Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of End Time—Saints Triumphant (November 19, 2017)

MATTHEW 25:1-13


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus has given a command to his Church to preach the Gospel to all creation because the Lord does not want people to perish in their sins.  Rather, he wants all to repent, believe the good news, and be saved.  The parable today, however, is not a warning to the lost.  It is a warning for the Church. 
     The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)  Since the bridal attendants are virgins, they are pure.  They have all the appearance of being godly people who will receive a place at the wedding feast.  Unfortunately, not all who appear godly will be saved.  Five of the virgins were foolish.  They were invited to the wedding banquet.  They knew that the bridegroom was coming.  With so much planning and so much anticipation, being unprepared was inexcusable.  Wedding feasts back in Jesus' day could last up to a week.  During that week, the bride would wait at her home.  The groom would come to get her, and they would make a procession back to the house of the groom where all the guests would feast and rejoice.  For whatever reason, the bridegroom was delayed.  He came at an inconvenient hour.  So when the cry went out that the bridegroom was coming, all the virgins awoke to tend to their lamps.  Only then did the five foolish virgins realize that they were not prepared.  Only when it was too late did it matter to them.
     This parable is a warning to the Church.  It concludes with Jesus' admonition: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)  More literally, Jesus' command is to keep on keeping watch.  Jesus was speaking to believers.  We know that Jesus is going to return for judgment and to gather his redeemed for the wedding feast of heaven.  We confess regularly that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.  Therefore, for God's people to be caught unprepared is inexcusable.  Jesus warns us so that we do not find ourselves unprepared on that day.  Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.
     The five foolish virgins had forewarning.  They knew the bridegroom was coming.  But when he came, they did not have oil for their lamps to join in the procession.  So the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ (Matthew 25:8-9)  The point is not that the wise were unwilling to share.  The point is that we are all responsible for ourselves.  I cannot believe for you, and you cannot believe for me.  Our love for our children will not save them.  God alone supplies this salvation and the faith to receive it.  So, even though the five virgins had all the appearance of purity when the groom came, they were not prepared.  This is the way it will be for many who call themselves Christians.  There are many who are baptized and confirmed and morally decent who will find to their horror that they are not going to enter the wedding feast of the Lamb.
     It is not that people go off and turn to a life of crime.  Nor do they suddenly get some spiritual amnesia and forget everything about Jesus.  If they were on Jeopardy, they could still ace the Bible category.  Rather, they just stopped going to church, hearing the word of the Lord, confessing their sins, and receiving the Lord's Supper.  They became lazy or distracted or wanted to be amused by other things.  Sundays become a day for family time, sports, sleeping in, brunch, and so on.  These are not wicked things.  We don't call people to repent for sleep, eating, sports, or family time.  And do you know what such people discover?  That their lives don't really change that much.  They are not struck down by lightning.  They don't lose their jobs.  Their friends still like them and support them.  Their marriages do not automatically collapse.  So, they deduce that life without Jesus and his word is no worse than life with it.  In fact, some will argue that life without Jesus is better because they can devote the extra time, money, and energy to make themselves comfortable in this world.  Like the five foolish virgins, many will only consider the word of the Lord important once they are shut out of the kingdom.  Beware; this warning is for the Church so that we will not perish.
     Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  Now, if Jesus is your Savior, that means he saves you from something.  And he does.  The five wise virgins did not do a very good job keeping watch either.  They grew tired, lazy, and weak.  They, too, fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom.  Still, when the bridegroom comes, they do not panic.  They trim their lamps so that they can welcome him with joy.
     Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  You know what it is to grow tired and lazy while waiting for Jesus.  We daily battle temptations and sins, and it gets wearisome.  Our sinful weakness gets the better of us and we return to sins of habit.  We are also encouraged to be lazy in our watchfulness when we see many people who, while still calling themselves Christians, have no real use for the Lord, his word, and his Church.  And they do not seem to suffer for it at all.
     Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  Your Savior has come for you to deliver you from the sins which would condemn you.  He took on himself all of our guilt and submitted himself to all of God's wrath.  If all God's wrath has been poured upon Jesus, there is nothing left for you but blessing and mercy.  That blessing is not given to you just because you think thoughts about Jesus.  God's blessing, mercy, and salvation are to be proclaimed.  And that is why we gather here.  By the proclamation of the word, Jesus saves you.  He reveals and bestows forgiveness through the word which is proclaimed.  He attaches his word to baptism, to holy communion, and to absolution.  By these, he bestows salvation and blessing upon sinners.  This is the reason we gather for chruch each week—to receive God's blessings.  Here, we find comfort and peace as we await Christ's return.  This is how we keep on keeping watch. 
     Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  He who suffered and died to save you from sin and guilt and from any condemnation is risen.  Jesus conquered death to save you from the grave.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, death must answer to him.  Because you are Christ's, you participate in Jesus' victory.  On the Last Day when Jesus returns, the grave will have to give you back and you will live.  Jesus is your Savior from death and the grave. 
     Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  After his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you.  And if he has gone to prepare a place for you, he will come back to take you to be with him where he is.  Keep on keeping watch; for your Savior is coming.  He saves you not only from guilt and shame in this world, he also saves you from the world itself.  When the Groom comes for his Church, Jesus will deliver you out of a world of sorrow, pain, heartache, frustation, and wickedness.  Jesus will set you forever free from all of the griefs you have come to know in this world.  He will bring you to a place in heaven which will be peaceful, perfect, and permanent.  This is the wedding feast of the Lamb in which there will be great joy, great feasting, great company, and endless peace.  Jesus paid a great price to secure his Church for this, and he desires that you remain wise for salvation so that you will be with him forever.  So keep on keeping watch.  Your Savior is coming.  And he comes to bring you everlasting salvation.

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Luther Lecture Series continues

Our next segment of the Luther Lecture series takes place on Sunday, November 19 at 6:00 PM.  

This Sunday's Luther Lecture will focus on the Thirty Years War, battles between Roman Catholic and Lutheran princes and territories.  

These Luther Lectures are intended to be interactive discussions as well as informational.  Desserts will be served, and door prizes will be given.  All are welcome. 

If you are willing to provide a dessert for the evening, it will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Time: Last Judgment (November 12, 2017)

MATTHEW 25:31-46


In the name + of Jesus.

     If you have ever had a conversation with anyone who told you, “My Jesus would never send anyone to hell,” you can tell them that their Jesus is a fraud.  Some try to reduce the Lord to a fuzzy plush toy.  The Bible does not know any god like that, not even the false gods.  The prophet Nahum reminds us that the Lord is not harmless, nor is he one to be toyed with.  Nahum wrote, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.  The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)  This is a God who judges, and he will damn the guilty.  And if Jesus is Lord, this means him.
     The Christian Church confesses week after week that Jesus “will come again to judge the living and the dead.” (Apostles' Creed)  There is a day of Judgment when the Lord will declare to all the world who his redeemed people are.  Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)  Jesus will come to judge all nations—whether living or dead, great or small, famous or anonymous.  At this judgment, the Lord will bring his redeemed to heaven, but all others he will condemn to hell. 
     To the righteous, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  Then he will proceed to speak of the good which is credited to the righteous.  What is remarkable is the response of the righteous.  They will not say, “That sounds about right.”  They will not boast that they were better or accomplished more.  In fact, the righteous are fully aware that we do not deserve praise from God.  We strive for holiness, but we know that we are not holy.  We are aware of the times we turned a blind eye to those in need or showed people scorn rather than mercy.  That is why the righteous respond, “When did we do these things?”  The righteous do not boast about anything in the Lord's presence or asked to be judged based on their own merits.
     The reason we do not take pride in our works is because we know that even the best we do for the Lord is tainted.  We apply to ourselves the words of Isaiah the prophet: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)  Even the best we have to offer has been corrupted by sin; and God cannot be pleased with anything that is sinful.
     Our hope is not in our merits or efforts.  That is why the righteous do not appeal to them.  Rather, our hope is in the name of the Lord.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  Jesus has removed every stain of sin from us.  The blood Jesus shed is what purifies us from every sin.  He not only gave his holy, innocent life as a sin offering for us.  He also clothed us in that holy innocence.  He wrapped us in a garment of salvation and gave us credit for his merits.  That is what saves us.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  That is why we can be confident of God's judgment upon us.  Our righteousness comes from Jesus and not from ourselves.
     By contrast, the wicked demand to know why God would regard them as wicked.  When Jesus condemns them for their lack of good works, the wicked want to know, “When did we not do these things?”  Now to be fair, there are many unbelievers in this world who are nice, generous, and charitable.  They may even be able to boast that they have done more good in this world than you have.  But remember what God says about the righteous acts of sinners: “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)  God cannot be pleased with sin and wickedness.  Outside of Christ there is no righteousness.  Outside of Jesus Christ, there is only sin and wickedness.  Nevertheless, the wicked want credit for what they perceive to be good works.  They want to be rewarded for their merits.  But Jesus does not and will not accept their works.  No man shall boast on Judgment Day he has earned a place in God's glorious kingdom.  It is by grace you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no other way.  The curse remains on all who are outside of Jesus.  Outside of Jesus, there is only death and damnation.
     If people want to insist that God would never send anyone to hell, it is probably because people would rather deny the horrors of hell than flee from them.  Even Christians get uneasy speaking about Judgment Day and the end of the world.  Some of the imagery that our Lord uses is unsettling.  But you, dear Christians, need not fear.  The prophet Nahum warned us, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.  The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)  But the prophet Nahum also declared: “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7)  
     The Lord Jesus Christ is your refuge in the judgment.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  He takes away all sin and guilt from you.  If these are gone, then God's anger is removed from you as well.  Jesus purifies you and clothes you in his own righteousness.  If you are holy and blameless in God's sight, then he must be pleased with you.  And he is.  Judgment Day has no fear for those who already know their verdict; and you do.  You are pardoned of all guilt.  You are Christ's redeemed.  You are marked for eternal life.
     When the Last Day comes, you will be gathered before your Lord and Savior, and you will hear him say: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  You will inherit the kingdom.  Now, you know how an inheritance works.  What do you have to do to inherit something?  Nothing!  Inheritances are not earned; they are given.  Someone who knows you and loves you writes your name into a will.  He bequethes to you something that he owned.  You do nothing to get it; it is simply given.
     Of course, you know how the rest of it works, too.  To get your inheritance, someone has to die.  And someone has.  Jesus suffered and died for you.  His innocent life was given on behalf of sinners.  We don't need to work on resumes, trying to convince God why he has to let us into his heavenly kingdom.  Jesus Christ has won this glorious kingdom for us.  The righteous judge is our righteousness. 
     Jesus Christ has written your name into the Book of Life.  He who suffered and died for you knows you and loves you.  He has recorded your name in his blood to make you a child of God.  And if you are a child of God, you are an heir of his kingdom.  Jesus who suffered and died for you is risen.  He lives and ascended to heaven to prepare a place for you in God's heavenly kingdom.  And since he has gone to prepare a place for you, he will come back to bring you to be with him.  That day is Judgment Day.  If you still fear that day, then flee to Jesus. He is your refuge from God's wrath.  He is your righteousness in God's presence.  He is your Advocate, your Defense, and your Savior.  He comes to you now to bring you forgiveness and blessing.  And he will come again to bring you to the kingdom which God has prepared for you since the foundation of the world.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Something from ... Augustine on faith and good works

Martin Luther found much in St. Augustine's writings that he liked, especially since Augustine confirmed for Luther what he himself was finding as he read the Bible.  Luther was never interested in starting a new church or even a sect within the church.  Lutherans have always insisted that we are the church catholic.  We have not invented anything.  We believe, teach, and confess what the Church has always believed, taught, and confessed.  The Augsburg Confession takes great pains to say as much.

Here is a comment from Augustine regarding the relationship between faith and works.  While Lutherans confess that we are saved by faith alone apart from works (Romans 3:28), we also insist that faith is never alone (James 2:14-17).  Faith produces good works.  It is not our works that save, however.  It is faith in Jesus Christ who has done all the works for us that saves.  Whatever works we do are purified in Christ.  All our righteousness--our status and the works that the Holy Spirit works in us--comes through Jesus.

So, Augustine was a Lutheran.  Or, Lutherans are Augustinian in this regard.  Or both are Christian, holding to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Or both are catholic, standing with the Church in its faithful teaching of Scripture.  

“Not that he denied good works, or emptied them of their value, when he says that God renders to every man according to his works; Romans 2:6 but because works proceed from faith, and not faith from works.  Therefore it is from Him that we have works of righteousness, from whom comes also faith itself, concerning which it is written, The just shall live by faith. Habakkuk 2:4” (Augustine, Selections from “On Grace and Free Will,” chapter 17)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sermon -- 1st Sunday of End Time—Reformation (November 5, 2017)

JOHN 8:31-36


In the name + of Jesus.

     How do you know you are saved?  Chances are, even if you have been raised in the Christian church, this question has haunted you at some point.  If you know that you are saved, you have all comfort, joy, peace, and encouragement.  If you have ever had doubts, there is no greater fear.
     So, how do you know you are saved?  This is the very question which plagued Martin Luther.  He was raised in the Church and was a good catholic boy.  He took God's word seriously.  He tried to order his life according to God's Commandments.  But he knew that he had not achieved the obedience God demands of all people.  He tried, but he knew God's judgment stood against him.  He had done what is evil, and he had failed to do what is good.  For this, he knew he had earned God's punishment both now and in eternity.  He felt acutely the words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)  Luther was chained to his sin, and he could not escape it.
     So, Luther decided to enter a monastery.  Becoming a monk certainly seemed like a pious, holy thing to do.  The monks spent all day praying and worshiping.  They had to be closer to God than others.  But Luther did not find any peace there.  For all of his devotion, Martin Luther still could not be sure he was saved.  He was still a sinner.  Not even becoming a monk could change that.  So, Luther tried to demonstrate his sorrow for his sins.  He whipped himself until he bled.  He slept outside in the cold.  He fasted until he fainted from hunger.  He put dried peas in his shoes.  He tortured himself to try to earn God's mercy.  But there was still no comfort, no assurance, and no salvation.
     Eventually, Luther's teachers decided he should lecture on books of the Bible at the new university in Wittenberg.  Despite Luther's protests, he went.  He read the Bible and prepared for his lectures.  In his reading, Luther discovered something.  Yes, God is righteous and demand that we be righteous, holy, and obedient.  And God does condemn all who fail to do this.  But God also reveals a righteousness which does not come from our efforts.  This righteousness comes from Jesus Christ to all who believe in him.  The Scriptures proclaim that Jesus Christ came to save sinners from guilt, from death, from hell, and from the devil's torment.
     Jesus had declared, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)  The truth of God's love and mercy is revealed in Scripture alone.  The Scriptures are where God promised a Savior to sinners as soon as sin entered into the world.  The Scriptures are where God promised that he would send a perfect sacrifice which would be our substitute under God's judgment.  God had promised through the prophets, “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)  Salvation is assured by Scripture alone.  For in the Scriptures, we have God's promise that he will save sinners.
     God was faithful to his promise.  God came in the flesh to be the Savior of the world.  That is why Jesus claims, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)  Jesus is true God, and he points us to his own words and promises.  Salvation is assured through Scripture alone.  St. John the Baptist declared the truth about Jesus.  He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Jesus is the propitiation (or, atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)  By taking your sins from you, Jesus has set you free.  You are free from God's wrath.  You are free from any damning judgment.  You are free from hell.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, you will be set free from the grave.  You will rise from the dead to live forever.  These are God's promises to you, all fulfilled by Jesus.  Jesus lived in perfect obedience for you to supply the righteousness you need.  Jesus suffered and died under God's judgment for your unrighteousness so that it is taken away from you.  Then Jesus rose from the dead to show that his payment for your sins is certain.  The Son of God, indeed, sets you free from sin, death, and the devil.  These are not just ideas about God's love for you.  These are God's works for you and God's promises to you.  “God so loved the world,” which means that God loved the world in this way: “He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Salvation is assured through Scripture alone.
     In the days of Martin Luther, not many people knew the Scriptures.  The Bible was not written for the common man to read.  It was written in Latin, and so only the learned could read it.  The common people were at the mercy of the Church or their local priest to proclaim what the Lord says.  No doubt, people wondered: “How do I know that this is what God says?  How do I know the priest is right?  How do I know the Church is right?”  Unfortunately, the priest and the Church were not always right.  People were taught that forgiveness and salvation were only delivered through the workings of the priest who ultimately got his authority from the Pope.  One of the ways people were told they could find freedom from their sins was through the purchase of a papal indulgence.  For a fee—“a contribution to Christ's Church” sounds better—a Christian could be granted a papal indulgence which told the Christian that he would be free from the punishment of sins in purgatory.  He had the Pope's word on it.  In fact, these indulgences could even set relatives free from punishment.  What heartless soul would let his parents and grandparents languish in puragory if he could gain their freedom?
     It was this practice in particular that prompted Martin Luther to draft his 95 Theses which sparked the entire Lutheran Reformation.  Luther came up with 95 statements to challenge what the Church was doing.  Rather than to through 95 ways to be sure of salvation, let's limit ourselves to one.  Consider the Gospel again today.  This is what the Lord says in the Scriptures: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)  Jesus does not refer you to indulgences.  Jesus does not suggest that the Church will invent new and exciting ways to impart salvation.  Jesus points you to himself and his words.  Jesus is your Savior; for he has done all the work to save you.  And Jesus promises to those who abide in his word: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)  It is faith in Jesus' words and promises which set you free from sin, death, and the devil.  Salvation is assured through Scripture alone. 
     While you can still get indulgences from the Roman Catholic Church today, they don't seem to get much attention in America.  That does not mean American Christians are immune to seeking assurance in the wrong places.  Ask someone, “How do you know you are saved?” and some will answer, “I know it because I feel it in my heart.”  So, what happens if you don't feel saved anymore?  If you are ever in a hospital bed and have quiet hours to think, the devil will be there to remind you of your sins.  It will be the one time the devil will not lie to you.  He will simply remind you of what you have thought, said, and done.  You will know he is right.  And you will not feel saved.  You will feel the sting of Jesus' words: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever. “ (John 8:34-35)  So, now what?  Are you saved?  If you are counting on your own feelings to find assurance, you will be crippled by fear.
     Still others will claim, “The Lord speaks to me.  That is how I know I am saved.”  That sounds especially pious and holy.  But here is an important question: How do you know it is God who speaks to you?  Is it because you like it?  Because it flatters you?  Because it agrees with what you already think?  Understand this and mark it well: There is no way you can know God speaks to you unless it comes from the Scriptures.  Martin Luther thought it was pious and holy to become a monk.  He found no assurance of salvation there.  So also with you, if you are turning to your feelings, your sincerity, your actions, or anywhere else other than the Scriptures, you have no assurance of salvation.  In fact, if you do these things, you are turning away from the only place where God says anything to you.
     Salvation is assured through Scripture alone.  That is where God delivers his promises, bestows his mercy, grants forgiveness, and saves sinners.  Our Lord has also been pleased to attach that word to water and makes this promise: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16)  He attaches his word to bread and wine and declares, “This is my body, which is given for you.” (Luke 22:19)  “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood...which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)  He even attaches his promise to men who speak in his name: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” (John 20:22-23)  This is where Lord forgives sins and saves sinners.  Jesus does not refer you to any other place.  It is not so because I say so, because some Church Council said so, or because the Pope said so.  It is so because God has said so, and he recorded it in the Scriptures so that you can know it is so.
     Therefore, salvation is assured in Scripture alone.  This is where God has given his word so that you can know what God has done, what God has promised, and what God gives you.  If you know this, you have all comfort, joy, peace, and encouragement. God has revealed and recorded all of these things so that you can have all comfort, joy, peace, and encouragement.  Jesus wants you to know and abide in his word.  If you do, you will be forever free from sin, death, and the devil.  His word is the only way you know you are saved.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lutherfest 500 -- What a day it was!

Lutherfest 500 was almost a week ago--Saturday, October 28.  It was a great day.  So, first, some acknowledgements.  Then, at the bottom, some photos.

First of all, a big THANK YOU to all who gave of their time, efforts, and resources to plan, prepare, and perform at our Lutherfest 500 celebration.  There were practically no glitches to speak of, and there were LOTS of compliments about the event.  

Thank you to all who had made phone calls and obtained information for us, particularly in the early months of planning.  Even though some of the planning ideas had to be scrapped, it was essential for us to know what we could or could not do.  We do not consider the phone calls for pricing a waste of time even though some of our plans did not work out (the tent, for example).  Thank you to all who helped in this process.

Thank you to Kari for being our web-mistress and continuing in her service even after their family moved to Georgia.  We wish you could have been here for the event.

Thank you to all who contributed to the decorations around the school.  People enjoyed the festive atmosphere.  Thank you to Gary's Catering of Wixom for their great food.  Thank you to Die Dorfmusikanten for providing the music.  I wish I could have spent more time in the gym enjoying it.

Thank you to the characters and tour guides on the Reformation Walk.  This was vastly more popular than we ever thought it would be.  Even though we had scheduled only four times for the tour, the characters did their presentations about TEN times total.  Thank you for your extra efforts.

Thanks also to Becky and her team of seamstresses for making the characters much more authentic.

Thanks to Carol and her team of artists for the murals.  They were eye-popping and added a great deal to the decorations.

Thank you to Huron Valley Lutheran High School for agreeing to host this event and for giving us pretty much unlimited access to the building, amenities, and supplies.

Thank you to all who helped to promote this event.  We are estimating about 400 people made their way through HVL at some point throughout the day.

Thank you to all people who offered their time to work on the set-up, the Table of Duties for the various stations throughout the school on the festival day, and for helping convert the gymnasium from a festival ground to a worship place.

There are almost certainly some people we have overlooked or failed to mention by name who are also worthy of thanks.  Please forgive us if we have failed to mention you.  Your efforts are certainly appreciated.

Once again, there were LOTS of compliments about our Lutherfest 500 celebration.  This event could not have happened without all of the people who contributed, so those compliments are ultimately yours.

Finally, I hope that this event encouraged people to appreciate the Lutheran heritage that we have received and that people might be eager to learn more, to grow in their faith and understanding, and to be eager to evangelize with the Gospel we cherish.

Here are some photos from Lutherfest 500.

From the Kinder Platz.  We had anticipated a castle bouncy house to match the Reformation theme.
Once we found out that this is what we got, we quickly dubbed it the "Hello, Kitty my Rib" bouncy house.
("Kitty, my Rib" was a nickname Martin Luther had for his wife, Katie.)

Great food.  Great band.

Reformation Walk tour guides.

Reformation Walk stop #1 -- Hans & Margaretha Luther, parents of Martin Luther.

Reformation Walk stop #2 -- John Tetzel, seller of indulgences.

Reformation Walk stop #3 -- Martin Luther.

Reformation Walk stop #4 -- Elector Frederick the Wise, prince of Saxony.

Reformation Walk stop #5 -- Leonard Kopp, fish merchant who smuggled
Katharina von Bora and other nuns out of their abbey and delivered them to Luther.

Reformation Walk stop #6 -- Martin & Katie Luther in the Luther home in Wittenberg.

Reformation Walk stop #7 -- Frau Ursula Cotta, who took Martin Luther
into her home in Eisenach and encouraged his interest in music.

Reformation Walk stop #8 -- (Hans Lufft), printer, who also explained the significance of the Luther Rose.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Pastoral Concern regarding the Reformation

Guess what!  Lutherans are still heretics!

So says a group of priests who have issued a Fraternal Correction to Pope Francis who is rebuking him for his apparent sympathies for Martin Luther.  In fact, these priests are emphatic that the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church remain just as divided as ever.

Consider this description regarding how one is justified before God: 

The gospel does not teach that all sins will in fact be forgiven, nor that Christ alone experienced the ‘judgment’ or justice of God, leaving only mercy for the rest of mankind. While there is a ‘vicarious suffering’ of our Lord in order to expiate our sins, there is not a ‘vicarious punishment’, for Christ was made “sin for us” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) and not a sinner. Out of divine love, and not as the object of God’s wrath, Christ offered the supreme sacrifice of salvation to reconcile us with God, taking upon himself only the consequences of our sins (cf. Gal. 3:13). Hence, so that we may be justified and saved, it is not sufficient to have faith that our sins have been removed by a supposed vicarious punishment; our justification lies in a conformity to our Saviour achieved by that faith which works through charity (cf. Gal. 5:6).

So, there you have it.  Justification in Roman theology is not by faith alone (for an opposing view, read Romans 3:28), but rather by our deeds of love which spring out of faith.

While the Lutheran Church has never denied that deeds of love will spring out of faith (we agree with Titus 2:14 among others), we also state that such deeds do not save us (we agree with Ephesians 2:8-9).  If justification comes by "a conformity to our Saviour achieved by that faith which works through charity," how is that working out for you?  How well have you conformed to Jesus?  How do you know the number of your deeds are enough?  Or that they are good enough?  Or that your works are done with a pure enough motive?  Or that God is sufficiently pleased with them?

We do not take any joy that the western Church, after 500 years of schism (to be fair, a better date for official schism would be 1530 when the Lutherans officially presented the Augsburg Confession), remains divided.  But the division is at the very heart of the Gospel--how a man is saved.  Though we do not take joy over the schism, we recognize that the Reformation was necessary, we still take our stand on the Gospel teaching as discovered and proclaimed by Martin Luther, we still insist that we are the church catholic which teaches and confesses the apostolic word, and we pray that the Lord of the Church will continue to send faithful Gospel preachers into the world so that people can be confident and comforted by salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone, and in Jesus Christ alone.

A Prayer for All Saints' Day

A Prayer for All Saints' Day

          In our liturgical tradition, we offer up a prayer of remembrance for those who have died in the Christian faith in the past year.  Traditionally, this is done on All Saints' Day, November 1.  However, Good Shepherd does not hold a service on All Saints' Day.  We transfer this prayer to the 3rd Sunday of End Time which will be on November 19 this year.  The 3rd Sunday of End Time is also known in our congregation as "Saints Triumphant." 
          Below is the prayer that we will use.  We will add the names of members, members' family, and members' friends once they have been submitted.  

          "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)


Almighty God, today we recall with thanksgiving those saints who were taken from us in the Church Militant and carried by the angels to you and the Church Triumphant.  Especially, we give you praise for our departed family and friends who have gone before us in faith and all those who are in our hearts and minds this day:

(The names of those who are to be remembered are read.)

To these, you have granted eternal rest this past year.  We thank you for giving them new life in Christ while on this earth and for sustaining them in true and saving faith throughout their life.  We praise you for finally giving them the fulfillment of your promises of salvation and eternal life.  Strengthen and sustain us in this saving faith so that we may also join with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven in joyful praise, peace, and rest forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Cong: Amen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Something from ... Luther on this 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation

This day marks the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.  This is usually considered the event that kindled the Lutheran Reformation.  This momentary event was years in the making, and years of study, struggle, prayer, preaching, debating, writing, etc. continued well after October 31, 1517.

It is fitting to consider a comment from Martin Luther on this date.  And while there are so many valuable quotations to choose from, I submit this one to you for your consideration on this Reformation Day--500 years to the day when Martin Luther dared to question the practices which had invaded Christ's Church and directed people away from Christ. 

Luther's only goal was direct people to Jesus Christ whose life, sufferings, death, and resurrection had given him such solid assurance and enduring comfort for his own salvation.  It was an assurance and comfort he yearned for others to know as well.  With that in mind, I offer this from Martin Luther.

“Therefore, my dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified.  Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin.  You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.'”
Martin Luther, Luther's Works: American Edition, Volume 48, p 12

This is the door frame of the Castle Church where Luther posted his 95 Theses.
The current doors are brass with the 95 Theses embossed on them.  The original wooden doors burned years ago.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sermon -- 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 29, 2017)

MATTHEW 22:1-14


In the name + of Jesus.

     “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son...” (Matthew 22:2)  This very first sentence tells us a great deal about the kingdom of heaven.  It is ruled by a gracious King.  He invited many to the wedding feast for his Son.  He did not sell tickets or talk about a fee.  He supplied all things for his guests.  He prepared choice food for them at his own expense.  He had taken pains to let his subjects know that the feast was coming and that they would be the King's honored guests at his banquet.  When all things were ready, he invested the time and energy to gather those who had already been invited.  Finally, this was all done to honor the King's son to celebrate the union of him with his bride.  The King wanted to share his joy by graciously bringing many guests into his feast.
     So, the cry went out.  The King has prepared a feast.  But when these subjects were told that all things were now ready, they despised the King's feast and rejected the King's grace.  At first, they simply ignored the King's summons.  The King, ever gracious, sent out more servants to repeat the summons.  “The King has prepared a feast.  Come and rejoice!  Come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. (Matthew 22:4-6)  
     While some of the king's subjects violently rejected the king's grace, others just shrugged it off.  One went to his farm, another to his business.  They did not go out to do anything wicked.  One could even argue that their pursuits were noble.  But no matter how noble their activities were, the fact is that they rejected the king's grace.  The king did not refuse them grace; they rejected it. 
     The King had prepared a feast, and it was despised and rejected.  Therefore, the king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matthew 22:7)  It was not only the murderers who fell under the King's wrath and judgment; it was also the subjects who found other things to do than to go to the wedding feast.  Polite rejection is still rejection.  This, too, earns the King's wrath. 
     Jesus' parable was fulfilled shortly after his ascension.  The Jewish people who had rejected Jesus as their Messiah fell under God's judgment.  The Lord sent the Roman armies into Jerusalem who then destroyed the city and burned it to the ground.  Whether politely ignoring God's promises or plotted the death of God's Son, they had rejected God's grace.  They paid the price for it in 70 AD and even worse, eternally.
     Even though many fell under the King's judgment, the King was still determined to be gracious.  He said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’” (Matthew 22:8-9)  The servants went out and found whoever they could.  They did not run background checks to see who was good or bad.  They gathered whomever they could, whether good or bad, so that the wedding banquet would be full.  For the King had prepared a feast, and the King was determined to have grace upon people.
     Now, the heavenly King has been most gracious to you.  He had no reason to choose you to be a part of his kingdom, but he did.  He has spared no expense to bring you into his kingdom.  The King sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to labor throughout his life, to resist all temptations, and to provide perfect obedience to all of God's Commandments.  Jesus did the work that we have not done so that God's Law would be fulfilled in perfect, willing obedience.  This work had to be done; and now we have one who has done the work.  More than that, Jesus did the work for us.  The holiness you need to have to dwell in God's kingdom Jesus supplies.
     And again, when it comes to taking away all that brings the King's wrath against you for resisting his word, failing to do what he commands, or even refusing to do what he commands, Jesus has done the work for you.  Jesus has suffered the curse for your sins.  Jesus has taken the wrath of God from you and was put to death in your place.  You, on the other hand, have been set free from guilt, from punishment, from wrath, from hell, and from a cursed death.  You have been brought into God's kingdom.  Jesus has secured your place at the heavenly feast. 
     The King desires to be gracious.  The King has prepared a feast for you.  St. John wrote, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)  This is eternal life in the heavenly kingdom where you will be forever free from problems, stress, temptations, and evil.  There, you will know only joy, celebration, happiness, and blessing.  The Lord Jesus has secured your place at this heavenly feast.  There is no greater blessing for you.
     But you do not need to wait until you die to partake in this feast.  The King has prepared a feast, and the fact is that he invites you to it Sunday after Sunday.  Look at this altar.  The feast is here.  It is not reserved for some special day when you have departed from this world.  It comes to you now.  And you need it now.  What is this feast?  Jesus himself tell you: It is the body and blood which Jesus gave into death to gain for you the forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  This is the heavenly banquet which is delivered on earth.  Here, the King feeds you to forgive your sins, to deliver you from death and the devil, and to strengthen and sustain your faith against all the threats in the world which try to deceive you and rob you of your salvation. The King summons you to this feast not for his benefit, but for yours.  He desires to be gracious.  He desires to bring his salvation to you.
     But what does it mean when we politely reject the King's summons?  It was not just the murderers whom the King slaughtered in the parable; it was also the ones who politely declined coming to the King's feast because they had better things to do.  Polite rejection is still rejection.  It is telling the King, “I don't need your blessings; I have all I need.  Now excuse me, I have to get back to what matters to me.”  It is despising the King's grace for worldly goods, and it forfeits the good the King desires to give.
     The King has prepared a feast.  And the King desires to be gracious.  If we refuse his grace, he will find others to whom he will be gracious.  For the King desires to have his wedding hall filled with guests to whom he will be gracious.  What's more, the King even supplies the wedding garments for us so that we will not be like the guest who was cast out of the feast.  Naturally, the guest who had been pulled off the street would not have been wearing the right garment when he was brougth to the King's feast.  But the King is gracious.  He not only provides food for his guests, he would have even provided the garments.  But this guest, too, had rejected the King's grace.  He did not put on the garment the King had given him.
     The garment the King gives you is your baptism.  St. Paul wrote, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)  We cannot stand before our Lord in our sinful garments.  Even our best works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Therefore, the Lord covers us in the righteousness of Christ.  Your baptism supplies the very holiness God demands of you.  The King sees you now as holy and blameless and, therefore, worthy to have a place at the feast.  And it is through the feast that the King keeps you in his favor here until he finally delivers you to your place at the wedding feast of the Lamb forevermore.  The King has prepared a feast.  The King is eager to be gracious to you.  He rejoices that you are here, because he delights in being gracious to you and saving you.  And he will be eternally pleased that you will rejoice in his grace here and hereafter.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017



Tomorrow, Lutherfest 500 is finally here! 

The festival will be Saturday, October 28 from Noon - 5:00 PM at Huron Valley Lutheran High School.

Here is a schedule of events.

Here is our menu.

You can preview our polka band, Die Dorfmusikanten hereIf you don't know how to polka (horrors!), you can get a quick lesson hereThe video will start automatically.  (Scroll down just a little bit; look on the right side of the screen.)

You can get a sampling of our Luther Markt here.

You can get an idea what you might see at our Reformation Walk here.

If you want to sit down and watch a movie, you can see the movie Return to Grace Luther which was released just this year.  You can view the trailer here:

We will also have bouncy houses, games, and prizes for kids.  A $3 hand stamp allows for unlimited play.

You can test your knowledge of the Lutheran Reformation at our Trivia Station.

If you want some quiet time to consider the events of the Lutheran Reformation and, in particular, to read some of the writings of Martin Luther to see why we would dare call ourselves Lutheran, you can stop in the Quiet Room.

Please note that, while admission to the event itself is FREE, tickets for food, beverages, and games must be in cash only.  The Luther Markt is able to accept credit cards for any purchases you choose to make there.  Thank you for your consideration.

Join us!  For more details, check out the website: www.Lutherfest500.orgLink it to your Facebook page.  Invite your friends.  Spread the word, and join us!  

Oh, and remember: It comes TOMORROW!

On Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 PM, we will have our festival worship service at HVL as well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MLS Football vs. New Lothrop

This past weekend wrapped up a number of lasts for the Schroeder family.  It was the last games of the season for both JV and varsity.  It was Philip's last football game on the JV level.  It was Caleb's last home game, and it was his last game of high school football ever.  In the photos below, you will see his last catch which ended up completing a 2-point conversion.

Unfortunately, both games were heart-breakers.  On Thursday, October 19, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV Cardinals traveled to New Lothrop.  Laura and I could not make this last game because we were sitting in the Secretary of State for three hours.  Grandpa Schmidt got to represent the family.  His updates let us know that MLS was down 14-0, then came back to grab a 21-14 lead, only to lose in the final seconds 26-21.

The MLS Cardinals welcomed the Hornets of New Lothrop for the varsity contest on Friday, October 20.  It was Parents' Night, but Laura could not make this one either.  Peter had a living history presentation he had to make for St. Paul's. 

New Lothrop was a big team who ran their offense well.  MLS went into the locker room at halftime down, 14-7, but grabbed a lead in the 3rd quarter, 16-14.  Unfortunately, MLS could not put together any long drives, and New Lothrop continued to make theirs.  The final score was 35-24.

There are no photos from the JV game since I wasn't there, but here are some from the varsity game.

The last pre-game speech, delivered by Coach Karl Schmugge.

The last run under the banner.

Caleb on punt coverage.  If memory serves, he ended up making the tackle.
Halftime. One last chance to make adjustments.

The last catch, for a 2 point conversion.

Caleb walks off the field for the last time.

The last team huddle.

It has become a tradition for the seniors to walk the field after their final home game.  It is one of the most bitter-sweet moments of high school football.  So much work, so much dedication, so much camaraderie, so much sweat, and finally so many tears.  And now, it is delegated to memories.  It was so much fun to watch, and I will miss it as much as Caleb.

Teammates.  Seniors.

Grandpa Schmidt with Philip and Caleb