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1st Annual Soup & Suds Gathering

October 8, 2019

It was the 1st Annual Soup & Suds Gathering at Immanuel Lutheran Church. All that attended had a wonderful time learning about the soap making process and enjoying a wonderful meal. Thank you Pastor Niveen for your inspiration to live a little greener. And thank you, Janci for the awesome soup and bread. It was so scrumptious. A special thank you to the ladies who attended the class. It was truly a great time of fellowship.

Can't wait to see that soap. It takes several weeks for it to cure. However, the dishwashing soap is ready to use in the kitchen.

 

 

Gospel Songfest, September 22, 2019

Video Gallery

Gospel Songfest Service, September 22, 2019

 

If you missed a service, you may view them on Charter Cable Channel 980 5:45 pm Tuesday & 9:15 am Thursday or online: Wausau Area Access Media: waam.viebit.com (Left side, scroll to Immanuel Lutheran).

 

 

 

The Dishonest Manager

Luke 16

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Luke 16 the Dishonest Manager[1]

September 22, 2019

 

Is Jesus celebrating dishonesty? What is the positive lesson Jesus might draw out of sinful behavior? Let us paraphrase the parable.

 

The master heard a rumor about his manager that he is dishonest. He made a judgment without having an account on his stewardship. He told his manager “you are no longer be my steward, so give me an account.” The manager is already accused by gossip and condemned. He is done. He is fired on hear saying.

 

The steward said all I know is to be a manager/an accountant. “I cannot do labor work and I am ashamed to beg.” “I am in a situation of having been accused of fraud. I may just do it because I am already condemned to it.”

 

He calls debtors in and makes the book matches the accusation fraud. There is no evidence of wasting his master’s goods. So, he makes the evidence fit the accusation. He calls each debtor in and asks “what is your bill? Hundred? Write down 50, write down 80.”

When it comes to gossip. When those debtors go back out into the community and they hear that he has been put out of the stewardship, each one is going to think, “because of me; because of our hidden interaction, he was fired. What I am going to do?”

 

This manager has an honored claim on each one participated in the fraud. The manager will say, “I am fired because of the favor I did to you.”

What he does, he in involves everyone who has been gossiping in the problem in a way that each one will think,

“I do not want to be exposed as the cause of this problem because everyone knows that the master is my friend or worker in the business. If it comes out, then the master is going to know that I defrauded him.”

 

The manager silences everyone gossip by involving everyone in the accusation. When he is kicked out, he can just say to the debtor,

“you know, my master kicked me out of my work for fraud. Do you remember that fraud? I do not want what happened to that fraud to come out.” “I need a job.”

Everyone is obliged to take him in his own house to cover him and silence him. This commercial situation is about gossip and accusation of fraud.

 

That dishonest manager uses his intelligence to figure out a way to manipulate money to secure his future. When the master found out how shrewd his manager was, he praised him.

 

What Jesus was impressed by? The answer is in verse eight and nine.

Jesus says, “for the children of this age [unbelievers in Christ] are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light” (v. 8). Jesus is saying, “it might be true, you Christians do not know how to be smart in this world affair, but this is insignificant compared to the wisdom I am about to teach you about how to use the money to secure your eternal future.” In other words, maybe you are not shrewd when it comes to the stock market, but who cares. Jesus says, “do you think that is shrewd? Let me tell you the real shrewdness.”

 

Here it comes verse nine. Jesus says “ And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” Jesus is telling the disciples not just to secure their earthly future that all what the dishonest manager can do. He hoped to get help when he becomes jobless. This is Jesus’ way of saying, “you need help with your jobless in eternity and I am telling you how to have a place to live, security and joy in fellowship with God’s people forever.”

 

All the shrewdness of this dishonest manager will come to nothing because it based on wealth that will fail. Jesus shows us the way you use your money to secure your eternity. Jesus says, “Use your money, the unrighteous mammon and wealth.” He means this is part of the unrighteous world in which you live. Take hold of it and use it for eternal and spiritual purposes namely to help the poor. In this way, you secure eternal place with friends in heaven.

 

Jesus’ statement triggers Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Making friends with money means using your money to meet people’s needs. That is the way you lay up treasures in heaven that does not fail. Some of these people will believe in Christ and go before you into heaven and welcome you in great joy to join them in eternity.

 

Do not worry about being a shrewd investor in this age where you only can provide a future that will fail. Instead, be a really shrewd investor in people’s lives by using your resources to do as much good as you can for the glory of God and the eternal good of others who will go before you into heaven and welcome you into an eternal home.

 

[1] This sermon is based on reflections by Adam Ayers, “Is Jesus Praising Someone for Dishonesty? Luke 16: Bible Walkthrough,” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq6Z-H4t0ko&t=435s (accessed on September 21, 2019; John Piper, “Does Jesus Commend Dishonesty in Luke 16?” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mgOXUYOjjw (accessed on September 21, 2019).

 

 

Luke 14:25-33‎

The Cost of Discipleship

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

September 8, 2019

Luke 14:25-33, The Cost of Discipleship

 

Jim Elliot was an evangelical Christian who was killed while evangelizing the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador. This tribe was well known for being dangerous and hostile to outsiders. Elliot left Portland, Oregon, and his wife and daughter to share the good news with the Huaorani tribe. He went with his four friends. As soon as they encountered the Huaorani people, the warriors attacked and killed them.

Elliot and his friends knew that their mission was dangerous. They knew that they might be killed. Elliot thought genuinely of his calling and counted the cost of following Jesus Christ and be his disciple. Later, the Huaorani people believed in Jesus, and Elliot’s wife baptized the man who killed Elliot. It is easier to follow Christ, but it is not easy to be his disciple. Jim Elliot was a disciple of Jesus Christ and fully committed to him alone much more than his commitment to his wife and daughter.

 

The evangelist Luke talks about Jesus teaching on the cost of discipleship. Luke describes large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Jesus turns and challenges their commitment to him. He asks them to consider the cost of following him and be his disciples. He gives them two parables to illustrates his point: The first is of a man who estimates the cost to build a tower and a king estimates the cost of engaging in a war against his enemy.  Many follow Jesus, but not many are his disciples. Many enter through the wide gate, but few enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). Many are interested in cheap grace, and few are interested in costly grace. When Jesus says who do not hate their family and even their lives cannot be his disciple, he does not mean to dislike or despise your family and yourself. “We can never be His disciples as long we allow other attachments to hold us back” (Hardgrove, The Cost of Discipleship, 2006). Jesus invites us to lay aside all earthly attachments like clinging to family or possessions, or personal interests that hold us back from being his disciples.

 

Jesus challenges the large crowds who were following him to go a little deeper in their commitment. He requires full devotion to him. No one should be ahead of Jesus. We live in a godless world where Christianity relates discipleship to health, wealth, and success rather than a commitment to Christ and suffering for his name sake. Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches in his book The Cost of Discipleship (kindle 1276), “When Christ calls a man/woman, he bids them come and die.”

Jesus requires us to carry the cross or our cross, according to the evangelist Matthew’s version. That said, Christ invites us to endure life’s hardships and challenges for the sake of his name. The cross is a symbol of death, suffering, and sacrifice. As Jesus carried his cross and died for us, the church is also called to carry her cross and be willing to die for her faith. Discipleship means the cross, and the cross means suffering. The church is called to suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains the deep meaning of suffering,

It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ” (Bonhoeffer, kindle 1236).

 

 

Discipleship means we need to be ready to die for Christ. It also involves living for Jesus, not for ourselves. Discipleship means casting our wishes, ambitious, and even our rights before the feet of Christ. The church is called to let go of everything that takes her from Christ. Jesus also says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Hence, discipleship is not for those who put their hands to the plow and look back, but it is for those who found a great treasure hidden in a field, and they sold all they have and bought that field (Matthew 13:44). Discipleship means that Jesus is number one in your life. He is first, and all other things are subject to the decision to be his disciples.

 

 

Humility and Hospitality.

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Luke 14:1, 7-14.

September 1, 2019

Today, Jesus gives us a lesson on humility and hospitality. He invites us to be humble and not to strive for a place of honor, prestige, and admiration because humility brings us these things. In other words, humility brings you to the place of honor. Jesus was concerned about the troubling of his popularity following his miracles, particularly the miracle of Transfiguration and feeding the multitudes. He refused to become a king or to seek authority or prestige. He is an excellent example of a humble person who lived his life, not for himself but for us. “Following Jesus Christ is not about positions of honor or authority in his kingdom; it is about embracing a life dedicated to loving one another as he has loved us.”

 

Humility and hospitality go hand in hand. Hospitality always requires humility. When we are humble, we open our hearts to share our resources with the poor, strangers, blind, and lame. Humility opens our mind and soul to our struggling neighbor. Humility is God's gift to those who ask for it. It is a divine gift that helps us to walk side by side with our neighbor who is struggling to put food on the table and care for their kids when they may be working three jobs.

 

Many people in this world whose lives and hope to find a small amount of happiness are intertwined with what we think, say, and do. God did not create us to live for ourselves. God did not create me to live for Niveen and only Niveen. God created us to be responsible for each other.

 

The poor and the disadvantage need the leader of the Pharisees to provide them a meal to survive. His wealthy guests did not need his food. The poor need the rich to work with them to eliminate poverty. And the rich need to remember not to take their privileges and resources for granted.

 

We need each other. This is a fact that we cannot ignore. We need each other not only when we face financial crisis, but also when we question our relationship with somebody who is dear to us, or when a member of our family or a friend is sick or is living in an abusive relationship, or when a friend cannot handle the stress at their workplace. There are more and more examples. But the point is that your humility is key to your relationships. Your humility helps you to practice hospitality to your neighbors and friends.

 

Hospitality entails opening your heart to your friends. It also involves listening to your neighbor, their struggles, their pains in every place the Lord Jesus sends you. This act of hospitality is an act of grace. It is an act of love and care. A touch of kindness can make a difference in your neighbor’s life.

 

The 8-year old boy Christian Moore has inspired me with his touch of kindness. This little boy comforts his classmate with autism on the first day of school. His humility and hospitality were very significant. No wonder that his heartwarming photo was all over the news. That little boy Christian teaches us to practice gracious hospitality to those who are in need.

 

Jesus touches our hearts every day. His gracious hospitality is for you every single day. His gracious hospitality is available to you in breaking the bread and drinking the wine. His humility opens to you a great banquet where everybody is welcome to join. Jesus also practices his gracious hospitality at every moment when you go to him to throw yourself into his arms because you know he is the one who is gladly willing to carry you when the road is rough, and your burden is heavy.

 

 

Statement Regarding ELCA Declaration of Sanctuary Church

Bishop Mansholt

August 14, 2019


Dear Pastors, Deacons and Lay Leaders in East Central Wisconsin,


Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.


The ELCA Churchwide Assembly concluded a few days ago in Milwaukee. Seventeen voting members from this synod gathered with 950 voting members from all across the United States and the Caribbean. Our time together was centered in prayer and worship as we sought to do the will of God. We commend all our work to the mercy of God. In whatever way we were in the right, we pray God will strengthen our resolve. In whatever way we were amiss, we pray God will continue to shape us.


There was a lot accomplished at the assembly and a summary of those actions will be forthcoming. Among those many actions taken by the assembly one has been making the headlines around the country. The ELCA declared itself to be a sanctuary church body and then directed the ELCA Church Council to provide guidance to all three expressions of the church (churchwide, synods and congregations) about what this means. I want to offer my reflections as bishop of this synod and suggest what this means for us as Church.


The action of the assembly grows out of this Church’s 80-year history of ministry with immigrants and refugees. The Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us through love of neighbor to welcome the stranger and care for the neighbor in need. Thus in response to human need in World War II Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services was founded. Through decades of service throughout the world LIRS has become a leader among nine refugee resettlement agencies.


People migrate for a lot of different reasons. Some are desperate for jobs or food. Climate change is forcing some to leave their homeland. Others are fleeing violence and persecution. Most people do not want to leave their homeland. So when they do flee, migration is most often a matter of life and death. We live at a time when 69.5 million people worlwide have been displaced from their homelands, a historic level. The suffering is real and people’s lives are at stake.


As the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world the United States has the capacity to be a leader in addressing this humanitarian crisis. But our immigration system is broken with antiquated laws that no longer serve the country or human need. In more recent years politics has been a divisive force instead of helping to find a solution. In this quagmire the Church has said we are here for the sake of people, to keep families united, to address human need, to care for the stranger, to witness to Christ’s love.


At the 2016 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA committed itself to walk alongside Central American families fleeing violence. Our pastors and lay leaders in Central America give us firsthand accounts of the violence people are fleeing. The AMMPARO Strategy (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy and Opportunities) has brought help, hope and healing to children and youth through the work of our churches and ministries.


Now in the 2019 Assembly the ELCA has declared itself to be a sanctuary church body. What this means, first and foremost, is that we will continue to advocate for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. It means we will continue to provide concrete resources in ministering to human need. We want to do whatever we can to
assist the most vulnerable.


This commitment led me and many others to take part in a prayer vigil outside the offices of the Department of Homeland Security in Milwaukee during the assembly. We did so as a protest against current policies, especially those that lead to the separation of children from their parents and the expulsion of those who work hard and long to be lawful citizens of this land.
I readily recognize there are many viewpoints related to immigrants and refuges and the extent to which this country provides asylum and opens its borders to others. Good people can disagree while working toward a just and humane solution.


I also recognize there will be disagreements among us in the Church. I hope and pray we will stay connected and talk about these important matters. The United States of America needs us to have civil and respectful conversation about these urgent issues. This goes to the very soul of who we are as a people in this land.
What does it mean to be a sanctuary church body? I expect we will discover there are many different ways that congregations and synods will live into this decision. I think it begins with taking to heart the action of the assembly and listening to the voice of others. Love of God leads to love of neighbor. Loving the neighbor begins with listening to their story, be that the story of the refugee at our border or our neighbor in the pew.


The assembly is not asking any congregation or individual to do anything illegal. It is our right to advocate, our lawful right to participate in the democracy. It is our right to do acts of mercy and extend arms of hospitality. Those actions may rub up against the law of the land when your neighbor is a DACA recipient or an immigrant who lives and works in the shadows.


Congregations need to know that sanctuary has no legal standing. While the local congregation was perhaps once thought of as a sanctuary, a place of freedom from the long arm of the law, sanctuary has no legal standing in this country.


I believe it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said it is the call of every Christian to seek to know and to do the will of God. These are days for discernment, for seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these present times.

As seek to live out our baptismal call and witness to God’s love for all, I offer this prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may move every heart; that the barriers dividing us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; and that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 79)

In the love and peace of Christ,


Gerald L Mansholt
Bishop

Make School Kits and Personal Care Kits

Lutheran World Relief

Collections for Lutheran World Relief:
 
The collection boxes for items for School Kits and Personal Care Kits are located on the bench near the church office.  It would be appreciated if you could bring items for the kits.  
 
SCHOOL KITS:  notebooks (70 sheet), ballpoint pens, crayons (16 or 24 count packages), #2 pencils, eraser (2 1/2 inch) scissors (blunt), ruler, pencil sharpener
 
PERSONAL CARE KITS: bath towel  (dark colored), bath size bars of soap, adult size toothbrush, sturdy combs, metal nail clippers
 
Please have the items there by September 15th.  Thank you for your support.
 

Crossways Campaign 2019

Crossways Campaign 2019


July 22, 2019
 

Dear Member of Immanuel Lutheran Church
 

Crossways Camping Ministries is vital for the passing of faith to children and youth and developing leaders for our church. It is so important for our church right now to ensure Crossways Camping Ministries continues to provide exceptional facilities and remains accessible to all who desire to be part of these programs where God is so clearly proclaimed.

Congregations look to Crossways as a resource in providing a valuable ministry to our youth and children, as well as families.

Because of the need to expand this vital ministry, Crossways is conducting a Capital Campaign to help raise $1.8 to $2.7 million by the end of 2019.

During the next five weeks, you will learn more about this important effort. We pray that your commitment to ministry will encourage you to become involved and excited about the “Rooted in Faith, Growing to Serve Campaign”.

 

Yours in Christ,

Bob Henning,
President, Immanuel Lutheran Church

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church

Law and Gospel

Luke 10 and Deuteronomy 30‎

How many of you would attend a Bible study on the law of Moses? How many of you are interested in studying the 613 commandments of the Torah? I believe that very few of you would attend. Christians are not interested in the law because we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. That is very true, but we have a misunderstanding of the law.

 

We overlook the fact that “By nature we are law-oriented creatures because of the Law written on the heart. But the corruption of our nature means that we often will invent laws which we can keep in order to prove our righteousness.”[1] By nature, we know homicide is sin, and by nature, we know stealing is a sin. Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). That said, Jesus revered the word of God, and he fulfilled the demands of the law.

 

God gave the gift of the law to Israel not to make their life difficult, but because God loves them and wants them to live a holy life. Observing the law becomes a big issue in Israel. Pharisees added rules to the law calling it the oral law.  They believed that Moses received the Oral Law and Written Law on Mount Sinai. As a result, keeping the law becomes a heavy burden on the Jews. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for breaking the law of God for the sake of their tradition. He says in Matthew 15: 8-9

“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

 

According to the evangelist Luke, a teacher of the law wants to engage in scholarly conversation with Jesus regarding the law and eternal life. Jesus asks him to share his understanding of the law. The teacher of the law combines two commandments from the book of Deuteronomy and Leviticus to summarize his knowledge of the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

 

Leviticus 19:18
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

 

Jesus affirms his answer. He also responses to the second question, “who is my neighbor” (v. 25) by giving the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus does not reject the law of Moses; to the contrary, he affirms it and gives it a more profound meaning. His explanation of Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself,” is very thoughtful and contrary to the stereotype the Jews had of the Samaritans. Through this parable, Jesus blows up this stereotype.

 A neighbor is an individual whom we see not as a stereotype, but as a human being uniquely created according to God’s image.

 

The teacher of the law summarized the 613 commandments into one command: love God and love your neighbor. The purpose of the law is to help us to be in right relationship with God and our neighbor. Jesus requires from the teacher of the law to follow this command, and he shall live (v. 28). Notice that Jesus does not tell the teacher of the law that believing in him is the way to inherit eternal life. For Jesus, believing in him leads to salvation and observing the command to love becomes the fruit of our faith in Jesus.

 

Jesus introduces us to both law and gospel. The law reveals our sin and drives us to repent. It also functions as guidance to show us how to live a sanctified life.

 

 

To say that the Law guides us to a sanctified life doesn’t imply that it has the power to provide the sanctified life. If the Law remains alone, then it has no power to cause us to do what it demands. Only the Gospel provides the power to do with the Law expects us to do.[2]

 

Furthermore, “The Gospel doesn’t eliminate the Law. Jesus isn’t a free pass to sin more in order to get more forgiveness. The Law remains because we still sin.”[3]

 

It is not difficult or impossible to keep the law. Moses, in Deuteronomy 30, assures the Israelites that the commandments are not too hard to follow (v. 11). The law is not in heaven or beyond the sea, but the word of God is in your mouth and heart (v. 13-14). “The language of heart can suggest a yearning to do what God has asked. When it is in their heart to keep God’s law, what may have seemed impossible becomes not only possible but desired.”[4]

When you love Jesus of all your heart and mind, the Holy Spirit will give you the desire to follow him and to keep his commandments. The law requires us to love God and our neighbor, and the gospel helps us to do so. We need both law and gospel to have a sincere relationship with God and our neighbor.

 

 

[1] Jacob W Ehrhard, “The Art of Making Distinctions – Three Uses of the Law,” March 29, 2017
Trinity Lutheran Church,  
http://www.trinitynewhaven.com/2017/03/three-uses-of-the-law/

 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sara Koenig, “Deuteronomy 30: 9-14 Commentary,” Working Preacher, accessed July 13, 2019, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1726.