Christmas Letter from Pastor Kuschel

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Pastor would like to share a special Christmas message and Kuschel family update with you. The document is included below. God’s blessing to you this Holiday season!

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What’s on your mind?

What’s on your mind?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:1-2

His eyes were fixed on some spot out in the distance.  It was clear that he was lost in thought and he had been stuck there for some time.  His wife noticed his trance and tried to snap him out of gently, “What’s on your mind?” she said.   The question was just what he needed, he looked up, smiled, and replied. “Just a lot to think about, right now, I guess.” 

Recently, there has been plenty going on for us to think about.  Whether it is politics or pandemic, family or finances, work or school, our minds can be weighed down with all sorts of things to wonder, or worry, or be anxious about.  Daily we might find ourselves stuck in this flood of thought and information, and instead of taking a step back we seem to fall in deeper.  We get wrapped up in this issue or that topic and before we know it, we are trapped under an avalanche of emotion.  Some mix of fear and anger, angst and anxiety, frustration or despair quickly piles up around us.  As we get lost in thought, it may happen that someone is kind enough to gently snap us out of our trance with this question.  What’s on your mind? 

The above bible passage serves as a welcome invitation to stop and think about something else.  Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.  Consider for a time today and tomorrow and for the rest of your life how Christ Jesus died for you and was raised again.  Start your day by reading the Bible instead of the news. Spend some time in prayer and Bible study before you head to bed instead of scrolling through the latest headlines or numbing your mind with entertainment.  Consider how God so loved this broken world that Jesus came to give us forgiveness and peace and joy. Start each day in His name and consider how He claimed you as his own through Baptism and how He poured out his blessings on you through his gift of faith.  You have been buried with Christ and have been raised to new life.  Through His perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection Jesus Christ has won for you a place in heaven, where believers will dwell with God in uninterrupted peace and joy.  And that same Jesus who has promised to one day to deliver us to our home in heaven has promised that He will be with you always to the very end of the age. 

So, what’s on your mind?  May the Lord bless you through His gracious invitation to set your mind on things above.  Amen. 

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Embrace the Ordinary

I got to spend a little more time being a dad this week. In this strange time of uncertainty, the Lord blessed me with a greater appreciation for the simple things that life as a dad entails. Ordinary things – like sitting down for a meal with the whole family, reading a book with the kids, playing catch with my son, saying prayers and putting the children to bed – were not only distractions from the anxieties of the day, but they were welcomed with a new sense of privilege and thankfulness.

God’s mercies are new every morning, even when we have a hard time seeing the blessings that he places before us in our daily lives and callings. Maybe in these not-so-ordinary- times he will teach us to embrace the ordinary blessings of life.

This experience reminded me of something that I learned about Martin Luther and his response to uncertain times of turmoil during his lifetime. When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the end of the world was tomorrow Luther is often cited as saying, “I would go out and plant a tree.” His point was that he wanted to simply go about the life that God had given, each and every day of his life. It was clear to him that there is great blessing and a simple joy in doing the things that God has called us to do.

As the world finds itself in this strange season, may the Lord lead his people to cast their anxieties on the one who cares for them, and find new joy and thankfulness in the simple and ordinary things of life that God places before us.

For more on this, follow the link below and read the article by Chad Bird from 1517.org

https://www.1517.org/articles/marrying-a-nun-to-prepare-for-the-end-of-the-world

For those of you interested in further Bible study through podcasts I recommend:

40 minutes in the Old Testament

https://www.1517.org/podcasts/40-minutes-in-the-old-testament

30 minutes in the New Testament

https://www.1517.org/podcasts/30-minutes-in-the-new-testament

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Christmas Eve – Lessons and Carols

Join us for an evening of quiet meditation on the word of God mixed with the joyful singing of familiar Christmas hymns and carols. And to top it all off we will sing Silent Night, by candlelight.

Rejoice with us in the peace that Christ brings!

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By His Grace! As a Gift!

By his grace, As a gift!

We have now entered that stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas where many people spend time searching for gifts for family and friends.  Maybe you are more of a last-minute shopper or maybe you took part in that yearly event known as Black Friday.  On this day, items of great value can be snatched up for a reduced price.  the day known as Black Friday has also become the mark for many people that the Christmas season has officially begun.  The decorations are brought out as Christmas music plays and our minds start to drift toward that familiar scene of baby Jesus placed in a manger. 

Look with me for a moment today beyond that manger scene and consider the full magnitude of that gift that God picked out for you and for me.  That baby placed in a manger is the Savior that we needed.  Given to us as a gift, he lived his life for you and for me.  He spent every waking moment living and breathing in our world to do what we could not.  He was perfect in our place and then he died the death that our sins deserve. 

We are not perfect.  While these times around Christmas can bring out the best in people it can also bring out our worst.  In the stress and the indulgence of the holiday season, our tempers might flare, our greed and selfishness may arise in subtle or terrible ways.  We are not as nice as we ought to be. We are often downright naughty.  Yet God’s Word tells us of how he was so incredibly generous with all of us.  The Bible reveals that all people have sinned greatly, and yet it also shows us the incredible gift God gives for all of us in Jesus.  23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 

The baby placed in a manager would live a perfect life in our place and that innocent one would go from the manger to the cross for us.  And on that Good Friday where the sky turned black Jesus would give his blood and die as the gift that we so absolutely needed.  A gift given in love, a gift freely given, that makes us right with God and sets us free from the debt, the guilt, and the punishment our sins deserve.  God gives this gift not just to a certain few, but in his undeserved grace, he gives this gift to us all.  What a gift of great value, given at this incredible price!  What a gift, freely given in love for all!

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Thankful for our God-given Roles

Each morning they were to get up and carry out their duties.  God’s Word tells us that the Levites were in charge of the daily duties of the tabernacle, they were in charge of putting the showbread out on the table, the were to take care of the flour for the grain offerings, the unleavened wafers, the baking and the mixing, and all measurements of quantity and size. And then in 1 Chronicles 23:30 God’s Word tells us something else that they were to do each and every day.  They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD.  They were to do the same in the evening. On this day of thanksgiving as we come before the LORD in his house we pray that the LORD may help us to take this to heart.  May we too praise our God and give thanks to him as we carry out the duties that God has given to us.  And while you might not work in the temple, or in the tabernacle, or at the church full time, but each and every day you serve your LORD as you carry out the duties and responsibilities that God has placed before you in your individual callings.  Remember that the LORD has given us his Word which tells us, Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17.

On this day of thanksgiving let us remember and daily give thanks for the enjoyment found in our daily Christian vocations.  Let us give thanks for the faith that we have been given and the life that we have been handed in which we have opportunity to live out our faith even in the daily labors of life.  Let us look around and give thanks that this the place that I am in.  This is the role that I serve.  These are the tasks that the LORD has given me to do.  This is the calling that I have received from my God’s gracious hand. 

And so with that understanding that comes from faith these words ring very true, A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  There is good reason to give thanks to God for our everyday tasks and labors for through these labors God provides for us, feeds us, and cares for us. God is the one who gives us the gifts and abilities to earn a living.  The food that will be spread before us this holiday surely comes to us through such means and certainly not without the hand and blessing of God.  We give thanks that God provides for our physical needs. But we also give thanks for the joy and satisfaction that comes from work for this too is from the hand of God.  For not only has God opened his hand and blessed me with plenty of things, but he has given me plenty of things to do.  For this we can be grateful.  In these daily labors the LORD blesses us with opportunities to live our Christian faith and he gives us the satisfaction of carrying out our Christian vocations. 

We give thanks that God gives us the good of work.  And even if we are too young to have a job, or have long since retired, the LORD blesses us with the satisfaction of fulfilling the roles to which he has currently called us.  And for this we ought to give thanks as well. 

And so let’s think about that for a little while.  What has God called you to do now? In this moment, at this stage of life, has he called you to be active in the workforce or has he called you to fill your time with the stuff of retirement?  Has he called you to be a husband or wife?  Has God called you to be parent or a son or a daughter? Has he called you to care for your child or are you at the stage or your life where you have been called to care for an ailing parent or spouse?  Or maybe your role has changed and you aren’t quite sure what God has called you to do.  Let us all consider how you can use the gifts and abilities that God has given you to serve your God and those around you. Consider how God can work through you as the masks of God.  Yes, the masks of God, for God accomplishes his goals, he meets the needs of others, he demonstrates and shares his love through you as you carry out your daily work in Christ.  Let us give thanks for our Christian vocations. 

There are certainly challenges and frustrations in daily roles of life, especially when we have to juggle several vocations at once. But we are reminded that there is wisdom and joy in finding satisfaction in the work of the day, in this stage of life, in this context that we find ourselves in.  And knowing and taking time to recognize that God has placed us in these roles will help us to find contentment.  These are Christian vocations, there are opportunities for God to work through me, and for me to let the love of Christ shine through in the way I faithfully carry out these callings.  With this understanding we can stand up each morning thanking God for the tasks and even the challenges of the day.  There is wisdom and satisfaction to be found by going from day to day not thinking about what I could be doing, but being content in the tasks that God has placed before me.  To be able to do this is a blessing from God that will free us from regret, free us from frustration and disappointment, and free us to serve our God.

And we do it all in faith.  In faith we know and believe that “God created me… and that he gave me my body and soul, my eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind and all my abilities.”  In faith we recognize his role in blessing us in every way, and thus by using our gifts and abilities, our time and talents, our resources and treasures in God pleasing ways, we praise and thank our God.  In faith we know and believe our gracious God watches over all things and that he has guided the affairs of this life so that I am where he has called me to be.  Therefore, we praise and thank our God by carrying out the roles that he has given us.  Finally, in faith we also know and believe in his love.  We know and believe that Jesus lived out the role of Savior and Redeemer perfectly, and as the Christ he continues to live and rule and serve in love as my Prophet, Priest, and King.  As my Savior he lived and died and rose again and has freed us from our sins; he takes away our guilt; he has even forgiven us for the times that we have failed to fulfill our roles as we should.  Freed from guilt, freed from regret, confident of his love and care we can stand each morning and we praise and thank our God and Savior for the life that he has given us.  Even though we know the day may be filled with challenges we give him thanks for the tasks of the day. 

We give thanks for our Christian vocations.  We give thanks for the roles that God has called us to carry out.  And we give thanks for those among us who in faith fulfill their different roles.

We give thanks for the young teacher who spends her days, and good number of her nights, planning and preparing and carrying out the work that she has been called to as she faithfully serves her LORD and those entrusted to her care. We give thanks for the Christian mother who works to clean the house and do the laundry only to have her little ones make a mess of both the clothes and the house that were just cleaned.  We give thanks that she fills that role, that calling, and gets up with God’s help to do it again the next day. We give thanks for the Christian husband who faithfully goes off to work each day but is also careful to make time for wife and children.  We give thanks for the Christian children who bring joy and laughter to the home and who listen and obey their parents for this is what they have been called to do.  We give thanks the Christian retiree who gives of his time to visit with friends who are hurting and tends to his ailing wife, still makes enough time to lend a hand at church whenever needed. We give thanks for the good Christian woman who used to be so active but now restricted by the challenges of age has found a new calling in saying daily prayers for her grandchildren and by making the occasional phone call to encourage old friends. And the list for which to be thankful goes on and on. Christian nurses and farmers, bank tellers and business owners, hair dressers and contractors, janitors and office workers, children and retirees, so on and so on.  These are brothers and sisters in the faith who carry out their Christian vocations not just to earn a wage, or for selfish gain, but they do their work as if they were serving the LORD himself.  Each may have their moments of frustration and consternation but daily renewed by the love of Christ they find satisfaction in the work that they have been called to do.

As we take a few days off from the regular tasks and routines let us pause to give thanks to God for giving us work to do, for using us to make his world turn.  We give thanks that he uses us to accomplish tasks; he uses our time and talents to care for others; he uses our efforts, prayers, treasures and resources to operate this church for the spreading of the gospel.  Finally we give thanks for daily using us to be his masks as we carry out our individual callings, our Christian vocations, filled with his love.

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Welcome Home Devotions

Welcome! That Someone is Someone – Week of October 14, 2019

Then Philip ran up the to chariot and heard the [Ethiopian] reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?”

Acts 8: 30-31 (For the complete account of Philip and the Ethiopian, read Acts 8:26-39)

You saw someone you were pretty sure you knew. But you saw them out of context. Too many years, too many faces. A former student? Someone from the old neighborhood? Everyone has found themselves at the awkward moment of recognition but not quite recollection. “You are . . . someone?” Ever get it wrong? At worst, we are embarrassed, and we likely embarrassed someone else.

In our account from Acts, far more is at stake than embarrassment. Our Ethiopian friend is struggling with the second scroll of Isaiah. He is reading from what we now know as Isaiah 53. He has come across one of the clearest prophecies as Christ’s substitutionary suffering and death for the sins of the world. Christians have used this very section of Scripture in worship on Good Friday for centuries because it is directly talking about Christ. But our Ethiopian friend is at his own awkward moment of some recognition but not proper recollection – “Is it Isaiah or someone else?”

At just the right time in just the right place, God picked up and placed someone there for the Ethiopian man. God brought Philip alongside the man’s chariot so he could explain who someone else is. The someone else is Jesus. The One who is, who was, and is to come to bring good news. Jesus is the One who gave his life as the ransom for the many. He is the innocent, blameless One who bears the innumerable sins of the whole world. Jesus silently was slaughtered to pay the price for sin – once and for all. This someone, this One is the Savior.

What a beautiful account! It is easy to see the miracle of how God used Philip as a very important someone in the Ethiopian’s life.

Do we realize and appreciate the incredible miracle of our own faith. We all are born into this sinful world with a sinful heart so darkened we couldn’t possibly comprehend the truth. We live in a sinful world so out of context of understanding who God is and what he is like. So in miracles of wonder and grace, God sent into our lives at just the right time and place, someone. A parent, a spouse, a friend, a pastor, a teacher, who brought us to the font and taught us the word of God. The Holy Spirit worked through the Word shared by someone. Now we truly are someone – a child of God, forgiven and loved by the One.

God now uses us as someone in the lives of others. Sometimes this is easy and joyful. We pass on precious truths to the next generation telling them the good news. Sometimes it can be far more awkward or uncomfortable. The next generation gets older and more defiant. Dearly loved friends and family members drift away from church. How will they know unless someone invites, encourages, explains? May God continue to encourage us and use us as someone in their lives.

Prayer Reflection: Give thanks to God for the many “someones” he has placed in our lives to bring us and keep us in the faith. Consider someone we know who needs to hear again of the only One who saves. Pray for love and humility to welcome them home to hear the good news.

ECME Devotions from www.wels.net

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Announcements for October 6 – 13

Sunday School at St. Matthew’s Danube: Children ages 3-13 are invited to St. Matthew’s in Danube to join us for Sunday School as they grow in the training and instruction of the Lord.  A class of younger children will meet on the stage in the church fellowship hall.  School-age children will meet in either in the kitchen or upstairs in the finance room.  If you have any questions about Sunday School please contact Beth Kuschel 320-826-2280. 

Sunday Bible Class: Flora, Danube, & Renville

Prepare for worship by previewing the readings for the day in Sunday Bible Class. Bible Class takes place 30 minutes before worship.  Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

St. Matthew’s Choir:

Choir practice is on Tuesdays at 7:30 pm.  Come and make a joyful noise to the Lord. 

Tuesday Night Bible Class at St. Matthew’s Danube

Tuesday Night Bible has returned as we are studying the course God the Ultimate Humanitarian.  The class is based on a book written by Pastor Mark Cares.  Join us on Tuesday nights from 6:15 pm – 7:15 pm as we consider the height and depth of God’s incredible grace, forgiveness, and love and how we may communicate that love to those around us. 

Catechism Classes Begin

Catechism instruction will take place on Wednesdays in October. Those beginning their first year of Catechism instruction will meet at St. Matthew’s Danube on Wednesdays from 4:45 pm – 5:45 pm.  Eighth-grade students working towards confirmation will meet for Catechism instruction on Wednesdays from 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm at St. John’s Renville.  May God bless these young men and women as they grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Tri-Parish Ministry Trial – starting Oct 6

The congregation of St. John’s in Renville will be meeting for worship in the early evenings starting on Sunday, October 6.  Bible Study will be held at 4:30 pm with a worship service to follow at 5:00 pm.  This will be part of a Tri-parish ministry arrangement that will share one pastor between three congregations (St. John’s   Renville, St. Matthew’s Danube, and St. Matthew Flora Twp.).  We invite members and guests of all the congregations to make use of any of these worship times and Bible Studies as we come together to praise our God and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  The church councils will be evaluating this arrangement for the next few months to see if this is a suitable long term solution. May God bless this plan as he sees fit. If you have any questions or concerns please contact your pastor and talk to your church council, your feedback and input are welcome. 

St. Matthew Flora:  Bible Study – 8:00am | Worship Service – 8:30am

St. Matthew’s Danube: Bible Study & Sunday School – 10am | Worship – 10:30am

St. John’s Renville: Bible Study – 4:30 pm | Worship Service – 5:00 pm

Joint Reformation Service in New Ulm, MN at Martin Luther College – Oct 27

The Joint Reformation Service of the Minnesota River Conference will be Sunday, October 27 at 3:00 pm in the Chapel of the Christ at Martin Luther College.  We once again give thanks for God’s tremendous gift of grace to in Christ. 

Ladies Fall Meeting (St. John’s Renville)

The Ladies of St. John’s will have their annual fall meeting at Meadows on Main October 23 at 5:30 pm.  All ladies are invited to join us for supper along with our members living at Meadows.  We will need a few people to bring a dish, salad or dessert, please contact Sandie Wohlman 320-295-6844 to sign up to bring something.  Hope to see many of you there!

OWLS Meeting at St. John’s Renville

The Minnesota Prairie OWLS will host their next meeting at St. John’s Renville.  The day starts with coffee and rolls at 9:00 am and will end with a potluck.  Come and hear a presentation about the WELS European chaplaincy ministry and enjoy a day of Christian fellowship and encouragement.  

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He Loved Us that Much

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 1 John 4:9-11. 

I watched as my son walked down the long hallway.  Wearing a hospital gown and cap, he walked toward the room where he would have surgery.  It was minor surgery, but surgery, nonetheless.  A part of me wanted to break through the doors, grab him, and take him home. I knew it was for his good; we knew he had to go; but still, it was tough. 

What great love God has for us that he sends his only begotten Son into our world of sin and pain and death so that we might live through him! To be clear, this was not an easy thing that God would do.  The Father loved the Son.  O, how he lit up the night sky to announce his arrival on earth!  And remember how the Father’s voice proudly boomed forth from the heavens, “This is my Son, whom I love.”   

But in an unforgettable display of love, Jesus would walk the way of suffering for our good.  God sent his Son as a gift of love for people who deserved no such thing.  God had created mankind to love him, to take care of his creation, to love each other, and human beings quickly messed that all up.  Yet God reacted in love that astounds us still today.  He promised and sent his only Son to be our Savior.  He came to take on our guilt, to take on our punishment of death, and in turn, he would give us his gift of eternal life. 

During this Lenten season, as we once again walk with Jesus towards the cross and arrive at the empty tomb, consider anew what God has done for you.  In his great love, God sent his one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for your sin and mine. Jesus willingly came so that you and I might be at one with God both now and forever in heaven. 

God sent his one and only Son down that path for us.  He loved us that much.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  Amen. 

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Church Leaders Workshop: The annual Church Leaders Workshop will take place on March 2 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Belle Plaine, MN.  This year the keynote speaker is Pastor Donn Dobberstein, the WELS Director of Discipleship.  In addition to the keynote, you can sit in on your choice of six workshops: Small Town Evangelism, Starting Small Groups, Leveraging Schools for Outreach, User-Friendly Worship, Special Ministries, Creating traction for Your Vision.  Speak to your pastor for more information. 

Men of Truth Conference—March 23, 2019. 

Come and join Men of Truth for the 2019 conference on March 23 at Martin Luther College in New Ulm.  This year’s conference is titled Man of God.  The conference will feature time in worship and encouragement.  Presentations will include Answer to Anxiety, Godly Men Among Us: Things I wish I knew in my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50, etc. as well as a presentation by Naomi Schmidt—Godly Man, A Woman’s Perspective.  Time: 8am2pm Price: $29/person online or via cash/check (until March 19, 2019) and $39/person at the door, $0/student – the price includes both a continental breakfast and lunch. Visit menoftruth.org for more information and early registration. 

Midweek Lenten Services: Three Words of Truth. 

In the gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, there are several striking three-word phrases, such as “Love one another,” “Watch and pray,” and “It is finished.” This Lenten season, come and gain understanding about powerful words like these during the Three Words of Truth Lenten Series.  The season of Lent begins with a special Ash Wednesday Service and will continue with midweek services until Holy Week. 

Join us for worship as we consider our Savior’s Passion. 

St. Matthew Flora Twp – 5:30pm & St. Matthew’s Danube – 7pm. 

Zion Morton – 7pm 

(Zion, Morton will be served by the pastors from St. John Redwood Falls)

{food and fellowship will follow each service and a special offering will be taken to support local ministries and projects—please watch for more information coming soon} 

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