Pastor's Message

There is something strangely familiar about you

Posted by nancy on August 11, 2017

I’m nervous.  I have only done this once before and that was 13 years ago. I’m finding it difficult to find my footing. Everything is so strange here.The city is strange. I don’t know where anything is and even if I did I wouldn’t know how to get there. The streets here remind me of a wild game trail, they seem to meander hither and yon. The only thing that changes more often than their direction is their name. Is it Pleasant Hill Road or State Bridge Road or Old Milton Pkwy or Rucker Road? It’s strange is what it is.

I am grateful that I am able to find my way to church. But when I arrive I find that even the church is strange to me. My desk, my chair, and my book shelves are all strange. I suspect your last pastor was a great deal more intellectual than I am because I don’t have nearly enough books to fill all the shelves of those bookcases. I’m half tempted to order a set of the encyclopedia Britannica just to fill the space. My pulpit is strange. It’s on the opposite side of the chancel than I am used too.   I am positive your last pastor was taller than me because the first time I stepped behind this pulpit I couldn’t see over the top of it. I was fixen to go looking for a step stool but then I noticed it is adjustable. It’s nice, but strange.

But the strangest thing of all is… you.  You are strange to me. I don’t mean to be ugly. You have been nothing but kind and generous and welcoming to me and my entire family. You seem like wonderful people, you really do. But I don’t know you. I don’t know your names (although I am starting to suspect that most of you are Fedkes). I don’t know where you live, I don’t know what you do, what your hobbies are, what you are passionate about.  I don’t know your fears or weaknesses.  I don’t know your strengths and abilities.  I am used to knowing a great deal about the people sitting in the pews in front of me.  I am used to knowing what those people need to hear and I am typically confident that I know how to communicate with them.  But you, you are strange to me.

In many ways you are strange to me, but in chapter five verse two of our text for this morning Saint Peter reminds me there is also something familiar about you. There Saint Peter writes, “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.”  You are God’s flock.

The Lord God has been describing His people as a flock for thousands of years. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He describes a people who tend to wander away and are vulnerable to attack.[1]  And when you read your Old Testament that is exactly what you see.  You see a people who are constantly rebelling against God and eventually end up in Babylonian captivity.  This description lives on in the New Testament as well.  Saint Matthew describes a people who are like sheep among wolves and are easily scattered.  And let’s be honest, wandering and rebellious sheep is still a pretty good description for God’s people.  I must admit that I have not as of yet witnessed specific sinful acts from any of you. (I suspect that is only because we are all on our best behavior right now.)  But regardless of what I see, there is wandering and rebellion among you, isn’t there.  God sees it.  In 1 Kings 8:46 He tells us "there is no one who does not sin" In Psalm 14:3 He says, "there is no one who does good, not even one."  In Romans 3:23 He says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Sadly, wandering and rebellious sheep is something I’m familiar with. 

Thankfully, God does not only describe His people as a flock because they tend to wander and are prone to rebellion.  Through King David[2], God uses this description to describe how much He cares for and loves His people.  God provides His people with green pastures and quiet waters. From the hand of God goodness and love follow His flock all the days of their lives.  God protects His people.  Even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death they fear no evil for God is with them.  Again, this description lives on in the New Testament.  Indeed, you might even say it is magnified in the New Testament.  Throughout the gospels we read about Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world[3] (including yours and mine).  We read about a God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to forgive us our sinful wandering and rebellion.  Joyfully, sheep who are cared for, loved, and forgiven by their Savior is also something I am familiar with.

So even if there is a great deal about you that is strange to me, whether you are acting like a cranky old goat or a precious little lamb, I recognize you, you are familiar to me. You are God’s flock; the sheep He has placed under my care.

Now it’s your turn to be nervous, isn’t it?  After all, you don’t know me any better than I know you. And yet God has placed you; His flock under my care. Now, I am considered strange by people who have known me my entire life. I can only imagine how strange I must be to people who have only known me for a week. 

I’m a stranger to you.  I am different.  I’m different than your last pastor.  I have already mentioned our height differences but I am sure there are other ways that I will not measure up to him.  My personality is different than his.  My experiences are different than his.  My gifts are different than his.  I am going to do things in a different way than he did them.  Not because the way he did things was wrong!  But simply because, I’m not pastor Zahn and I never will be.  I am pastor Lewis, and try as I might that is all I can be.  Now I’m willing to bet that makes you a little nervous.  I know If I were you, I would be.  After all, a strange man stands before you today.

In many ways I am strange to you, but again in chapter five verse two of our text for this morning Saint Peter reminds you there is also something familiar about me. Let’s take another look. Saint Peter writes, “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” I am one of God’s shepherd.

For as long as God has been describing His people as a flock He has described His pastors as shepherds.  I would like to believe it is because we pastors are like the young shepherd boy David who was described as “ruddy” and “handsome”. But I suspect it has much more to do with how God wants His pastors to take care of His sheep. A shepherd’s work was evaluated not on how well he was doing but rather on how well his sheep were doing. Were His sheep being fed? Were they being protected from the predators who sought to harm them?  Were they guided to green pastures and still waters?  In the same way a shepherd takes care of his sheep, God’s pastors are to take care of God’s people. And that is why you will notice, I pray, there is something strangely familiar about me.

During worship, I will feed you the words of everlasting life and bid you to drink deeply from the streams of living water. I will do my best to set before you each week a spiritual banquet table full of vegetables and fruits; law and gospel.  I will not simply tell you what you want to know, I will tell you what you need to know. I will afflict you when you are comfortable but rest assured I will comfort you when you are afflicted. I will invite you to the sacrament of the altar where bread and wine, body and blood are offered for the forgiveness of sins; where you will taste and see that the Lord is good.  I will encourage you to bring your children to the font where water and the Word create and strengthen faith.  Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are being fed.

I will protect you from those who seek to harm you, be they bearers of blatantly blasphemy, harbingers of horrible heresies, or the seducers of our sinful society. I will protect you the way Saint Paul protected the Ephesians.  I will help you “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”[4]  Through Bible study we will learn how to keep that belt of truth buckled around our waist and breastplate of righteousness in its place. We will take up that shield of faith and put on the helmet of salvation and we will wield the sword of the Spirit.  Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are protected.

And I will guide you.  I will do my best to serve as an example of godly living, but honestly you can do so much better than that.  More often than I care to admit I will be an example of what not to do.  That is why I will show you Jesus instead.  After all Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.[5]  Jesus is our guide in life.  Jesus is our guide to salvation.  Jesus is the only one who can lead us to those green pastures and quiet waters.  Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are being guided by Jesus.

I know I am a stranger to you.  But I pray in time you will recognize that there is also something familiar about me.  I pray you see a shepherd who feeds, protects, and guides the flock that has been entrusted to his care.

I have to admit, I’m still a bit nervous, aren’t you?  I suppose it is only natural.  It is going to take us some time to get to know each other.  But saint Peter made me feel better this morning when he reminded me that you are God’s flock.  And I pray Saint Peter made you feel better as well by reminding you that I am one of God’s Shepherd.  I pray that we all are comforted by the fact that there is something strangely familiar about us.  Amen

 



[1] Jeremiah 50:5

[2] Psalm 23

[3] John 1:29

[4] Ephesians 6:11

[5] John 14:6

Rev. Harmon Lewis
Pastor, Messiah Lutheran Church
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Friends Forever, Won by One.

Posted by nancy on June 20, 2017

 

“Friends Forever, Won by One.”

 

Years ago I was on a committee that hosted about 1500 teens at a Youth Rally in Georgia.  We held it at Camp Rock Eagle near Eatonton.  It was a very satisfying three days.  The Word of God was shared.  We heard a lot of Christian music.  We had good Christian fellowship.  We even took them all to Six Flags on day.  Our theme was “Friends Forever, Won by One.”   This is very meaningful.  Jesus won victory for us at the cross and the empty grave so we could be family.  We are His family.

I am about to retire after forty years of ministry. July 16th will be my last Sunday at Messiah.  My wife and I are going to move to Tennessee.  I am trying to get accustomed to the idea.  I have ministered to a lot of people over the years and shared Jesus the Savior with so many.  I started the ministry in Lawrenceville, then went to Florida and returned to Alpharetta.  Along the way, God allowed me to help missions to start in our nation’s southeast and three islands in the Caribbean.  I have met a lot of people. 

Many, even most, I won’t see again on this side of the grave.  That doesn’t mean, however, I won’t see them again.  We are friends forever, won by Jesus who is THE ONE. 

I have met a lot of people here in Alpharetta during these years.  I have met many at the gates of our Living Christians set, in church services, at events held somewhere else where Messiah had a presence.  We were at events in parks and parades at Christmas time.  I now say good bye to you, but not forever.  We have become friends forever, won by one.

See you later,

Pastor Larry Zahn   

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Now What

Posted by nancy on April 26, 2017

Now What?

I am sure I speak for most pastors when I say that Lent and Easter are pretty packed for pastors.  Holy Week required four sermons in three days for me or five for the week.  Hey, they don’t shake themselves out of sleeves.  My son, who is a pastor, was sick with a fever on Easter Sunday.  He said with adrenaline and the Holy Spirit’s health, he’d get it done.  He did by God’s grace.  Lots of times pastors tend to get a guest speaker the week after Easter to fill in so they can have a break.  That has not been my practice, but I will admit the whole week after Easter is hard.  The sermon for the next Sunday is the hardest to write. 

It shouldn’t be that way. Easter is the best!  It forms the center of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not raised our faith is futile and we are lost in our sin, wrote the Apostle Paul.  If Christ is not raised from the dead, pastors have wasted a lot of time and so have the people who listened and believed.  BUT HE HAS RISEN!!!!  Now what?  Tell the world!  Have a resurrection faith that knows that we will live forever with the Lord.  Live as one who knows it.  Lots of hearts need to be touched.  Lots of people need to know.  Lots of work for Christ that needs to be done.  That’s what is next! 

 

We would love to tell you about it!  We would even like to do it NOW!

 

Sincerely,

Pastor Larry Zahn

Messiah Lutheran Church

 

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A WEEK TO BE ALWAYS REMEMBERED

Posted by nancy on March 28, 2017

A Week to be Always Remembered

 

“I have but one passion; it is He, He only.” Nicolaus Zinzendorf, a German religious reformer, spoke those words in the middle 1700’s.  He was referring to the passion he had for Jesus.  But his passion for Jesus was born out of Jesus’ passion for him and all humanity.   

People refer to Jesus’ “passion” as that final period of his life covering his final visit to Jerusalem leading to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary. The passion of Christ is central to the salvation of humanity.  The word “passion” comes from the Latin “passionem” which means suffering or enduring.  Through his passion we are reconciled to God, something we all need to know so desperately.

Jesus did indeed suffer and endure so much to save us.  In fact, we can’t even understand all that he endured.  The words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Luke 23:36) come to mind?  Jesus cried out these words when he knew that the Heavenly Father turned away from him so Jesus could suffer the full wrath of the world’s sins.  Who can understand that?  Whenever I have preached about that, I must say that I grope for words to express the “passionem” that Jesus suffered.

Jesus’ passion was focused not on a select few, but on a world that you are part of.  Anyone who reads this needs to know that.  In fact, if someone doesn’t read this, the same is true.  Set aside the week that will always be remembered.  I invite you to join us:

            April 9th       Palm Sunday    10:30 am                                                   

            April 13th    Maundy Thursday  7:30 pm

            April 14th     Good Friday            7:30 pm

            April 16th     Sunrise Worship      7:30 am

                                 Easter Worship      10:30 am

 

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The Forty Days of Lent

Posted by nancy on February 21, 2017

The Forty Days of Lent

 

Lent is a forty day period of repentance and renewal that prepares us for Easter. It provides us with a special time to recall the suffering, death and finally the resurrection of our Lord. Lent prepares us for a more meaningful observance of Holy Week and Easter.

Christians have observed Lent ever since the early days of the church. Originally it was a time for emphasizing repentance and baptism. Baptisms were performed in the early church on Easter Eve after a long period of instruction.

The forty day observance of Lent is still an important part of our corporate life as members of God’s family of believers, not just Ash Wednesday, but all forty days. We don’t arrange for baptisms any more on Easter Eve, but we still emphasize repentance as an important part of our preparation to celebrate our victory in Christ over sin, death and the grave. And we remember that in our baptism we began a new way of life.

On Ash Wednesday, March 1st, we begin another pilgrimage with our Savior to Jerusalem. We are going again to a mockery of a trial, to a scene of horrible violence on Calvary, to a funeral, and to recall an unbelievable ending to the greatest story ever told — the resurrection.

We are going on this pilgrimage again to remember and to give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ. We are going again to renew the relationship with our Lord, begun in our baptism, renewed as we celebrate his victory over our worst enemy.

A little girl asked a question when her baby brother was baptized — a neat question that is at the heart of our Lenten pilgrimage. She heard the pastor say, “Receive the sign of the cross on your head and on your heart to mark you as a redeemed child of God.” When the ceremony ended she ran to her grandmother, brushed aside her bangs, raised her head and asked, “Is it still there?” That just may be the question we all need to ask ourselves again during Lent. Are you ready and eager to join us on our pilgrimage?  Come Ash Wednesday and the following Wednesdays right up to Holy Week at 7:30 PM.

 

Pastor Larry Zahn

 

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Don't Expect from Government What Only God Can Give Us

Posted by nancy on January 18, 2017

Don’t Expect from Government What Only God Can Give Us

Someone once said, “The impersonal hand of the government cannot help as much as the helping hand of a neighbor.”  I agree.  When the good Lord gave us the commandments, he said that they could be summarized in one word – love.  Love the Lord and love your neighbor.  In fact, government would not be necessary if we could love the Lord and our neighbor perfectly.   Since we sin and hate and covet and steal and slander, God created government to guard and protect us from each other. 

We should never expect government to bring perfect peace in this world.  Government does not and cannot change hearts.  Jesus does that.  He changes our status before God. He became the guilty one for us and supplies us with the forgiveness we need.  He changes us from the inside.  The apostle Paul said it like this, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12: 1) God’s mercy, not government, is what changes things – how he views us and how we view each other.

 

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Don't Expect from Government What Only God Can Give Us

Posted by nancy on January 18, 2017

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I JUST GOTTA TELL YOU

Posted by nancy on December 14, 2016

 

I JUST GOTTA TELL YOU 

 

 

When Grandma's and Grandpa's get to see their grandchildren, they are a bundle of information.   They catch the grandparents up on all the news that has taken place in their lives.  "I just gotta to tell you."  Adults aren't any different when the news is great.  A promotion. A new house.  Best of all, "We are expecting a child!"  We just gotta tell you!  

 

The Christian Church is like that too.  "We just gotta tell you!"  We aren't trying to be rude and obnoxious.  We are not trying force something down your throats like we are accused sometimes of doing.  We just gotta tell you about the best and greatest gift anyone can have.   That gift is intended for you too.  This is the time of the year when "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" really hits home.  Through God the Son, Jesus, we have life...of the eternal kind.  Not just me, but you too!  Believe it.  "Whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  We just gotta tell you!  

 

We want you to have the gift too.  That's the way God intended it to be!  That's why we invite you to come to our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.  That's why we invite you to any of our services and Bible classes.  We just gotta tell you! 

 

I hope you come so I can tell you!

 

Pastor Larry A. Zahn        

 

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I JUST GOTTA TELL YOU

Posted by nancy on December 14, 2016

 

 

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What is a Lutheran?

Posted by nancy on September 14, 2016

What is a Lutheran?

In the South the two major denominations are Baptist and Methodist.  Lutherans fall down the list after the Presbyterians and Catholics and others.  There are places in this country where the Lutherans and the Catholics are the two major denominations.  A man once visited the church where I was a pastor.  He said he was looking.  The only two denominations he had not tried were Lutherans and Jehovah Witnesses.  To cross out Lutherans from his bucket list he worshipped with us.  He stopped by; he then studied; he stayed. 

Why?  For the reasons Martin Luther tried to reform the church of the 16th century!  The doctrines of grace alone, faith alone and Scripture alone had been lost.  That’s what the Reformation was about when Lutheran nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. 

Lutherans are all about 1) grace alone – God’s undeserved love given freely in Jesus Christ whose substitutionary life and death forgave our sins; 2) Faith alone – by simply believing what Jesus did is true and certain we receive the benefits of being not guilty because of our Substitute; 3) Scripture alone – where God recorded and promised all of these blessings to be true.  That’s the Christian message.  It’s the Lutheran message.  We invite you to hear it!  Come see us!

 

Pastor Larry Zahn 

 

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