Thursday, December 5, 2019

Update from Good Shepherd (December 5, 2019)

Greetings!


REGULAR SCHEDULE
        Divine Services are Sundays at 10:00 AM.
        Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
        Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM
        Adult Bible Class will be working our way through the books of 1 & 2 Samuel.  We will consider how God worked in the life of David who foreshadows the Son of David.  NOTE: Wednesday classes are suspended until January 8.

CHRISTMAS FOR KIDS -- SATURDAY
       This Saturday, December 7 from 9:00-11:00 AM, all children from ages 3 through 6th grade are invited to our Christmas for Kids celebration.  For more details and for registration, see this link: http://goodshepherdnovi.org/christmas_for_kids_registration

CHRISTMAS DECORATION
        While Christmas for Kids is going on, adults will be decorating the church for Christmas, Saturday, December 7 from 9:00-11:00 AM.  We will have snacks available and enjoy fellowship with each other.

CHRISTMAS OUTREACH
Postcards are available for you to give or to mail to people to invite them to our Christmas services.  You are also encouraged to share Facebook posts or send people to Good Shepherd's web page for information about our Christmas schedule.  Outreach is the job of all of us, and this good news of great joy which is meant for all people should be made known to all people.

Christmas cookie exchange 
On Sunday, December 15, members who are interested should bring 2 - 4 dozen Christmas cookies or baked goods. We will have plates available to choose a few dozen cookies so That you have a nice cookie assortment to take home and enjoy.

CHRISTMAS POINSETTIAS
Christmas poinsettias will be available to purchase and take home after the children’s Christmas service 12/22. Cost will be $10.  Donations can be given to Susan Shipe, Cathy Mowers, or place the money in an envelope in the offering plate marked “Poinsettia.”  There is a sign-up sheet in the Fellowship Room.

ADVENT VESPERS
We prepare for the coming of the Savior with repentance as we prayerfully, quietly, and eagerly await our Savior.  Our Advent Vespers services focus on the promises made by God which have been fulfilled in the coming of our Savior.  This year's Advent theme is: Advent Messages from Isaiah.
     December 11 – Advent brings a call to repentance.  (Isaiah 40:3-8)
     December 18 – Advent points to a person.  (Isaiah 40:9-11)
A supper will be served at 6:00 PM (free will offering).  Vespers begins at 7:00 PM.


DECEMBER SCHEDULE
        There will be a lot going on in December, so here is a glance at what the schedule is.  If any times or dates should change, you will be notified.  If you have any questions, call the church office.
December 7         Church Decoration for Christmas – 9:00 AM
December 7         Christmas for Kids – 9:00-11:00 AM
December 7         Sunday School Christmas rehearsal  (11:30 AM – 1:00 PM; lunch provided)
December 11         Mid-Week Advent (Supper – 6:00 PM; Vespers – 7:00 PM)
December 15 Sunday School Christmas rehearsal  (11:30 AM – 1:00 PM; lunch provided)
December 18 Mid-Week Advent (Supper – 6:00 PM; Vespers – 7:00 PM)
December 21 Sunday School Christmas dress rehearsal  (9:00 - 10:30  AM)
December 22 Children's Christmas pageant – 10:00 AM
December 24 Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – 7:00 PM
December 25 Christmas Day Festival Service – 10:00 AM



NOTES from Huron Valley Lutheran High School (HVL)

Join HVL’s Mailing List - Go to www.HVLHS.org and click on “Sign up for Newsletter” or call or email the school office at mail@hvlhs.org to be added.

Christmas Concert - Dec 15 

You are invited to join us for our annual Christmas concert on Sunday, December 15, at 3:00 PM in the HVL gymnasium.

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

BAD WEATHER POLICY FOR SERVICES AT GOOD SHEPHERD
We will always have services as scheduled at Good Shepherd.  Since I live across the parking lot, I can get to the church no matter how bad the weather gets.  Even if the service is just me and my family, we will be here.  For everyone else, please use your God-given common sense to determine whether or not you will get on the road to attend any service when the weather is bad.  We don't want anyone to risk his or her life to be here.  But if you do venture out, the scheduled service will take place.  It may be only a handful with a cappella singing and/or spoken liturgy, but we will be here.

Bible Classes and meetings may be canceled due to weather.  Check your email regarding announcements to see if any of those scheduled events is canceled.  If there is no email about it, it is not canceled.  But again, use common sense to determine if you can make it, and call the pastor to let him know if you will not be coming.

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.

God bless you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
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SUNDAY SCHOOL -- Sundays at 8:45 AM.
ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- Sundays at 8:45 AM

DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Sermon -- Advent Vespers; Week 1 (December 4, 2019)

ISAIAH 40:1-2

ADVENT REMINDS US OF A PROMISED BLESSING.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Isaiah began his message with a double imperative: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:2)  The double imperative highlights that the message is urgent and important.  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are an impassioned call for repentance, and also a stern warning of judgment.  The Lord has never desired the death of anyone.  When he issues a stern warning, he wants people to take note and take his word seriously.  He does not want anyone to perish in their sin.  He makes us acutely aware of our sinful condition so that we will be driven to the Lord in fear, seeking his mercy.  Those who are comfortable in their sins never will neither seek mercy nor want a Savior.
     In chapter 40, there is a noticeable shift in the message.  Again, it begins with a double imperative: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1)  The message is urgent and important.  The Lord does not bring guilt and fear just to watch us squirm.  The goal of God's word is always to bring comfort, to proclaim salvation, to declare pardon for sinners.  Isaiah's message rings out again this Advent season in order to remind us of a promised blessing.
     Part of the comfort Isaiah brings is expressed in these words: “Cry to (Jerusalem) that her warfare is ended.” (Isaiah 40:2)  They would know peace at the end of their captivity in Babylon.  God would restore his covenant.  The people would return and rebuild the city.  But later Greek forces and Roman forces, would traipse through their land and devastate it.  So, while immediate relief from captivity would come, tragedy would find them again.
     The war that goes on for all mankind, regardless of era or area, is the war against God.  Adam and Eve fired the first shot in that war, and it continues with all people to this very day.  Yes, there is evidence of it in crimes, violence, and perversion which brazenly defies God's commandments and harm other people.  But it is also deep seated in the hearts of people who are upright and polite and decent.
     Adam and Eve demonstrated it first.  When God confronted them about their sin, they found others to blame.  They had reasons that their sin should not be counted against them.  And it still goes on.  We war against God when he exposes our sin and we do all we can to cover it up.  We insist that our sins are not that bad.  We tell God to compare us to others who are worse.  We claim that times have changed and, therefore, God's commands need to be adjusted.  We believe that people will love God more if he expects less of them.  We downplay our sins so that we don't have to feel that bad about them.  In doing so, we reject mercy.  For, God does not forgive those who insist they don't need it.
     The war takes place on another front, too.  We fight against God when we present ourselves to him as better than we are.  We all inflate how much good we do.  Just ask any husband and wife about who does most of the work for their house, and they will both raise their hands.  Ask your co-workers, “Who do you think is the hardest worker here?”  Then watch all the heads snap around when one dares to answer, “Well, I am!”  That's because all the others think that they are.  Even if we don't say it out loud, we certainly believe it.  We do the same before God.  We truly believe that our lives are praiseworthy and that heaven should be our just reward.  This wars against God because it declares, “I really don't need your grace.  I've scored enough points, thank you!”  Once again, God does not have grace for those who believe they are good enough.
     So, you see, the war against God is not only by thugs, thieves, and cheats.  All war against God, for we all have wicked hearts.  “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:2)  The message is urgent and important.  The Lord exposes your sin, and he inflicts you with guilt.  He does this so that you will see your need for his comfort.  It's like a soldier who finds blood soaking his uniform.  His bleeding alerts him to the fact that he is wounded and in danger of dying.  If his wound is severe, his only concern is to find a medic so that he will not die.  The Lord afflicts us with guilt so that we will feel the terror of our sin and death.  Since we cannot fix our condition, we long for one who will.  We will yearn deeply for relief until we find it.  This relief, this comfort, only our Lord can supply; and he does.  Isaiah declares that Advent promise.  Advent reminds us a promised blessing.
     Isaiah declares: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended.” (Isaiah 40:1,2)  The message is urgent and important: The war is over.  You don't need to find ways to ignore your sins, to downplay them, or to excuse them.  God gives us the freedom to admit them.  So let us come before God with a true heart and acknowledge our guilt.  We don't need to invent virtues we don't have or claim credit for works that never moved past our intentions.  God says, “Enough of that.  If I have given you over to death and despair, it is so that you will stop fighting the truth.  The war is over.  I declare to you comfort, comfort.  Hear my prophet.  For I have told him: Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2)   
     Advent reminds us of a promised blessing.  In fact, it is a double blessing.  First, it is mercy.  Mercy is that God does not give you what you deserve.  Think of a spy who has been captured.  He deserves to be executed by the people whose trust he betrayed.  He knows that he is owed nothing.  He doesn't deserve a favor.  His only recourse is to beg for mercy.  And so it is with us.  God does not owe us anything.  We've earned his punishment.  But God is merciful.  He does not pretend that we are not sinners.  But neither does he treat us as our sins deserve.
     Advent reminds us of a promised blessing.  That blessing is the mercy we have received in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was treated for us as our sins deserve.  Jesus suffered damnation under the wrath of his Father.  Jesus has received our blame; you and I are pardoned of all iniquity.
     But it is more than that; for we receive from the Lord's hand double for all our sins.  We not only receive mercy—that God does not give us what we deserve; we also receive grace—that God gives us what we do not deserve.  We do not deserve credit for holy obedience, but Jesus gives it to us through Holy Baptism.  We do not deserve divine compassion, but Jesus supplies it to us.  We do not deserve a judgment of innocence, but Jesus has rendered this judgment to us.  We don't need a science lab to figure out how to escape death; Jesus has conquered death and will raise us up to life everlasting.  Just as Jesus has taken from us all that is wicked, so he credits us with all of his good.  We don't have to argue with God to try to convince him of these things.  The war is over; God gives them freely.
     “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 40:1,2)  The message is always urgent and important, because it is always needed.  Our Lord soothes us again and again with his promises.  We still fall short of what is good, and we still fall into what is evil.  But God does not despise us.  When we demonstrate our sinfulness, we don't need to invent excuses.  We simply acknowledge what we are—sinners.  But then God tenderly reminds us of this: Jesus Christ came for sinners.  So, if you are a sinner, good; Jesus came for you to put an end to hostilities.  God is not your enemy; he is your Savior.  He pardons your iniquity, and doubles down on redeeming love.
     Advent reminds us of a promise blessing.  The promises are repeated by a merciful and gracious Father.  The promises are fulfilled by a merciful and gracious Savior.  The promises take root in you by a merciful and gracious Spirit.  The divine decree goes out: Comfort, comfort!  It is important and urgent.  It is double blessing.  It is mercy and grace.  It is indestructible peace.  And it is for you.

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

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Advent (December 1, 2019)

MATTHEW 21:1-11

THE SAVIOR COMES: REMEMBER WHY.

In the name + of Jesus.

     One of the blessings of our liturgical tradition is that we listen to readings which keep us focused on Jesus Christ. This year, the Gospels will mainly be from St. Matthew.  St. Matthew's Gospel proclaims to us that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised repeatedly by Moses and the Prophets.  We have an example of St. Matthew's focus in today's Gospel lesson when he notes: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet...” (Matthew 21:4)
    Our liturgical tradition also observes a Church Year.  The benefit of this is that we review the life of Jesus year after year.  The Bible reminds us: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  If salvation is found in no one else, then we do well to keep our focus on Jesus.  So, year after year, we review Jesus' coming, his birth, his being revealed as the Christ, his sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension.  And of course, we remember that he will come again to judge the living and the dead.  So now we have begun a new church year.  We have begun the season of Advent.  The word Advent means “coming,” and we remember that the Savior is coming. 
     If today's Gospel seems out of place, it is because it takes place during Holy Week.  It is not about a maiden in Nazareth, shepherds in the fields, or a hay-filled manger in Bethlehem.  This is Jesus' Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.  We begin the Church Year remembering why the Savior comes.  He does not come merely to be born or to be swaddled.  He comes as a man to suffer and die.  He comes to make a sacrifice—to BE the sacrifice—for sinners.  If he does not come for that reason, we have no reason to be here.  But the Savior comes.  As he enters Jerusalem, we remember why.
     The crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)  The praise of the crowds was right, but their expectations were wrong.  The crowds were waiting for the Messiah, which was right; but the crowds were wrong about what the Messiah had come to do.  The crowds had hoped for a Messianic kingdom where everything was marked by success, peace, glory, and prosperity.  The coming of the Messiah was to mean the end of wars, the end of poverty, the end of disease, and the end of struggles.  Strangers would always be kind, the elderly would be vibrant and strong, and the children would all have straight teeth.  Jesus was expected to brush away all sin and evil with the wave of his hand and to keep it away by a rule of glorious power.  It is a wonderful thought, but anyone who was expecting it to take place was going to have their hopes dashed.
     The Savior comes: Remember why.  We also are susceptible to false expectations.  With Christmas coming, everything is supposed to be cheery.  Everyone is supposed to be kind and generous and happy.  The problems are supposed to go away because—well, “the meaning of Christmas” and all that.  That works well on the Hallmark Channel, but if you expect things to be that wonderful, you will be sorely disappointed.  The holiday season usually intensifies our pains, sorrows, and losses.  We have been led to believe that tragedies are not supposed to happen around the holidays, but they do.  The world is corrupt, and bad things happen.  All of it heightens our awareness that the world is evil, and that we are marked with sin and death.  Life is not properly pictured by Hallmark Christmas specials or Thomas Kinkade paintings.  Life is pock-marked with sorrow, toil, and trouble.  Add to that the sorrow and regret from our own sins and the consequences we have to live with—relationships still strained, grudges still held, reputations still tarnished.  This is what we long to be saved from, and not just for the holiday season.  Good news: You have a Savior.  Your Savior comes: Remember why.
     The crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)  The Son of David comes in the name of the Lord.  He comes to do the Lord's work, which is to save and to comfort sinners.  He comes in answer to the prayer of the Palm Sunday pilgrims, “Hosanna!”  Just as “Alleluia” is more than a word we say (it means “Praise the Lord”), so it is with “Hosanna!”  It means “Save us, now!” or “Save us, we pray!”  And that is exactly what Jesus comes to do.  The Savior comes: Remember why.
     The crowds called Jesus the “Son of David.”  While that refers to his lineage, it is more.  It is a specific title that refers to the Lord's Anointed.  And it fulfills what David was anointed to do.  Immediately after David was anointed by Samuel, Israel was lined up for war against the Philistine nation.  Their champion, Goliath, mocked God's people and God himself.  He challenged Israel to put forth their best soldier to face him, one-on-one.  Although he was the unlikeliest of warriors, David went forth.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, David single-handedly faced Israel's enemy and slew him.  He cut off Goliath's head as a show of absolute victory.
     The Savior comes: Remember why!  Your enemy, the devil, continues to mock you and your God.  He accuses you of sin, and you have no defense.  You and I are guilty.  The devil mocks your desire to put off your sins and to live godly lives.  He tells you that it is not worth the fight.  Billy Joel was not the first one to say it is better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.  Our sinful flesh agrees, thinking that reveling in sin would be more fun.  Fighting against temptation is hard; giving in is easier.  Our enemy, the devil, seeks to devour us, and he mocks us as we strive for godliness.
     But the Savior comes!  Remember why!  He is anointed to go forth and face our enemy on our behalf.  He takes up the fight for us, and single-handedly faces the devil.  It seemed the unlikeliest of victories.   In order to defeat the devil, Jesus had to fall to Satan's greatest weapons—sin and death.  Jesus went forth, carrying our sins to the cross and gave his life into death for us.  He entered Jerusalem like a Lamb being led to the slaughter—and, indeed—he was!  The Savior comes: Remember why!  He comes to make the sacrifice—to BE the sacrifice—which atones for our sins. 
     It was the unlikeliest of victories.  For us to be found innocent, Jesus had to be guilty. To win forgiveness, Jesus had to be condemned.  To achieve glory, Jesus had to suffer great shame.  To bring healing, Jesus had to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted.  To gain life, Jesus had to die.  He took everything the devil had to dish out; for, he bore the sins of the whole world.
     God the Son died on behalf of all the sons of men.  Having died on behalf of sinners, Jesus proved that the payment has been made in full for you.  He rose from the dead.  He crushed the serpent's head to demonstrate full victory.  He descended into hell, the home territory of the devil, to preach to him: “I am the living one.  I have conquered death and now I hold the keys to death and Hades.  And those whom you had held captive by their sins, I have freed.  Those whom you have mocked now get to mock you; for your accusations are empty and your temptations are now exposed as lies.  I have redeemed these people.  My victory is their victory.  Their sins are taken away.  Their graves are mere resting places.  In the end, they will be empty.  Their eternal salvation is secure; for it is held by me, and I live and reign forever for them.”
     The Savior comes: Remember why!  The Son of David been anointed to slay the enemy of God's people, and he has.  The cries of “Hosanna!” have been heard and answered.  God's people are saved.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; for Jesus has done the Lord's work.  And he continues to come to you.  He continues to come in answer to your Hosanna's as he enters our midst in bread and wine to grant us the body and blood which have overcome death.  He comes to us so that we, too, will overcome death.
     The Savior comes: Remember why!  The crowds expected glory the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Their hopes were not off, but the timing was.  The day will come when all things will be right, and it is when our Savior comes again.  Soon, he will come to deliver us from all sin and problems.  He will bring us out of death and sin to live in glory with him forevermore.  The cries of Hosanna will be answered for all eternity.  For now, we continue to sing “Hosanna” waiting for that day.  And we gather around his altar to prepare for it.  For the Savior comes, and we gather in the name of the Lord to remember why.

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