Thursday, February 27, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (February 27, 2020)

Greetings!


SCHEDULE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
        Divine Services are Sundays at 10:00 AM.
        Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM. 
        Adult Bible Class meets on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
        Lenten Vespers are Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  A supper is served at 6:00 PM.  The schedule for Lenten Vespers can be seen here.

TEDDY BEAR DRIVE
          During the month of March, we will be collecting teddy bears which will then be donated through Ascension Providence Park to children who are in St. John's Children's Hospital downtown Detroit and who are admitted to the ER at Ascension Providence Park.  Teddy bears are to be new.  Used and even gently used teddy bears are not permitted due to germs or other contaminates that may come from someone's home.  Drop-offs to Good Shepherd can be made on Sundays, during office hours, or by appointment.

OFFICE HOURS
        Regular office hours at Good Shepherd will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM. While there may be some flexibility to this schedule, we will try to keep it as regular as possible.

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.

LENTEN SCHEDULE
Our Lenten schedule for mid-week Vespers is below.  The overriding theme for our Lenten Vespers, a prayer service, is The Crucified King.
           Theme Supper
March 4          The King Betrayed Soup (chicken noodle; black bean)
March 11 The King's Wisdom Chili, with salad and cornbread
March 18 The King on the Cross Pizza and salad
March 25 The Crucified King Sub sandwiches
April 1 The King Mocked TBD
Supper will be served at 6:00 PM; Vespers begins at 7:00 PM.

ADULT BIBLE CLASS – NEW SERIES
Starting on Sunday, March 8 we will begin the series, “Bible Symbols.”   While the Bible is written in clear language, it sometimes uses symbolism to reveal God's word to us.  Such symbolism, while it can be confusing, also serves to illustrate God's mercy and salvation to us.  In order to gain a deeper understanding of God's mercy and salvation, it serves us well to be familiar with the Bible's symbolism and word pictures.  (The class schedule has been posted in the church on several bulletin boards.)
         The book “God's Imagery” has been ordered (cost will be $17) and should be here (hopefully) by Sunday, March 1.  If you need to, you can order it on your own through Northwestern Publishing House (www.nph.net).  

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
==============================
SUNDAY SCHOOL -- Sundays at 8:45 AM.
ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- Sundays at 8:45 AM

DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sermon -- Ash Wednesday (February 26, 2020)

PSALM 130

WITH THE LORD IS
PLENTIFUL REDEMPTION.

In the name + of Jesus.

     A man sits on death row.  The day of his execution has come.  He is moments away from getting the justice he has earned.  Begging and bargaining are useless.  Excuses won't matter; defenses won't be believed.  Whether he acted in the heat of passion or he was cool and calculated is irrelevant.  The evidence against him is undeniable.  They have him dead to rights.  The moment of execution is at hand.  He hears the steps coming to his cell.  The door is opened.  Tears fall.  Hope is gone.  The warden steps into the cell and makes the announcement: “The governor has called.  He has pardoned you of all crimes.  You will not be put to death today.  On the contrary,  you are being released.  You are free to go.”
     Can you imagine the relief?  The sense of amazement?  The joy?  He knew that he deserved his sentence, but he is let go.  The charges are dropped.  Mercy overruled justice.  A man on death row is free.
     Although you and I are not in a literal prison cell, we all ought to make the connection.  The evidence against us is overwhelming and undeniable.  “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)  Our sins stand against us.  Some are public record; others are well guarded secrets.  Either way, the Lord knows, and we are guilty.  Whether our actions came from the heat of passion or we were cool and calculated is irrelevant.  We were convinced we were doing something to benefit ourselves.  But our sins did not satisfy us; all we did was hurt others.  We slandered, betrayed, cheated, and stole—and our lives were none the better for it.
     This is why the Psalmist teaches us to pray, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!  O Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)  We live in the depths of guilt and shame.  We are destined for the depths of death and hell.  Bargaining with God is useless.  Our excuses are insulting.  There is no way to improve our situation.  Justice demands punishment, and God has us dead to rights.
     While we do well to examine ourselves often, the Lenten season offers a particular time to take a look deep into our hearts, minds, and lives and to recognize the evil that is there.  We mark ourselves on Ash Wednesday with dust.  It is a stark reminder that we are going to die, because that is what sinners have earned.  Dust is not only a sign of mortality, it is also a sign of repentance.  We cannot undo our sins.  All we can do is cry out from the depths: “Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” (Psalm 130:2)
       But hope is not gone.  The Psalmist knows it, and you should too.  “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness...” (Psalm 130:3-4)  Whether you chose to be smudged with ashes or not, you have been marked with sin and death.  We cannot fix our condition or rise up to a better place.  So the Lord comes down to us in our depths.  The Lord became a man to make himself dust with us so that we will not be left to inherit death and hell.  With the Lord is plentiful redemption.
     The Psalmist declares to all who are marked with sin and death: “O Israel, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.  And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130:7-8)  The smudge may mark you as dust, but it is also marking you with a cross.  Here is the means by which Jesus delivers you out of sin and death.  With the Lord is plentiful redemption.
     Now, if he acts to redeem you, that means there is a cost.  God does not just dismiss your sins out of thin air.  God is just, and justice has to be done.  Whoever has sinned bears guilt.  Whoever bears guilt is accountable and has earned his punishment.  This is why we cry out from the depths.  But with the Lord is plentiful redemption.  Jesus has come down to the depths to pay the price which is needed to set us free.  Jesus came to the depths for us—not just to our deep, dark places of shame and guilt, but even to the depths of death and hell.
     With the Lord is plentiful redemption.  The Son of God comes to ransom the children of mankind.  The eternal God stands in for all people of all time.  The sinless God bears all of our guilt, and the immortal God submits himself to our death.  Since Jesus bears the guilt of all, all guilt has been punished through him.  God remains just—the guilty one has been slain.  Your sins are not merely dismissed; they have been paid for.  Jesus has given up himself as the price to pay off all of your debt.  The cost of your sin and guilt has been covered.  Everything that death and damnation demand has been satisfied.  Therefore, you are pardoned. 
     “O Israel, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)  It it good, right, and salutary to hope in the Lord.  For we have not stopped being sinners.  We enter another Lenten season to focus on our need for repentance.  None of us has overcome our sins.  All of us are drawn to some temptation or another.  There continue to be people we hurt, even if we did not intend to.  But even in our struggles and battles against sin and temptation, we “hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)  
     Our Lord does not grow tired of us despite our weaknesses.  With the Lord there is steadfast love.  Jesus' payment to redeem you does not lose value.  God's love for you remains constant.  For Jesus' redemption was not made just to even the score.  He does not tell you, “Now we are even.  Your slate is clean.  Try not to mess up again.”  If he did, we would fall right back into the depths.  Rather, our Lord exalts us so that we are continually marked as his redeemed.  Far more important than getting ash smudged upon your head is the baptismal waters which washed over your head.  That is where God washed you clean of all sin, raised you up out of the depths, and called you his own dear child.  You are marked with a cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday alone.  But every morning and every evening, you get to mark yourself with the sign of the holy cross and invoke the Triune name to remember that “with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)  
     We have entered another Lenten season, a season of repentance.  We come again to confess our sins and renew our fight against temptation.  We come, because with the Lord there is plentiful redemption.  He will never tell you that you have worn out his patience or exhausted his mercy.  The blood of Jesus always cleanses you of all sin.  And therefore, we continue to flee to this altar to receive the body and blood which were given into death to pay for our sins.  We consume the ransom price which has redeemed us.  We take into ourselves the Christ who has conquered death and lives forever.  And since we are now Christ's, so shall we live forever with him.
     The Lord comes down to you in the depths of your sin, and it does not matter how low he has to go.  He delivers you out of your sorrow and shame.  He pays your debt.  He exalts you, even to glory.  O Israel, O people of God, O redeemed of Christ, put your hope in the Lord; for with the Lord is plentiful redemption. 

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Lenten Vespers at Good Shepherd -- 2020

Here is the Lenten Schedule for Good Shepherd this year.



Lenten 
Vespers


2020




February 26 ASH WEDNESDAY
Divine Service with the Imposition of Ashes

March 4 The King Betrayed
Matthew 26:47-56

March 11 The King's Wisdom
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

March 18 The King on the Cross
Matthew 27:35-44

March 25 The Crucified King
Matthew 27:11-26

April 1 The King Mocked
Matthew 27:27-31


Supper is served at 6:00 PM.  Vespers is at 7:00 PM.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sermon -- Transfiguration of our Lord (February 23, 2020)


2 PETER 1:16-21

HERE IS GLORY 
YOU CAN BE SURE OF.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Simon Peter was about to die.  He had been arrested for preaching about Jesus.  It was not the first time.  Peter had spent more than three decades boldly proclaiming Jesus who is both God and man, who was both crucified and risen, who ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead.  Soon, the executioner would silence his voice.  But Simon Peter still had time to make sure that they could not silence the Gospel.  He wrote one final epistle which was to be read, copied, and circulated among all the Christian churches.  To this day, God's people read it and are encouraged by it.
     In our epistle reading, Simon Peter wants to remind us about the things he personally saw and heard with Jesus.  He does not want Christians to forget what their faith rests on, and he does not want us to be deceived into thinking that we believe in fantasies or fairy tales.  This was especially true for his original audience since they were also suffering for the faith they held and confessed.  Peter wrote: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18) 
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  In the days of Simon Peter, skeptics were mocking the Christians for their faith.  The Christians believed that Jesus had redeemed them and that he was coming again to bring them into an eternal kingdom of glory.  But Jesus had not returned.  So, skeptics mocked them: “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)  Christians may have had a hard time trying to explain why Jesus was not returning.  They may have even felt duped.  And if you are suffering and dying for your faith, the last thing you need is to wonder if you've been duped all along.
     The challenge today is not much different.  Even so-called Christian scholars are teaching that the Gospel accounts of Jesus are filled with cleverly devised myths.  The largest Lutheran church body in America (ELCA) explicitly teaches that.  So when a visitor tells me “I am Lutheran,” sadly I don't know what that means anymore.  It is also common in Christian circles to dismiss portions of the Bible as instructions for years ago which no longer apply today—as if God has repealed his word because the world has figured out a better truth.  While you may not be persecuted for the faith, you still don't need to have seeds of doubt planted in you.  When you are haunted by sins past, or all the more when you are on your death bed, the last thing you need is to be wondering: “Is all of this true?  Have I been duped my whole life about the Christian faith?  How much of this should I believe?”  If you are being mocked for your faith, you don't need to think, “Am I the only one who believes this?  Am I a fool for standing firm and taking the ridicule?”  Beware!  Satan wants to rob you of your salvation, and he uses the mouths of skeptics and worldly scholars to do it.  Their version of the truth keeps on changing, but the word of the Lord endures forever.
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  When Simon Peter wrote about Jesus, he did not write an editorial or opinion piece.  On the contrary, Peter wrote, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  …We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16,18)  Peter did not tell you what he thinks; Peter reported what he witnessed.  He saw Jesus perform miraculous signs.  He heard Jesus teach about the kingdom of God.  He witnessed Jesus' agony in Gethsemane and his trial before the high priest Caiaphas.  He witnessed Jesus' empty tomb and resurrected body.  And on this day, we take note that Peter, James, and John were also witnesses of Jesus' transfiguration.  They got to see Jesus of Nazareth change in appearance so that he radiated his glory as God the Son.  And if the vision of the glorified Jesus was not enough, they witnessed the conversation with Moses and Elijah, and they heard the voice of God the Father identify and praise Jesus as his beloved Son. 
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  Peter did not concoct these things because doing so would make him rich.  He wasn't.  Peter did not create legends because it would make his life easy.  It wasn't.  Peter did not tell fairy tales to gain power over others; he had none.  Rather, he was subjected to imprisonment, flogging, and finally death.  He preached what he had seen and heard.  They glory of God was revealed in Jesus.  That glory was evident on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, and it was but a glimpse of the glory which would be revealed when Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead.  It is also a glimpse of what awaits us when Jesus brings us into his eternal, heavenly kingdom.  Here is glory you can be sure of, and Peter was willing to be executed for saying so.
     But don't just take Peter's word for it.  He said, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” (2 Peter 1:19)  Peter reminds you that you have the prophets to listen to.  Through the prophets, God foretold well in advance all that was going to happen.  If you think this is all one cleverly devised myth, then stand in awe.  For this was thousands of years of testimony given through a variety of prophets and all fulfilled in one man, Jesus.  No, this is no far-fetched coincidence.  This is all divinely planned, revealed, and fulfilled. 
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  One thousand years before Jesus came, David wrote the word of the Lord: “'I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.'  ...Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:6,12)  And Peter heard the testimony of the Lord: “This is my beloved Son.” (2 Peter 1:17)  Seven hundred years before Jesus came, Isaiah had declared, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)  And Peter heard the Father declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1:17)  This one, this one comes for you.  This one comes to save you.  Here is glory you can be sure of.  We have the words of the prophets, but better than that, we have the words of the prophets fulfilled.  The word of the Lord was certain when he spoke through the prophets, but now those words are all the more certain since Jesus has done all that was promised.  Peter was eyewitness of it, and he declares it to you so that you can be all the more sure of it.
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  Even people who reject the Bible as fantasy know that certain teachings in it are real.  Sin is real.  Even if you deny that you are that bad, you know what it is to be sinned against.  It either stoked up feelings of anger or it inflicted pain.  Being sinned against is no fairy tale; it is quite real.  The shame and guilt that you bear for your sins cannot be dismissed.  They are very real.  Unless your conscience is dead, you have guilt and shame.  All people do.  Death is very real.  All people die.  That is a fact, and it is both sad and terrifying.  And your guilt bears witness that you will be judged when you die.  Sin and death and judgment are very real.  The fantasy that most people have is that they might live forever.
     But here is glory you can be sure of: You don't believe in fantasies.  You believe in a Savior who takes away your guilt and hides your shame in his own innocence and blessedness.  The transfiguration of Jesus may have been fairly private and limited to few witnesses, but Jesus' sufferings and death were in a public setting so that you can know the sacrifice for sinners is no fairy tale.  Disciples and enemies of Jesus both witnessed it.  Peter bears witness to the transfiguration so that you can be sure that it is no mere man who dies for you; it is God the Son who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus showed it in his glorious appearance.  The Father testified to it in his utterance from heaven. 
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  The Savior who died for you rose from the dead for you.  Everlasting life is no fantasy; it is a divine promise.  And “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19)  What God has foretold, Jesus has fulfilled.  Your life will not end in shame or death.  In fact, your life will not end; you have a resurrection to eternal glory and life.  For just as Jesus lives and reigns, so will all who believe in him.
     Here is glory you can be sure of.  Jesus' work as your Savior brings you certainty and confidence that God is pleased with you, that your sins are forgiven, and that heavenly glory awaits.  What Peter witnessed, you believe.  What Jesus has done is no myth.  What you believe, you will see.  What God has promised is no lie.  Everlasting glory awaits.  Jesus gave us a glimpse of it at his transfiguration.  Jesus guaranteed it at his resurrection.  And that is glory you can be sure of.

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (February 20, 2020)

Greetings!


SCHEDULE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
        Divine Services are Sundays at 10:00 AM.
        Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM. 
        Adult Bible Class meets on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
        Lenten Vespers are Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  A supper is served at 6:00 PM.  The schedule for Lenten Vespers can be seen here.

TEDDY BEAR DRIVE
          During the month of March, we will be collecting teddy bears which will then be donated through Ascension Providence Park to children who are in St. John's Children's Hospital downtown Detroit and who are admitted to the ER at Ascension Providence Park.  Teddy bears are to be new.  Used and even gently used teddy bears are not permitted due to germs or other contaminates that may come from someone's home.  Drop-offs to Good Shepherd can be made on Sundays, during office hours, or by appointment.

OFFICE HOURS
        Regular office hours at Good Shepherd will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM. While there may be some flexibility to this schedule, we will try to keep it as regular as possible.

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.


ASH WEDNESDAY is February 26.  Lent is coming!
        We will have a Divine Service with the Imposition of Ashes at 7:00 PM.  A supper will also be served at 6:00 PM.  A free will offering will be taken to help with expenses for the supper.  All are welcome.
        Regarding the practice and rationale for the Imposition of Ashes, see this link.

ADULT BIBLE CLASS – NEW SERIES
While the Bible is written in clear language, it sometimes uses symbolism to reveal God's word to us.  Such symbolism, while it can be confusing, also serves to illustrate God's mercy and salvation to us.  In order to gain a deeper understanding of God's mercy and salvation, it serves us well to be familiar with the Bible's symbolism and word pictures.

Starting on Sunday, March 8 we will begin the series, “Bible Symbols.”  A schedule has been posted in the church on several bulletin boards.  While not necessary for the class, you may find it useful to purchase the book “God's Imagery” by Rev. Joel Seifert through Northwestern Publishing House.  You can order it on your own, or you can order on the sign up sheet at church.  The cost is $17.99 plus shipping and handling.  If more than 6 books are ordered through the church, we will have a discounted cost.

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
==============================
SUNDAY SCHOOL -- Sundays at 8:45 AM.
ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- Sundays at 8:45 AM

DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sermon -- Pastor / Teacher Conference (February 17, 2020)

This sermon was preached at Emanuel-First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan for the WELS Pastor/Teacher Conference of the Southeastern Conference of the Michigan District. 

MARK 7:31-37

THE LORD COMES IN THE FLESH TO TOUCH OUR LIVES.

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus Christ does not seem to have respect for personal space.  “They brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.” (Mark 7:32)  I doubt that he was prepared for Jesus sticking his fingers into his ears.  If you dig into your own ears, some might call it gross.  If you stick your finger in a stranger's ears, you might get smacked.  “And after spitting (Jesus) touched his tongue.” (Mark 7:33)  If having Jesus' fingers poking in his ears were not awkward enough, Jesus then stuck his finger into the man's mouth.  It is an invasion of personal space.  Jesus did not care.  Jesus put his fleshly digit onto the man's tongue.  Jesus knew what the man's problem was, and he vividly showed the deaf mute that he knew.  With Jesus' touch and with his “Ephphatha!” came perfect healing.  “His ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” (Mark 7:35)
     Chances are, this miracle makes you uncomfortable.  Wasn't there a more hygienic way to heal the man than to poke fingers into his ears and mouth?  Why not lay on hands?  Why not wash in a pool?  Jesus didn't ask what you would have preferred.  He chose fleshly contact and invasion of personal space.  We regularly second guess the way God works.  We think God has better options.  If God really wants all people to be saved and none to perish, why doesn't he just give an omnipotent decree that all sins are erased and the gates of heaven can be removed from their hinges?  Why doesn't God simply declare his “Ephphatha!” over the whole world to eradicate every disease, disability, natural disaster, and death?  Why doesn't God work more effectively in the lives of his people so that Christians stop causing problems?  With every “Why?” we challenge God's wisdom, power, or love.  We believe we could do a better job, as if we could out-God God.  Repent.  Neither your love nor your wisdom are greater than his.  And when he acts, he does not concern himself with what you would have preferred or what makes you comfortable.
     When the Lord sticks his fingers into our personal space, he has not overstepped his bounds.  He makes us uncomfortable because we don't want him touching parts of our lives.  We want others to respect our privacy, and we hope that the Lord would also keep his hands out of certain parts of our lives.  But the Lord does not keep a proper distance.  He invades your space, knows your opinions, scans your thoughts, and reads your hearts.  The Lord wants to know you intimately, and he knows everything.
     The Lord does not keep his distance from mankind.  In fact, he loves mankind so much that he came to correct and to restore all that corrupts mankind.  To do so, Jesus became a man and bound himself to mankind.  He did not try to get around the Commandments by making some divine decree that obedience to the Commandments is not necessary or that sins against the Commandments don't matter.  Rather, he submitted to the Commandments in order to obey them.  Heaven is open only to whomever is holy and obedient.  But now a man has lived a life of holy obedience.  He is the only way that man can now dwell in the presence of God. 
     The Lord came in the flesh to touch your life and to take up your cause.  Even though you have opened your mouth to challenge how or why God does things, Jesus has come to pay the price for it.  He did not question how cruel it was that he would silently suffer for your critical and boastful speech.  He did not challenge how fair it was that he in his innocence was damned and that you despite your guilt are set free.  Jesus did what he was given to do—to redeem sinners.  He took into his flesh everything that is corrupt in your flesh.  He bore the curse in his body which was beaten, pierced, and crucified for you.  Jesus personally took your space in hell and death to ransom you from them.  But his flesh was not devoured by death.  Rather than be left to decay, your flesh-and-blood Savior rose from the dead.  A man has conquered death and lives and reigns forever. 
     Just as Jesus united himself to you by becoming man, so now you are united to him through your baptism.  Therefore, you are covered by Jesus' perfect obedience.  Since God judges you to be holy and obedient, you have a space in the heavenly kingdom.  Since a man has conquered death and you are united to him in baptism, the grave does not get to keep you, and hell cannot have you.  It is not just your soul that he saves; he saves you completely.  God has made you flesh and blood, body and soul.  Therefore, the Lord became flesh-and-blood, body-and-soul to save you.  What the Lord created, he became.  And what the Lord became, he redeemed.  The Lord came in the flesh to touch our lives in order to deliver us from corruption to righteousness, from death to life, and from hell to heaven.
     The man from the Decapolis who was brought to Jesus had the same problem you do; he was a sinner.  He had additional problems; he was deaf and mute.  The people brought him to Jesus to correct what sin had wrought in his life.  They were right to do so.  Jesus personally attended to the man's salvation and to his handicaps.  For, when our Lord restores everything sin corrupted, he not only forgives sins, he will eventually restore bodies to their complete perfection.  Bodies in heaven have no need for hearing aids, crutches, medication, or Kleenex.  All will be restored.  All will be made right; for Jesus has come in the flesh to touch our lives.
     When Jesus chooses to deal with us, he still comes to us in fleshy ways.  Our Lord no longer comes to us himself.  Now he sends his ministers into the world to preach the word and to administer the sacraments.  Through his flesh-and-blood ministers, Jesus bestows the forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation to flesh-and-blood sinners.  As the word is preached, ears are opened to hear the word of life.  As the Lord's Supper is administered, the Lord puts his body and blood into unclean lips and mouths so that they are purified of sin.  Through his ministers, Jesus absolves the penitent and comforts the fearful.  He then opens your lips so that you may speak clearly and confess the good news of Jesus.  The Lord comes to you in fleshly ways to touch your life with forgiveness, new life, and salvation.
     And now the Lord Jesus has also chosen you to be the flesh-and-blood people who touch the lives of others.  The Lord was pleased to connect himself with us, and now he has us connect with others.  That doesn't mean that it is easy.  People have messy lives.  They carry burdens that we don't often recognize.  They come with baggage that we can't really ignore.  They are hurting, struggling, and confused.  Their problems are real.  Their pains are real. 
     That is why Jesus does not deal with us in theories, in our own introspection, or in words out of thin air.  There is precious little comfort to be given to a grieving sinner if we simply hand them a Bible and say, “Read this.  I hope it helps.”  Instead, God works through flesh and blood people who touch lives and step into their personal space.  Instead of “Take this pamphlet,” it is “Take my hand.”  No text message will be preferred to sitting with someone and praying with them.  No sad emoji will ever replace hugging a person who is mourning.  God did not save us by an idea; he saved us by a man.  Therefore, God uses people to teach his word, to comfort those who are hurting, to encourage those who are struggling, and to hold the hand of the sick and dying.  We get to invade their space, give of our time, and invest our lives into theirs; for this is what love does.  This is what Jesus did—he came in the flesh to touch our lives.
     God calls us into a family of believers for a reason, and all families have their problems.  Nevertheless, our Lord knows that contact with people is important—important enough that he became a man to unite himself to mankind, and even important enough to stick his fingers in a man's ears and mouth.  The Lord came in the flesh to touch our lives, and he calls us to touch the lives of others with words of mercy, with acts of patience, and with prayer.
     Jesus came in the flesh to touch our lives.  He is a real Savior who touches real sinners and bestows real healing, real hope, and real salvation.  And Jesus continues to come to us through fleshly means.  Flesh and blood ministers proclaim real forgiveness, administer the true body and blood of our Lord, and alleviate real guilt so that you can have true comfort. 

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

Pastors' Conference-- Emanuel First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lansing

On Monday, February 17 the WELS pastors and teachers of the Southeastern Conference of the Michigan District met together for mutual encouragement and consolation.  The focus was on use of social media that both promotes and detracts from the Gospel.  The pastors met Tuesday morning for an additional day of conference.  The meeting was held at Emanuel First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan.  I was privileged to preach the sermon for the opening service.

Here are some photos of Emanuel First.







The Gospel writers are painted on the peak of the ceiling.