41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
8Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. 11And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. 12Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.” 13Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! for the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Here is an update letter from our seminarian, Nick Whitney:
Greetings Zion Lutheran,
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father during this difficult time. We pray this letter finds you well and in good spirits. It seems like so much has happened since we last wrote. I’ll start first with the family update. We are all doing well and are all healthy! Just like you I’m sure, we are also confined to the house. I, along with everyone else on campus, are not allowed to be there. However we are still working through this via the internet. My classes this quarter are being done all online, some live with the help of video chat. Others are recorded by the professor and then posted online for me to see. Cassie spent this last week home after due to having a lingering cough. The was due to a cold that we all got several weeks ago, and she was the last to receive it. For obvious reasons, working in a medical office right now with a cold, they sent her home. She will be back to work as of Monday. She will however only be working two days a week for the foreseeable future. This is due to patients cancelling appointments because of everything going on. The kids too, are out of school. The Governor of Indian just announced that all K-12 schools (public or private) are closed through May. This means the kids won’t go back to school this year and stay home with me. Fear not though! We are still having school everyday. All of us are working away. The kids are working on numbers, ABC’s, shapes and colors daily. I have also pulled out my violin and started showing them how to play. They certainly enjoy this! Cassie too, is continuing to go to school online for her degree in christian counseling. She just started a new semester this week. We are all getting outside when we can. It is still cold and raining a lot here, but we make due. This last weekend, prior to everything getting shut down, we made a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina! We stayed for a long weekend and got lots of sun, sand and ocean! It was the kids’ first time seeing the ocean and they loved it. Our drive to and from the Outer Banks was wonderful and we didn’t have a single problem. It is always a blessing to see more of God’s creation, and the ocean has always served as a place to refresh and refocus for us.
This quarter I am taking Confessions, Field Education, Greek Readings, Pauline Epistles, Confessing Christ in the modern world, and Liturgics II. So far all the classes have been wonderful and the professors have been accommodating given the current limitations. Currently the seminary has told us we will be out at least thru March 27th. At this point they will re-evaluate the situation and extend if need be. While I have not been on campus, it would seem from the way the professors are talking and how the world is going, the extension seems very likely. In addition to not being able to go to school, we have also been worshiping from home. Most, if not all, of the churches in the area have closed for the next two weeks. While this is certainly sad to see, it is a wonderful opportunity to teach and hear the word of God in our own home! We are taking time daily, without the other busy constraints of the world to distract and studying the word of God. What a blessing in such a chaotic time. We are currently working on the basics, the Catechism.
Everything is rather uncertain right now, and some might even go so far to say scary. This also happens to be the season of Lent, a time of contrition and remorse. All of us are feeling the weight, the pain and the struggles of a sinful world. It might, or maybe it already has become difficult to see the light through all of this. Isolation, loneliness and anxiety seem to manifest and spread faster than the virus itself. So much seems to ride on our personal actions, or the success of a vaccine, or even just luck. Psalm 79:9 seems to fit here, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for you name’s sake!” Why is this happening? What are we to do?……. Our answer is this; Find solace in your baptism. We are a community, a family, God’s very own people. When the waters of Holy Baptism touched our skin and the Word was spoken, we were made his! Because of this we are all one in Christ. We are unified not only in His death, but also in the resurrection. The Corona virus is yet another adaptation of sin in this world. It reminds us, and will even carry some of us into death, of one's baptism in Christ, we have nothing to fear. We have the reassuring truth that Christ defeated sin, and saved us from sin, death and the Devil. We are all in this together. No matter how far apart we are, or how bad things might get, we are all one in Christ. The waters, by God’s grace and mercy, bridges the distance and washes away the bad. So I’ll tell you like I tell my family here when things get scary; Keep calm and remember your Baptism.
We also can’t thank you enough. Especially in these uncertain times, we are so very thankful and blessed to have a wonderful support system. It is an amazing comfort to know that God is working through you and because of this we are prayed for and provided for. We are safe and well cared for because of your hard work, donations and prayers. We simply can’t thank you enough! As this quarter goes on, and things progress, I will keep you updated as to how things are going and how we are all doing. So until next time; safe safe, and pray often.
Including below is the bulletin for the 4th Sunday in Lent, video of the Scripture reading and sermon, and prayers. The video quality is not wonderful, but we are working on making that a little better in the future.
John 6:1–15 1After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
This Lenten season has become a time of unexpected fasts. Some of these fasts have been self-imposed – not going out as much as we normally would, refraining from being in larger crowds, going without certain foods or supplies because we do not want to the hassle of the stores or whatever else.
Some of these fasts, however, are out of our control. Activities are being cancelled left and right. Stores, schools, church activities, restaurants, and more. While some might fast for a while, at least when it is self-denial, we often know the end date, or intend to make a lifelong change on purpose. When it is out of our control there is fear, sadness, despair over what has been given up.
Fasting does serve a purpose, and there is a reason why Christians have long held this practice, especially during the season of Lent. It’s not to kick start a diet, or give up some overindulgence for a time, but there is spiritual side of it all. In the times of denial of certain things, we look outside of ourselves and our efforts to the One who gives every good and perfect gift from above.
It is the case that we find ourselves following Jesus to hear His teaching and yet wondering all the while how we are going to eat, how we are going to be provided for, and what tomorrow might bring. Where are we really going? In John 6, crowds have been following Jesus because they had seen the signs He was doing on the sick. The Passover was at hand. This was the greatest holiday, the greatest festival of the entire year. Like so many of us today when we celebrate holidays, it was also a time of great feasting. But how were they going to do that in their situation. They were too far out, not enough stores, not enough money, not enough food for the people. And what they do have seems too little.
What are you hungry for? Hungry to get out of your house? Hungry for the daily routine that seems to have been left behind? Almost everyone will experience these sorts of hunger and inconvenience because of recent events and the events to come. For some, it will be much more than an inconvenience. Hardships will come to many. Fasts from jobs, income, food, healthcare, and the list may go on. As Christians, we want to help others but say the Lord, “Where are we going to get the money for this? There isn’t enough for each of them to get a little.” Jesus does not let empty shelves prevent Him from feeding His people, nor overwhelming crowds, nor fear or uncertainty. We sing in one of our Communion hymns. “You satisfy the hungry heart, with gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat” (LSB 641). With the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus reveals Himself to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the bread of life who gives Himself for the life of the world.
As Jesus used the gifts of the five loaves and two fish to provide for others, and used people to distribute this to others, so He continues to work through meager beginnings and efforts of people here and now. We are to love another as Christ has loved us. We are to serve one another as we have been served. We are to It is important to remember that Jesus is Lord over the government as well as over His Church. all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Christ, and He wields it through authorities He establishes on earth, as sinful, corrupt, or broken as it may be in its worst. St. Paul reminds us that that authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing [to be a servant for your good and to punish evil] (Romans 13:1-7). God’s will will be done, according to His Word and promise.
So not be afraid. You already have victory in Christ. Jesus continues to feed His people by means of His Word, and this is the food of eternal life. He draws His people to Himself, and indeed uses times of hardship and struggle to do so. I pray it is that way for you now. Lent, Holy Week, Eater, are celebrated everyday through our life in Christ. This doesn’t only happen in the church services, but in the lives of the people of God when they remember and believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The full forgiveness of our sins, the grace of God, eternal life are all given to you freely and received by faith in Him. Jesus is the bread of life by whom we have life eternal. In His T holy name. Amen.