Friday, January 22, 2021

Something from ... Martin Luther on abandoning our presumptions about ourselves, whether good or bad

 The devil will always use what he can.  He does not care.  His goal is your damnation.

This means that the devil may convince you that you are such a good person.  He will cite your admirable qualities and will show you your acts of charity.  He will teach you to put your trust in those so that you take pride in how good you are.  But the devil is a liar.  Do not believe him.

On the other hand, he is also willing to flaunt your sins in your face.  He will remind you of regrettable and shameful things you have thought, spoken, and done.  He will use these to prove to you how wicked you are and convince you that not even God could forgive these.  He makes your sins heavy so that they would crush you in despair.  But the devil is a liar.  Do not believe him.

Martin Luther addressed both ends of that spectrum and points you to the only place where you will find assurance and comfort from either extreme.  He points you to the mercies of God, revealed, obtained, and delivered by faith in Jesus Christ.  Those mercies were demonstrated to the Old Testament people.  Some were examples of piety and goodness; others were exposed as blatant sinners who were guilty of murder, intrigue, slave trading, incest, and so on.  But none of them was saved by their goodness or rejected by God because they were sinners.  God's mercy saved them and sustained them.

Luther urges us to take these examples to heart so that we are not deluded by Satan to take pride in how good we have been or lose heart because of the sins we have done.  All are saved by faith in Jesus.  All are consoled by the mercies of God.  God does not lie when he reveals these things to us.  Contrary to Satan, God desires your salvation and wants to grant you peace.  Here is something from Luther on how this relates to the patriarchs and to us.

"Moreover, examples of this kind are recounted to us for the purpose of teaching and consolation, and for the strengthening of our faith, in order that we may consider the immeasurable mercy of God, who has saved not only the righteous--namely, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--but also the unrighteous--namely, Judah, Tamar, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, who were outstanding sinners.  Consequently, no one should be presumptuous about his own righteousness or wisdom, and no one should despair on account of his sins." (Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis (chapters 38-44), Luther's Works: American Edition, pp 10-11)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Update from Good Shepherd (January 21, 2021)

 Greetings!

REGULAR SCHEDULE

Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays, in person and on Facebook Live.  Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We are continuing our series on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The schedule can be found at this link.
Bible Matters is a discussion group is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  The topic for January 27 is "Why Lutheran?"  The full schedule for our winter sessions can be found here.

OFFICE HOURS
          Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
          The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower.

Good Shepherd 40th Anniversary Photo Compilation
          This year is the 40th anniversary of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church! To commemorate the occasion we would like to put together a compilation of photos to develop into a video. If you're interested, please find up to 6 photos of your time with the congregation that you would like to share and email them to Brian Wilder, Pastor, or Dan LeFevre so we can compile them into a video. Also, if anyone has experience developing a video for this type of project and would like to assist in the creation any help would be greatly appreciated! Please submit your photos no later than March 17 (Ash Wednesday).

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Pastor Schroeder is available for private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may call to set up an appointment at any time.  Visits by appointment can be done either at church or at your home.
        If you want to ask for intercessions for loved ones, we will certainly remember them in our prayers, too.  If your loved one has no pastor, ask if they would like Pastor Schroeder to visit them.  

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  The service from January 17 is here: Good Shepherd Novi, Divine Service - January 17, 2021 - YouTube
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

OFFERINGS
While we may not be meeting for worship, we do have financial obligations to meet.  You may either mail your offering into Good Shepherd, or you can set up your offering to be transferred electronically from your bank.  If you are interested in the automatic transfer of funds for your offering, please contact the church at (248) 349-0565 or welsnovi@aol.com.

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.  Be sure to share posts with friends.

SHARE THIS POST!
We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess.  Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

BAD WEATHER POLICY FOR SERVICES AT GOOD SHEPHERD 
        We will always have services as scheduled at Good Shepherd. Since I live across the parking lot, I can get to the church no matter how bad the weather gets. Even if the service is just me and my family, we will be here. For everyone else, please use your God-given common sense to determine whether or not you will get on the road to attend any service when the weather is bad. We don't want anyone to risk his or her life to be here. But if you do venture out, the scheduled service will take place. It may be only a handful with a cappella singing and/or spoken liturgy, but we will be here. 
        Bible Classes and meetings may be canceled due to weather. Check your email regarding announcements to see if any of those scheduled events is canceled. If there is no email about it, it is not canceled. But again, use common sense to determine if you can make it, and call the pastor to let him know if you will not be coming.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
REGULAR SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
BIBLE MATTERS on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

PASTOR SCHROEDER’S BLOG

www.LutheranSubject.blogspot.com  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Intercession for our Leaders

With President-Elect Biden being sworn in as President Biden today, it will be appropriate to include him in our prayers this Sunday.

The prayer of the church will include numerous intercessions and petitions which will also allow the congregation to assent to each one with their, "Hear us, good Lord," "Hear our prayer," and "Amen."

Among the intercessions, we will include prayers for our newly inaugurated president, Joe Biden, the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, the mayor of Novi, Bob Gatt, and all governing officials, we will pray as follows:

M:    Preserve our nation in justice and honor, that we may lead peaceable lives of integrity.  Grant health and favor to all who bear office in our land, especially to President Biden, Governor Whitmer, Bob Gatt the mayor of Novi, and all those who make, administer, and judge our laws, and help them serve all citizens according to your holy will.

Cong:    Hear us, good Lord.

Such prayers are in obedience to the Scriptures which encourage this: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Christians ought to recognize what we pray for and what we do not.  There are some policy positions we would pray fervently against, such as the support and defense of abortion.  In fact, we will pray against that on the very same Sunday.  Such a prayer is not a personal attack on our leaders, but a plea that God would protect and defend the sanctity of life despite the opinions of our leaders--such an opinion that we consider abominable and a blatant sin against the 5th Commandment.  However, we do not seek the death of anyone.  We have been convinced by the Holy Spirit to agree with our God to be obedient to those in authority (Romans 13:1-7), to bless all who would oppose us (Matthew 5:11), and to willing suffer for doing good if we must (1 Peter 3:13-17).  

While we cherish the freedoms we have in our nation, our greatest good is not the kingdom of the United States but the kingdom of God.  If these should come into great conflict with each other, we will stand firm in the kingdom of God and still pray for our nation and its leaders as we have been directed by the King of heaven and earth.

While not everyone will be in agreement with the policies and positions of every politician, all Christians can be in agreement with the specific intercession, "help them serve all citizens according to your holy will."  When wouldn't we pray for that????

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 17, 2021)

JOHN 1:43-51

JESUS CONNECTS HEAVEN AND EARTH.

In the name + of Jesus.

      After Jacob had attained his blessing from Isaac, his twin brother Esau was enraged.  He had plans to kill Jacob, assuming the blessing would go to him by default.  Before Esau could act, Jacob was sent away to his mother’s family far to the north.  Jacob went alone—with no family (although he was told he would become the father of a great nation), with no companions (although he was told that people would serve him), and no estate (although he was told that the riches of the earth would be his).  As Jacob settled down for the night on his journey, the Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream. 

     He dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.  And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!  And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.’” (Genesis 28:12-13)  After the Lord reaffirmed the blessing Jacob had received from Isaac, “Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’  And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:16-17) 

     Sometimes people talk about climbing Jacob’s ladder, referring to us getting closer to God.  But never once did God tell Jacob to climb anything, and Jacob did not even take a step.  The point was not that Jacob, or anyone, is supposed to climb up to God; it is that God must come down to us.  And he has.  Jesus connects heaven and earth.

     While Jacob was awestruck by the Lord appearing to him, others were not awestruck when Jesus appeared.  When Philip told Nathanael about Jesus, Philip … said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’” (John 1:45,46)  Not only was Jesus’ appearance common, but his hometown was not impressive either.  Why should anyone take notice of what comes out of Nazareth?   

     You might know people who are unimpressed that you go to church or believe the Bible.  They might wonder, “What good comes from that?!”  If so, they may have preconceived notions about church, like we come together to hear how good we are and how bad other people are.  They might think the Bible is just a list of rules, and they have enough burdens in their life without having to add a divine to-do list to them.  One possible way to address their reluctance is to confess why you find such comfort in God’s word and to tell them what benefits you have in gathering with God’s people.  Another way to reply is by repeating the words of Philip: “Come and see.” (John 1:46)  To show people why the Bible matters and why church is important, let them see and hear it for themselves.  At the very least, they will no longer reject the Bible and the church because of ignorance.  Our prayer, of course, is that others will find the value and comfort in it that we know.

     Nathanael may have been skeptical, but he was not stubborn.  He went with Philip and met Jesus.  As soon as Jesus saw Nathanael, he said, “‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’  Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’  Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” (John 1:47,48) 

     Can you imagine how hard those words might have hit Nathanael?  “I saw you.”  If you had someone say that to you, you might be a little bit unnerved, especially if someone began a conversation that way.  You enter a room, and your boss says, “I saw you.”  You would be trying to figure out what you might have done wrong.  Or was it something embarrassing, like you were lip syncing to your iTunes at your desk?  If you had done something wrong and someone said to you, “I saw you”, you would wonder who else saw.  How much did they see?  What does this mean for you?  How bad is it?  If only one person saw, can you keep others from knowing about it, too?   Such fears are understandable, but they also reveal our sinful condition.  If we are caught, we are more upset that we will look bad than we are about the bad that we actually did.  Rather than regret the sin, we regret being seen.  You may be able to hide your sins from others, but not before God.  He sees.  He always does.  And he holds you accountable—not because your sins look bad, but because you are.

     When Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, we are not told what Nathanael was doing.  We are told how Jesus characterized him.  “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47)  In other words, Nathanael was not a phony.  He was not about putting up good appearances.  He did not lie to himself about being better than he was.  In addition, he was a true Israelite—one who was awaiting a Savior who would give him the righteousness he needed to stand before God without shame or fear and who would purify him of every stain of sin.  Nathanael’s skepticism changed to excitement when Jesus spoke to him.  No longer did Nathanael think that Jesus was just some random guy from backwoods Nazareth.  Instead, he confessed“Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49) 

     While it is awesome that God sees and knows all things, it does not provide any comfort.  If you have dirty little secrets, you at least take comfort that they are secrets.  Not with God.  And so Jesus told Nathanael that there was something greater than him seeing Nathanael under the fig tree before Philip called him.  There was something more comforting, something more important for Nathanael to see.  It is this: Jesus connects heaven and earth.

     Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?  You will see greater things than these.”  And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:50-51)  Here again is the ladder to heaven.  And again, Jesus did not tell Nathanael that it was up to him to climb it.  No one on earth can work his way up to heaven.  No one can have God look into his life and his heart so that God would say, “Heaven is open to you.  Come on up; you’ve earned it!”  The greater thing is that God comes to us and that he delivers heaven’s gifts to us.  Jesus connects heaven and earth.

     This is why the Lord became a human being.  St. Paul reminds us, For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)  Jesus is the mediator because he is both God and man.  He is of heaven and of earth.  He is God who stands before us and speaks to us, and he is the man who stands before God and speaks to him on our behalf.  Jesus connects heaven and earth.

     Jesus came from heaven to earth is to reconcile the world back to God.  As we had considered, God sees what we are like.  God knows our sinful hearts.  And God knows that we cannot change our sinful nature or fix our broken condition.  The earth is marked for destruction because it, too, is corrupt and in a state of decay.  No climate change policy will ever fix that.  But Jesus comes to rescue us from our dying world and from our depraved condition.

     Heaven and earth meet in Jesus.  First, he endures everything that puts heaven and earth at odds with each other.  The wickedness of the world cannot be ignored; God sees it.  Therefore, Jesus took all wickedness, sin, and guilt into himself.  God the Father saw it, and he held Jesus accountable for it.  Jesus was made the target of God’s vengeance when he was nailed to the cross.  The Father’s rejection of his Son was publicly demonstrated for all to see—not only by Jesus’ crucifixion being a public display, but also by Jesus himself bearing witness under the sunless sky when he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)   

     In this way, Jesus rescued you from divine wrath and rejection.  And in your baptism, the holy, innocent blood which was shed for you was applied to you.  By baptism you are connected to Jesus.  Now God sees you dressed in the righteousness of Jesus.  He knows that you believe in his word; for he has put that faith there.  And because you are a child of God, God commissions his angels to watch over you, to fight for you, and to protect you from the harm the devil wants to inflict upon you.  Jesus connects heaven and earth, and the angels ascend and descend by his command for your good.

     To this day, it is not our job to climb up to heaven and work our way closer to God.  It is God who continues to come down to us on earth.  But he does come, and when he does, we get to join in with angels and archangels and the likes of the patriarch Jacob, the apostles Philip and Nathanael, and all the company of heaven—all true Israelites—in praise of the God who saves us.  Behold!  The Lamb of God comes in the Lord’s Supper, and Jesus connects heaven to earth.  He delivers to us the body and blood which have taken away the sin of the world.  As we partake in these, Jesus delivers the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  And as we are connected to him, Jesus intercedes for us and guarantees our place in the kingdom of God.  The Father sees, and he knows, and he accounts us as righteous for Jesus’ sake.

     Jesus connects heaven and earth.  When the day comes that we depart from this earth, the angels will descend to bring our souls to heaven.  And when the Last Day comes, Jesus will descend with his angels to raise us up from the dead to live with him forever.  He will give us a new, restored creation in which true Israelites will dwell forever in peace.  The man Jesus has assured us that mankind will dwell with God.  And our God Jesus gives us the words and sacraments to bind us to himself forever.

 In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Update from Good Shepherd (January 14, 2021)

Greetings!

REGULAR SCHEDULE

Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays, in person and on Facebook Live.  Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We are continuing our series on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The schedule can be found at this link.
Bible Matters is a discussion group is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  The topic for January 20 is "Does God speak through dreams?"  The full schedule for our winter sessions can be found here.

OFFICE HOURS
          Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
          The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Pastor Schroeder is available for private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may call to set up an appointment at any time.  Visits by appointment can be done either at church or at your home.
        If you want to ask for intercessions for loved ones, we will certainly remember them in our prayers, too.  If your loved one has no pastor, ask if they would like Pastor Schroeder to visit them.  

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  The service from January 10 is here: Good Shepherd Novi, Divine Service - January 10th, 2021 - YouTube.  
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

OFFERINGS
While we may not be meeting for worship, we do have financial obligations to meet.  You may either mail your offering into Good Shepherd, or you can set up your offering to be transferred electronically from your bank.  If you are interested in the automatic transfer of funds for your offering, please contact the church at (248) 349-0565 or welsnovi@aol.com.

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.  Be sure to share posts with friends.

SHARE THIS POST!
We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess.  Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

BAD WEATHER POLICY FOR SERVICES AT GOOD SHEPHERD 
        We will always have services as scheduled at Good Shepherd. Since I live across the parking lot, I can get to the church no matter how bad the weather gets. Even if the service is just me and my family, we will be here. For everyone else, please use your God-given common sense to determine whether or not you will get on the road to attend any service when the weather is bad. We don't want anyone to risk his or her life to be here. But if you do venture out, the scheduled service will take place. It may be only a handful with a cappella singing and/or spoken liturgy, but we will be here. 
        Bible Classes and meetings may be canceled due to weather. Check your email regarding announcements to see if any of those scheduled events is canceled. If there is no email about it, it is not canceled. But again, use common sense to determine if you can make it, and call the pastor to let him know if you will not be coming.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
REGULAR SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
BIBLE MATTERS on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

PASTOR SCHROEDER’S BLOG

www.LutheranSubject.blogspot.com