Jeff Backer Intern Pastor

Are you a sheep or a goat?

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Just when we are celebrating on Thanksgiving all of the blessings which God bestows upon us, Jesus’ teaching in our gospel text, Matthew 25:31-46,  goes back and not only challenges our Thanksgiving sensibilities, but actually offends us. Just when we are thinking we are doing pretty good in this life, and our “scorecard” looks pretty good, Jesus not only talks about the sheep and the goats; he tells us that he will divide all of humankind, blessing the sheep with the peace and glory of being in His presence for eternity, and cursing those who are the goats for all of eternity.

So what is really at stake here? This is a well-known text and normally motivates our thinking into action. We attempt to stave off being judged as a goat by trying to “do” the things Jesus talks about; feed the hungry, clothe the poor, take care of the widow, visit those in prison. We again look at our scorecard and say, “hmm…if I just add a few more good deeds, then I can surely justify myself and my life.”

However, there is a twist. In the middle of our mind setting off on the path of do-gooding, Jesus says, “the righteous will say, 'When did we do this?'” The offense of Jesus teaching is his exposing our self-righteousness, our ability to think we can earn God’s favor; that by doing good things for others, we actually gain points on our heavenly scorecard. He tells us it was not because we strove to be Mother Theresa, but that he used us when we did not know it or take credit for it – these times happened as the fruits of faith. Jesus names those who did not even know they had given of themselves in such a way as to not take any credit, and gives them an identity of righteous.

As we gather around the table this Thanksgiving weekend, let us give thanks for all of the blessings known and unknown to us. Not that we would dwell on the physical blessings of possessions, but that we would really recognize that in the ebb and flow of life, Jesus gives us our greatest blessing, himself. He gives us the gift of faith to know and trust in him so we might get just a small foretaste of the feast to come when we live in eternity with God.

Join us this weekend for worship as we hear what Christ has done!
Happy Thanksgiving, and many blessings on you and your families!

Jeff Backer, Intern Pastor

Forgiven… 

“One little word will fell him….” from A Mighty Fortress is Our God ELW #503

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All of humankind seeks relief from the burden of sin. Whether you experience this as sickness, stress and worry, or even death; we go through life often trying to placate ourselves in other things to find just a moment of relief.

Five hundred years ago, the Roman Catholic Church had used these feelings of oppression to profit from. Johann Tetzel, a charismatic Dominican friar, was sent throughout Germany to utilize the fear of God’s wrath in order that the church may raise money. Tetzel sold indulgences, a certificate stating the remission and forgiveness of sin. One might even purchase this great gift for someone else. In essence, the indulgence stated that God’s grace and mercy could be bought, nullifying the cross of Jesus Christ. It is in response to the sale of indulgences that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517, on the castle church door, effectively starting the Reformation.

The message of the Reformation is that Christ has claimed you as His own, died for the remission and forgiveness of your sins, and raises you to new life. Sin, death and the devil do not have a final word over you, Christ does… and it is just one little word, for you… FORGIVEN!

Come, gather in worship and celebration this weekend as a family of faith. We welcome guest preacher Dr. Steve Paulson, professor at Luther Seminary and world-renowned Lutheran theologian as he will proclaim God’s Word for us that it may come through your ears and take residence in your heart in faith. 

Jeff Backer, Intern Pastor