“The wages of sin is death, but the undeserved gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 – EHV)
Last weekend, we celebrated “Saints Triumphant Sunday.” I always enjoy this Sunday, because it gives us a chance to review that God has made us “saints” or “perfect ones” by the blood of Jesus and we are “triumphant” because Jesus won the victory over sin, death and the power of the devil and our eternal home in heaven is certain. But in order to talk about saints triumphant we have to also address the elephant in the room. In order to go to heaven and be perfect forever, we have to face death here on this earth. And if there is one thing that this pandemic has brought back to the forefront, it is our fear of death. As Christians what should our view of death and funerals be?
As a Pastor I have been a part of at least 200-300 funerals in my ministry. Some people will ask me, “Pastor is it hard to be a part of all those funerals?” This may sound odd to many of you, but I always appreciate funerals. There is nothing better than presenting the comfort of the saving Gospel message of Jesus to families who are mourning the loss of their loved one, but just as important I apply that vivid picture of death that I witness firsthand at every funeral to my own sinful life. I have been at the funerals of poor people and well-to-do people, of old people and young people, of people I knew well and people I didn’t really know too well. And they all helped me. I can imagine there are a few of you thinking, How?
Every funeral helps me, because funerals simplify things. When I stand at a funeral, I am reminded that I am a mortal human being, and the reason I am mortal is because I am a sinful human being who deserves eternal death in hell. “The wages of sin is death.”
In my day-to-day life, I can think of all sorts of problems that I think are oh-so-important and pressing. The car needs to be repaired, or is on its last legs. The bank account isn’t where I would like it to be. My kids are sick. Covid-19 is growing and spreading to more and more people. I have so much work to do, and on and on. And then I stand at a funeral and I am reminded that none of those things are my biggest problem. My biggest problem is that I am a sinner, who will die, and even worse, I am a sinner who deserves to go to hell. That’s my biggest problem! And if that one problem doesn’t get solved, nothing else really matters. That’s really simple, and funerals are one of the best reminders that God can bring into our lives to remind me of that.
But at a Christian funeral, I always beautifully reminded of another truth, that Jesus stepped into my place, taking the punishment which I deserved. The wage which I deserved—death—he took away. And what’s left for me? What’s left for me isn’t a wage, but a gift! Paul writes, “But the undeserved gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And oh, what a gift! God gifts to me life eternal! God gifts to me eternity in heaven with him! By forgiving my sins, God gifts to me eternal joy, eternal peace, eternal glory!
I pray you too can see the struggles of this life and even death itself as a way to simplify life on this sinful earth. I pray that too you will see that even death as hurtful as it may be is a reminder of our own sinfulness and of God’s greater gift of eternal life, which he has given to us as a gift through the death and resurrection of Jesus!
Does this mean all our other problems will go away? Not at all! But it does put them into perspective and simplifies things! Here is the one thing we need to know -- All who have the gift of faith in Jesus are going to heaven! With that firmly rooted in our hearts we can handle the virus, the stress, the change, the heartache, the money issues, and yes, even death itself. Since God has given us the gift of eternal life, certainly he will guide us through these other issues, because they are just things of this earth. It Is So Simple!
And yes, funerals can help us to remember that.
Pastor Mark Gartner
Thanksgiving Worship Services
Thanksgiving Eve worship service will be Wednesday evening, November 25 at 6:30 pm. Thanksgiving Day worship will be at 9:00 am Thursday, November 26. As you make plans to attend these special worship services, please make sure to sign up on our website or call the office so we can have an accurate number of those who will be attending so we can make sure we are offering enough worship services so that we can practice proper social distancing at each service. Thank You.
Because of the health issues, we will not have a pie fellowship this year.
Christmas For Kids
Due to the pandemic we are not going to hold an in-person Christmas for Kids (God’s Greatest Gift) this year. Instead we will be offering Christmas for Kids to-go kits. These packages will include an interactive opportunities for your children to learn about our Savior’s birth. Please sign up by November 29th on the sheet in the entryway or online so that we know how many to prepare. A pick-up date will announced shortly.
Poinsettias For Christmas
If you would like to purchase a poinsettia plant to decorate the church for Christmas, please sign up on the sheet in the narthex. The poinsettias are available in red, white, pink and marble. The cost is $14.00. Use the envelopes by the sign-up sheet for your payment and place it in the box in the entryway. You may take your plant home after the Christmas Day worship service. The last day to sign up is Monday, Nov. 30.
Special Mission Offering
Pastor Frey has started a Bible study on the Christian and the Government—looking at what God says concerning the government and the Christians relation to his other Kingdom. We may be sick of hearing about politics already; but with so much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, it is important to step back and look at what God has to say to us. Join us Sundays at 9:15am.
Pastor Gartner also started a Bible study on "The Life Moses -- A Study of the Book of Exodus". Please join us either Mondays at 8:00am or Tuesdays at 5:30pm.
All these Bible Classes that will be starting will be held at church. If you are not comfortable attending them in person or can't make these times and 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.
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. We are offering 8:00 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.
We rejoice that we have been able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, but at the same time we want to do so in a safe manner. The 8:00 am service is the most attended service, which perhaps will make some of you feel uncomfortable. First off, if you feel uncomfortable in this more attended service. we encourage you to attend either the 10:30 am or the Monday evening service which offer plenty of room in order for you to socially distance. In addition, our Council has decided to remove the ropes for the first few pews of the lectern side of the sanctuary. People deciding to sit in these “unrestricted” pews should use their own good judgment on social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or a Council members.
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting 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.