Thursday, May 28, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (May 28, 2020)

Greetings!


WORSHIP DURING COVID-19
Services have resumed.  We meet on Sundays at 10:00 AM.  Based on the responses from the most recent congregational survey, we will not be offering the 8:30 AM service unless the attendance demands it after the June 12 stay-at-home order ends.  (And it may get extended again; I don't know.)  For information on what you can expect when you come to church and what will be expected of you, see this link.
        Services will still be broadcast on Facebook Live, Sundays at 10:00 AM, and uploaded to YouTube.   Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Services are posted on YouTube, usually in a few hours after the service.  When you go to YouTube, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi" and they should pop up.  (The service from May 24 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Uvm2vQ4aw )   Feel free to share the videos.
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

COVID-19 AND MASKS AT CHURCH
As was noted in previous communications, we expect that people will wear masks in attendance at church.  Are they annoying?  Yes.  Are they inconvenient?  Yes.  Are they an infringement on our freedoms or a method of preserving health?  Well, opinions differ there, and that is part of our challenge as we come together to worship.  Some feel masks are useless; others are truly bothered when they see people who do not wear masks.  Now, put both of these people together in a church and you can sense the problem.
In consultation with the Church Council, here is what I am asking of all our worshipers: Please wear masks throughout your time at church.  Even if you think a mask is a wasted effort, your fellow member in the row in front of you may not share your opinion.  So, please endure the inconvenience out of love for all worshipers so that nothing would hinder people coming to hear God's word and partake in the sacrament together as the body of Christ.

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:  Besides Facebook Live and YouTube, you can find the pastor's sermons archived 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: As much as possible, Pastor Schroeder will be available for private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may call to 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.  

PRIVATE COMMUNION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Private Communion is available by appointment at any time.
To limit the risk of contracting COVID-19 as much as possible, please review the protocol we will follow when you come in.  You can see it here.

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.
>  
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:
>  For the family of Jan Papson, called to eternal rest on May 15.
     >  For families in mid-Michigan effected by extreme flooding and evacuations

OFFICE HOURS
The office hours at Good Shepherd are going to be fairly fluid as we enter the summer months.  If you want to contact Pastor Schroeder for any kind of meeting, call or text (248) 719-5218.

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
==============================
SUMMER SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We will also stream on Facebook Live )

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 Survey -- for clarification of our worship schedule

Greetings in the name of our Savior!

About two weeks ago or so, I had sent out a survey about people and their readiness to return to church for in-person worship, understanding that we would be practicing social distancing.  Initial responses had 44 who said they were ready to return to worship.  Another 15 said they would be ready to return either after Memorial Day weekend or after the official stay-at-home order had lapsed.  The stay-at-home order has been pushed out to June 12, but we are past Memorial Day weekend.  So, the number of additional worshipers we could expect is anywhere from 0-15.

Originally, it was looking like the potential for about 60 worshipers to be attending on Sundays.  While I think we could accommodate 40 worshipers and still observe social distancing, with 60 we would need to have two services.  Survey results determined that service times of 8:30 & 10:00 AM would serve our congregation best.

Over the past two Sundays, attendance was 24 (May 17) and 20 (May 24).  This, of course, is well below the 44 who said they were ready to return immediately.  And if those who said they will wait to return after the stay-at-home order is lifted choose to wait, we really have no need for an additional service.  Or do we?  I don't know.

I am seeking input so that I can know best how to serve Good Shepherd.  In order to determine what our schedule is and what service times will meet our needs, please respond to this survey.  I will also be making phone calls tonight (Tuesday, May 26) to gather all the information I can so that I can set the schedule.  

In responding to this survey, please copy and paste it and send it to welsnovi@aol.com.  

Whatever your answer is for question #1 is fine.  Everyone has their reasons for their decisions, and I will not judge you for where your comfort level is with the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are all to be seeking the good of each other in love, not assuming the worst of others whose decisions differ from our own.  So, please answer what you honestly plan to do.  It is not helpful to have people answer what they think I want to hear.

SURVEY

     1.  Are you ready to return to church for Divine Services?
a)  Yes.  Count on me from here on out.
b)  Probably after the stay-at-home order is done (June 12, as of this writing).  
c)  Not quite yet; please be patient with me.  

     2.  How many people will be coming from your home?

     3.  My name is ___________________________________.

Once we add the 8:30 AM service, it will be fixed for the summer months.  We can't go back and forth with a schedule that makes it impossible for people to know what service times will be.  So, we are either in or out.  Your responses help to determine that.  Finally, we will continue with Facebook Live streaming and YouTube posts for the foreseeable future.  If you are not ready to come for in-person worship, please find us there.  (And share it with friends!  This is the easiest way for people to check out our church.)  Private Communion is always available by request; call or text (248-719-5218).

God bless and keep you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder

Monday, May 25, 2020

MLS Graduation for Philip

This weekend, Philip graduated from Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw.  Philip is the fifth graduate among the Schroeders from MLS in the past seven years.  And for the first time since 2009, we will not be making trips to MLS to watch our children play sports, sing in the choirs, etc....

Philip, like all other seniors in 2020, ended his senior year in disappointing quarantine status with online classes since March 13.  The worst of it, at least for Philip, was being robbed of these final months with his classmates.  He did not even really get to say goodbye to them.  When you live with these people in dormitories for four years, this abrupt end is particularly hard.  All in all, Philip has handled it exceptionally well.  And if there is good news to be had, many of his classmates are expecting to be in New Ulm, Minnesota next fall at Martin Luther College.  God willing, he will move into the dorms and attend classes live and in person next fall.

Philip was awarded a few scholarships.  Most noteworthy is that Philip is the first recipient of the Hannah M. Kieta Memorial Scholarship.  Hannah was a classmate of Faith and was killed in a car accident last August.  Hannah excelled in German, and the scholarship was awarded to Philip who intends to continue studying German at MLC next year.

Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we had to watch Philip's graduation in virtual fashion.  We met in our church and watched it projected on the big screen.  You can watch the virtual graduation here:



We are quite proud of Philip and his accomplishments, even though his senior year was certainly a strange year with unexpected challenges--beginning with a football season that lasted 15 minutes because of an injury on the first day of practice to ending with a stay-at-home quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In any case, here are some photos related to Philip's graduation.  (Hat tip to Vanessa Hose for taking the family photo.  Thanks!)

Philip with the MLS Class of 2020.

The classic "A boy loves his mother" photo, a graduation tradition of each Schroeder boy.

MLS alumni -- Classes of 2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2013, and 1988.


YouTube -- Ascension of our Lord, transferred (May 24, 2020)

Here is the service from May 24, 2020.


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sermon - Ascension Day, transferred (May 24, 2020)

Some parts of this sermon were gleaned from a sermon by Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling and the coordinator for Congregational Services of the WELS. 

EPHESIANS 1:16-23

JESUS LIVES AND REIGNS FOR THE CHURCH.


M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

      The Gospel reading and the history from the book of Acts focus on Jesus' ascension into heaven and the mission of his disciples until his return.  Our epistle has a slightly different focus.  While St. Luke highlights, “He ascended into heaven,” St. Paul teaches us: “He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”  Both are significant.  And while both confess the glory of Jesus, both are for the benefit of you.
     Everything that Jesus was first sent to do and everything that Jesus continues to do are for the benefit of you.  For your benefit, God became a man.  He has bound himself to you by becoming a man.  As a man, Jesus is your perfect substitute.  For God has commanded man must keep his Commandments.  This man did.  And God said that man must suffer the curse for disobedience to the Commandments.  So, this man suffered in your place.  But since Jesus is also true God, his perfect life covers all sinners, and his sacrificial death pays for the sins of all sinners.  On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead.  He did not leave his humanity behind when he did this.  If he had, then we would have to believe that being a human being is a bad thing and God's desire is that we escape it.  Rather, Jesus became a man in order to restore humanity to what God intended it to be.  This man, Jesus, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, paving the way for the people he has saved.  Even more than that, this man, Jesus, has been given all authority over everything.  And since he is a man, he still remains bound to you.  Therefore, everything Jesus was first sent to do and everything that Jesus continues to do are for the benefit of you.  Jesus lives and reigns for the Church.
     This means that nothing goes on in this world apart from the authority of Jesus.  Jesus told this to his disciples after his resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)  This man reigns over all things.  St. Paul wrote that God “seated (Jesus) at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church...” (Ephesians 1:20-22) 
     Jesus lives and reigns for the Church.  Nothing goes on in this world apart from the authority of Jesus.  While this is intended to supply is with unending comfort, it usually results in confusion and questions.  If Jesus is in total control of all things, why do we have so many problems?  Why are there wicked people who are violent, abusive, heartless, and bullies?  Why must we contend with a virus and the harsh restrictions which take away so many joys from our lives?  Why do we see world-wide problems and endure personal tragedies?  The harder life gets, the more intense these questions get.  If Jesus has authority over all things, we would hope that our prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” means that we would actually be spared from all evils.
     The Bible gives us reasons why we endure the evils we do.  Go all the way back to the  Garden of Eden to learn about the consequences of sin in our world.  God told Adam, “In pain you shall eat of (the ground) all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)  Life is hard.  That should not surprise us, but it always does.  This hard life is the consequence of sin.  And even though Jesus has rescued us from the condemnation of our sins, it does not result in paradise on earth.  Jesus warned us, “See that no one leads you astray....  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  … And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:4,7,11-12)  When we see the evils in this world, it is not because Jesus is indifferent, inattentive, or incapable.  Never has Jesus lost control to the devil, to governments, or to anyone else.  Jesus lives and reigns, and what is even more remarkable—Jesus lives and reigns for the Church.
     But the devil warps our thinking.  He leads us to believe that we know better than our Lord.  If we had all power, we would simply wipe off the face of the earth everything that makes us sad or afraid.  That sounds simple enough, doesn't it?  But if you had the power to remove from your life everything that makes you sad or afraid, what would happen?  Consider the destructive floods suffered in mid-Michigan.  Many families have lost homes, possessions, and security.  As difficult as it is to see and know people who have to contend with this, I don't think this flood has made my wife cry.  But I have.  And I don't think the breaking of the dam in Edenville caused my wife to lose sleep.  But whenever they were sick, our children have.  So I and my children should never have been allowed to exist to ensure we would not cause my wife to cry and lose sleep.  No matter how great we think our plans are to fix everything, we would likely cause greater harm and heartache if they were carried out.  Repent; for you and I are not as wise as we think we are.   
     Jesus lives and reigns over all things.  His love for all things is greater than ours.  Jesus actually does provide deliverance from every evil for all people.  His pain and sorrows and torments were endured to deliver you from a world full of pain and sorrow and torment.  His resurrection from the dead shows you that there is a glorious life to come when you will be raised from the grave as Jesus was.  Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place in God's presence for you.  And when he comes again, he will take us to be with him where we will be forever free from sorrow, grief, and sadness.  Jesus indeed will deliver us from every evil, and that deliverance is everlasting.
     Jesus lives and reigns for the Church.  Jesus uses even the evils that we must suffer now for our eternal good.  In his wisdom, Jesus knows what is best for us.  In his mercy, Jesus knows what we need.  Why does he let evils go on?  Why does he allow sickness and disease to harm our bodies and our families?  Why does he send disaster?  And why does it seem like he is piling on in the year 2020?  It is because he is calling sinners to repent of their sins and to long for salvation.  C.S. Lewis once wrote that pain is God's megaphone.  It is what he uses to get people to realize that they are helpless and that they need a Savior.  So Jesus uses the evils in this world to call sinners to repent.
     Now you may wonder why Jesus is having you suffer and endure these hardships if you already confess his name.  Simple.  It is because you need to repent too.  You and I still have a love for this world that we need to cast off.  We want ease.  We want money.  We want to have a clean bill of health that won't get threatened by anything.  We want to life to be without stress, without pain, without sorrows, and without troubles.  The problem is we want it here.  We yearn for paradise on earth.  But that is not where Jesus promises we will find it.  Instead, he teaches us to long for the heavenly home he has prepared for us.  Until he chooses to bring us into that heavenly home, he wants us to rely on him, call on him, and hope in him.  We don't feel a great need to do that when life is easy, but we sure do when life gets hard.  The fact is, we don't need money or health or freedoms.  They are nice, but they are not to be trusted.  All that we need is Jesus; for he alone supplies forgiveness and salvation, comfort and peace, hope and life.
     Good news: Jesus lives and reigns for the good of the Church.  Whatever he has you enjoy or endure, he does for your eternal good.  He either blesses you with times of refreshing in which you give thanks, or he blesses you with times of difficulty in which he disciplines you for your good.  Do not despair over a world that seems to be unraveling.  You have a Savior who lives and reigns for you.  He has enlightened “the eyes of your hearts” so “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19) 
     The Lord Jesus is in complete control of all things.  Even if you don't know how he works for your good, you have his word that he does.  He has redeemed you.  He will not forsake you.  He has bound himself to you and will come again for you.  He lived for you.  He died for you.  He rose for you.  Now he lives and reigns—for ever, and for you.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (May 21, 2020)

Greetings!


WORSHIP DURING COVID-19
Services have resumed.  We meet this Sunday (May 24) at 10:00 AM.  
        After the stay-at-home order ends (as of this writing May 28), we will offer services throughout the summer on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:00 AM to accommodate the additional members who said they are ready to return.  The 8:30 AM & 10:00 AM schedule will begin on May 31.  For information on what you can expect when you come to church and what will be expected of you, see this link.
        Services will still be broadcast on Facebook Live, Sundays at 10:00 AM, and uploaded to YouTube.   Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         Services are posted on YouTube, usually in a few hours after the service.  When you go to YouTube, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi" and they should pop up.  (The service from May 17 is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjhklPu-zsI&t=3s .)   Feel free to share the videos.
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

COVID-19 AND MASKS AT CHURCH
As was noted in previous communications, we expect that people will wear masks in attendance at church.  Are they annoying?  Yes.  Are they inconvenient?  Yes.  Are they an infringement on our freedoms or a method of preserving health?  Well, opinions differ there, and that is part of our challenge as we come together to worship.  Some feel masks are useless; others are truly bothered when they see people who do not wear masks.  Now, put both of these people together in a church and you can sense the problem.
In consultation with the Church Council, here is what I am asking of all our worshipers: Please wear masks throughout your time at church.  Even if you think a mask is a wasted effort, your fellow member in the row in front of you may not share your opinion.  So, please endure the inconvenience out of love for all worshipers so that nothing would hinder people coming to hear God's word and partake in the sacrament together as the body of Christ.

ADULT BIBLE CLASS
Our Adult Bible Class meets via Zoom on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM. Our series is “Bible Symbols.”  Class materials are emailed out on Tuesdays.  In order to make sure you receive the study guides and to get the password for the Zoom sessions, you will need to register for this class.  
        A recording for last night's class (May 20) was a disaster.  Our connection froze way too many times to post it as a video worth watching.
If you happen to have the book, God's Imagery, you can refer to that for each class period.  The chapters that correspond to each session are below.  NOTE It is not necessary to have the book for the class.
The final class is:      May 27         Types of Christ (Chapter 18)

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:  Besides Facebook Live and YouTube, you can find the pastor's sermons archived 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: As much as possible, Pastor Schroeder will be available for private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may call to 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.  

PRIVATE COMMUNION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Private Communion is available by appointment at any time.
To limit the risk of contracting COVID-19 as much as possible, please review the protocol we will follow when you come in.  You can see it here.

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 the people in mid-Michigan who are effected by extreme flooding and evacuations
   >  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:
>  For the family of Jan Papson, called to eternal rest on May 15.
     >  For families in mid-Michigan effected by extreme flooding and evacuations

OFFICE HOURS
The office hours at Good Shepherd are going to be fairly fluid as we enter the summer months.  If you want to contact Pastor Schroeder for any kind of meeting, call or text (248) 719-5218.

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 -- Wednesdays at 7:00 PM (via Zoom: registration is necessary)

DIVINE SERVICE on May 24 --

Sunday at 10:00 AM (We will also stream on Facebook Live )

SUMMER SCHEDULE -- begins May 31
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 8:30 & 10:00 AM  (We will also stream on Facebook Live )

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
41415 W. Nine Mile Road
Novi, Michigan  48375-4306
+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Pastoral Concern: The Christian Witness and Social Media

One of the blessings of social media is that it gives everyone who chooses to use it an outlet for sharing the events in their life, their opinions, and entertaining or educational video clips.  We can amuse ourselves with it for hours--which may not always be the best use of our time.  Still, if you'd rather sift through Facebook or Instagram posts for 90 minutes instead of watching a movie, who am I to say that either is bad?

What is bad is that we forget ourselves very quickly when we post items on social media.  I don't think I have to convince anyone that our filters usually shut off when we post.  It is easy to be bold and brash as we put our opinions on an impersonal screen.  People write things that they would never say to someone's face.  Apparently, not communicating with people in person robs us of some humanity ourselves. 

For the most part, I don't take very seriously what people post on social media.  I probably should take it more seriously than I do.  Others take these words very seriously.  I suppose if you are the one on the receiving end of an insult, you would too.  Some respond with equal venom.  Then, rather than turn the other cheek at an insult, the race is on to see who can insult the other person worse.  You can say all you want about mainstream media dividing Americans, but we do a pretty good job of it ourselves.

All of this leads into the issue I do take seriously.  You who post online: Do you not know that you are still a Christian when you do these things?  Do you not know that you bear the name of Christ and represent him to the world?  And when you post your vicious opinions against other people (usually against politicians), or obscenities, or boast about drunken behavior for all the world to see, what conclusions do you make people draw about you?  If you have not given serious consideration to this before, please do so now.

Imagine this situation.  You are enraged about some proposal or policy that has been enacted.  Your dander is up, and other people need to know it.  So, you go to your preferred social media outlet and write, "Politician Jones is a &*@(#%$ and thinks like a &*@(#%$ and anyone who supports this person is equally a &*@(#%$!!!"  Now, how about inviting Politician Jones to church in your next post?  Or the supporters of Politician Jones?  Would they really be interested in joining you to hear about Jesus after you have represented him that way?  Are you giving them reason to wonder why on earth they should explore the Christian faith if that is how Christians act?

Perhaps I sound like the Facebook police.  Not really.  I still hold to the theory not to take too seriously what people put online.  (It is one of the reasons I barely ever comment online.)  But once comments and posts become vicious and personal, I can't help but cringe.  (Note: I will never call you out online; although I am fearful that my silence may be interpreted by some as "the pastor does not care if I am crude and insulting.")

If you want to express your dissent online, there are surely respectful ways of doing this.  But please consider if you are flaunting a wicked attitude or sinful words for the world to see.  The world might be entertained by that, but surely God's people hold themselves to a higher standard than the world.  If your witness before the world is laced with mockery or disrespect, don't be surprised that the world hates the Church all the more.  It will be because we have given them reason to.

YouTube -- 6th Sunday of Easter (May 17, 2020)

Here is the Divine Service from May 17 -- the 6th Sunday of Easter.



Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sermon -- 6th Sunday of Easter (May 17, 2020)

1 PETER 3:13-22

JESUS CHRIST IS OUR SURE DEFENSE.

M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

      One of the great lies that the devil has sold to the world is that we should not be so rigid over doctrine.  Of course, the devil is a better salesman than that.  He is careful to couch this lie in such an appealing fashion that you sound like a godless person if you disagree.  The sales pitch is usually given in these terms: “God wants us to love one another.  We will have love and peace if we learn to get along and not be so divisive.” 
     Now it is true that God commands us to love our neighbor.  And we are eager to get along with other people.  No one likes strife or animosity.  Jesus teaches us to pray for unity within the Church.  No one is excited about the plethora of divisions within in the Church.  It would be a noble goal to end all divisions and to get along.  But what is the cost?  Is it enough just to agree that Jesus is our Savior and to say that nothing outside of that really matters?  Jesus does not think so.  Jesus commanded his disciples to “(teach) them to observe everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19)  So, the lie is that differences in doctrine do not matter as much as camaraderie.  But if we are rigid over doctrine, it is because God is rigid over doctrine.  None of God's word is negotiable.  Nothing can be compromised, not even for the sake of unity.  We cannot overlook false teaching or be dismissive of sins.
     Now, when we stand on God's truth, questions will arise.  Actually, they are more like accusations.  “Why do you hate other people?”  “Why are you opposed to everything?”  Such animosity may evolve into hard consequences.  There may be a hefty price to pay for holding firm to God's word.  The people St. Peter was writing to knew that.  They endured confiscation of property, exile, imprisonment, and even death.  But the price for abandoning God's word is both horrendous and eternal.  It is not an option.  So, if we do end up having to suffer for the word of God, then we ought to be all the more certain of what God says.  We want to be able to find comfort in hard times, to not shrink from it in fear or shame, and to boldly confess why it is all-important.
     St. Peter wrote, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...” (1 Peter 3:15)  There is no reason to belittle those who are lost or even those who are hostile to Christ.  They are not to be the object of our mockery, but the object of our love and of our prayers.  Even if others sneer at your confession, Jesus Christ is your sure defense.  He does not lie.  So if you confess what Jesus says, you will always confess the truth. 
     Some people say that the Bible is a book of lies and contradictions.  Most who say that are only repeating what they have heard.  If anyone makes such a claim to you, ask them for examples.  Most will not be able to give you even one.  In that case, ask them if they would like to learn what the Bible actually has to say.  Then talk about Jesus, who is your sure defense of the faith.
     What does the Bible say?  It says that all people are going to die.  No one disputes that.  It says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Every conscience testifies that we are guilty, and that guilt testifies that there is a God to whom we owe an answer for our lives.  Who else would set the standard of good and bad?  And why else would we feel bad for violating God's standard?  Almost no one denies these things whether they believe the Bible or not.  But the follow up question is essential: What are you going to do about your guilt, about your death, and about the fact that you owe an answer to God?  Those who are lost have no answers.
     You and I are in the same position as anyone as far as being sinners.  Our consciences burden us because we have not met God's standard.  And we are destined for death.  But we do have an answer for all of these things.  Jesus Christ is our sure defense.  St. Peter declares: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison...” (1 Peter 3:18-19)  
     Jesus Christ is our sure defense.  His perfect obedience to God's standard was exchanged for our sin and guilt.  He gave himself into a cursed death, because that is what sinners deserve.  Jesus fell under God's condemnation for us who have not lived up to God's standard.  In doing so, the Righteous One has ransomed the unrighteous—his life for ours.  Jesus has also given us the credit for his righteous obedience.  This is why we are convinced that God is pleased with us.  It is not a righteousness of our own that we boast, but it is the righteousness that Jesus has graciously wrapped us in that gives us comfort and peace before God.
     Jesus also gives us a sure defense against the devil.  St. Peter noted that Jesus was raised from the dead and “proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” (1 Peter 3:19)  We usually confess it this way: “He descended into hell.” (Apostles' Creed)  For what purpose?  To preach.  To proclaim victory over the devil and his minions.  Jesus entered the devil's home turf to proclaim to him: “I have conquered.  I have overcome you and have taken claim over the people you had infected with sin and death.  You cannot have them; they are mine.  Hell cannot have them; for I have delivered them.  They are children of God now, and heirs of heaven.”  The devil has no charge over you.  In fact, he is not even in charge of hell.  Jesus is!  He is the Lord of death and Hades.  He is the judge; the devil is but an inmate.  And Jesus is your sure defense against him.
     This is the hope that we all have, and we all have good reason to confess it.  It is divine truth and the only truth that saves.  That is why we dare not compromise on any teaching from God's word.  If you compromise, you are doing it to gain friends.  That is appealing because friendship makes you feel good.  But to compromise on God's word is to jeopardize your confidence and possibly your salvation.  It shifts your faith from God's sure word to another focus which gives no defense, no comfort, and no guarantees.
     Listen to the sure defense that Jesus gives you in your baptism.  St. Peter wrote: “Baptism, which corresponds to (the Flood), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ....” (1 Peter 3:21)  The most basic, whittled down sentence in these verses is this: “Baptism saves you.”  It is the means by which our Lord cleanses you, puts his name on you, and delivers you from the claims of the devil.  Since it is God who works in baptism for you, you can be confident of your salvation.  For it rests on what God has done for you, not on you at all.  This is how Jesus Christ is your sure defense against doubt.
     Many Christians say baptism is what we do for Jesus, that we are stating our commitment to him by our baptism.  Do we need to be so rigid about this?  Can we just agree to disagree and get along?  Dear Christians, how often has your commitment to Jesus failed?  How many times have you not followed through on those promises that you would not fall prey to some sin again?  And yet, you did.  If this is how your commitment goes, what comfort can you ever have if baptism is about your commitment to God?
     But God is rigid about his word so that you can have a sure defense.  You are saved not by your commitment to him, but by his commitment to you.  You are saved not because you overcome sins, but because he paid for your sins and pardons you.  And of course, you cannot avoid death; but Jesus has conquered death.  Jesus Christ is your sure defense, for he has claimed you and will raise you up to live forever.  All of this Jesus bestows on you through baptism because he attaches a promise to it: “Baptism saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21)  You are baptized “for the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 2:38)  It is God's gift, received by you for your salvation.
     Can we really compromise on this for the sake of getting along with others?  No.  In fact, we are duty-bound to warn others that they are wrong and that they are misrepresenting God's word.  And as a result, they are threatening the peace and confidence of other people for their salvation.  These are not little matters.
     Therefore, we cling to the word of God.  Jesus Christ is our sure defense—whether we want to be sure of our salvation or need to confess the reason for the hope we have.  His truth always stands against doubt, against false teachings, and against the enemies of the Church.  And if you are standing upon that truth, you will stand with Jesus on the Last Day.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Worship -- Social Distance Style

Here is what we are set up to for in worship tomorrow at 10:00 AM.  We will be asking family units to be spread out by 3 chairs to maintain 6 feet between them.  Awkward and different?  Yes.  But far better than nothing.


Friday, May 15, 2020

A Pastoral Concern: A Return to Church amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Greetings in the name of our Savior,
who, regardless of circumstances in our world,
lives and reigns over all things for the good of his Church, his redeemed!

Dear members and friends of Good Shepherd,

In conjunction with the Church Council, I am trying to navigate what is best for our congregation and for our community as we consider a return to regular Divine Services.  I do not want to give the impression that we don't care about any potential spread of COVID-19 by flooding the church with people, but I also don't want to give the impression that God's word and sacraments are dispensable.  Nor do I want anyone to cast judgment on anyone else about where their comfort level is with returning to church.  If you are ready to come back to church, you should not be judged as reckless.  If you are not ready to come back to church yet, you should not be judged as lacking in faith.  Everyone has their reasons for their decisions, and we should respect that people have given prayerful consideration to these things and are acting as they deem best.  We shall try to remain sensitive to both sides of this.

Based on numerous discussions with members and amongst the Church Council, it has been decided to open up the church once again for regular Divine Services at 10:00 AM on Sundays.  What has changed to lead to this decision?  First, we were urged to stay home in order to flatten the curve of those who are contracting COVID-19.  That has happened.  Secondly, a recent executive order from Governor Whitmer explicitly stated the following:

Nothing in this order should be taken to supersede another executive order or directive that is in effect, except to the extent this order imposes more stringent limitations on in-person work, activities, and interactions. Consistent with prior guidance, neither a place of religious worship nor its owner is subject to penalty under section 20 of this order for allowing religious worship at such place. No individual is subject to penalty under section 20 of this order for engaging in or traveling to engage in religious worship at a place of religious worship, or for violating section 15(a) of this order.  (Executive Order 2020-77, paragraph 16; May 7, 2020 – https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90705-528460--,00.html )

Since this has been made clear and since the curve has been flattening for almost a month, we deemed it to be acceptable to resume Divine Services for our members who are comfortable with attending with others.  We will resume Divine Services for all our members beginning Sunday, May 17 at 10:00 AM.  Sunday School & Sunday morning Bible Class will resume in September, God willing.

I aim to conduct services with as few risks as possible to allow for as many people to come as possible.  If you choose to come on Sunday morning, you should be aware of what you can expect when you arrive, as well as what will be expected of you to ensure as secure an environment as possible.  

– You will be expected to wear masks, as recommended by the CDC.  You must bring your own from home.  Since I will be more than 6 feet away from worshipers, the consensus was that I do not need to wear a mask while conducting the service.  I will, however, be sure to wear a mask before and after services, and while conducting Holy Communion after the live-stream has ended.

– The chairs will be spaced out to create social distancing.  Family units, however, will be clustered together.

– There will be a door man at the front door.  This way, only one person has to touch the door.  There may also be a greeter at the end of the sidewalk to assure that people remain spaced out as they enter the church.

– An usher will assure that seating in the chapel maintains the six-foot social distancing guideline.  For dismissal, those closest to the door will go first and then others will be dismissed in stages.

– Since there will be only one service at 10:00 AM, the hymnals can be used.  Any contagions will have become inactive before the next week's service.  If we should have to offer more than one service to accommodate everyone (that would be a happy problem!), we will have everything printed in the bulletin which you will take with you when you leave.  It seems fairly likely that we will add an 8:30 AM service after Memorial Day weekend, as several members have indicated they are likely to return once the official stay-at-home mandate has expired (which, as of this writing, is May 28).  I will inform you if the 8:30 AM service will be put into place by email.  You may always call the church to make sure, too.

– The use of the bathrooms may cause some challenges.  Propping the doors open is not really a solution.  People will inevitably run into each other as they come out of the bathroom into the hallway.  But if you are willing to come to church to begin with, I imagine you will not freak out if you bump into another human being.  To avoid touching the door handle, you may use the paper towel you used to dry your hands to protect your hand from the door handle.  A trash receptacle will be in the hallway to discard the paper towel.

– The offering plate will remain by the ushers' station.

– The chapel doors will remain propped open.  If your conversation with fellow members becomes more drawn out than greetings (and who could blame you?), please have your conversations in the fellowship hall or outside, as the noise tends to funnel right into the chapel.

– We will be prepared to broadcast the service on the large screen in the fellowship hall if the chapel is too small to accommodate people and still maintain social distancing.

–  For as long as people remain reluctant to come to church, we will live-stream on Facebook Live.  Services will also be posted on YouTube.  Facebook Live at 10:00 AM will continue for the foreseeable future.  We will continue to post services on YouTube as standard practice.

– We will continue to follow The Common Service without Holy Communion on our live-feed.  Once the recording has stopped, those who are in attendance may stay for a brief service of Holy Communion. Holy Communion will be limited to three people spaced out on each side of the altar.  (Families from the same household may crowd the railing more tightly.)  To limit contact, people will remain standing at the railing rather than kneel on the railing.  I will sanitize his hands between tables.  If the six foot separation for communion is deemed necessary, I will place the elements on the communion railing, stand at a distance, and invite the reception of the Lord's Supper (i.e., “The body of Christ <Amen>, given for you. The blood of Christ <Amen>, shed for you.”).

– For the time being, I do not anticipate people will need to register for a service time.  If it becomes necessary, I will keep you updated.

I thank you for your responses to the survey that was sent out.  This makes it much easier to plan for our Divine Services and helps us to avoid many unpleasant surprises.  We may still have some surprises that we will need to address, but I trust that we are all seeking the good of each other and will demonstrate patience along the way.

Keep on praying for one another and for others who are enduring this pandemic.  If there is anything more I can be doing to serve you during this strange time, please let me know.  

God bless and keep you.

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder