A Parable

Dear Advent:
A parable. A man owned a restaurant. He served only the healthiest and tastiest of foods. It was acknowledged by all of his customers that the restaurant was unique, precious to them, a place where, if they were ever to eat out, that restaurant would be the place.

Soon, however, other things began to distract the customers. Life’s pressing demands came to be so great that they only had time to eat meals at home. On the road so much and with so little time, they began to eat fast food. Some found that they didn’t even have the time to eat at all.
 
Since every restaurant relies upon new customers and walk-ins, the absence of those faithful customers began to create a new set of problems for the restaurant owner. When people walked by and they only saw a few people at the tables, they assumed that this was an indication of the quality of food, so they passed on by. In addition, the hard work that the owner put into his food preparation and the care with which he made his creative presentations seemed to be waste of his time, at least, that is how he felt. Perhaps his hurt feelings made him doubt whether the extra effort was worth it.
 
It did not take long before the restaurant owner felt that creating wonderful food for his customers was no longer needed, so he closed his shop. Soon thereafter the customers stood in disbelief at the door of the closed restaurant. Admittedly, they had not been there very often lately, but where did the owner go? They most certainly loved his food, when they had time to eat it. Now the food was no longer available. All that was available was the fast food down the street, on the way to the next best thing.
 
Does this parable need to be explained? During my absence from January to mid-March, the attendance at Advent dropped more than 500 people from the year before. It must have been the weather! I am nothing, Christ is everything. I will be gone, but Christ will always be here. Advent is a congregation with liturgical tables of linen and fine china. The wine of the Word is exquisite. The entree of divine forgiveness is sumptuous. The dessert of joyful music and song tantalizes the palate of the soul.
 
What we don’t realize, I think, is that each of us has a confession to make, for the sake of our Lord who owns the restaurant and offers us such wonderful food. What do people think when they come to a house of worship and half the congregation is eating elsewhere that day? It is good that we would all choose this place to eat above all others. It is also good that we so greatly appreciate the fine food and drink. But eating at home? Eating fast food while we are on the run to those “other commitments?” Would we be disappointed if the restaurant were closed?
 
Please make your retiring waiter a happy waiter. Don’t let this restaurant be half full. Your presence is vital in making others understand the greatness of the meals that are being served here. Don’t let your attendance become an act of obligation, but an act of appreciation. Focus upon the sumptuous food and drink offered here so that you cannot wait to return. And please, don’t starve yourself. Fill the restaurant every single Sunday with tables of saints, eating and drinking with the mirth and laughter and joy of the Holy Spirit, consuming in heart and mind and soul the wonderful meal that the Lord has prepared for you.
 
Pastor Fiene
Luke 14:15-23
 


A Shining Jewel

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” 
Philippians 1:21-25

Beloved Saints of Advent:
 
I write this to you as I begin my journey homeward from the West Coast. I do so with a heavy heart—and yet—a joyful spirit. Although the significance of my coming departure as your spiritual shepherd is insignificant by comparison to departure of our Lord from His earthly ministry, the fact is, all Christian life is patterned after His life. As the Apostle Paul said, “I am torn.” The pathway to heaven always leaves us with heavy hearts because we must leave behind our loved ones, but our joy comes from knowing that the end of the pathway is heaven. We will be with each other and with our Lord forever. So my heart is both sad and joyful. But there is more on my heart. I must confess that I worry about what the future holds for you as a congregation, but that worry is also mixed with joy because I know that God has prepared you well for some very great things.
 
Why am I so confident? Permit me to share a little bit about how my thoughts have been shaped through this traveling sabbatical that Solveig and I are experiencing. Wherever we have traveled these past months we have been very deliberate about attending worship services. Perhaps our Indiana Lutheran future seems safe and secure to you, but I assure you, prospering Lutheranism is not common to many places of our country. In the East, in the South, in the West where we have traveled, churches are shrinking, few are growing (at least as “Lutheran” congregations), very few new congregations are being started.
 
Where is our Lutheran Church holding its own in this rapidly changing American culture? There are some, and for that we should give thanks to God. Among them, the building blocks are still the building blocks: Preaching, teaching, reverential worship. But there is one very crucial factor that must be added: LUTHERAN GRIT. That is Lutheran Christians—members of these congregations—committed, caring, fighting, resolved to stand for the Faith. Christians who are passionately loving God’s Word, God’s Wisdom, God’s mercy for broken and sinful people, people sacrificing everything for that firm and freely-given-gift of pardon and peace held out by our Lord and leading to the promise of eternal life.
 
Yes, it depends upon YOUR blood, sweat and tears, consecrated to preserving what has been handed down to us with blood, sweat and tears by our beloved forefathers and mothers. Therefore my confidence in your great future comes from believing that you ARE that congregation. You are a shining jewel.
 
I am asking the “jewel” for a couple of things. The first is that you fully and completely participate in the process of electing and calling a new pastor. The date for the call meeting has been scheduled for 7:00 pm on Wednesday, May 30th. I am hoping and expecting that at least 300 of our voting members will be there. This new pastor—whomever God chooses for you and through you—will be, with Pastor Grady, a weapon in the world for the Truth of God’s Word. They need ALL of you.
 
My second request is that you would give to your pastors and to your congregational brothers and sisters in Christ all the God-given GRIT that God will bestow upon your mortal bodies. You, dear Advent, have to advance the Christian faith into the world. The job is getting tougher. Don’t go soft. Don’t lose your courage. Don’t let adversity or negativism or fear stop you. Use the abundant gifts that God has given you and share your resources. And worship God diligently. Yes, break free from that apathetic gravity of our recreational
/self-obsessed culture with its “once-in-a-while” “if-we-think-about-it” worship pattern. As you breathe, pray. As you eat, give thanks. As you lay down at night to sleep, recount the blessings that God richly and daily bestows upon you in body and in soul.
 
Now let us prepare for the greatest and highest worship of the whole year: The appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his Holy Supper instituted on Maundy Thursday, His painful suffering and death on Good Friday, and His wondrous and glorious day of resurrection from the dark grave of death. I will be with you up until the day of my departure: June the Third.
 
Your shepherd for almost 25 years,
Rev. Dr. John W. Fiene


Lent and Giving Up

Pastor James GradyLent and Giving Up…

At this writing we are entering the holy and penitential season of Lent. From Ash Wednesday to Easter are forty days (not counting Sundays) of repentance and preparation for the joy of Easter. For some, this may involve the act of giving up something so that daily, or many times through the day, they remind themselves of Christ’s suffering, death, and ultimately His resurrection. Their giving up something should help them focus on Christ who gave up his life to pay the penalty for all of our sins. It might be giving up chocolate or some other pleasure that helps one remember the suffering of Christ. With this is also remembered the grace and mercy shown by God and the faith given to trust in Christ, freely repent of sins and receive forgiveness. The Lutheran church does not hold to the mandatory giving up of things or fasting during lent, but views doing so as within the freedom we have in Christ. We may personally do or not do this, and we should not look down on those that do or don’t so as not to create a law either way. But, we are called to repent.

The first of Luther’s Ninety-Five theses states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” To Lutherans, repentance is part of our very existence as God’s children and it is brought into greater focus as we observe and remember the passion and suffering of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in the season of Lent. We see His humiliation in His incarnation and humble birth where He took on the form of our humanness and laid aside the glory and power that was His in heaven. He chose not to use it to save Himself but to glorify His Father in heaven. This glorification took place on the cross where, as eternal God, He gave up His life, defeating the power of the devil, so that we could have life eternally with Him through the power of His resurrection. This is by no power of our own. God sent His Son to have the sins of all men placed on Him. God’s perfect law in the Ten Commandments shows us our sins and our total depravity and the gospel, the good news, shows us Christ who has taken the punishment we truly deserve. With faith in Christ and the atonement He has made for our sin, we are penitent and contrite about our sins and trust in the mercy and grace given to us in the forgiveness of our sins. The absolution we receive in the name of Christ Jesus.

On Ash Wednesday, as we begin Lent, you may have ashes placed on your forehead before the start of the service. The ashes are in remembrance that we are only dust and will return to dust. And, the sign of the cross they are applied in is a remembrance of our being made alive with Christ in our baptism, where our sins are forgiven, and we are given eternal life through the power of His resurrection. On the Last Day our dust will be gathered up again and our bodies given eternal life with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Luther reminds us, our entire life as believers, is to be one of repentance. A life where we daily, with a contrite heart, confess our sins to God and have faith in the forgiveness God has freely given us through His Son. This gift of forgiveness, along with the gift of faith to believe it, allows us to be free to give up the one thing that Jesus tells us we must give up… “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 24:5) As Christians, through the gift of faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we give up our entire lives to Christ, not just a piece of our lives for forty days, and He saves our lives and makes them eternal. 

A blessed Season of Lent to all of you!

In Christ,
Pastor Grady
 

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Place your Trust in God

Beloved Advent

If there is one thing a retiring pastor wants for the flock he loves it is that they will place their trust in God as the transition of pastors begins. He prays that by holding fast to God’s Word and cherishing and preserving a right understanding and use of the Sacraments, the congregation will never need to worry about its future.

But worry we do. Trust is a rare commodity today. A recent article in the WSJ claims that societal trust is on the decline. Among millennials, the article claims, 88% do not trust the media, and 75% of them do not trust the government. I don’t think that our older generations are too far behind in those numbers. Is this one of the reasons why the Christian Church is suffering? Can we be trusted?

Can we trust our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to provide us with a pastor who is faithful in Word and Sacrament, meeting the qualifications that the Apostle Paul lays out in I Timothy 3:2-8: “Now an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, apt to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect…He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

We live in a changing world and our Missouri Synod is much like a besieged city on a hill. She has many breaches in her walls. The enemies are many: The culture religion of America (reformed and “enthusiast” theology– you need to know the meaning of those words); secularism (anything goes); anti-clericalism (what is the good of all that learning?); formalism (“playing” high church with overdone religious pomp and ceremony); apathy (why work so hard and sacrifice so much to gain so little?).

Yet God has given us some very good reasons to trust. First, we have a congregation that deeply cares about the preservation and promotion of God’s pure Word and holy Sacraments. Advent has been challenged various ways in the past by assaults upon her walls and she has not given way to the devil’s devices and schemes. We also have faithful leadership, a great call committee, a faithful assistant pastor and a soon-to-be faithful vacancy pastor. They are alert watchmen on the walls, ready and willing to sound the alarm at the approach of danger. We have a circuit visitor and a district president that are both aware and supportive of our Lutheran convictions. Above all, we have a gracious God who does not forget His promises or abandon His sheep.

Although we hope and pray that we might have good reasons to trust in others, the other side of that coin of trust is trustworthiness. For a congregation to be preserved and protected, it is also necessary to be trustworthy Christians. What that means is more than just coming faithfully to church and keeping the offerings going so the church does not fall into financial trouble. It is that the people of God make it possible for their pastor to be a faithful pastor.

If a pastor must be above reproach, then you should preserve and promote his reputation. Invite your friends and acquaintances to come to church and welcome your pastor into your life. If he is only supposed to have one wife, help his wife to be accepted as a real person and make her church life as happy as possible. If he is to have his children in submission and full of respect, then don’t be judgmental towards them. (Pastor’s kids often get held to a different standard and it can easily make them rebel against the faith). If he should be gentle, be gentle with him.
If he is not to be a lover of money, don’t make him a pauper. Show him your trustworthiness by the way you hold your faith dear in your hearts. Support him and encourage him as though he were your son or brother so that he will trust you.

Advent, you are a precious people and I will always hold you dear to my heart. You have trusted me along with the One who has sent me. Be alert to the world and always be prepared to rush into any breach of the church’s fortress wall, but also rest secure knowing that God will give you someone who will be a faithful shepherd.

Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Your Pastor,

John W. Fiene

P.S. I will be leaving on Sabbatical January 1 and be back with you on March 15th. God bless your Christmas and I look forward to celebrating the holy days of Easter with you all.



500th Anniversary of the Reformation Event

 

On October 29, 2017 after the 10:00 a.m. Reformation Sunday Service, Advent Lutheran Church members and invited guests will come together to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. 
 
 
Blessed Members of Advent: 
 
Why should we feast together? God had His reasons. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the harvest and of God’s gracious provision of the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. Imagine, three million people given water and sweet bread every day for 40 years, without a price, defending them from danger and dwelling in their midst visibly in a fire by night and a cloud by day. Yet Israel so often forgot their unbelievably gracious relationship with God. There was no better way to keep that gift and relationship alive than to remember by eating and drinking in God’s presence for seven days.So why should we gather on October 29th to eat and drink together? We have not been in this Indiana wilderness for 40 years yet, but we have been cared for and preserved by God as a congregation for almost 25 years. I have been your pastor the entire time. The journey has not always been smooth, but if we consider the miracles that have taken place throughout these many years, to worship and feast together is “meet and right so to do.”
 
I did a study last year on the success of mission congregations over the past 15 years in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I chose at random three years of mission starts. What I discovered is that very few of them were succeeding. Only two or three had grown to be self-supporting. Many of them existed on paper alone. And very, very few of them were started with the intention of being truly Lutheran.
 
We should also eat and drink, feast and make merry, thank God and call upon Him in thanksgiving for the faithful people that YOU are! YOU are the fruit of God’s choosing. YOU have been faithful and concerned about keeping God’s Word and Sacrament sacred and pure. YOU have fought the good fight of faith for all these years. So this too, is a reason to celebrate.
 
All of Israel was “required” to join in the Feast of Tabernacles. For Jesus it was three days of travel one-way, seven or eight days of worship and celebration, three days home. I wonder if they saw this as an obligation, or whether they saw it as a privilege. In the light of my coming retirement, I look forward to celebrating with you both in worship and at the banquet on October 29th. 500 years after Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church! 500 years God has preserved the Gospel of the free and unmerited forgiveness of sins so that we could come to faith, believe in our divine forgiveness and inherit eternal life. Ours has been a mere quarter century of that grace, but I, for one, can’t wait to celebrate with each and everyone of you. 
 
Pastor Fiene


Reflections on a visit to Germany for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

 

500 Reformation Choir on recent trip to Germany

Dear 500 Year Old Lutherans,

 
It is hard to imagine that a trip to Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation would be anything but an edifying spiritual pilgrimage. What could be better than listening to 24 male voices singing hymns of praise to God next to the grave of Martin Luther? What could be better than hearing their wives joining them in a robust version of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God?”
 
You are probably waiting for me to say it was the most gratifying experience of a lifetime. It wasn’t. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable and very much appreciated. But let me explain. What Martin Luther stood for, what Martin Luther confessed, was a Christ that had done something for him and all humanity that no one could possibly understand or appreciate without the aid of the Holy Spirit. He was not a saint. He did not want to be idolized. He just wanted all men to be freed from the chains of doubt and the fear of God’s judgment. He found Christ’s gift of a free and undeserved forgiveness in the Holy Scriptures. He faced death many times throughout his life. He did so with a faith that was mixed with fear. He knew he possessed eternal life in Christ, but his flesh was weak and trembled in the face of death. A Christian faith conquering fear; that was Luther.
 
That is why the real Luther had a hard time shining through the exhibits and pictures and commercialism that drove this jubilee. There were two places of note where I saw a glimpse. The first was in the city of Wolfenbüttel. Our family group entered the cathedral not knowing what we would find. We passed through the church, descended the steps into the crypt below where the bodies of the dukes and duchesses lay in state. Suddenly the pastor of the cathedral appeared and offered to tell us about the artwork of the cathedral. He was using the Reformation celebration as an excuse to tell us about the Christian faith and the hope of the resurrection that comes to us through Christ. It burned in his heart. That is what the Reformation was all about: Burning hearts for the true and pure Gospel.
 
The second time was when the choir group stopped at a little chapel in a village called Gruna. We thought that we would only be using the chapel for our own service, but when we arrived, the church was full of people from the village. They played a prelude for us, opened their mouths in awe as the pastors sang, and greeted us after service with warm affection and food. They only had one worship service a year in that church. Their chapel had been flooded twice in recent years. Six feet up the walls were still peeling paint. It was the old East Germany. I felt like were meeting people coming out of prison. The privilege of speaking the Gospel to them was humbling. That was what Luther felt when he discovered the Gospel. It humbled him. Humble gratitude from knowing and trusting God’s free and undeserved mercy and grace compelled him to defy the threats, bans and incrimination of emperors, popes, kings, nobles and their mighty armies.
 
We must ask ourselves: How are we going to celebrate the Reformation? It is great to have exhibits and pictures. It is wonderful to have choirs singing the incredible works of Lutheran hymn writers and composers. But the greater and lasting legacy of the Lutheran Reformation is our own burning faith in the pure Gospel of our Lord and Savior, humbly received, and with faith mixed with fear, boldly confessed to a dying and forsaken world that God wills to save.
 
Your 500 Year Old Pastor
 
(Listen now to the 500 Reformation Choir sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God!” on FaceBook.


Advent Preschool & Kindergarten now enrolling for 2017-2018

Preschool

Preschool now enrolling for 2017-2018

Advent Lutheran Preschool & Kindergarten Programs are now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year!
 
Advent offers a Christian learning environment, with small class sizes, for children ages 2 through 5. Advent Lutheran School balances teacher-directed and child-initiated learning, with an emphasis on individual learning styles and building on strengths and interests.
 
Our curriculum incorporates the Indiana State guidelines and hands-on learning to promote motor skills and brain development. Our educational philosophy is that every child is a gift from God, full of potential and ready to be nurtured in mind, body and spirit.
 
This year, we’re expanding our Kindergarten offerings, with an additional class in the morning.
 
We offer a variety of half-day programs:
  • 1/2 Day Kindergarten for 5 year olds
  • Pre-Kindergarten for 4 year olds
  • Preschool for 3 year olds
  • Mom’s Morning Out for 2 year olds
  • Lunch options available for 3, 4 & 5 years
Explore these programs in greater detail at www.preschool.adventlutheran.org/classes-programs/  
 
Contact Deb Trewartha, Director, at 317-873-6318 for more details or to schedule a tour.

Advent Lutheran School is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association.



Reformation 500 Choir Tour

500 Reformation Choir
Pastor John and Mrs. Solveig Fiene, Vicar Adam & Mrs. Emily Debner, along with Advent members Rae Malesh and Elly Grubaums are participating this month in a whirlwind pastoral choir concert tour of Germany in honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. The choir includes over two dozen Lutheran pastors from across the country who were selected for this unique opportunity to serve as choral ambassadors of the faith.
 
The choir is lead by Maurice Boyer, DMA, Associate Professor of Music at Concordia University in Chicago, IL.  To  learn more about their trip’s mission,  view one of their rehearsals now  on YouTube.  
 
Advent member Chris Colson is accompanying the choir on their journey and will document their trip on social media.  Be sure to follow them at the following links:  
 
Twitter  –  www.twitter.com/Reform_ation500   – @Reform_ation500
Instagram –  www.instagram.com/reformation_500_choir  – reformation_500_choir
Facebook  –  www.facebook.com/Reformation500Choir  –  @reformation500Choir


Dear Soldiers of the Cross

 

Pastor John W. Fiene
Dear Soldiers of the Cross:
 
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.”                 Ezekiel 3:17.
 
This is what your watchman says: “Arise and prepare for battle, for your enemies are at the gate.” From the beginning, from the time of the fall, there has been a demonic war between God and that fallen angel. If we don’t understand how that Fallen One operates, we will lose the war. The consequence of a loss and the reward of a victory are both eternal. Please hear what your watchman has to say about it:
 
There are two fronts to the war. The first front is within our civil realm – within society. Side one on the battlefield is morality and virtue. Side two is immorality and vice. Side two always has the advantage. Man is corrupt by nature and because of that fallen nature is always under pressure to morally devolve. Immorality is like gravity: It is easy to fall down to it, but it is always much harder to rise out of it. To be moral and virtuous requires a lifetime of commitment and sacrifice, love for one’s neighbor, and an altruistic spirit in service to the greater well-being of society.
 
In this battle the Fallen One has the tactical advantage. When the moral and virtuous enter into battle, the Fallen One fires the arrows of their own moral imperfections and thus he condemns all moralists as hypocrites. As a result few people have the courage to stand their ground and fight for moral truth. This is how society develops into a “silent majority.” Silent majorities always yield the high ground to the immoral, which gives them the right to do all the talking and shouting. The immoral also stake a claim to morally superiority by claiming that they are trying to set society free from moral condemnation. Thus the battlefield is yielded to the immoral. One modern example, as one wise pastor observed, “The first wave of feminism made war on husbands. The second was on men in general. Now the third is on children, because it condemns all distinctions between the identities of male and female.” Even the US military, once immune from social fads and trends, is now yielding to LGBT pressures. The only thing that can prevent the collapse of morality is a catastrophe, most often war or famine or disease. The immoral are weak. They live only for themselves and their own pleasures. Catastrophe destroys them, but it also destroys peace and prosperity along with it, which makes the Fallen One happy. So either way he wins.
 
On the other side of the battlefield stands the Christian Church. Only the Christian faith has a weapon that can bring about a Satanic defeat. The Fallen One’s weapons are moral perfection (the Law), with which he can condemn all men, and the fear of punishment for imperfection (sin). Since fear and love are mutually exclusive, in using the fear of judgment, the Fallen One destroys all love for God. How then does the Christian Church win the battle? In Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” we sing, “One little word can fell him.” That word is “Jesus.” Jesus brings divine forgiveness. Jesus covers us with His own perfection. No one is permitted to condemn or stand in judgment wherever Jesus has removed condemnation and judgment. So if “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin,” then Satanic condemnations cannot harm us, even though the Fallen One and the world might rail against us.
Now you can see how faith works: It turns our hearts to love God for His mercy in Christ, and in loving God we find the power to serve – albeit imperfectly – but to rise against the “gravity” to a holy life that God calls us to live. And that imperfect but holy life is the only weapon our society has against the gravitational forces of immorality and vice.
 
So the watchman is calling upon you to take up your swords and come to the battlefield. Let there be no delinquency in worship. Let there be no apathy. No silence. No lukewarm hearts. Let there be virtue and strength, leadership and sacrifice. We must passionately resolve to fight the battle, not with the weapon of our own perfection, but with grace and mercy and forgiveness – not just for others, but also for ourselves, believing that it is ours despite being the imperfect and sinful people that we are. To win this battle we must step courageously and confidently into our world and take the heat and hatred that comes with speaking the truth. If we don’t speak moral and virtuous truth (condemning ourselves in the process), the world won’t believe us when we speak the truth of God’s infinite grace. Grace and grace alone wins the battle and brings eternal victory.
 
So the watchman says, dear people of Advent, “Arise and prepare for battle, for your enemies are at the gate.”
 
Pastor Fiene


Our Lenten Challenge: To Spit Out the Seeds

Pastor John W. Fiene
Since Lent has arrived it seems appropriate for me to make a confession: When I was about 12 years old I was hired as a baby sitter. The kids liked me because I played with them and read them books. Before leaving the parents told me that I could eat anything in the refrigerator (which was cool because my parents would not have given me the same privilege). There was a half-watermelon in that refrigerator. I would have sliced off a piece and tried to eat it had it not been for the fact that I had to deal with all those seeds, so in my infinite wisdom I dug out the center of the watermelon, made a plug and gently placed it back into the hole so that the watermelon looked untouched. For some strange reason I was never asked to babysit again, but I do remember how sweet that core was when I ate it. To put your mind at ease, I felt very bad about eating that core, but I can assure you, the core is always the best part.
 
Our midweek Lenten worship this year is about the best part of our Christian watermelon—the core. In this case, however, we don’t have to feel guilty about consuming it. The core of Christianity are the “solas” of the Christian faith: Christ alone. Scripture alone. Grace alone. Faith alone. The Word alone. God’s glory alone.  Always Alone = without seeds.
 
Consider how we use that word “core” today. Core values. Core muscles. Core arguments. Core curriculum. Cores of cities, magnets, computers and nuclear plants. By definition, a core is the foundation, the part of a thing that does not change, the part of the whole that is pure and without seeds. Seeds are our entertainments, our possessions, the things we do for ourselves. Seeds are human thoughts, human actions, human accomplishments. Honestly, even God spits them out because they have no worth to Him. But He wants us to spit them out as well, if and when they get mixed into our spiritual food.
 
The core is seedless and it is pure. It is Christ alone as our Savior. It is Holy Spirit alone speaking pure truth in Holy Scripture. It is forgiveness, pardon, heaven, undeserved gifts of God given through Grace alone. It is faith receiving all that God has to give because it trusts in God ‘s Grace alone without any merit or worthiness on our part. It is through the power of the Word alone we receive sacramental cleansing. And it is to God alone that we give our thanks and praise for all these “alones.”
 
What then is our Lenten challenge? To spit out the seeds and stick to the core!

Pastor Fiene