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Advent Activities Cancelled

Dear Advent Family

Effective immediately, all activities at Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church are cancelled until further notice. 

The Church has endured for over 2,000 years withstanding plagues and persecution.  Rest assured, she will endure throughout this current pandemic of Covid-19. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

Last week, we promised to continue in vigilantly monitoring and evaluating the coronavirus situation and inform you if further changes were made to our plans.  We have now arrived at such a juncture.  As you are most likely aware, our government authorities are requesting that no groups of over 50 persons should assemble.  As we write this letter, we are receiving reports that that number could be dropped to 10.  And so this past evening via conference call, Pastor Mackay met with Pr. Grady, Mr. Chuck Long (the Chairman of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church), Mr. Steve Vogtman (Head Elder) and our Board of Elders.  The question before us was how to best continue the work of the Church while caring for our neighbor and respecting civil authority.

Since almost all of our services and other gatherings number 50 persons or more (and certainly 10), we unanimously agreed to CANCEL all services, bible studies, classes and fellowship activities.  This will fulfill what is being asked of us by our civil authorities, with regards to social distancing and preventing further spread of Covid-19.

How will we continue the work of the Church in terms of Word and Sacrament ministry? 
Regarding the Word, we have purchased and are currently testing equipment to offer our worship services over the internet (on our website), along with Bible studies and devotions, hopefully even Sunday school lessons.  The Lord’s Word is still efficacious as it is preached and taught in this medium.  Please continue to read and study God’s Word in your home, for yourself and your family.  Remain diligent in your prayers.  Make phone calls, texts and emails to your family members that you may be apart from, but also fellow members from Advent.  While isolated and/or quarantined, you are yet a member of the Body of Christ and part of the flock here at Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church!    

Regarding the Sacrament
Pastor Grady and Pastor Mackay stand ready to give you Absolution and our Lord’s Body and Blood as you so desire.  We will meet privately with individuals and families here at church or in your home (as appropriate and with adequate precautions).  Please call either of us on our cell phone numbers to arrange such a time.  We will also be posting an online sign-up on our website adventlutheran.org   In the event that travel is restricted, any of us become sick or ill, rest assured that it is ok to wait patiently to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood.  While it is a very great gift, the medicine of immortality, we are justified by faith and not by the frequency of our reception! 

These are all great changes to how we “do” Church.  Please note that we do not particularly like any of this, as we are sure you have the same feelings with the changes to your work and family schedules.  However, the Word of the Lord endures forever!   

This is our plan of action at this juncture.  Please know that we will continue to vigilantly monitor and evaluate the coronavirus situation and that further changes could be made to our plans.  In the event that further actions are required, we will inform you via email, our website, Facebook and phone calls.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Pastors, the Elders or the Church Office. 

Above all, know that the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!  Have no fear little flock! 
 
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

LSB #655  “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in your Word”  Text: Public domain
 
Peace be with you,
Pr. Mackay, Pr. Grady, Mr. Chuck Long (Chairman) & Mr. Steve Vogtman (Head Elder)

 Additional Questions and Helpful Links:

  1. How long will this last?

Until you hear otherwise from us.  No one really has an answer to this question at this time, but rest assured we will continue to vigilantly monitor this situation.  Remember that our Lord could also return at any moment, resurrecting us and creating a new heaven and earth!  Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Amen.

  1. Will there be online services?

Yes.  The Pastors at Advent, along with our organist, will be recording Worship Services.  You may watch them online at www.adventlutheran.org  There will also be a printed bulletin for you to download and follow/participate at home with your family.

  1. What time will the online services be available?

It is our intention that the services will be made available by the normal service times.  We may have to pre-record some of them, but for the Wednesday Lenten Service, it will be available to watch by 7pm that evening.  For Sunday, it will be available to watch by 8:15am.  While we might “livestream” some of them (check the website), all of the services will be available AT ANY TIME for you to watch and participate with your family.

  1. Can I still communicate with the Pastors?

Yes, please!     
    
Pr. Mackay’s cell #  (317) 847-7215  
email mmackay@adventlutheran.org

Pr. Grady’s cell #     (317) 372-6289    
email jgrady@adventlutheran.org

  1. What if I need/desire communion?

Our Pastors are available by appointment to give you Absolution and the Sacrament.  Please do the following:  call the Pastors directly, call the Church Office, use the online sign-up on the website.

  1. What if I need help with food, medicine?

Please call the Pastors, the Church Office, any of the Elders or a fellow Advent member.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know your needs.  We are here to help!

  1. Why are we making this decision?

For the good of our neighbor and in obedience to our civil authorities. 

  1. What does the Bible say about the pandemic?

Here is an excellent article (as well as LCMS President’s article pasted below)  https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/coronavirus-nothing-new-about-disease-or-the-need-for-the-gospel/

  1. Does this cover all activities (i.e. Confirmation, Council, Choir, etc)?

Yes.  All activities, including Council, Board and Committee meetings are cancelled.  Please use phone calls, email and/or conference calls to conduct business of the church.  Call the Church Office if you need help setting up an online forum or conference call. 

  1. What about Advent Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten?

Our School follows Zionsville Public Schools regarding closures.  Mrs. Deb Trewartha, our Principal, has been maintaining contact with our school families and staff.  For the time being, as long as Zionsville is closed, Advent Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten will remain closed as well.

  1. Where can I find more information on Covid-19?

Please use the CDC website as well as the Indiana Department of Health website.
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
ISDH – https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/

     12. How do I make an offering to the church while activities and worship services are suspended?

  1. By Mail:  Send check to:

Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church  
11250 N. Michigan Rd. 
Zionsville, IN 46077

    13.  Will our church employees still be compensated?

Yes.  We will continue to pay all of our employees as budgeted for the time being.  Some of them may work from home and/or have some of their duties adjusted accordingly.

  1. What is the recommendation of the LCMS?

We are following the suggestions of the LCMS.  More information, along with an excellent video from our President, may be found here:  https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/resource-helps-congregations-plan-for-widespread-illnesses/

  1. As a member how can I help?

Pray.  Remain in the Word.  Follow the recommendations of the CDC and the State of Indiana.  Practice social distancing.  Wash your hands.  Care for your family.  Check in on your neighbors, family and church members by phone call, email or text.  Continue to provide your offerings to the Church as our bills, payroll and commitments yet continue.  As appropriate, we will publicize additional opportunities for service. 

  1. Will the Pastors still make house calls?

Yes.  If you and/or your family are under quarantine, it would be best to limit the pastors’ exposure, not just for their sake but also their own families.  Please keep this in mind.  This is a difficult time for pastoral visits, as they are not currently allowed to visit hospitals or nursing homes.  Yet they stand ready to give the members of Advent the Lord’s gifts and serve accordingly.

  1. What is the church phone number and email address?

(317) 873-6318               email:   info@adventlutheran.org

  1. What are the Elders doing?

Praying for you and your family.  Making phone calls to members.  Ensuring that our pastors are cared and provided for.  Assisting the pastors with the work of Word and Sacrament ministry.  Feel free to call them if you need any assistance, have questions, or concerns.
                                      

Helpful links to information about the COVID-19 VIRUS:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/  Our government website 

https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/  Our state website

https://www.adventlutheran.org/  Our church website with information, services, bulletin and more.  Please check and use this regularly!

https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/a-message-from-lcms-president-matthew-c-harrison-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic/   Our denominational website with a special message. 

https://thecross957.org/  An LCMS radio station available online with faithful and excellent programming. 

https://www.youtube..com/channel/UCPCSuCbAv-7iZ-IIKD2Gqeg  A YouTube Channel of a faithful LCMS pastor, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller. 
 
www.issuesetc.org An online Lutheran talk radio radio program on a vast variety of Issues.  They have an excellent host and helpful guests. You can click on the “on demand” button to find your topic.
 
https://lutheranpublicradio.org/  If you are missing quality Lutheran Music (especially music in which you can understand and trust the words) check out Lutheran Public Radio.  Lutheran Public Radio streams Sacred Music for the World, 24/7, following the course of the Church Year. Listen anytime, anywhere.
 
https://thewordendures.org/archive/  Study the Bible with the Church Past and Present with this daily verse by verse Bible Study led by Pastor Will Weedon, former Chaplain of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. 
 
https://worshipanew.org/  An LCMS website with worship services. 



Response to Coronavirus

March 17, 2020

Dear Advent Family

Effective immediately, all activities at Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church are cancelled until further notice. 

The Church has endured for over 2,000 years withstanding plagues and persecution.  Rest assured, she will endure throughout this current pandemic of Covid-19. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

Last week, we promised to continue in vigilantly monitoring and evaluating the coronavirus situation and inform you if further changes were made to our plans.  We have now arrived at such a juncture.  As you are most likely aware, our government authorities are requesting that no groups of over 50 persons should assemble.  As we write this letter, we are receiving reports that that number could be dropped to 10.  And so this past evening via conference call, Pastor Mackay met with Pr. Grady, Mr. Chuck Long (the Chairman of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church), Mr. Steve Vogtman (Head Elder) and our Board of Elders.  The question before us was how to best continue the work of the Church while caring for our neighbor and respecting civil authority.

Since almost all of our services and other gatherings number 50 persons or more (and certainly 10), we unanimously agreed to CANCEL all services, bible studies, classes and fellowship activities.  This will fulfill what is being asked of us by our civil authorities, with regards to social distancing and preventing further spread of Covid-19.

How will we continue the work of the Church in terms of Word and Sacrament ministry? 
Regarding the Word, we have purchased and are currently testing equipment to offer our worship services over the internet (on our website), along with Bible studies and devotions, hopefully even Sunday school lessons.  The Lord’s Word is still efficacious as it is preached and taught in this medium.  Please continue to read and study God’s Word in your home, for yourself and your family.  Remain diligent in your prayers.  Make phone calls, texts and emails to your family members that you may be apart from, but also fellow members from Advent.  While isolated and/or quarantined, you are yet a member of the Body of Christ and part of the flock here at Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church!    

Regarding the Sacrament
Pastor Grady and Pastor Mackay stand ready to give you Absolution and our Lord’s Body and Blood as you so desire.  We will meet privately with individuals and families here at church or in your home (as appropriate and with adequate precautions).  Please call either of us on our cell phone numbers to arrange such a time.  We will also be posting an online sign-up on our website adventlutheran.org   In the event that travel is restricted, any of us become sick or ill, rest assured that it is ok to wait patiently to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood.  While it is a very great gift, the medicine of immortality, we are justified by faith and not by the frequency of our reception! 

These are all great changes to how we “do” Church.  Please note that we do not particularly like any of this, as we are sure you have the same feelings with the changes to your work and family schedules.  However, the Word of the Lord endures forever!   

This is our plan of action at this juncture.  Please know that we will continue to vigilantly monitor and evaluate the coronavirus situation and that further changes could be made to our plans.  In the event that further actions are required, we will inform you via email, our website, Facebook and phone calls.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Pastors, the Elders or the Church Office. 

Above all, know that the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!  Have no fear little flock! 
 
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

LSB #655  “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in your Word”  Text: Public domain
 
Peace be with you,
Pr. Mackay, Pr. Grady, Mr. Chuck Long (Chairman) & Mr. Steve Vogtman (Head Elder)

 Additional Questions and Helpful Links:

  1. How long will this last?

Until you hear otherwise from us.  No one really has an answer to this question at this time, but rest assured we will continue to vigilantly monitor this situation.  Remember that our Lord could also return at any moment, resurrecting us and creating a new heaven and earth!  Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Amen.

  1. Will there be online services?

Yes.  The Pastors at Advent, along with our organist, will be recording Worship Services.  You may watch them online at www.adventlutheran.org  There will also be a printed bulletin for you to download and follow/participate at home with your family.

  1. What time will the online services be available?

It is our intention that the services will be made available by the normal service times.  We may have to pre-record some of them, but for the Wednesday Lenten Service, it will be available to watch by 7pm that evening.  For Sunday, it will be available to watch by 8:15am.  While we might “livestream” some of them (check the website), all of the services will be available AT ANY TIME for you to watch and participate with your family.

  1. Can I still communicate with the Pastors?

Yes, please!     
    
Pr. Mackay’s cell #  (317) 847-7215  
email mmackay@adventlutheran.org

Pr. Grady’s cell #     (317) 372-6289    
email jgrady@adventlutheran.org

  1. What if I need/desire communion?

Our Pastors are available by appointment to give you Absolution and the Sacrament.  Please do the following:  call the Pastors directly, call the Church Office, use the online sign-up on the website.

  1. What if I need help with food, medicine?

Please call the Pastors, the Church Office, any of the Elders or a fellow Advent member.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know your needs.  We are here to help!

  1. Why are we making this decision?

For the good of our neighbor and in obedience to our civil authorities. 

  1. What does the Bible say about the pandemic?

Here is an excellent article (as well as LCMS President’s article pasted below)  https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/coronavirus-nothing-new-about-disease-or-the-need-for-the-gospel/

  1. Does this cover all activities (i.e. Confirmation, Council, Choir, etc)?

Yes.  All activities, including Council, Board and Committee meetings are cancelled.  Please use phone calls, email and/or conference calls to conduct business of the church.  Call the Church Office if you need help setting up an online forum or conference call. 

  1. What about Advent Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten?

Our School follows Zionsville Public Schools regarding closures.  Mrs. Deb Trewartha, our Principal, has been maintaining contact with our school families and staff.  For the time being, as long as Zionsville is closed, Advent Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten will remain closed as well.

  1. Where can I find more information on Covid-19?

Please use the CDC website as well as the Indiana Department of Health website.
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
ISDH – https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/

     12. How do I make an offering to the church while activities and worship services are suspended?

  1. By Mail:  Send check to:

Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church  
11250 N. Michigan Rd. 
Zionsville, IN 46077

    13.  Will our church employees still be compensated?

Yes.  We will continue to pay all of our employees as budgeted for the time being.  Some of them may work from home and/or have some of their duties adjusted accordingly.

  1. What is the recommendation of the LCMS?

We are following the suggestions of the LCMS.  More information, along with an excellent video from our President, may be found here:  https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/resource-helps-congregations-plan-for-widespread-illnesses/

  1. As a member how can I help?

Pray.  Remain in the Word.  Follow the recommendations of the CDC and the State of Indiana.  Practice social distancing.  Wash your hands.  Care for your family.  Check in on your neighbors, family and church members by phone call, email or text.  Continue to provide your offerings to the Church as our bills, payroll and commitments yet continue.  As appropriate, we will publicize additional opportunities for service. 

  1. Will the Pastors still make house calls?

Yes.  If you and/or your family are under quarantine, it would be best to limit the pastors’ exposure, not just for their sake but also their own families.  Please keep this in mind.  This is a difficult time for pastoral visits, as they are not currently allowed to visit hospitals or nursing homes.  Yet they stand ready to give the members of Advent the Lord’s gifts and serve accordingly.

  1. What is the church phone number and email address?

(317) 873-6318               email:   info@adventlutheran.org

  1. What are the Elders doing?

Praying for you and your family.  Making phone calls to members.  Ensuring that our pastors are cared and provided for.  Assisting the pastors with the work of Word and Sacrament ministry.  Feel free to call them if you need any assistance, have questions, or concerns.
                                      

Helpful links to information about the COVID-19 VIRUS:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/  Our government website 

https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/  Our state website

https://www.adventlutheran.org/  Our church website with information, services, bulletin and more.  Please check and use this regularly!

https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/a-message-from-lcms-president-matthew-c-harrison-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic/   Our denominational website with a special message. 

https://thecross957.org/  An LCMS radio station available online with faithful and excellent programming. 

https://www.youtube..com/channel/UCPCSuCbAv-7iZ-IIKD2Gqeg  A YouTube Channel of a faithful LCMS pastor, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller. 
 
www.issuesetc.org An online Lutheran talk radio radio program on a vast variety of Issues.  They have an excellent host and helpful guests. You can click on the “on demand” button to find your topic.
 
https://lutheranpublicradio.org/  If you are missing quality Lutheran Music (especially music in which you can understand and trust the words) check out Lutheran Public Radio.  Lutheran Public Radio streams Sacred Music for the World, 24/7, following the course of the Church Year. Listen anytime, anywhere.
 
https://thewordendures.org/archive/  Study the Bible with the Church Past and Present with this daily verse by verse Bible Study led by Pastor Will Weedon, former Chaplain of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. 
 
https://worshipanew.org/  An LCMS website with worship services. 

 

 

March 11, 2020

Dear Advent Family,  

As you may be aware, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been updating the country on the current status of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and we are following their suggestions and recommendations very closely.  The LCMS also has issued a guide to help congregations manage day to day operations, including schools and days on which services and events are held.  In the meantime, health care officials indicate that the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow basic health practices such as thoroughly washing hands, cover coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you are ill.

Given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we wanted to share with you what Advent Lutheran Church and its School are doing to help minimize the risks and possible exposure to our students and congregation.

  • Cleaning and disinfect hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, pews, desks, tables.
  • Urging all members, faculty, staff and students who are feeling ill or running a temperature to stay home until they recover (free of symptoms after 24 hours)
  • Advising all students and staff to enforce great hygiene – wash hands thoroughly (15-20 seconds with soap and water) and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Advising members to refrain from shaking hands; use a fist- or elbow-bump, wave or nod as a greeting.
  • Advising members who plan to travel during spring break, especially out of the country, to “self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to the U.S.” (Source: Indiana University Public Safety Advisory, 3/4/2020). 
  • For communion:
    • Pastors will disinfect their hands prior to serving
    • Individual glass cups will be given a bleach bath & disinfected after use
    • The chalice will be wiped thoroughly after each use.  

In addition, it should be noted that there have been no reports of diseases being spread through use of the Common cup or individual cup. According to the CDC, and due to the properties of silver, alcohol content in wine, and especially wiping the chalice, the risk is very very minimal. People are still more likely to become infected by touching a doorknob, shaking hands, or having a face-to-face conversation with someone infected than by receiving communion.  

Our Lord Himself mandated that we eat and drink His Body and Blood in the bread and wine. We seek to minimize physical concerns by practices, but not by withholding or ignoring our Lord’s mandate and institution. In the Sacrament, He gives to use forgiveness of sins, life and salvation!

It is important to remember that public health agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) are charged with handling the spread and contagion of infectious diseases like the coronavirus. In addition, the ISDH is allowing county authorities to make decisions regarding school closings, length of closings, quarantine requirements, etc. 

We continue to follow updates on the following websites and will keep in touch with members via e-mail and Facebook should we find it necessary to take additional precautions.   If we find it necessary to cancel a service or school day, we will share that information as soon as possible.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.  

WHO – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

ISDH – https://www.in.gov/isdh/28470.htm

 

Here are also two good articles from the LCMS regarding our Christian faith and response to the current situation.  

https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/when-one-cant-flee-the-plague/

https://blogs.lcms.org/2020/coronavirus-nothing-new-about-disease-or-the-need-for-the-gospel

And a letter from Bishop Hardy, of the English District regarding “What Congregations Need to Know.”

Have no fear, little flock;  Have no fear little flock,
For the Father has chosen,  To give you the Kingdom;  
Have no fear, little flock!

Praise the Lord high above;  Praise the Lord high above,
For He stoops down to heal you, Uplift and restore you;
Praise the Lord high above!

LSB #735 “Have No Fear, Little Flock”  Sts. 1,3  

Luke 12:32; Matt. 25:34; Ps. 103:3-5; Matt. 28:20b

 

Peace be with you,

Pr. Mackay



Lent, Crazy Latin Words and What Happens When You Die

We have begun the 40-day journey towards Easter, hopefully reminding each of us of the 40-year wandering of God’s people in the wilderness, awaiting entry into the Promised Land, as well as the 40-day fast of Jesus in the wilderness, enduring the Temptation of the Devil.  “Lent” comes from an old English word “lencten” which is best understood as “lengthen”.  According to our Church Year, Easter falls in the Spring.  Thus Lent is simply a Spring season where the days are getting longer, prior to the Church’s observance of Easter.  For early Christians it was a marvelous thought and worthy of theological connection:  as daylight increased so did the anticipation of the Light of the World enacting and fulfilling His justifying work through His life, death and Resurrection.  Thus, our 40-day Lenten Season focuses on the Passion of our Lord.  For this reason, during our Wednesday Midweek Services (7:00pm), we will hear the reading of the Passion, a combination of all four Gospels.  As Jesus ministered and walked towards Jerusalem and the Temple, the suffering servant and Lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world, so we journey throughout these 40-days, all the while seeing the Light that has come into the world to conquer the darkness. 

The Sundays in Lent (8:15am & 10:45am) are similarly structured.  You’ll notice that not only are they numbered (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc), but that there is also a strange word listed by their title (Invocabit, Reminiscere, etc.).  These traditional titles of the Sundays in Lent are taken from the Historic Introit appointed for each Sunday and listed by their Latin name.  Here’s a brief summary of the five Sundays in Lent for your meditation:

Invocabit             “call”                Psalm 91:15        When he calls to me, I will answer him

Reminiscere       “remember”     Psalm 25:6           Remember your mercy, O Lord   

Oculi                    “eye”               Psalm 25:15        My eyes are ever toward the Lord

Laetare                “rejoice”          Isaiah 66:10         Rejoice with Jerusalem

Judica                  “vindicate”      Psalm 43:1          Vindicate me, O God

Let’s put it all together!  God the Father will hear the cry of His people, especially the cry of God the Son for you.  He will remember His promise of mercy and salvation, thus we focus our “Eyes on Jesus” (don’t forget to pick up your Lenten Devotional Booklet and Calendar, aptly titled 😊).  As God hears the cries of His people, He remembers His mercy and provides His Son as the once for all sacrifice.  This brings life and immortality to light, great joy, in Jerusalem, in His presence!  Thus we are vindicated, judged, and declared righteous, not by works of our own, but by the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The Holy Spirit is thus sent to open our eyes and hearts in faith, that by His sanctifying work, we gladly receive His Word and Sacrament, absolved and strengthened for our journey, knowing and seeing the Light that ever increases upon us as we journey to not only the Resurrection of Our Lord, but that of all flesh . . . eternal life and immortality to come.

May the Lord thus preserve and bless us throughout these 40-days and unto life everlasting.

A blessed Lententide to you,

Pr. Mackay

P.S.  As our family here at Advent has experienced many deaths of loved ones recently, I humbly offer a short article below by Rev. Travis Berg.  May God’s Word bring you comfort, peace and knowledge of salvation. 

What happens when you die?  by Pastor Travis Berg

God’s Word only tells us a little about the state of the soul between death and the resurrection; it mainly points us to Judgement Day and to the resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 1:7Phil. 3:20-21Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:13 and following; 2 Tim. 4:7-9Titus 2:13).

What do we know?

  1. The souls of unbelievers are kept in prison, a place of punishment (1 Peter 3:19-20).
  2. The souls of believers dwell with Christ in Paradise, which is far better than here: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23); “And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
  3. We do not know how the blessed dead enjoy communion with God; we just know that they do. This is based on what is cited above.
  4. Purgatory is a lie and contrary to Scripture. Scripture divides all men into two classes: believers and unbelievers, good and evil, sheep and goats. Scripture also teaches that only in this life is the time to labor, to run, to strive, that is, to repent, believe, attain the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Matt. 25:101 Cor. 7:29Eph. 5:16Gal. 6:8). Most importantly, purgatory obscures the merits of Christ. If we still had to make satisfaction for our sins, then Christ’s merit is insufficient.
  5. There are no such thing as ghosts. Departed souls do not return to this world. This is a standing rule and divine arrangement (Luke 16:27-31). Elijah and Moses are to be counted among the risen (Matt. 17:3).
  6. We cannot say that the dead are watching us or if they know what is happening here on earth. Rev. 6:10speaks about the martyrs under the throne. They know what happened to them and they long for God’s justice. But that does not prove that they know what is going on here on earth.
  7. We have no promise, command, or example of the departed saints knowing what is happening on earth or that they can hear us. Therefore, prayers to the saints must be condemned both as folly and as idolatry. Even if the blessed dead could hear us, “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
  8. Christian parents who miscarry ought to be comforted, even though their children were not able to be baptized. We see the example of King David in 2 Sam. 12:15-23. David’s son is not old enough to be circumcised. Circumcision is the Old Testament shadow of holy baptism (Col. 2:11-12). David’s child dies after he so fervently prays for him. After his son’s death, David says: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:22-23). King David is not merely talking about the state death; he is speaking about the joys of heaven. This ought to embolden Christian parents to pray fervently for their unborn children, for God commands us to pray and promises to hear us.
  9. The souls of the blessed dead do not become angels. The souls of the damned do not become demons. We know this because Jesus became a man. Jesus remained a Man even after His resurrection. Therefore, we will always be humans. Jesus’ resurrection shows us that we won’t stay mere souls forever. God will put our bodies and souls back together in the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15). This is why we have cemeteries. They are “sleeping places” for our bodies, which await their raising. We shall receive our bodies back. And they shall be glorified, immortal, and incorruptible.

Hopefully this overview taught you, admonished you, and comforted you.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:7-11)

https://steadfastlutherans.org/2020/02/what-happens-when-you-die/



Eyes on Jesus

Eyes on Jesus - Lent 2020We are soon to enter a most holy and sacred time of the church year.  Historically (and as we will observe here at Advent on February 2nd), the Transfiguration of Our Lord serves as a conclusion to the Epiphany season.  From there we begin our pre-Lenten preparations with the “Gesima” Sundays, a countdown to Easter.  The season takes a much more somber and penitential turn with Ash Wednesday, falling this year on February 26th.   During Lent we will refrain from singing the Gloria as well as Alleluias.  These are reserved for the joyous occasion of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 

As we have done in the past, a Lenten theme has been chosen for our meditation, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  Our theme this year is “Eyes on Jesus.”  A devotional booklet will be provided for each of our households, that we may pray, watch and learn together.  New this year, a Lenten Calendar will also be provided to guide us, young and old, down our Lenten path.  As we marvel at the glory of Christ’s divinity, let us fix our eyes solely upon Him who yet works marvelous deeds for us children of man.  

O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Gradual for Lent, based on Hebrews 12:2)

When the characters in the Passion narrative look at Jesus, what did they see? In most cases, people misunderstood who He is and what He was doing. In some cases, by faith, people recognized Him aright. Our Lenten series this year, based on the Gospel according to St. Mark, will examine how the various people around Jesus viewed Him—and how we should view Him. We will “fix our eyes” on what Jesus has done to save us from our sins by His holy, precious blood and innocent sufferings and death, and celebrate what God sees on account of His work: our justification for His sake.

On Ash Wednesday, we will see how, in spite of Jesus’ repeated predictions about His upcoming Passion, the disciples with “Misjudging Eyes” fail to recognize that soon He will not be with them, and they cannot see the anonymous woman’s anointing of Jesus as preparation for His burial. But Jesus sees her actions as a beautiful deed that will be proclaimed throughout the world wherever the Gospel is heard.

At our midweek service after the First Sunday of Lent, we will look through Judas’s “Betraying Eyes” and learn why he did this awful deed. Yet the behind-the-scenes-reality is that Jesus was “handed over” (another way of translating the verb for “betray”) by God the Father Himself, so that Jesus could die for the sin of the world.

“Sleepy Eyes” is the theme for the second week of Lent. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James, and John cannot keep their eyes open to watch and pray with Jesus for even an hour, while Jesus comes to see that His Father’s will is that He drink the cup of God’s wrath when He comes to the “hour” of His suffering.

In the third week of Lent, we stare into the “Denying Eyes” of Peter and the other apostles. They could not see how they could ever fall away from Jesus, but after Jesus is betrayed by Judas, ten of them flee, and
Peter—when he is spotted by a servant girl and sees that his own neck is on the line—sees fit to deny Jesus, which leads to his own eyes weeping in remorse. We sinners likewise deny our Lord in many ways, but Jesus denied Himself to take up the cross for our salvation.

“Murderous Eyes” is the theme of week 4 in Lent. The chief priests and scribes saw Jesus as an obstacle to be rid of by murdering Him through the Roman judicial system. Yet during the Passover festival, they would unwittingly bring about the Father’s sacrifice of the ultimate Passover Lamb.

In the fifth week of Lent, we look through the “Worldly Eyes” of Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and the Roman soldiers. Pilate can only view matters in a worldly, pragmatic way, wishing to placate the worldly Jewish leaders and crowd, so he consents to handing Jesus over for crucifixion. The soldiers see the opposite of a worldly king, but their ironic hailing of Him as “King of the Jews” proclaims who He really is. The world looks for power and glory; God’s way is suffering and the cross.

On Maundy Thursday, there is “More Than Meets the Eye” to the Lord’s Supper. We will look into the Old Testament background of the Last Supper and rejoice in the mystery that Jesus, in and with, bread and wine, gives us His body and blood in order to deliver to us the benefits of His Passion.

On Good Friday, we look through “God’s Eyes” to see what is happening during the Passion: the once-for-all atonement for the sin of the whole world and the justification of all sinners on Easter.

“Resting Eyes” is the theme for Holy Saturday. Various disciples rested their eyes upon the dead Jesus, cared for His body, and buried it. As Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus rest their eyes upon the sealed tomb and contemplate further anointing of His body the next day, they cannot see that Jesus’ own eyes are merely resting temporarily, and Easter morning will bring a dramatic reversal.

Finally, Easter Sunday gazes upon “Angel Eyes.” The angel in the tomb knows the whole story of Jesus’ resurrection. When he sees the women, he proclaims the Gospel to them, shows them where Jesus’ body had formerly lain, and tells them that they can see Jesus themselves in Galilee. Likewise, the “angels” or messengers of the Church in the apostolic ministry tell God’s people where they can find Jesus and His salvation in the Means of Grace.

Eyes on Jesus will continuously focus our eyes on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried, and risen for our justification. This is a vision that will never disappoint, for by trusting in Jesus, He promises that we will gaze upon His beautiful face now by faith and forever in heaven!

Rev. Marcus J. Mackay, Sr. Pastor

 

 



EPIPHANEIA

After the twelve days of Christmas have concluded, the Church celebrates Epiphany (a Greek word, transliterated above, which means “manifestation”).  It is a major festival in the Church Year, which unfortunately, often falls by the wayside after the excitement of Christmas.  The celebration of Epiphany covers the events that follow the birth of Christ, namely the visit of the Magi (wisemen from the East, at least two but probably more, who brought royal gifts and worshipped at the feet of the one true King).  They followed a God-given and created star that led them (probably from the area of Babylon, the East, which should make you recall the Captivity of God’s people, both the Northern and Southern Kingdom, as well as faithful wisemen such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).  While they are often included in our Christmas Nativity sets and Manger scenes, they probably didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until some time after Christ’s actual birth, which is when the star appeared!  Regardless, Epiphany reminds us that Christ has come for all people and that the Gospel is to be shared with the whole world.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles! Or you and me . . . the whole world).  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith TO faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  Romans 1:16-17

While Christmas emphasizes our Lord’s humanity (incarnation = God taking on human flesh), Epiphany serves to manifest His divinity, including the kingly adoration of the Magi, Jesus’ Baptism and His first miracles (most notably changing water into wine at Cana in Galilee).  Thus, the Church Year is a representation of the life of Christ.  Historically, these observances are known as “Major Festivals”.  Here is the list: 

  • The Nativity of Our Lord (December 25th), 
  • The Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6th), 
  • Ash Wednesday, 
  • Palm Sunday,
  • Holy Week [Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Holy (Maundy Thursday),
  • Good Friday,
  • Holy Saturday (Vigil)],
  • The Resurrection of Our Lord,
  • The Ascension of Our Lord,
  • The Day of Pentecost and 
  • The Holy Trinity.  

As you read through the list, you can easily see why the Church celebrates and observes such festivals:  it’s all about Jesus, the life of the world.  Truly, we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel!

In almost two decades of serving the Church, I have often lamented how The Epiphany of Our Lord gets moved around and unwittingly ignored.  While Christmas ALWAYS falls on December 25th, Epiphany seems to be relegated to the closest Sunday that doesn’t interfere.  Christmas decorations are often removed and God’s people are left waiting for Lent and Easter!  Historically, there is much evidence to show that the early Church actually emphasized and celebrated January 6th (Epiphany) over and above Christmas!  Can you imagine? 

Let’s bring Epiphany back! 

This year, I will be asking our Altar Guild to leave our Christmas decorations up just a little bit longer (we’ll take everything down AFTER Epiphany) AND we will have a special Epiphany service ON JANUARY 6th!  I know it’s a week night and not everyone will be able to attend (my boys will probably be at basketball practices or games), but for those that are able, Pastor Grady and I will be here to observe this MAJOR FESTIVAL and share the Lord’s gifts with you in the Divine Service.  On that note, we will also add TWO more MAJOR FESTIVALS this year (also occurring on days other than Sunday):  Holy Saturday (the night before Easter, where we will gather outside by a bonfire and prepare for His Resurrection – we’ll even have S’mores afterwards for the kids) and The Ascension of Our Lord (always on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter).    

And so we move, live and have our being, as saints at Advent, following the life of Christ in a wonderfully liturgical progression.  Faith to faith, we are given, regularly and often, all that supports our body and life – namely forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. 
 
Let us thus follow the Star as it leads us to the One who has come . . . for you.
 
Merry Christmas!  Happy Epiphany!  And a blessed New Year,
Pr. Mackay   


Behold the Child!

Dear Saints of Advent,
 
Advent is soon upon us. What a glorious time of year as we prepare for the coming (advent) of God in the flesh made manifest! A devotional booklet has been placed in your member mailbox, for you (& your family) to use. Our pastoral prayer is that such devotions and study further unite us as a faith family here at Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church. Please also plan your upcoming weeks accordingly, as we will now have a family meal and a special worship service during these Wednesdays in Advent. In the midst of the holiday bustle, let us take but a brief pause each week to be filled with the light and strength of God’s mercy and grace. May the Lord bless and keep you and your family as we prepare for the coming of the Messiah…behold the Child!

Pr. Mackay

Behold the ChildBehold the Child!

      God’s own Son is born a child . . . ;
      God the Father is reconciled.
 
What peace is found in those words. As the Church draws nigh to the Nativity of Our Lord, many also draw nigh to the harsh reality of broken families and friendships. The sting of estrangement intensifies in this season as many delight in family gatherings—a delight that is glaringly absent for others.

We long for reconciliation—a marriage healed, the return of a prodigal child, the open arms of a formerly harsh parent. Advent is just the season for reconciliation. It is a penitential season, calling us to examine ourselves, acknowledge our sin with contrition, and trust that our sin is forgiven for the sake of Christ. Such self-examination reveals that the fault for our broken relationships is not one-sided. The sin visited upon me by another has driven a wedge between us, but so has my sin. Part of the distance between me and others is due to my sinful actions—my sinful refusal to forgive, my sinful pride that will not admit my fault, my sinful contentment with a cold shoulder.

Advent calls us to repent of our divisions. Advent calls us to rejoice in reconciliation. Though you can forgive another even when he refuses to acknowledge his fault, reconciliation is found when both parties are willing to admit their culpability, seek forgiveness, and amend their ways. That can seem so difficult. It is hard enough for one sinner to confess his sin and trust that the Lord purges it from his life. How much more challenging it is for two sinners to do so. Yet that is exactly what Christ works among and within us. He grants us confidence in His forgiveness so that we forgive one another, receive one another’s forgiveness, and are thus reconciled.

Reconciliation with some remains ever elusive. We hunger for it; we pray for it. Yet the distance remains. When a parent apologizes to a child so that they embrace for the first time in decades, we rightly rejoice. When our longing is not realized, sorrow results.

The only consolation amid such sorrow is the certainty of your reconciliation to the Father. It is certain because it is not dependent upon sinners humbling themselves in repentance. It is certain because it is dependent upon the sinless Son of God humbling Himself to take on human flesh and be born of a virgin.

That is the glorious, biblical proclamation found in “The Quempas Carol.” We are blessed to hear therein the refrain, “God’s own Son is born a child . . . ; God the Father is reconciled.” This is not wishful thinking driven by our longings. It is reality driven by Christ.

You are reconciled to the Father. Each stanza of “The Quempas Carol” announces our reconciliation to the Father in Christ. Wednesday of the first week in Advent will greet us with the first stanza, in which the angel of the Lord makes known that reconciliation is had because Christ has come “For You and All the World.” The second stanza will serve us on Wednesday of the second week in Advent as we hear that Jesus reconciles us to the Father “To Set You Free from All Your Sorrow.” Then, our ears will be filled with the promise that we are reconciled to the Father because Christ comes “For You, to Bear Your Flesh in Weakness.” Our joy will find its climax at the Nativity of Our Lord, when we hear the fourth stanza’s message that Jesus’ birth is the Lord’s visitation of “All the World with His Free Grace Supplying.”
 
Behind it all is the Word of God that the Spirit might quicken in us faith to trust these promises.


A New Translation

Dear blessed saints at Advent,

A dear friend of mine, and fellow LCMS pastor, Rev. Ryan Loeslie, recently translated a mini-article that was included in the September 10th, 1907 issue of “Der Lutheraner” under the title Warum ich auch bei Regenwetter in die Kirche gehe.  This magazine was the forerunner of the “Lutheran Witness”.  I share it with you, as he has, for “timeless encouragement to be in God’s house when Sunday morning comes.” 

Peace be with you,
Pastor Mackay

Why I Also Go To Church When It’s Raining

  1. Because God sanctifies every Sunday through his Word and makes no exceptions just because it is raining.
  2. Because I expect that our pastor will be tending to his duties, and I would be very astounded if he remained at home
        because of the weather.
  3. Because my presence will be all the more necessary at church, the less the attendance unfortunately is on such days.
  4. Because my example will have an influence on others under all circumstances, whether I attend worship or stay away.
  5. Because I see that the unchurched people, even the weakest among them, do not abstain from their amusements just
        because it is raining.
  6. Because the life to which a Christian is called may never be dependent on the change of the barometer, and because
        my behavior towards God’s Word is a measurement of my love towards him.
  7. Because I make the observation: those who use the excuse not to go to church because of the cold, heat, or because
        it is raining – these also make excuses when the weather is beautiful.
  8. Because the man who shrinks away because of such small difficulties may finally fear hindrances which are only
        figments of his imagination. Whoever follows the Lord from afar, as Peter did on the night of Holy Thursday, he easily
        is in danger of denying him completely.
  9. Because it can be, that according to God’s will, a special blessing awaits me in church on a rainy day.
  10. Because I do not know how many Sundays I have left on this earth.

This article may also be found at https://steadfastlutherans.org/2019/10/why-i-also-go-to-church-when-its-raining/