Dear friends in Christ Jesus our Lord,
The past two months since my installation have been absolutely wonderful. This Texas boy is already feeling right at home in the hills of New Hampshire. I continually thank our heavenly Father every day for His glorious and providential grace which has brought me to serve as your pastor, teacher, friend, and fellow heir with Christ of the heavenly treasure that awaits all of those who love the Lord, to those called according to His purpose (Eph. 1)
First, I must extend a most heartfelt thank you to all of those who made preparations for my arrival. From cleaning the parsonage, to printing bulletins, the united effort of the congregation warmed my heart from the moment I arrived. I must also extend another thank you—Thank you for being patient with the new pastor as he has made a couple of changes…and then changed some things again! Trust me, I know when we get used to things being a certain way and then a new guy comes and changes things around it can be frustrating. Just know that everything I have done up to this point has been the young pastor trying to find what “feels right” in serving you best. I believe we are finding our groove! I personally look forward to our common prayers and catechesis every Lord’s Day.
Common Prayer and Catechesis. Please let those words sink in. Acts 2:42 tells us that the Church of Jesus Christ is one that has in common the apostles’ teaching received from their Lord, fellowship, breaking of the bread, and the prayers…and day by day the Lord added to their number those who are being saved. The fullness of that expression of unity is found in the gathered assembly—the Church—on the Lord’s Day as we hear God’s Word read and preached, the services prayed, the eucharist (Holy Communion) celebrated, and fellowship is shared amongst the saints. Thus, the Church is nourished in faith, illumined by the Spirit, and sent forth as disciples in the midst of a hurting world in need of the grace and consolation of the Gospel.
To that end, my emphasis for the next Church Year, beginning in Advent is our common prayers and catechesis. Common Prayer is the entire worship and liturgy of the Church that is shared by all, either public or private. Publicly, our common prayer is the Divine Service on the Lord’s Day. It is common in the sense that everyone is an active participant, either in the reading of the scriptures, the singing of hymns, or hearing and meditating upon the prayers and sermon. Worship is not a private event, but a communal one. I will be seeking various ways of including more people in the common prayers on Sunday in order to make this aspect of communal participation more evident.
Common Prayer is also the prayer and worship of the Church outside of the Sunday assembly. What does that look like? Praying the Lord’s Prayer, confessing the Apostles’ Creed, and interceding on behalf of those who’ve made their requests known…daily! Reading the scriptures…daily! Praying morning and evening prayers…daily! There is no “one way” to do this, but a great way is by doing the following:
1. Use the orders for daily prayer found in our hymnal on pages 294-298.
2. Reading the daily scripture readings found in your bulletin insert on Sunday or in the hymnal on pages 299-304.
I use these orders of service and scripture readings for my prayers every single day. 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 in the evening. Imagine how powerful a prayer life our congregation would have if we were joining together daily in this common prayer? God help us by His grace!
My other emphasis will be catechesis which simply means “instruction.” In order for us to grow in knowledge and love of God, true holiness, and all wisdom as we are called to do as disciples, we must be committed to lifelong learning. If I’ve made anything clear thus far, teaching is of the utmost important to me. This has been taking place on Sunday’s at 9 a.m. for both children and adults. The children are going through a study guide called “Enduring Faith” which teaches the basics of scripture and how that applies to their everyday life, particularly in an ever hostile world in which they must grow as children of God. The adults have been looking at a book called “The Small Catechism as a Manual for Discipleship.” This has been opening up our eyes to the simple gospel truths that are taught in the small catechism—The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism. Confession, and Communion—and how they continue to shape the way we think and act as disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century. Beginning in Advent we will break this down bit by bit, using the whole of scripture to support, encourage, and grow our faith and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Please make this a priority.
In addition, and perhaps most important, is the preaching of the Word of God as part of our catechesis. As I announced on my first Sunday with you all, this isn’t any ol’ preaching—it is deeply rooted, scripture saturated, Christ-centered preaching, verse by verse, usually through the appointed Gospel lesson. As I begin every sermon, “get those bibles open!” The point of this style of preaching, also known as “expository preaching” is to simply teach what the scriptures teach, say what our Lord Himself has said, and show how they apply to our own lives. When we leave our common prayers on Sunday morning to live out our life of discipleship in our various vocations, I want you equipped with nothing less than the full armor of God and the breastplate of salvation! (Eph. 6) A great way to prepare for the Sunday sermon is to read the propers (the proper readings of the day) on Saturday evening. Perhaps use a favorite study bible. Reflect on the texts. Pray over them. Ask for the Spirit’s illumination on the Lord’s Day that both the preaching and the hearing of the Word may bear abundant fruit.
Beloved, I truly believe that if we become committed to these things, our common prayer and catechesis, our worship and our learning, we will see spiritual growth in our own lives to the glory of God and, by His blessing, day by day there will be added to our number those being saved.
To those who have not been attending, for whatever reason, please know that you are on my heart and in my prayers. We would love to see you return to the family at Our Redeemer. If you have any concerns, spiritually or otherwise, or simply want to ask questions, feel bold and free to call the parsonage, shoot me an email, or just drop by! I’d love to meet you.
For Christ’s Crown and Covenant,