From the Word 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  John 6:51 

  We were eating lunch one Sunday after church.  Near the end, Sherry loudly announced, “we have strawberries.”  My granddaughter’s head shot up and her eyes went wide.  I asked her, “What did grandma say?”  She whispered, “strawberries.”  She wasn’t nearly so loud, no doubt to make sure there was enough.
  June 12 is our Strawberry Festival at St. Paul’s.  It is a day when we feed people strawberries, shortcake, and ice cream.  It is also a time to get to know them, and to invite them to hear about the Bread of Life who has come from heaven to give us eternal life.  You can speak as loud as you wish.
  The next day we will have a picnic to kick off VBS.  I will have a brief teaser for VBS for the kids.  Otherwise, it will be a day of enjoying each other’s company in anticipation of a week of sharing the Gospel with kids and adults. 
  Both of these events are designed so that we can bring people into contact with God’s people and God’s grace.  As we eat, we can share the one who called Himself the Bread of Life.  Our first, and primary task for this event is to invite people to one or both of these.  Our goal, here at St. Paul’s, is to bring people in contact with God’s grace and let God grant the increase.  Please consider who you will invite to these two meals, and to VBS, then follow through and invite them.  Our prayer is that God will grant His grace to us and others, as is expressed in the prayer we sing,

Feed Thy children, God most holy; comfort sinners poor and lowly.
O Thou Bread of Life from heaven, bless the food Thou here hast given!
As these gifts the body nourish, may our souls in graces flourish
Till with saints in heav’nly splendor at Thy feet due thanks we render.  Amen.

 

 

From the Word

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to 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.  Hebrews 12:1-2 

  We are entering the unique Indianapolis cultural environment called May.  For most people in America, May means full-fledged Spring; flowers stretching to the sun and the sound of birds in full throat singing.  In Indy, May means checkered flags planted in our yards and the scream of race cars speeding by.  Many cities in America host car races.  Indy has a month-long cultural event.  People continue to live their lives and discuss those lives in casual conversation.  May in Indy adds “what happened at the track today” to those conversations.
  We, as Christians living here, are handed a month-long opportunity to share our faith, using a race as our way into the conversation.  Granted, the race used as an example of our life of faith, is a running event.  But the length of the 500, and all the things that can go wrong during the race, can be a wonderful example of our life of faith.
  The drivers in the 500 face problems from within and without.  So do we.  They live in the apprehension that something will go wrong with their car.  We know there is something wrong with us before the race begins.  We are born sinful, and unable to overcome it.  Our life/race begins by God’s grace in His covenant of Baptism, as we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Romans 6:1-11).  God continually renews that covenant with us as we live each day in faith.  The drivers must come into the pits to get fuel and tires to continue the race.  We come to God for the grace He gives us in His Word, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. 
  The threat from without is that someone else will cause a wreck.  We are assaulted from without by the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  God forgives us, watches over us, and guides us (much like spotters at the race) and leads us through the perils of life.
  The winner goes to victory lane to receive the various rewards of winning.  God ushers us into eternity of heaven, where we receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10), drink of the living springs of water (Revelation 7:17), and receive the un-spendable fortune of eternity in heaven.  Unlike the 500, the emphasis is all on God’s grace, not on us and our ability.  What a wonderful contrast to bring to people’s attention! 
  Welcome to a wonderful cultural opportunity to witness; May in Indy.

 

From the Word
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  Easter is the most attended day of worship in the world.  Christian churches, on average, have 230% of their normal worship attendance.  The idea of attending worship on Easter is not exactly a radical idea.  Thus the thought of inviting someone to attend Easter worship shouldn’t be either.  If our goal is to put people in contact with God’s grace, what better time to invite them than on the greatest day of the church year.
  Eastertime is also a great time for telling people the message of Jesus.  We don’t need to look around for something to use to help us explain new life in Jesus.  The example is happening all around us.  The seeds that were dead all winter have been brought to life with beauty and vitality.  The whole earth proclaims the resurrection of Jesus. 
  It also proclaims life in Jesus.  We, who were dead in sin, have been made alive by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We have new life in Him.  That new life is lived by faith in Him.  He has freed us from the guilt and shame of sin by bearing them on the cross; killing them once and for all.  We are sustained in this life by His assurance that He is resurrection and life.
  Our life in Him is eternal in heaven.  By His death and resurrection, He has transformed our death into the gate to eternal life with Him in heaven.  He will return to raise our bodies, and take us, body and soul, into the glory He has prepared for us.  The earth that is springing to life gives us the opportunity to share the wonders of the Gospel in this Easter season.  Let us confess and share, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

 From the Word 

“unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24 

  Jesus foretold his death and resurrection in many ways, including the death, burial, and new life of seeds.  March is the month where we look forward to Winter giving way to Spring.  Spring is the season for resurrection.  All that was dead and dormant in Winter comes to life in Spring.  It is the time of Holy Week, culminating in Easter.  All the earth celebrates the resurrection of Jesus in Spring.
  Spring is a great opportunity to share our faith.  We can invite people to our Holy Week services.  We can use the new life from the ground to declare Jesus’ death and burial, then His resurrection.  As we see the blossoms sprouting while hunting Easter Eggs, we can affirm for children and parents the wonder of God’s gift of Jesus, who died and rose, and who gives the blossoms of forgiveness, grace and heaven as a result.  We may also share these hymn verses (tune “Danny Boy”) to help with the witness of Spring. 

When winter’s chill is vanquished with Spring’s sunshine,
I feel the breeze like a returning friend.
The warmth of grace comes with the Word of promise.
Christ died and rose to give life without end.
The earth resounds with hymns of resurrection.
The flow’rs and trees proclaim the risen Lord.
“He lives!  He lives!” sings out the earth awaking.
He has confirmed the promises made in his Word!
 

They asked a sign to prove all of His promises.
He said “I’ll die and come back from the dead.”
He took my sins, His righteousness is on me.
I am relieved from anguish, guilt and dread.
“He is alive!” we shout from hill and mountain,
Now we are justified by Jesus’ grace.
We shall ascend to be with Him forever.
He is alive!  We shall behold Him face to face.
 

So let the breeze of grace give us assurance
That all the promises of God are true.
Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection,
God has fulfilled His pledge to make us new.
Live in the gift of faith that God has given.
Walk in sufficient grace whate’er may come.
Rise in the confidence that He is with us.
Sleep in the peace that we will live in heaven’s home.

 

 

From the Word 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5
  My January 2020 Epistle article made no mention of pandemic, virtual worship services, not seeing some of our loved ones for months at a time, no access to shut ins, or our members being in the hospital or dying without in person spiritual care.  It also did not speak of God’s life-preserving grace, the effectiveness of the Word without being present together, renewed appreciation for the Sacrament after going a long time without it, or the way God would use feeble, inadequate contributions to touch God’s people. 
  In a time of world-wide anxiety and frustration, we find countless reasons to bless the Lord.  These reasons are the countless ways He has blessed us.  What the world sees as closed doors, we see as windows of opportunity to share our faith.  While others live in fear of disease because it brings death, we live in the confidence of eternal life in heaven.  None of us looks forward to the process of dying, but we do not fear the result.  We have the privilege to reach out to those who fear the unknown of sin and death with the Good News of Jesus.
  Jesus knows the world of disease.  He lived here and got sick.  Jesus knows about sin and its consequences.  He took both to the cross in our place.  Jesus knows the looming doom of death.  He swallowed up death forever, that we might have life abundant here, by grace, and in heaven.  This is the message we bring our world in pandemic and panic.  Jesus came, lived, suffered, died, and rose to conquer all we fear.  He has overcome the world and the forces in it that threaten and harm.  In our witness of example and our witness of words, Bless the Lord!