Tear your heart and not your clothing. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and he relents from sending disaster. (Joel 2:13 — EHV)
What is the most important part of a worship service? There are a number of good answers—and no, you can’t say, “it’s all important,” you have to give an answer! Luther regularly cited the sermon as the most important part of the worship service—and many tend to agree with him. Others will name the Lord’s Supper as the most important part. I have a close friend who insists that the most important part of the worship service takes place at the beginning of each service—the Confession and Absolution.
The Confession and Absolution is certainly is important. It is the epitome of sin and grace; it is nothing but law and gospel. We confess our sins and our deserved punishment before the Lord; and the Lord in turn, through the pastor, announces the forgiveness of our sins. By the work of Christ each and everyone of our sins has been removed and each and everything we have ever done wrong is fully and freely forgiven in Christ!
The Confession and Absolution is most certainly an important part of the worship service—but how often do not pay it much attention? Even thought the words of the Confession and Absolution vary depending on what service we are using, we know the words by heart. We can recite the confession and listen to the absolution without giving those words much thought.
In the verse above, the Lord is urging his people to repent. During this time, the people of Judah faced oppression from their enemies as a direct result of their sins. Like the Northern Kingdom of Israel, their enemies were attacking them and eventually they would be taken into exile because they had turned away from the Lord. Joel’s message (as well as the message of the other prophets) would spur some to true repentance. But others would simply go through the motion; they might outwardly repentant, as indicated by tearing a garment, but inwardly they remained unrepentant. The same can be said about those who are simply going through the motions at the beginning of a worship service. So God reminds us—he doesn’t want the outward act, he cares about the heart. He wants us to truly repent.
But why would we do that? Why would we confess our sins openly and freely? It’s not to earn God’s favor; but because God is gracious! He loves us with a love that we don’t deserve or earn; but he loves us with an unconditional love that led him to give up his one and only Son to suffer and die for us. And this makes him compassionate. He knows that because of our sinful nature we can’t live a perfect life as he commands; so, he sent his Son to live a perfect life for—and credit that perfect life to us! Instead of treating us as our sins deserve, he punished his Son in our place. He is slow to anger—not destroying us the moment we sin but giving us time to be brought to repentance. And he is abounding in mercy—again, he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to what we have done.
So why confess our sins with our hearts? Because the Lord forgives each and every one of them! Because in Christ we are his own dear children who look forward to dwelling in our Father’s house eternally! And so, we willingly go before him and confess our sins—both privately and together at the beginning of our worship services so we can be told of the Lord’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.
Pastor Andrew Frey
Sunday, August 16th in the 10:30 am service we will celebrate Confirmation. Since this Confirmation service will be quite full with just the Confirmation families, we are encouraging those who might normally attend the 10:30 service to try and attend one of the other worship service. Please keep these young people in your prayers.
We have begun our Summer online Bible study of the book of Ecclesiastes. We are pre-recording these online studies and sending them out via a Youtube link along with a study guide. Please contact one of the pastors if you want to be included on the email list.
Vacation Bible School:
This past Wednesday, August 12, we had a one-day VBS for families. Families learned more about Jesus, did crafts and played together. We thank every family that participated. Thank you to everyone that helped with VBS—especially, the teachers and the volunteers that provided food for lunch.
Our second quarter Voters’ meeting was held on Tuesday, August 11th. Meeting minutes and quarterly reports are available in the entryway.
Sunday School Teachers:
We are still looking for a few more people who might be interested in teaching Sunday School this year. If you are interested or would like more information, please speak to one of the Pastors.
Returning to Public Worship:
How great and wonderful it is to see people in-person as we worshiped our Lord together again! 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-stjohn2
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.