From the Pastor's Desk:
Sometimes momentous historical events come about because of a seemingly minor discovery. That was the case with the Reformation. In many ways, the Reformation came about because Martin Luther discovered that one verse of the Bible had been mistranslated. That verse was Matthew 4:17, which says,
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
It all had to do with the word "repent". The Latin translation of that word was poenitentiam agite, or "do penance". That was a mistranslation. The better translation is "repent". So, repent or do penance, what is the difference? We will see.
By Luther's time, the idea of doing penance had a very specific connotation. It was part of the sacrament of penance, what we would today thinking of as "going to confession". In the sacrament of penance, a person would 1) go to the priest confess his sins, 2) be absolved by the priest, 3) and then be assigned a specific penitential acts do complete. Those penitential acts could include prayer, fasting, giving of alms, going on a pilgrimage or serving in a crusade. One way that a person could complete his or her penance was buying an indulgence. Originally this meant making it possible for a person to serve in the Crusades in one's place. Eventually, however, an indulgence could be bought for many purposes. For instance, the indulgences that John Tetzel was selling in 1517, across the river from Wittenberg, where meant to help pay for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
What Luther and others realized, once copies of the original Greek text of the New Testament became available, was that Matthew 4:17 does not speak of penance, but repentance. What's the difference, you might ask? Repentance (in Greek, metanoia) is not about enduring punishment. Literally, it means to change one's mind, but in the New Testament uses it in the sense of changing one's direction. Your whole self, heart, soul, strength and mind are to turn around. This is in line with the Old Testament, where again repentance means to return to God. In Biblical usage, repentance is roughly synonymous with conversion. Like repentance, to convert also means to turn around. In Matthew 4:17, Jesus does not call upon us to endure punishment in order to pay for our sins. He calls upon us to return to God.
Understanding the difference between penance and repentance makes a big difference in how we approach the season of Lent. Lent is a season of repentance in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. But what exactly are we supposed to do in Lent? If we think in terms of penance, then it means that we will be engaged in Lenten discipline in order to pay off a debt. This makes Lent rather somber, as we think that we need to punish ourselves for forty days. Cynically, you might say that if we will just be miserable for forty days, God will let us off the hook.
When we think of Lent in terms of repentance, however, it makes whole season one of joy. Yes, it is true, like the Prodigal Son, we have turned our backs on our heavenly Father. We have taken all the good gifts that he has given us and squandered them. Thinking that we would be happier serving other gods, we have made ourselves miserable. Like mindless sheep, we have wandered away from our Shepherd. We have not followed his voice, but have gone our own way. Now we find ourselves lost and alone, trapped in thickets and in ravines, surrounded by ravenous wolves.
In the midst of this, we hear the words of the prophet Joel, saying:
Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love." (Joel 2:13)
It seems too good to believe, doesn't it? After all that we have done against God, it can't be that simple, can it? Certainly we will have to earn our way back into God's graces, won't we? The answer given by the Gospel is, "No!" We do not have to earn our way back into God's graces, because God has done that for us. Jesus has already reconciled us to our Father:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
This is our message this Lent. The doors of God's house are open wide to all sinners. Repent! Turn around. Come home to God.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. David A. Charlton
Have you ever lived in a foreign country? Have you ever worked in a foreign country? The experiences can vary greatly depending on how it went. It might have been wonderful, rewarding, good, bad, miserable. Foreign missionaries are people. Their lives and experiences in foreign countries vary. Some had great experiences and results while other missionaries lost their lives. Some were tortured and were put to death. It takes a strong faith to go into the unknown to tell people one does not know about the wonderful salvation in believing in Jesus Christ. St. Paul's missionary, Rev. Kristin Engstrom, has gone to a foreign country to live and to tell people about Jesus. She has followed several other ELCA missionaries to the African country of Senegal. She has reported to us by letters that she likes the country and its people. She has been able to tell the people there about her faith in Jesus and that salvation comes from believing in Jesus. Still, going and settling in Senegal was not easy. It required Pastor Kristin to use her faith that it would work. She had to make new friends, new contacts. She had to find a place to live. She had to learn to navigate in new, strange areas. She had to learn where to buy her food. This she has done. Let us pray for Pastor Kristin Engstrom, for her young adult learners, for Senegalese Christians. Let us support Pastor Kristin with our gifts to Missionary Support.
St. Paul's foreign missionary, Rev. Kristin Engstrom, will be visiting our church on Sunday, March 29. She will be at both services and will give a presentation of her mission program at 9:40, between the two services. Be sure to come and hear her messages on missions,
International Health Partners
As Christians we plan go to church on Sunday. We want and we need to hear God's Words and to pray our concerns. That is not enough for us, for Christians. Being a Christian is a 24 hours, 7 days a week religion. Life is both good and bad. We Christians often need help with our lives and our problems. The Church has built and staffed hospitals, orphanages, schools, colleges to help and assist members with needs and problems. Our Florida Synod has gone beyond this and has organized several special ministries to help members of its congregations' other needs and problems. One of these special organized ministries is the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries. The Florida Synod organized this ministry so its church members would have outdoor programs at various temporary sites around Florida. They also built a permanent campus where members could go for group retreats, meeting, recreation, and family vacations. The campus is called Camp Luther Springs. The campus location is north of Orlando in an area of woodlands, lakes, and prairie grass. At the campus are many of the Ministry programs and services. We at St. Paul can use the Camp. The facilities at the Camp include an outdoor and indoor worship centers, cabins, a RV park, a lake, and other recreational areas. The Camp is in process as it continuously adds new facilities. Church members who come say that they can feel the presence of God in the Camp's natural environment and at the Camp's worship centers. Information about the Camp is posted on the Mission Bulletin Board. Let us continue to pray and support this ministry with our gifts to Mission Outreach.
LUTHERAN MEN In MISSION
March 2020 Bible Study Breakfast
The LMM monthly Bible Study and Breakfast will be Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 A. M. in the Parish Hall. We are continuing the Course on "Spirituality." This is the sixth and final session where we will be discussing the subject "Spiritual Basics: Becoming a Christian." The Bible study topic is "What Does It Cost? 'Pressing on toward the goal'" (Philippians 3:12-4:1). This Bible Study will follow Option 2: Advanced: Teaching with Margin Questions.
Philippians 3:12-4:1 (ESV)
Straining Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 4 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
In this Scripture passage, Paul is telling the Philippians (and us) that his relationship with Christ is not yet complete, not perfect. He recognizes that he doesn't "know Christ" the way he wants to. Since Paul has "not already obtained all this," his strategy is to: Press on! Paul recognizes his responsibility of pursuing greater personal, experiential knowledge of, intimacy with, and conformity to Christ- and holiness. Paul states that he does not look back, but rather "strains toward what is ahead." He is in pursuit of new goals in becoming more like Christ.
Paul exhorts the Philippians (and each of us) to walk as a Christian-live "a life worthy of the calling you have received." He also says, "follow my example." His encouragement is about following Christ and His truth-which he was following.
In Verse 4:1, because of the promise that we will be transformed to be like Jesus (Verse 3:21) Paul says we must stand firm in the Lord. This presents an interesting paradox -we can only "stand firm in the Lord" by "pressing on" to become more like Him. Christians not moving forward are really falling backward whether they realize it or not. It's impossible to stand still in the Lord.
Discussion will focus on what God expects of us -- to "press on" just like Paul. Our Christian life is not just about getting to heaven. It's all about the journey: persevering, and leading our lives aiming at the prize. Just like Paul, we should have one clearly defined goal: getting to know Christ better and better. How do we do that? Are we staying on track? If we stray from the path, how do we get back?
All men of the congregation are invited to attend.
WORN/TATTERED AMERICAN FLAGS
If you have a worn out, tattered, or faded US flag you need to properly dispose of, you can bring it to the church and Don Cleveland will deliver it to his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post for a proper and respectful disposal.
AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (AEDS) -
St Paul Lutheran Church has 2 AEDs for use in an emergency. One is located in the Gathering Room hanging on the east wall (near the classroom door) and the other is in the Family Life Center/School in the Lobby.
St. Paul has a prayer shawl ministry to offer comfort to our members during times of health concerns, grief and other situations. The shawls are knit or crocheted by our members and friends.
We have had expressions of gratitude from those who have received them, several saying they could feel the caring thoughts and prayers from our church. Sadly, we have no shawls right now and need people to make them. If you can crochet or knit and would be able to create one, please contact the church office at 678-1298. We have the yarn and directions for you...now people are needed to knit or crochet.
Prayer Huddle Group
Those who are interested in being part of a St. Paul Prayer Group are invited to join Pastor David in the Cry Room on Sunday mornings at 9:45 a.m. He will introduce a simple procedure for group prayer. We will also discuss the best time, day and location for future meetings. If you are unable to attend, but want information on future prayer meetings, please contact the church office.
WOMEN OF ST. PAUL - CONGREGATIONAL DINNER ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11
The Women of St. Paul will be providing the dinner on Wednesday, March 11th. We will be having breakfast for dinner! There is a signup sheet on the bulletin board in Underdahl Hall if you can provide food, help with decorations, or help with setup or clean up. Proceeds from the dinner will be given to The Opportunity Place, located in Fort Walton Beach, is an organization that provides temporary emergency shelter and assistance for families and single women who are homeless or at considerable risk of becoming homeless.
Women of St. Paul Beach Retreat, MARCH 13-15
Our retreat will be held in Destin, the weekend of March 13-15. We have limited sleeping space, which is filled right now. If you are still interested and haven't signed up, you have the option of coming to the retreat, but not spending the night. We may have room for a couple air mattresses, but we will have to let you know. If you are interested in either of these options, please sign up in Underdahl Hall, and we will be in touch soon!
Panhandle Conference Women's Retreat, APRIL 25
This year, the Panhandle Conference Women's Retreat will be held on Saturday, April 25 in Ft. Walton Beach, hosted by Holy Trinity. More details will follow soon. A sign up sheet will be in Underdahl Hall in a couple weeks.
SHELVES NEEDED - In an effort to organize some of the church storage closets, we are in need of shelves of any kind. if you have any you could donate, please contact Beth Hoffman.
Baby Care Kits
WELCA will be putting together Baby Care Kits to be distributed by Lutheran World Relief for needy families around the world. If you would like to help, there is a box in Underdahl Hall where you may leave your donations. The deadline for donations is 1 May.
Items needed for each kit:
- 2 light-weight cotton t-shirts (no onesies)
- 2 long or short-sleeved gowns or sleepers (without feet)
- 2 receiving blankets, medium-weight cotton or flannel or crocheted or knitted with lightweight yarn 36" to 52" square
- 4 cloth diapers, flat fold preferred
- 1 jacket, sweater or sweatshirt with a hood or include a baby cap
- 2 pairs of socks
- 1 hand towel, dark color recommended
- 2 or 3 bath-size bars of gentle soap equaling 8 to 9 oz, any brand, in original wrapping
- 2 diaper pins or large safety pins
- Gently used, clean items (no tears or stains) can be substituted for new ones
- Sizes 6-24 months may be used
If you have any questions, please contact Fran Clark.
Lutheran World Relief Quilters
We received a donation of 9 boxes, small moving size boxes, with many kinds of fabric. I wonder how many Lutheran World Relief Quilts we can make from this gift? Looking through the boxes is a little like opening a present. You never know what kind of fabrics you'll find! Three pair of tables with leg extensions are set up in the back Parish/Fellowship Hall. Feel free to come in and sort fabric. It can be measured and folded as well. I took one box home to run through the rinse cycle, dry, measure and fold.
Our March Quilt Tie is Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21. We'll be in the Parish Hall beginning about 9:30.
As always, come and go as you like.
School spring break in March. There will be no school from Saturday, March 14, through Monday, March 23. Anybody want to spend some time working on LWR Quilts?
Did You Know?
We have a problem with unlocked doors. If your last to leave, ensure doors are locked. Glass Narthex doors 3 out of 4 Sundays.
Groups Taking a Break During Spring Break
Several usual activities are taking a rest during Spring Break. There will be no Children's Sunday School or Confirmation on March 15th and 22nd. There is no Wednesday Meal, Kids First, Learning Den, or Youth Group on March 18. During the week of Spring Break, March 16-20, the parking lot is supposed to be resurfaced, so please keep this in mind if you're coming in to work or visit.
Night of Worship
A student at Rocky Bayou Christian School is working hard to host their annual Night of Worship. Her goal is to make this a community event and she's invited members of different denominations to come and worship our Lord through song on March 28th from 7-9.
There are two services on Wednesday during the Lenten season. The morning service is at 11:00 am and the evening service is at 6:30.
Community Pastoral Counseling
A ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School
Rev. Robert R. Lutz, PhD Diplomate
American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Call 850-843-3083 for Information or to make an appointment