Monday, March 30, 2020

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sermon -- 5th Sunday in Lent (March 29, 2020)

EZEKIEL 37:1-14

THE WORD OF THE LORD BESTOWS LIFE.

In the name + of Jesus.

      The Israelite nation was as good as dead.  God's holy temple had been obliterated by the troops of Nebuchadnezzar.  The holy city, Jerusalem, was reduced to ashes.  God's chosen people had been rejected, handed over to their enemies, and carried off into captivity.  They were convinced that God had forsaken them and left them to be swallowed up by a foreign people in a strange land.  “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’” (Ezekiel 37:11)  They weren't wrong, at least not as far as changing their own situation.  But the Lord had raised up Ezekiel to speak words of recovery and reconciliation.  A people as good as dead would be raised up and restored.  They would be delivered because the Lord declared that they would be delivered.  The word of the Lord bestowed life.
     God illustrated all of this to Ezekiel by showing him a valley of dry bones.  The fact that the bones were dry and scattered means that they were long dead.  It was not a matter of reviving someone at the point of death or even restoring one who had just died.  Death had worked its worst, leaving nothing but bleached, broken skeletal remains.  And then the Lord asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3)  Ezekiel made no presumption, but deferred to the Lord.  “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)  The Lord did know, and the Lord made it known.  The word of the Lord would bestow life.
     Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.  Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:4-6)  Ezekiel did as the Lord had commanded.  The word of the Lord went forth, and by that word the bones were connected.  Flesh and muscle and tendons were covered them.  But there was one problem.  There was no breath in them.
     What is interesting is that the word used for “breath” actually has three meanings.  It can mean 'breath,' but it can also mean 'wind,' as Ezekiel prophesied: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9)  But it can also mean 'spirit' and is even used for the Holy Spirit.  Translators have an impossible task, trying to choose which word to use.  Is it breath that makes man live?  Or is it the spirit in a man that makes him who he is?  Or is it the Holy Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of life?  All seem to be valid choices.  But one fact remains consistent no matter what choice you make: It is the word of the Lord that bestows life.
     The distinction does matter, however, when it comes to the life God gives.  God breathes the breath of life into people so that they can dwell on this earth.  We are born, grow up, and carry on through life with jobs, families, and hobbies.  Our lives express creativity in art and music and humor.  We believe we are most alive when we are most productive and excited.  When we want life to give us more, we work more so we can spend more, party more, and chase greater thrills.  Whether our pleasures are innocent our guilty, we still find them empty. 
     The people of Israel were reduced to captivity to discover how hopeless they were apart from the Lord.  God also reveals just how shallow and hollow our lives and world are without him.  COVID-19 has done that for some.  By taking away our fun and games and even our jobs, by showing us how easily we could contract a disease, and by forcing us to face the reality of death, God reveals how close to death we always are.  We thought we were truly alive because we were fat and happy.  But fear, guilt, death, and loss leave us yearning for something more, something deeper, something of value that endures through difficulty, disability, and even through death.  Merely carrying on through life does not provide that.  Even people whose lives are constantly busy and productive may still feel dead inside.  And we are!  We are by nature spiritually dead.  We are by nature without true fear of God, trust in God, and faith in God.  Behold, our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off from the giver of life, blessing, and all good things. (Ezekiel 37:11)  God grants breath to all people, but we are terrified when we discover that it is not enough, because it will most assuredly run out.  God grants us breath, but real life must be more than this.  And it is.
     The Lord showed Ezekiel the valley of bones which were powerless, hopeless, and worthless.  There was nothing about them which made them desirable.  Yet, the Lord was pleased to bestow life where there was nothing but death.  And he does this for you, too.  The word of the Lord bestows life.  He comes to those who are spiritually dead to bestow life anew in his kingdom.  This life was won for you by the death of Jesus.  It is Jesus who rescues you from your sinful condition by taking what is yours and making it his own.  He bears all guilt.  He dies in shame.  He gave up his spirit for those who are spiritually dead.  He emptied out his life to redeem yours and to fill your life with enduring peace.  He delivers you from death by going into death on your behalf.  And he conquers death for you by overcoming the grave to live forever.  He does not just speak of the resurrection of the body; he is the resurrection and the life.
     The word of the Lord bestows life.  That life begins when the Lord speaks his word to you.  By that word, he breathes his Spirit into you.  He changes sin-dead hearts into vibrant God-fearing hearts which live for honoring the God who saves you from sin and death.  You are truly alive since you have been made alive by the Spirit.  For now you live and devote yourself to what is good and God-pleasing.  Everyone who lives to please the flesh lives to die.  But everyone who lives in Christ dies to sin and lives for God's glory and lives forever. 
     The word of the Lord bestows life.  In Christ, you are no longer dead inside.  You have been raised up anew.  Your value has been given to you by God, and you are loved by him whether you are productive or out of work, whether your life is exciting or boring, whether you are healthy or diseased, active or disabled, living or dying.  What you are experiencing does not change Jesus' love, devotion, mercy, grace, and faithfulness to you.
     The word of the Lord bestows life.  If you are alive in Christ and if the living Spirit dwells in you, then not even death can do any harm to you.  For, this is what the Lord says, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him...” (Revelation 20:6)  The word of the Lord bestows this indestructible life.
     The nation of Israel in Ezekiel's day was, for all practical purposes, dead.  But the word of the Lord came to them to bestow new life to them.  As if being raised from the dead, these Israelites would be restored to new life as God's chosen people.  The Lord assured them: “Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.  Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14)  They would return to the Promised Land.  They would rebuild the temple.  They would be reconciled to God.  The Savior would come.
     The word of the Lord bestows life upon you, too.  That word has already delivered you out of sin which condemns.  He has put his Spirit within you so that you are a child of God.  This is the first resurrection.  Therefore, on the Last Day, when the voice of the Lord sounds forth, he will open your grave and raise you up.  He will revive bones long dead and cover you in a holy, glorious, incorruptible body.  And he will place you in your own land, the home of righteousness where you will live forever.  The Lord will not do this so that you will know him; for his word has already made him known to you.  But the Lord will do it, because he is merciful and gracious and because he is the resurrection and the life.  Death has been undone by him, and he grants you a life of peace, comfort, and security now.  The Lord has promised it, and the word of the Lord bestows life.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (March 26, 2020)

Greetings!


SCHEDULE
ALL PUBLIC SERVICES ARE SUSPENDED UNTIL APRIL 6.  We will assess our situation after Palm Sunday.

Services will be broadcast on Facebook Live.  Share this with friends.
     Sundays at 10:00 AM
     Wednesdays at 7:00 PM

LENTEN SCHEDULE
Our Lenten schedule continues.  The overriding theme for our Lenten Vespers, a prayer service, is The Crucified King.
April 1 The King Mocked
Vespers will be on Facebook Live at 7:00 PM.  You can find it here, or by searching for "Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church."  Make sure you click to the one in Novi.

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
The service from Wednesday, March 25 can be found on YouTube.  You can skip to the 1:55 mark when we actually begin.  The link is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGO1BEX2NRw&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1Qq7_0kHW2e2ylr4X5AzZoT-hVMAdV8HmM7VVyIoHsTodVyd7glTgvPQg

A bulletin from March 25 can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 
http://goodshepherdnovi.org/worship

CONCERNING THE CORONAVIRUS
        General thoughts regrading the Church, its services, and pastoral care during a health scare such as the coronoavirus, I refer you to some thoughts I had written earlier.  You can find them at my blog here, under the title, "A Pastoral Concern: The Church Militant, Pastoral Care, and the Coronavirus."
        Regarding worship, particularly home devotions and prayer during this time of quarantine, you can refer to this letter which offers encouragement, advice, and resources for worship at home.  
        Home Devotions: A link to provide materials for home devotions and prayers is here.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Online Worship:  You can join in our services via Facebook Live (Sundays, 10 AM and Wednesdays 7 PM).  You can find it here, or by searching for "Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church."  Make sure you click to the one in Novi.  We also hope to have a YouTube channel to provide archived services.  As always, sermon manuscripts are posted on this blog.  You can use the search bar to find a particular date, day of the Church Year, or Scripture reference.
        Person-to-person care: Pastor Schroeder will be in his office to offer private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may come in without appointment at these times: Mondays and Thursdays, 8:00 AM - Noon and 6:00 - 9:00 PM.  You may also set up an appointment at any time.  Visits by appointment can be done either at church or at your home.
        In case you contract COVID-19:  Please contact Pastor Schroeder.  He will alert the congregation so that your fellow members may pray for you, and he will keep everyone informed of your condition.  If possible, Pastor Schroeder will visit you during your quarantine.  At the very least, he will keep in contact with you and provide devotional materials.  If you want to ask for intercessions for loved ones, we will certainly remember them in our prayers, too.  If your loved one has no pastor, ask if they would like Pastor Schroeder to visit them.  

OFFERINGS
While we may not be meeting for worship, we do have financial obligations to meet.  You may either mail your offering into Good Shepherd, or you can set up your offering to be transferred electronically from your bank.  If you are interested in the automatic transfer of funds for your offering, please contact the church at welsnovi@aol.com .

INTERCESSIONS 
Intercessions that are requested prior to the bulletin’s printing will be included in the bulletin.  Requests may be made prior to the service as well.
>  For Rawland Storm who continues treatment for cancer
   >  Supplication during the COVID-19 pandemic

In our prayers....
While we offer up prayers for specific requests in our services, petitions and intercessions can be offered up throughout the week for continued concerns.  Please continue to remember these in your prayers:
>  Josie Shipe, niece of Bob & Susan Shipe, now diagnosed with ataxia,  a degenerative disease of the nervous system
>  Jan Papson, who continues to suffer from the effects of cancer at home
    >  Thanksgiving for Roland & Nancy Schneider, parents of Dan Schneider, who are scheduled to come home soon

OFFICE HOURS
Office hours at Good Shepherd have adjusted during the COVID-19 quarantine.  Pastor Schroeder will be in the office Mondays and Thursdays, 8:00 AM - Noon and again 6:00-9:00 PM.  Lisa is doing most of her work from home.

DO YOU LIKE US?
Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.  Be sure to share posts with friends.

SHARE THIS POST!
We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess.  Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

God bless you.


In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
SUNDAY SCHOOL -- suspended until further notice
ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- suspended until further notice

DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM
 (Facebook Live only)

LENTEN VESPERS -- Wednesdays at 7:00 PM (Facebook Live only)

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Something from ... Luther on bearing sufferings as a Christian

I ran across this today, and it seemed to resonate with all of the frustrations we are enduring through the COVID-19 pandemic.  Still, in the history of Christendom, the cross we are asked to bear due to the COVID-19 pandemic is minimal compared to what others have had to suffer.  The point of comparison is not how bad we have it, but the goodness of God's promises which sustain us and provide us comfort through it. 

Here is something from Martin Luther.

"So in our suffering we should so act that we give our greatest attention to the promise, in order that our cross and affliction may be turned to good, to something which we could never have asked or thought.  And this is precisely the thing which makes a difference between the Christian's suffering and afflictions and those of all other men.  For other people also have their afflictions, cross, and misfortune, just as they also have their times when they can sit in the rose garden and employ their good fortune and their goods as they please.  But when they run into affliction and suffering, they have nothing to comfort them, for they do not have the mighty promises and the confidence in God which Christians have.  Therefore they cannot comfort themselves with the assurance that God will help them to bear the affliction, much less can they count on it that he will turn their affliction and suffering to good." (Martin Luther, "Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering, 1530; p 201, Luther's Works: American Edition.  Volume 51 (Sermons I); Fortress Press: Philadelphia, PA.  1959.)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sermon -- 4th Sunday in Lent (March 22, 2020)

HOSEA 5:15 – 6:6

TRUE REPENTANCE KNOWS THE HEART OF GOD.

In the name + of Jesus.

      When we must endure the fears, the frustrations, and the pains of a pandemic such as COVID-19, a common question is, “Why?”  Part of the answer is this: The devil wants you to suffer harm and misery.  He wants to corrupt and destroy God's creation.  He always has, and he is at work today.  But that does not mean the devil is in charge.  Jesus Christ lives and reigns supreme.  He does not yield the throne to the devil or sleep on the job.  So, did God send the pandemic, or did he just allow it?  Is it God's work, or the devil's?  This is what the Lord says: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)  Nothing happens apart from God's will.  But that still brings us back to the question: “Why?”
     Many are happy to answer for God.  You can find them preaching in churches and on social media.  “This is God's punishment on our nation for abortion!”  “God is doing this because of all the sexual perversion in our land!”  “This is what we get because the Republicans do this or the Democrats do that.”  “This is punishment for our love of money or sports or...” well, you get the idea.  Without a doubt, the Lord calls all people to repent.  But the call should not be based on a virus; as if we should repent just so we can get rid of COVID-19.  True repentance comes not from fear of disease, but from fear of God and his word.  True repentance knows the heart of God.
     When the prophet Hosea was preaching to the people of Israel, he was calling a faithless nation to turn back to the Lord.  He declared, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.  For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the LORD.” (Hosea 5:4)  Israel had been betrothed to the Lord.  They were to be exclusively his.  But they had given their love to other gods—pride, money, lusts, themselves, and to crass idol worship.  Though Moses, God had specifically warned Israel what would happen if they prostituted themselves after other gods.  He said that he would hand them over to famine, disease, pestilence, and the sword.  And God was true to his word.  Hosea declared God's judgment: “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.” (Hosea 5:15)  The Lord left them to their misery so they would yearn for his word and his mercy.
     Now, please understand that 21st century America is not equal to Old Testament Israel.  It is not the same.  The whole nation of Israel was betrothed to God.  They were his chosen ones.  Chosen for what?  Chosen to be the people through whom the Savior would come into the world.  If Israel became unfaithful to him, this was a threat to the promise.  God would not let his promise of a Savior be threatened by a faithless people.  Therefore, the Lord dealt harshly with the nation of Israel when they prostituted themselves to other gods.  He did exactly what he had said in his word: He handed them over to famine, disease, pestilence, and the sword to call them to repent.
     Repentance knows the heart of God.  And it seemed that the Israelites did, indeed, know the heart of God.  They declared, “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” (Hosea 6:1-2)  They said all the right words, but their hearts were not set on God's heart.  They said what they had to say, and they made the sacrifices that they were supposed to make—whatever it took to be spared famine, disease, pestilence, and the sword. 
     That is why God responded to their empty words and rituals, “What shall I do with you?  Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.  … For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:4,6)  Their affection for God would last only long enough to get God off their backs.  Any fool could slaughter a bull and burn it.  If they remained faithless, what good was that?
     True repentance knows the heart of God.  True repentance recognizes that God wants more than outward behavior.  Morals are valuable, but they do not save.  And that goes back to the problem of preachers saying the COVID-19 virus has come as punishment for this or that particular sin.  Now, to be sure, God addresses those sins in his word.  Abortion is murder.  Sex outside of the marriage bed is wicked.  Same-sex marriage is a mockery of God's design.  Money, sports, and entertainment are not idols to have priority over God and his word.  God is undeniably clear on these things.  COVID-19 or not, these are sins and we should repent of them and all sins.  But if our repentance is only to get God off our backs so we can return to business-as-usual, what good is that?
     True repentance knows the heart of God.  And the heart of God is not made known by disasters or pandemics.  The heart of God is made known by his word.  God has made known that his heart is grieved by our sin.  Our problem is not that we might contract a virus, it is that we are incurably infested with sin.  It is a condition that we cannot fix.  Therefore, God was faithful to his promise.  The Father worked through his betrothed, Israel, and brought into to the world his Son, our Savior.
     True repentance knows the heart of God.  His heart is devoted to us to rescue us from our sinful condition, to assure us that no virus could ever snatch us out of his hand, and to deliver us from the bitter torments of death.  True repentance does not seek to be spared from momentary troubles, but from eternal death.  This, Jesus Christ supplies for us. 
     The Lord had told the Israelites, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6)  In Jesus Christ, the Lord received both.  God received the steadfast love he demands, demonstrated by Jesus' compassion for disciples, strangers, and enemies alike.  God received the perfect obedience he seeks, as Jesus did all that he was given to do.  Ultimately, that resulted in a perfect sacrifice.  Jesus shows you the heart of God by obediently taking on the sins of mankind and giving his life into a cursed death on your behalf.  His grieved heart bled for you as the payment for your sins.  His body was offered up as a whole burnt offering for you, consumed in God's fiery wrath.  Jesus shows you the heart of God who loves sinners, who rescues you from your sinful condition, and who is your refuge in death.
     True repentance knows the heart of God.  That heart was also pierced at the cross bringing forth a sudden flow of blood and water.  It is through blood and water that Jesus supplies forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation to his Bride, the Church.  In the waters of baptism, God makes you his chosen one.  Through holy communion, God keeps you pure and faithful to him unto life everlasting.  Therefore, in true repentance we flee to God, knowing that he loves sinners and saves them.  In true repentance, God gives us a new heart which delights in his word and serves him in all circumstances. 
     True repentance knows the heart of God.  We do not know God's will in all things.  Why did he bring COVID-19 into our lives?  Why this virus, and why now?  A sign of the coming judgment?  Yes.  More than that, God does not say.  But we don't fret over what God hides.  We rejoice in what God reveals.  He has revealed that he is our loving Redeemer, no matter what.  He reveals he is always steadfast to us in love—for he has united himself to us, his betrothed.  He has revealed that he is the resurrection and the door to eternal life.  He has revealed he is with us always, and is always working for our good.  This is the heart of God.  In this, we are always comforted.  In this, we are always loved.  And in this, we rejoice.

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Things that make me go ARRRRGGGGHHHH ... on ministering to the dying

Something from ... Martin Luther on ministering to the dying

Pastors serve the sick and dying.  Those who are sick and dying are often plagued by fear, doubt, and guilt.  There is no doubt that the devil shows up at the deathbed of many Christians for one final onslaught of accusations and taunting to cast doubt about God's love and their salvation.  Therefore, the pastor comes with prayer for strength, with God's promises for the assurance that the devil is a liar about our sins (he says they stand against us; Christ says they are forgiven), and with the holy sacrament by which the dying Christian will receive the body and blood of Christ which has conquered death and forgives sins.  This is no small matter, especially when death is at hand.  This is when the fears, doubts, and guilt of the Christian are usually the most intense.  They need their pastor.  Most Christians know this, and the pastor comes as soon as he is summoned.

I would like to say that it always happens this way.  It does not.  I am not surprised when unbelievers feel no need for such things.  They did not care their whole life long.  Why would it matter now?  As one of our former members who served as a hospice nurse used to tell me, "They die like they live."

But one thing that makes me go, "ARRRRGGGGHHHH!" is when people who claim that they are Christians do not call the pastor at any point in during the illness--or even to the deathbed when they know death is imminent!  When your loved one enters hospice, you know he is going to die; and by that point he is often already unresponsive.  When you wait until your loved one is unconscious, comatose, or dead, what do you expect the pastor to do???  Do people really think the mere presence of the pastor grants salvation?  Or that they should get credit before God because, even though his word was an afterthought, they thought of it at all?

As pastoral advice: To whomever is reading this--I beg and plead with you to heed the word of the prophet: "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)  The pastor truly wants to declare God's mercy and forgiveness to the sick and dying.  But once a person is dead, his time of grace is done.  There is no more hope.  If you don't want to face that possibility, then beg a pastor to come to you.  If you refuse, you have forfeited your right to get angry with the pastor who must tell you that he will not preside over the funeral of one whose faith he never heard confessed.  The pastor does not bear the responsibility for someone else's negligence.  But he is most assuredly grieved by it.  

And in case I actually have to say it: Do not wait until you are sick or dying to care about this.  Many don't know when their death will come.

Here is something from Luther on serving the sick and dying, and he expresses a similar frustration for those who neglected God's word until it was too late.  I guess Luther knew how to say, "ARRRRGGGGHHHH!" too.

“If someone wants the chaplain or pastor to come, let the sick person send word in time to call him and let him do so early enough while he is still in his right mind before the illness overwhelms the patient.  The reason I say this is that some are so negligent that they make no request and send no message until the soul is perched for flight on the tip of their tongues and they are no longer rational or able to speak.  Then we are told, 'Dear Sir, say the very best you can to him,' etc.  But earlier, when the illness first began, they wanted no visit from the pastor, but would say, 'Oh, there's no need.  I hope he'll get better,'  What should a diligent pastor do with such people who neglect both body and soul?  They live and die like beasts in the field.  They want us to teach them the gospel at the last minute and administer the sacrament to them as they were accustomed to it under the papacy when nobody asked whether they believed or understood the gospel but just stuffed the sacrament down their throats as if into a bread bag.


“This won't do.  If someone cannot talk or indicate by a sign that he believes, understands, and desires the sacrament—particularly if he has willfully neglected it—we will not give it to him just anytime he asks for it.  We have been commanded not to offer the holy sacrament to unbelievers but rather to believers who can state and confess their faith.  Let the others alone in their unbelief; we are guiltless because we have not been slothful in preaching, teaching, exhortation, consolation, visitation, or in anything else that pertains to our ministry and office.  This, in brief, is our instruction and what we practice here.” (Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee from Deadly Plague,” 1527)


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Prayer of Supplication during the COVID-19 pandemic

SUPPLICATION DURING 
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Almighty God, merciful Father, our ever-present help in time of trouble, once again we have come to realize that your thoughts are not our thoughts, your ways are not our ways.  In your wisdom, you have permitted a highly contagious virus to cause fear and panic, pain and loss.  Do not let the hearts of your people despair, but sustain and comfort them.

Grant health, wisdom, and courage to all governing officials so that they may serve in their offices to maintain order in society, to provide for the care and safety of the people they serve, and to prevent unrest and wickedness in a time of crisis.

Grant health, safety, and courage to all doctors, nurses, care-givers, first-responders, and all others who provide care for the sick and the dying.  Protect them from harm, and grant that their skills may be used for the benefit of those they tend to.

Grant all people patience and perseverance as we endure this pandemic.  Bless all who have contracted this virus with healing and strength.  Protect the elderly, the frail, and all others who are especially susceptible to great harm or death.  Guide all people so that they may demonstrate love for their neighbors and seek the good of others.

Keep our hearts and eyes fixed upon you and your promises.  While much in this world remains unsure, and while we are sure that all things in this world will finally pass away, keep us mindful that your word will never pass away and that your mercy endures forever.  Bless us with confidence in your faithful care and comfort in the midst of fears.

Dear Lord, we even pray that you will use this pandemic as an opportunity to make your love and mercy known to a world which is consumed in uncertainty and to hearts that are at unrest.  Make us bold to proclaim the certainty of your promises and to demonstrate your selfless love in all that we do for our fellowman.

Intercessions may be offered.

We ask all these things for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; and trusting in his promises, we are bold to pray as he has taught us:

LORD'S PRAYER

Update from Good Shepherd (March 19, 2020)

Greetings!


SCHEDULE
ALL PUBLIC SERVICES ARE SUSPENDED UNTIL APRIL 6.  We will assess our situation after Palm Sunday.

Services will be broadcast on Facebook Live.  Share this with friends.
     Sundays at 10:00 AM
     Wednesdays at 7:00 PM

LENTEN SCHEDULE
Our Lenten schedule continues.  The overriding theme for our Lenten Vespers, a prayer service, is The Crucified King.
March 25 The Crucified King
April 1 The King Mocked
Vespers will be on Facebook Live at 7:00 PM.  You can find it here, or by searching for "Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church."  Make sure you click to the one in Novi.

CONCERNING THE CORONAVIRUS
        General thoughts regrading the Church, its services, and pastoral care during a health scare such as the coronoavirus, I refer you to some thoughts I had written earlier.  You can find them at my blog here, under the title, "A Pastoral Concern: The Church Militant, Pastoral Care, and the Coronavirus."
        Regarding worship, particularly home devotions and prayer during this time of quarantine, you can refer to this letter which offers encouragement, advice, and resources for worship at home.  
        Home Devotions: A link to provide materials for home devotions and prayers is here.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        Online Worship:  You can join in our services via Facebook Live (Sundays, 10 AM and Wednesdays 7 PM).  You can find it here, or by searching for "Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church."  Make sure you click to the one in Novi.  We also hope to have a YouTube channel to provide archived services.  As always, sermon manuscripts are posted on this blog.  You can use the search bar to find a particular date, day of the Church Year, or Scripture reference.
        Person-to-person care: Pastor Schroeder will be in his office to offer private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may come in without appointment at these times: Mondays and Thursdays, 8:00 AM - Noon and 6:00 - 9:00 PM.  You may also set up an appointment at any time.  Visits by appointment can be done either at church or at your home.
        In case you contract COVID-19:  Please contact Pastor Schroeder.  He will alert the congregation so that your fellow members may pray for you, and he will keep everyone informed of your condition.  If possible, Pastor Schroeder will visit you during your quarantine.  At the very least, he will keep in contact with you and provide devotional materials.  If you want to ask for intercessions for loved ones, we will certainly remember them in our prayers, too.  If your loved one has no pastor, ask if they would like Pastor Schroeder to visit them.  

TEDDY BEAR DRIVE
          This will be suspended for the time being.  We plan on distributing these through the hospital later in the year.  For now, keep any teddy bears you may have purchased.

INTERCESSIONS 
Intercessions that are requested prior to the bulletin’s printing will be included in the bulletin.  Requests may be made prior to the service as well.
>  For Rawland Storm who continues treatment for cancer
   >  Supplication during the COVID-19 pandemic

In our prayers....
While we offer up prayers for specific requests in our services, petitions and intercessions can be offered up throughout the week for continued concerns.  Please continue to remember these in your prayers:
>  Josie Shipe, niece of Bob & Susan Shipe, now diagnosed with ataxia,  a degenerative disease of the nervous system
>  Jan Papson, who continues to suffer from the effects of cancer at home
    >  For Roland & Nancy Schneider, parents of Dan Schneider, who are currently quarantined regarding the possibility of the coronavirus

OFFICE HOURS
Office hours at Good Shepherd have adjusted during the COVID-19 quarantine.  Lisa will be here Mondays and Thursdays, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM.  

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SHARE THIS POST!
We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess.  Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

God bless you.


In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
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SUNDAY SCHOOL -- suspended until further notice
ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- suspended until further notice

DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM
 (Facebook Live only)

LENTEN VESPERS -- Wednesdays at 7:00 PM (Facebook Live only)

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sermon -- Lenten Vespers: (March 18, 2020)

This sermon was preached at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church of Novi, Michigan while public services were suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

MATTHEW 27:35-44

THE CRUCIFIED KING:
The King On The Cross

In the name + of Jesus.

     The chief priests, scribes, and elders presented Jesus before Pontius Pilate.  They all said, “Let him be crucified!”  And (Pilate) said, “Why, what evil has he done?”  But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:22-23)  The religious leaders were so enraged that they were about to start a riot.  Pilate chose to keep the peace; so, he sentenced Jesus to be crucified.  He handed Jesus over to the religious leaders to do to him as they had demanded.  The problem was, Pilate needed to have a charge against Jesus.  Even though Pontius Pilate chose to do what would keep the peace and what would keep him out of trouble with the higher-ups in Rome, he knew that crucifying an innocent man would also get him in serious trouble with the higher-ups, too.  The Romans may have been brutal, but they did honor justice.  Pilate had found Jesus guiltless and declared so at least three times.  So, what charge could he file against Jesus?  What was worthy of crucifixion?  St. Matthew records it: Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37)
     The charge against Jesus was printed in three languages—in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek—so that all the world might know it: Jesus, the King of the Jews.  Jesus, the King on the cross.  Pilate posted it, but he did not believe it was true.  He did not think Jesus was really guilt of treason or insurrection.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people did not believe it either.  They were not hung up on legalities; rather, they rejected Jesus' claims that he is the Son of God and the Messiah.  By rejecting Jesus, they rejected the Scriptures and the God who gave them.  They raged against God himself and, finally, rejected their place in his kingdom.  Their damnation came by their own stubborn will and through their own most grievous fault.
     The mockery continued while the King was on the cross.  Those who passed by derided him..., “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  ...“He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:39-43)  
     Many who stood around the cross mocked Jesus by repeating the reports about Jesus—that he saved and healed other people, that he put his trust in God the Father, and that he is the King of Israel.  They repeated the claims that Jesus had made about himself—that he would raise himself up after three days and that he is the Son of God.  They all laughed at Jesus for these things.  But here is the catch: Everything they said was true.  They did not make up claims about Jesus; they repeated what was known.  He is the Son of God.  He is the King of Israel.  He saved others.  He would raise himself up after three days.  And after he fulfilled all these things, even then they would not believe in him.
     When the devil attacks our Lord and his people, he does not mock what is a lie.  He attacks, disputes, and distorts what is true.  The devil would always have us turn away from God's word and lean on our own understanding, our own feelings, and our own experiences—and from there make judgments about right and wrong, good and evil.  But our understanding, feelings, and experiences always are biased toward ourselves.  We are the hero of our story if we want glory, and we are the victim when we want pity.  We are smart; other people are idiots.  We are noble; other people are conniving.  We are honest; other people are frauds.  We praise ourselves; we condemn others.  We are full of ourselves, and we have nothing left for anyone else.
     Consider what people are saying about churches suspending services because of the COVID-19 concern.  There are some who feel that we were way too slow in suspending our services.  Their judgment?  We lack love for our fellow man by risking further disease.  Why?  Because they would have acted sooner.  Others feel that we never should suspend services.  Their judgment?  We lack faith in God's protection and lack love for people who crave God's word and sacrament.  Why?  Because they would have kept services going.  Each believes his opinions and feelings are the measure of what is good and right.  When we condemn others over a difference of opinion, that is arrogance.  When we exalt our understanding, experience, and feelings over God's word, it is blasphemy.
     Jesus had spoken clearly in the hearing of his enemies.  When they mocked him, they actually presented his claims pretty accurately.  Their problem was not confusion, it was unbelief.  In the same way, God has spoken his word very clearly in the Scriptures.  He tells us what is right and wrong.  Our problem is not that we are unclear about what God says.  Our problem is that we mock it with our lives.  We feel that God's commands are unreasonable.  Love your enemy and give to those who cannot pay you back (Luke 6:35)?  Ridiculous!  Who purposely invests in failures?  We reason that God's commands are out of touch with reality.  Practice self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)?  Ludicrous!  When times are good, we gorge.  When times go bad, we find value in vices!  We know what God says, but like the passers-by who hurled insults at Jesus, we are also influenced by the voices around us and thoughtlessly join in.  Our society eggs us on to mock God's word and to give way to what everyone else is doing.  So, we have defied the King's orders, which is treachery.  And because our King is God, it is also blasphemy.  Repent.
     There was a lot of talking going on while our King was on the cross.  Chief priests, common citizens, and even felons all joined to mock Jesus.  On the other hand, Jesus said precious little.  In our reading, he said nothing.  He was not talking; he was working.  He was fulfilling the will of his heavenly Father who had sent him to suffer for the disobedient.  Jesus was condemned for those who value vices.  Jesus invested himself completely into those who failed him.  Jesus silently bore the burden of guilt of those who mock his word.  Rather than respond to arrogant mockery, Jesus quietly set his mind and his heart to doing all that his Father had given him to do.
     God the Father loves you and wants you to be saved, so he sent his Son to save you.  Jesus loves his Father, and he was eager to do what his Father had given him to do—even if it meant he would feel the hatred of sinful men, experience the fiery wrath of his Father, and could reason that everything he was suffering was unjust.  But his focus was the will of God who never lies and never fails.  The King on the cross knows how to follow orders, and he fulfills his mission to bring you into a kingdom of grace.
     The King who hangs on the cross, crucified, appears to be worthy of mockery.  He is weak and bleeding and dying.  That is what what our eyes see, what our experience tells us, and what we understand from our observation.  But our Lord tells us what to believe, no matter what we feel, understand, or experience.  No matter how the COVID-19 pandemic makes you feel, God loves you.  He remains your good and merciful Father no matter what you experience.  Your understanding is destined to change with new reports—even conflicting reports—every day, but God's word does not change, and God himself remains faithful to you.
     God's mercy, love, and faithfulness is evident by the King on the cross.  While Jesus appeared bloody and beaten, remember that this is the battle to win you for eternity.  The fight was fierce.  The enemy had inflicted their blows.  But the King on the cross has overcome the enemy for you.  Even if the crucified King looks like a victim, do not be deceived.  He is, in fact, the victor.  He is, indeed, worthy of praise, honor, and obedience.  He lives and reigns over all, and his kingdom is forever.


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

COVID-19 Update: Services will be suspended at Good Shepherd through April 5

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.
In conjunction with the Church Council, after lengthy conversations and deliberate prayer, and in accordance with federal recommendations, we have deemed it best to suspend all gatherings at Good Shepherd of more than 10 people.  We did not come to this conclusion lightly.  State law under the executive order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer states that gatherings of 50 or more is punishable as a misdemeanor.  The federal limit of 10 is a recommendation, but we do not want to treat lightly the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus or worse, to see someone suffer great harm or death as a result of contact at Good Shepherd.  President Trump's recommendation was given in a serious tone, so it compels us to take these things seriously, too.  You may also consider this word of advice from a doctor from Nebraska Medical.  There are many more stories like it.

Therefore, as of this moment, all Divine Services and mid-week Lenten Vespers are suspended until at least April 5.  (We truly hope to offer services during Holy Week.  We will determine this as time and circumstances progress.)

The Christian life and the life of the Church is sustained by God's word and sacraments, so we appreciate our members' desire to receive these things.  Nevertheless, we are also obligated to love our fellow man.  We are obligated to keep the 4th Commandment to honor our authorities.  The goal of their mandates and recommendations is not to forbid Christian teaching, but to provide safety, protection, and health of their citizens.  It is right for us to recognize and honor that.  We are also obligated to honor the 5th Commandment.  Luther's explanation states: "We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need."  Suspending our services is done so that we do not bring harm to our neighbor.

A message from WELS President, Rev. Mark Schroeder shares many of these thoughts as well: https://wels.net/facing-covid-19-together-a-message-from-our-synod-president/

We are taking steps to see to it that our members will be served as best we can while our public gathering for worship is suspended.  You are strongly encouraged to worship as a family at home.  Suspension of public gathering is not suspension of receiving God's word.  To that end, we offer these thoughts and resources.

WORSHIP AT HOME
Worship materials for home devotions and worship are already available on Good Shepherd's web page.  You can find them here: http://goodshepherdnovi.org/covid-19_quarantine_resources

Sermons will continue to be produced for upcoming Wednesdays and Sundays.  As of this writing, they will only be made available in print form.  I am hoping to put sermons on video, perhaps even full services with prayers and readings.  When sermons are ready for reading or viewing, I will alert you as to where you can find them.  They will be posted on this blog for sure; we are still finding ways to get things on the web page.  Many sermons have already been archived on this blog.  Use the search bar to find a sermon related to the Sunday of the Church Year or to a particular Scripture reading.

One great positive in coming together as a family to worship and pray together is that the family grows stronger.  You will become much more comfortable speaking about the Christian faith with one another and, therefore, be more ready to encourage one another and to confess your faith to others.  You get to talk about God's word, making it the focal point of your day.  That is what God intends anyway, and now we get to be intentional about that.  When you have your family devotions, make it a point to pray for the members you are isolated from, just as they will keep on praying for you.

In addition, you may desire to grow personally by the study of God's word.  Some books might be particularly helpful as people have concerns about disease and death.  You can find books which relate specifically to the questions, fears, and concerns of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic from Northwestern Publishing House here:
https://wels.net/spiritual-resources-for-uncertain-times/.  Also remember that our church library has many volumes to read through, covering many topics in regard to the Christian faith and life.  The library is a self-check-out system.  Please sign out whatever books you would like to read.  If you've ever lamented that you've never had the time to devote to these things, I am willing to bet that you have the time now.

PASTORAL CARE
While God's word can supplied to you over the internet, Holy Communion cannot.  Therefore, I will be available to offer private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  This can be done by appointment, either at church or at your home.  I will also be available at church without appointment at the schedule here.
     Mondays and Thursdays -- 8:00 AM - Noon; 6:00 - 9:00 PM

Pastor Schroeder plans to contact members by phone each week to check on you and to see if there is any particular needs you have.  If you are in a position where you can help someone who is in need, he will make a note of the help you would be able to provide.  (For example, if a member is quarantined in their own home and cannot get to the store, food and other items would need to be delivered.)

In the event that you (or a loved one) contract the COVID-19 virus, please contact your pastor (248-719-5218).  You have a congregation that desires to pray for you.  I will also do my best to see you even if you have the virus.

EXTRA RESOURCES (WELS)
WELS services from numerous congregations can be live-streamed here: https://yearbook.wels.net/streaming
You can find more devotional materials at Time of Grace here: https://timeofgrace.org/
You can find services podcast from our WELS Radio Hour.  It broadcasts live on Sundays on AM 1500 and FM 92.7 at 10:30 AM.  Podcasts are archived and can be found here: https://faithtalkdetroit.com/radioshow/3389

EXTRA RESOURCES (LCMS)
Although these come from Missouri Synod sources, I have deemed them confessionally solid and recommend them for your consideration.
For sacred music, check out Lutheran Public Radio here: https://lutheranpublicradio.org/
You can also find edifying discussions on various topics from a Lutheran point of view at Issues, Etc. here: https://issuesetc.org/archive/.
And you can find a daily, 15-minute Bible study here: https://thewordendures.org/

PRACTICAL MATTERS
Although services are suspended and people remain at home, we do have obligations to meet financially.  Some bills cannot be suspended.  We ask that you remember to continue your offerings even while you are away.  Missionaries continue to preach the Gospel; they are supported by our offerings.  Our future pastors and teachers are continuing their instruction online; they are supported by our offerings.  HVL's faculty and staff are almost forgotten since they are not on our campus; they are supported by our offerings.  Offerings can be dropped off at church or mailed in.  You may also choose to have offerings given through electronic funds transfer.  For information to set that up, please contact me at welsnovi@aol.com, and I will forward your request to Bob DuBois to get you set up.

Funerals and weddings present a challenge, as they are usually attended by many.  Funerals will have to be limited to immediate family.  Loved ones will have to offer their condolences outside of the funeral.  For anyone who had been planning a wedding, by all means--get married as planned!  The party, however, will have to get delayed.  It should be obvious, but it bears saying: The important matter is the marriage, not the wedding.

Email blasts (which will also be posted in the pastor's blog) will be sent out so that we are all keeping watch over one another.  Most importantly, I want to remind you that God's promises stand firm in all circumstances.  He remains your good and merciful Father in heaven, and he will not lose any of his people.  Neither COVID-19 nor the fear of it can topple Jesus from his throne.  The Lord lives and reigns.  His mercy endures forever.

God bless and keep you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder

"God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A prayer regarding concerns with COVID-19

All Things Are in Your Hands

by pastorstratman
God most high and holy,
all things are in your hands.
Your holy Word invites us
to trust in you
and to be fearless
even when the earth gives way,
when the mountains fall into the sea,
when the waters roar and foam,
when nations are in an uproar,
and even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Hear the cries of your people
as we live in a world full of fear.
With your unlimited power,
with your boundless presence,
with your knowledge of all things,
fill our hearts
with your peace that surpasses understanding.
When things are uncertain,
and crises are unseen,
draw us to you,
to your certain Word and promise,
to your dear Son who suffered for us,
and to your enduring promise
never to leave us or forsake us.
Strengthen,
encourage
and uphold us
in these difficult
and confusing times.
Fill us with faith in you,
with desires to serve our neighbors in love,
and to be strong and take heart
as we wait for you to work your good purpose
for the good of those who love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
Source: Paul C. Stratman, A Collection of Prayers, March 16, 2020, during the COVID-19 / Corona Virus crisis.