Lisa and I had the opportunity to travel back to Minnesota this past weekend and attend the 125th anniversary of the first congregation that I served after graduating from the seminary. Several things that I heard or experienced over the weekend were interesting to me.
Peace Lutheran Church in Hutchinson was founded in 1891. That was about 30 years after the pastor of a neighboring church started doing mission work in the area. The length of time before people in the area moved ahead with starting a congregation was interesting to me. That’s how things are in the mission field sometimes. God’s timing is always best. We’ve learned that in Honduras. Praise the Holy Spirit for the patience that He gave to that pastor as he prayerfully proclaimed God’s law-gospel word to those people.
During the anniversary activities, there seemed to be an emphasis on baptism and the new identity that God gives us in that Sacrament. One of the ways this was emphasized was a sculpture that hung from the ceiling near the baptismal font at the front of the church. The font is near a stained glass window that depicts the baptism of Jesus with the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove. The sculpture had approximately 4300 paper doves attached to a number of different descending lines or cords hanging from a steel frame. Each dove had a name on it of someone who had been baptized at Peace Lutheran. Praise God the Holy Spirit for His sanctifying work to create and strengthen faith in Jesus Christ in each one of those people!
We enjoyed seeing people that we knew from many years ago. I remembered the names of some. Others I could not recall, and I needed to ask them to help me remember. Some told me stories that began with the words, “Do you remember, Pastor, when you …?” Some of the stories about activities and events I could remember while others I had forgotten. As I experienced this, I thought about how thankful we can be as baptized believers in Jesus that our heavenly Father doesn’t forget about us. He knows our names and everything about us. He continues to love us, forgive us, and care for our ongoing needs.
The theme for their celebration was “Built on the Rock” based on Matthew 16:18, ESV. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The words “this rock” do not refer to Peter, but rather to what he confessed when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16, ESV) Jesus is “the rock” on which our salvation was built. In a sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy, Minnesota South District President, he talked about the comfort that this passage brings. No matter the disappointments, distress, and depressing things that we experience in this life, because of Jesus and Who He is as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, we can be absolutely certain of the God’s love, 2 forgiveness, and eternal salvation for us—so much so that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it! Praise God for the certainty of salvation the He gives in Christ alone!
Several different times, I heard references to the Bible verse that we chose for our 75th anniversary last year. Hebrews 13:8, ESV: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” During this month of October in which we celebrate the Reformation, we praise God from Whom all blessings flow for how He used Martin Luther to restore the good news about His unchanging love, forgiveness and salvation for us in Christ alone to the church. It is by grace alone that we are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ as Savior. That good news is for you and me and all people! Because of Jesus, through faith alone in Him as Savior, we have an unshakable comfort during times of great joy and even during times of great sadness! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you daily with that comfort as well as the encouragement and hope for this life and for eternity that are found in Christ alone, the rock of our salvation. God’s continued blessings to you and your families!
Jonathan C. Rathjen
Psalm 46:1–2, ESV: 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, …
Romans 3:28, ESV: For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
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