2017 Joint-Parish Meeting
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Total Mileage Since Last Meeting: 12,342 (increase of 52 miles from last year)
Services: 134 (both congregations combined); additional weekly services at the nursing home in Hillsboro; Plus, occasional pulpit supply in Fargo and Devil’s Lake
- Communion Services: 57 (combined); monthly communion services are hosted at the nursing home; in addition, regular communion during shut-in visits
- Baptisms: 2; Nora and Axton at St. John
- Funerals, Memorial Services, Burials: 3 at St. John (Warren, Jeannie, Kay); 1 at First American (Arlene)
- Confirmations: 3; Nathan and Calvin at St. John; Chad at Trinity
Total Membership: St. John, 211; Trinity, 48
Events Attended: Circuit winkels each month; LWML zone events and national convention, ND BoD meetings; District pastors’ conferences (May 1-3, Oct. 2-4); PALS (Feb. 20-21, Jul. 13-14)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
St. Paul wrote these words to the Philippians from his cell in Rome as part of his final encouragement to them. Even amid their own many trials and sufferings, their love for each other and for Paul abounded more and more. They even sent their brother Epaphroditus to care for Paul in his imprisonment. Through them all, St. Paul was encouraged and strengthened in the faith. So, near the close of his letter, he turns the encouragement back their way. “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
They are to rejoice because the Lord is at hand. Truly, we are nearer to His return than when we first believed. The Day will come when every knee will bow, and we shall enter into Paradise with Him. But, until then, Christ Himself remains near us in His Word and Sacraments. Through faith in Him, we all have access to our Father in heaven, who promises to hear and answer our prayers. For this reason, the Philippians and we have cause to rejoice. The Lord hears and answers our prayers; He cares for us in every need. As we pray to God with every need and with all thanksgiving, our hearts are ruled by His peace. Through His Means of Grace, our God continues to bind our hearts and minds together into one and keeps us together in His Son, Jesus Christ.
This year has been a year of celebration. We have been marking this year as the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. We’ve been celebrating with the hymns of Martin Luther, with Bible studies, a hymn festival, and other events. Yet, we’ve always kept in mind that what we are truly celebrating is the Gospel: the teaching that our sins are truly and freely forgiven by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. By His death on the cross, He has secured for us the forgiveness of sins, and gives that to us freely, apart from any works or merit of our own.
We rejoice, also, as we note that this year has brought some physical changes and renewal to our church buildings. Trinity’s building has received new doors and insulation. The Lord’s altar at Trinity has also been adorned in new, beautiful paraments. This last summer, the members of St. John stepped out in faith and built a playground on their property for the benefit of the community. Much of St. John’s building has also received new flooring just recently. Truly, the Lord has blessed us with these buildings. Even for these reasons alone, there is cause for rejoice and thanksgiving to God.
But, there is another reason. It’s the same I said last year. We are still here. We live in a world that is very evil. I know that is hard to say and, perhaps, harder to accept. We are surrounded on every side by temptations to sin, including the temptation to neglect our attendance in Sunday worship. There are forces at work in the world seeking to deprive us of our freedom to worship the only true God without fear. But we are still here. The Lord continues to gather us, His flock at Trinity and St. John, around His Word and Sacraments. By His Holy Spirit, He continues to call us to hear His Word, receive His gifts, and sing His praise week in and week out (and sometimes, even more often). What a wonderful thing. What a privilege we have to know that our sins are forgiven, that we have eternal life, that we have a God and Father who is Lord of all – yet, Who answers our every call. For this, we rejoice.
Has this been a year without challenges? No. At times, we’ve continued to struggle attendance-wise. Additionally, there has been some (perhaps, expected) financial stress this year. I’m not saying these things to call anyone out, but to admit – as your pastor – that we are still sinners. Just so, in the hymn of the day this last Sunday we sang, “Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.” Though we are great sinners, we have a greater Savior, still. I am convinced that this year, again, He will continue to forgive us our sins and guard and protect us against all evil.
St. Paul encouraged the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, for He and His advent are near. In all things, they were to make their requests known to God. And God, with His peace that surpasses all understanding, kept them in Christ Jesus. God grant the same to us, His humble servants at Trinity and St. John, in this next year.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jacob Swenson