The church I am privileged to serve, Zion in Morgan, celebrated its 50th anniversary last Sunday. (That’s part of the reason I haven’t been posting as much — the other reasons are things like Sunday School and catechism instruction. Good times.) The anniversary was a great day. We had a Divine Service with Holy Communion at 10 am, followed by a catered meal of boneless pork chops, baked beans, potato salad, rolls, and coffee (all delicious!) and fellowship; then a second Divine Service at 2 pm, followed by coffee, cake, and ice cream. A long but enjoyable day. 165 were present for worship in the first service and 85 in the second. The fact that the day ran as smoothly as it did was a tribute to the hard work of many, especially our Anniversary Committee. One of the biggest helps wasn’t able to make it on that auspicious day — she was laid up in the hospital and sorely missed. We’re grateful that she’s doing well, however.
Zion, Morgan has a history much longer than 50 years. The congregation was formed when two congregations merged in 1960 (hence the anniversary.) Immanuel, Eden, formed in 1881, was known as the “country church”, and Zion, Morgan, formed 1888, was known as the “town church.” I’m humbled to be the latest in a long line of evangelical shepherds in these parts. What I have to work with is the same thing they did — God’s Word and His holy Sacraments. People’s needs are still the same — they need comforting, guiding, encouraging, rebuking, and absolving (in no particular order.) God’s Church will always exist, and it still needs under-shepherds in this world. That’s why I’m here.
Here is the anniversary address I wrote for our anniversary booklet. I’ve never gotten to write anything quite like this before — it was fun. I’m always ready to play my part in history. The hymn verses are from one of my favorite hymns, “Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head.” It confesses as clearly as crystal the true nature of the church and her life. A wonderful hymn. We didn’t sing it at the anniversary because we’ve already sung it three or four times in the past few months, which is plenty. There are lots of other great hymns to sing too. 🙂 Check it out some time. The verse that the anniversary address is based on is one I often use as a sacristy prayer. The address explains why.
Pastor’s Anniversary Address
Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. (Ps 122:2)
For many years the children of Israel would travel to Jerusalem to worship. Pilgrims would throng the city’s gates and fill her streets with their joyful songs. They were anticipating the opportunity to worship at God’s house, the seat of his earthly presence – the temple that dominated the city.
For 50 years God’s people have been gathering at Zion Lutheran Church of Morgan. We gather at Zion for the same reason God’s people gathered on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem: to worship God, to hear his Word, to marvel at his grace and goodness toward us. We enjoy the fullness of what was promised to God’s Old Testament people. Our Passover lamb, Christ, the Lamb of God, has been sacrificed, and by his eternal sacrifice he has made us his people once and for all. We gather, as we have for fifty years, to listen to the preaching of God’s Word, to have our children born again in the healing waters of baptism, to receive our Lord’s body and blood with the bread and the wine, so nourishing to our souls.
An occasion such as a fiftieth anniversary is a humbling opportunity to sing the praises of the triune God. Despite the weakness of our flesh and the stumbles we are sometimes prone to, God still gives us his grace. He still watches over us and guides us with his holy Word as we seek to hold out that Word of life to a world sunk in night. He still promises great things for us and brings them to pass, in his own time. Thanks be to God for all his gifts!
~ Pastor Kurt Hagen
Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s head,
You are her one foundation.
In you she trusts, before you bows,
And waits for your salvation.
Built on this rock secure,
Your Church shall endure
Though all the world decay
And all things pass away.
Oh, hear, oh, hear us, Jesus!
And for your gospel let us dare
To sacrifice all treasure;
Teach us to bear your blessed cross,
To find in you all pleasure.
Oh, grant us steadfastness
In joy and distress!
Lord, for your mercy’s sake
Let us by grace partake
Of endless joy and glory! (CW 536 vv.1,4)