For at one time we ourselves were also foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by many kinds of evil desires and pleasures, living in malice and jealousy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward mankind appeared, 5 he saved us—not by righteous works that we did ourselves, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs in keeping with the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 - EHV)
Yes, I know that on Sunday Pastor Gartner did a great job teaching us about God’s grace in Holy Baptism. But if Martin Luther can break down Holy Baptism into four sections as he did in his Small Catechism, then we can take another look at this sacrament! And besides, we have the tendency to downplay baptism. After all, our baptisms happened so long ago, for most of us when we were infants, that we can’t remember our own baptisms, and so we don’t think about it much. Plus, it looks like nothing happens, as if it is a mere ceremony. The Pastor says a few words, pour some water on the baby’s head, and that’s about it. There is no special feeling, or sight, or miracle otherwise noticeable. And because it all seems so ordinary, it become easy for us to ignore or downplay this great sacrament. For this reason, and since baptism is so vital for our salvation, it is certainly worthwhile to talk about again. We'll do so using Luther’s second and third part of baptism.
Second: What does baptism do for us?
Baptism works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Salvation! That is the great blessing of baptism. Baptism gives us the forgiveness of sins, faith, and through baptism the Lord adopts us into his family. It is our baptisms that connect us to Christ and his sacrificial work. Therefore, through baptism we receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ won on the cross, the eternal life promised to all who believe in him by his resurrection from the dead.
But why do we need this gracious gift given to us in baptism? Look at how Paul describes what we were prior to our baptisms—we were disobedient, deceived, enslaved by many kinds of evil desires and pleasures, living in malice and jealousy, being hated and hating one another. We were nothing but horrible miserable sinners, on our way to eternal damnation, and completely unable to save ourselves. So, what did Christ do? He saved us through the waters of baptism! Notice how baptism isn’t anything that we do, it is no work of our own, but the work of our gracious Lord alone.
“But,” the skeptic declares (and our sinful nature right alongside of him), “How can this be true, it’s just a little bit of water—not even enough to wash off a smudge on the forehead let alone cleanse our sinful souls.” Luther asked the same question.
Third: How can water do such great things?
It is certainly not the water that does such things, but God's Word which is in and with the water and faith which trusts this Word used with the water. For without God's Word the water is just plain water and not Baptism. But with this Word it is Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not the water in and of itself that gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation; but God’s Word that is connected with and used in connection with the water that gives us such great blessings. Luther uses our verses above as a proof passage to support this truth. Through baptism God’s grace is poured out on us abundantly through Jesus. As a result, we are justified, that is, we guilty sinners are declared not guilty. Through faith in him we are children, and thus also his heirs of eternal life!
The blessings of baptism are as important as they are eternal! May we daily remember our baptisms and thank God for this gracious water of salvation!
Pastor Andrew Frey
Later today, Tuesday January 19 at 7:00 pm, we will have our Annual Congregational Voter's Meeting. All voters are invited to join us as we see God's many blessings from this past year and plan to do his ministry in the coming year. If you are unable to make it, you’ll be able to watch our livestream on our youtube channel.
New BIC Class:
Pastor Frey is looking to start up a new Bible Information Class (BIC), otherwise known as Adult Instruction Class. This class covers the basics of what the Bible teaches. This is not only the class to take if you want to become a new member here at St. John, but it is also a great review for any of our current members. This spring we’ll have two opportunities to take this class: Tuesday mornings at 10:00am and Thursday evenings (exact time TBD). If you are interested, or know anyone who is, please speak to Pastor Frey.
New Bible Classes:
Pastor Gartner started a new Bible Study on Sunday November 29 at 9:15 am entitled: “Catholicism Today — A Study of What the Catholic Church Teaches and How It Measures Up to God’s Word.” Join us as we look at some of the key teachings of the Catholic Church in light of God’s Word, and we will also look at ways on how we can share the truths of God’s Word with those in the Catholic Church who may struggling in their faith.
Pastor Frey is leading a Bible Study on Mondays and Tuesdays called, "Counterfeit Christianity." The devil is called the Father of Lies (John 8:44); he uses his web of lies to lead Christians away from God Word and thus away from the one true faith. This study, based on the book, Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Jonathan Fisk, will examine these lies of the devil and their antidotes from Holy Scripture.
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.
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.