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Monday, October 12, 2015

Sermon for October 11, 2015

Oct. 11, 2015

             Unsure of Yourself; Sure of God

                                                                  Mark 10:17-22

Grace, Mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
            Hear again the starting sentence from the Gospel reading for today: 
Mark 10:17
    And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

   Notice the posture of this man with a question. He was not standing with a sneer as did so many other questioners we hear about, cynically trying to catch Jesus in a trap of words, proving that His message is wrong and He is a fraud. He doesn’t sit there scoffing, refusing to believe all that Jesus would say, refusing to appreciate all that Jesus would do. No, he kneels. He seems to sincerely fear the Lord. He seems to be genuinely concerned about his future, his destiny. Sadly, his question didn’t get an answer he could accept.
            This man sure seemed religious enough. He knew the commandments and had kept them his whole life. He was doing well for himself, great possessions, a success in life. But he had to ask Jesus, what must I do? He had everything going for him; still he was unsure of himself and uncertain about his eternal salvation.
            That’s how it is, folks. When you cling to the things of this life, you can’t be sure of yourself. There is uncertainty in your riches, in your status, and in your accomplishments. But there is certainty with God. If you only measure life in terms of how much you have or what you do for a living or what good you yourself can do, you will end up with nothing but uncertainty. You’ll worry and wonder, will I be able to keep what I have and get more? Will I be noticed, and recognized for what all I’ve accomplished? Have I done enough good? That’s uncertainty.
            With God there is certainty. He says it. And it’s so. And you know what He says -- things like this: “God so loved that world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
            God says things like, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
            The Old Testament reading today ended with this sentiment:
Amos 5:15
    Hate evil, and love good,
        and establish justice in the gate;
    it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
        will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
            This is a tricky verse. It might sound like Gospel at first, but really it worked as law for  the people Amos was preaching to. It set them up to desire something more, something more certain than just a “maybe”. This was a call to repentance. Hate evil, and love good and maybe the Lord will be gracious.  
            The Holy Spirit works through the law to tell sinners to turn from their sinful ways and listen to what God has to say next. A sinner, convicted of His sins, fears God and worries about judgment, wishing that maybe, the Lord will be gracious.
            And many people that that’s the best they can hope for. The best feeling that they can get. People don’t expect certainty. Some of you probably feel that way when it comes to your eternal destiny. Saying, “Maybe the Lord will be gracious to me at the end. But I’m not so sure.”
            The Gospel of Jesus Christ has more for you than maybe, more for you than probably, more for you than uncertainty.
            My hope is built on nothing less
            Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
            No merit of my own I claim
            But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
            On Christ the solid rock, I stand;
            All other ground is sinking sand.
 You ought to be unsure of yourself, your merit, your works, your riches. But you cannot be unsure of Christ. He is the Rock, the only Rock, on which you stand.
            Throw away whatever uncertainty you have about your status with God, your acceptance by God, your eternal life with God, and set your hopes on the solid foundation of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
            Don’t settle for maybe or probably when it comes to your salvation. Uncertainty about your salvation is a big problem. Martin Luther called uncertainty a “monster”, “worse than all the other monsters.”
            It’s a monster that attacks and strangles faith. It leads poor believers to doubt and to despair and to just give up. The uncertain soul is anxious for a while, but the Monster of Uncertainty uses that anxiety to so tear up faith that eventually there’s nothing left but apathy and hopelessness. And so the defeated person just walks away, physically like this man in Mark 10, or walks away intellectually and emotionally from the things of faith.
            Martin Luther warned people about the Monster of Uncertainty. Christians will invite that monster in whenever they start thinking that their salvation has something to do with their works. That is, they believe, foolishly, that God will like them if they do good and avoid evil. Sin rises up as it does in all of us and the poor sinner worries, have I let God down? He probably doesn’t like me anymore.
            Or here’s another common way that the Monster works on Christians. Many believe a message that the Gospel is only real to those who feel it in their hearts. Those glowing warm, happy feelings that you get when you are really feeling religious, those are the key to faith and righteousness before God. The Monster of Uncertainty waits until you are feeling down, tired, sad, and the Monster of Uncertainty says, maybe you aren’t saved, because you aren’t feeling it. You don’t have that bubbly feeling? You must be separated from God. So says the Monster.
            Such doubts and worries will inevitably arise as we cling to our riches, whatever our riches may be. None of us here cans say, well, I’m not like that man in Mark 10. He was rich. I’m not rich. We all have riches. Whether it be enough money to splurge, or rich in emotions of happiness and pleasure in this earthly life, or rich in relationships with the friends and family God has given. Whatever our riches, when we cling to them we are not clinging to Christ and we will soon feel the effects of the Monster of Uncertainty.
            If you ever wonder “How could I survive without my riches, without my happiness, without my loved one? What will happen if I lose that which I love so much?” That’s the uncertainty that the riches of life bring.
            Instead, trust in this. You have treasure in heaven. Jesus Christ and Him alone is all you need. So long as Jesus sits in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for you, watching over you, you have all that you need.
            Whatever your sins, whatever your mortality and your fear of death, whatever attacks the devil and his monsters may bring against you, You have a sure and certain Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for you to take away God’s wrath and disappointment. He died and rose again, to defeat death and all the reasons you might have for worry and fear about death. He gives you continuously His words and promises of forgiven and salvation. He gives you baptism, and the new life that comes from there. He gives You His body and blood for your forgiveness life and salvation.
            How, then can we doubt? If God did not love us, He never would have gone to all that trouble.
            If you love someone, you prove yourself trustworthy to them. You keep your promises. You tell them the truth. God is, of course, better at doing that kind of thing than you are.        He loves you. He cannot lie to you. He cannot fail to keep His promises to you. You can be sure of God.
            Now you might say, “Doubts and worries are unavoidable. They are to be expected. Everyone has them. No one can be 100% certain.”
            Let’s be very careful to define what doubt is. When you doubt God, you are insulting God.
1 John 5:10
    Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
            See what horrible, blasphemous thing the Monster of Uncertainty does in you? It says, “God’s lying”.  He is lying when He says He loves you. He is lying when He says, “I forgive you.” He is lying when He says you will have eternal life.
            Doubt is a sin. Call it a sin. Treat it like a sin. Repent and believe the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Follow Him and you will have treasure in heaven.
Romans 10:9
    If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon for June 28, 2015 by Pastor Ronnie Koch

I say to you, ‘Arise!’
Mark 5:41

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking 

Now, today, at this moment, you and I are not at such a traumatic moment as was happening for this little girl and her parents. Some of you have been there at one point or another. Some of you have been close, frighteningly close. But at the moment we’re ok. God has allowed us to wake up this morning, breathe, and get out of bed.
            Still it is good for us to hear Jesus words: “I say to you, arise.” On the last day, we believe that Jesus will speak something similar and our bodies will rise from their sleep and have life everlasting.
            And at our last hour, well, we have the confidence to face our last hour, without being scared to death, because we believe Jesus will be there with us and we will hear Him say, ”I say to you, arise.” And He will send His holy angels to carry our souls to heaven to be with Him.
            And in the meantime, our Lord is calling us, inviting us, into the life He gives and gives abundantly. Daily we can enjoy and give thanks for His life.
Ephesians chapter 2 starts out this way:  you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world
            That’s not an exaggeration. God is the creator of life, the source of life. So He is also the judge of life.
Without Him there is no life. Apart from Him, there is no life, only death.
            So many, still walking around on earth, breathing, eating, drinking, going to work every day, yet they are dead. They want nothing to do with God, couldn’t care less what Jesus has to say, only deal with goodness and righteousness when it suits them. They are at ease in the  trespasses and sins in which they walk, following the course of this world. It’s an existence separated from God, separated from the Lord of Life, It’s death and they don’t care.
            But in Ephesians, God is talking to you, and to me and to every other man, woman and child who will listen, you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world
            That’s not an exaggeration. That’s the reality of our sinful state.
That’s where we are, when we hear Jesus calling, : “I say to you, arise.” 
            Think on that daily. Consider your thoughts, words and deeds. Identify those trespasses and sins you think and say and do that put you at a distance from the Lord. When they separate you from the Lord, that’s death, repent of those. Turn around from those. Turn to Him who is calling you to Arise!
            We as Christians need to diagnose what goes on in us and what goes on around us in this world. We need to be able to recognize the signs of death that are all around us.
            God created us and everything in this world for life.
            God created Adam, and then saw that it was not good that He was alone, so He created Eve who was a suitable companion for Adam.  Now Eve was different from Adam, But that’s how God designed humanity – male and female. We are different on purpose.  The Greek word for different is hetero. God gave Eve for Adam so that Adam could love someone who was different than Himself, “other than” Himself. Had Adam been given someone who was the same as Himself, it wouldn’t have been the same kind of love. If you love someone who is identical, it’s very close to self love. It’s like Narcissus of ancient mythology who was infatuated and obsessed with his own reflection.
            Our Lord’s love for us is the pattern of the complete opposite of selfish love. He loves by giving up Himself for us. He loves us with a hetero love. He is the Creator, we are the creation. He loves us who are different than Himself, separate from Him, other than Himself.
            Adam had this happy, blessed opportunity to love someone who was other than himself, He found love in someone who was different – different physically, emotionally, sexually, and vocationally.
            That was the first marriage.   
            And God blessed that first marriage with life.
            Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.”
            Marriage was given for love, for companionship, and for life – for the next generation of living breathing souls. God designed this world that the future life would come from the blessed companionship of man and woman in marriage.
            We are in a world broken by sin and marked by death and so, in our homes the picture isn’t as perfect as it was in the paradise of Eden. Well, already with Cain, he hated and killed the second born. And never ever since has there been a perfect family. Parents have died and left children orphaned. Children have died too soon and left parents with wrenching grief and pain. Brokenness and Divorce has separated parents from their children. Abusive parents, rebellious children have brought sin upon sin.
            We see the horrible problems, but the broken situations do not change reality. The bad examples do not give an excuse to change the definition of marriage. Just because something is so often wrong doesn’t mean we can give up on what should be right.
            God wanted you to be blessed by marriage, even if He hasn’t called you to be married. And not everyone is called to be married, still God wanted you to be blessed by the institution of marriage, He designed creation such that a man and woman would be united in one flesh so that you would have mother and father and life.
            Although marriages are often flawed, Marriage is good and God-given. Marriage is for love of another, love for a person who is different, hetero. And, Marriage is for having children, for life of the next generation.
            When the powers that be deny that, when the rulers of this earth, even with the slimmest majority, say something like, Here’s what we say marriage is. When the rulers on their high bench say, “Nope, nope, marriage doesn’t have anything to do with making new life, but it’s all about the human rights of individuals. Marriage is all about filing a joint tax return and sharing health care benefits and being happy with yourself.  And those rights of marriage, can be for any odd combination of people. – when the powers that be in our world say that marriage is about all this other stuff, but not about life, then what are we left with? . . . death.
            This death-filled world around us needs to hear what our Lord Jesus has to say:  I say to you, arise.
Now I know some of you watch the news and shake your head, and get flustered and flabbergasted and even frightened sometimes. What’s this world coming to! Well, don’t get too worked up about it. Don’t get too upset. That won’t help.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus comes up to Jairus’ house and sees all the fuss and hears all the weeping and He says, Stop crying, the child isn’t dead, she’s just sleeping. And they laughed at Him.
That’s kind of a hard sentence to hear from the Bible, isn’t it? They laughed at your Lord and what He said. But really it wasn’t a problem. It didn’t hinder Him. He went on with it. He went into the house. He said what He was going to say. “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 
The world will laugh at our Lord, ridicule His ways, distort and try to hinder what He says.  He will keep speaking. We will keep listening.
He will keep calling to those dead in trespasses and sins.  Arise!
And to those who maybe aren’t even tempted by the weirdest perversions that we hear too much about, He sill says, Arise! We admit: All of us have those things on our conscience that would lead us to death.  Rejoice, daily that you have your Lord Jesus calling to you, “Arise!”
And pray.
Pray for the world around you. Pray for the children who are to grow up in this world on its way to death. And pray that the Lord would keep on calling, delivering, saving and giving His good life.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sermon for our 125th Anniversary Celebration

125th Anniversary Celebration

Called. Gathered. Kept.
1 Peter 2:9-10

Grace, Mercy and Peace to your from God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  

Some months ago, the steering committee for this 125th anniversary celebration settled on a theme for our observance.  Called. Gathered. Kept.  For the next few minutes let’s meditate on how God has blessed us these past many years, and then let’s meditate on the hope we have that God will certainly continue to bless us in the future with all good things, because He loves us in Jesus Christ. And we will organize our thoughts around the three part them: Called, Gathered. Kept.
In Matthhew 22, the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus uses a parable to teach us what it means for a person to be called into His Kingdom. He says it’s like a King who throws a great banquet. All these people were invited to come, and they excused themselves. They were too busy for such things. They had what they felt were much more important matters to attend to. Even worse, some of those on the King’s guest list were so rude, so disrespectful that when the delivery boy came around with their invitation, they beat him up, mocked him and killed him.  
The King is understandably angry. He has a punishment in store for all those who despised him and who mocked his invitation. And then He turns to the servants and says, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.'
And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Jesus uses stories, parables to make a point. Sometimes the point was obvious to everyone, sometimes it was hidden a bit, only understood when you had further instruction. This parable is relatively easy to understand. The King represents God. The Banquet, His eternal salvation and the heavenly bliss that is to come. The servants are the prophets of old, the apostles and the preachers of every generation who proclaim to the world the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His invitation.
One of the most intriguing things about this parable that Jesus tells is how rude, murderous even, the people on the guest behave. Incredible! Why would they turn down an invitation to the King’s banquet? Why would they get so upset about it they mistreat the messengers? Yet it’s the sad truth that whenever and wherever the Gospel is preached there are those who reject the beautiful invitation of Jesus. These rude people in Jesus’ parable represent all those who have rejected his message, ridiculed His call, and persecuted His servants.
So, in the parable, the King has his invitation go out to the highways and byways, to the alleys and gutters, He invites the wayward, the lowly, the ones no one expected to be picked.
These folks, the last ones represent. . . well, when you hear this parable it might take you a second and then you say, wait! Is that us? Are we the 2nd class citizens, the scum of the earth, the ones invited as a sort of last resort? Is Jesus saying here, that we are not as special as we sometimes think we are?
This parable of Jesus is hard news to those who do not come to Jesus when called. But it is also a humbling message for all of us. We have nothing in ourselves to be proud of. We have no fame to claim. We have no credit to take.
The catechism teaches us to say, I  I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith
When the Holy Spirit in His word brings us to the proper reality, that we are by nature poor miserable sinners, worth less than nothing without Jesus, then It is incredibly good news to hear the King call us, invite us to His eternal feast.
You who have no goodness in yourselves, who have not done enough good, nor will you ever, you who have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone, You have this one thing, and only this thing going for you. . . 1 Peter 2 you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
God has called you, you who have been baptized. When He washed your sins away, He said, now you are born again born into my eternal kingdom. Your name is written in my book of life, the guest list of the eternal celebration of heaven.
God has called you, as you learned His word in your Sunday school class, your catechism class, even the little bit you learned in Vacation Bible School. His word you learned is His Call to you believe and to follow Him through life and death and into eternity.
We as a human race are becoming more and more isolated.
In 1890, 125 years ago, there were 1.6 billion people in the world. Now there are 7 billion. At different times along the way, so-called experts have come out with dire predictions of overpopulation that would lead to doom.
But now ironically, the problem is not that we are living with too many people. The problem is that so many withdraw from other people. Billions in the world are lonely. There is a higher percentage of lonely people now that there are Billions than there were when there were only hundreds of thousands.
We are becoming more scattered, less gathered.
And when life gets hectic and life tells you “Go, go, go!” I know the feeling you have. You just want to be alone, isolated.
God has called you by the Gospel.
God has gathered you into a church.
I must insist dear brothers and sisters in Christ that this is Gospel. It is good, blessed news that God has gathered you with others into something new.
In eternity, after the resurrection we will all be free from our hang-ups, free from our anxieties, free from our phobias. We will fully enjoy our life together. We will rejoice to be a part of that great crowd of saints, that no one here and now can number, surrounding the throne of our Lord, worshipping and serving Jesus.
In the meantime, we are getting used to it now.
When we are gathered it’s a blessing for ourselves and for each other. We witness to each other , we witness about Jesus and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives faith by means of the Word and Sacrament but He doesn’t tend to do that in isolation, but among His gathered people. As there is a shepherd and a flock of sheep, so there is a preacher and a congregation of hearers.
When we are gathered it’s a blessing for ourselves and for each other. We are an encouragement to each other, giving and taking encouragement from those our Lord has given us in our congregation. We pray with each other and for each other.
Thanks be to the God who gathers scattered souls.
God has kept us in the faith. God has kept this congregation faithful for 125 years.
Again, this is a miracle. It has come to be not by our reason or strength, not by the charisma of leaders, not even because of the wise fore-though of our founding fathers, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has kept us even despite our flawed human works and even through challenging times.
Let me give an example of one of the challenging times through which the Holy Spirit has kept this congregation.  I will read from the minutes of the voters’ meeting of January 12, 1931.
“After a very lengthy discussion of the ill feelings of several members of the Congregation toward one another. . . . (note: and here I am going to leave out the names of the parties involved because some of you are related to them.)  [a member] moved and [another member] seconded, That all those, who were in favor of forgiving the wrongs which others have done to them, and asking those to whom they have done wrong for forgiveness, and willing to forget the past, and willing to shut up about it, and tell the women to keep the Church’s affairs off the telephone lines should stand up. ALL present stood up.”
Now you don’t even need to know what the particular issue or issues were that started this problem, but you can relate to the kind of uncomfortable difficulties it caused.
Can you see that the Holy Spirit was working in the midst of this congregation? That’s how He works on us. He calls us to repent. He leads us to the forgiveness of Jesus. We ought to regularly pass resolutions like this, whether we feel it’s needed or not.
You are kept. That’s Good News for you.
Especially it’s good news of you because it is from this church that you buried your loved ones. God promises to keep His sheep.

Promise – That’s how God talks to His people.  It’s His job to promise. It’s your job to believe. He promises to keep you in the true faith until you die.  How does He keep that promise? When you repent daily and drown your sins like they were drowned at your baptism, and when you believe the forgiveness of Jesus His Son daily and forever.  Amen. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A new statue of Jesus

On June 14th as part of our 125th anniversary celebration we will dedicate this new statue of Jesus.

This is an original piece designed and constructed for our entryway by artist Philip Perschbacher.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sheep -- VBS by Pastor Ronnie Koch

Sheep were a part of daily life in Bible times. David, went from being a boy who watched the family’s sheep, to being the great King of Israel. The angels announced the birth of Jesus first to people who were out watching sheep by night.

1. Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd

By Jesus comforting words, we are led to believe that He cares about each one of us
A statue of Jesus from the
Catacombs in Rome
A.D. 200
personally, and fully. He says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” John 10:11 & 14

2. Jesus -- our Shepherd forever.

On the last day we are told that Jesus will judge the world, separating people like a shepherd would separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:21-36). Those of us who believe in Him look forward to that last day because we will hear Him say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (verse 34). Our Savior Jesus has been at work since even before He was born, preparing the Kingdom for us and preparing us for the Kingdom.

3. Jesus wants you to stay in His flock.

Jesus told Peter his disciple to “feed my lambs.” Today, Jesus has his pastors and teachers feed the lambs of his flock by preaching and teaching His word of grace and truth. Keep listening to Jesus word. Keep coming as a family to the green pastures of still waters that God has for you in His Divine Service at church.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Donkey -- VBS by Pastor Ronnie Koch

Donkeys are one of the most often mentioned animals in the Bible. In ancient Europe, Asia and Africa, donkeys were as common as cars are for us today. Even today, in the Middle East you can see many donkeys in the countryside as well as on city streets.

1.  A donkey served Jesus, taking Him to Jerusalem.

Jesus rode a donkey into the city on his last visit to Jerusalem. The beast of burden bore Jesus who would, within, a few days, bear the burden of the world’s sins on the cross.

2.  Balaam had an argument with his donkey.

            A very interesting donkey is described in the Bible, Numbers 22.  When Balaam would  not listen to what God said, God miraculously gave Balaam’s donkey the gift of human speech. The donkey told Balaam what was what. This becomes a fun little lesson for us today to keep listening to what God has to say.

3. “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

            God’s word tells us what we are to do and not do. But then, more importantly, it tells us what God has done for us:  He sent Jesus to this earth and to the cross to serve us. Jesus became our beast of burden, carrying our griefs and sorrows, our sins and guilt. Because of all Jesus did, God forgives us and promises to lead us all our days and into eternal life with Him.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Doves -- VBS by Pastor Ronnie Koch

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Mark 16:16

1. Doves are a symbol of peace & hope.

Doves are a common symbol in religious and civil ceremonies. They are sometimes released at weddings. Great flocks of them are released at the start of the Olympics. The dove is a familiar symbol of peace. It makes one feel peaceful to see a dove fly away free and hopeful for a good life ahead.

2. A dove showed Noah the flood was over.

When the rain had stopped for a while, Noah sent out a dove from the ark and it returned with a fresh olive branch, a sign that the newly cleaned dry land was producing green, new life.
Noah’s flood reminds us of baptism. See 1 Peter 3:20-21. Remind those in your family about this connection.

3. The Holy Spirit comes like a dove.

When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came to Him in the form of a dove. In our baptisms we have the promised Holy Spirit. Like a dove bringing feelings of peace and hope, the Holy Spirit has blessings for us. You and your family can review those blessings in the catechism’s explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dinosaurs and Dragons - VBS by Pastor Ronnie Koch

Many children are enthralled with Dinosaurs and Dragons. Ancient bones that have been dug up seem to tell stories of great beasts that once roamed the land, sea and sky. In our Vacation Bible School today we talked about three important lessons the Bible has about Dinosaurs and Dragons.

1. God Created All Creatures.

Genesis 1: 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.

There are no beasts or monsters that are outside of God’s creation or outside of God’s control.

Byzantine painting of Adam Naming the Animals.

2. God Cared for All Creatures.

Especially in the days of Noah God protected them from the flood.

Genesis 7:14-16 every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.

3. All Creatures Praise God.

Dinosaurs and Dragons teach us how powerful and wise our Creator is.

Psalm 148:7 & 10 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sherlock Holmes and our congregation. By Pastor Ronnie Koch

In London, in 1890 The Sign of the Four was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. This and other novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle developed the character Sherlock Holmes. This intriguing fictional detective has engaged and captivated audiences in every generation since. In that same summer, over here on the other side of the Atlantic, German settlers in Fredericksburg, Iowa set to work to build a Lutheran church. 125 years ago these founding fathers of our congregation gathered offerings and pledges for the resources to build the first house of worship for St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Unaltered Augsburg Confession. Although it was torn down in the late 1930s, much of the lumber was salvaged and used to build the second church, which still stands today, remodeled as our fellowship hall.

photo from

Recent retellings of the Sherlock Holmes crime stories have been modernized and updated, but the essence of the character – his genius, his wit and his eccentricity – have remained intact. Similarly, 125 years later, we have modernized our church a bit with some minor details like indoor plumbing and Wi-Fi. We sing our hymns in English now and we have communion more regularly. But the essence and the character of what we do is the same, because Jesus Christ, who is at the center of what we do, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It's a blessing for us to follow the pattern that those old Germans set for us. Their legacy to us is much more than lumber and nails. They, like us, desired for themselves and their children to hear God's Word and believe in His Son Jesus Christ, “auf daß alle, die an ihn glauben, nicht verloren werden, sondern das ewige Leben haben”. (that whoever believes in Him will not perish but shall have everlasting life. John 3:16b). In answer to their prayers, God is allowing us to celebrate this anniversary year on June 14th with services at 9:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Eiffel Tower and our congregation. By Pastor Ronnie Koch

Pastor Ronnie Koch and Sandy
in Paris on a layover on the way to
Africa to visit the Lutheran
Church of Benin, 2002
In Paris, in 1889 the Eiffel Tower was completed and opened for its first visitors. At the same time, over here on the other side of the Atlantic, German settlers in Fredericksburg, Iowa were at work doing what needed to be done to have a church – a Lutheran church – in their tiny but growing village. The town's lumber man, Henry Hilmer sent word to the nearest Lutheran pastor, Theodore Haendschke of Spring Fountain, about 11 miles south of Fredericksburg. Mr. Hilmer invited Pastor Haendschke to come and conduct services in Fredericksburg. Haendschke agreed and soon there were regular gatherings of German speaking Lutherans, hearing God's Word and receiving His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in the sacraments.

By 1890, in Paris, the Eiffel Tower was proving to be a lasting monument to the ingenuity of the industrial revolution. By 1890, in Fredericksburg, eight men adopted and signed the constitution of a new congregation: The St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church – Unaltered Augsburg Confession. This Spring, 125 years later, we the present members of St. Paul's congregation thank God for all the blessings He has given to and through this congregation. We will celebrate this anniversary year on June 14th with Pastor Philip Hale as our guest preacher in the morning service at 9:00 am and a special festive service of praise to God at 2:00 pm. We echo the thoughts of Pastor Harold Wunderlich, who in 1940, at the church's 50th anniversary, cited these words “of the third verse of the 126th Psalm: “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.””

Paris, 2002: Some members from St. Paul's congregation
have a "conference"  before setting out to tour the city.