Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sermon -- TEN WORDS: 5th Commandment (August 2, 2020)

EXODUS 20:13

TEN WORDS – THE SIXTH WORD.
LOVE SEEKS AFTER A GOOD LIFE.

In the name + of Jesus.

      Many of the Ten Commandments are brief, telling us what not to do.  “You shall not murder” is pretty succinct.  Yet, the Commandment is not limited to acts of murder.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)  Our Lord judges attitudes as much as actions.  If you limit the hatred of your neighbor to your heart, you can avoid jail time, but not hellfire.
     Most people can boast that they have kept the 5th Commandment in its most literal sense: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)  But no one can boast that he has kept his heart pure in regard to the 5th Commandment.  If you drive a car, deal with customers, or have an interest in politics, you have wished evil on other people.  Perhaps you have even convinced yourself that the world would be a better place of some people were killed off.  This is what the Lord says: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)  When others stand in the way of our interests, we despise them and even wish them harm.  They may never know the rage or hatred that reside in our hearts, but God sees it.  And he holds us accountable for it.
     Love seeks after a good life—a life that God defines as good.  God's will is not just that we avoid evil.  God's will is also that we do good.  Both are necessary.  The Catechism teaches about sins of commission and sins of omission.  Sins of commission are about doing evil.  When we commit a crime, that is a sin of commission.  Sins of omission are about failing to do what is good, such as when we omit the comfort and aid we could have offered to someone in need.  Sins of commission are usually easy to see.  There are witnesses to murder, assault, abuse, and road rage.  Sins of omission are often hidden.  I did not trip the woman, but rather than help her up or gather her groceries which spilled out, I walked by and minded my own business.  I may claim that I did no harm, but on the other hand I did no good.  God demands that we be guiltless of both sins of commission and sins of omission.  We are right to confess: “I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.”
     In his explanation of the 5th Commandment, Martin Luther highlights both parts of God's will: “We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.” (Small Catechism)  Love seeks after a good life, not just for ourselves, but for others.  The good that God wants us to do is to help and befriend our fellow man in every bodily need.  In theory, we know this is good.  In practice, we have all kinds of reasons why we don't do it.  “It will cost me money to bring any real help.  What if he squanders my money?  Don't get me wrong; I hope the needy people find the help they need.  But I am busy; I don't have time to stop and assist that person.”  Our love is first and foremost for ourselves, and we can find any reason to justify doing nothing for others.  But a faith lived in theory and not in practice is useless.  This is what the Apostle John wrote: “If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)  Repent.
     If we are going to seek after a good life for our fellowman, we are going to have to engage our fellowman with all his faults and failings.  If we are going to have mercy on our fellowman, we will need to show kindness to him in his lowly condition.  If we are going to be patient, we will have to love someone through petty annoyances or foolish choices.  If we are going to be gracious, we will have to give more and better than people deserve.  If we measure everyone according to their worthiness, we will be able to keep ourselves free from risk, expense, and heartbreak.  But to do that, we also have to withhold mercy, grace, and love.  This is not the nature of the God who saved us and who made us his people.  
     Love seeks after a good life for all people, despite risks or costs.  If you are merciful to someone, he may disappoint you and remain in his destructive ways.  If you are gracious to someone, he may take advantage of you.  If you love your fellowman and are patient with his weaknesses, he may not even recognize it.  But love is not measured by how someone might respond to it.  Love is simply given by the lover without conditions or restrictions.  This is exactly how God so loves the world.  
     Love seeks after a good life.  The Lord God has sought the salvation of every person on earth.  Jesus was sent to redeem us all with all our faults and failings.  So, he gave his body over to beatings on behalf of the wicked.  He poured out his life blood for ingrates.  He suffered hellish torment for people who hate him.  He swallowed the full wrath of God for people whom he knew would abandon him and disappoint him and go back to their sins.  In all of this, Jesus had no regrets.  He was not counting the cost, doling out just enough mercy on those he thought would be worth the investment.  Rather, Jesus was seeking for all people a good life that endures into all eternity.
     Jesus seeks after a good life for you.  He suffered and died for you to cover the cost for all your sins.  He is devoted to you with love, mercy, and grace.  He did all of this even though you and I do not stop sinning and we fail to love our fellowman as we ought.  But he did all this to cover the cost for those very same sins.  You and I come back to Jesus seeking forgiveness, and he remains merciful and gracious.  He does not tire of loving you or seeking your good.  This is not because you are better than others.  It is because he is good and gracious and faithful to his promises.  That is what secures your good life of peace, comfort, and confidence.  And he gives more!
     Jesus is your friend who helps you in every bodily need.  Jesus will eventually give you a body and life that are free from aches and pains, disabilities and disease, weakness and wearing out.  For, Jesus came in the flesh to deliver our flesh from its bondage to sin.  That is not just deliverance from the curse of sin, but also deliverance from the effects of sin in our bodies.  Jesus gave his body into death to take away all our sins.  And that body rose from the grave to guarantee our own bodily resurrection to glory.  After the resurrection, our bodies will never have their struggles again.  
     St. John described it this way: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17)  He who fed the 5,000 will do more than supply our basic needs.  Jesus, who healed the sick which were brought to him, assures us that we will be free from every frailty or fault.  St. Paul says that “the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)  That's because the body that God has given you is a precious gift.  It was created by him for your good, and redeemed by Jesus for your good.  Therefore, every body and life that he has granted are to be honored, cherished, and protected.  
     Love seeks after a good life; but it is not a good life when people are reduced to hunger or homelessness or sickness.  In the case of the rich man and Lazarus, we condemn the rich man for giving no aid to Lazarus at his gate.  But we don't know—did Lazarus do this to himself?  Was he destitute and diseased because of his own foolish choices?  And if so, do we then commend the rich man for ignoring him?  We can find excuses for the rich man just as easily as we can find reasons to condemn him.  But love does not look for excuses.  Love looks for ways to show love and compassion for the needy.  While we can boast of what we might have done for Lazarus, we were not there.  Whatever aid we say we would have given him sounds pious, but it is only theoretical.
     Love seeks after a good life—not in theory, but in personal and practical ways, even when it is risky or costly.  If we have disdain for our neighbor, we will withhold mercy, love, and grace.  But if we love our neighbor, we will help and be a friend to him in every bodily need.  “For, your Father who is in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)  God's love is not limited to the worthy; it is given to all.  And since we are the children of God, we desire to act like our Father.  This kind of love is always seeking a good life for our neighbor, and that is because our God's mercy, love, and grace have guaranteed a good, glorious, and everlasting life for us.

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (July 30, 2020)

Greetings!


      For information on what you can expect when you come to church and what will be expected of you, see this link.
        Services will still be broadcast on Facebook Live, Sundays at 10:00 AM, and uploaded to YouTube.   Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Services are posted on YouTube, usually in a few hours after the service.  When you go to YouTube, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi" and they should pop up.  (The service from July 26 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFhl7z0Zfws  Feel free to share the videos.
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

SUMMER SERMON SERIES -- TEN WORDS
Our sermons throughout the summer will focus on the Ten Commandments.  For the schedule, see this link.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Online Worship:  Besides Facebook Live and YouTube, you can find the pastor's sermons archived on this blog.  You can use the search bar to find a particular date, day of the Church Year, or Scripture reference.
        Pastor Schroeder will be 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.  

PRIVATE COMMUNION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Private Communion is available by appointment at any time.
To limit the risk of contracting COVID-19 as much as possible, please review the protocol we will follow when you come in.  You can see it here.

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.

BIBLE INFORMATION CLASS
If you or anyone you know would like to study the Scriptures and learn the basics of the Bible, please contact Pastor Schroeder for a Bible Information Class.  It will be done over Zoom (or in person if you are willing) at your convenience.

OFFICE HOURS
The office hours at Good Shepherd are going to be fairly fluid throughout the summer months.  If you want to contact Pastor Schroeder for any kind of meeting, call or text (248) 719-5218.

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!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
SUMMER SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sermon -- TEN WORDS: 4th Commandment (July 26, 2020)

EXODUS 20:12

TEN WORDS – THE FIFTH WORD.
DIVINELY ORDAINED AUTHORITY IS WORTHY OF HONOR.

In the name + of Jesus.

      Today our sermon series turns to the second table of the Law which is boiled down to this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)  When God brought you into the world, your closest neighbor was your parents.  They were the authority God established over you, and they had the most influence on you.  God designed it this way for your good; for no one will care for a child more than his own parents.  Therefore, the 4th Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) 
     Martin Luther's explanation of this commandment says: “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority....” (Explanation of the 4th Commandment, Luther's Small Catechism)  While God has established a number of authorities over us, the authority that dealt with you during the crucial and formative years of your life was your father and mother.  They established the rules of the house.  They provided for your welfare.  They protected you from harm and danger.  They disciplined you to know right from wrong and to behave accordingly.  They punished you if you were disobedient or unruly. 
     Your parents also shaped your faith by bringing you to church, teaching you God's word, and showing you how to pray.  Faith does not come naturally.  It is not passed on like curly hair or brown eyes.  It must be taught and modeled so that children will be grounded in the Christian faith.  If this is neglected, parents should not be surprised when their children leave the Church—and, tragically, forfeit eternity.  Since God established parents for the high and holy calling of passing the faith down to their children, this divinely established authority is worthy of honor.
     God has established authorities for your good, and each has its own role.   Government cares for your physical well-being.  They curb wickedness with punishment and maintain order for a peaceful society.  The Church cares for souls.  It preaches God's word to call you to repent and proclaims God's mercy and salvation for your comfort and peace.  Parents cover both realms, so they serve the highest good of their children.  These divinely established authorities are worthy of honor.
     Unfortunately, we have a natural resistance to authority.  The reason is simple—we want to do our own thing and have our own way.  To submit to authority means that we must say “No” to our selfish goals.  If we pursue our selfish goals anyway, we face the wrath and punishment of the authority.  Speeders get tickets.  Felons get prison sentences.  Obstinate sinners are denied holy communion.  In our sinful stubbornness, we conclude that the authority is the one with the problem. 
     If there is one thing we sinners are good at, it is insisting upon getting our way.  We usually package that by saying we want our rights or what is fair.  If a parent starts spooning out the ice cream to two or more children, they won't be thinking that they are getting a special treat.  They will be assessing the scoops to make sure they aren't getting less than their siblings.  If one feels slighted, he will whine at the parent about getting an equal share.  The others will assess if the extra scraping results in more ice cream for the first child who complained.  Then they will demand more to make it all even.  If you are a parent of more than one child, you have endured this fight.  If you had a sibling, you engaged in this fight.  Either way, neither the generosity nor the authority of the parent mattered.  The sinful heart always demands more.  We believe that whatever is to our advantage is our right and is fair.  We never outgrow that.  This is why we always criticize divinely established authorities.  If we face their wrath, it is often because we gave them reason to become angry.
     The 4th Commandment states: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)  It is important to recognize this: The 4th Commandment does not talk about what authorities are obligated to do for you.  It is strictly about the honor and obedience you owe them—even if you think they are incompetent or uncaring or wicked.  (We could talk about what they owe you, but that is a different sermon.)
     Divinely established authority is worthy of honor because of the God who established them.  No authority on earth is perfect; nevertheless, all authority stands in the stead of the God who established them.  This is especially true of fathers and mothers.  Men and women become fathers and mothers by God's design and blessing.  Then they carry out the role that God gives to them to provide for, protect, and discipline their children.  The parents' love and duty is not based on how much the children please them.  That love and duty are to be performed by parents for the good of their children no matter what.
     Parents are but a reflection of God the Father.  God the Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift.  He supplies us with all that we need to live.  He protects us from harm and danger.  If you think of all the ways the devil could afflict us with disease or disaster, God protects us from most of it.  All this he does because he is our good and merciful Father in heaven and not because we have earned or deserved it.  Still, we groan under God's authority because he forbids us from pursuing our selfish aims.  When we see others who are blessed differently, we grumble that God has not given us our fair share.  And yet, God remains good and generous.
     In fact, God is most gracious to us by not giving us what is fair.  For our grumbling against God the Father's blessings, for despising God's established authorities, for insisting upon our own way, God would be just and fair in damning us all.  In fact, sin is the great equalizer; for everyone has earned God's wrath and punishment.  And because of sin, everyone is going to die.
     But our Father has not treated us fairly.  He has been most gracious to us in sending his Son.  Jesus is the only person who was fully obedient to the Father.  He did not grumble about any hardships he had to face.  He did not reject the authority of emperors, kings, governors, or occupying armies.  He did not rebel when he was sent to suffer damnation for sins he did not commit.  Jesus willingly endured all of these things because he loves his Father.  And trusting that his Father is good, gracious, and right,  Jesus went forth to suffer and die for our groaning, grumbling, and rebellion.  Jesus gave up his rights—the honor and glory that are his because he is God—in order to do what was beneficial for us.  He endured shame on the cross to redeem us from the dishonor we have given to divinely established authorities.  You are forgiven of your sins—not because you deserve it, but because God is good and gracious to you. 
     God the Father continues to love us, care for us, and protect us.  He also disciplines us so that we do not return to our sins.  It does not always seem that he is a loving Father when he inflicts upon us what seems painful and for no good purpose.  We only know that we have lost something that we liked.  But he is doing the work of a father—curbing us from loving and trusting in things that cannot save us.  For the moment it is painful.  But God does not cater to what provides a moment's pleasure.  Your friends will encourage you to do or take what makes you happy right now.  Parents look past the present moment.  They are thinking of your next 50 years and advise you accordingly.  Your Father in heaven loves you even more; he is focused on your eternal good.  The Father always disciplines you with that as his goal.
     Divinely established authority is worthy of honor.  That is what the commandment says.  In addition to the command, God has extended a promise  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)  The fact is that obedience to the authorities God has established usually results in a long life.  By obeying the authorities God has established, you avoid wicked behavior, foolish choices, and temporal punishment.  Wicked behavior usually leads to a harder life and an earlier grave.  But the Lord promises grace and every blessing to those who obey his commandments, giving us all the more reason to follow them.
     “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.” (Explanation of the 4th Commandment, Luther's Small Catechism)  To do this is to honor the God who established these authorities for your good.  Parents delight in their children and seek their good.  By honoring, serving, and obeying their parents, children actually benefit themselves.  This is God's design, who does all things for your good—both for the moment, and for eternity.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (July 23, 2020)

Greetings!


WORSHIP DURING COVID-19
        Services will continue to be on Sundays at 10:00 AM.  For information on what you can expect when you come to church and what will be expected of you, see this link.
        Services will still be broadcast on Facebook Live, Sundays at 10:00 AM, and uploaded to YouTube.   Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Services are posted on YouTube, usually in a few hours after the service.  When you go to YouTube, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi" and they should pop up.  (The service from July 19 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWoUn0l7MwE&t=1s   Feel free to share the videos.
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

SUMMER SERMON SERIES -- TEN WORDS
Our sermons throughout the summer will focus on the Ten Commandments.  For the schedule, see this link.

ADULT BIBLE CLASS – JULY 27-29 (7:00 pm)
COVID-19 restrictions is making a regular VBS impractical, if not impossible, this year.  There will, however, be a three-night virtual Bible Class on Zoom.  It will run Monday-Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM, July 27-29.  We will be considering the Missionary Journeys of St. Paul.  You may want to read through the book of Acts leading up to the dates for our Bible Class.  Paul's journeys in particular cover Acts 13-21.  Time will not permit an in depth study of all verses, but we will consider how Paul served as a missionary and how we can adapt Paul's mission work to our own setting.  
All are welcome to join us for this class, but registration will be necessary.  Call or text (248-719-5218) or email (welsnovi@aol.com) to get the information for our Zoom sessions.  If you would choose to join us in person, please let the pastor know that so he may be prepared with class materials for you.

BIBLE INFORMATION CLASS
If you or anyone you know would like to study the Scriptures and learn the basics of the Bible, please contact Pastor Schroeder for a Bible Information Class.  It will be done over Zoom (or in person if you are willing) at your convenience.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Online Worship:  Besides Facebook Live and YouTube, you can find the pastor's sermons archived on this blog.  You can use the search bar to find a particular date, day of the Church Year, or Scripture reference.
        Person-to-person care: As much as possible, Pastor Schroeder will be 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.
        In case you contract COVID-19:  Please contact Pastor Schroeder.  He will alert the congregation so that your fellow members may pray for you, and he will keep everyone informed of your condition.  If possible, Pastor Schroeder will visit you during your quarantine.  At the very least, he will keep in contact with you and provide devotional materials.  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.  

PRIVATE COMMUNION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Private Communion is available by appointment at any time.
To limit the risk of contracting COVID-19 as much as possible, please review the protocol we will follow when you come in.  You can see it here.

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 welsnovi@aol.com .

OFFICE HOURS
The office hours at Good Shepherd are going to be fairly fluid throughout the summer months.  If you want to contact Pastor Schroeder for any kind of meeting, call or text (248) 719-5218.

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!

God bless you.


In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
SUMMER SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sermon -- TEN WORDS: 3rd Commandment (July 19, 2022)

EXODUS 20:8-11

TEN WORDS – THE FOURTH WORD
JESUS CHRIST IS OUR SABBATH REST.

In the name + of Jesus.

      For as much as we enjoy vacation days and dream about retirement, God has given us work as a blessing.  Work might be draining or drudgery, but it is not a curse.  Even before sin entered into the world, “the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)  The work which God gave Adam to do was a blessing, both for himself and for the family whom the Lord would eventually give him.
     Although work in a sinful world has its challenges and frustrations, work itself is a gift of God.  It is one of the most practical ways you carry out God's will to love your neighbor as yourself.  Whether it is a career, tending to household chores, a weekend project, or volunteering, it is through work that you get to serve your neighbor in his need.  If you view work only as a means to your income, your labors will not be fulfilling.  If you recognize work is how you love and serve your neighbor in his need, you will find your work is a noble task even when it is toil and sweat and drudgery.  
     But our Lord did not put us on earth to do nothing but work.  In the 3rd Commandment, the Lord declares a day of rest.  Through Moses, the Lord proclaimed to Israel: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. … For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. ” (Exodus 20:9-11)  This was more than just a divinely ordained weekend or a day off to relax.  While the Israelites certainly benefited from that, this was not the reason for the day of rest.
     The Lord linked the Sabbath day to the week of creation.  For six days, the Lord labored, but on the seventh day he rested from his creating activity.  This was the same pattern God had prescribed for his people.  For six days, they were to labor—providing for their families and serving their neighbor with their various occupations.  But the seventh day was set apart as holy to the Lord.
    The Lord gave particular instructions about what that rest was for.  He said, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23:3)  So, the point was not a day for oneself.  The Sabbath was to be a day set aside to hear God's word and meditate upon it, to pray, praise, and give thanks.  For six days, the Israelites would love their neighbor through their jobs and serve their families in their homes, but on the Sabbath they would rest and the Lord would serve them.  The Lord, through his word, would bestow on them blessing and comfort, consolation and encouragement, forgiveness and peace.  And that is still the point of the 3rd Commandment.  
     Seventh Day Adventists will accuse us of willfully violating this commandment because we do not adhere to a Saturday worship day.  But God's concern is not really about Saturday.  God's concern is about the peace and rest he desires to give us through his word.  Every Sabbath which was set apart as holy to the Lord was to keep Israel focused on the Savior who would come to them and secure rest for their souls.  But now that the Savior has come, we do not need to keep on preparing for him.  So, St. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 3:16-17)  The peace and rest that our Lord gives are not delivered by a day of the week, but by Jesus. 
     Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest.  We heard it in our Gospel lesson where Jesus summons us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mathew 11:28-30)  What is the Sabbath rest that Jesus gives us?  It is that he takes away from you all the demands that need to be met to know that God is pleased with you.
     That does not mean the works don't have to be done.  God's Law is always in force.  His will is eternal, and it is not optional.  No one is ever excused from loving his neighbor.  There is no day off from observing God's word.  If we can't do it, the problem is not with God's Commandments.  The Commandments show the problem lies within us.  No matter how hard we try to follow God's Law—that is, to do good to all people at all times—we can't.  We become weary and worn out from trying to fulfill this never-ending task of honoring God with good and godly lives.  It is a burden that never gets lighter.  We can't shed the burden because we can't shed our sinfulness.
     But Jesus Christ is your Sabbath rest, and that means that Jesus removes from you the burden of sin and the curse of the Law.  Jesus has done this by doing the work for you.  Jesus loved God's word and upheld every passage in it.  He did not make excuses why something in the Scriptures doesn't matter, isn't important, or could be ignored.  He upheld every word in his manners and in his message.  But he did not throw the Commandments in people's faces to watch them cower in fear and guilt.  Jesus loved the people with whom he came into contact, even the unlovable.  While Jesus loved the passages of Scripture above all, he also loved the people to whom they applied.  This is how he could deal compassionately with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other flagrant sinners but still not give approval to their wicked choices.  He did not engage people according to their faults, but according to their needs.  Rather than hold their iniquities against them, he took them away.  He covered their shame with his innocence.  He exchanged his perfect obedience for their sins, and he died in their place so that they could have life.
     He has done this for you, too.  Jesus Christ is your Sabbath rest.  Jesus not only upheld the Law, he fulfilled it.  If Jesus only upholds the Law, he must condemn you for sinning against it.  But by fulfilling the Law, Jesus has done the work and alleviates you of the burden of having to be perfect.  In baptism, Jesus cloaked you with the righteousness God demands of you.  He covers your guilt with his innocence.  Jesus cleanses you of every spot and every blemish by his holy, precious blood.  Jesus has cleansed you through your baptism, and he sustains you by his body and blood in holy communion.  
     Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest.  Therefore, we make it a priority to gather in sacred assembly to hear God's Word and to partake in the heavenly banquet.  All week long, we labor and serve and toil for the benefit of our family, for the good of our neighbor, and for the glory of God.  But here, we get to rest.  Here, God serves us.  Here, the Lord bestows blessing and comfort, consolation and encouragement, forgiveness and peace.  Here, the Lord supplies what we need to live in peace and joy in this life and what we need to enter into glory in the life to come.  Jesus did the work to save us, and here he administers the benefits of it to us.  Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest.
     Once you depart from God's house, Jesus continues to bless who you are and what you do.  As I had mentioned, the Commandments are not optional.  They express God's will for your life, and God's will is eternal.  Since you have been set apart as God's people and for God's glory, you strive to live what God has decreed to be a good and godly life.  Even if you regard this as a burden because you are fighting your sinful nature to do this, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  For Jesus remains your Sabbath rest, which means you get to live in the peace of knowing that God is always pleased with you and your life.  For, that is not based on your life, but Christ's.
     You have been set apart as God's people.  This is not a fickle status.  Since you have been covered by Christ, you remain in God's grace.  If you are grieved because you confess with St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19), then heed Jesus' summons to find rest in his gracious words and to feast at this altar where his body and blood strengthen and keep you in the true faith until life everlasting.  In this way, God's favor remains upon you.  His words of grace continue to sanctify your life, your work, and your eternal destiny.  Apart from that word, nothing is holy.  Therefore, we cling to his word and promises.  We devote ourselves to hearing, learning, studying, and meditating upon his word.  For, Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.  Jesus Christ alone is our Sabbath rest.  Jesus Christ alone will deliver us from our struggles and labors and bring us to a rest that will have no interruption and no end.
     Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Remember Jesus Christ who removes your burdens and covers you with his innocence.  And find your peace in this, that Jesus Christ remembers you and gives you rest for your souls.

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