+Part 2. Our visit to St. John’s Lutheran Church, Powellsville Ohio

Let me stop here and introduce the interim Pastor of St. John’s, Carl Beck! Now let me tell you that as I understand he has been interim Pastor for five years which translates into, “he is loved by his congregation”!

The church program titled the next part as “A Lenton Walk” with a Lenton reading which included Mattew 4–1–11 leading to a children’s service. Many happy children went forward and the minister asked, “who loves you”? “Mom and dad, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, the people of St. John’s”! Answering his own question he extended, “who are all the people back here, the people of St. John’s church and they love you a lot”!

To the children he said, “be the kinds of boys and girls you want to be. All of these people back here are cheering for you that can have the best possible life you can have”. Then he said a prayer with them, “thank you Lord for all the people that help us”. Then he said to the congregation, “and all of God’s children said amen”! Amen said in unison by the congregation.

The pastor gave each child a treat and one of them said yuck, drawing a chuckle from the crowd. The pastor humorously answered, “we may have several yucks today”. Very nice interaction with the children!

The Minister said that when he was in college he was presented a class project where he was supposed to pick a newspaper headline and prove or disprove it using biblical texts. You can pretty well find bible scripture for whatever you want to do. A lot of people were tempted in the bible. Adam and Eve, King David/Bathsheba surrendered to temptation. Jesus was tempted but did not surrender.

There are several myths, one being that if we give into temptation no one will ever know. People living at the end of country roads, going to country churches would not be found out. People didn’t go to Doctors so much in the 50’s or 60’s and more often than not died at home. Most in those congregations of the time knew that death usually came at night. At those times people would say call the preacher and a fuzzy cheek 19 year old would show up toting a bible. Speaking of himself, the minister said that it was in this time of his life he learned the importance of keeping secrets. In those last moments I would spend long moments helping those unburden their lives. It was amazing to me what all the meanness people had done to themselves in the course of a lifetime. After being there all night absorbing all that people had shared I would sometimes leave sick from the experience. In these days I learned that there is no such thing as a secret, all come out eventually.

The pastor explained, “you don’t have to follow the same behavior of others, because you are special”. Though it seems that the temptation to surrender is all around us and in everything we do. Putting our own self interest in front of everyone else’s is one of our sins. We are here not only for ourselves but also for others. Sometimes we sustain to selfishness in our relationships or marriages.

We grow up in our thinking when discipline is built making us the men and women we want to be. At lent time we are reminded that Peter was tested. He was a friend to Jesus but he said, no no no…… I don’t know him. Did Jesus banish him with anger? Jesus gave the same forgiveness and grace to Peter as he had before. The Minister said, “no matter how hard I try I will one day fail. That is a reality but I can count on Jesus giving us the same grace as he did Peter”. In the case of the woman accused, “you without sin throw the first stone”.

Over the years it became clear to me that if situations are different the temptations for sin might be different. So each of us in our lives might be tested differently. The minister concluded with, “he who is without sin cast the first stone and all the people said”. The congregation joined him with …… amen!

Next was a hymn “Lord throughout those forty days”. Following was the hymn “let the vineyards be fruitful Lord and was followed by a reading, “the prayer”! Then there was the hymn, “the great thanksgiving”. Then there was another hymn from the program which also pointed out the following scripture: Matthew 26 26–28, Luke 22 17–20, Mark 14 22–24 and Chorinthians 11 23–26. There was another program reading and hymn. Then it was at this time the experience mentioned earlier occurred. The Lord’s Prayer hymn began in sequence to the ringing of the church bells. Let me resound, it was a touching moment.

Then it was time for Communion and I was a little surprised that the Lutheran faith practices open communion allowing all Christians of any faith to partake in the service. Row by row lined up on two sides all went forward on call to kneel outside the minister and server area. I loved to see the children individually receive a blessing. At the conclusion of communion there was a hymn: “Lord, now let your servant”.

The post communion prayer: Let us pray. Almighty God, you gave your son both as a sacrifice for sin and a model of the Godly life. Enable us to receive him always with Thanksgiving, and to conform our lives to his; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Today’s Benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. In the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

A very touching conclusion included the hymn, “a mighty fortress”, the children went forward for the dismissal where the Pastor said, “Go in Peace”. The children answered, “Serve the Lord”, and the congregation concluded, “Thanks be to God”! Postlude.

The story of Martin Luther’s rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church is well known history. His position was briefly that the Roman Catholic Church and papacy had no “divine right” in things spiritual, that the Scriptures and not the Roman Catholic priest or church had final authority over conscience. (P.139, Handbook of Denominations in the United States).

Beverly, I and our friends Chris and Stephanie Neff so greatly enjoyed our visit to St. John’s Lutheran Church. But we have to move on, we have miles to go and many churches to visit. God bless……. See ya in church!