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From the Pastor

Each month in our church newsletter - the Trinity Messenger - Pastor Hofmann authors a message to the members of Trinity.  The topics range from current events at Trinity to scriptural teachings to things going on in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Check the archives to access previous month's articles from Pastor Hofmann. 

Pastor Hofmann's Lenten Season Message - 2015

13One of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:13-17 ESV).

There is a little story with a rather humanistic view of heaven that plays off of verse sixteen above, where it says, “They shall hunger no more”. In this little story, a man asks God what the real difference is between heaven and hell. In His response, God says to the man, “Come, I will show you hell.” They then enter a room where a group of skin and bones starving people are sitting around a huge pot of cooked stew. Everyone in the room is wailing and suffering from terrible hunger pains. Each person is holding a spoon with a handle longer than their arms. Everyone can reach the stew in the pot with the spoon, but because of its length, no one can get the stew into their mouths.

Come, now,” God said, “I will show you heaven.” They entered another room identical to the first. There was a big pot of stew, a group of people, and the same long-handled spoons, but here everyone was happy and everyone was well-nourished. “I don’t understand,” said the man. “Why is everyone happy here and miserable in the other room? Everything seems the same.” “The difference here,” God said, “is that they have learned to feed each other!”

In reality, there is nothing about heaven and hell that are the same. All of God’s goodness is in heaven whereas hell is the absence of God. As fanciful and humanistic as this little story is, however, there are, nevertheless, some points that would be well for us to consider as we enter the coming season of Lent later this month. For instance, are you, the reader, going to try and feed yourself this Lenten season with self-centered worldly pursuits that are never spiritually fulfilling and, in the process, starve your own soul? Or are you going to gather with your fellow-Christians on Sunday, and in our midweek services, so God can feed you and nourish your soul with His word and sacrament?

Each year there are so many of our members who miss out on making this six week opportunity for spiritual renewal a priority. It is not surprising that biblical illiteracy is on the rise in the Church and in our country. The Apostle John speaks of Christians coming out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:14), and that is what life really is in this decaying and dying world. No matter how one slices and dices it, life is full of trouble and strife and us trying to make sense out of it by focusing on what we see and hear and feel. But no matter how our tribulations differ, we all face the same terminal problem that, if not taken care of, will determine our eternal destination. That problem is sin, and a main part of the treatment that we so desperately need is the yearly repetition and reinforcement that comes from hearing over and over again the state of our lost condition before God, and His passion to save us from ourselves—to feed us heavenly food that we cannot feed our selves.

No matter how fanciful the story might be about heaven and hell, heaven and hell is no fantasy! The blessings of heaven are real and the terrible suffering of hell is real. So the truth is that we are going to live forever like it or not! That is God’s promise, and that is why Satan does everything he can to keep people from making decisions that lead to liking it in heaven. The effort it takes to attend midweek services can go a long way in showing the attitude one has toward their spiritual condition and their hope in Christ.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons for not being able to attend midweek services, but there are by far many more illegitimate reasons. I often hear that the parking situation is too troublesome to deal with. There is also the oft-claimed issue that there are just so many other things to do that need to be dealt with. How would you complete the following sentence: I can’t attend midweek Lenten services this year because _______________________________. How will Jesus view your answer especially in light of your own possible tour of heaven or hell, perhaps even tonight?

Thank God that Jesus in becoming true man is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, that He was tempted in every way just as we are, but thank God also that Jesus was without sin (Heb 4:15)! For, if Jesus did have His own sin, He would surely have found an excuse not to become human in the first place. He certainly would have used the parking situation around Calvary as being too bothersome to deal with—that He had more important things to do!

Whatever your excuse is for not re-hearing the story of our Lord saving you from eternal damnation and for not receiving His gifts of forgiveness, Jesus paid for that sin! But if you think so lightly of that sin of despising the preaching of God’s Word by not gladly hearing it and learning it and holding it sacred (3rd Commandment); if you can pass it off as not very important at all, then you could very well also die in that sin (Eze 18:4) and suffer the scorching heat and pain of hell (Mk 9:48)!

And that brings us to the other main reason behind midweek Lenten services. In the ashes and repentance of lent, you are washing your robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 14:14). You are doing it through your being buried with Christ through baptism into His death (Ro 6:3)! In the passion history of our Lord, you will hear the story of His work on your behalf to save you from hell like at no other time of the year. Jesus has done all the work needed to give you all the blessing described in Revelation. What do those blessings include?

16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

That is what you can look forward to in heaven because of Christ! But as said earlier, all of us have a deep spiritual problem that would keep us from experiencing the blessings that Christ would freely give us. We all are so deep in sin that by nature we can’t even recognize our sin, yet alone free ourselves from it. The only way out of our tragic dilemma is to be connected to Jesus through faith in Him and what He has done for us on Calvary in His suffering and death.

This faith that the Holy Spirit gives us in Word and Sacrament is no trivial thing. While Satan whispers that we have all the time in the world to get things right, there is no golden parachute to pull out at the last minute! If we aren’t ready to die now, we won’t be ready to die later. That’s the truth! Salvation depends on staying connected to Jesus through His word and through receiving His gifts of life in His Sacraments (Jn 15). If the attitude one has on Sunday about Jesus has no carryover in midweek services, one really has to question the attitude?

This Lenten season there is a big change. In order to minimize parking problems and perhaps cut down on excuses, the elders have decided to hold all midweek services on evenings with no special events such as Bucks games at the Bradley Center. This means that four of the six midweek services will be on Thursday nights with two on Wednesday nights.

Many historians will note that the most substantiated fact in the history of the world is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our faith is dependent on this truth. If Christ had not been raised, our faith would be futile; we would still be in our sin (1 Co 15:20). But thanks be to God, Jesus is alive, and since He rose from the grave as He promised, we can be confident that all of His other claims are true also! The sermon series this year will focus on some of Jesus’ attention-getting and faith-building, “I tell you the truth” statements. The service dates and times along with the sermon themes are as follows:

Wednesday, February 18th, Ash Wednesday with communion at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . Anyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

Thursday, February 26th, Midweek Lent One service at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . Faith can move mountains.”

Thursday, March 5th, Midweek Lent Two service at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . Fruits of faith will be remembered.”

Thursday, March 12th, Midweek Lent Three service at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . One of you will betray me.”

Thursday, March 19th, Midweek Lent Four service at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . You will disown me.”

Wednesday, March 25th, Midweek Lent Five service at 7 pm.

“I tell you the truth . . . If one dies, it produces life for many.”

God grant all of us at Trinity to take a serious look at how we try to feed ourselves spiritual things in this world. God grant us to see the real need to have Jesus feeding us with His Word and Sacrament. And God grant that we are given the grace to act on it by attending Sunday and midweek services throughout Lent and to encourage those we know to do the same.

O God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they turn from their wickedness and live. We implore you to have compassion on the frailty of our mortal nature, for we acknowledge that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Mercifully pardon our sins that we may obtain the promises you have laid up for those who are repentant; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God ,now and forever. Amen. (Prayer for Ash Wednesday)

 

 

                                                                             Pastor Hofmann