During our annual voters’ meeting in May we voted to adopt a strategic plan for ministry in the next one to three years. During the next few months I would like to take some time in this newsletter article to “unpack” each component of our strategic plan. This month we will consider our vision statement. A vision statement answers the question, “Based on why we exist (mission statement) and who we are (core values), where do we see ourselves in the next one to three years?” Our adopted vision statement is this: “To be a strong leader of our community in caring for its needs with the Good News of Jesus Christ.” Let’s break down our vision statement and reflect on each part.
During our annual voters’ meeting in May we voted to adopt a strategic plan for ministry in the next one to three years. During the next few months I would like to take some time in this newsletter article to “unpack” each component of our strategic plan. This month we will consider our mission statement. A mission statement answers the question, “Why do we exist as a congregation?” Our adopted mission statement is this: “We are a Christ-centered congregation that cares for the whole person with the good news of Jesus Christ.” Let’s break down our mission statement and reflect on each part.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! “Just as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Just as Christ is risen to new, eternal life, so too we who are baptized into Christ have newness of life (Romans 6:4). He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up so that we could have eternal life in his name, how will he not also graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)? Indeed, “If God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will he not much more clothe you . . .” (Matthew 6:30)? Since we are certain that our God has met all our needs in Christ, we are free to use our earthly riches, our time, talents, and treasures, to serve others in his love. As a baptized, new creation in Christ, you are God’s steward. You are his manager.
This month I would like to focus on an important truth as God’s people who are in Christ. That truth is this: “Everything we say, think, and do communicates something about our God to everyone else.” So what is it that we communicate and tell others about God and his parish, Atonement Lutheran Church?
Can you believe that the month of December is upon us already? It’s that busy time of year again. It’s the time of year to commence the Christmas shopping, drag out the decorations, and put together holiday party plans. It is that time of year to . . . time? How do we find the time to do it all?!?
This month we are going to consider a question that concerns our identity as a parish. Namely, what are the core values that are a unique part of who we are as Atonement Lutheran Church? What are the things that we do and/or should value as local congregation?
At Atonement we are in the midst of our annual Lenten journey to the cross of Christ and the empty tomb. Just as Israel in the Old Testament wandered in the wilderness for forty years and our Lord Jesus Christ endured the temptations of Satan for forty days in the wilderness, so now we, the new Israel, are in the midst of our “forty days.”
The season of Lent is a multi-dimensional season in that it is shaped by the preaching of our Lord’s passion, penitiential relfection, and catechetical formation. Through the preaching of our Lord’s passion, penitential reflection, and catechetical formation, we are driven to humble repentance. Our hymnody also serves as a helpful aid in bringing about such repentance. One hymn that guides us in repentance through the Lenten Season is, “O Lord, Throughout These Forty Days.”
This particular hymn is a type of prayer. It is based upon Jesus’ successful battle with Satan and temptation in the wilderness. Since our Lord fought temptation and was successful, we pray in the first stanza that our Lord would inspire repentance within us as we battle with daily temptations. He who overcame Satan in the wilderness also claimed victory over the arch-enemy of God through his death on the cross and rising from the dead. He has freed us from our past and has the power to do so daily as we return to the promise of his forgiveness of sins granted to us in our baptisms.
In the second stanza of the hymn we pray for the courage, skill, and trust of Christ in God’s eternal Word. We pray that he who overcame Satan and temptation with the written Word of God would grant us the strength to do the same, even as we gather together to hear, study, learn, and inwardly digest his Word.
In the third stanza we pray for God to bring about godly contentment in his Word and Will. We pray that God would help us seek not our own will and desires first and foremost, but that we would trust firmly in him to meet our needs and be satisfied with his provision for our bodies and our souls.
Finally, in the fourth stanza we pray that God would continue to be with us, even as he has promised to be with us and to never leave or forsake us. We pray that he would guide us through our Lenten pilgrimage and our season of preaching on our Lord’s passion, penitential reflection, and catechetical formation. We pray that he would guide us and be with us through all our days, just as sure as he has freed us from our past. We pray that he do this so that when the final Easter dawns and our Lord returns, we join in heaven’s praise.
As Christians, we are a people who have received “great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10). Knowing Christ Jesus as Lord produces the fruit of “rejoicing in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). Therefore, we have the privilege of expressing this joy by “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
In recent months here at Atonement we have seized many opportunities to rejoice in the Lord by singing. We have been using different orders of service from Lutheran Service Book for our corporate worship on Sunday mornings. On the first Sunday of the month we worship using “Divine Service, Setting Two” (LSB 167—183). On the second and fourth Sundays of the month we worship using the “Service of Prayer and Preaching” (LSB 260—267). On the fourth and fifth Sundays of the month we worship using “Divine Service, Setting Four” (LSB 203—212). In these orders of service we have a number of opportunities to rejoice in the Lord through song. One particular way that we do this is by singing various Biblical canticles.
A new Church year is upon us. That means the season of Advent has arrived. During the season of Advent we wait for our Lord’s coming even as we live now in his forgiveness. We live and wait in hope as we remember the ways in which our God in Christ has come and promises to come again for us. He has come for us in the incarnate Jesus Christ. He continues to come for us even now through the person of Jesus Christ as he is present in the hearing of the Word, and in the Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He promises to return to us in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to bring to completion the entire work of salvation that he began through Christ’s incarnation. During Advent, we consider all of these ways in which God is present for us in Christ and at the same time we move closer and closer to the day in which we celebrate this God who comes near to us by celebrating his birth.
Throughout the history of the Church, households have celebrated Advent and prepared for Christmas morning in many ways. Perhaps your household has a few cherished traditions. In any case, below are a few ideas:
The reminders are everywhere—television, radio, yard signs, and bumper stickers, to name a few. Though, we really need no reminder. We know that this November 6th is the Presidential Election. It is an important event for our nation. Some may assert that it is the most important election in our nation’s history.
Regardless, it is a fitting time to speak briefly about the role and responsibility of the Lutheran-Christian American as he or she lives here in the world where the church and the state often intersect. This is an especially relevant time as the church and the state recently intersected in the early part of this year when the United States government proposed a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mandating health plans of many religious employers to cover contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives that can act to cause abortions. This raises questions about religious liberty and the role of the government in matters of religion and the role of the church in matters of Christian citizenship. And so it is important to ask these two proactive questions given below:
Atonement is ...
Atonement Lutheran Church is a Christ centered congregation that cares for the whole person with the Good News of Jesus Christ.