I woke up this morning and saw a notice that 10 years ago today Rev. Mark Chepulis was installed as the pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Cavalier and he would later on become the pastor of Saint Pauls in St. Thomas and Redeemer in Langdon. These anniversaries always strike me as a bit of a surprise and it is always a stunning realization that 10 years or 20 or whatever has passed. I was at the installation and I remember remarking several times the pastor Chepulis looked like he was 13 years old. He still does even with a growing family of active and lively children. I used as my laying on of hands verse “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”(1 Timothy 4:12).
Pastor Chepulis is beloved and much appreciated. I appreciate his preaching. About two years after Pastor Chepulis arrived he had a funeral for a former member of mine named Ella Ganssle. I wrote this after the funeral –
Ella passed away last week and I went to her funeral up at St. Paul’s in St. Thomas. St. Paul’s was the Mother church for most of the congregations up here in the Northeast corner of the State. Once large, it now has to struggle to get servers for funerals like Ella’s, but they continue. The church is served by Rev. Mark Chepulis and I have to admit to some trepidation. As a preacher, when I hear a sermon I tend to think about what the preacher should be saying rather than let him preach to me. That is a danger of the job. We need to hear the living voice of the Gopel preached to us as well rather than sit in judgement. At the same time our President Matthew Harrison has said that one thing he is disturbed about is the state of preaching in our church body so it was with a sense of concern that I prepared to listen.
“Chepulis started with Martin Franzmann’s famous statement that “theology is doxology – faith must sing”. He then proceeded to give a marvelous exposition of Law and Gospel. His sermon was winsome and to the point. It was personal without being cloying; it was touching without being distracting and it did what a sermon is supposed to do – proclaim the “Good News”. Witnessing to Christ while telling the story of what he has done in the life of another person is difficult and can be dangerous. Preachers walk a fine line between ignoring the person that we are burying and turning the sermon into a eulogy. Rev. Chepulis did a masterful job. He quoted Ella as saying that “Jesus Christ has been her Lord and Savior from the day she was baptized” and that He would be after she was dead. I left the service as everyone should – trusting in Christ’s defeat of sin, death and the devil, bouyed by hope, sad at the loss of another sister in Christ, yet looking forward to the grand reunion in life everlasting.”
A preacher who can do that; distinguish between the law and the gospel, announce Christ and his gifts and how they are for you, bouy us up with the hope that along with Christ God has given us everything we need for life in this world and life in the world to come, is truly a gift. Martin Luther exulted in the gifts we receive from the “preached Word – “Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul. If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing since it is the Word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing”.
God bless Pastor and his family and his congregations. May he be “forever young” but better than that, a winsome voice of forgiveness and peace in Christ.