarter Voters’ meeting, originally scheduled for April 28 has been rescheduled to Tuesday, June 16th. At this meeting you’ll be able to review and discuss our current worship plan.
Similar to our Voters’ meeting the examination of our confirmands (scheduled for April 26) and their confirmation (May 3) has been indefinitely postponed. We plan to have our examination/confirmation whenever we are able to join together.
By now most of you have been able to find our worship services online, but we will include the notes below for those who might still need some assistance.
Audio Issues: for those of you who were having issues with the audio when watching our live services: we have identified and fixed the problem. You should no longer have any issues—if you haven’t been trying lately because of the issues, we encourage you to pull up a video of our worship services and try it out! If you are still having issues, please contact one of the pastors.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.
Another easy way to access our worship services is to go to our homepage on our website: www.stjohn-appleton.org There you can do one of several things to find our services:
1. Scroll down to find the youtube link labeled “Now Live Streaming” this will take you directly to our youtube page where you can find and watch all our services.
2. On the top of our page under, “Grow in God’s Word” click on “Sermons” this sill take you to a page that has the video for each service, an audio only version of the sermon, and a written version of the sermon.
3. Also under “Grow in God’s Word” click on “Weekly Bulletin” and this will take you to a page where you can access and/or print a PDF copy of each bulletin. This link can also be found in the description under each of our videos on youtube.
LWMS has decided to not hold an in-person convention this year; instead everything will be streamed on-line. Look for more information next month. However, elections need to be made on a congregational and circuit level. If you are involved with LWMS, Kathy Schabo will be contacting you. If you are interested at all in this, please contact her at 920-427-2768 or email@example.com. Try to do this by May 17th.
Spiritual Resources For You To Use.
Forward in Christ
Free digital editions for May: https://online.nph.net/fic-free-issue-form
There are many articles and Bible Studies to help us through these difficult times.
Digital Christ Light
Free digital Sunday School Material to help you teach your children God’s Word: https://online.nph.net/cl-ss-downloads?fbclid=IwAR1CWt-TNo8aQ04tthaqY_4OCWzk2B75-6YWMTGSM-RxGCWF0shE4UN7VaU
We Are Here To Help
We want you to know that we are here to help you through any troubles you might be facing. Please don't be afraid to call any of the Pastors or the Church Office with any of your questions. We will do our best to be of assistance. We ask for your prayers and patience as we go through these uncertain times.
Please also keep an eye on each other. Stay in contact with those who are elderly or living by themselves or those who may be going through medical issues. If you happen to run into some financial hardships or know someone who may need some financial help, please don't hesitate to call one of the Pastors and we will seek to provide some sort of financial assistance.