Thursday, October 18, 2018

Liturgy Sunday -- October 21

Why do Lutherans worship the way they do?  What does each part of the liturgy mean?  Where did those songs come from?  And what's with all the standing and sitting?

While we all may be accustomed to the Lutheran liturgy, we may not appreciate or even be aware of the rationale behind each part of it.  In order to foster a greater appreciation for the Lutheran liturgy, we will observe a Liturgy Sunday on October 21 at our 10:00 AM service.  An elder will introduce each portion of the service and explain its background, followed by the pastor and congregation conducting each respective portion of the service.

If you have ever wondered about this, or if you have a friend who might be curious about why we worship the way we do, join us for Liturgy Sunday on October 21.  The pastor is always available to explain further any questions you have about or Divine Service as well.

Update from Good Shepherd (October 18, 2018)

NOTE: This is usually sent as an email blast to members and friends of Good Shepherd.  Recently, this email blast has refused to send, so it has been relegated to my blog.


Greetings!

REGULAR SCHEDULE
Our Divine Services are on Sundays at 10:00 AM.
Thursday services at 3:30 PM are also offered, but call or text to confirm you are coming (248-719-5218).  If no one calls to confirm their attendance, he may not be at the church.

SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS
Our Sunday School & Adult Bible Class meet at 8:45 AM.
JESUS CARES MINISTRIES -- Worship at the Cross
IT IS A “GO!”  Good Shepherd will be offering worship services and a Sunday School class for people with developmental disabilities.  It is designed to serve people with the Gospel who are mostly neglected in our area.  We also have an official date and time.  This service will be offered on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM.  Our start date will be Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 PM.  Subsequent dates will be January 8 and February 12.  The service is called "Worship at the Cross," since the word "worship" describes what we are doing better than Jesus Cares Ministries.  (NOTE: Jesus Cares Ministries and Worship at the Cross may be used interchangeably.  While Jesus Cares Ministries offers other programs, for our purposes, they refer to the same thing.)
In order to assure that we are prepare for our first Worship at the Cross service, we will have a organizational/dry-run meeting on Tuesday, November 13 at 6:30 PM.  If you are interested or simply would like more information, please join us.  If you are interested but will be unavailable for the meeting, please speak to Pastor Schroeder
Finally, in order for this ministry to truly be of service to those who need it, we need to publicize this.  If you know of anyone with developmental disabilities (e.g., Down Syndrome, Autism, et al.), please inform them of our Worship at the Cross efforts.  Word of mouth is usually best received, but you can help us get the word out in other ways, too.  Once again—we begin on Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 PM.
You can find out more about Jesus Cares Ministries and Worship at the Cross at: http://www.tlha.org/jesus-cares-ministries .

TRUNK OR TREAT
THIS SATURDAY (October 20), Good Shepherd will be hosting a community event—Trunk or Treat—from 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon.  We will welcome our community to join us to visit our decorated cars for candy and treats.  In addition, we will be serving cider and donuts and have lawn games for people to play.  We will also have a pumpkin patch; pumpkins, however, are in limited quantities.  The weather forecast suggests a very windy day, so some activities will be held in the fellowship hall.
While this is an effort to make ourselves more acquainted with our community, and vice versa, it will also be a good time for our own members to join together for an enjoyable Fall morning. 

SUNDAY NIGHT BIBLE SERIES
        The next session of our Sunday Night Bible Series will be Sunday, November 18.  The series, entitled “Eating God's Sacrifice,” explores the Lord's Supper portrayal in the Old Testament sacrifices.  While the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper flows from the Passover, its roots and forgiveness come from all the Old Testament sacrifices.  After viewing each DVD segment, Pastor Purdue and Pastor Schroeder will lead a discussion about the material which is in the DVD.  All sessions will begin at 6:00 PM.  These are intended to be interactive discussions as well as informational.  Desserts and snacks will be served.  All are welcome.

COLLEGIATE CARE PACKAGES
        Good Shepherd has a number of members who are attending college, many of whom live away from home.  We want to assure them that they are still an important part of this congregation and that we have not forgotten them while they are away.  In order to show our support, we are putting together Collegiate Care Packages which will be delivered to all our college students.
        If you are able to give a few moments of your time after church this Sunday (October 14), Georgene Kinsman will direct you with the preparation for these packages which will be delivered shortly thereafter.

TRUNK OR TREAT
On Saturday, October 20, Good Shepherd will be hosting a community event—Trunk or Treat—from 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon.  We will welcome our community to join us to visit our decorated cars for candy and treats.  In addition, we will be serving cider and donuts and have lawn games for people to play.  (Pray for good weather.)
In order to make this even worth while for our community to come to, we will need at least ten cars which will be decorated and hosted by our members.  We will also need to coordinate to assure there is variety in the decoration themes.  (We probably don't need eight Detroit Tigers themed cars.)
While this is an effort to make ourselves more acquainted with our community, and vice versa, it will also be a good time for our own members to join together for an enjoyable Fall morning.

LITURGY SUNDAY IS THIS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21
Why do Lutherans worship the way they do?  What does each part of the liturgy mean?  Where did those songs come from?  And what's with all the standing and sitting?
While we all may be accustomed to the Lutheran liturgy, we may not appreciate or even be aware of the rationale behind each part of it.  In order to foster a greater appreciation for the Lutheran liturgy, we will observe a Liturgy Sunday on October 21.  An elder will introduce each portion of the service and explain its background, followed by the pastor and congregation conducting each respective portion of the service.
If you have ever wondered about this, or if you have a friend who might be curious about why we worship the way we do, join us for Liturgy Sunday THIS SUNDAY (October 21).  The pastor is always available to explain further any questions you have about or Divine Service as well.


CHORAL FEST AT HVL
On the weekend of November 9-11, Huron Valley Lutheran High School will be hosting Choral Fest.  It is a gathering of choirs from area Lutheran high schools around the country resulting in a choir of perhaps 200 voices, joining to unite their voices in praise to God.  There will be two concerts given by these choirs.  On Friday, November 9 at 7:00 PM, each high school's swing choir will perform for a Pops Concert.  On Sunday, November 11, there will be a mass choir presenting a sacred concert at 2:00 PM.

CHORAL FEST HOST FAMILIES NEEDED
In order to accommodate all the choirs who will be coming to HVL, associate congregations will need families to host the teens from these choirs.  Families who are willing will be asked to host at least two choir members (you can request more if you have the room) from Thursday night (November 8) through Sunday morning (November 11).  They will mainly need lodging and transportation to and from HVL.  (Some car-pooling to and from Good Shepherd may be arranged.)  Good Shepherd will be hosting Manitowoc Lutheran High School who is coming with 24 people.
As a “thank you” for hosting, it is customary for the choir whom Good Shepherd hosts to sing for our service on the Sunday morning of Choral Fest.
If you are willing to host some choir members or have questions, you may speak to Dan & Mary LeFevre.


PICTORIAL DIRECTORY
If you were not able to get your photograph included for our upcoming pictorial directory, please speak with Dan Rauchholz about how your photo can still be included.  But please note: Time is running short to be included!

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.

God bless you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder


==============================

DIVINE SERVICES
     Sundays at 10:00 AM

SUNDAY SCHOOL
     Sundays at 8:45 AM

ADULT BIBLE CLASS
     Sundays at 8:45 AM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE
www.GoodShepherdNovi.org

PASTOR SCHROEDER’S BLOG
www.LutheranSubject.blogspot.com


Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +
Divine Services -- Sundays at 10:00 AM
www.GoodShepherdNovi.org

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Pastoral Concern about Legalized Marijuana

This November 6, there is an issue on the ballot for legalizing recreational use of marijuana.  Full disclosure: I will be voting against it.  I am aware of the various arguments to legalize it, but I remain unconvinced.  Tax revenues should hardly be the trump card in this--unless money is the greatest good.  It is not.  I do not believe that the recreational use of a drug which serves the sole purpose of getting people intoxicated from the first hit is beneficial to society as a whole.  In fact, I think it will prove to be destructive, as it has been shown to be in Colorado.  But I guess if everyone is stoned, no one will care too badly.  (Okay, that was snarky.)  Nonetheless, I believe that Prop 1 is going to pass by a wide margin.  In fact, some are banking on it, already announcing plans to get people all the weed they can handle.  See here, and here, and here.

So, where does the Church stand on this?  How will our message change?

It won't.  God's word does not change, so why should our counsel change?  

Now, it is true that the Bible nowhere uses the word "marijuana."  There are a whole assortment of drugs which go unnamed in the Scriptures.  This is not a proof of God acceptance of marijuana, any more than God is okee-dokee with randomly mowing people down with an AK-47 since AK-47's are not specifically condemned by name in the Bible either.

So, what does the Bible say?  I refer you to the following passages.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has strife? Who has complaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Who has redness of eyes?  Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat....Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.  In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.  Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.  You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.  "They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it.  When shall I awake?  must have another drink.” (Proverbs 23:20,29-35)

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

I suppose I could hunt down more verses, but if four do not suffice, I doubt even forty would be enough.  

The point in these verses is that God forbids and condemns drunkenness, inebriation, intoxication, or any other similar term.  Anyone who contends that drunkenness is an alcohol issue and not a marijuana issue is working too hard to avoid what Scripture plainly teaches.  Regardless of what substance gets you drunk, high, intoxicated, inebriated, et al., God forbids and condemns such drunkenness.  (NOTE: Some drugs are used for medicinal purposes.  They are not taken for the sole purpose of getting high, although that sometimes is the result.  Still, even these can sometimes become addictive and can destroy people, too.  And if your goal in taking Nyquil is just to get drunk off of it, God condemns your use of Nyquil.)

If Proposition 1 is voted upon favorably by voters and recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in Michigan (which I think will happen), that does not mean God suddenly gives the thumbs up to getting high.  Just because something is legal does not mean it is good or moral.  Abortion is also legal.  Abortion is evil since it is the murder of a child in its mother's womb.  Even though smoking marijuana will likely become legal, it does not mean Christians have to join in or change our testimony.  The verses above still stand, even if the voters reject them.

More and more, the unbelieving world is acting like unbelievers, and the Church more and more looks different than the world it is in.  That's okay.  Jesus said it would be that way.  Jesus has not called us to blend in or to play along with the world.  Our task is to be faithful to the word of God, even when the world votes against it.

When people end up discovering that their high, their buzz, their daze, or their addiction does not give them the peace or relief they have longed for, the Church will still be here to point them to the peace which surpasses all understanding--namely, that Jesus Christ loves sinners and redeems them.  Guilt, shame, doubts, and fears are not taken away by drunkenness.  Only Jesus' promises can do that.  His word endures forever, no matter what the world votes on.

Today's Earworm -- Feelin' Alright by Joe Cocker

Once again, it is nice to have as an earworm a song that you like.  In my opinion, this is the best Joe Cocker song there is.  So, this has been going on in my head for a few days.  I thank God for YouTube which allows me to listen to it repeatedly.  I don't know if that is supposed to put an end to the earworm, or if it just exacerbates it.  Anyway, here is Joe Cocker singing, "Feelin' Alright." 

As a bonus, I have also included a cover by Huey Lewis, although it is not the whole song.  I think Huey Lewis does a great job and has a great voice to cover this song.  Enjoy!



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Update from Good Shepherd (October 11, 2018)

NOTE: This is usually sent as an email blast to members and friends of Good Shepherd.  Recently, this email blast has refused to send, so it has been relegated to my blog.


Greetings!

REGULAR SCHEDULE
Our Divine Services are on Sundays at 10:00 AM. Thursday services at 3:30 PM are also offered, but call or text to confirm you are coming (248-719-5218).  If no one calls to confirm their attendance, he may not be at the church.  NOTE: There is no Thursday service today (Oct 11).

SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS
Our Sunday School & Adult Bible Class meet at 8:45 AM.

JESUS CARES MINISTRIES
IT IS A “GO!”  Good Shepherd will be offering worship services and a Sunday School class for people with developmental disabilities.  It is designed to serve people with the Gospel who are mostly neglected in our area.  We also have an official date and time.  This service will be offered on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM.  Our start date will be Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 PM.  Subsequent dates will be January 8 and February 12.
In order to assure that we are prepare for our first Jesus Cares Ministries service, we will have a organizational/dry-run meeting on Tuesday, November 13 at 6:30 PM.  If you are interested or simply would like more information, please join us.  If you are interested but will be unavailable for the meeting, please speak to Pastor Schroeder
Finally, in order for this ministry to truly be of service to those who need it, we need to publicize this.  If you know of anyone with developmental disabilities (e.g., Down Syndrome, Autism, et al.), please inform them of our Jesus Cares Ministries efforts.  Word of mouth is usually best received, but you can help us get the word out in other ways, too.  Once again—we begin on Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 PM.
You can find out more about Jesus Cares Ministries at: http://www.tlha.org/jesus-cares-ministries .

SUNDAY NIGHT BIBLE SERIES
        A new series for our Sunday Night Bible Series will begin THIS SUNDAY, October 14.  The next series is entitled, “Eating God's Sacrifice.”  “Eating God's Sacrifice” explores the Lord's Supper portrayal in the Old Testament sacrifices.  While the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper flows from the Passover, its roots and forgiveness come from all the Old Testament sacrifices.  After viewing each DVD segment, Pastor Purdue and Pastor Schroeder will lead a discussion about the material which is in the DVD.  All sessions will begin at 6:00 PM.  These are intended to be interactive discussions as well as informational.  Desserts and snacks will be served.  All are welcome.

COLLEGIATE CARE PACKAGES
        Good Shepherd has a number of members who are attending college, many of whom live away from home.  We want to assure them that they are still an important part of this congregation and that we have not forgotten them while they are away.  In order to show our support, we are putting together Collegiate Care Packages which will be delivered to all our college students.
        If you are able to give a few moments of your time after church this Sunday (October 14), Georgene Kinsman will direct you with the preparation for these packages which will be delivered shortly thereafter.

TRUNK OR TREAT
On Saturday, October 20, Good Shepherd will be hosting a community event—Trunk or Treat—from 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon.  We will welcome our community to join us to visit our decorated cars for candy and treats.  In addition, we will be serving cider and donuts and have lawn games for people to play.  (Pray for good weather.) 
In order to make this even worth while for our community to come to, we will need at least ten cars which will be decorated and hosted by our members.  We will also need to coordinate to assure there is variety in the decoration themes.  (We probably don't need eight Detroit Tigers themed cars.)
While this is an effort to make ourselves more acquainted with our community, and vice versa, it will also be a good time for our own members to join together for an enjoyable Fall morning. 

LITURGY SUNDAY  – OCTOBER 21
Why do Lutherans worship the way they do?  What does each part of the liturgy mean?  Where did those songs come from?  And what's with all the standing and sitting?
While we all may be accustomed to the Lutheran liturgy, we may not appreciate or even be aware of the rationale behind each part of it.  In order to foster a greater appreciation for the Lutheran liturgy, we will observe a Liturgy Sunday on October 21.  An elder will introduce each portion of the service and explain its background, followed by the pastor and congregation conducting each respective portion of the service.
If you have ever wondered about this, or if you have a friend who might be curious about why we worship the way we do, join us for Liturgy Sunday on October 21.  The pastor is always available to explain further any questions you have about or Divine Service as well.


CHORAL FEST AT HVL
On the weekend of November 9-11, Huron Valley Lutheran High School will be hosting Choral Fest.  It is a gathering of choirs from area Lutheran high schools around the country resulting in a choir of perhaps 200 voices, joining to unite their voices in praise to God.  There will be two concerts given by these choirs.  On Friday, November 9 at 7:00 PM, each high school's swing choir will perform for a Pops Concert.  On Sunday, November 11, there will be a mass choir presenting a sacred concert at 2:00 PM.

CHORAL FEST HOST FAMILIES NEEDED
In order to accommodate all the choirs who will be coming to HVL, associate congregations will need families to host the teens from these choirs.  Families who are willing will be asked to host at least two choir members (you can request more if you have the room) from Thursday night (November 8) through Sunday morning (November 11).  They will mainly need lodging and transportation to and from HVL.  (Some car-pooling to and from Good Shepherd may be arranged.)  Good Shepherd will be hosting Manitowoc Lutheran High School who is coming with 24 people.
As a “thank you” for hosting, it is customary for the choir whom Good Shepherd hosts to sing for our service on the Sunday morning of Choral Fest.
If you are willing to host some choir members or have questions, you may speak to Dan & Mary LeFevre.


PICTORIAL DIRECTORY
If you were not able to get your photograph included for our upcoming pictorial directory, please speak with Dan Rauchholz about how your photo can still be included.  But please note: Time is running short to be included!

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.

God bless you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder


==============================

DIVINE SERVICES
     Sundays at 10:00 AM

SUNDAY SCHOOL
     Sundays at 8:45 AM

ADULT BIBLE CLASS
     Sundays at 8:45 AM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE
www.GoodShepherdNovi.org

PASTOR SCHROEDER’S BLOG
www.LutheranSubject.blogspot.com


Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +
Divine Services -- Sundays at 10:00 AM
www.GoodShepherdNovi.org

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sermon -- Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School (October 8, 2018)

This sermon was preached for the chapel service at Huron Valley Lutheran High School in Westland, Michigan.

JOHN 5:28-29

FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS:
We See Jesus As Our Judge.

In the name + of Jesus.

     One of the three ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church is the Athanasian Creed.  It is not well-known, and if your church does confess it in a Divine Service, it is likely only once a year on Trinity Sunday.  What bothers most Lutherans about the Athanasian Creed is probably not its length, but these two lines: “At his coming all people will rise with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds.  Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.”   
     The Athanasian Creed does not confess some strange teaching that made it in there by accident.  It confesses exactly what Jesus said in our reading from John's gospel: Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)  
     Now, you have been taught the Gospel, and so your confession and your confidence is that you will rise on the Last Day to receive eternal life.  But both the Athanasian Creed and Jesus' words throw all of that into doubt.  Our doubts arise because we take the words of our Lord seriously.  Those who rise to receive eternal life have done what is good.  And those who rise from the dead to receive a judgment of damnation will be damned because they have done evil.  This is what the Scriptures plainly teach. 
     But where do we find ourselves in those verses?  We would like to think that we are good people who have done what is right.  But then we also confess Sunday after Sunday: “I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.”  And I hope you recognize that such a confession is true.  Because if you say the words but believe in your heart, “No, that's not true.  I am good.  I cannot be faulted for evil,” then the absolution has no value for you at all.  You can't be forgiven if there is nothing to forgive.
     Of course, we all want to go to heaven rather than hell, so it is not hard to figure out why we want to be included among those who have done what is good.  This is one of the reasons people want to have eulogies proclaimed at their funerals.  Eulogy literally means, “Good word,” and people want good words said about themselves both while they are alive and especially after they've died.  They want to believe they are good.  They like the idea of friends telling them how good they are and what good they've done and how much they mean to other people.
     Now, this should not come as a shock to you: Your friends like you.  Your family likes you.  They think you are a good person, and they like to tell you so.  And that is good.  Friends and family should think fondly of you.  However, your judgment is not based on the opinion you have of yourself.  Nor is your judgment based on the opinion that others may have of you.  Your friends' fondness for you cannot save you, but then also your enemies' hatred of you cannot damn you.
     The only judgment that matters is the Judge who actually issues the sentence upon us.  Therefore, we fix our eyes on Jesus whom we see as our judge.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  And “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29) 
     So, where do you stand?  You stand where the judge puts you.  No opinion of man matters—whether good or bad.  Not even your opinion of yourself matters—whether you think you are pretty good, or whether you feel worthless or useless.  None of that matters.  These do not define you, so do not trust in them.  The only word that matters is the word of Jesus Christ; for he is your judge. 
     Fix your eyes on Jesus, whom you see as your judge.  Good news!  Your judge is on your side.  Better than that, your judge has already rendered your verdict to you.  Listen, this is what the Lord says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Those who have done evil will be damned.  But God made Jesus to be sin for us.  Every evil you have done, every word that carelessly flew out of your mouth, every jealous or unkind though which has harbored in your heart—all of this was put upon Jesus who was damned in your place.  Your condemnation has already been received.  The judgment is in: Jesus has suffered and died for you.
     Fix your eyes on Jesus, whom you see as your judge.  Good news!  Your judge is on your side.  Better than that, your judge has already rendered your verdict to you.  Listen, this is what the Lord says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Only those who have done what is good will rise to have eternal life.  And in Christ, you have become the righteousness of God.  You, who are baptized into Christ, are clothed with Christ.  The perfect obedience of Jesus is wrapped around you; therefore, all the good that needs to be done has been done for and has been credited to you.  There is no other eulogy which matters.  Jesus, who is your judge, proclaims this good word to you and puts that good word upon you.
     Fix your eyes on Jesus, whom you see as your judge.  Good news!  Your judge is on your side.  Better than that, your judge has already rendered your verdict to you.  You are justified in Christ.  You are not guilty of sin.  You are redeemed and righteous; for you are washed, cleansed, and purified in the blood of Christ.  He who has conquered death for you will raise you up for the judgment.  And his verdict is as good as his word.  You are the beloved of God.  You are children of the resurrection.  And you are heirs of eternal life.  We do marvel at this, just as we are saved and comforted by it.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sermon -- 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 7, 2018)

MARK 10:2-16

BLESSING COMES ONLY THROUGH HEEDING GOD'S WORD.

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Pharisees came to Jesus, hoping to ensnare him with this question: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2)  If Jesus said, “yes,” they would have condemned him for failing to uphold the 6th Commandment.  But if Jesus had said, “no,” they would have quoted Moses to him, charging him with rejecting the word of God.  Knowing that they were not genuine in their questioning, Jesus threw it right back at them.  “What did Moses command you?”  They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” (Mark 10:3-4)  
     They were not wrong, but they were not right, either.  Moses' instructions about a certificate of divorce had to do with an orderly way for society to recognize when a divorce had officially been finalized.  It did not mean that God encouraged the divorce, or even that he was pleased with it.  God had also directed Israel how to deal with murderers, but that did not mean God tolerated murder.  The Pharisees were looking for an out from their marriages.  God had honored and blessed their marriage vows.  To renounce those vows was also to cast off God's blessing.  But the Pharisees wanted to justify their divorces.  Therefore, they were more interested in what they wanted God's word to be instead of what God actually said.  Blessing comes only through heeding God's word, not from finding ways to circumvent it.  It has not changed.
     Marriage has taken quite a beating in American society.  People love weddings; marriage is not held in high regard.  Marriage has been redefined.  If you ask someone what marriage is, it may simply be defined as two people who love each other.  It isn't necessarily wrong, but it isn't necessarily right, either.  Teenagers will say how they love each other, but we would not say they are ready for marriage.  Couples who live together will say they love each other, but they will cringe at the idea of getting married.  By doing so, they acknowledge that they are not committed to each other.  People who do insist that they are committed to one another find that their commitment is not so binding when life gets hard.  Some people dismiss marriage as nothing but a piece of paper, which insults everyone who has been faithfully married.  Money is just a piece of paper too, but people crave it and work hard to get more and more of it.  If only marriage saw that much effort and commitment!
     When the Pharisees brought up marriage, they alluded to Moses, but they quoted the wrong verses.  Jesus did not speak about good reasons for divorce; he spoke of the blessing of marriage.  Jesus replied: “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:5-9)
     Jesus turned their attention to what God actually said about marriage and what God intends marriage to be.  Blessing comes only through heeding God's word.  God had said so, and so it is true.  God declares that a man leaves the home of his parents to establish a new home.  He takes to himself a wife, and he gives himself completely to her.  He gives her his name, his possessions, his provision, his protection, and whatever else is good for her.  He devotes himself to her for her good.  She is joined to him for his good.  Together they are one flesh, one household, and one body.  This is not merely a contract between adults that can be rendered null and void when better offers come along.  It is a union established and blessed by God.  Blessing comes only through heeding God's word.  To renounce the union is to renounce the blessing. 
     Though marriage is a blessing, it is not without struggles.  Both husband and wife are sinners.  Each will sin against the other, and each act of selfishness, laziness, or coveting for something better both wounds the marriage and harms one's spouse.  No one has kept himself pure in regard to the 6th Commandment—whether single, married, or divorced.  Sins against this Commandment have left people damaged, disillusioned, and disappointed; and they have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes.  But if we, like the Pharisees, try to find excuses for our sins, it will not take away the pain or the guilt.  Excuses are not obedience.  Excuses do not love or serve our God or our neighbor.  Excuses are a rejection of God's word, as if to say, “Just because God said so does not make it so for me.”  Repent.  There are no blessings given through excuses.  Blessing comes only through heeding God's word. 
     When God gives his blessing, it is not mere words.  His words are backed up by actions.  The Lord Jesus loves sinners.  He does not concern himself with whose sins caused the most damage, whose lives are the most messed up, or whether you are married, single, or divorced.  Jesus has come to serve all sinners by making himself the atoning sacrifice for all.  He did not stray from the path of the cross when it got hard, but he faithfully endured all things, even the wrath of God, to the end.  God had sent him to receive the curse for sinners, and so he did.  He made no excuses while he suffered for ours.  Rather than try to get out of this punishment, Jesus gave himself into it.  His innocence atones for our guilt.  Therefore, you are pardoned for all your transgressions.  It is not true because you believe it should be true.  It is so because God said so.  And God attached his “I said so” to the waters of baptism which have marked you as children of God, and to the holy meal by which Jesus gives you the body and blood which have atoned for your sins and have overcome death.  This is where you are assured of forgiveness—because God said so.  He put his word on it, and blessing comes only through heeding God's word.
     God established marriage to be a blessing for people.  And it is through the married couple that God intends to bring children into the world.  It is no accident that St. Mark records children being brought to Jesus right after he had discussed God's institution of marriage.  The husband and wife who are united to serve each other and bless each other also serve together to care for the children God gives.  This design of God is best for all.  And though it is true that single mothers are common in our day and age, all you have to do is hear a single mother tell you about the burdens she bears to recognize that a godly father will not look for an out, but for the best way to serve his family.  For this is what God has given him to do in giving him a wife and children.  Heeding that word is a blessing for his family and for himself.
     When the children were brought to Jesus, he was pleased.  For, he has come to be their Savior, too.  And the only way children will learn of Jesus as their Savior is if they are brought to him and his Church.  Parents serve their children best by doing this.  And if parents want to see their children in heaven, they will make sure they do this.  This is what our Lord desires so that he can bless and save them.  This comes only by heeding God's word.  Therefore, he declares to us all, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)  
     When parents are raising children, they lay down rules in their house and teach their children what is good and bad.  They will enforce these rules by saying, “Because I said so.”  Even if the child does not like the rule, he will accept that his parents have authority over him and that their word stands.  This is how we receive God's word, too.  The Pharisees sought a way around it.  But we simply hear it, believe it, and order our lives according to it.  Through obedience to these Commandments, God blesses us and spares us of many griefs.  God gave us his Commandments to show us what a good and godly life is to be.  If God's word shows us that we have not been good, then we admit it, confess it, and repent of it.  For, there are no blessings to be found in excuses, only in heeding God's word.
     Our Lord has given us his word for our good.  They show us what a good life is supposed to be.  More importantly, they show us that God is good, and that his goodness is revealed in Jesus who has saved us.  Jesus supplies us with his good and has swept away all our bad.  He assures you that you are children in God's kingdom.  He has said so.  And by heeding that word of promise, you are blessed forevermore.

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