Articles from Pastor Kory

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Q&A With Our Catechism Class

As part of catechism class at St. Matthew, students complete worship notes. On their worship notes, students can ask a question about the worship service, the Bible readings, etc. What follows are some of the questions that students have recently asked along with some basic answers. Thank you, catechism students, for helping all of us to learn through asking good questions about our faith!

What do the colors of the Advent candles mean? The lighting of Advent candles helps us anticipate the coming of Christmas. Blue is a color that is traditionally associated with the Advent season. Sometimes a pink or purple candle is lit in the third week of Advent as that week is associated with Joy. The white candle is symbolic of Christ and is lit in the Christmas season, beginning on Christmas Eve. The candles for the four weeks of Advent are associated with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love – Christ’s blessings to His people.

What does “repentance” mean? Repentance refers to a change of heart, mind, and life. When we repent, we return to our Lord and we turn away from sinful ways. God the Holy Spirit enables us to live lives of repentance and faith in Christ.

Why did God create Eve from Adam’s rib? God seems to have created Eve in this way to highlight that she was the perfect match for Adam – so perfect, that she was literally made of the same flesh as Adam. Both Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, yet were also created by Him in unique and special ways.

If the devil was defeated, why are we still tempted? God has banished the devil from heaven for his rebellion. Christ has especially defeated the devil through His perfect life, death, and resurrection. However, the devil’s final defeat will take place when Christ returns on the Last Day. Until that day, the devil, the sinful world, and our own sinful minds continue to be sources of temptation.

What does “ordained” mean? This can refer to things that God has set in place or arranged. Ordained can also refer to pastors. A pastor’s ordination is a service at the beginning of his ministry when he is publicly commissioned and installed into the ministry.

What does the Bible mean when it talks about tribulation? Tribulation is another word for trouble. In the Bible, tribulation can refer to suffering that Christians will face and troubles the world will undergo before the Last Day when Christ returns. God’s Word also gives us hope as we face tribulation. Jesus promises, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) The believers in heaven are also described as those “coming out of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14b). 

Why don’t we know when Jesus will return? Jesus promises that He is “coming soon” (Revelation 22:20), according to His perfect timing. God’s Word does not tell us the exact time of His return so that we will live every day in faith and expectation of His coming. Jesus wants us to be prepared because He could return today or at any time!

What is the Law and the Gospel? These are the two great messages of the Bible. God’s Law shows us our sin, our need for Christ, and God’s will for our lives. His Gospel shows us our Savior, God’s grace, and the Good News of everything Christ has done for our forgiveness.

What does “Invocation” mean? To “invoke” is to call upon. When the Invocation is spoken in church (“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”), it marks the beginning of a worship service as we call upon God using the name He has placed on us in Holy Baptism. The Invocation is also a great moment to remember that you are God’s baptized child!

            Keep the questions coming!

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

What about the End Times?

          The Christian church year begins with the season of Advent in the weeks prior to Christmas. The Sundays of November mark the final days of the church year. The appointed Scripture readings in this season direct our hearts to reflect on the end times. This tends to be a topic that sparks many questions among believers. It’s also one that’s addressed extensively in the Gospels along with several other biblical books, such as the book of Revelation, which we’ve just begun studying in our Thursday morning Bible study.

            What are we to think of the end times? How should we prepare for them? Should we be quaking in fear or looking forward with confidence? Here are some main points for you to remember about the end times:

            First, the Bible teaches us that we are living in the end times. In this sense, the end times began with Christ’s first coming, when He became man, was born, lived, died, resurrected, and ascended for us. Christ’s own words prepare His people to live with the understanding that He has already ushered in the end times by His first coming. There are numerous reminders in God’s Word to be prepared for Christ’s return at any time, telling us “The time is near” (Rev. 1:3), and “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). Biblically speaking, we understand the end times as unfolding now, not someday far into the future. The exact time of Christ’s return is also not revealed to us so that we should live in a continual state of readiness and expectation. 

            Second, the end times will be a time of great distress. The Bible speaks of various signs which are and will continue to be markers of the end times. These include such things as earthquakes, floods, storms, signs in the heavens, wars and rumors of war, diseases, and famines. The Church will be afflicted with false teaching, hypocrisy, and many falling away from the true faith. The last days will be manifest in people’s everyday behaviors: “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2-4). Do you notice how so many of these things are already happening?

            Third, Christ comforts Christians as we approach the end times. While the last days will be a time of “great tribulation” for the earth and for believers, we also have God’s promise that we will come out of the tribulation and be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb to enter the presence of God (Rev. 14:14). As Jesus was describing some of the distressing signs of the end, he also shared this special word of comfort: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

            Yes, the end times will be (and already are) troubled times. There will be a constant stream of things prompting us to turn toward our Savior and take refuge in Him. But be assured of this: with each day that goes by, and as these end times intensify, your redemption is even nearer! That’s your Lord’s promise to anchor you through these end times.

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Men and Women in Christ

October is the month in which the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) is celebrated in many congregations across our church body. St. Matthew’s Heartners group is our LWML chapter. There will be a couple special things happening this October with our Heartners group. On Sunday, October 10, the children attending will help us gather a special “mite” offering in the service. This is a remembrance of the woman in Mark 12:41-44 who gave an offering of just two mites, which was all she had. Jesus praised her for her generous offering.

On the 10th, worshippers are encouraged to bring their coins for a mite offering. The funds collected through this offering will support LWML mission projects around the world. (A complete list of current mission grants is available at lwml.org.) 

Also returning in the month of October will be the Fall Harvest Soup Supper on Friday the 15th. This is both a great opportunity for fellowship and an important fundraiser for the Heartners’ efforts. 

I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for our Heartners group, the broader service of the LWML, and the great blessing that faithful women of God are to our families, churches, and communities!

Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege of discussing women in the Bible with our Thursday Bible study attendees. One of the things we’ve learned from this experience is just how much women are mentioned in the Bible and feature prominently in our Lord’s story. The Old Testament tells us about women like Sarah, Ruth, and Esther and how the Lord worked through them at critical moments in faith history. The New Testament begins with two women who are blessed to miraculously become mothers: Elizabeth and Mary. The New Testament culminates in the Good News of Easter morning: “He is not here, for He has risen!” (Matthew 28:6) The women following Jesus, who had come to give Him a proper burial, were the first to see the empty tomb, hear this Good News, and meet the risen Jesus!

This is part of a larger Scriptural emphasis on the dignity of women. From the very beginning, God made both men and women in His own image (Genesis 1:27). We hear the service of women being praised, such as the wife and mother described in Proverbs 31. We see Jesus befriending, teaching, and comforting women, including Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42; John 11).

At the same time, we also see Scripture affirming the distinction between men and women. From the beginning, God created Adam for loving headship and Eve for loving help and support. We see this distinction upheld in the New Testament as the Apostles dealt with questions of men’s and women’s roles in church and ministry. Qualified pastoral candidates should be godly men, “the husband of one wife” (Titus 1:5-6). The roles of men and women in the church are also distinguished in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, which reserves the public, authoritative teaching role in the church (the pastoral office) for men. 

In short, God has gifted men and women with different, though complementary, opportunities and responsibilities to serve Him and one another. We give thanks for God’s unique design of both men and women, and we especially thank and praise Him for wonderfully making all of us in His image and making us new in Christ. As men and women in Christ, may we all serve the Lord with gladness, according to His will and to the glory of His saving name.

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Remembering 9-11

In a few days, we will reach the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Like other monumental days in American history, such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, those who lived through such occasions can vividly remember the details and emotions of the day.

            For me, there are many moments from that day that feel just like they happened yesterday. However, one part of the day is especially on my mind: going to church. My home congregation at the time hosted a brief prayer service on the evening of 9-11. Parishioners gathered to turn to the Prince of Peace as we reflected on the vicious attacks of that day.

            The service began in prayer: “Heavenly Father, God of peace and harmony, You would have Your children on earth live together in peace and quietness. Nevertheless, in Your wisdom You have permitted this attack of terror to be unleashed against our nation. Watch over, we pray, all those whose lives have been impacted by this tragedy. Heal the injured, comfort those who mourn, and give patience and strength to those who must now wait to learn the fate of their loved ones. Give endurance to all police, fire, and medical personnel as they struggle to attend to the needs of the injured. To all those involved in the investigation of these attacks, grant patience and diligence as they go about their important work of identifying those who have brought about this great suffering. Frustrate any further attacks that may be planned, and guide the leaders of our nation so that they may act wisely in response to this crisis. Above all, enable Your holy Church to speak Your comforting Word of peace in Jesus Christ, so that in the midst of this dying world we all may know the true source of our hope; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

            While that prayer is specific to the situation of 9-11, much of it still applies. We continue to pray that peace will prevail, that violence will be prevented, and that those in authority will have the wisdom needed to respond to crises. 

            Following 9-11, many churches around America saw a surge in attendance. 9-11 was a jarring reminder that we are not guaranteed safety and security in this sin-wracked world. Many people saw 9-11 as a call to “return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13), and understandably so. Such events remind us that true security is found not in earthly safety nets but in the loving, everlasting arms of Jesus. 

            From the ongoing pandemic, to the many natural disasters unfolding around the world, to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, we are being reminded on an almost daily basis to look up to the Lord for help and hope. Life is full of these wakeup calls. May God grant that we pay attention to such things and see them as reminders to return daily to Him!

            When asked about the reason why a particular ancient tragedy happened (a tower collapse that killed 18 people), Jesus chose not to offer a reason. Instead, He turned to His hearers and used this teaching moment to remind them that they too needed to live in repentance and faith toward the Lord. (Luke 13:1-5) And so do we. 

            We will remember many things on this 20th anniversary of 9-11: personal recollections, the impact of these terror attacks on our nation, and much more. First and foremost, though, let’s remember to look up to the Lord.

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Destination Dig

Our 2021 Vacation Bible School, “Destination Dig”, is now just a few days away! (It begins, Monday, August 2.) We’re grateful to have the opportunity to gather once again with children from our congregation and community and to share the message of Jesus with them through the lessons and activities at VBS. The theme of this year’s VBS involves history and archaeology. While we’ll be focusing on the life of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection, we’ll also think about some of the other real people and places that we learn about in the Bible.

I think it’s important for both children and adults to consider that Bible stories are more than just stories. They are true stories. The Bible tells us how God worked in real time and space, especially when He sent Jesus to share our humanity and to take away our sin. Because the Bible tells us the truth, it has real implications for our lives. God’s Word about sin and grace, Law and Gospel, heaven and hell, and so much more is all true!

Here are just a couple examples of archaeological discoveries that back up what we read in our Bibles:

The Pilate Inscription – Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea for about ten years, including the years of Jesus’ public ministry, His death and resurrection, and the beginnings of the church. However, history outside of the Bible has little to say about Pilate’s life and tenure as governor. While Pilate’s role in history is described in all four Gospels in the Bible, skeptics questioned whether Pilate even existed. A 1961 discovery changed that. An ancient stone step was overturned in Caesarea Maritima. On the underside of the step, was an older inscription from the time of Jesus. The inscription referenced “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea” and his role in the construction of a building called the Tiberium, possibly a temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The stone had been recycled as part of a later construction project, but its brief message made an important point: Pontius Pilate was indeed a historical person. When we confess that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate”, we can be confident that it actually happened!

The Dead Sea Scrolls – How can we know that the Old Testament we read today is reliable and reflects the original Old Testament writings? A 1947 discovery helped answer this question. A shepherd boy stumbled upon a series of caves just northwest of the Dead Sea. This led to the discovery of jar upon jar containing ancient scrolls. In the years afterward, archaeologists would discover almost 900 scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The scrolls included portions of all but one Old Testament book. The scrolls were written and stored there likely more than 100 years before Christ’s birth. As Biblical scholars analyze the Dead Sea Scrolls, they compare the writings to the Old Testament that has been handed down to us. Their findings show that the Old Testament we read today is reliable and reflects the ancient message that God delivered to Abraham, Moses, David, and the Israelites. The Dead Sea Scrolls will be one of the discoveries that children will learn about at VBS this year.

While our faith does not rest on archaeological discoveries like these but on God’s promises in the Gospel, archaeology does help to illustrate the world of Bible times. Discoveries such as the Pilate Inscription or the Dead Sea Scrolls provide added confirmation that what we read in God’s Word reflects true history. This is also added confirmation that Scripture delivers Christ’s Word of truth and grace for our hearts and lives today. 

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Basic Training

This July 4th, we’ll be celebrating our nation’s 245th birthday. As with other national holidays such as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, Independence Day is another time to remember and give thanks for all the men and women who have served our nation and defended our freedoms throughout America’s history.

Whether military members enlist for several years or for a long career, it all begins with an intensive but relatively short time of basic training. 

I think often of my grandfather’s naval service during the Second World War. As with about a million other WWII sailors, his journey began with several weeks of basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station. This training helped men like my then teenage grandfather to get fighting fit and sufficiently versed in naval protocols. I’m sure that each military member learns a lot during their weeks of basic training; however, it’s only the tip of the iceberg compared to the on-the-job experience that follows.

My grandfather was assigned to a ship in the Pacific, and then his learning began in earnest. His basic training had given him a foundation for what he would learn and do in his ongoing service. Out at sea, the concepts that had been instilled back at Great Lakes had to be put into practice. 

We also have times of “basic training” in our Christian lives. As young believers, participating in Sunday school helps to familiarize us with the basic events and characters of the Bible. In catechism classes, we emphasize core messages of the Bible, such as God’s Law and Gospel, along with God’s gifts of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and more. Adults make take refresher courses or basic Christian instruction classes as well.

These are all good places to start. They lay a foundation for our ongoing Christian life. But rather than completing our growth as Jesus’ disciples, these times of basic training are meant to mark the beginning of more maturing and “on-the-job” development as we live out our faith in our daily lives and callings. 

I give thanks for the students who completed catechism instruction this past spring and for those who will be continuing or beginning that process this fall. I’m grateful for the instruction I received in my youth as well, but in looking back, I can see how it was only “basic training.” In the years since, God has provided many more opportunities to grow in Christian faith and living, and I know He will continue to do so.

No matter what stage of our Christian life we find ourselves in, whether at 9-years-old or 99-years-old, walking with the Lord is a daily journey of growth and maturation. Oftentimes that happens in simple ways, like reading little daily “Portals of Prayer” devotions. Sometimes God grants us growth by helping us navigate changing and challenging times. God also grants us growth by having others walk alongside of us in our journey of faith – our fellow servicemen and women in the Lord’s crew! 

Along the way, God keeps returning us to those same truths we learned back in our basic training as believers: we are God’s baptized, beloved children. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We are forgiven and restored for Jesus’ sake. We are fed by our Lord at His Altar.

This is the Gospel. We learn the basics of it as we learn things like the words of “Jesus Loves Me” as children. But then for the rest of our earthly lifetimes and beyond, we get to continue to plumb the depths of this life-changing and eternity-granting Good News!

A prayer: Lord, thank you for times of “basic training” in my Christian faith. Lead me and teach me each day to trust You, to grow in the truth of Your Word, and to practice my faith through what I think and say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

Divine Design

Divine Design

The Gospel of John opens not with Jesus’ birth or baptism but with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

John refers to Jesus as the eternal “Word” of God. Jesus is the Word who spoke at the outset of creation, bringing light, sun, moon, stars, creatures, seasons, man and woman, and all things into existence (Genesis chapter 1). Jesus is the Word who also “became flesh” for us (John 1:14). He became one of us to save all of us through His holy life, death, and resurrection. Because of Jesus, we also look forward to life in the new heavens and the new earth which He will unveil on the Last Day, when He will return to take away sin and all its effects forever (Revelation 21:1-5).

During spring and summertime, we enjoy seeing creation renewed in more ordinary ways: re-emerging flowers and perennials (and weeds!), baby birds in their nests or waddling behind their mothers, rain showers which cause our yards and pastures and fields to be filled with lush, green grasses and crops, and so much more. 

In our summer travels and vacations, we get to witness the beauty of other places and scenery within God’s creation. My family and I just returned from a getaway in the Door County, WI area, where we marveled at the crystal blue waters, sunsets on Green Bay, orchards in bloom, and much more. I hope that you have the opportunity to see and appreciate the marvels of God’s handiwork this summer, whether nearby or faraway.

As I think about this marvelous world, the mysteries of space, and the intricacies of living things, I can’t help but think about the “Divine Design” that made it all possible. King David expresses this sense of wonder in Psalm 139:13-14 as he reflects on God's gift of life: “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Wonderful ARE God’s works! He IS worthy of praise for the gift of life, the riches of His creation, and especially for the gift of new and eternal life through His Son!

On Sundays this summer, I hope that you’ll join me for our new Bible Study, “Divine Design”, as we discuss the wonders of God’s creation. Beginning June 6, we’ll gather each week at 10:30am in the Fellowship Hall to take a closer look at God’s Word in Genesis regarding His creative work, as well as other passages in Scripture which illuminate more about how, when, and why God created all things. In our Divine Design study, we’ll reflect on the creation of the world and the universe, our fellow creatures, man and woman, marriage, the family, society and community, and more. We’ll discuss how these gifts of God have been impacted by the curse of sin. And we’ll also look forward to the final restoration of God’s creation on the coming day of our Lord. 

Please join us this summer for Bible study this summer – a great opportunity to grow in your relationship with your Creator and with your fellow members of St. Matthew. And may our good and gracious God open our eyes each day to the wonders of His Divine Design all around us!

The Lord be with you this summertime,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

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