Friday, September 28, 2012

Parking Lot work

We are getting the parking lot seal-coated today.  Here are some pics.







 

 
The final results will be posted later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prayer of the Day (18th Sunday after Pentecost)

Lord God, you call us to work in your kingdom and leave no one standing idle.  Help us to order our lives by your wisdom and to serve you in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

God leaves no one standing idle.  Faith cannot stand still.  A living faith shows in our life.

That does not mean, however, that your works will grab headlines or that they will have parties to honor you.  Most of your deeds are done quietly and lovingly.  You serve where God puts you at home, on the job, or in the community.  You have mercy on anyone who needs mercy.  You offer comfort, encouragement, and care.  You say your prayers for your family, your friends, and even for strangers. 

Your service in God's kingdom may be humble and quiet.  It may even be done in secret.  And it may often feel thankless.  But it is never worthless.  God's people benefit from your service.  Strangers are aided by your patience.  A wicked world is preserved to some extent by your decency and chastity. 

God calls you to serve in his kingdom.  Your service in God's kingdom may seem insignificant to you.  But your service honors God and benefits others, and that is never insignificant.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sermon -- 17th Sunday after Pentecost (September 23, 2012)

The letters around Jesus are from the Greek.
"o wn" means "He who is."  The name underneath
is Greek for "the Christ," or "the Anointed One."
MARK 8:27-35
JESUS IS THE CHRIST, AND THAT MEANS THE CROSS.

In the name + of Jesus.

     In St. James’ epistle, we are warned not to show favoritism.  It’s not hard to figure out why we do it.  We make judgments about people.  We assess their worth.  If we determine that they are good for society or, more particularly, that they are good for us, we treat them well.  We have little regard for those in whom we see no advantage.  Now, consider what our actions confess.  Our favor declares, “You are worth much to me,” while our disregard confesses, “You have little or no value to me … or at all.” 
     Our Lord has not created people so that we could value them so little.  Not when he values every person – both in creating them and in redeeming them.  Jesus did not come to play favorites.  All have sinned.  All deserve his wrath.  Instead, Jesus came to have mercy upon all.  He has carried the sins of all people to the cross with him.  Therefore, Jesus delivers forgiveness to all.  Now, it could be argued – and rightly so – that some people need much more forgiveness than others.  Perhaps you need more forgiveness than the person sitting next to you or behind you.  Fear not!  Jesus does not play favorites.  If he carried more to the cross for you than for others, he did it gladly.  Sin may abound in you, but grace abounds all the more.  Jesus is most merciful.  He poured out his blood for you.  Your sins are forgiven. 
     Stunningly, people don’t care that much for Jesus to be a merciful Savior.  Many would rather make Jesus be the champion of whatever cause they stand for.  There have always been campaigns of one sort or another.  “What Would Jesus Do?”  “What Would Jesus Drive?”  “What Would Jesus Eat?”  The name of Jesus has been invoked for just about every right, cause, or group that can be imagined.  It is a variation of the question Jesus asked his disciples.  “Who do people say that I am?”  And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:27-28)  Many people are willing to say nice things about Jesus.  But Jesus did not enter this world just to have people like him, say nice things about him, or gather a following around him.  Jesus is no politician.  He is no spokesman, no motivator, no teacher, and no social reformer.  Many think they honor Jesus with such titles.  But such titles are a rejection of Jesus.  You cannot make Jesus who you want him to be.  That would make Jesus an idol and a figment of your imagination.
     No one has the right to make Jesus who they want him to be.  Jesus is who he says he is.  The disciples took Jesus at his word.  Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)  Jesus is God Almighty, the promised Messiah, the appointed sacrifice, and the Savior of mankind.  He is not merely a teacher, or a wise man, or a prophet, or a good guy.  To limit him to these things denies that he is God, and that is blasphemy.
     As soon as Peter had confessed that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus began to teach his disciples what that meant.  And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly.  (Mark 8:31-32)  Jesus is the Christ, and that means the cross.  Jesus came for the purpose of fulfilling all of the Scriptures.  He not only fulfilled the Commandments to earn a place in heaven, but he also fulfilled the words of the Prophets who had foretold that the Lord’s anointed would be hated, be beaten, and be killed.  Therefore, he not only kept the law for us, he also died under the law for us.  Jesus was anointed to be the atoning sacrifice for sinners – all sinners, whether notorious or anonymous.  That was the whole purpose he came.  Jesus is the Christ, and that means the cross.
     Peter rebuked Jesus for this.  Peter did not want a Savior who is weak or is despised or dies.  It is almost embarrassing.  That’s not the glory people seek, so who would want such a Savior?  Peter didn’t.  Peter wanted the Savior who would bring popularity and praise.  He rebuked Jesus for going to the cross.  The cross means pain and death.  Who wants that? 
     But if Jesus is the Christ, that means the cross.  The cross is where sins are paid for, and there is no other payment.  The cross is where God and men are reconciled, and there is no other peace with God.  The cross is where the curse upon sinners is consumed; apart from that, there is no blessing and no hope of heaven.  Nor is there any favoritism at the cross.  At the cross, Jesus dies for every sinner and for every sin.  At the cross, all find full salvation and total forgiveness.  Therefore, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)  You cannot have the Christ without the cross. 
     Jesus assures you that if you bear the name of Christ, that also means the cross.  [Calling] the crowd to him with his disciples, (Jesus) said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)  If you, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, that means the cross.  It means the cross for you.
     The cross is not optional.  It is a reminder that you are a sinner living in a sinful world.  Martin Luther once wrote, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said, (“Repent!”), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” (95 Theses, Thesis 1)  Day after day, you must crucify your sinful flesh or else you will be led into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins.  You must deny your sinful, selfish desires, no matter how pleasurable or beneficial they seem to you.  Your sinful nature will always crave evil.  The sinful nature cannot be taught to behave.  Therefore, if you confess that Jesus is the Christ, that means the cross.
     Now, if the cross seems undesirable to you, it is no surprise.  The sinful nature does not want to die.  It wants to control you and own you.  It cannot be curbed; it must be killed.  That is why the cross is not optional for you.  Repentance is not occasional, for you are not a sinner just occasionally.  If you confess that Jesus is the Christ, that means the cross.
     But the cross is where you will find your life.  When the Lord lays a cross on you, he highlights how you are weak and frail.  He shows you that you are living in a world that has been corrupted and is dying.  In short, he shows you that you have no strength and no hope without him.  You have no answer for death apart from Jesus.  You have no relief from your guilt without Jesus.  You have no comfort and no peace without him.  The cross drives you to Jesus, and that is always good.
     If you confess, “Jesus is the Christ,” that means the cross.  The cross reminds you that, while anything and everything can go wrong in this world, you have a God in heaven who always loves you, is always merciful to you, and will always be with you.  The Lord may even take away every support you have in this world if only to demonstrate to you that the only support that matters is Jesus and his promises.  Your life is with Jesus Christ, and he will never fail you.
     Jesus is the Christ, and that means the cross.  It means the death of sin.  It means reconciliation with God the Father.  It means comfort in your sorrows.  It means relief from all your fears.  It means encouragement to flee sin and to do good.  It means the resurrection to glory.  It means life everlasting.  And it means it for you. 

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

Friday was not a good day to be related to me.

PROOF #1 --  Laura broke her ankle while getting the mail.  (We are still working on a better story than that one.  Any suggestions are welcome.)  Apparently, she found a hole in the front yard, fell, and heard a snap.  Laura knew that the snap meant bad news -- my wife is pretty sharp!  She crawled to the car and phoned me for help.  Peter, meanwhile, enjoyed all of this while strapped into his car seat.

A trip to the ER and a few hours later had Laura coming home in a splint/cast.  Now she rests at home, awaiting further visits to the doctor and learning to live with crutches.

PROOF #2 -- Nathanael was vaulted from back-up quarterback position to starting QB when the starter got hurt the week before.  Apparently, he took quite a beating.  (I couldn't be there.  Cf the paragraphs above for the reason why.)  He toughed it out until halftime and then said he could not go anymore.  Having trouble breathing and talking were two good reasons.  It was thought that he broke a rib, perhaps more. 

A trip to the ER and, thankfully, we learned that it was only contussions.  Yeah, ONLY.  Nathanael doesn't feel the only when he bends or turns.  He was told to rest a lot and take his pain killers.  We heard he is feeling better, but I suspect this will hurt for a few days.  In any case, MLS had to resort to their 3rd string QB.  They lost, 9-7.

Thursday, however was a good day to be Andrew.  MLS JV beat St. Charles, 20-16.  Andrew scored two TD's (his first one is seen below), just missed two interceptions, had a bunch of tackles, and did haul in one interception that was inexplicably overturned by the refs who threw a flag (presumably for pass interference), but waved it off because the pass was intercepted.  Then later, they said there was an inadvertent whistle (which no one heard) and rather than call the play dead after the pick, just called it a do-over.  High marks for creativity on that call.


Big weekend coming up for volleyball with a tournament at HVL this weekend!  For once, our travel costs will be minimal!  That's okay, we will be spending that money on doctors' bills.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

OCTOBERFEST is coming!

Mark your calendars now.

OCTOBERFEST will be on Saturday, October 6.  The schedule is as follows:
                    5:00 PM          Vespers
                    5:30 PM          Bratwurst Dinner
                    6:00 PM          Luther Lecture
          This year’s Luther Lecture will be: “Here I stand.” – Luther at the Diet of Worms, at which Luther confessed his faith and took his stand on the word of God alone even if it meant defying the authority of Popes, Church Councils, and other authorities.  We hope that all guests of our Octoberfest celebration will gain a greater appreciation for the confessors and the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
          There is no cost for Octoberfest, but we will have a free-will offering to offset the cost of the food being served.  In order to be sure that we will have enough food for all who attend, please contact the church (248-349-0565) and let us know how many will be in your party.  We also appreciate any who are willing to provide food for Octoberfest.  Suggested foods are suggested on the sign-up sheet at the church.
          We will also have a Gemutlichkeit (fancy, German word suggesting a time of food and fellowship) at the parsonage after the Luther Lecture.  Snacks will be provided.  Bring your own beverages.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sermon -- 17th Sunday after Pentecost (September 16, 2012)

MARK 7:31–37 / JAMES 1:17-27
JESUS WORKS IN YOU TO WORK THROUGH YOU.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Our Lord does not work in theories.  He did not create the heavens and the earth in theory or metaphorically.  He spoke and the heavens, the earth, and everything in them came into being.  Jesus did not have compassion on the mute and deaf man in theory.  He pulled the man aside.  He put his fingers in his hears.  He touched the man’s tongue and proclaimed, “Ephphatha! Be opened!” (Mark 7:34)  The man was not healed metaphorically.  His ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:35)  Jesus’ compassion and his healing were very real.
     In the same way, sin and all of its consequences are very real. You are not sinners in theory.  You have committed real rebellion against God and his commandments.  Your guilt is not just a feeling you need to get over.  The guilt of sin covers you whether you feel it or not.  It is not just that you feel guilty; it is that you bear real guilt.  And the consequence of all of this – besides enduring real aches, pains, and frustrations in a sinful world – is a real death.  Funerals and cemeteries are not theoretical.  They are the consequences of sin.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.  Sin and death cling to you.  God’s judgment is against you, and rightly so.  You need a Savior.
     God’s love for you has brought forth your salvation.  God’s love is not theory.  God does not love you because you think he should.  God does not withhold his condemnation because you would rather he did not condemn.  God’s judgment is real, but his judgment was really carried out on Jesus Christ.  Jesus is true God who became true man.  Your flesh and blood Savior was nailed to a cross where he shed real blood to pay for real sinners.  He was crucified, died, and was buried.  On the third day, he rose from the dead.  Jesus lives and reigns – not metaphorically or in theory.  Jesus does not live because he lives in your heart or in your memory.  Jesus really rose physically from the grave – seen and heard and touched by his disciples.  So, you have a real Savior from sin and death.  You have a real forgiveness from God and a real pardon for all your guilt.  You have a real victory over the grave.  You have a real eternal life in a real heaven waiting for you.
     If God’s promises were only theory or if your salvation were metaphoric, the world would have reason to mock you or pity you.  You would truly be deceiving yourself just to muddle through life and make things bearable.  But Jesus is not a psychotherapist; he is a Savior.  Your faith does not rest on fantasy.  Your salvation is no charade.  God does not work in theories.  He is a real God who proclaims true forgiveness, a divine love, and a lasting peace.  A crucified and risen Savior has redeemed you.  He has washed you in your baptism to make you his own.  This is how Jesus has worked in you to make you a child of God.
     St. James wrote his epistle to the children of God.  He reminds you that, as God’s children, your life is not to be lived merely as theory either.  Jesus works in you so that he will also work through you.  A true and living faith does not sit idly or use forgiveness as a license to engage in anger, filth, or wickedness.  A true and living faith recognizes that sins are not theoretically bad because it can lead to bad things.  Sure, your anger can get you fired from your job.  A filthy mouth can get your friends to leave you. Your wickedness could land you in court.  You can probably deal with a loss of friends or a job.  Sins, however, cannot be overcome.  They are inherently evil because sins are rebellion against God and his word.
     Therefore, James writes: Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
     Do not forget who you are.  Jesus has worked in you to make you a child of God, and Jesus continues to work through you so that you live a godly life.  You are the first fruits of all that God has created.  You have been set apart to be people who do the works of God – showing mercy, serving in love, demonstrating patience, kindness, and self-control.  Jesus works in you to work through you.  He makes you the salt of the earth to preserve it from plunging into ruin more quickly.  He makes you the light of the world to reflect God’s goodness and mercy to others.  Your works will probably never make headlines.  They may even go unnoticed by many.  But your works are always done to benefit others.  Your works always bring honor to God who is praised through you.  Jesus works in you to bless others through you.
     The Christian life is not lived in theory.  St. James notes that this is impossible.  Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)  He who thinks he can believe like a Christian and be excused from living like one deceives himself.  Faith and life cannot be separated from one another.  Even people who do not care one lick about God expect God’s people to be godly.  The problem is that your life never matches what you should, in theory, be.  The Christian life is not lived in theory, but it is not lived perfectly either.  God’s Law continues to show that your works are imperfect and that you are a sinner.
     Though you want to be doers of the word, you do not do as you want.  That is why St. James wrote: If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:23-24)  Remember that you are still people who need Jesus’ salvation.  The Lord is not pleased with your life because you are doing more or greater things than your neighbor.  It is not a contest anyway.  When people boast of their works, it is probably because they put their faith in how many works they do or in how impressive their works are.  Faith does not produce works so that you can be impressed with yourself.  God’s pleasure for you does not come from how productive you are.  God is pleased with you because Jesus Christ has cleansed you in his blood.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)  Do not forget what you look like before God and why you look that way.  You are baptized and, therefore, clothed in Christ.  Jesus works in you so that he will work through you.
     Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)  It is God’s word which saves your souls.  You are saved not by your works, but by Jesus’ works.  And it is God’s word which has been planted in you which has taken root in your hearts to grow and to bring forth the fruits which God desires.  Jesus has worked in you to save you, and Jesus works through you to bring forth good works.  Therefore, Jesus is the source of your entire life.  He is the one who produces all good from you.  He is the one who bestows all good upon you.  And he is the one who grants you eternal goodness in Paradise.
     This is no mere theory.  It is the very word of God.  It is God’s true love which saves you and works in your life.  It is a real salvation, a real comfort, and a real peace.  You are the true children of God, living in joy now and in peace forever.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sports weekened

It has already been a full weekend.

We missed Andrew's game against Carrollton on Thursday.  MLS pulled out a 6-0 win.  Andrew said that playing in a defensive game like that was a lot of fun.  I'm sure being on the winning end of it helped.

Nathanael and his team could have used more of that defense.  They faced a strong Carrollton varsity who handed them a 49-7 loss.  MLS also lost a few players due to injury.  It sounds like Nathanael may well get vaulted into the starting QB position.  He'd rather keep playing wide receiver.  After his one-handed catch on a long pass, who could blame him?

We stayed at Bay City State Park Friday night.  (According to my calendar, it's still summer, right?)  It was cheaper to do that than to drive home.  Plus, we wanted to see Faith play volleyball (finally!).

There was good and bad in Faith's volleyball tournament.  Their best match was against Carrollton, exacting a little revenge for the football game the night before.

In the end (after 5 two-game matches), MLS took 5th out of 9 teams.

After church today, I think a nap is in order.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Prayer of the Church

The Prayer of the Day for this coming Sunday (17th Sunday after Pentecost) is as follows:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The safety and the very existence of the Church rests on Jesus’ mercy, cleansing, and defense.  Baptism is our rebirth into the kingdom of God.  But we remain sinners; we are in continual need of his mercy and forgiveness.  Therefore, Jesus’ mercy sustains us in the faith. 

Jesus also defends his Church against every foe.  Satan’s attack does not cease – whether he tries to ensnare individuals through false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins or whether he tries to snuff out the Church through schisms, heresies, or bloodshed.  Left to ourselves, we are lost.  Therefore, we pray for Jesus’ defense, protection, and governance over his Church.  It is not merely that he would preseve an insitution, but that he would preserve his word and the he would preserve us in it.

Our prayer is not merely wishful thinking, either.  With our prayer, we hold Jesus to his own promises:

On this rock (i.e., Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)

I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:14,27-28)

Our best prayers are the ones that hold God to his own promises.  Our only hope is Jesus Christ, and our only hope is also sure.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Andrew's first game at Lambeau Field was on Sunday, September 9, 2012.  The Green Bay Packers faced the San Francisco 49er's in what was considered the premier game of the week.

The Packers did not look very sharp.
The replacement referees did not look very sharp.
The 49er's did look very sharp and produced a 30-22 win over Green Bay.

Andrew said that his trip to Lambeau was still memorable and fun despite the outcome.  Thanks to my mom and dad for the use of the tickets.

Now, some pictures from Lambeau Field.




Friday, September 7, 2012

After more than a decade...

...the parents are back in the master bedroom!

For a whole host of reasons, Laura and I had deferred to our kids and taken for ourselves the smallest bedroom (converted, no less!) in the house.  As of this week, we have taken back the master bedroom.  We have gone from this...

...to this.

The old bedroom now has been delegated to Nathanael and Andrew (won't they be surprised!).  Their new room looks like this, with some finishing touches still to be added:

Caleb and Philip moved one bedroom over.  Faith keeps her old room, still the only one in the house with her own room.  A LOT of shifting this week.

God's sense of humor is that we should be moving now.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sermon -- 14th Sunday after Pentecost (September 2, 2012)

JOHN 6:60-69 / EPHESIANS 5:21-33
THANKS TO THE GROOM, THE BRIDE HAS LIFE.

In the name + of Jesus.

     It is not often that, with one sermon, a pastor sees his congregation dwindle from thousands to a dozen.  Yet, Jesus did it.  The problem is not that the people did not understand what Jesus was getting at.  The problem is that Jesus taught it so plainly and clearly that the people understood exactly what Jesus was saying.  “I am the bread of life.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:48,53-54,60)  So, they stopped listening.  And they walked away.
     It is a hard saying, and many refuse to believe it.  Even Christians find it harsh: There is no forgiveness, no mercy, no hope, no comfort, no salvation, and no life outside of Jesus Christ.  Your Muslim friends may be nice.  Your agnostic brother may be fun.  But they remain in their sins.  They are destined for hell.
     That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  You might not like to hear it, either.  That is why Jesus even had to ask the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67)  But understand this: Being nice does not save.  Do not confuse your fondness for your family and friends with God’s judgment.  Heaven is only for that which is holy.  Only he who is without sin shall live.  Jesus said it so plainly that you cannot misunderstand him.  Jesus alone has, and gives, and is life.  Outside of Jesus, there is no life.  Jesus’ disciples recognized it, which is why the said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
     From the very beginning, the Lord has been the source of life.  There is no life apart from God’s say so.  Adam became a living being only because the Father formed him from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  Life comes from the Father.  But man is not to dwell alone, so God made a helper suitable for him.  Not from another clod of dirt, but from the man’s side God formed a woman for the man.  The groom’s side was split open, and from the groom’s side his bride was given life.  St. Paul wrote: This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)  Thanks to the Groom, the Bride as life.
     This intimate union is pictured throughout the Scriptures, beginning with the union of Adam and Eve.  It is fulfilled by Jesus.  He is the Groom whose side was split open at the cross.  From Jesus’ side flowed blood and water by which Jesus Christ gives you life.  Through baptism, Jesus cleanses the Church.  Through the Lord’s Supper, the Groom feeds and cares for his Bride.  Jesus Christ loves his Bride, and he demonstrated it by giving himself up for you so that you could benefit, so that you would be forgiven of every smudge of sin, and so that you would stand before God as holy, blameless, and radiant.  You receive your life from Jesus.  This life is not merely existing because your heart is beating and your brain waves can be detected.  Such life can be found in rabbits and rattlesnakes, too. 
     The life Jesus gives is a life in which the heart has been cleansed of sin and in which a mind is being transformed to the mind of Christ.  This is a life which spills over into deeds of compassion, words of encouragement, and prayers for anyone in need – even your enemies.  This is a life which begins in this world and endures into eternity.  This life is a status before God which is holy, which means that you will rejoice at the heavenly wedding banquet.  This life is all through Jesus.  It is only through Jesus.  Thanks to the Groom, the Bride has life.
     Some may have a hard time finding comfort or joy in seeing Jesus as the Groom and the Church as his Bride.  That is because brides and grooms do not have the kind of married life that they expect.  Brides and grooms quickly discover that they are living with sinners.  Spouses who are supposed to love, honor, and serve one another instead manipulate, dominate, and control each other.  Their words to each other are often bitter, sarcastic, and cruel.  Rather than speak highly of one another, husbands get together with other men and wives get together with other women and try to one-up each other in whose spouse is more stupid or useless.  Marriage becomes a contest in which the husband and wife vie for supremacy.  Wives have no interest in submitting to their husbands.  Husbands fail to selflessly love their wives.  Neither will see their own sins, but both are quick to look at the other and say, “Boy, if that isn’t describing you!”
     Such is the life of sinners.  We are only interested in getting what we want.  We are only interested in making sure that we look good, often at the expense of others.  We have been unfaithful, running after whatever will get us the next thrill.  And this is what we think makes life worth living.  Such selfishness destroys marriages and homes.  Such self-centeredness dissolves friendships.  Such self-importance pits us against Jesus.  But there is no life outside of Jesus.  Our sin is all the reason Jesus needs to hand us over to death and hell.  Why should Jesus find us desirable when we have been so unfaithful? 
     What great love Jesus Christ has for you!  Even though you have not been faithful to him, Jesus remains faithful to you.  Jesus’ love is made known by his selfless life – both lived and died for you.  Thanks to the Groom, the Bride has life.  For Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, having cleansed her by the washing of water through the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor… (Ephesians 5:25-27)  Your beauty comes from Christ who has clothed you in salvation.  Your splendor comes from Jesus’ righteousness.  Your status comes from bearing his name.  Your life comes from Jesus Christ who gave his own life is the dowry for you.
     Thanks to the Groom, the Bride has life.  And this heavenly Bridegroom rose from the dead so that he can continue to serve you.  He never tires of his love for his Church.  He mercy is boundless.  His faithfulness is unfailing.  He grants divine comfort and protection to his Bride.  That is why the Church submits to Christ – because we know that we receive such good things from him.  And we know that only Jesus has these good things.  Though many religions and friends may try to seduce us with promises of more fun and greater thrills, they have no mercy, forgiveness, or salvation to offer.  Where else would we go?  Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.
     This is the life that God also desires husbands and wives to have toward one another.  You are still sinners, but love covers over a multitude of sins.  Love delights in showing mercy.  Love does not keep track of wrongs, but forgives them.  Husband and wife continue to see one another as God’s gifts to each other.  Your delight is not in what you can get out of each other, but in how you live for each other, love each other, and serve one another.  When you do this, you get to enjoy the life God intends through this blessed union.  And you reflect the love of Christ and his Church.
     You are the Church, the Bride of Christ.  Thanks to your heavenly Groom, the Bride has life.  You bear his name and receive good things from him.  His love is greater than your sins.  He is pleased to feed and care for you today, already inviting you to partake in the heavenly banquet.  The blood from his side is given in Holy Communion and continues to be the source of your life.  You are the Church; you are always beautiful to him.  He is your Savior, and he is forever faithful to you.

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My daughter is going to court.

Homecoming court, that is.

After MLS's senoir class made nominations and took the final vote, Faith was one of the two senior girls elected to represent her class on this year's homecoming court.  Homecoming will be Friday, October 5, and we will not know who homecoming queen is until then.

Meanwhile, mom and daughter are on a dress hunt.  Dad waits patiently to see how that goes. 

By the way, the dress above was from prom last spring.  Dad wonders: "Why can't you just wear that again?"  Dad gets vacant stares and eyerolls from the ladies in the house. 

Silly Dad!