From the Desk of Pastor Mech
Immanuel Lutheran Church LCMS and Martin Luther School in Joplin, Missouri is Grounded in Christ, Guided by Grace, and Growing to Serve since 1897...
Our Season of Repentance in a Time of Pandemic — Lent 2021
As with everything else in the last eleven months, Lent 2021 will be observed somewhat differently this year. Exhibit One is our ashless Ash Wednesday. I read the methods several congregations plan to employ of the imposition of ashes, but found all of them lacked a measure of safety, symbolism, solemnity, or a combination of the above.
Missing, too, will be our 4:00 service, as well as our Lenten meals. We cancelled the meals for the same reason we skipped midweek meals this Advent: the prevailing wisdom tells us sitting across the table from each other for an hour or so is ill-advised, even if we wear masks the while time — and the mask make it so much harder to eat.
The dropping of the 4:00 service was a more difficult decision. Many churches have added services in order to keep the attendance at any given service within government guidelines, though we have not been troubled by such restrictions here in Joplin, lately. The Elders and I reasoned that we would be able to accommodate all the congregants who attend our mid-week services safely in one service, and the greater attendance in that service would spark fuller singing, push away some of the feelings of isolation so many have dealt with, and provide one step toward getting our people back into the joys of fellowship. I know that some will stay away because of the lateness of the hour; it is already dark by 7:00. Yet the services are relatively brief, and streamed online. If you do not wish to drive after dark, Jason and his wonderful internet machine still make this sort of participation possible.
We continue to apply fluid solutions, because the situation is fluid. We have tried to deliver Word and Sacrament with all due precaution, and, so far as I know, we are among the very few congregations blessed with so knowledgeable a COVID-19 committee. They will continue to advise us, even as we now seek to reestablish face-to-face opportunities for fellowship.
Some of us have been vaccinated; I pray all of us who can be, will be. We don’t want people to fall out of the habit of gathering in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day. If you have thoughts on how and when we can introduce new fellowship activities or reintroduce old ones, let us run your ideas past the committee.
Return to the Lord — Lent 2021 Sermon Series
“Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”(Joel 2:13)
God is calling you to return.
Return to the Lord… God’s invitation and promise finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, who personified and accomplishes all that God declares. Follow different events during the Passion, specifically focusing on the people that followed Christ, to see how God calls His people to return to Him this Lenten season.
- Ash Wednesday, February 17 | A Call to Return | Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
- Midweek 1, February 24 | Return to Prayer | Matthew 36:36–46
- Midweek 2, March 3 | Return from Betrayal | John 18:1–11
- Midweek 3, March 10 | Return from False Witness | Matthew 26:57–68
- Midweek 4, March 17 | Return from Denial | Luke 22:54–62
- Midweek 5, March 24 | Return to the Kingdom of God | John 18:28
- Holy Thursday, April 1 | Return to the Table | Mark 14:12–26
- Good Friday, April 2 | Return to the Truth | John 19:1–16
- Easter Vigil, April 3 | Return to the Church | John 19:28-37
- Easter Sunday, April 4 | Return and See | Matthew 28:1–10
Follow the Passion narrative and its practical applications for those who walked alongside Jesus as He carried out God’s grace and mercy for all. Listeners will reflect on their own sinful nature, understand how they have turned away, and delight in God’s call to return to Him wholeheartedly.