Sermon from Sunday, September 12, Anniversary Sunday

Proper 23 A Matthew 22:1–14

I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus. Amen.

God’s holy Word for our glad hearing and learning for this Anniversary Sunday is the Gospel which was read, the so called Parable of the Wedding Feast.

Let us all pray: Lord, Your Word is truth; Sanctify them in Your truth. Amen.

RSVP: it’s French. It means “répondez, s’il vous plaît”. RSVP means “reply, please.” RSVP means the person who has invited you wants to know if you’re coming.

And if you have recently been involved in the preparing and sending out of wedding invitations then you know people do not respond. They do not “RSVP”. Even when you provide them with a self-addressed stamped envelope to mail their reply back. (The post office must make a fortune on unused wedding themed and love themed stamps that go on reply envelopes and never get used.)

And apparently people today are no different than they were in Jesus’ day. They ignore invitations, as we hear in the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

But there is a big difference. Who would ignore the King’s invitation?

Who would ignore such a personal invitation? Who would mistreat the King’s servants who come with a personal invitation?

The answer is obviously: no one. No one. No one…except a person with hate and treachery in their heart. Someone who despises that King. Someone who is unwilling to recognize the King’s kingship over the land, and particularly over his/her life. Someone with hate enough to be bold enough to essentially disobey the King. Such a person would do all the things described in the first part of the parable.

And in the history of the cosmos that has happened: There have been those who have been invited and have despised the call. The fallen, evil spirits; and all godless and unbelieving people. These have at the beginning and throughout history openly rebelled and attempted to ruin God’s kingdom and his wonderful invitation. The evil spirits with the devil did so long ago when there was rebellion in heaven and were thrown out. Godless people have been doing it since the fall of Adam and Eve, and continue to this day –under the direction and influence of the unclean spirits.

And among those which I just described as unbelieving are to be included the people of Jesus’ day. Of his own flesh and blood –humanly speaking. The Jews who hated Him for who He was and the wanted no part in the rule of God with Jesus as God’s appointed over all. And they took hold of Him, the Lord of Life, and murdered Him. But God raised Him up on the third day and has made Him Lord of Lord’s and King of Kings.

In many ways this a great mystery that even St. Paul in Romans tries to sort out and explain. But it was according to God’s plan, and we can only find it remarkable in relationship to our own election.

However dear friends, today’s Gospel is not about the ongoing dilemma of people’s bad manners when it comes to invitations and the bride’s frustration in trying to get a count for a reception.

And while today’s Gospel does speak to us about the rejection of God’s will and plan for people, and the history of His dealing with the Jews, and about the cosmic, invisible struggles that go on–and while that is all interesting–today, on our congregation’s anniversary Sunday, our Gospel lesson interests us particularly in that it shows us the distinction between the church on earth and the church in heaven.

Now often times you will hear us speak of the visible and invisible church. Or the church militant and the church triumphant. That is the language of distinguishing between the church on earth, and the church in heaven.

But first let me be clear by saying that there are not two churches. Just one church. We confess in the creed “One holy, Christian and apostolic Church”. Sometimes you will hear the word catholic used–a word that Lutherans are allergic to–but which simply means universal.

And in the church visible are all who claim to be believers of Jesus Christ. And of course these would have to be baptized. They would confess Jesus as Lord. And for all appearances they are Christians.

They have made it into the wedding feast. They have accepted the invitation. You might not at first expected to t see them there. They are not the kind a King would ordinarily invite. But the King is generous and He wants the wedding hall to be filled, and while He has been spurned by those who do not acknowledge Him, He is glad to have any and all who would come and dine with Him. The good, the bad, and the ugly, alike, if you will.

You see the key to understanding the distinction between visible and invisible is the word appearance. In the visible church people must at least appear to be Christians. There can be no belief in another god. There can be no gross outward sins. There is attendance at church –hearing the Word cheerfully and make regular use of the sacraments –not despising them. There must be forgiveness of neighbor. And there is a hope and belief of heaven; an expectation of the last judgment, and a looking forward to be with God forever. (And this list could be filled-out more with other things.)

That is essentially the life of a Christian. To be counted in the Church you must live the life of a Christian.

But there is one important thing about the visible church that this parable of the Wedding Feast brings out. There are also hypocrites in the visible church. Hypocrites, because you can’t tell them apart from the true believers by appearances. Hypocrites who hide a heart of unbelief.

And the visible church is called by her Lord to put up with hypocrites. All who respond to the invitation are to be invited in. As long as the hypocritical heart remains hidden and is unknown to the eyes of the members of Christ’s church on earth they are to continue.

Now friends, when we deal with a parable of Jesus’ like this we know that He is going to say things that sound odd and also He is going to turn things around. Our Lord is like that and for a good reason. He wants to get our attention and make us think. He wants to show us that our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways.

So in then it is only in the invisible church that the hidden is revealed. Think about that.

That is a remarkable statement. But is it true!

In the invisible church, that is, in heaven, the true believers are seen for who they are and the heart that until death was hidden, is made known. In the invisible church the true appearance of the state of the soul is known.

And that is the wedding garment. Not just a name on a membership list. Not just sitting and attending –even remarkably not missing a Sunday for 80 years. But true faith in Jesus, faith that gains entrance, and is adorned by good works. The wedding garment is our love toward God and our neighbor.

Why do you dress up? When you are a little boy it’s because you mother told you. Believe me we go through that all the time! But why do you dress for church? Because you love the habitation of the Lord’s House and the place where His glory dwells!

Why do we love His glory? Why do we follow His commands? Why do we help our neighbor?

Why do we forgive one another? Why do we seek to extend His Kingdom? Why do we talk about Jesus to everyone? Because we love God’s glory and we want to be in it forever. We love the Lord Jesus.

For 167 years people have been loving the Lord here at Immanuel. And it shown by their wedding garments. By the beauty that is not outward. But that is present. And that you can sense.

And that the Lord sees and says, “This one I do acknowledge as mine. He/ she is adorned in my Son’s righteousness. They have made their garments clean in the blood of the Lamb.” “They love my house. Let them dwell in it forever!”

167 Years. A Long time. But nothing compared to eternity.

Many have gone to heaven by way of this church. Yes, there have been hypocrites. I don’t know who. Yes, there may be hypocrites. No one can say, because no one can see the heart. But many have been saved. And that is the remarkable thing.

For while what Jesus says is true: few are chosen from the many called, He has blessed us by calling few–in comparison to the world, and to other churches, we’re small at Immanuel. And by His mercy many have been chosen!


Rev. Mark A. Loest: 25th Anniversary of Ordination and 10th Anniversary at Immanuel

A service of thanksgiving to God was held on September 14, 2014 on the occasions of Immanuel’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Loest’s 25th anniversary of his ordination in the Ministry, and 10th anniversary with our congregation. A special service was held that day at 10:30 a.m. After the service a meal and special program were held in the school hall. Many guests and former members attended, and greetings were read and presented to Pastor and his family. A basket of cards was also presented as a gift.

LoestRev. Mark A. Loest

The first of four children, Mark A. Loest was born to the Rev. Aden E. and Deaconess Ruth A. (Jacobsen) Loest on December 20, 1961 in Staples, Minnesota, and was baptized on January 14, 1962.  He was confirmed at Concordia Lutheran Church in Hillside, Illinois on April 11, 1976. He is a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

In the spring of 1980, Loest graduated from Proviso West High School in Hillside. Next, he enrolled at Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois (CCRF). Working closely with the Rev. Dr. Robert Rahn, Assistant to the President, Loest was a student leader of the college’s “Ambassador’s for Christ”, a student evangelism organization, coordinating outreach opportunities. The summer of 1981 he worked as a camp counselor at Camp LuWiSoMo of the South Wisconsin District.

Loest served as Academic Life Officer of the Student Executive Committee his senior year. In May of 1984, he graduated from CCRF with a B.A. in Ancient (Hebrew, Greek, Latin) and Modern (German) Theological Languages. For five seasons he worked at the Great America theme park in Gurnee, Illinois, in the ride operations department, becoming a ride crew “lead”, and a roller coaster aficionado.

In the fall of 1984, Loest enrolled at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  During his seminary education, he served as fieldworker at Zion Lutheran Church in Garrett, Indiana, first under the Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, who was vacancy pastor, and then with the Rev. Herbert Schumm.

His second year of seminary (1985–1986) was spent at the Lutherische Theologische Hochschule, in Oberursel, Germany. While in Germany he did a practicum with the Rev. Helmut Koopsingraven in the Christus Church in Lachendorf, Germany. In 1987 he completed a one year vicarage at Christ Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, under the Rev. Dr. Charles Remintz. During his vicarage year he met his future bride, Malinda (Mindy) Kelly Schultze, of Gresham, Nebraska, who worked in Lincoln at the time.

Graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) with a Master of Divinity degree in 1988, Loest received a deferment for his placement into the Holy Ministry to continue theological studies in the Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degree program at CTS. During this year he assisted the Rev. Dr. Heino Kadia, chairman of the seminary’s historical theology department on various projects. He also worked at the seminary library. On June 24, 1988, he and Mindy were united in holy marriage.

Having successfully completed all coursework and qualifying exams, Loest received a call in 1989 to be associate pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and School in Indianapolis, Indiana. On June 18, 1989, he was ordained by his father at his home church, Bethel Lutheran Church in Gurnee, Illinois, Rev. Rahn delivered the sermon. Loest was installed at St. John, Indianapolis the following Sunday, serving the congregation with the Rev. Dr. Gary Schaper.  The Rev. Dr. Robert Preus, president of CTS, gave the sermon.

At St. John, Loest was responsible for youth and outreach, taught religion in the church’s day school, and with Mindy, started a 20–30s aged group. During this time Loest also taught Reformation History as an adjunct instructor for CCRF in Indianapolis. He served as German translator for the Rev. Dr. Wallace Schultz, then Associate Speaker of the Lutheran Hour. Loest assisted Schultz in translating German and served as interpreter for the Rev. Dr. Harald Kalnins of Riga, Latvia, who had organized Lutheran congregations during the communist era, and visited and toured the United States with Schultz after the break-up of the former Soviet Union.

In 1992, Loest was called as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church (Wegan) in Brownstown, Indiana. He taught religion at the Lutheran Central School in Brownstown which was an association school with the Wegan congregation. He was elected chairman of the Jackson County Mission Federation, a Lutheran outreach of LCMS congregations in that part of Southern Indiana. He contributed to the radio devotions Know Your Bible aired from nearby Seymour, Indiana. During his time in Indiana Loest also taught adjunct for Concordia University Wisconsin.

In 1996, Loest completed his dissertation on the Genesis lectures of the reformer Martin Luther and received a STM from CTS. He also led a tour to Germany on the 450th anniversary of Martin Luther’s death. He would lead additional tours in 1999 (commemorating the 500th anniversary of Katharina Luther’s birth) and in 2000 (Oberammergau Passion Play and Luther sites).

In the fall of 1996, Loest was called as Reference and Research Assistant at Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) in St. Louis, Missouri. This position was later made Assistant Director for Reference and Museum. In both these areas he hired and supervised part-time staff, contracted for services and products, produced and enforced policies, developed and implemented museum exhibits and special projects, worked directly in assisting researchers. When Loest came to CHI the Rev. Daniel Preus was director. The Rev. Dr. August Suelflow, Director Emeritus, still had an office at CHI. Loest worked with directors Rev. Preus, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Noland.

As museum curator, Loest created many memorable exhibits including commemorations of  Phillip Melanchthon (1997), Katherina Luther (1999), J. S. Bach (2000), and events including the 150th anniversary of the LCMS (1997), the 1974 Seminex Walkout (1999), and CHI’s 75th Anniversary (2002). Loest also identified original woodcuts by the German artist Albrecht Dürer in the archives, and exhibited them as A Sword Shall Pierce Your Own Soul, Too: The Life of Mary and the Passion of Christ in the Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer. He also acquired for CHI the fascinating Gerecke Letter which was written and signed by the Nazi war prisoners on trial in 1946 at Nuremberg and addressed to the wife of their Lutheran military chaplain before their execution. Loest oversaw the restoration of the 1938 log cabin replica on the grounds of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, a major preservation/ restoration project of the Walther Mausoleum in Concordia Cemetery, also in St. Louis, and the development of a children’s learning center at CHI.

From 1997–2003, Loest also assisted part-time at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, Illinois, working first with the Rev. Dr. Jeffery Schrank, and then with the Rev. Timothy Scharr. For about 15 months, during 2000–2001, he served the Nashville congregation as vacancy pastor. He recorded daily devotions for the community titled Do You Have a Moment for Your Soul? broadcast on local FM station WNSV.

In January 2004, Loest was installed at Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church (Frankentrost) in Saginaw, Michigan. His duties have included serving the Frankentrost church as sole pastor, being a vicarage supervisor, teaching religion in the congregation’s day school, and offering nursing home chapel services, writing periodic devotions for the Frankenmuth News, and providing grief counseling at a local high school. Loest served as pastoral delegate on behalf of the Michigan District’s Frankenmuth Circuit at the 2007 and 2010 national conventions of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He has conducted services in German at Immanuel and for the community. He recently marked 10 years with the Frankentrost congregation.

Coming to Frankentrost has resulted in invitations for Loest to speak on the Michigan colonies founded by Wilhelm Löhe of Neuendettelsau, Germany. In 2008, he delivered the paper Wilhelm Löhe and the Saginaw Valley Colonies at the Löhe bicentennial celebration at CTS. In 2011, he hosted at Frankentrost the final day of the International Löhe Society’s triennial conference, presenting the paper Löhe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now.

Loest translated “New and Old Antinomianism” in The Beauty and the Bands, published in 1995 by the Luther Academy. He delivered a paper on the sesquicentennial of the American Book of Concord titled “The 1851 Book of Concord: In Anticipation of a Brighter Day” at the 2001 annual Pieper Lectures sponsored by both CHI and the Luther Academy. For more than a dozen years he served as support staff of cover art for Logia, a Lutheran theology journal.

Loest contributed “Walther’s First Year as Synod President, 1847–1848” in the Festschrift Soli Deo Gloria: Essays on C.F.W. Walther in Memory of August R. Suelflow published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH) in 2000. He is co-editor of a significant translation project making available in English the convention resolutions of the LCMS. The Doctrinal Resolutions of the National Conventions of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 1847–2004 was published as a CD by CHI in 2007.

Loest is listed as a contributor to the Daily Treasury of Prayer and produced the index for Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C.F.W. Walther,  both published by CPH. He has served as a doctrinal reviewer for the LCMS. He has participated as a peer reviewer for CPH. Loest has been a welcome guest on the synod’s radio station KFUO, speaking on church history –particularly Lutheran and American Lutheran church history. In 2009, Loest delivered to a morning sectional of the annual Exegetical Symposium at CTS, a short exegetical paper on Walther’s exegesis of the John 2 account of the Wedding at Cana. He has contributed to The Lutheran Witness, Concordia Historical Quarterly, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and For the Life of the World. He edited a revision of How the Missouri Synod Was Born –a history of the beginnings of the Missouri Synod, which CHI published in 2001.

The Loests have five children: three girls, Audrey, Anna and Abigail, and two boys, Andrew and Alexander. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2013. His hobbies include German, reading, gardening, and his classic 1950s 14 ft. mahogany Yellowjacket runabout (speedboat).

Adult VBS: Class on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, July 6–10 (Mon.–Thurs.)

Dietrich BonhoefferAdult Vacation Bible School: You don’t have to be a kid to participate in a VBS class. A class will take place during this year’s VBS geared for adults and taught by Pastor Loest. The 4 day topic will be Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran theologian and pastor known for his Christian witness and martyrdom during the years of Nazi tyranny in Germany. The class will look at his life, theology, pastoral work, writings, participation in the German resistance to Hitler, and his death in a concentration camp. We will be using the CPH book titled, “Till the Night be Passed”. We will also be viewing the film, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace.”

The class meets during VBS at Immanuel, Monday–Thursday, July 7–10, in the Christian Fellowship Hall at Church, from 6:15–7:45 p.m. Please let the church office know you would like to attend. We’ll get a copy of the book to you to read ahead of class. Copies of the book and a sign-up are on the Information Station.


Pastor’s Annual Report

LSB Icon_048Pastor’s Annual Report – 2013

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The year 2013 was the 165th year that the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit gathered together a family of Lutheran Christians at Immanuel, Frankentrost. A community that delighted to sing praises to our heavenly Father and receive all the good gifts that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to give to us (and through us!) as we share in their unending life.

On the 1st day of January of 2013, the newly elected officers, board and committee members stood before the Lord’s Altar as the assembled congregation heard them give their promises to willingly serve in their elected positions and assist me in the Ministry of the Gospel. We thank God for all who faithfully carried out their offices and positions over the past year(s).

Pastor, Elders, and the Altar Guild ladies met on Thursday evening, the 10th, and reviewed and discussed the care of the Chancel and the various sacred appointments, linens, and vessels. All agreed it was informative and helpful.

The elders and I met for the annual “Elder Orientation” most of Saturday the 12th. We began a year’s training using the new Concordia Publishing House resource “Pastors and Elders”.

The Evangelism Committee met to assemble two Resource Centers, one located by each entrance at church. These Centers focus on 23 different topics of spiritual interest. The hope is our members and visitors will make use of these materials personally or share them with others. In order to keep the resource centers stocked, donation envelopes are available on the very top tier. Also, keep in mind that your pastor is always available for counseling.

The pastor cell phone was out of commission for a while, but was soon replaced. This is the best way to reach me: feel free to text or call.

2013 also began the year with a new Sunday morning Bible study on our Synod’s new emphasis: Mercy, Witness, Life Together.

Despite a real dip below normal temperatures outside, God’s warming presence was made known as the blessed waters of Baptism were applied in accordance with Christ’s command and in connection with His Word as Kasondra Leigh Huber, infant daughter of Kevin and Val Huber, was baptized on Sunday, the 20th.

National Lutheran Schools week came early from January 27th–February 3. The theme was the same as that used later in the year for the Synod’s National Convention, “Baptized for this Moment.” The children sang in the Sunday services and prayers were offered on behalf of all our Church schools.

The first Sunday in February was designated as “Lutheran Hour Ministries Sunday”. Many of our members enjoy listening to the Luther Hour and getting daily devotions by the internet. Each year we give thanks to God for both auxiliaries of our Synod at the Synod-wide designated times: LHM in February, and the ILWML in October.

During the winter months Catechism classes were held in the Church Fellowship Hall for 7 & 8 grades students attending public school on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. While we are usually a small group, we work hard and have fun preparing for Confirmation.

Ash Wednesday was February 13 and Lent began. A 7:00 p.m. Vespers Service that evening included Corporate Confession and Individual Absolution at the altar rail.  The junior confirmands and parents met with me after the service to begin the final preparations for Confirmation.

Midweek Evening Lenten Services were held each Wednesday during Lent (February 13–March 24) at 7:00 p.m. Our theme was “Fellowship with the Father: The Lord in Prayer.” Each night a portion of our Lord’s Passion from the Four Gospels was read and we sung the familiar Lenten hymns which called us to be mindful of God’s great cost in His Son for our redemption.

On the 24th, Lexi Jane Hetzner was plunged beneath the bracing stream of Baptism Waters and came up from it with her sins forever gone and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

The word Lent  means “spring.” And the hope of spring’s arrival in March added to the anticipation of the Confirmands preparing for Questioning Sunday (March 17) and then their Confirmation Day (March 24). Questioning practice was held on the Friday before Questioning, and Confirmation practice was held the day before Palm Sunday.

The hard work paid off, and the Lord heard our prayers on behalf of our Catechumens, granting them strength of body and clarity of mind, and a willing Spirit, and they professed their faith, confessed their Lord, and made their promises. The 10:30 a.m. Confirmation Service was an hour of joy as a full church witnessed Shania Aguilar, Taylor Brechtelsbauer, Dillon Bullock, Meagan Clark, Jeremy Hecht, Alexander Horonzy, Emily Janson, Nicole Kowalski, Kayla Kueffner, Simon Reinbold, Kylee Reinert, and Johnathon Wendland acknowledge the gifts given to them years before in Baptism and confess their Lord at His Altar and promise to be faithful unto death.

New birth was given to Anna Luise Weiss on March 10 as she was baptized into Christ, and into His death, and into His resurrection.

The 24th was also Palm Sunday, at 8:00 a.m. we sang “Hosanna!” to Jesus. Holy week saw us ponder more intently the holy Passion of Jesus. Holy Wednesday offered another Confessional Service similar to Ash Wednesday. This gave the newly confirmed young people an opportunity to prepare for their First Communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood on Maundy Thursday. The Good Friday Service of Darkness considered Jesus’ final prayer from the cross and completed our Lenten theme.

Alleluia! Easter was the feast of joy that it always is to us – from the Saturday egg hunt for the young children, to the Sunday morning Easter breakfast (thank you, youth group!). The breakfast was almost cancelled because of gym floor repairs, but the needed repairs were put off and the breakfast went on as usual. Easter Services held on Sunday the 31st, with the Feast of the Resurrection celebrated at the 6:30 a.m. Sunrise Service and the 10:30 Divine Service.

Over Easter Pastor Loest was in Chicago. It was 22 years that his mother had passed away on March 31, 1991–also Easter Sunday that year–and he wanted to be with his family. He would hurry back upon news of a death in the congregation.

April began with Good News that “Christ is Risen!” “He is Risen Indeed” as the greeting each Sunday of Easter. The importance of those words were impressed on us three soldiers, brave and true, were summoned home to the Lord that month.

Just two days after we had rejoiced in the news of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, we learned on the 2nd that Edgar Scharrer was with the Lamb whose Kingdom has no end. At the conclusion of the funeral service, Edgar was honored for his service in the Korean War.

Then on April 8, the Lord called Donald Twietmeyer home to heaven. Don would never miss a church service, even under great difficulty, and his answer to “how are you?” was always, “I’m still here!” He was also laid to rest with military honors for service to his country during the Korean War.

Lastly, our oldest member at the time was called from this vale of tears when Louis Schuler died on the 26th. He was always thankful that the Lord gave him life for 98 years and that he had enjoyed a long retirement of 41 years. He served in the U.S. Army during WW II in Europe and fought in the Battle of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, earning five battle stars for his service. He received military honors at his burial.

The Saturday following Easter our shut-in/ homebound members gathered in the church still decorated for Easter to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and sing alleluias to the Risen Savior. This was a change from previous years and proved to be a good move. Attendance was greatly improved, as the Saturday before Easter was just too difficult for everyone in a number of ways and for a number of reasons.

On Sunday the 7th of April, the Voters met at 2:00 p.m. in the church and voted to call Jonathan Kamin as Principal/ 5th & 6th grades Teacher for our school. Up until this time, he had been contracted by the School Board, but had since completed the requirements for colloquy and was now eligible to be called and commissioned as a rostered teacher of Synod. Our prayers were answered with his accepting the call shortly after.

May traditionally brings a mission emphasis and speaker, however various circumstances put off our annual Mission Sunday until August.

Ascension Day Service was held the Thursday, May 9, at 7:00 p.m. The Order of Service was Vespers with familiar Ascension Day hymns. “God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.” (Psalm 47:5)

I was away from Frankentrost the weekend of May 19 to bring Audrey home from her second year at college at Concordia University Wisconsin where she is pursuing a church work career.

The Service of Commissioning and Installation of Jonathan Kamin as called principal and teacher of Immanuel Lutheran School took place on Sunday, May 26, at 10:30 a.m. A reception followed the Service.

The first Sunday in June is always Picnic Sunday. The outdoor service was attempted but everyone quickly moved to the gym when rain began shortly before 9:30 a.m. It was cold, and did it pour! Of course, by the time service was over the rain seemed to disappear and the rest of the day continued as planned. The day also served as graduation for our 8th graders and recognition of all our graduates from high school and colleges, etc.

On June 9 we started something new: Green Sheets inserted into the day’s worship folder which have the Propers and Readings for the day. Why Green Sheets? The Green Sheets are intended to be saved and used during the week as part of our daily devotions. They also have the Daily Lectionary and Book of Concord readings for the coming week. Many people agree that the Green Sheets are handy. (A reminder: take yours home with you each week!)

An Information and Membership Class was started, meeting Wednesday evenings in June–September. Our first class was June 12. We continued through the summer months taking breaks for holidays and vacation. A couple of times we had to find air conditioning, but then the summer turned real cool in late July and we took advantage of the evening breezes. We had a nice class size and even added members as we went along!

New life flowed to little Cecelia Joan Little on June 9, and Ashton Roderick Wanless on June 23, as the Savior claimed them as His very own for time and for eternity in Holy Baptism.

The one wedding of the year was the service uniting Emily Horonzy and Nathaniel Simpson, who were married in the church on June 12th.

On the 30th our MOST Team to Guatemala was commissioned in church. They left on the 4th of July and returned safely to us on Saturday, July 13th. We were thankful for God’s protection and blessing upon their travels, and upon their witness of faith in Jesus and their acts of mercy including two eyeglass clinics.

July was a year-off from VBS. Plans are for a return in 2014.

Nationally, the election for the Synod’s President was held electronically ahead of the Convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Synod met in St. Louis July 20–25. We were able to follow the convention and find much of interest including the workbook and daily proceedings on the web.

August meant taking Audrey back to Concordia University and some vacation in Wisconsin and Illinois. It was hard to find a substitute pastor, so I had to return from vacation, do services and then continue.

Immanuel has two members preparing for professional church work. Audrey Loest is in her third year attending Concordia University – Wisconsin (Mequon) in the teacher education program. Daniel Wojtowicz is a junior completing an undergraduate degree at Concordia University – Ann Arbor. He is in the pre-seminary program. Daniel continued to teach Adult Bible Study this fall in the school library on Sundays.

Membership Classes continued to meet–with just a vacation break. A cooler August was a relief.
Some people may not realize the rigors of membership. All are well catechized and are made welcome through the love of Christ in Word and Sacrament.

The Evangelism Committee arranged for and hosted the Rev. Prof. John Nordling from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana to be our guest preacher and lead our Bible Study on the 11th. A generous door offering provided for his future travels to South Africa to teach pastors and seminarians who otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive the pastoral training we take for granted here in North America.

August also saw a new school year begin with opening chapel on Wed. the 26th, and the children gathering to learn about Jesus, as well as the other important lessons of Lutheran elementary school education. I always enjoy in having the opening chapel and asking, “who is new?”

In September music returned to the glory and praise of our Triune God. Sunday School teachers were installed and Sunday Classes and Bible Studies began on Sunday the 8th.

The fall session of my Sunday Morning Bible Study in church was also an adult instruction class. This provides an opportunity for those with children to attend while their children are at Sunday School and there are those who want to attend both church and class on the same morning. Regular class members attended for a refresher-course, (always a good thing!). The hard work of the two classes paid off, and our church membership grew this year (see final paragraph below).

The Summer class Adult Confirmations on the 29th included: Andrew Lucio, John Figone, Jenifer Figone, Julie Mossner, Alicia Beythan. Also added to our membership rolls were the two Figone children, Erin and Allie.

Also on the 29th, a Baptism “double header” brought forgiveness of sins, rescued from death and the devil, and gave eternal life to Ezekiel Ryan Drake and Madison Marie Smith. All total our church grew by 9 members that day!

October brought our usual joys with LWML the first weekend.  The ladies’ singing added to the services. On the 14th we observed Kirchweih and our congregation’s 165th anniversary.

On the 7th, the Lord called home to Himself Hildred Schaeff after an extended illness. At the funeral in church on the 11th, we gave thanks to God for Hildred’s life and faith and were comforted by the assurance of the resurrection and eternal life that is for all who die in faith in Jesus.

On Sunday the 13th Abigail Sarah Hahn received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit when she was baptized.

October also brought a three-week financial education program titled “Financial Counsel from God’s Word” Members were encouraged to pick up and read the daily readings from the booklet “Financial Counsel from God’s Word: Five Steps to a Transformed Financial Life” provided by Immanuel’s Stewardship Committee and made available in the narthex.

The 1st of  November is All Saints and the remembrance of the faithful departed over the past year took place at both services on the 3rd.

Two more Baptisms would give us a total of 10 this year with Noah Robert Kamin on the 10th, and Averie McKenzie Suppes on the 24th. Jesus wants all to be saved, including the little children. Truly, through baptizing disciples are made as He has commanded and promised.

In November we also received a transfer of membership for Jennifer M. Weiss: welcome home!

On Thursday, November 28, a late Thanksgiving Day Matins Service included a generous ingathering of gifts of mercy for those in need. God had blessed our congregation bountifully in the past year and His people respond in kind to others!

The 1st of December was also the first day of Advent. Midweek services were Wednesdays the 4th, 11th, and 18. Living Nativity, was held the 7th, 8th, and 9th. I enjoy visiting with our guests at the Evangelism Committee’s table and going among the cast, encouraging and lending a helping hand where needed.

Once more we were to grow in numbers as Paula Butzin joined Immanuel by profession of faith the 15th.

A Communion Service for our homebound/ shut-in members included the 3rd and 4th grades children singing favorite Christmas songs. Refreshments followed. The weather was cold, but there was no wind. A good group was able to attend.

Choral Matins was on the 22nd; Christmas Eve saw a traditional children’s service (to a packed House) and the Lessons and Carols by candlelight ended with the ringing of the church bells and the singing of “Silent Night” both in German and English.

Christmas Day, we sang our joy with the angels and archangels over the Word becoming Flesh and dwelling among us.

Again a busy year–a year filled with difficulties and challenges placed upon us by a Lord who will see us through to a good end. This year was evidence of this truth.

We welcomed many new members.  We are blessed to remain Immanuel, Frankentrost, a community of evangelical Lutheran Christians meeting in Blumfield Township in Michigan’s Saginaw County.

At the end of 2013, the baptized membership of Immanuel stood at 672. We had grown from the previous year! The communicant membership, 557. The average attendance, 251 per week. Approximately 37% of our members were in attendance in a Divine Service in any given week. We would like better numbers. But in our world and culture today those are real blessings (when many churches hardly see 25%).

Respectfully submitted by Mark A. Loest, Pastor of Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church of Frankentrost, Michigan, in the 10th year of this pastorate.