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 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