Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation Day -- Restoration of the Saving Truth

          Today marks the date when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, questioning that people are forgiven through the sale of indulgences.  He sought to debate whether such sales were based on Scripture.  In truth, the 95 Theses were not terribly Lutheran.  Luther was fairly conservative in his criticism of indulgences.

          But these Theses mark the beginning of the Reformation because Luther was bold enough to raise a question.  While Luther never did get his debate among the leaders of the church, there were many who also began to question where Truth was founded.  Was it founded by a Church Council passing resolutions?  Was it found in the Pope who claimed the sole right to interpret the Scriptures, meaning that the entire world must look to the Pope for truth and salvation?  (Theological faculties of various universities also claimed that right.)  Or was God capable of speaking for himself in Scripture?

          There were a number of sources which claimed to have the right to interpret Scripture, denying that the Bible could speak for itself.  Someone always had to interpret what it "really" means.  Luther found this to be intolerable.  It had led to rites and ceremonies which turned people away from Jesus.  It left man in a perpetual state of doubt, especially since those who claimed to be the interpreters of Scripture often contradicted each other.

          Luther recognized that, if we are to know divine truth, He who is divine must tell us that truth.  And therefore, Luther developed his motto of sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone. 

          The Scriptures can be mishandled, badly quoted, or mangled in the hands of man, but the Scriptures cannot be changed.  God has spoken for himself.  Man can know--with certainty!--exactly what God has to say, what God thinks, what God does, and what God wills.  Granted, there are areas in which God remains silent, choosing not to tell us his will or why he does what he does, but when it comes to right and wrong, forgiveness and cursing, salvation and condemnation, God has not left us in doubt.

          Our forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ who has lived and died and risen for us.  The Law has been kept.  The curse has been lifted.  Death has been overcome and the gates of heaven have been opened.  The gifts Jesus won for us are delivered wherever his word is rightly preached and his sacraments are rightly administered.  There is no other way in which God gives these gifts.  Since God has not directed us to look for any other means of grace or salvation, we don't look for any other.  But we flee to where our Lord reveals and bestows his truth, his mercy, and his salvation.  Nothing is in doubt any longer, nor is it hidden, nor limited to a few, nor sold for cash.  In the Lutheran Reformation, God's truth is renewed.  God's mercy is poured out.  God's love is made evident.  And God's grace is free. 

          Lutherans, rejoice in what God has given you.  The best way to celebrate the Reformation and the best way to celebrate being Lutheran is to come to the font, to the altar, and to the pulpit to partake in God's saving truth.  This honors your Lord, and it saves you.  (And if it matters, Luther would smile, too.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Local Tourist -- Autumn at Maybury State Park

This segment of the Local Tourist takes us to Maybury State Park.  If the leaves survive the rain and winds we are supposed to get in the next few days, the undergrowth and the maple trees should all be a vibrant yellow this weekend.  It will be spectacular if the leaves are still on the trees.

I also got to see two deer, a buck and a doe, run about 30 feet in front of me across the path, but I was not able to take a photo of them in time.  I guess that was just for me.

Here are some photos from Maybury.



 



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sermon -- 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (October 27, 2013)

LUKE 18:18-27
SALVATION IS POSSIBLE ONLY THROUGH JESUS.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Lot was a good business man.  The Lord had blessed both Abraham and his nephew, Lot, with so many flocks and herds that they could not graze the same land together.  So Abraham gave Lot his choice of land, and Lot chose the choicest of the land.  Lot continued to prosper on the outskirts of Sodom.  But soon, Lot moved into town.  By this move, Lot and his family got to enjoy the protection of the city and the perks of commerce in the community.  A bit later, the Lord had decreed that Sodom and several other cities would be destroyed because they were so wicked.  In his mercy, God saw to it that Lot would not be destroyed with the city.  He sent angels to deliver Lot and his family.  The angels found Lot sitting in his place at the city gate, which meant that Lot had become quite influential in his city.  Business had apparently been very good, and Lot had become a rich, young ruler.  
     Rather than flee from Sodom, Lot tried to make deals.  He did not leave as he was told.  When the angels began to drag Lot and his family out of town, he bargained some more.  He asked that God would spare one small town so that he would not have to flee as far as the mountains.  Lot bargained, “Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved.” (Genesis 19:20)  God granted Lot his request.  But Lot’s wife could not part from the city and the life she loved.  She turned and gazed upon the city marked for destruction, and she was destroyed with it.  Lot had been a good business man, but he was not a very devout believer.  And his wife, swept away by the affluence and influence their family enjoyed, was not a believer at all.
     Now, Lot’s business decisions and actions did not guarantee that he would stray from God’s promises.  But they certainly did not help.  Lot’s decisions were based on what was best for his wallet, not for his faith.  Lot was a good business man.  Lot had become a rich, young ruler.  And he proves the point of our Gospel lesson today: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25)
     A rich man came to Jesus to ask what he had to do to gain eternal life.  Don’t presume that he was some slimy, conniving business man.  He claimed that he had kept the Commandments, so he was likely a decent, honorable man.  But even so, something was gnawing at him.  He knew that he lacked what he needed for eternal salvation.  But what could it be?  He was obedient.  He was respectable.  He was helpful.  What else did he have to do to seal the deal and secure his salvation?
     “One thing you still lack,” Jesus answered.  “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:22-23)  Jesus showed this rich, young ruler that he was not as good a judge as he thought; for, he had misjudged himself.  None of us is as good as we judge ourselves to be.  As honorable as this man may have appeared to others, he was an idolater.  He boasted that he had kept the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Commandments, but he had not even kept the 1st! He harbored in his heart a deep love for power and wealth, and he was not willing to part from them.  He had yearned to know what he had to do to enter the kingdom of God.  But he would not enter at that cost.  The rich man would not give up his affluence.  The young ruler would not give up his influence.
     These are hard words—scary words!—for people living in and near the city of Novi.  Whoever has gained wealth and goods is always in danger of being ensnared by them.  You know what purchasing power resides in your wealth.  You know the pleasure of enjoying newer gadgets, bigger toys, and fancier amenities.  They are nice.  And they aren’t inherently evil.  But how easy it is to love and cherish these things!  Do you equate creature comforts with true comfort?  Do you feel secure because of your wealth and goods?  Are you afraid of losing them?  Beware: They can be lost, and quickly.  And they will perish one day.  If your security goes as your wealth goes, you are not secure at all.  And your trust is wholly misplaced.
     The rich, young ruler walked away sad.  The people who remained stood there alarmed; for, they envied the rich, young ruler.  They wanted to be like him.  They hoped their children would grow up to be like him.  Rather than feel smug, the people were scared: “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:26) 
     Understand the lesson: Salvation is possible only through Jesus.  You cannot gain your place in the kingdom of God.  It cannot be attained by accumulating wealth or by sacrificing wealth.  It could be earned by keeping the Commandments, if only you could keep the Commandments.  But just like the rich, young ruler, you are idolaters.  You love and trust earthly wealth and support systems.  You are terrified that your money may fail you.  You do not fear and love and trust in God above all things.  God does not honor idolaters.  Repent!
     The rich, young ruler who came to Jesus recognized that he could not do what it takes to gain the kingdom of God.  You do well to take that lesson to heart too.  But do not walk away sad.  And do not wonder: “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:26)  For, you have a Savior.  Salvation is possible only through Jesus.  And with God it is not only possible, it is certain. 
     Jesus is the rich, young ruler who saves you.  Though he reigns on high, this supreme ruler of the universe gave up all things to deliver you from your sins.  He subjected himself to the same Commandments which you must obey.  He submitted to his Lord and rendered humble and perfect obedience.  Though he is true God, Jesus did not boss his way around.  Though he possesses all power, he lived in weakness.  Though he is the judge of all mankind, he submitted himself to the mockery of liars, schemers, and connivers who made themselves his judge.  They condemned Jesus for saying he is the Son of God, and they crucified the Lord of Glory and the King of the universe. 
     Salvation is possible only through Jesus.  You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)  Jesus possesses all things, yet was born in poverty and died in poverty.  But Jesus’ death means that the riches of salvation and of heaven are yours.  His holy precious blood has paid the price for sins and has purchased your salvation.  In your baptism, Jesus poured upon you the everlasting riches of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion.  He has made you heirs of a kingdom whose glory does not fade, whose benefits cannot be taken away, whose worth is never devalued, and whose riches are beyond measure.
     While God grants you wealth to employ and to enjoy in this world, he urges you not to fear, love, or trust these things.  The one who gives them is far more trustworthy.  Unlike your wealth, the Lord loves you.  Unlike your wealth, Jesus has paid the price to redeem you.  Unlike your wealth, Jesus gives you better gifts with everlasting benefits.  Salvation is possible only through Jesus.  God is your Savior; and therefore, you lack nothing for your salvation.

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

Floor Hockey Tournament

Saturday, November 25 saw the St. Peter's Eagles go to a floor hockey tournament at St. John's Lutheran School in Westland.  St. John's has a neat, home-made floor hockey area.  Three sides uses the gym walls, but they have designed a Plexiglas frame for the remaining side.  This allows the kids to play floor hockey and the people in the stands to see everything that is going on.

It was a lot of fun, and the St. Peter's Eagles had a very successful outing, taking the championship.  Caleb had nine goals on the day, and Philip added one himself.

Here are some picks......





St. Peter's (Plymouth) Eagles -- 2013 Floor Hockey Tournament Champs!

MLS Football vs. Bay City All Saints

The JV travelled to Bay City for their final game of the year against All Saints Catholic High School in Bay City.  The result was very familiar, as the Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV team completed an undefeated season.  The final score of this contest was 47-12.  (All Saints scored the final TD, and a scoreboard glitch had the final score reading 47-72.  But to my knowledge no single play in football is good for 66 points, so I am confident that MLS won.)

Below is a photo of Andrew getting ready to throw a pass.


On Friday night, the MLS Varsity team took the field for what is presumably their last home game of the year.  (Playoff match ups get announced Sunday night.)  MLS poured on their points in the first half, and a continuous clock ran the entire second half to the delight of many parents who found the weather quite cold.  The final score was 42-0.  There are a few extra pictures of Nathanael, as this may have been his (and the seniors') last game at Cardinal Field.  We managed to make every game of his this year, and we had a lot of fun watching.  The Cardinals and Nathanael had a very good year.  Can't wait to see how the playoff run goes!

The first two photos, by the way, are a catch that was marked one yard short of a TD.  The other was a TD.  (Sorry that they are a bit blurry.)




 

Monday, October 21, 2013

A DVD worth looking into

It was a few years ago that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod produced a DVD entitled, Road to Emmaus.  To be honest, I feared that it was going to be pretty cheesy.  It turned out to be a quality work that I was pleased to distribute to all of our prospects, as well as to members.

There was word of a follow up, and now it is ready for release.  This time, my optimism is high that it will be another quality work worthy of wide distribution.  You can check out the trailer here.


If you want to know more about ordering the DVD, you can go here:  http://www.comefollowmemovie.com/

Good Shepherd plans to order 100 copies for distribution to prospects and members.  It would be nice to order more, but that means people from Good Shepherd would have to contribute toward making that happen.  Your generosity would be appreciated, even by prospective members whom we have not even met yet.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

MLS Football vs. Breckenridge

This past week, MLS battled Breckenridge.  MLS' JV team played their final home game of the year and enjoyed a convincing 48-22 win.  

The varsity traveled to Breckenridge and enjoyed a 52-14 win.  Nathanael had a very good game, hauling in three TD passes.  You can read a bit about it here: http://highschoolsports.mlive.com/school/saginaw-saginaw-michigan-lutheran-seminary/football/

I think our camera is just about ready to die.  It was either a faulty camera, a darker football field, or a combination of the two.  In any case, most pictures came out very blurry.  So, here are a few photos that are not really action shots.

Also exciting was Faith's surprise visit from New Ulm, MN.  She had suggested she was going to stay in New Ulm for her October break, but she made the 12-14 hour trip home.  I'm glad that Faith got to see some good wins.  We were able to get a nice photo of Faith with Nathanael after his game.

Here are a few photos.



 
 

Sermon -- 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (October 20, 2013)

LUKE 18:1-8
ALWAYS PRAY, AND SEEK GOD’S JUSTICE.
In the name + of Jesus.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to pray.  He urged his disciples that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  Prayer is not optional for the Christian.  Our Lord speaks to us in his word.  We speak to him in our prayers.  In everything, in joy and in sorrow, with petitions and with thanksgiving, day or night, we are summoned to come to our Father in heaven with our prayers.
     Jesus told a parable about a widow sought justice from a judge in her town.  She had no husband to plead or to fight for her.  She was alone and afraid.  What’s more, she had been wronged.  Some adversary was out to take from her—whether it was money or property or something else.  She had no one to turn to except the only one who was in a position to help.  She went to the judge.  She got ignored.  She went back to the judge with her plea.  She went back daily.  She went back several times a day.  She knew that justice had to be done, and she knew that only this judge could supply it.  So she was relentless with him.
     The judge was not an honorable man.  He did not fear God, so he did not think that he was answerable to anyone.  All of his acts were done boldly, selfishly, and guilt-free.  He did not respect man, either.  In some cases, this is good.  No one is supposed to get a favorable ruling based on his position or his wealth.  But this judge did not care about anyone.  He may not have been swayed by the affluence of the rich, but neither did he have any compassion for the oppressed.  He did not care about the widow who pleaded before him.  He did not care that he was her only hope.  He did not care that she had been wronged.  He cared only for himself.
     And still, the widow was not deterred.  She kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.”  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” (Luke 18:3-5)  The widow sought and received justice from the judge because she persisted in asking for it.  The judge’s motives were not pure.  He was not faithful in his duties, because he had to be pressured and pestered into doing his duty.  But he finally did act.  He finally produced justice.  And the widow did not suffer at the hands of her adversary.
    Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  Jesus encourages you to do the same.  Always pray, and seek God’s justice, because like the widow, you do have an adversary.  He desires to take from you something far more important than your property and far more valuable than your possessions.  Your adversary seeks to get you to forfeit your faith and to abandon God’s promises. 
     Your adversary is Satan.  That is what his name means.  He makes accusations against you.  He even digs up guilt from years and decades ago and afflicts you with that shame all over again.  He wants to drive you into despair like Judas Iscariot.  He wants you to be overwhelmed by your guilt.  He wants you to think that not even God’s mercy can overcome your shame.  You cannot stand against him, because you have no excuse for your sins.  And rationalizing your sins will not take away your shame.  There is nothing left but to cry out and to pray, “Give me justice against my adversary!”
     And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” (Luke 18:6-8)  Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  If an unrighteous judge will grant justice to one who pleads continually for it, won’t your Father in heaven do so all the more and all the quicker? 
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  For, you do not pray to a judge who is unjust or uncaring.  God does not need to be badgered and manipulated until he acts.  He is not so disinterested that he will not hear you.  He is not so stingy with his mercy that he will not answer until you wear him down.  He is not an unjust judge.  He is your Father in heaven.  His motives are always pure.  He is always faithful to his duties.  He is not your last hope; he is your only hope.  And your hope in him is never misplaced.  He has created you.  He cares for you and sustains you.  Above all, he has sent his Son to redeem you so that you are his for eternity.  If he longs to have you dwell with him for all eternity, will he not also care for you now?
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Your Father’s justice and his love are revealed through Jesus Christ.  Jesus has dealt with your adversary for you.  Jesus accepted all of the charges that had been leveled against you.  He did not rationalize them or excuse them.  Instead, he accepted the guilt and took all of the punishment.  Only that which is guilty should be condemned.  In Jesus’ crucifixion, the guilty one was punished—Jesus, on behalf of you.  Jesus, instead of you.  Therefore, God was just. 
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  God has not only been just, he is also merciful.  When you were baptized, you were cloaked in Jesus’ holiness.  Now, God cannot condemn that which is holy.  That would be unjust.  But now, you have been washed and purified in the blood of Christ.  And so, God cannot entertain any charges against you.  No matter how convincing your adversary sounds to you, God does not pay attention.  God has dismissed every charge and accusation.  Sin cannot condemn you.  Death will not harm you.  And Satan cannot oppress you.  Justice has been done.  Your Adversary lies crushed under Jesus’ feet.
     Jesus teaches you that you ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  He knows that his elect…cry to him day and night. (Luke 18:7)  And that is because you are still weak.  That is because your life is not without its problems.  You are still taunted by your Adversary.  You still endure adversities.  And so, you still pray, “Deliver us from evil.”  Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Always pray, and call upon God for his mercy.
     Your Father in heaven hears, and he does not delay in having mercy.  Your Father delights to have you entrust your cares, your requests, and your life to his hands.  Your Father is honored when you call upon him in the day of trouble.  It does not matter whether you feel your troubles are insignificant or life-altering.  If something is important enough to cause you concern, then take your concerns to your Father in heaven.  He who is almighty will act.  He who is all knowing will hear.  And he who loves you dearly will always do what is best and what you need.
     But if you are seeking relief from your foes, then flee to where the Lord delivers his mercy.  Jesus is your refuge.  Jesus is your source of blessing.  While Jesus may not rid your life of every kind of opponent or oppression, he does deliver the only judgment that matters—forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  These are what you need in a world of injustice.  Remember: The world in its present form will perish, but the kingdom of God endures forever.  Jesus has brought you into that kingdom.  Only Jesus can sustain you so that you will enter the blessed joys of heaven.  And Jesus sustains you by his promises and through his feast.  Here is where God applies his justice and judgment upon you.  Here is where you receive mercy and peace.
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Hold your Father in heaven to his promises.  Cast your cares on him.  Your Father in heaven does not delay.  Your justice and your deliverance have come.  They are delivered to you by Jesus, and he already delivers them to you here.
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sermon -- 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 13, 2013)

LUKE 17:11-19
HIS MERCY PURIFIES US FROM EVIL.

In the name + of Jesus.

     People have an intense desire to belong and to be liked.  As much as you may like your alone time, it is much different to be alone because you have been forsaken or forgotten.  That brings on feelings of rejection, bitterness, and sadness.  Some would, sadly, rather kill themselves than continue feeling rejected.  Rejection and despair are some of the worst feelings in the world—whether you are cut from the basketball team, or you are dumped by your girlfriend, or your family forgot your birthday, or your friends turn against you, or you are divorced or fired.  While some types of rejection are more hurtful than others, none of it feels good.  We want to belong, and we want to be liked.
     Now, imagine having a skin disease which makes the world repulsed at you.  That’s the way it was for ten men who met Jesus.  They had some kind of infectious skin disease, whether it was leprosy or not doesn’t matter.  Their disease was evident on their bodies.  Sin and death were manifestly clinging to them.  God’s Law had commanded that such infected people were forbidden from the rest of Israelite society.  That which is sinful cannot dwell with that which is holy.  And because sin visibly clung to these men, they were not allowed to dwell among God’s holy people.  They were to wear veils on their faces and cry out, “Unclean!” when other people approached.  They were banished from their families, from their communities, and from God’s temple.  They were not only diseased, they were forsaken and rejected as well.
     We live in a broken world.  Sometimes that is obvious.  Sins cling to us and they are seen by our scars and scabs and schisms.  Other times, sins are well hidden.  We suffer from our private pains and secret shames.  We put on a brave face in front of others, but our hearts are hurting.  And even in a room full of family or friends, we can feel alone and alienated.  Sin and shame may be hidden from others, but you still feel them fester in your heart.  Guilt eats away.  Despair takes root.  Pasting on a smile and pretending all is well will not take sins away, though.  Repent.  Confess.  Flee to your Savior.  Beg to hear his voice through your pastor.  And you will find that his mercy purifies you from evil.
     As he entered a village, [Jesus] was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:12-13)  They could have said, “Jesus, heal us!”  They could have said, “Jesus, help us.  We want to go home.”  They could have said, “Jesus, deliver us from evil.”  But all of those prayers were summed up by them in their one plea: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:13)  Jesus has mercy upon us in all of our struggles and troubles.  The entire reason Jesus appeared was to have mercy upon us, that is, to take away our sins, to deliver us from evil, and to grant us a place in the kingdom of God where we will always find a loving Father.  He does not merely tolerate us; he loves us.  He tells us that we belong in his kingdom.  His mercy purifies us from evil and makes us holy and pleasing to the Lord.
     When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14)  Jesus had mercy upon the ten lepers.  He granted cleansing to all of them.  This was pure mercy.  They were sinners.  If they believed God’s word at all, they would confess as we do, “I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.”  While the Law compelled them to cry out and confess, “Unclean!” Jesus had compassion on them and cleansed them. Jesus was pleased to have them return to their families, to their communities, and to the temple.  No longer would they be banished or rejected, forsaken or forgotten.  Like a soldier returning home after a long tour of duty, these men were anxious for the joyous reunion when they walked back into their homes.  His mercy purified them from evil.
     But one man would delay his reunion.  One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.  Now he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16)  This Samaritan came and worshiped Jesus.  He fell prostrate before him, honoring him not just as the one who had cleansed him, but as the one who saves him. 
     Jesus had told him, “Go and show (yourself) to the priests.” (Luke 17:14)  He was to present himself at the temple.  The temple was the place where God put his name.  It is where God dwelt with his people.  But instead the Samaritan returned to Jesus.  The Samaritan confessed that Jesus is the true temple.  He is where God has revealed his name.  He is where God dwells with his people.  He is our Immanuel. 
     Jesus had told him, “Go and show (yourself) to the priests.” (Luke 17:14)  The priests were to examine the Samaritan and declare him clean.  Instead, the Samaritan returned to Jesus, confessing that Jesus is the true High Priest.  He is the one who makes atonement for sinners.  But Jesus made atonement for you not by slaughter of lambs or the blood of bulls.  Jesus is not only the High Priest who makes the sacrifice.  He is the Lamb of God who IS the sacrifice.  It is his blood which was shed for you.  And the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7)
     His mercy purifies you from evil.  Jesus removes from you all sin and guilt.  Though the Law compels to you cry out and confess, “Unclean!” Jesus has purified you so that no guilt clings to you.  Your record is clean of every charge and every accusation.  Satan may try to convince you that you are worthless and deserve to be rejected because you are not good enough.  And you may think upon your life and find there is plenty of evidence that this is true.  But Jesus speaks a different word.  He declares you clean.  He washed you and made you pure in your baptism.  And he renews your baptism again and again when you confess your sins and when you are absolved in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
     His mercy purifies you from evil.  He will even deliver you from the consequences of sin which still cling to you.  The world is still broken, and you still have to endure its brokenness.  You still get sick.  You grow old and weak.  You battle persistent temptations.  You suffer the loss of friends through either death or desertion.  You have good reason to cry out daily, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us!”  And he does.  And he will. 
     His mercy which has purified you from evil will also deliver you from evil once and for all.  He will bring you into the gates of heaven where sin is not allowed in the gates.  Therefore, there will no longer be any brokenness.  There will no longer be any leprosy, no leukemia, no lumps, and no loneliness.  In God’s kingdom, no one is forsaken or forgotten.  For, you are his.  The blood of Jesus always purifies you from all unrighteousness.  And if you are pure, then you are pleasing to God.  You are no longer unclean, with your sins clinging to you.  Now you are covered in Jesus’ righteousness.  Now it is God’s promises which cling to you.  These will never fail you.  And God will never forsake you or forget you.  For the Lord is merciful, and he assures you that you are loved and that you belong.

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

MLS Football vs. Ithaca

It was certainly mixed results this past week.

The MLS JV traveled to Ithaca.  MLS put their undefeated season on the line against a regularly tough opponent.  MLS put together a strong game, including some good plays that were called back due to penalties.  The MLS fans were not convinced on all the penalties that were called.  Nonetheless, MLS came away victorious with a 30-0 score.  One picture is below.


Friday night, Ithaca came into MLS putting on the line their 48-game win streak.  A win on Friday would give Ithaca the longest currently win streak in the nation.  MLS would have to play a perfect game to win.  Giving up 5 turnovers did not help.  Ithaca came away with a 42-6 win.  On the last drive of the game in which MLS put up their TD with the clock running out, Nathanael had two beautiful catches on the side line.  Unfortunately for me, I was standing on the sidelines and got to watch the backs of the MLS football players instead of the catches.  So, sadly, no photos of those.  But here is at least one from the game.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall Fun at Island Lake Recreational Area

The kids at St. Peter's Lutheran School had off a few days this week for a teachers' conference.  So, while Laura was sitting in a conference, we went to Island Lake Recreational Area to enjoy the nice, Fall whether.

Caleb had the hot hand at fishing.  While we all caught something, Caleb caught the only four that were larger than goldfish crackers.

Here are some photos.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Octoberfest

This past Sunday, we enjoyed our annual Octoberfest celebration at Good Shepherd again.  This is the seventh one!  Each year, we consider the events of the Lutheran Reformation, taking about a year's worth of events at a time.  This year's Luther Lecture covered April 1521 to March 1522, entitled A Year at the Wartburg Castle, "My Patmos."

The past Octoberfests included these topics for the Luther Lecture.
          2012 -- Here I Stand: The Diet of Worms (1521)
          2011 -- The Word Did the Work: Significant Writings of Luther (1520)
          2010 -- Them's Fightin' Words: The Leipzig Debate (1519)
          2009 -- Luther's New Theology: The Heidelberg Disputation (1518)
          2008 -- The 95 Theses: What are they and do they matter anymore? (1517)
          2007 -- The Places of the Reformation (recruitment for a trip to Germany, taken Sept 2008)

The food was fantastic.  We had bratwurst, Bavarian red cabbage, two kinds of German potato salad, sauerbraten (!!!!), and other sumptuous desserts.  I wish I had four stomachs to enjoy all the food that was there!

We will have another Octoberfest in early October 2014.  Luther Lecture topic to be determined, but we should be covering 1522-1523 of the Lutheran Reformation.

Here are some photos from this year's Octoberfest.



 

Homily -- Octoberfest Vespers (October 6, 2013)

2 TIMOTHY 1:12-14
THE LORD WILL GUARD AND KEEP YOU.
In the name + of Jesus.

            But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.  Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

            He was an outlaw, and he was imprisoned. 
            He would not confess that Caesar is Lord, because it was not true.  The previous Caesar had died.  The current one would too.  They were not Lord.  Jesus had conquered death, and therefore, he was Lord.  He lives and reigns; he IS Lord.
            They hated him, even though he preached God is love.
            They would have no mercy on him, even though he proclaimed forgiveness.
            They wanted him dead, even though he declared eternal life through Jesus Christ.
            St. Paul was despised and reviled and slandered – just like the Savior he proclaimed.  But he would not be put to shame no matter what.  They would try to destroy his reputation, his freedom, and his life.  But they could not change God’s verdict upon him.  He would not be put to shame, and he would not lose what God had given him.
            For the Lord held him in his hand.
            The Lord had deposited his grace and salvation and Holy Spirit in him.
            Though he was in enemy’s hands, even more he was in the Lord’s hands.  So no matter what they would do to him, they could not take away his salvation.  They could not overcome the word of the Lord, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection to eternal life, and the Lord’s own word about St. Paul – that he was a saint.
            And so are you.  Do not be ashamed of the confession you make.  Do not be ashamed of the truth you have been given.  Do not be ashamed of the One who saves you.  Let the world despise you; they cannot overrule your Savior.
            The word of the Lord stands.  You remain in his care.  He has deposited in you his Holy Spirit.  The Lord dwells within you, and they cannot put him to death.  The Lord has marked you as his own, and they cannot erase God’s memory.
           You will not be put to shame.  The Lord will guard and keep you, for you are his.  He is yours.  And the Lord does not forsake or forget those who are his own.  The Lord will guard and keep you.

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

Sermon -- 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 6, 2013)

LUKE 17:1-10
FAITH CLINGS TO THE WORTHY SERVANT.
 In the name + of Jesus.

      Do you consider yourself a good Christian?  It’s hard to think that you are not, isn’t it?  You can cite all kinds of reasons why you should be counted as a good Christian, whether it is duties that you take on in your church, for your family, or at your work.  It is probably unthinkable that you would not count yourself a good Christian.  First of all, you are here.  Secondly, the other option just sounds terrible.
     But if you ask anyone if he is a good Christian, he will think of what it means to be good.  And he will assess himself to find out if he is good, that is, if he does good things, says good works, and has good intentions.  We tend to assume that we are better than most because we are Christians.  We commend ourselves as worthy servants. 
     Jesus pricks a hole in that balloon when he says, So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)  So, yes, you are supposed to do good things, say good words, and have good intentions.  But even with your best day, you do not get to pat yourself on the back and commend yourself for doing God’s will.  Even if you have been holy, which is quite impossible, Jesus tells you when you lie down at night to confess, “I am an unworthy servant; I have only done what I was supposed to do.”
     It is natural that you would trust in your goodness.  Everyone knows that they are supposed to be good people.  Even godless people trust in their goodness.  But your good works can be a greater snare than your sins.  You know that you are wicked when you commit sins.  You know that there is nothing good in them.  You are grieved over them and you repent of them.  On the other hand, you are proud of yourself for the good works that you do, knowing that this is what God wants you to do.  You commend yourself for them, and it does not take long before you trust in them. 
     But if you pay attention to Jesus’ words here, you will soon recognize that even your good works leave you falling far short of what God gives you to do.  Jesus said, If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)  Who is up to this?  How many times would you let your coworker or even your spouse sin against you in a day before you would say, “You aren’t sorry.  You are cruel, and I won’t forgive you anymore.”  Jesus does not say that forgiving would be nice or a good idea; he says that you are to do it.  And yet, we don’t want to.  We would rather rebuke and crush people in their guilt.  Then we know that we have something to hold over them, too.  But, dear Christians, that is unworthy of Christ’s servants.
     Do not trust in your works as though they make you worthy.  You are saved by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.  But if you are still trying to assess if you are a good Christian, instead of assessing your good works you probably start to measure your faith.  But Jesus pricks that balloon, too.  The apostles assessed their faith, and they were forced to plead, “Increase our faith!”  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)  Now, how does your faith measure up?  It is not even the size of a mustard seed or a grain of salt.  So what kind of servant are you in God’s kingdom?  What hope do you have?  With the apostles, we are forced to plead, “Lord, increase our faith!”
     Do not put your hope in your good works.  Do not have faith in how great your faith is.  In all of these things, you are only staring at yourself.  Jesus teaches you to confess that you are to consider yourself an unworthy servant, so you will not find your hope in yourself.  Your hope must come from outside of yourself.  Faith clings to the worthy servant, Jesus Christ.
     That is what the prophet Habakkuk proclaimed.  He declared, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)  He does not say that the righteous shall live by his righteousness.  No matter what kind of role model you are or what examples you set, that does not save you.  It is by faith.  But faith does not rest on itself.  Faith must rest on a foundation if it is going to stand and not be shaken.  And so saving faith must cling to the worthy servant.
     Jesus Christ has done the works of righteousness that you need.  He fulfilled the Commandments and has proven himself worthy of the Father’s approval and affection.  He bore the sins of the world in his death.  He went to the grave with our sins and left them there.  But he rose from the dead, victorious over death and hell.  He ascended to heaven where all the company of heaven declares, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)  He is worthy, because he has overcome every temptation, has conquered every foe, and has defeated death and the grave.  Now Jesus holds the keys to death and the grave.  He has released you from their grip by delivering you from your sins.  He has opened up the kingdom of heaven by supplying you with your righteousness.  He is the worthy servant who has done everything for your salvation.  Faith clings to the worthy servant.
     The righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)  And righteousness comes to you by faith in Jesus.  Jesus has taken the sin into which you were born and has uprooted it from your heart.  Jesus has taken your sins and has drowned them in the sea.  They have been cast away, sunk in the depths like a stone.  And even if you find that you have sinned against your Lord seven times in a day, repent.  Flee to Jesus for forgiveness.  For, he took all of your sins to the cross with him.  Jesus’ sufferings and death atone for everything.  Jesus’ words do not fail.  Jesus’ mercy never runs out.  If you come to him seven times a day and confess, he will forgive.  Jesus is worthy to forgive, for he made the payment for your sins. 
     Faith clings to the worthy servant.  He is worthy to forgive your sins.  They cannot condemn you anymore.  The Lamb was slain, but now the Lamb lives and holds your salvation in his hands.  He is your righteousness.  He is your salvation.  He is your hope. 
     So, whether you think you are a good Christian or not, it does not matter.  Your Jesus is good.  He is worthy to redeem and to save you, and he has deemed you worthy of saving.  And whether you think you are a strong Christian or a weak one, it does not matter.  Your Jesus is your strength.  Jesus is your rock and your salvation.  That is a foundation which remains solid and immovable.  Faith clings to the worthy servant, and such faith is never disappointed.

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

MLS Football vs. Merrill

Michigan Lutheran Seminary continues to have incredible success on both the JV and Varsity levels.  This past week, MLS played Merrill.  The JV hosted Merrill, and the Varsity went to face Merrill for their homecoming.  The game, however, was held at Saginaw Valley State University because Merrill is not able to use its field this season.

The JV was prepared for a nail-biter against a Merrill team which came in undefeated.  The first quarter ended scoreless, but MLS found their offense in the 2nd quarter, going into half time leading 35-0.  The final score was 42-0.

Below is a photo of Andrew throwing a 2 point conversion to classmate Zach Schaff (#18).


For the varsity contest, MLS and Merrill exchanged blows in the first half.  Merrill scored with about a minute left to take a 18-14 lead.  But MLS had a long return on the kickoff, and later put it in the end zone just before halftime giving MLS a 21-18 lead.

Then the skies opened and the rain poured down.  So did MLS and their offense.  The final score was 62-18. (that's not a typo.)

Below is a photo of Nathanael on an interception in the 4th quarter.