Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

September 2022 Newsletter

“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved…”  Matthew 10:22

The verse above is Jesus talking to his disciples and telling them plain as day what they will expect from the world.  As this text goes on he will talk about the honor that comes from being treated like Jesus himself was treated.  He then tells the disciples to have no fear of those who slander or malign you for belonging to Christ, because the day is coming when all will be known.

I quote that verse from Matthew to introduce you to someone who had this verse in mind when he went to suffer for the Christian faith.

Have you ever met someone or read something that just stayed in your mind for so long that it just changed your perspective on life?  Maybe it lit a fire under your belly.  Maybe it captivated your imagination for years to come.

What this Christian wrote fired up my imagination when I translated his works in college during Greek Class where we translated the works of the Church Fathers.  His words recently hit me again and part of my joy in reading and digging into the legacy and history of our faith is to spread these stories from time to time.  And it helps widen our horizon as the Fathers of the Church are so apt to do.

Who you are about to meet is a man named Ignatius of Antioch.  We only know a few things about him.  He was a bishop at the Church of Antioch in Syria around 100 AD.  For comparison, this is around the same time the book of Revelation was being written.  He was captured by the Roman Government and was being taken to Rome for execution in the arena around 110 AD.
This is where we meet this saint of old.  As St. Ignatius travels through what is modern day Turkey, he used the time of transport to write 7 letters to 7 churches (sound familiar with John in Revelation 2-3?).  This is where we pick up where Ignatius is at.

In what I am about to share comes from one of those seven letters that St. Ignatius wrote to the Church in Rome.  For context, Ignatius is worried that the Christians in Rome will bribe soldiers to bail Ignatius out of the coming execution. He commends them of their love for him as their brother in Christ but asks them to refrain from rescuing him.  He wants to die and be executed publicly for being a Christian.  And this is what he then says,

“Yet because of their mistreatment I am becoming more of a disciple; nevertheless I am not thereby justified.  May I have the pleasure of the wild beasts that have been prepared for me; and I pray that they prove to be prompt with me.  I will even coax them to devour me quickly; not as they have done with some, whom they are too timid to touch.   And if when I am willing and ready and they are not, I will force them.
Bear with me—I know what is best for me.  Now at last I am beginning to be a disciple.  May nothing visible or invisible envy me so that I may reach Jesus Christ.  Fire and cross, and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ!
Neither the ends of the earth nor the kingdoms of this age are of any use to me.  It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth.  Him I seek, who died on our behalf; him I long for, who rose again for our sake.  The pains of birth are upon me.” (Ignatius Letter to the Romans 5:1b-6:1.  “The Apostolic Fathers” Greek Texts and English Translations 3rd Edition)
What words!  You can feel the passion and fire that come off Ignatius.  I remember as I translated each word that I found myself staring at his words as if he were writing this to me.  The words are both faithful and also terrifying in their implication.  They have stayed with me these last 8 years.   What a desire to be with his Lord.

After his letters, we lose contact with Ignatius once he was loaded up on a ship bound for Rome, but it was reported to his dear friend and colleague St. Polycarp in another letter several months later that Ignatius did indeed meet a martyrs’ death in Rome just a few weeks later.

I write this here for this newsletter because these words are thrilling.  There is so much to being a Christian.  There is so much honor and legacy.  There are great heroes and villains to meet (sometimes they can be both hero and villain).

There is 2000 years of history, writing, thinking, practice, and dialogue in the Church.  And there are gems like this everywhere, especially the older you get.  At times it seems daunting to get into the discussion that is happening.  But I am telling you guys, get connected with the faith we hold common and dear.  It will change your life and I am hoping that the quote above is something that grabs you like it has always grabbed me.

This fall, I want to exhort you guys to start getting in on the discussion, be apart of the faith that is so much bigger than we could ever explore on our own.  Be a part of a story that will shake you and move you to your core as the Lord Jesus invites you to come and follow Him.  The people you will meet on your way will change your life.

So as we approach fall, here are some things that you can do to better cultivate what Jesus spoke in the words above and which St. Ignatius knew and desired so well.

Back to Basics
This time of the year is always a great time to get into some reading and topics.  We have a fantastic library with great resources on a variety of topics.  If you want help looking for some good places to start, I would recommend two in particular that got me started in on the discussion over a decade ago when the world of our Christian faith suddenly opened up to me.

The first is “Reading the Bible with Understanding” by Lane Burgland.  This gives you good information on how to read the Bible.  Principles that can help you read any section of the Bible.  And it goes into how to choose a translation of the Bible.  It does a great job of getting you the nuts and the bolts behind how the Bible ended up in your lap without getting too bogged down in the details for the sake of helping someone brand new get into the text.

The other book is “The Spirituality of the Cross” by Gene Veith.  This book gives you the perspective of someone who came to Lutheranism from outside our faith and what drew him in.  The book explores the uniqueness of Lutheranism compared to our Protestant backdrop and characteristics that make Lutheranism a hidden jewel.

Bible Classes
Bible classes are honestly the place where I get down to brass tacks.  We explore and dig around so much that I can’t even begin to get across what I mean here.  The discussions are so valuable for me and for those that attend.  The work of our congregation and the mission that we have from Christ are explored on a much deeper than I am able to do in sermons or even here.  I try and supply a taste of that in my newsletters, like the last one, because I want a wider audience with my brothers and sisters in the faith.

The best chance to do that for most is Sunday.  We are going through the Lutheran Confessions right now.  So if you want to hear and discuss how the Office of the Pope is the antichrist, why Lutherans retain the Mass, The power of the State and the Church, The end times, Prayer, Worship, Sacraments, and so much more of who we Lutherans are and why!  So Sunday after service, stop on by starting on the 18th!

Our General account is generally holding steady. We lost a little bit of ground in August, but there is still plenty in the checking account to cover our expenses. We also did receive a bequest from a member who has recently died. Some of the money has come in already. This will help cover some of the shortfall and may also allow us to get an extra building project done next year.

Speaking of the building fund, three projects that had been approved earlier this year are finally getting underway. The new boilers for the Education Wing are being put in this week. The old ones were so old that parts were hard to come by. The new ones will also be more energy efficient. Some repairs and painting of the outside arch are also being done this week. This is basic maintenance that will ensure our Nave remains in good working order. And at the end of September our ducts will be getting cleaned.

Fall Ministry
As I write this, things are in full swing.  Confirmation is starting.  Sunday School started on the 11th.  Bible Classes are beginning or soon will be. PUPPETS is underway.  Life is back on a schedule and a rhythm.  I honestly feel for the first time since I came here that I was prepared for this round of fall to happen.  So keep those ministries in your prayers.

Also, Bells and Choir started up on Tuesday, September 13th.  6pm is Bells practice and 7pm is Choir.  If you are interested in singing or being a part of our musical opportunities, let us know.  All ages are welcome and for Bells you do not need to know music.  If you want to hear more, let us know.

Missionary Visit
Finally, earlier this year we supported Rev. Matthew Wood who is a Missionary over in Medan in Indonesia.  He has sent us newsletters which are posted on the board.  Because we are supporting him, he also wants to be in contact with us.

We now have a special opportunity with him as well.  He is back in the States for an extended stay and is taking a tour of a few churches that are supporting him and he has asked if he could visit us.  Of course, I said yes.  So, when you come on Sunday, October 9th Rev. Wood, his wife, and 4 children will be here.

Pastor Wood will be preaching that day and will also be speaking during Bible Class concerning the work in Indonesia, the Gospel, and what life is like in an area that is Muslim dominated but where the work of the Gospel is fruitful.  It will be interesting, and I invite you to attend and meet someone who mentored and trained me in the field during my Seminary days.
I would like to support him further, especially since he and his family are travelling here.  So we will house him for the night and also provide a special door offering the day he is here serving us the Gospel and sharing news of our brothers and sisters in the Lord across the Pacific.    

There is a lot going on!  More than I could ever relate in just a brief four pages.  But I give thanks to God for every single one of you.  Know that I keep you in my prayers and love the work that the Lord Jesus has given to us here in Marshfield.  May He sustain and keep us in his care until he comes again.  God’s peace to you all in Jesus our Lord.
In Christ,

Pastor Andrew Belt
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