WHAT’S NEW WITH YOU? Updates from congregations around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) That’s the goal. One hundred fifteen Christians around Lemmon, South Dakota (population 1,200) gather themselves under the name “St. Luke’s Lutheran Church” (founded 1909). They hear and proclaim God’s Word; both the hard news which no one likes—sin and punishment for sin—and the Good News, the startling, refreshing, “EXTRA, EXTRA! Acquittal! In Jesus!”
What’s new? The wind still blows mightily at Lemmon, particularly at the church property, which is located on a rise at the edge of town. That’s appropriate, isn’t it? Jesus describes life, “And the winds blew and beat on that house.” (Matthew 7:25) Satan is always trying to beat down our church—the building, the congregation, and each Christian within. Hot blasts and icy drafts buffet us, assaulting our faith in Jesus. Satan tempts with internal dissension (“NO! what I want is . . .”), with lackluster devotion (“I am just sooo busy . . .”), with direct opposition to the Lord (“Church / God says I can’t. But I say I will. . .”), and more. Satan strives to swoosh St. Luke’s away.
Against Satan’s gales, St. Luke’s continues to proclaim the “breath and wind” of the Holy Spirit of God. “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:2-4) God the Holy Spirit works through the Word at St. Luke’s. Families, some from miles away, gather early for Bible class and Sunday school. More gather for worship. On Communion Sundays, those confirmed come forward for the Lord’s Supper—though the more that come forward, the longer the service lasts! Little ones are brought to Baptism. These are not just “requirements for membership,” or “demanded ritual,” or “prescribed mechanical observance.” This is the breath of the Holy Spirit, in action against the winds of Satan. The Holy Spirit works through the Word and Sacraments—authoring, nourishing, and uplifting faith in Jesus, leading and steering hearts to Christ the Savior from sin. Just as children who are lovingly adopted back into their family, having foolishly run off, the Holy Spirit leads these souls to cling to Jesus and the Gospel of God’s mercy in Christ. They need Him. They are given new life in Him and by Him. They love and serve Him.
The Lemmon area has also been an abundant source of fossils and petrified wood. Satan with his lies pushes “knowledgeable” people and, through them, others, to “glom onto” the idle notion that the origin of the world and its present state have little to do with Genesis 1-3. That mindset leads to a worldview without God, without sin or accountability to God, and without a need for the Savior. St. Luke’s continues to proclaim the Lord’s antidote for such poison. Simple yet profound truths of Scripture are taught. Our eternal, omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (all-knowing) God has CREATED the earth and universe by His Word without random chance! Man, corrupted by sin and standing in rebellion against God through the deviousness of Satan, has been restored to God’s favor by the willing death of His Son. Jesus, crucified and risen in victory! Jesus is Truth at St. Luke’s. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Against the lies of Satan, we confess and proclaim Christ the creator and self-sacrificing Savior of all, Who grants forgiveness, the resurrection, and life forever in heaven.
St. Luke’s and Lemmon are still in semi-arid territory. Annual precipitation is only eighteen inches. Satan pounds hard at the lives and hearts of ranchers, farmers, and everyone. He tempts Christians to cry out, “Unfair, God!” and to conclude that God is hostile and unloving. There can be drought, hail, grasshoppers, and fire driven by mighty winds. Each taking a turn. Several members were directly affected by a gale-driven fire a little over a year ago. By contrast, there can also be penetrating cold and white-out blizzards. Yet the Lord’s promises, which St. Luke’s continues to proclaim, are sure. The same love that God manifested in Jesus, our Rescuer from sin, is manifested in His day-to-day care. At St. Luke’s, people learn and re-learn that the Savior-God is with them. “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3) “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 KJV)
What’s new? People live, people get sick, people die. People realize they have offended the Lord and long for forgiveness from God and life in heaven. The Father’s grace in Jesus is with us. St. Luke’s proclaims that message. By it we profit and prosper spiritually, and physically as well. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 KJV) “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) That’s the best.