Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

April 2022 Newsletter

“When Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’  And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” Matthew 27:24-25

It is now that time of the year!  As you read this, we are only a few days away from the start of Holy Week.  The week that is the highlight of our Faith as we revolve around the events of the final days and life of Christ, beginning from his ride into Jerusalem and leading to the empty tomb.  I live for this week even as it wears me out by Easter afternoon.

For this newsletter, I wanted to focus in on the particular services that we have for Holy Week as a teaser to catch your eye, as well as an encouragement for your attendance at all of these services.  I have heard from many pastors over the last few years and have also noted myself that people usually only go to one of the services during Holy Week.  Choosing between parts of the Triduum (The Three Days) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter leaves you missing out on part of the narrative and story!  So this is my chance to lay out my case for “Why you should attend all of our services during Holy Week.”

Palm Sunday: April 10th, 2022 at 9:00am

Jesus rides into Jerusalem to kick off the events of Holy Week.  We begin with a Processional Reading and Hymn as the Sunday School Children join in the procession with their palm branches as we then hear them sing Hosanna.

Palm Sunday for the most part is a normal service, but as the service continues on and draws to a close, we are left with an ominous tone of what is yet to be in the days to come.  The final hymn will bring with it a martial beat as we sing “No Tramp of Soldiers Marching Feet” which will lean us forward to Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday: April 14th at 6:30pm

Betrayal, Final speeches, last meals and a last will and testament is made as Jesus sits down with his disciples.  Maundy comes from the Latin, “Mandatum” which we derive the word “mandate” from.  This is Command, which comes from the Gospel of John when Jesus said, “A new Commandment (mandate) I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

This service is more reflective.  Almost no singing or chanting is in the service minus the climatic parts of Communion.  The reason for this is to fill the air with suspense and also with pregnant pauses as we know this service ends with the plunge into Good Friday.

As Jesus is led away as we read at the end of the service, the altar is stripped and left bare as we meditate on what Christ is about to do for our salvation.  The congregation leaves in silence as there is no dismissal or blessing.  Why this ends in silence is that the service is not yet done and will continue the next day for Good Friday.  Someone one year said that I should have dismissed everyone once the service was over because it felt directionless and awkward as people randomly got up and left.  But this is intentional and fits the mood the service wishes to leave you with.  Not all stories end well after all, but we are thankful to remember that this one is not yet over.

The sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer continues with the petition of “Lead us not into Temptation.”  As we pray for our Lord to not allow us to be led astray, even as Judas gave into temptation and betrayed his Lord.

Good Friday: April 15th at 1:15pm & 6:30pm

From Betrayal to the Cross.  As the congregation assembles in silence, this service continues with some reflections on what we are about to hear again.  To understand the significance of Good Friday, we need to hear from Isaiah 53, one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament Prophets.  We then hear from Hebrew 4:14-16, 5:7-9 to understand what Good Friday is about.

Then the service of Tenebrae (darkness) begins.  Lights are extinguished one by one as we draw closer to the end of Christ’s life.  We will read through the Passion of Jesus Christ from St. John’s Gospel.  Between these readings we will sing, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”  A hymn which is part of a longer poem largely attributed as being written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux who lived in France in the 11th century.  The poem he wrote is a much larger poem that centers on each part of Jesus that was beaten and scarred, with the hymn we now sing being the part where St. Bernard focuses on Christ’s head.  If you would like to look up the whole poem, look up Salve mundi salutare. (Latin for “Hail the World’s Salvation).

After the sermon, which will be the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Deliver us from evil, we then do a few elements from the Chief Service for Good Friday.  One element is the bidding prayer which someone introduces what we are to pray for and then we pray for it.

The other part from the chief service is perhaps the most haunting part of the entire service, or of any service: The Reproaches.  Coming from the Old Testament Prophets, especially Micah 6:3 which is when God confronts his people for their sins and evil with lamentation.  These are words from God which he gives a reproach to his people for spurning his good gifts and instead killing his Son.  This part of the service is giving a voice for God as God laments about us.  It is bone chilling as the words are chanted and I find that these words from God cut to the very soul as we sing back for God’s mercy despite our evil.  All I can say about this part: Thanks be to God for Christ.

We conclude the service by singing that Christ has triumphed in the battle and he has triumphed by being “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted.”  Just as you think it is over, Pastor and Congregation join in on one final chant: Psalm 22.  The Congregation then leaves in silence as the tomb is slammed shut and the only hope as we leave is the Christ candle yet burning in the back, waiting for a new flame to be lit, which we will see in the Easter Vigil as we await the resurrection of Jesus Christ knowing death cannot hold the one who is sinless.

Easter Vigil: April 17th at 6:00am

This service is the service that I look forward to doing every year.  Out of all the services that happen in this church, this is perhaps the climax.  I love it more than singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve.

The Vigil is simply that: keeping watch.  We are watching for our Lord Jesus and while we wait for the announcement of the resurrection, we comfort ourselves with the stories in the Bible where God has always rescued his people.  That is why it happens either at 11pm on Saturday and carries on past midnight and close to 1am, or in our case here at Christ Lutheran will begin at 6:00am before the sun rises and go to almost 7:30am.

This service actually begins outside the church in the dark.  We gather around a flickering flame.  From the fires in the pit we place, we reignite the Christ candle.  After we have lit (or turned on) our candles, we process into the sanctuary following the Christ candle.  From here we read 12 key readings from the Old Testament that all give us an angle on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and also tell us the story of our faith.  A hymn concludes these readings praising God for his works of salvation.

Following this, we do a remembrance of our baptism.  We repeat the lines that were spoken when we were baptized.

Then we do the Great Prayer of the Resurrection.  Following this prayer, everything changes.  Up until this point, the lights in the sanctuary are off, the colors are dark still.  But after the prayer, the lights get turned on bright, the sanctuary is vested in brilliant white, I will change from my black surplice into a bright white alb and stole, communion gets brought up to the altar, The Timpani sounds off (the drums) and the Easter proclamation is announced.  The vigil is now over, and the feast of Easter begins.

The service then concludes with the Service of the Sacrament.

Overall, this service is meant to be deliberate.  It is counting on God’s deliverance even in the midst of darkness.  Our hope is vindicated as the service of the vigil melts away into the Feast of Easter.  I cannot recommend this service enough.  If you are able and God so moves you, make an effort to attend a service that I find particularly thrilling and moving.  Lutheran theology is on full display here in its Soteriology, Christology, Sacramental, and Eschatological fervor.  
It is an early service beginning at 6:00am (I get up around 4am to get here to prepare!)  and the service is almost 90 mins in all its beauty and length, but I cannot recommend this service enough.  You go through the full range of emotion and meaning and if you did have to choose a service for Easter morning, I would point you to this one.

Easter Sunrise Services 8:30am & 10:30am

After the vigil, those present can make their way to breakfast and then are able to stick around the 8:30am Easter Sunrise service.  A second service is offered at 10:30am.  (As a note, Easter Breakfast will be served from 7:00am-10:00am).

This service marks the end of the Triduum (Three Days) service that began on Maundy Thursday.  What began in hushed sorrows and betrayal now gives way to life and light.  Christ is Risen and is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep!  This service picks up slightly where the Easter Vigil left off.  The Timpani sounds again for those coming to the tomb to yet find it empty again as we process into the service singing Jesus Christ is Risen Today.

The focus of this service is upon the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the grounded, historical event upon which our entire faith is centered upon.  Jesus is raised by His Father and is raised into the New Creation.  Jesus is the beginning of what will happen to everything else when he returns.  And you have a share in that right now.

The sermon series that we began our Lenten Season with, also finds its conclusion here as we hear from the Lord’s Prayer: Amen!
Indeed.  Christ is Risen!!  Since I have said a lot of Latin here in this, here is how Christians said it for many a year: Christus Resurrexit!

Conclusion to Service Reflections
I pray this gives you a tease for what Holy Week will bring.  I cannot wait to celebrate all that our God in Christ has done for us.  I live for this week each year, and I am excited that it is upon us at last.  And I can’t wait to see all of you as we join in together to bow before our Lord and receive his gifts that he won out of great love for us.

Financial Update

As of the writing of this Newsletter, March is not yet done.  Because of Holy Week and the need to write before that, this Newsletter is early.  So a more full report will be included in the next Newsletter for both March and April.

I will note however, that we are behind this year.  We have a lot of extra funds from last year that we have a cushion on, but the first trimester of the year has been lagging a bit.  I would surmise that the amount of inflation and prices from continuing covid difficulties and recent events in the world have affected just about every sector in life.  So, part of our budget being down can certainly explain this as well.

Ultimately the Lord is in charge and as Abraham learned, “God will provide.”  This is his mess to deal with, so on our end this means fervent prayer and intercession for the needs of the world, our church, and our lives.  I am reminded of times of plenty and little that things are to work out because “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.  And as I preached when talking about daily bread, we pray for neither plenty nor famine but only enough for each day.

Outside Cross
Thanks in large part to our Men’s Monday Bible Class and Maintenance Crew and other key people, an idea got started about a cross to hang up outside the sanctuary that matches the cross inside the sanctuary.  On March 29th it was hung up outside.  It looks great and looks like is has always been up there.  As you drive in from the west side of town or go out to Webers, you can’t help but see it as it hangs on our building!  Thank you to all who were involved in getting it up there.

Pastor Andrew Belt
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