I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell about our wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1 - EHV)
We just went past the one year mark from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. What a year it has been! Millions of people have been infected with the virus. Over 550,000 Americans lost their lives due to the virus – with some of us even seeing the loss of one of our own loved ones. Millions of people lost their jobs or suffered economic hardships. There were lockdowns and social distancing guidelines. To make things worse, we went through one of the most contentious Presidential elections in recent history. All this seemed to push us to the brink physically, emotionally and spiritually as tempers flared and arguments happened over everything from whether or not to wear a mask to how we should hold our worship services. With all of this hardship and suffering, you might be wondering why I picked this section of thanks from Psalm 9 to look back on this past year.
My question is why not? Why not look back and give thanks to God? Honestly, this year is no different than any other year in the life of sinners like us who are made saints through the blood of Jesus. How can we not look back and like the Psalm writer say, “I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell about all your wonderful deeds?” I pray as you read this devotion you will be reminded to look at the big picture and join me in thanking God for his countless blessings that he showered on us this past year and for the promises that he gives to be with us in the future.
I am thankful for our Triune God -- For the Father who created us and this world and so graciously sent his one and only Son to die in our place and then sent his Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts to lead us to trust all that God has promised and done. Nothing In this last year has taken away any of this peace and comfort that God has so graciously given us. In fact the harshness of this last year has made God’s power shine brighter and made his love all the more important. Thank you God for your Love and Grace!
I thank God for the many opportunities that he has given us to worship him this past year -- whether that was in person or through our Livestream online opportunities found on our YouTube page or Facebook page. What a blessing to have so many ways for us to hear God’s Word and to worship our Lord and Savior. Thank you God for giving us so many ways to worship!
I thank God for the many fellow Christians here at St. John who I have been blessed to serve as their called public servant, but more importantly I thank God that this last year has reminded me how important it is to have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are here to help and encourage each other. Thank You God for fellow believers in Christ!
I thank God for the leaders that God has put in place here at St. John. I especially thank God for Kris Wilson and Pat Gowey who God has put in place to serve as our Congregational Presidents during this very difficult time. Without their leadership and Christian example, we would not have been able to make it through. I also thank God for the faithful men who serve right now or have served on the Church Council during this time and have faithfully helped to lead this congregation through some unprecedented times. I can’t tell you the amount of hours that these faithful men have prayerfully spent discussing how to faithfully and safely serve the many members of St. John during this past year. Thank you God for faithful leaders!
I thank God for Pastor Frey who I have the privilege to work on a daily basis as a fellow called public servant here at St. John. His faithful service and regular encouragements have been a true blessing for myself and I pray that his faithful service has been a blessing for you. Thank You God for the faithful service of Pastor Frey!
I could go on and on about things to be thankful for, but I would like to close my devotion with giving thanks for keeping the faith strong for the souls of our brothers and sisters whom he called home to heaven this past year. I thank God for the comfort of his saving Gospel that has dried the tears of all who mourn. This comfort from God has hit home so personally for me this past week as my Dad was called home to heaven rather quickly this past Wednesday. While I may shed tears of earthly sorrow, I live with tears of joy and assurance that God has brought him safely home to heaven and one day I will see him again in heaven. I thank God for his Gospel comfort that he gives and will continue to give to me and my extended family during this time of earthly sadness. Thank You God for Jesus and his Victory over Death!
The Psalm writer said it so simply and yet so powerfully, “I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell about all your wonderful deeds.” These are just a few of the things that I am thankful for. It may do all of us well to take some time and list the many things we are thankful for during this last year. To God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done! Thank You Lord!
Pastor Mark Gartner
Church Seating and Social Distancing:
With things moving slowly in the right direction with Covid-19, more people have been returning to worship each Sunday. Because of the pews being roped off for social distancing, this has caused some issues with finding enough seating for everyone. After considering all these things, the Church Council has decided that it will be removing the ropes from the pews on Sunday March 28.
While we may be taking down the ropes, this doesn't mean that common sense is to be thrown aside. We are asking everyone to use their Christian love and judgment as they consider not only their own levels of comfort with social distancing, but also their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Please be respectful of each other as you worship, especially as you look to respect each other’s comfort levels with social distancing.
Remember that our 10:30am and especially our Monday evening services aren't full and one can socially distance if so desired. If you have any questions, please talk to one of the Pastors or to one of the Church Council members.
Because of the Governor's mandate we are still encouraging everyone to wear a mask (but we are not making it a requirement to attend).
The children in Grades 2-6 will be singing this Sunday for Palm Sunday. Please have your children to the church basement by 7:45 am.
Easter For Kids:
Due to the uncertainty of how many would attend, we are not going to hold an in-person Easter for Kids this year. Instead we will be offering Easter for Kids to-go kits, similar to what we did for Christmas for Kids. These packages will include an interactive opportunities for your children to learn about Jesus’ death and resurrection. They will be available for pickup on Sunday March 28.
Holy Week Worship Schedule:
Maundy Thursday: 10:30am and 6:30pm (With Holy Communion)
Good Friday: 1:30pm and 6:30pm (With Holy Communion)
Easter Sunday: 6:30am, 9:00am and 10:45am (With Holy Communion)
Easter Breakfast will be served from 7:30-9:00am (Please sign-up so we can get an accurate number.)
Easter Postcard Invitations:
We once again mailed postcard invitations to the communities and neighborhoods around church inviting them to join us for worship this Easter Season. We have many of these postcards left which we encourage you to take and distribute to people you may know as you invite them to hear the message of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. They are on the back counter in Church. Please take as many as you need.
Worship Service Through Your Phone:
If you have no Internet and would like to still listen each week to our Worship Services, you can dial 1-920-212-3625 each week and you will be able to listen to our Sunday morning Worship Service. Each week the service will become available to listen to each Sunday after 10:30am and you can listen to these services at any time during the week. If you have any questions, please call Church.
Midweek Lent Services:
We are continuing our midweek Lent Services. There are services each Wednesday at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm. The theme for this year is "The Hands of the Passion". There will be a meal served each Wednesday from 5:30-6:15pm. Please signup each week in the back of Church if you plan on attending the meal, so those who are preparing the meal for us can plan ahead.
NOTE: The Confirmation class times will be changing for Lent. We will meet from 5:00 - 6:00pm each week. We encourage the Confirmation Students and their families to stay for the meals and to attend these special services.
Hymnals and Bibles:
We have returned the Hymnals and Bibles to the pews to be used by those who desire. We will still be printing everything in the bulletin, but we know that there are still some people who would like to use the Hymnal and the Bible. NOTE: We will not be cleaning the Hymnals and Bibles after each service. You may use them at your own discretion.
We will no longer be asking members to sign up for worship services. You may come to whatever worship service works best for you. Thank you to those who have taken the time to sign up each week.
A few years ago St. John set up a fund to support our members who are attending Martin Luther College (MLC). This coming school year, we will have one of our members attending MLC to study to be a teacher in our WELS Schools . If you would like to contribute to this fund, please mark your special offering to the "MLC Fund" by May 1st.
Pastor Frey started a new Bible Study on Sunday March 7th at 9:15 am on the New Testament book of Colossians. Join us as we look at this important letter which highlights the person of Christ and his work of salvation.
Pastor Gartner started a new Bible Study on Mondays and Tuesdays starting Monday March 8th at 8:00 am and Tuesday night March 9th at 5:30 pm. The title of this Bible Class will be, "Luther’s Small Catechism – A Study of The Apostles’ Creed, Baptism and Holy Communion." Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism to help assist Christians in their learning the basic truths of God’s Word. Please join us in this Bible Class as we seek to strengthen our faith as we use Luther’s Small Catechism to refresh our knowledge about The Apostles’ Creed, Baptism and Holy Communion.
If you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
We will continue to live-stream our services and post our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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.