Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

February 2023 Newsletter

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1 and quoted by our Lord Jesus in Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34.

Suffering and trusting in God would appear to be like oil and water—they don’t mix.  But the blood of Jesus here in the verse quoted above attest otherwise.
 
These words from Jesus are profound.  Jesus prays the prayer David knew Christ would speak in Psalm 22.  Jesus speaks this complaint in the midst of agony and wrath.  Jesus is beat, bloodied, and broken.  He looks at God his Father and complains, “Why have you forsaken me?”  Why is God’s innocent Son left out to dry?  Jesus is faithful, he is innocent, and this—the cross—is his reward for that?  Suffering is what he has merited?  Death is his due?  Jesus does not just feel forsaken, he is forsaken.  Abandoned, forgotten.  And he wants an answer.  Why?

This is a powerful complaint to God and it resonates with me in times of suffering too and Jesus invites me to pray these words to God as well.  “Why have you forsaken me?”  Though I come to pray this more humbly, only because Jesus tells me to pray this because I am covered by him.  I am like the thief on the cross, “we are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man, he has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

But yet, I pray this because I know that God has made me promises: “Beloved we are God’s children now.” 1 John 3:1.  But we also remember what follows, “and what we will be has not yet appeared.”  Come Lord Jesus Come!
 
But yet, I hear Jesus as he complains and asks God “WHY?!” that he also says this, “My God, My God.”  Jesus repeats this because it is true.  “I suffer, yet you are my God.”  As Jesus dies, his cry of “Why?” is not a cry of unbelief.  But he cries out, “Why?” precisely because he does believe and trust his Father.  Let that sink in when you cry out, too.  You suffer and cry out “Why” because you likewise know and believe in God.  The “whys” die when faith dies.
 
I find it interesting though, that Jesus does not receive an answer from God.  His cry is heard only by those mocking him who do not understand his suffering.  “Perhaps he is calling for Elijah!”  I find myself in similar situations when I am suffering.  Others do not know or relate or understand.
 
But Jesus doesn’t misunderstand your suffering.  He knows.  He relates.  “He carried our sorrows and our infirmities.”  That is what Isaiah the Prophet sees when he saw Jesus crucified in Isaiah 53.  It is good to have such a God who identifies with the God-forsaken.  You who lay in fear and in hospital beds and at death’s door have a God who alone has gone through it—and triumphed.   And promises you will triumph as well because you are connected to him.
Ultimately, suffering is not something to be logically worked out.  As if knowing why you suffer would solve the problem of you actually suffering.  Suffering is not meant to be solved.  Suffering is meant to be endured.
 
This is why no response to Jesus is given by his Father.  The Father is silent, and Jesus dies without an answer from him.  But even with receiving no answer from his Father, Jesus still commends himself to his Father.  “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Jesus still has faith, even while suffering, even while no answer is given by his Father, even if this is the reward.  This highlights Jesus’ faith in the face of annihilation even more potent.  Jesus endures and faithful even to death, death upon the cross.
 
That is until the resurrection.  Jesus Christ endured suffering.  The “why” doesn’t need an answer.  The “why” is just the cry that faith makes until the suffering is done.  The Father rewards his faithful Son by raising Him from the dead.
 
And Jesus is the promise and the guarantee of what will happen to us now too.   Jesus is the path that we follow him on.  The cry to ‘pick up our crosses’ is that this is the path to come into glory.  The avoidance of suffering, especially at all costs, is ultimately the avoidance of the coming glory.  This is not a call to seek suffering because suffering will find you.  This is also not a call to say suffering is good.  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil says Isaiah.  That is why we say, “Why!”

But we are to look to the cross of Jesus Christ to see the triumph of our God over suffering and evil.  He endured it and came out on the other side.  Jesus has disarmed the powers and the authorities on the cross by suffering the worst and enduring (Colossians 2).  Jesus has taken away the fear of death that the devil controlled (Hebrews 2).  Jesus has in his hands now, the very keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1).
 
Jesus promises the same will now happen to you.  He has marked you in baptism, he feeds you with his meal in Holy Communion.  Jesus is making you deathless.  That is the comfort in the face of suffering.   The comfort is not necessarily comfortable, the comfort is knowing that we have a Lord Jesus Christ who is with us always, even in suffering and agony, and he will bring us through, even death, into new life.  
 
Here are a few Scripture quotes to end and solidify this point:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”  1 Peter 4:12-13

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort that we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ sufferings, so through Christ, we will share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“And when the chief priests had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Acts 5:40-41

“Through Jesus, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

“For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

Continue to follow your Good Shepherd, who laid down his life and picked it up again that his Sheep would know his voice and follow him.  Amen!

Lent/Lenten Meals
This article was inspired because it is again that time of the year:  Lent!  Lent is a time of the year that the Church is inspired to again take extra time to follow our Savior to the cross and to the empty grave.  This year again, our midweek services will be on Wednesday morning and Thursday evening.  So, as part of your Lent devotion, I urge and commend you to attend both our Wednesday/Thursday and Sunday services, beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd through Easter Morning on April 9th.  The season of Lent is meant to intensify and cause us to experience the full joy of Easter.  This year, Pastor Ryan Anderson and I have teamed up for another year of preaching together and sharing pulpits at each other’s churches.  Our theme is: The Hymns of Lent.
 
Service time is 9am on Wednesday and 6:30pm on Thursday.  Before the Thursday service we will be having a Lenten Meal at 5:30pm.  We have a need for some volunteers to help serve and clean up and bring desserts in order to make this a success.  Sign up forms are at the back of the Narthex before you go into church, but you can also give us a call to sign up.  More details can be found in this newsletter.
 
As a teaser: The elders will be having their chili cook off again on March 2nd, so this year we are also having a Women’s Chicken Soup cook off on the 16th.  So if you are inspired to show off your cooking skills, there will be a few opportunities!  I always enjoy Lent, it is a great time of fellowship and discipleship as we are taken on a trip to the core events and teachings of our faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Lock In
The youth have a few events coming up, which can be found in this newsletter as well, but the major thing that I wanted to push here is a lock-in.  On Saturday, March 11th, from 10:00am to 10:00pm the youth have planned to do an all day lock in here at the church.  The lock in is open to any Jr. High and High School youth (plus a friend each).  Give a call to the office or to Tammy to let us know if your child or grandchild would be interested in coming.

Annual Meeting/Council/Elders
At our annual meeting in January we elected our officers for the next term, approved the budget, and also brought up topics that we want to pursue into the next year.  The next council meeting is on Monday, February 20th where the new rotation will begin.
 
I also sat down and had an all-day training session with the elders.  14 men of our congregation sat down back on January 14th from 9am-5pm and we went through what it means to be an elder, had some study, fellowship, food, and had a chance to work out what we should do.

At both of these meetings there was a strong desire for more congregation fellowship and food.  The Lenten Meals are a desire to have that again, but we also thought of more chances.  It was brought up to have a Dart Ball league and several hands shot up saying they would be on it.  More details are being worked out, but we are hoping to start setting it up by the end of February.
 
There are a few more thoughts for food and fellowship, but more will be shared in the next few months.  But for now, keep your ear low to the ground and also aware of more chances.  We have the ark trip coming up and also, I am sure a baseball game later this summer.  But if you have thoughts, suggestions, or ideas, please give us a call.
 
Financials
January is always a difficult month for financials as many of our once-a-year bills come due and giving is usually a bit down post-Christmas. We thank God we still have plenty in the checking account to cover everything this year. I know many of you took up my challenge from the Annual Report to increase your giving ten percent this year. Thank you to everyone who continues to support our ministry here.

Building 
The lights at the church keep getting turned over to LED lights or simply upgrading them for increased efficiency.  You might have noticed that the walls in the sanctuary look a bit more white and that is because those lights were changed as well.  With the building budget approved this year, the men’s maintenance and property board are starting to get to work.  Once spring hits the main work will be done. With the melting snow we have discovered a few leaks in the roof (one being in the main men’s restroom), so we will probably be pushing up the Fellowship Hall and Narthex roof projects to this year.  
 
God’s peace to you all.  Jesus Christ loves you.  He will carry you through everything and will present you to His Father without spot or wrinkle or any such stain.  Go in his peace and mercy.
  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.
In Christ,


Pastor Andrew Belt
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