Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 13, 2017)

ROMANS 8:28-30


In the name + of Jesus.

     Throughout our life, God extends to us a promise for our on-going consolation and encouragement: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     First of all, it is important to understand what this promise is not.  The promise is not  that everything will always be good in your life.  You live in a sinful world.  You live among sinners.  You yourself are a sinner.  Therefore, bad things will happen to you.  You will suffer pain and loss and heartache.  You will have people sin against you, and sometimes it will be devastating.  The devil will taunt you by afflicting your soul with guilt and by afflicting your body with evil.  You have been taught to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” for a good reason.  Bad things will happen to you.  But in the midst of those evils that you must endure, you have a promise.  You have God's promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     Again, it is important to understand what the promise is not so that you will not be deceived or disappointed when the evils come into your life.  God works all things for our good.  That is the promise.  The promise is not that you will know how it will work for your good.  It may take years for you to know how God worked all things for your good.  You may never know.  But throughout your whole life, God's promise remains true: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
     Consider Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob.  He was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was seventeen.  This teenager was then sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.  In service to him, he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife.  Joseph was then cast into prison, though perhaps dungeon would give us a better image of his quarters.  There is no way Joseph could figure out how God would use this for his good.  Joseph was cut off from his family.  His reputation was that of a rapist.  And he was not expecting parole.  Joseph did not sugar coat his situation.  These were all evils being done to him.
     You probably know how the story turns out.  After Joseph interpreted dreams for some officials, he was summoned to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams.  Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph's wisdom, exalted him to second in command over all Egypt.  Eventually, Joseph was even reunited with his father and brothers.  Later, when his brothers pleaded with Joseph that he not wreak vengeance on them, Joseph commented, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...” (Genesis 50:19-20)  Even though Joseph eventually recognized the good that God worked out, which included the preservation of Israel and, therefore, the promise of a Savior, this took decades to be resolved.  In the meantime, Joseph had to suffer through many evils, and he acknowledged that.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  And still, Joseph believed that the Lord was good and merciful through it all.  God works out all things for our good.
     And so it is with you.  You, too, have to endure your share of evils.  It is honest to say so.  In a perfect world, you do not have to suffer the loss of property, health, reputation, or loved ones.  You do not need to sugar coat this and pretend that these are not evils.  These are the things you pray to be delivered from.  But no matter what your hardships are, the promise stands: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     One of the reasons we call our sufferings and losses evil is because we have put our trust and hopes in these things.  We love our worldly goods, and it grieves us to lose them.  Some of the evils you endure are accidental.  A storm may wipe out your home.  A computer virus may delete baby pictures.  Some evils are intentional.  People may steal your goods, slander your name, or wound your body.  We consider such loses a great evil—not because they are the result of sin, but because we personally have lost something.  We put our faith in medicine, in technology, in the economy, and in relationships.  Repent.  If you love your goods, then you will not believe that God remains good and merciful when your goods are withdrawn from you.  You will think that God is evil because, although he could have stopped it, he did not.  God does not make you bulletproof from evil.  Instead, God makes you a promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) .  
     You have been called according to God's purpose.  That is, you have been united by Jesus Christ.  You are not united to Jesus so that you will have wealth, health, and honor, but so that you will be delivered from the guilt of sin, the sentence of hell, and the taunting of the devil.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)  Before time, the Lord knew you and set you apart.  In our time, the Lord called you by the Gospel and united you to Jesus.  At the end of time, the Lord will deliver you from death and bring you to everlasting glory to dwell with Jesus forever.
     God works all things for our good.  That is God's promise.  And even though we cling to God's promise, our faith is not in an idea.  Our faith is in a man—Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  It is that fleshly God who has come to deliver us from all evils.  He has taken into his flesh all of our sins.  And his flesh was pierced to a cross where he absorbed the curse for our sins.  What was done to Jesus was certainly an evil thing—religious leaders who were jealous of his popularity and who stubbornly refused his grace demanded to have him put to death even though they could find no fault in him.  But what they intended for evil, God intended for your highest good.  Jesus' innocent death is the payment for your sins.  Jesus' precious blood purifies you.  And the fleshly Savior who died for you is now the firstborn from the dead.  He is risen.  And since you have been united with him, your flesh, too, shall rise from the grave to live forever.  That is God's purpose for you.  To this you were called so that you are now justified before God, and shall be glorified with Jesus Christ forever.
     If this is God's plan and purpose for you, then the God who chose you before the creation of the world and then became man to live in this creation will not forget you.  He remains good and merciful to you.  And he works all things for your good, even the evils you face.  If the Lord takes away your blessings through some evil, he does not take away his mercy or promises.  The blessings God gives don't save you; Jesus Christ does.  And if removing your goods from you reminds you of that, it is good.  When you discover to your shock that your friends have not been trustworthy, your Savior still is.  God uses the deception of man to show that he is true and trustworthy.  That is good.  And even if the devil taunts you, God will even use the devil for his own purpose—which is to cause you to flee to Jesus.  Because finally, at the end of life, you will have nothing to your name except Jesus—and that is all you need.  God's whole purpose for your life is to save you, to deliver you at last from all evils, and to bring you to everlasting glory with him.  God works all things for that purpose and for your eternal good.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In concert -- James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt

A big THANK YOU to Nathanael for getting the tickets and taking me to see Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor in concert.  Both were fantastic.  Bonnie Raitt has not changed in 25 years.  She played a few numbers from her Nick of Time album which I had not listened to since the last century.  I have been You-Tubing them quite a bit thi past week.

James Taylor was excellent as always.  And I am sure that I am in the gross minority on this, but I wish he would play fewer of the never-fail-songs from his concerts (e.g., You've God a Friend; Fire and Rain; Steamroller) and more of the lesser-heard songs from his albums.  For example, James Taylor played a fantastic rendition of First Day of May, and also played Never Die Young, both from the Never Die Young album.  Of course, when you have so many songs to choose from over the years, you will never play what everyone wants to hear.

We had great seats for the concern--only about 11 rows from the stage.  No need to watch the video screens; we could see it all.

I took precious few photos of the concert.  I prefer to enjoy where I am live rather than watch it through a cell phone.  But here are a few.  Enjoy!

In case you want to hear Bonnie Raitt, here is Have a Heart from her Nick of Time album.  She sounds just as good now!

Luther Lecture: Session 8


          Our next session will be THIS SUNDAY (August 13) at 6:00 PM. This is intended to be an interactive discussion as well as informational. 

          The topic will focus on the distorted translations of certain Bible passages. These resulted in distorted doctrines which Luther corrected by focusing on the correct translation of Scripture which Luther also put into the hands of the common man for his consolation and salvation. 

          Desserts will be served, and door prizes will be given. All are welcome.

         Join us at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church, 41415 W. Nine Mile Road in Novi, MI.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (August 6, 2017)

ROMANS 8:26-27


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  It seems to be somewhat trendy these days for people to insist, “I don't belong to any church.  I follow the Bible.”  Somehow, this is viewed as enlightened or the sign of spiritual maturity.  However, it is contrary to God's desire and design for his Church.  The Church is the body of Christ.  The body does not have stray parts that go it alone.  Parts of the body that are removed are diseased or dead.  Likewise, Christians are not designed to go it alone.  The Lord joins us to a body of believers for our own good.  We are weak, and we need each other to aid us in our weakness.  God unites us to him through his word and joins us to one another so that we can pray for each other, encourage each other, comfort each other, and if necessary admonish each other so that we do not fall into sin and away from the faith.
     However, the people with whom you are united are all sinners.  We all have our own particular weaknesses and struggles.  We are also absorbed in our own problems.  As a result, we are not considerate of the weakness or struggles of others.  We do not care for each other or pray for each other as we ought.  Some take this personally.  I might get upset that you do not have as much concern about my problems as I do.  My problems matter to me, and they should matter to you just as much.  Then sinful weakness continues to assert itself when I may question your Christian faith with the snide accusation, “I thought Christians are supposed to love each other,” suggesting that if you are not as absorbed in my problems as I am, then your faith is a fraud.  It may even get to the point where I leave the Church thinking that I am better off going it alone.  This is sinful arrogance.  Remember: We are all sinful.  We are all weak.  We do not serve each other as well as we ought.  Repent.  And remember your own weakness.  Then, you will remember to be merciful to others in their weakness.
     The Lord does not have any weaknesses.  He is faithful in his love for us.  That is why the Lord does not cut us off from himself.  We fail the Lord daily, but he continues to love us perfectly.  The Lord does not see our weakness and conclude that we are not worth it.  Rather, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  God gave you his Spirit so that he would help you in your weakness.  St. Peter urged the crowds at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:39)  At your baptism, the Lord united you to Jesus.  In your baptism, your sin became Jesus' sin, and his righteousness became your righteousness.  You were delivered from your sin and covered in Jesus' holiness.  You were adopted into God's family.  And more than that, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Now, the Spirit dwells in you.  The Holy Spirit has given you new life and continues to create in you a right spirit which wants to do all that God wants.  This is why your weakness frustrates you.  You want to do what is right, but you fall short.
     Nevertheless, the Spirit helps you in your weakness.  He continues to work in you so that you continue to fight against sin and temptation.  But he also assures you of your place in God's kingdom.  St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In (Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it....” (Ephesians 1:13-14)  The Holy Spirit, who dwells in your body, will also raise your body at the resurrection to receive eternal life in God's kingdom.  Through word and sacrament, he will preserve you in the Christian faith until life everlasting.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  This is especially true when we are seeking to do God's will in our lives right now.  Therefore the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)  
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He gave the prophets and apostles the words of God to write down so that we can know God's will and pray that it be done among us.  But we do not always know what God's will is.  Do I take a new job or not?  Should I move to a new town or not?  Is this the right person to marry?  Should I have the surgery or can I put it off?  God does not tell us these things in his word.  He leaves the judgment of these things to us.  But then we are left to groan under the uncertainty and stress as we wonder what to do.  Our prayers falter, because we don't know what to pray for.  Dear Christians, you have not failed when you stammer through difficult prayers.  That is when the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He prays for us and carries us with groanings too deep for words.  Though the Spirit's intercession for us may be unspeakable groans, the Father and the Son hear his prayer loud and clear.  The Father and the Son know the mind of the Spirit.  And the Triune God is fully united in doing what is best for you.
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)  You don't know what God's will is for every direction or decision of your life.  But you do know that the God who gave up his only begotten Son to redeem you and you has sent his Spirit to dwell in you will always do what is best for your eternal well-being.  And the Holy Spirit intercedes for you that this will always be done for you.  It does not mean that you will always get what you want.  Children always know what they want, and they are convinced that their ideas are always best.  Parents who are older and wiser recognize that it is not best to give children whatever they ask for.  In some cases, it is destructive.  You can't have ice cream and candy for every meal.  In some cases, it is unrealistic.  You can't go to Disney World every weekend.  And in some cases, parents recognize that denying a child or disciplining a child is what is best for them.  A spanking now purges bad behavior later.  Having your children learn not to gratify every craving now will teach them contentment in the long run.  You may have to hear tantrums now because they want their goodies.  Later, what is perceived as hardship now will prove beneficial.
     So it is with you.  Out of love, God may have you endure problems, struggles, and pain just so that he can highlight your own weaknesses to you.  You will not think so, but this is good.  God even graciously puts up with your tantrums as he lovingly shows you how much you need him.  If you know that you are weak, then you have to rely on God for your strength.  If you suffer, then you will look for comfort.  If you struggle and grow weary, then you will not pretend that you can go it alone and you will seek mercy and aid.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  You can't.  Therefore, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  The Lord is our strength when we are weak.  Throughout a life of uncertainty, God upholds his sure promises.  Through days of sadness and death, the Lord promises us the peace and joy of eternal life.  In our frustration and weakness, when our prayers come down to groans of “Lord, have mercy,” he does.  The Spirit prays for us and helps us in our weakness.  The Spirit, who dwells in us, serves to comfort, to encourage, and to preserve us in God's kingdom for all time.  This is his work, because this is God's will.

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Traveling with the Schroeders -- Summer activities

We haven't gone too far or done too much throughout the summer.  Some trips were short (stayed in Novi), others were a little bit further.  Anyway, here are a smattering of photos to highlight a few of the summer time activities we have done.

Fishing at Island Lake Recrecational Area.  We mainly drown worms.

Peter was a participant in the Novi Youth Baseball League All Star Game.

Nathanael and Peter enjoy a day at Splash Universe in Dundee, Michigan.

Swimming at Brighton Recreational Area.  We did not go on the inflatable rafts, but we did see a water snake swim right by us when we were playing catch with a football.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lutheran Satire -- Knowing what Christians actually believe and teach

Recently, I have seen several attempts at smearing the Christian Church about its beliefs--suggesting that we pick and choose the parts of the Bible we like and that we ignore the parts we don't and dismiss the parts that are inconvenient.

For example, Christians stand on the word of God when we say that marriage is a life-long union of one man and one woman (e.g., Matthew 19:4-6), and that any sex outside of this union is a sin and a perversion of God's gifts of sex and marriage (e.g., Hebrews 13:4).

Critics say that if we cling to God's condemnation of homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18:22 (it's also in Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), then we also are to follow God's condemnations of unclean foods and condemn ourselves when we eat bacon and ham (Leviticus 11:1-7), or that we condemn ourselves when we wear clothing which is made with a poly-cotton blend (Leviticus 19:19), and so on.

While such things can be refuted with several more paragraphs of script from me, I will refer to you Lutheran Satire which makes enough points to do the job.  These 6 or so minutes will also be more entertaining than my typing.  [Spoiler alert: We don't live under the Old Testament covenant anymore.]