“Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
Around 200 years ago, while the young country of America was involved in the War of 1812 with Britain, the commander of Fort McHenry in Baltimore asked Mary Pickersgill to sew a flag that was so big that the British would have no trouble seeing it from a great distance. The result was a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes that measured an outstanding 30 feet by 42 feet.
On the dawn of September 14th, 1814, the British attacked Fort McHenry. During the course of that battle the British fired off around 1500 bombs. The air was full of smoke and fiery red streaks and explosions. Then, two hours before the dawn of September 15th there was an eerie silence over the harbor of Baltimore. The air was full of smoke from the battle. No bombs were bursting. No rockets glared. What did the silence mean? Was the battle over? Had Fort McHenry surrendered, or had they won?
Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer who was on one of the British ships wondered too. Peering through his spyglass, in the haze of the smoke he found the answer as plain as day. The huge flag that Mary Pickersgill had made was waving proudly in the breeze over Fort McHenry. The fort was saved! The city was saved! They had won the battle! The large flag that was still flying told the whole story to all that could see it. It was the symbol of victory.
About 2000 years ago there was another battle. It was a battle for the salvation of all people's souls. It was an intense battle that first Good Friday. The devil on one side was shooting off round after round as he sought to destroy Jesus and his work. On the other side hung the bloody body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The battle continued until the very moment that Jesus gave up his life and was buried in the grave. Imagine the eerie silence as the "smoke cleared" following that Good Friday battle and as Jesus lay in the tomb from Friday until Easter Sunday morning. Imagine the thoughts on everyone's minds as they woke up on that Sunday morning -- the third day after his death. Who had won the battle -- Jesus or the Devil?
It is at this time that we see the answer as plain as day as Paul writes, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory . . . But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Through the sunlight of that first Easter morning we can see through our eyes of faith the empty tomb. That empty tomb told the whole story. It told us that Jesus had won the battle over the devil and had conquered sin for all people. It is that empty tomb that reminds us every day that Jesus is the answer for all our sins. The perfect life and innocent death of Jesus saved us from the punishment we deserve. And to prove this battle was won, he let us see the empty tomb as he rose from the dead on that first Easter morning. May the empty tomb always serve to strengthen our faith, as it reminds us that Jesus has won the battle over our sin, death and the devil.
One of my favorite hymns which I have on my list for one of my funeral hymns is, “In Christ Alone” which sums up so well what Jesus’ death and resurrection means as we look at the importance of Good Friday and Easter. In this hymn the hymnwriter proclaims clearly and boldly the Good Friday and Easter truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven and how do we know that this is true? Listen to the words of verse three as he describes Jesus’ victory over death:
There in the ground his body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave he rose again!
And as he stands in victory, sins curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am his and he is mine, Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
Jesus won the battle! Don’t be afraid of sin or the devil and not even of death itself! Heaven is our home!
P.S. If you have a favorite Hymn or portion of God’s Word that reminds you of Jesus’ great victory on Good Friday and Easter, feel free to click on my email link firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I will certainly be glad to hear from you.
God’s richest Easter blessings to all you!
Jesus Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed - Alleluia!
Pastor Mark Gartner
Use this link to listen to the hymn, “In Christ Alone” sung by Koine’:
Use this link to listen to a video portraying the hymn, “In Christ Alone” sung by Koine’”
Pastor Frey is meeting by video on Monday nights at 6:30 to study the books of Nehemiah and Esther. If you are interesting in joining this Bible study, please email Pastor Frey at: email@example.com He also records this class and is sending it out to those who are interested in this format.
Pastor Gartner will be starting again on Thursday at 6:30 pm his study on “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.” This will be in a video format like Pastor Frey’s class. If you are interesting in joining this Bible study, please email Pastor Gartner at: firstname.lastname@example.org He will also record this class and will send it out to those who are interested in this format.
Quarterly Voters Meeting:
Our regularly scheduled Voters meeting for April 28 has been rescheduled to May 19. Obviously this is all dependent on where things are in a month.
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.
Important Note: It has come to our attention that some people are having trouble with the sound or volume on their phones or tablets and even some laptops. It seems to happen more with older devices. Here are a couple of remedies that we have found to help. 1) Try listening with your headphones. 2) Try using a laptop or smart TV instead of a phone or tablet. 3) Go to our "Growing in God's Word" Tab on our Webpage and you will find "Sermons". Under this "Sermons " heading you will find an audio of the sermons for each week. This audio should work fine on all devices. Starting next Sunday we will be including a audio of the whole service found under "Sermons" which should work on all devices. We are working to correct this problem, but it will take some time.
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.
Spiritual Resources For You To Use.
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.