I suppose I say it too often, but it does not cease to amaze me that this parish is bound together in faith and love, as every Christian congregation ought to be.
We are small, and we always seem to be shrinking too. We repeatedly encounter challenges to our very existence, but somehow we keep charging on in faith. I am reminded of the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians regarding his apostleship. It seems to apply to this parish in many ways: “By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live, as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10). I am particularly fond of this part: as dying, and, behold, we live.
I have heard reports of other congregations who have closed their doors and turned out the lights. Many others, actually: the demographics seem to be against us all across America, as the baby boomer generation ages, and many of the youth have been turning to empty and vain things to fill up their time.
Maybe a big part of the way our Lord has kept us from the same fate is the unity of Spirit and the bond of peace that we have. The members here have poured themselves into the well-being of this congregation. I won’t venture into listing names, because there are so very many: you have given sacrificially of your time and treasure; you have outdone yourselves. And above all these things, you are kind to one to another and to me, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you, as St. Paul, patron of this church, has directed (Ephesians 4:2).
Dear family, you really need to know and appreciate what a rare and precious thing this is. How many there are who wish they could have what we have, who instead must endure the sadness and heartbreak of strife and bitterness among the members, and conflicts of one kind or another. That is so common and dreadful a thing to endure. But our Lord has graciously kept us from it. Our struggle is with our numbers, but not among our numbers.
This is something for which we must not only be thankful, but for which we must continue to pray: the well-being and Christian bond of love in this congregation, and for the unity of faith that is at the heart of that bond.
It’s also, unfortunately, one of the best-kept secrets in town. If only they knew what we have here: the Gospel in its purity and the love of a family in Christ. Would to God that this secret might become widely known.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Candlemas observed February 3rd
The Feast of Candlemas (the Presentation of our Lord and the Purification of Mary) is set on February 2nd, which is a Tuesday. To accommodate more members, we will be observing it on Wednesday, February 3rd. It is a First Class Feast of our Lord. Invite guests!
Hand-candles are used in this service, in a procession while singing the Nunc Dimittis (the song of Simeon) and when the Sacrament is consecrated. The declaration by Simeon of the Christ Child as a Light by the priest Simeon is the reason for the ceremonial use of candles at this Mass. The use of these lights in connection with the Blessed Sacrament emphasizes the analogy of Simeon’s jubilation on receiving the Child with our own reception of Christ at the altar.
The name of this Feast, Candlemas, also subtly provides a link to the Feast from which it springs, that great feast of forty days earlier, namely Christmas.
Ash Wednesday February 10th
On Ash Wednesday, February 10th, the will be two opportunities to come to Mass, at 7 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. Different readings and sermons will be heard, if anyone wishes to come to both. The rite of imposition of ashes precedes the Mass.
St. Matthias’ Day observed February 24th
We will be observing St. Matthias’ Day on February 24th. Oddly, the 24th is usually the day it appears in the sanctoral calendar, but during a leap year (like this one) it is supposed to be on the 25th. But for us, Wednesday accommodates more people, so the 24th it is.
Shrove Tuesday February 9th
See the article on Shrove Tuesday and Private Confession below in this newsletter.
The season of Lent is a season of emphasis on penitence, in preparation for of Easter. Its span is forty days, like the forty days in which Jesus fasted in the wilderness, in fulfillment of the fast of Moses and Elijah on Mount Horeb.
The Apostles themselves left the specific manner of observance to Christian liberty, saying, Let each be convinced in his own mind. Leaving aside the question of what things one should fast from (whether sweets, or meats, or milk products, etc.), what is clear is that the custom of fasting itself is quite biblical. If Moses, Elijah, and Jesus himself fasted, certainly it must be a good practice. Indeed, on Ash Wednesday we hear Jesus saying, When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, etc. Luther’s Small Catechism also declares, “Fasting and other bodily preparation is indeed a fine outward training.” Therefore we conclude two things: first, that fasting is a good thing, and second, that it is a matter left to Christian liberty.
Liturgically the Church fasts during Lent (as Israel fasted forty years in the wilderness). The color is penitential violet. Alleluias are not sung, and there is less music; flowers are absent, and weddings are not to be scheduled.
During the last two weeks of Lent, statutes, images, and crosses in the churches are veiled, and no Glorias are sung at all, except in the Gloria in Excelsis on Maundy Thursday.
In the midst of this penitential mood there is joy, at Laetare, the fourth Sunday in Lent ( ‘rejoice’). The entire penitential season is not to be sad, but joyful. For true joy of heart, born of the suffering and resurrection of Christ, transcends all parts of Christian life, even the deepest of sorrows, as we confess with David that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Thus the forty days of Lent is followed by a contrastingly festive forty-day season from Easter until Ascension Day.
Maybe Work on the Ceiling Can Begin This Year?
Trustee Otis Anderson advised us on Sunday morning, January 24th, that we are seriously looking at a plan to repair the ceiling of the church, something that has been needed for a long time. On the day before there was a consultation with a local plaster man who is eager to help us out as inexpensively as he can.
Since we don’t have a lot of money, the plan is to work little by little. If we can find some scaffolding to add to what we already have, the idea would be to erect scaffolding in one part of the church at a time, and leave it standing for as long as it takes to do that part before moving on to the next: repair, let dry, paint several coats. Parts of the project can be done by volunteers, which would of course also save money.
It may take us as many as several years, during which time we would have to put up with some scaffolding set up in the church for an extended period of time, but if we start with a plan, we can envision a day when we have a new ceiling.
The first step is to find scaffolding. So if anyone knows of anyone who has some we could use, how about doing some investigating? Perhaps we could buy some cheaply from someone who has some stored in his attic or garage. If you know of anyone, or have any leads, please speak to Otis!
Mary Hamilton at home (though actually she has been convalescing at her son’s home in Fort Wayne for several weeks); Emmy Wear at Williamsfield.
Otis Anderson, John Ricknell, Bill Thompson, David Ricknell
First Tuesday Vespers, etc.
February 2nd, Altar Guild is at 6 pm, Vespers is at 6:45, and Elders is at 7:15, as usual.
As usual, the council is scheduled to meet on the third Wednesday, which is February 17th, at 5:30 pm.
Altar Guild Notes
Parament color is VIOLET throughout February, except for two Wednesdays.
• Wednesday the 3rd, we will be observing Candlemas. For that day the color is WHITE.
• Wednesday the 24th, we will observe St. Matthias’ Day. For that day the color is RED.
Next meeting is Tuesday, February 2nd.
2/2 Mindie Fisher
2/4 Joshua Kraklow
2/5 Tom Wells
2/17 Monroe Kemerling
2/23 Carol McReynolds
Save your Metal
As always, Linda Rowe is willing to take your aluminum and other metal scraps in for cash that she donates to the church. It’s an easy way to bring in a little extra cash for us from time to time. If you have some, let her know.
Private Confession and Shrove Tuesday
Private Confession is always available to anyone between 6 and 6:30 pm on these Wednesdays (and also, as always, by appointment). Pastor is usually available as well on Saturdays, from about 4 pm until Mass.
On Shrove Tuesday, February 9th, Pastor will make a special point of being available all afternoon (until 5 pm when Q and A class begins) for confession, on this day traditionally intended for this use in preparation for Lent.
From the Catechism:
HOW CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO CONFESS
What is Confession? Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should we confess? Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.
Which are these? Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?
In Our Prayers
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
Anna Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Jill Matchett [at request of Diana Shreck]
Lorene Foglesong [at request of the Kraklows]
Cathy Van Wassenhove [at request of Sandra Verplaetse]
Shelly DeBord [at request of the Watsons]
Jackie Hampton [at request of the Murphys]
Robin Hampton [at request of the Watsons]
Maria Thorndike [at request of the Murphys]
Annie Eastman [at request of Svetlana Meaker]
Emily Corzine [Sarah’s sister]
Dennis Hoag [at request of Diana Shreck]
Nancy Popejoy [relative of Sharon Hartz]
Jeff Autery [friend of Chris Erickson]
John Molburg [friend of Sandra Verplaetse]
Dave Colgron [friend of Tom Wells]
Michelle Campbell [Larry’s wife]
Shannon Watson [Jim’s daughter]
in the military:
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Thomas Kim [at request of the Shrecks]
Michael Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Katherine Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Carter Wills [grandson of the Thompsons]
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]
Jaclyn Alvarez [daughter of Kris Harden]
especially any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Iran, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, North Korea, and elsewhere (persecution details below)
and our own church
IRAN: Miraculous Release of Saeed Abedini Source: Middle East Concern, Release International. 21 January 2016 Christians from all over the world can now rejoice as Pastor Saeed Abedini has recently been released from prison. He was one of four prisoners with dual American-Iranian nationality to be freed on January 16th amid intense negotiations surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Since his release, the 35-year-old pastor has been joyfully reunited with his wife, Naghmeh, and their two children. While relieved that her husband has now arrived safely home, Naghmeh recognizes the need for his continued healing. "The journey is not over yet," she says. "There are a lot of things we'll have to go through."
BURKINA FASO: Mission Workers Fatally Wounded by Terrorists Source: World Watch Monitor, Thechristians.Com. 21 January 2016 The victims in this small country in West Africa were aiding in the construction of a school. On January 15th, attackers linked with Al-Qaeda murdered 29 people from 18 countries before being stopped by Burkina Faso and French security forces. Six of the victims were Canadian citizens on a humanitarian trip prompted by their Christian faith, four of whom are from the same family. A seventh Christian victim was a U.S. missionary.
CAMEROON: Scores Die in Cameroon Fighting Source: The Wall Street Journal, AP. 25 January 2016 Boko Haram, which emerged from the sprawling poverty of Nigeria’s northeast, has opened an additional campaign in neighboring Cameroon. A country of 23 million people, many of whom speak the same Kanuri language as Boko Haram’s fighters and follow a similarly orthodox strain of Islam, Cameroon sits at a nexus where Africa’s Islamist-tinged rebellions are beginning to merge. Untold thousands have died in neighboring Central African Republic amid fighting between a Muslim rebellion and Christian militias. Mali, where French and United Nations peacekeepers have watched al Qaeda allies seize a string of towns of late, is also nearby. On Thursday, Cameroon President Paul Biya used his first speech of the year to ask unnamed foreign powers to supply African nations with more help in their struggle against fundamentalists, saying, “A global threat calls for a global response.” The country’s two former colonizers, France and Germany, have both lent varying degrees of support, as have China and the U.S. Remember to pray for persecuted Christians. Mourning the Loss Anna Belle Baker passed away on January 21st, and we laid her to rest on January 26th, and we continue to pray for Dale and the family at the loss of this dear member. We also mourn with Barb Kraklow at the loss of her brother Keith Ruggles on January 24th. We take comfort in the victory over death that is theirs in Christ Jesus.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church 109 S. Elm Street Kewanee, IL 61443