Tag Archives: Lent

Our Saviour Parish News, March, 2017

OUR SAVIOUR LUTHERAN CHURCH
3301 The Alameda
Baltimore, MD 21218
410-235-9553
www.oursaviourbaltimore.org
March 2017

 

Wednesday, March 1
ASH WEDNESDAY
6:30 P.M. Soup Supper
7:30 P.M. DIVINE SERVICE WITH
IMPOSITION OF ASHES

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The beginning of March brings with it the beginning of Lent. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he meant that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” This first of the 95 Theses which Dr. Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31st 1517 reminds us that repentance is by no means confined to one season of the Church Year. In his Small Catechism Dr. Luther asks, “What does such baptizing with water signify?? It signifies that the old Adam in us should through daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die together with all sins and evil desires, and again a new man daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Nevertheless the Church has from ancient times set aside the forty days of the Lenten season as a time when we are especially conscious of Christian life as one of repentance. In preparation for Easter we meditate on the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus for our sins, we confess our sins and are strengthened by the daily forgiveness He extends to all who with penitent hearts place their trust in Him. It is a very serious error so suppose that God somehow needs our Lenten observance: it is rather you and I who need this holy season. And so I hope that everyone will make a sincere effort to be present in church as we begin the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday with Divine Service and Imposition of Ashes. Receiving the ashes we hear the words God spoke to Adam after he had fallen into sin: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). And “the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). On each of the following Wednesdays of the Lenten season there will be Lenten Vespers at 7:30 P.M. with meditations on the Passion of our Lord. A simple soup supper precedes these Lenten services at 6:30 P.M. 

Included with this newsletter is a copy of a letter from the President of Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the founding of our congregation. It was on March 10th, 1892 that twelve members of Immanuel Church, then on Caroline Street in east Baltimore, founded our congregation under the leadership of Pastor William Dallmann who was then the Pastor of English Emmanuel Church in west Baltimore. Emmanuel Church had been founded in 1888. So these two congregations were the beginning of the English work of the Missouri Synod in Baltimore. The name of our congregation has changed through the years. It was at first known as Jackson Square Lutheran Church because of its location. When in 1919 the old church was sold to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church (which still worships in the old church) and the Church moved to its present location, the name was changed to The Church of Our Saviour. Then upon the merger of Our Saviour and Saint Matthew’s Church in April 1973 we became Our Saviour Lutheran Church. 125 years is a significant milestone which we will celebrate on Sunday, April 30th. The preacher for this occasion will be the Rev. Christopher Esget, Pastor of Immanuel Church in Alexandria and one of the five regional vice-presidents of the Missouri Synod. Do note this date in your calendar and plan on being present. You might also inform former members of our congregation about this celebration.

I think that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the potluck lunch on Sunday, February 12th, and the film on the life of Rosa Young, her remarkable work among the African American community as a confessor of the Gospel as proclaimed by the Lutheran Church. Mary Bridges, one of our older members, was in fact a student of Rosa Young. We give thanks for Rosa Young’s faithful witness as we continue to confess the same saving Gospel of Christ.

More than twenty people came to the meeting here at Our Saviour on February 18th to lay the foundation for a chapter of Lutherans for Life here in Baltimore. Hilary Haak, the Mission and Ministry Director of the national organization, led us through a very enlightening presentation on the basics of founding a chapter. We also were honored with the presence of the Rev. Everette Greene, vice-president of Lutherans for Life, a Baltimore native who is now Pastor of Immanuel Church in Cincinnati. There will be a follow up meeting here at Our Saviour on Saturday, March 18th, at 10:00 A.M. Everyone is welcome to attend. We are very much in just the beginning stages of this effort.

Confirmation classes for young people will be held on Tuesdays at 3:30 P.M. beginning February 28th. Dymond Hawkins and Ted Jones will be attending. Do let me know if there are other young people who might be invited.

The second Saint Mark’s Conference will be held on April 24 and 25 which is Saint Mark’s Day. Forty people attended last year’s Conference and we hope for a good response also this year. Although the Conference is chiefly of interest to pastors and seminarians, anyone may attend. The topic this year will be The Office of the Holy Ministry which will be considered in the light of Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, church history in general and the history of the Missouri Synod in particular. Publicity about this Conference will soon appear on our website.

We recently received the good news that, thanks to the generosity of Synod and Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne, we will have a summer vicar. We will soon be able to announce his name. I know how much we all enjoyed the presence of Trent Demarest as our vicar together with his wife Maritza and his infant son John. Do keep the Demarests in your prayers as Maritza is expecting another child in early March.

Darlene Grant is still hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Hospital, James Gray is temporarily living at the Augsburg Home and recovering strength, Gabe Purviance is undergoing treatments. Remember to keep these fellow members in your prayers. 

I suspect most of us are familiar with the tithe as a guideline (not a law!) for giving in response to God’s gift of forgiveness, life and salvation. Less familiar perhaps is the idea of Lent as the “Tithe of the Year.” The year has 365 days, Lent has 40 days. There is of course no divine law that Lent must be observed and consciences must not be burdened with such a mistaken idea: God does not need our Lenten observances but you and I do. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) our Lord speaks of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving which have always been understood as the traditional Lenten disciplines. I urge you to read and meditate on Matthew 6 as we begin the Lenten season. It is always a mistake to try to do too much by way of Lenten discipline. Consider your own spiritual health – or perhaps the lack thereof. For example, if you have been negligent in prayer for others you might make a short list of people who need your prayers. If you have been negligent in worshiping on the Lord’s Day, resolve to be present each Lord’s Day to celebrate the weekly memorial of the Lord’s resurrection and receive the precious gift of His holy Body and Blood. By your presence you also encourage your fellow Christians in their faith. I also highly recommend the use of “Portals of Prayer” which provides a fine brief meditation on Scripture and prayer for every day of the year.

As during this Lenten season we remember God’s great mercy toward us in His Son, let us pray for grace to be merciful to others, keeping our hearts free of all judgmental, condemning thoughts. In the words of that 4th century Syrian Christian, Saint Ephrem: 

O Lord and Master of my life,
Put far from me the spirit of pride, vainglory and hypocrisy,
But give rather to your servant a spirit of
humility, chastity, patience and love.
Yes, O Lord and King,
Help me to see my own faults and not to
judge my brother.
For you are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Affectionately in our Lord,

Pastor McClean

Oculi (2016)

Oculi

February 28, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Exodus 8:16-24

Epistle: Ephesians 5:1-9

Gospel: Luke 11:14-28

 

Click here to listen and subscribe to Pastor McClean’s sermons on iTunes.


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the Gospel for this Sunday:

“Jesus said, ‘But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.'” – Luke 11:20

When you were baptized, and again when you were confirmed, you were asked, “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works and all his ways?” And you answered— either through your godparents at your baptism, or you yourself answered the question at your confirmation— with the single word “Yes.” “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works and all his ways?” “Yes.” A simple answer to a simple question. But what follows is not simple at all, for by answering that question with a “Yes”, you in fact enlisted as a soldier in the battle against Satan and his legions, a battle which never ends until we leave this present world and, like poor Lazarus, are carried by the holy angels into the paradise of God. “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works and all his ways?” “Yes.”

You may have noticed that Satan appears in the Gospel read here in church on each of these first three Sundays in Lent: on the first Sunday we heard of our Lord’s struggle against Satan in the wilderness; last Sunday we heard of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was “tormented by a demon”; and today we see our Lord’s enemies accusing Him of being in league with Beelzebul, i.e., the Devil. You might well wonder why there is all this emphasis on the Devil during Lent. The reason is that in the ancient Church Lent was the time when adult converts to the faith received their final preparation for baptism during the vigil of the night before Easter, when they would be asked this question, “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works and all his ways?” “Yes.”

Now in our day it isn’t easy to talk about Satan and his legions. Many Christians are reluctant to talk about the subject too much for fear of being laughed at. When demons do get mentioned, we often tend to slide over the matter as if it doesn’t mean much to us or as if it embarrasses us— after all, who still believes in devils in this enlightened age? So many people assume that this is just another outworn superstition for which there is no place in this so-called “modern” world. Today the Devil is much discredited and treated as something of a joke. Just think of the popular picture of the Devil in red tights with horns and a tail and waving a pitchfork! He’s comical, laughable— and the word “devil” has gone all the way from being a word of dread to being in fact a term of endearment, as when a fond father says of his little son, “He’s a little devil, isn’t he?” A devil? No, there’s no such thing.

The irony of all this is that this disbelief in Satan and his legions prevails in an age in which, as much as and perhaps more than any other, there is mountainous evidence of his work!

As some of you know, one of my obsessions is the First World War. The last day of that war was November 11th, which, when I was growing up, we called “Armistice Day” , because it was the day when there was an end to the fighting. For four days before November 11th, representatives of Germany and representatives of the Allied nations were trying to work out the terms of the Armistice. Now you might have thought that they would have then and there, on November 7th, called a halt to the fighting, but no! The fighting and the killing went right on until 10:59 AM on the 11th. (It was in fact an American soldier from Baltimore, Henry Gunther, whose parents lived in Highlandtown, who was the last Allied casualty.) Well in those four days of negotiations six thousand more soldiers were killed; and even after the Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock in the morning on the 11th, the generals ordered their troops to continue killing each other until exactly 11 o’clock! I find it hard to imagine the mindset of generals who would order continued slaughter, even though they knew it was less than six hours till the cease-fire would go into effect.

Well, Satan’s efforts and works are hard to detect. But when I look at something like that, and indeed at what, in my opinion, was a completely tragic and unnecessary war, how can one not see a more-than-human power of evil at work? Or look at our own day, when thousands of people are perfectly willing to blow themselves up to destroy their enemies and in so doing imagine that they are somehow pleasing God!

But it’s not just those poor deluded people in other lands who are Satan’s prey. For if people in our part of the world are convinced that Satan is nothing more than an outmoded superstition— a myth, a fairy-tale— then he can go about his destructive work undetected and unhindered. Then our resistance is down and we are easy prey to all his seductive wiles. I’ll never forget how one my dearest teachers, Dr. Martin Franzmann, put this many years ago. He said: “The trouble with the modern world is that we’ve been the Devil’s funeral— and then we’ve stayed for the refreshments served by his grieving relatives.”

But all of Holy Scripture, together with the faithful and constant teaching of the Church, and also everyday experience, unite in proclaiming the reality of the ancient enemy of God and Man. Of course Holy Scripture tells us not so much what Satan and his legions are as what they do. They are of course by nature fallen angels, invisible spirits, bodiless powers, and their purpose is always to destroy everything good that a truly good and gracious Creator has made. And Christ’s Church and we Christians are especially the target of their evil purpose. It has been often and truly said that “Wherever Christ builds his Church, there the Devil builds a chapel,” and I’ve known some churches in which the Devil had a very fine and large chapel indeed! Two of his favorite tricks are to sow seeds of dissension, and to keep our eyes so focused on problems that we lose sight of all God’s goodness!

And so we are called to prayer, as we pray in the daily morning and evening prayers in the Catechism: “Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me.” And we are called to watchfulness. This Sunday’s Gospel is in fact a call to watchfulness against all the snares and delusions of Satan.

Now all of this can sound rather gloomy and defeating unless we remember that Holy Scripture never calls our attention to the sad reality of Satan without also drawing our attention to our Lord’s victory over Him! So when in the Holy Gospel for this day Jesus is accused of casting out devils with the help of the devils, He replies: “If I by the finger of God cast out devils, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Satan has met his match and more in the incarnate Son of God, God made man, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great struggle with Satan in the wilderness, in His life of perfect obedience to the Father’s will— always resisting every Satanic suggestion— and finally in His death of pouring out His life-blood to cleanse us from the stain of all our sins, our Savior has defeated the Devil, the decisive battle has been won. And now we but await the manifestation, the unveiling, of His victory on that Last and Great Day when the world as we now know it will come to its end and the risen Lord of love will make all things new. That new world dawned from the open tomb when the Lord Jesus rose victorious from the dead, the triumph we celebrate every Sunday and which we’ll again celebrate with great joy at Easter.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.

Reminiscere (2016)

Reminiscere

February 21, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Genesis 32:22-32

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28

Click here to listen and subscribe to Pastor McClean’s sermons on iTunes.


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the Gospel for this the second Sunday in Lent:

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help!’ And He answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, “O woman great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” – Saint Matthew 15:25-28

It’s often been said that we Christians learn more from the hymns we sing than from the sermons we hear. Well that’s of course a humbling thought for preachers like me, but I happen to believe it’s true. We Christians learn more from the hymns we sing than from the sermons we hear. So if you remember nothing else of what I say this morning, remember these words of a hymn which I believe wonderfully expresses the teaching of the Gospel for this second Sunday in the Lent. Speaking of the Savior the hymn-writer says:

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
   On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
   All other ground is sinking sand.

“When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” And you might well say that in the gospel just read darkness does veil Christ’s lovely face; in fact you might say that we see a stern and unfamiliar Jesus.

After a confrontation with the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees— the religious establishment of Jesus’ day— Jesus leaves the familiar neighborhood of Galilee and withdraws to the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. And there a Canaanite woman, not a Jew but a Gentile, comes and pleads for Jesus’ help. To the Jews this Canaanite woman is a nobody and on top of that has a daughter “severely possessed by a demon.”

And yet this Canaanite woman comes to Jesus, no doubt having heard of Him through the crowds which not only heard Him but also witnessed His healing of those who were sick and troubled. She addresses Him as “Lord,” and “Son of David,” as the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.”

But Jesus doesn’t say anything in response to her plea, and His disciples urge Him to get rid of this nuisance! Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the Gentile woman doesn’t give up but comes and kneels at Jesus’ feet saying, “Lord, help me!” And Jesus replies: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread”— meaning the Jews’ bread— “and throw it to the dogs”— meaning the Gentiles, like this Canaanite woman. But the woman still doesn’t give up! “When darkness veils His lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace…” She speaks words of astonishing faith and humility: She replies, “Yes, Lord”— she doesn’t contradict Jesus— “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” As if to say, “Well as a Canaanite and not a Jew, I’m not much, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Such humility. Such faith in Jesus. And Jesus replies, “O woman, great is your faith!” and her daughter was instantly.

So what is Jesus teaching us here?

First of all, we learn that we must expect times in our lives when God seems strange, distant, when He seems to be indifferent to our plight and our cries for help. So it was with this Canaanite woman and such is the experience of every Christian. In such times God is teaching us to trust Him— no matter what! One thinks of the words of the much-afflicted Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

The second thing we learn here is that God never fails to answer our prayers in His time and in His way, even when we seem to be waiting for an answer for months and even years on end. He alone knows what is best for you and for me, and He also knows that at times carefree, happy days can be the greatest danger of all, as we then so often forget Him. And that is why in the ancient Litany, which Dr. Luther held to be the best prayer on earth after the Lord’s Prayer, the Church prays that God would deliver us not only “in all time of our tribulation” but also “in all time of our prosperity.”

Finally, the sufferings we Christians in fact endure are not punishment, because Jesus on the cross bore all the punishment we by our sins have deserved. Yes, we do indeed experience the painful consequences of our sins, but this is not punishment but rather a way in which a merciful Lord permits us to experience sin’s painful consequences so that we may turn from them and live.

“When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” Even when the face of Jesus seems stern and strange, it is still always the face once crowned with thorns out of love for you and for me and for every child of Adam’s lost and fallen race. No one could see God’s love in that crucified body, that thorn-crowned face, but there most clearly God’s heart of love is revealed. And there can be no greater proof of His forgiving love than the gift He now gives us at this altar— the truly present body which once hung on Calvary’s cross, and the out-poured blood received under the outward appearances of the consecrated bread and wine. Here truly we taste the goodness of the Lord!

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
   On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
   All other ground is sinking sand.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.

Invocavit (2016)

Invocavit

February 14, 2016 AD

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 17:40-51

Epistle: Hebrews 4:14-16

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
 
 
 
Click here to listen and subscribe to Pastor McClean’s sermons on iTunes.


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text for this day is from the third and fourth chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel:

And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and, behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him; and, lo, a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

It was of course C. S. Lewis who said that Satan’s greatest success in modern times is his success in persuading countless souls that he is a harmless myth— despite the fact that the last century saw evil perhaps unparalleled in human history. And what shall we say of this new century, now halfway through its second decade? Well, C. S. Lewis was right! Satan’s greatest success is his success in persuading countless souls that he is a harmless myth, a joke.

Not so St. Paul who wrote of Satan, “We are not ignorant of his devices.”

The gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that immediately after Jesus’ baptism He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

Now there is a great deal which can be said about this deeply mysterious story of God-Incarnate’s battle with the Prince of Darkness, but for today let’s focus on just one aspect of that battle. At Jesus’ baptism, just before His fasting and temptation, Jesus hears the voice of God the Father proclaim: “This is My Beloved Son.” But what then does Satan do? He tries to sow seeds of doubt in our Lord’s mind and heart. God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son!” Satan whispers, “If you are the Son of God…”— if you are the Son of God— “command that these stones be made bread… if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple…,” as if to say, “God the Father’s word is not enough. ‘This is My beloved Son’? Let’s have some proof here.” Satan says, “If you are the Son of God,” echoing his words to Eve at the very beginning of the human story: “Did God say? Did God really say?” No wonder we call Satan “The Old Evil Foe”— up to the same old tricks he’s been up to since the beginning.

Now at your baptism, you didn’t literally hear God the Father say, “This is my beloved Child,” but you were through the waters of that heavenly washing truly made “the child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” But just as Satan tried to sow seeds of doubt in the mind and heart of our Lord, just so he tries the very same thing with us. He tries to bring about doubt as to what and who by God’s tender mercies we truly are.

Sinners, yes! But sinners forgiven and cleansed through Jesus’ precious blood: as our baptism assures us, as the word of absolution assures us, and as Christ’s truly present-in-the-Sacrament Body and Blood assure us. More than anything else Satan wants you to forget, to forget all that. He wants to sow seeds of doubt in your mind and heart: “You? You as you are!— a child of God?” Satan whispers, “How can that be? Just look at all your troubles and difficulties. Yes, look at your sins!” And Satan is past master at bringing to life the memory of sins long ago repented of, forgiven, but which still come back to trouble our conscience. “You, you as you are, a child of God?”

Our Lord held fast to the word His Father spoke at His baptism: “This is My Beloved Son”; just so we cling to God’s word of tender mercy put upon us with the water of our baptism whose power is the Blood of Jesus. Just listen to some wonderful words of that splendid preacher John Donne. Donne says:

Against this [accusation of the devil] there is no other medicine but the blood of Christ. And therefore, whensoever this apprehension of God’s future judgment bites on you, be sure to present to it the blood of your Savior. Never consider God’s judgement for sin alone but rather in company with the blood of Christ. It is but the hissing of the Serpent, the whispering of Satan when he surprises you in a melancholy midnight of dejection of spirit and lays your sins before you. Look not on your sins so inseparably that you cannot see Christ, too! Come not to Confession to God without consideration of the promises of the Gospel.

In the words of John Newton:

How sweet the name of JESUS sounds
In a believer’s car!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

By Him my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;—
Satan accuses me in vain
And I am owned a child.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus to life everlasting. +Amen.

Ash Wednesday (2016)

Ash Wednesday

February 10, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Joel 2:12-19
 
 
Gospel: Matthew 6:16-21
 
 
 
 
Click here to listen and subscribe to Pastor McClean’s sermons on iTunes.


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Gospel which was read just a few minutes ago is a portion from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount where he talks about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He doesn’t command His followers to pray, to fast, to give alms; He assumes that His followers will pray, and fast, and give alms— the three traditional disciplines of the holy season of Lent, which we begin this night.

After a long and difficult winter, the kind of winter we’ve been having this year, just about everybody welcomes the coming of spring: the long winter nights give way to days of increasing light, winter’s cold and ice and snow are banished by the warm spring days; the crocuses and daffodils begin to lift their heads above the soil, and wherever we look we see signs of new and radiant life. Yes, after a long and difficult winter we welcome the coming of spring!

Well, spring in that sense is still some weeks away; but today, Ash Wednesday, we begin that season of the Church year which has often and rightly been called “the springtime of the soul.” In fact the word “Lent” is derived from an Old English word, lencten, which simply means “spring.”—”lencten” probably because of the lengthening days. And just as we welcome the coming of spring, just so we Christians welcome this “springtime of the soul.” For during this holy season, the seed of new and eternal life which was planted in us in Baptism is nourished and grows:

All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.

The “winter of our sins” is banished by the light and love of God’s crucified and risen Son. And those traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are aids in reaching out for that love and light.

In prayer we consciously reach out for love and light for others and for ourselves. Through alms-giving, which includes every act of kindness and generosity toward others, we try to reflect in some small way God’s kindness and generosity toward us poor sinners. In fasting we experience hunger and thereby learn that we are needy, radically dependent beings whose life is not our own: “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves,” and by foregoing for a season perfectly good and legitimate pleasures we get rid of some of life’s distractions so that we can more clearly see ourselves as we are, God as He is, and also what God is asking of us through all the seemingly  insignificant instances of life as we experience it day by day. As the nineteenth century Christian poet John Keble put it:

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves— a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

And so the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving can be compared to weeding your garden— not an end in itself, but a means to an end. You weed your garden so that the flowers you’ve planted won’t be choked by weeds nor their beauty hidden. Weeding is not an end in itself and the traditional Lenten disciplines are not an end in themselves, still less are they a means of somehow gaining God’s favor! For God does not need our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; you and I do! Because through them we weed the garden of our souls so we can then bloom with the fruit of the Spirit: the “fruit” that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

So how is it with you, with me, as we again begin our Lenten journey to Calvary’s cross and on to the Lord’s resurrection? Is it still winter— our hearts cold and hardened with apathy and indifference, resentment and bitterness, perhaps even a dose of despair? Is our practice of religion cold and formal, or is it the expression of a grateful heart warmed by love beyond understanding— the love of God who came down into our terror and torment and death to raise us up into His life and freedom and joy?

If it is still winter in our hearts, then the Lenten spring is here to bring us back to life: to warm our hearts with the fire of Christ’s love and to revive our flagging spirits through the gentle dew of His mercy toward us sinners— sinners, who by our misuse of God’s gifts have made of God’s good world a veritable wasteland of sorrow and want; and who, by sinning against one another, in fact sin against the One who has called each one of us out of nothingness into being: God who is Love. It was Saint Isaac the Syrian, a fourth century Bishop of Nineveh, who wrote:

Those who understand that they have sinned against love undergo greater sufferings than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart which has sinned against love is more piercing than any other pain.

Well those are not just words of a Christian bishop who lived more than fifteen hundred years ago. I can truthfully say that they ring true to my own experience. And what a terrible thing it is to realize that I have sinned against someone who loves me very much. And that is true of every last one of us because each one of us has sinned against Love: the eternal Love who called us into being and then saved us from sin and death by His bitter passion and death. Yes, “the sorrow which takes hold of the heart which has sinned against love is more piercing than any other pain.”

Healing for that pain can only be found through the “tree” which Saint John, exiled on Patmos, saw in mystic vision: that “tree” which is the cross of Jesus, “the tree of life whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.” There alone do we find healing for the wounds of sin, balm for our troubled consciences, and peace through the precious blood of Jesus which cleanses and refreshes every sad and broken heart.

After a long and difficult winter, we welcome the coming of spring. Let us then welcome the coming of Lent, the “springtime of the soul.” In the words of the ancient liturgy:

The Lenten spring shines forth,
The flower of repentance…
Let us cast off the works of darkness,
Let us put on the armor of light,
     that passing through Lent as through a great sea,
     we may reach the third day resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus to life everlasting. +Amen.

 

Our Saviour Parish News, February 2016

February 10 – Ash Wednesday
Soup Supper, 6:30 PM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes, 7:30 PM


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Because Easter Day is so early this year, March 27th, we already find ourselves at the beginning of Lent. I hope that everyone who is able to do so will make the effort to be in God’s house on Ash Wednesday, the First Day of Lent. Lent has been kept by Christians since ancient times: then it was the final period of preparation of adult converts for baptism which took place at the Vigil of Easter Eve. Holy Scripture teaches that in baptism we are made one with Christ in His saving death and resurrection, are born again of water and the Spirit, receive the forgiveness of sins and are made members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church. And because we have been baptized we are called to daily repentance. As we learned in the Catechism, Baptism “signifies that the old Adam in us should through daily contrition and repentance die and be drowned with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” That is the daily life of Christians. Lent is simply a time of intensified effort to do just that through the discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving which the Lord Jesus assumes His followers will be engaged in as He says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6: 1-21). God does not need our Lenten discipline but we do – so that we may grow in likeness to Him. I am always glad to answer any questions you may have about the observance of Lent. My telephone number is 410.554.9994; my email address is charlesmcclean42@gmail.com.

Again this year we will have the Wednesday evening Lenten Vespers at 7:30 PM preceded by a simple soup supper at 6:30 PM. The meditations this year will focus on the Passion of Christ as seen in the Book of Psalms. When our Savior appeared to His disciples on the evening of His resurrection He said, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that everything written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds of understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44t). All Scripture speaks of Christ. As we reverently and intently listen to God’s Word written, our sin is uncovered, we see the greatness of Christ’s forgiving love, and His mind is increasingly formed in us.

And speaking of Holy Scripture I should also mention the adult Bible Class which meets every Sunday morning at 9:45 A.M. We study the appointed readings– the Old Testament Lesson, the Epistle and the Gospel– for the day. Come and join us!

During the third week of January Vicar Trent and I attended the annual Symposium on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fortunate we were to arrive home just before the blizzard really took over! And speaking of our Vicar, he and his wife eagerly await the arrival of their first child early in March. The Baptism is tentatively set for Saturday, March 19th, at noon. Let us keep both parents and child in our prayers. There will be a Baby Shower on Sunday, February 21st.

In reviewing the annual parish report which is sent to Synod each year I was happy to note that in 2015 four people were confirmed in our congregation and both an infant and a young person baptized. We also received two new members by letter of transfer. The Lord continues to build His Church in this place and throughout the world.

Now we begin our annual journey to Easter, the glad feast of the Lord’s Resurrection. I hope and pray that this Lent will prove to be for each one of you a time of renewal in faith and hope and love.

Alfectionately in our Lord,

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Pastor McClean


Holy Week Services:

Maundy Thursday
Divine Service, 7:30 PM

Good Friday
Liturgy of Good Friday, 7:30 PM

Easter Eve
The Easter Vigil, 7:30 PM


Works of Mercy

A word of thanks to our church family for the generous outpouring of nonperishable holiday food items and for the donation of eight frozen turkeys which we provided to designated families in our community. The turkeys were provided by individual member donations and from a Thrivent Gift. Because of the abundance of canned and packaged food donations, we were able to deliver several extra boxes to GEDCO’s community food pantry where there is always great need.

The process of assembling and labeling individual baskets went swiftly and smoothly thanks to our team of volunteers: William Hawkins, Mary Techau, David West, Judy Volkrnan, and James Smallwood. Please continue to support our food outreach to our neighbors.

– Quilla Downs