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Sermons & Bible Studies

Advent records sermon and bible study content from Pastor John Fiene, and guest pastors, through SoundCloud. You can access and download our content from this site, via the SoundCloud app on the App Store and Google Play, or as an iTunes podcast.
 

Notes from Advent

From self study to commentary, Notes from Advent shares the latest news, events and other information from Advent Lutheran Church.
 

Fare thee well!

Dear Saints of Advent:

How can I ever thank you for the most wonderful way a pastor could retire? To worship with you and proclaim God’s Word to you and bring to you the body and blood of Christ – this was my joy as it was John the Baptist’s joy. (I think we should call him “John the Lutheran.”) It was a day to remember for the rest of my life. Your affectionate words and embraces were too much for my fragile emotions to handle. But they were medicine for my soul.

Your gifts of cards and letters and financial contributions will also be cherished. I look so forward to seeing you all again upon Solveig’s and my return at the end of June. Please keep our Heritage Tour in your prayers. I am sure that they will all be excited to share with you their great adventure.

I would also like to give thanks to our congregational leadership, our president and elders, for their great kindness and thoughtful planning. I must also give specific thanks to Pastor Grady, Monte Weimer and Juanita Duncan, along with our whole music staff, Phil Spray and Phil Lehman and Deb Trewartha, for their hard work in bringing glory to God as we said our farewells. The brunch was wonderful, although I never got to eat any of it. I was being well fed with your words and kind comments.

May our Lord be with you in the coming days and months as you go about the process of calling a new Senior Pastor. May the Holy Spirit keep you safe in the arms of our Heavenly Father, and may He continue to send His Son in Word and Sacrament to care for your bodies and souls until we all reach our heavenly goal. There we will feast together into eternity. How wonderful to have that hope and to long for that day to come!

Your “retired” Pastor Fiene

P. S.  See you in church!



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.



Annual Voter’s Meeting – June 24 after 9 a.m. service

Congregation will vote on new slate of officers and budget for 2018=2019 fiscal year.  Please attend!


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