I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 – EHV)
If you are like me, you have been praying for peace lately. For almost a week, hordes of individuals have been taking to the streets, looting and destroying businesses, churches, and other buildings; and attacking law-abiding citizens, politicians, and law enforcement personnel. There is major upheaval going on in our country right now. And so, we pray for peace. We pray that cooler heads will prevail, and that law and order would be restored.
Of course, there is so much more that is going on here—from many different perspectives. Today, we look at it from a spiritual perspective. What we see going on sheds light on what the human condition is really like. To be sure, there are plenty who are concerned about the death of George Floyd; but for others, protesting his death is simply an excuse to break the law and do whatever they want with no repercussions. Those repercussions (think the 2nd use of the law—the law as a curb), keep our wicked actions in check, without which, the sinful nature would run wild—as we see happening now. All of us have this sinful nature that wants to run wild; but by the grace of God he has created a New Man in us through faith that fights back the sinful desires of our sinful nature.
We are also seeing the hate that is in the hearts of all of us. There is all kinds of hate and rage directed toward members of law enforcement and others. And then there is hatred on the other side of things—those of us watching at home, shaking our heads while thinking or saying hateful things like, “Why are those fools destroying their own neighborhoods and this great country of ours?” This hatred manifests itself in lack of forgiveness. In the minds of those committing these crimes, they are owed; they are simply lashing out and getting even for wrongs that have been committed. They are beyond forgiveness and now they are at the point of getting even. And for others: "how can we have sympathy for or forgive those who are committing such crimes?" How many times have we let hate so fill our hearts that we have refused to forgive someone? How many times have we held grudges, sought to get even, or retaliated in our own little way because we were mistreated (whether it was real or imagined), by someone else?
So, what’s the solution to this lack of spiritual peace in our lives? Christ—he is the only answer. And the peace that Christ gives us is completely different then the peace that most people are talking about lately. Two chapters before our verse above, Jesus told his disciples, Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. The peace that Jesus gives us, which the world cannot give, is the peace of forgiveness. It was on the cross that Jesus gave that peace to us. For it was on the cross that he paid for the sins of his enemies, of those who hated him by nature, and who sin against him constantly. For us he died. For us he suffered our eternal damnation. To us he gave us his perfect life. And it is us whom the Lord declares not guilty! This is a pure gift of God’s grace, an act of love. We as Christians live in this peace of forgiveness, and so we live at peace with each other. We forgive others just as in Christ, the Lord forgives us.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying (or seen a meme on Facebook, Twitter, etc.): “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.” Without Christ we can have no true peace in our lives. Without knowing first-hand Christ’s love for us and the free forgiveness that is ours in him, we cannot live at peace with him or one another. But knowing that Christ has overcome the world by his death and resurrection leads us to be at peace with him and to live at peace with one another.
Since true peace can only come about through the gospel, when we pray for peace, we are really praying for the spread of the gospel. That is what is missing the most in the lives of so many today. As we touched on this past Sunday—and will do again this coming weekend: it is our job to spread the gospel, to proclaim peace to the nations. And we know that as we do so the Holy Spirit will work through us and bring peace in the hearts of others.
Pastor Andrew Frey
Returning to Public Worship:
How great and wonderful it was to see people in-person as we worshiped our Lord together this past weekend! Together with the June Newsletter, you should have received a copy of our plan for returning to public worship. Please look over the document carefully. Please note that for the time being, since only one or two ushers will be needed per service, we will not be in need of Usher Teams. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact one of the Pastors or any of the council members. The document can also be accessed by clicking the link below. https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EaBy-IahwepIjjaHxkS5IbMBC7X1SDx1pug80s5jAzCihQ?e=fJjd64
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. To help with this, we added an extra service on Sunday morning. We are offering 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
You can also signup by going directly to this link (it will be a different link each week): https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040a4aa9a62ea6fa7-stjohn1
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 7:30 am service which means you can watch anytime after 7:30 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.
Our Bible Studies are still going for the time being—Thursdays with Pastor Gartner on the distinction between law and gospel; while Pastor Frey’s class on Esther will be on Tuesday nights at 6:30 pm. If you are interested in joining us, please contact us. We are currently trying to figure out if we’ll hold on-line classes throughout the summer. If there is enough interest, we plan on doing so in some capacity.
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.
The examination of our confirmands and their confirmation has been indefinitely postponed. We plan to have our examination/confirmation whenever we are able to join together.
The WELS Missions office is partnering with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) to host an online event called Taste and See! This first-of-its-kind event will combine the very best of Taste of Missions and LWMS Convention to provide all WELS members an opportunity to be an important part of gospel outreach occurring in our synod.
Tune in beginning on 22:19:24 Saturday, June 27, to watch livestreamed opening worship service with brothers and sisters around the world.
From June 28 – July 10, learn about missions through keynote presentations, recorded workshops, mission-minded daily devotions, and more. Participate in family-friendly scavenger hunts, try your hand at making ethnic recipes shared by our missionaries, and ask questions during live Q&A sessions with Home and World Missions representatives.
The online festivities will wrap up with the livestreamed commissioning of new missionaries on Saturday, July 11.
Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks.
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.
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.