Rivers Home: Holy Washings of Lent

Peaceful_River

Traditional Ash Wednesday Service with Holy Communion

February 14, 2018 @ 7:00pm

This schedule is for the following five gatherings.

Fellowship Meals—6:00pm

Worship Services—7:00pm

Lenten Midweek 1 – The Rivers of Eden – February 21, 2018

Lenten Midweek 2 – River of Slaves – February 28, 20:18

Lenten Midweek 3 – Rivers of the Lord – March 7, 2017

Lenten Midweek 4 – Peace Like a River – March 14, 2018

Lenten Midweek 5 – Water of Life – March 21, 2018

Epiphany – Totally Awesome!!

There is a difference between Christmas and Epiphany. Other than the obvious (different seasons) and that Christmas is by far the greater known, for those who follow the Liturgical Calendar of the Church the differences are important and well worth our noting. Basically it comes down to this:

The theme of Christmas is “Emmanuel: God with Us”.
The theme of Epiphany is “This Man is God”.

Let’s take a brief look at the amazing Jesus revealed as God according to the various Gospel readings for each Sunday.
Epiphany Day itself (January 6) has as it’s Gospel reading the visit of the wise men from the East who have come to gift the incarnate God with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each gift in its own way indicating that this child is God and King and that His death would be profoundly significant for the whole world.
The First Sunday after Epiphany recalls the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. The voice of the Father declaring Jesus to be His beloved Son, the descent of the Holy Spirit anointing Him into the offices of prophet, high priest, and king in order to be the perfect and final fulfillment of them for us are amazing, marvelous, and show all that “this man is God”!
The Second Sunday after Epiphany recalls the announcement by John that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. All the Old Testament remembrances of the lamb of sacrifice whose blood is shed for atonement of all sins, brings deliverance from death, and freedom from the evil one’s kingdom. This is all possible because “this man is God”!
The Third Sunday after Epiphany recalls the beginning of the Galilean Ministry of Jesus and the calling of the four fishermen to be His disciples. He preached the Good News and showed His authority as God by healing the sick, casting out demons, and bringing relief to the sufferings of the lame by making them whole. No only is the God/man anointed to His task for taking away the sin of the world, He proved it by removing the visible results of a fallen, sin-filled world. Here we find the reality and the foreshadowing of all that will be healed in our bodies on the last day. And all of this is real because “this man is God”!
The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls the Beatitudes as proclaimed by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. Is it Law? Is it Gospel? Yes! We see Jesus as the one who is blessed by God who stands in our place in all these things. He gains them for us because we cannot attain them. He gives us the blessedness that comes with them all. And He promises in the final beatitude the surety of the ultimate blessing in heaven for those who are persecuted and slandered because they belong to Him. He alone can do this because “this man is God”!
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls that Jesus makes us salt and light to the world, the change it and to illumine it. We are also reminded by Jesus that He did not come to abolish all the Old Testament laws, but to fulfill them! There is not one law of God in either the civic, ceremonial, or moral realm that have not been perfectly fulfilled by Him, for us! As breaking any of the law results in death, by His perfect obedience on behalf of all He fulfilled all. By His suffering and death on the cross the One who fulfilled all the law takes the guilt of those who could not, and becomes the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And all this is real for us because “this man is God”!
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls Jesus teaching, again in the Sermon on the Mount, about the depth of sin. He “re-instructs” the false impressions about sin given them by the Pharisees who made fulfilling the law realized in outward acts of piety. Jesus reminds us that sin has its origins in the heart, and it is there that our attention is drawn. Because no one can truly harness their hearts on that level, the need for Jesus is even more acute. Thus, we are set right about the law by the Lawgiver Himself, and we are forced to turn from our supposed goodness to the God/man who alone can cleanse us from even these, because alone “this man is God”!
The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany recalls the instruction of Jesus about our relationship with one another concerning our attitude. Love is all over the place. How unlike anything that has been heard before from the laws (although the summation of the Law to love God and love neighbor as self is clearly found in the Old Testament, just… forgotten in terms of application). To what level of goodness are we commanded to be? Perfect!! But not based on the comparison with others, but as perfect as the Father!! Condemned again! But Jesus also shows us that He does perfectly what we are incapable of, for only the “man who is God” can do this, and He does it all out of perfect love for us.
The Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls Jesus instructing us to having only one master, and that master is Him! When the world and its concerns (even personal concerns) are master there is nothing but despair. When Jesus is master we can cast all our worries and cares on Him. He takes care of and gives us what we need to see us through the worldly hard ache, knowing that all these are ultimately defeated enemies. In Him, “the man who is God”, we have hope, peace, joy, and love from above that we can then share with others.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord Sunday wraps up the Epiphany season and serves to translate us into the new season in the Church Liturgical Year, Ash Wednesday and Lent. As at the beginning of Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, we again are reminded that “this man is God” by the Father from heaven, and the enveloping cloud that reminds us the cloud of the wilderness wanderings, and on Sinai, and the dense smoke of incense in the Holy of Holies around the Ark of the Covenant. This “man who is God” now sets His face to Jerusalem to accomplish ALL for us on the cross.
The actual numbers of Sundays after the Epiphany varies from year to year because Epiphany is a fixed date and Easter is a movable date. Yet throughout each year the Visitation of the Wise Men, the Baptism, and the Transfiguration remain those anchor points that most clearly remind us of the overall theme: Yes! “This man is God!”

Pastor Barnes

Mobile Office Goes into the Community

Although it has been mobiling for some time now, on and off, the Mobile Office of Pastor Michael Barnes and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is taking the next step. The locations and hours will be posted at least 24 hours in advance for your convenience!

  • Sometimes you want to just talk to a pastor, but outside the formal setting of the church building.
  • Sometimes you might have a question that has been crawling around in the back of your mind, or need to unload a burden of sin, and know that you will not be judged (or shunned) by the listener.
  • Sometimes you want someone who will pray for/with you about the things of life: troubles, thanksgivings, joys, etc.
  • Sometimes you just want to sit and enjoy company with another human being.
  • Wattch for location. Stop by. You are always welcome.

Aren’t Lutherans Just a Liberal Cult?

First, we would like to make it abundantly clear that there are those who call themselves Lutheran and attach that nomenclature to their buildings and publications, yet they have, sadly, wandered from the Word of Truth as revealed in the Scriptures. The congregations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are not counted among them. Rather….

As Lutherans:

We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and norm according to which all teachings, together with ‹all› teachers, should be evaluated and judged [2 Timothy 3:15–17] are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone. For it is written in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” St. Paul has written, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

 

We believe that the meaning of any text of the Sacred Scriptures is arrived at on the basis of the Scriptural context in which the passage rests, and the Scripture as a whole. Interpretation is not understood on the basis of its own, isolated existence. [On the basis of such “proof texting” many heresies have arisen within the Church. Scripture interprets Scripture.]

We believe that the center of all Scriptural doctrine is Jesus Christ on the cross as the only atonement for the sins of all people of all times.

We believe that Genesis 1-11 is historic narrative; that God created out of nothing all that exists in six 24 hour days as is commonly understood in normal conversation, that there was a universal flood at the time of Noah and that this man and seven others were saved through the waters of the flood by God.

We believe Jesus when He declares that He is spoken of, and is found in, the writings of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. To fully understand Jesus, we are directed to the Old Testament as well as the New.

 

We condemn all those who say that the Scriptures are simply the opinions of men from a former time.

We condemn those who, through deception, say that they acknowledge the inspiration of the Scriptures as the Word of God, yet understand it to be the same inspiration that poets, writers, and artists experience in their work.

We condemn those who, although saying that the Scripture is the Word of God, yet by deception mean that the Scriptures simply contain the Word of God, which the individual Christian is left to discover.

We condemn those who say that human reason is a necessary element in the understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, as human reason is tainted by the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh.

 

 

On social issues we are pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family.

Why Do Lutherans Call Themselves Lutheran?

As Lutherans we honor the name and memory of Martin Luther, the 16th century monk who defied Pope and Empire for the sake of the Scriptural teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. By the grace of Almighty God, Luther’s examination of the Scriptures freed the Church from the bondage of works righteousness and a theology of glory that made man the center of his own salvation. Lutherans maintain that Gospel in all aspects of their lives.

So why do we maintain the use of Luther’s name in defining who we are? Unlike a cult, which focuses on the man, Lutherans focus on what the man taught. Luther never wanted his name attached to anything of a movement. Rather, his desire was that the Church maintain the name Christian. Reform, not replacement, was his goal. Unfortunately his enemies would not let it drop.

With the resulting protestant splinter groups that came out of the original Reformation, the name eventually stuck, and has been used to identify those churches that still hold to the Scriptural teachings of justification. True Lutherans find their ultimate identity in Jesus Christ alone. To be Lutheran means to follow Jesus Christ.

Terrorism and the Two Kingdoms

It is a sad commentary on the condition of this world to say that terrorism is nothing new. In its latest manifestation we find Islamic Jihad, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic Brotherhood, and a host of other identifiers that all have the same goal, the elimination of Western culture and laws and Christian faith, and the establishment of a world-wide Caliphate governed by Sharia law. The means to accomplish these goal are threats, violence, terror, and bloodshed.

I am not here to give a history lesson, or to engage in political debate. I’ll leave that up to you in a different venue. Let’s just say that the means of their goals has been seen yet again, this time on the streets of Paris.

As we struggle to come to terms with such violence I am asked what should be the Church’s proper response. I can give the Lutheran viewpoint and you can take it from there.

We believe that God operates in this world through two kingdoms: the kingdom of the right and the kingdom of the left. The kingdom of the right is the kingdom of grace as seen in His Church. Christ rules over His church in love, guiding and directing her in the mission of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation to the entire world. It is a kingdom in which He directs us to love even our enemies and to pray for them and their conversion. Christians are to be the quintessential speakers of peace and love in the world that flows from our understanding of the cross.

The kingdom of the left are the governmental forces of the world. God works through them to keep order in the world, to punish evildoers, and when needed, to wage just wars for the protection of all. It operates from the basis of the law of God that is written into the hearts of all people.

As government officials can also be true Christians, so also can true Christians operate within the governmental sphere, as both are from God and are therefore ultimately to His glory.

The Christian/Lutheran response to terrorism then is this: we pray for our enemies, for those who do evil and conspire against us and our most holy faith. We love our enemies, our hearts breaking at the demonic madness that enslaves them and praying for their conversion through the power of the Word made Flesh. As citizens we serve as we are called upon to serve for the protection not only of our personal families and friends, but also that of the nation, and yes, even at times the world. Love for humanity directs that protection.

In all this keep in mind that ultimately it is Christ who has the victory. His promises to us are trustworthy, and He has promised that He is returning to put an end of all our suffering in this life. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Pastor Barnes

Close Communion – How Dare We?

The issue of the Lord’s Supper can be a very emotional one, especially as it involves the question of who can and who cannot attend at any particular altar. For those who prefer the emotional route to theology, there is nothing here that will settle your mind and heart. I would simply ask that you approach this post with the desire to learn the “why” of the “close communion”.

I want to look at this briefly from three points from the Holy Scriptures.

First, when our Lord Christ says to His disciples, “Take eat, this is my body… Take drink, this is my blood” He is not doing so metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically. He is speaking on the basis of the entire Old Testament that eating and drinking the sacrifices for sin and the establishment of covenant with God are necessary to gain the benefits of that sacrifice. Being the final sacrifice as the true Lamb of God (not metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically a sacrifice), the benefits of what the sacrifice accomplishes comes to us through the eating and drinking of the flesh of sacrifice. (I don’t make this stuff up! Go search the Scriptures!)

Second, St. Paul, knowing this truth that the body and blood of Jesus are present and distributed to those gathered to receive, reminds us all in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that to receive the elements of the Supper without recognition of the body and blood of Christ is guilty of sinning and brings harsh judgment on themselves. The pastor of a congregation is charged by the Lord to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ (and this would qualify as a mystery, I would think), As a result of this charge they are held accountable for the souls under their care as we see in Hebrews 13:17. A pastor knows his flock and so can vouch for them with confidence. A stranger he does not know, so for the protection of all, close communion.

Third, and related to the above, there is the obvious fact that there is division in the earthly church, and most all of the divisions relate back to Jesus and the cross. True unity of the church is possible in this world only through true unity of teaching. For example, how can one group say that Jesus was born of a clinical virgin, was fully God and fully man in one Christ, died as the Lamb of God on the cross to take away all sins, and physically rose from the dead after three days also claim to be in untiy of teaching with those groups who deny all of it? Two different teachings, two different Christs! As the communion is a demonstration of the oneness of faith and the avoidance of error (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 16:17) we are bound to make the confession and practice close communion for the very sake of the Gospel.

How dare we practice a close communion? A better question is: how dare we not?

Pastor Barnes