Monday, October 19, 2020

Bible Matters on October 21 -- "I have doubts about the Bible. Now what?"

Having doubts is very unsettling.  If a girlfriend doubts her boyfriend really wants to be with her, if an employee doubts he will have a job in a few weeks, if a family doubts they will ever pay off their credit card debt--all of these people live in some degree of terror.  

It is even more severe when it comes to doubting the Bible.  Christians know that this is a matter of eternal consequences.  If you doubt your salvation, God's promises, or the words that are supposed to be the foundation of your life, that is abject terror.  Who wants to go through life wondering if he has been a fool to believe the Bible?  What is a person to do?

Unfortunately, Christians will not admit they have doubts about the Bible or their faith.  It suggests that they are weak and, perhaps, not real Christians.  Our solution is often to rely on our pride, to not seek assurance, comfort, and encouragement, and to let doubts fester until they go away.  They don't.  If left unaddressed, it is the Christian who goes away.

Therefore, if you have doubts, 'fess up.  Acknowledge them; you would not be the first to have them.  Then seek answers from those who know the Scriptures.  God has granted you a pastor and a congregation for a reason.  Rather than wrangle through answers when you are not even sure where to find them, seek answers from those who do.  And feel free to ask challenging questions.  The Scriptures are not weak on answers.

While we will not be limited to these examples of doubts, we will discuss topics such as these:

>>>  "I don't like what the Scriptures say." 

>>>  "The Bible has all kinds of contradictions."  

>>>  "I don't understand it.  It just doesn't make sense."  

>>>  "I saw a YouTube video that showed me all kinds of errors in the Bible."

>>>  "My friends don't believe the Bible and they are so nice.  Does it really matter then?"

All are welcome to join us, Wednesday, October 21 at 7:00 PM.  If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact me (welsnovi@aol.com) and I will send you a link.  Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature though. 

Upcoming topics:

Oct 28 –  Marriage: Still God's plan; still a good idea

Nov 4  –   Is it important that I'm special?

Nov 11 –  Are all judgmental people bad?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sermon -- Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist (October 18, 2020)

LUKE 1:1-4; LUKE 24:44-53

LUKE PROCLAIMS A REAL JESUS FOR REAL SINNERS.

In the name + of Jesus.

      The Greek poet, Aesop, wrote many fables which were designed to teach lessons.  One example: A crow, having stolen a bit of meat, perched in a tree and held it in her beak.  A fox longed to possess the meat himself, and by a wily plan succeeded.  “How handsome is the crow,” he exclaimed, “in the beauty of her shape and in the fairness of her complexion!  Oh, if her voice were only equal to her beauty, she would deservedly be considered the Queen of the Birds!”  The crow, eager to show off her singing voice, called out a loud caw and dropped the meat.  The fox quickly picked it up, and addressed the crow, “My good crow, your voice is right enough, but your wit is lacking.”  The moral of the story is not to be deceived by flattery.  Aesop may have been good at fables and lessons, but no one will confuse Aesop's story with a historical event. 

     There are many who would reduce the Bible to a series of stories that are no different than Aesop's Fables.  But the Bible is not “Once upon a time in an enchanted kingdom.”  The Bible records historical events with real people who lived in particular places.  It is firmly planted in history.  Our faith is not based on fantasy, but on facts.  While there are many examples of the writers of the Bible pinpointing moments and places in history, there is probably no writer who is more of a historian that the doctor, Luke.

     Luke was closely associated with the apostle Paul, often traveling and serving the church with him.  While Paul was in prison awaiting his execution, Luke was there with him.  It is from the instruction which our Lord gave to St. Paul that Luke recorded his Gospel.  St. Paul, however, was not Luke's only source.  Twice St. Luke noted that, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19), so it is likely that Luke received details about Jesus' birth and youth from his mother.  As a faithful historian, entrusted with recording the life of Jesus, Luke was careful to get it right.  Luke proclaims a real Jesus.

     He says so in his introduction: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)  Although Luke mentions many who have written, the Lord chose to preserve only the writings of Matthew and Mark (John having written later).  Therefore, God guided Luke to record another account of Jesus' words and works.  Luke gives us the most detailed account of Jesus' birth and the only account of Jesus as a boy.  Luke gives us the most accurate starting date to mark John the Baptist's preaching, and therefore also Jesus' ministry.  Luke correctly identifies government titles, military officers, landmarks, weapons, and coinage.  No one who is trying to deceive you would ever be so precise.  One reason, of course, is that the Holy Spirit guided Luke in every word he used.  But another reason is because Luke, the historian, wants you to know that salvation is cemented in history.  Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.

     Luke, being a doctor, was trained to diagnose illnesses and to prescribe medicines and ointments to deal with them.  In his Gospel, Luke mentioned various diseases and ailments—leprosy, chronic bleeding, paralysis, a withered hand, blindness, and even demon-possession.  When it is claimed that simple-minded people of Jesus' day assumed that every disease and disorder was demon-possession, they fail to note Luke's careful designations.  Even though Luke could label these problems, that did not mean that Luke could heal them.  

     It is all the more true with sin.  It is not hard to see the symptoms of our sin.  They are behaviors which are harmful, hateful, or immoral.  Those symptoms are easier to see in others than in ourselves.  When we commit sins, we do it because we think they are beneficial, not harmful.  We do them because we like them and think we gain something by them.  If we cause pain to someone because we sinned against them, our apology is often, “I am sorry I hurt you.”  It is rare to hear the honest confession, “I was wrong.”  That's because we think we are good and our sins are justified.  But ask anyone you sin against if your sins are real.  The pain, the shame, and the bitterness that sins cause are real.  The diagnosis is obvious: We are all sinners, because sinners do sinful things.  Our offenses against God's Law are, indeed, wicked, but it is the root cause that damns us.  

     If someone had chronic headaches, they would be recognized as symptoms of a greater problem, perhaps a tumor.  A doctor could prescribe limitless supplies of Advil and that would mask the symptom, but it would do nothing for the disease.  The tumor is the real and lethal problem.  Likewise, our sins are symptoms.  We can try to improve our behavior so that we are more kind and more sensitive to others.  While that masks our sinfulness and others would appreciate it, it does not address our underlying problem.  Our real and lethal problem is our sinful condition.  We can label it, but we cannot cure it.  This is why Luke proclaims a real Jesus.  We need a real Savior because sin and death are real.  We are real sinners.  We need a real Savior.  St. Luke proclaims and assures you that you have one.  Jesus is a real Savior for real sinners.

     Shortly before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his apostles to proclaim to the world all that he taught and did for the salvation of the world.  Jesus told them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)  St. Luke has recorded the testimony of people who witnessed God in the flesh, who heard the testimony of angels, who saw Jesus perform miraculous signs, who were taught by Jesus about the kingdom of God, who saw him crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.  St. Luke proclaims a real Jesus.

     Luke recorded these things not just so you know your history, but so that you can know your salvation.  Yes, St. Luke proclaims a real Jesus, but he proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.  Jesus said all of these things were done so that “the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in (Jesus') name to all nations.” (Luke 24:47)  This is the cure for sin and death.  Jesus has come to purify you of all sin and to deliver you out of your sinful condition.  He has taken up your infirmities and sorrows, your sin and your shame, your death and your damnation.  God has never overlooked your sins, instead he became a man to pay for them.  Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin before Caiaphas.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate and was executed by Romans.  He was crucified publicly and confirmed dead.  On the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the grave, producing a scandal and cover-up among his foes and great joy among his friends.  Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners, as none of this was done in secret.

     Since Jesus has risen from the dead, you know that the payment is complete.  Jesus' resurrection proves that God the Father is pleased with Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf.  For this reason, Jesus wants forgiveness proclaimed to the world.  Every infraction against God's Law has been atoned for.  Every sinner who is baptized into Jesus has been covered with Jesus' innocence and purified of all unrighteousness.  St. Luke made a careful investigation in all that Jesus said and did and he has recorded it for you so that you can know with certainty that you have been saved by Jesus.  Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.

     I suppose some might consider Luke's Gospel redundant or even unnecessary.  As we considered earlier, Matthew and Mark had already written their Gospel accounts.  And much of what Luke recorded they had already covered.  What's more, in his introduction, Luke acknowledged that his friend, Theophilus, had already been taught about Jesus.  If all of these facts are true, why write a third Gospel?

     St. Luke answers: “It seemed good to me … to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)  We continue to gather together as the friends of God (for that is what “Theophilus” means) to hear the testimony about a real Jesus who brings a real salvation to real sinners.  Sin still plagues us.  Death still bothers us.  Fear and doubt still haunt us.  Our need for comfort and encouragement is constant and real.  God be praised—so are the mercies and promises of Jesus Christ.  

     Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.  And so, we sit before the pulpit to hear the words of Christ.  We come to the altar to partake in the body of Christ which bore our sins.  We drink the blood of Christ which atones for our guilt.  We are fed the body and blood which have overcome death so that we will receive an eternal life with a real, unending glory.  We come to the sacraments so that we maintain a real connection with Jesus and grow in certainty of his promises.

     For many, eternal life, everlasting peace, and endless glory are fantasies.  Not for you.  They are the promises of God.  They are received by faith, and they will be seen in their realities at the resurrection of the dead.  You have a real Savior who gives you real comfort, hope, and peace.  These are the facts.  St. Luke is your witness.  Jesus is your Savior.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bible Matters -- A discussion group

 BIBLE MATTERS


Our society is becoming more and more secular.  The Bible and its teachings are being attacked, mocked, and dismissed—even by Christian churches!  God's people are in a position where we have to defend our faith or deny it.  Remaining silent about our faith should not be considered an option.  We are encouraged to give an answer to anyone who asks about the reason for the hope we have.  That tells us that people will ask us about our faith and that we ought to be prepared with answers.

What answers can you give?  How do you react to attacks on biblical teachings?  What if someone presents a convincing argument that produces doubts about your beliefs?  Sadly, the trend seems to be that people with doubts slink away from the church rather than come to the church to seek answers and a defense of the faith.

Bible Matters discusses teachings that are questioned or misrepresented.  The topics may make you uncomfortable, but we ought to discuss them in a Scriptural way; dismissing them makes us sound like we don't really have answers.  The more comfortable we get discussing our faith and defending it, the more prepared we will be to stand firm when the faith is attacked and the more confident we will be in sharing our faith with others.

Is that a lofty goal for a Bible class?  YES!  This class allows people (members or guests) to ask challenging questions.  You are free to be bold with your questions.  You are even free to be a heretic (though we will not leave you free to remain a heretic).  Our goal is to be more and more firmly grounded on God's word so that we will not be blown here and there by every wind of teaching.  This is especially useful to prepare young people whose faith will be challenged in high school and college.

Upcoming Topics: 

Oct 21 –  I have doubts about the Bible.  Now what?

Oct 28 –  Marriage: Still God's plan; still a good idea.

Nov 4  –   Is it important that I'm special?

Nov 11 –  Are all judgmental people bad?

If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact the pastor (welsnovi@aol.com) to receive a link.  Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature.  Topics may be suggested to the pastor and will be announced prior to each session.  

Bible Matters meets on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  All are welcome.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist (October 18, 2020)

Lutheran worship is liturgical.  While that often refers to an order of worship, it can also refer to the calendar of the Church Year.  The Church Year includes major festivals, such as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, etc...  On Sunday, October 18, we will recognize a minor festival, the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist.

St. Luke was a close companion of St. Paul.  St. Paul refers to Luke a number of times, particularly that Luke was with Paul in the final days of Paul’s life (2 Timothy 4:11).  Luke wrote the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts (which also demonstrates his association with Paul in the portions that talk about what “we” did).  Not only was Luke a physician (Colossians 4:14), he was obviously a historian which is seen throughout Luke’s Gospel and the book of Acts where Luke is careful to date events and cite people and places.  We are especially grateful that, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Luke “carefully investigated everything ... so that (we) may know the certainty of the things (we) have been taught.” (Luke 1:3,4)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (October 15, 2020)

Greetings!

DIVINE SERVICES
      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.

FALL SCHEDULE
Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays. 
Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We will be going through the epistles of St. John.  The schedule can be found here.
Catechism Class is on Wednesdays at 3:30 PM. 
Bible Matters, a discussion group, is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  Topics coming up:
Oct 21 –  I have doubts about the Bible.  Now what?
Oct 28 –  Marriage: Still God's plan; still a good idea
Nov 4 –   Is it important that I'm special?
If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact the pastor (welsnovi@aol.com) and I will send you a link.  Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature. 

IN OUR PRAYERS
We keep in our prayers the family of Ken Reisig, Sr., father of Ken Reisig, who was called to his eternal rest on October 9.  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)

FREEDOM FOR CAPTIVES
          Parents are looking for “safe” schools during COVID 19, but at all times informed parents are also alert to questions of safety from sexual abuse. They look for clues on websites and in your published information. Take steps to protect children in your school and church. Freedom for the Captives provides sample protection policies and resources at freedomforcaptives.com. Please take a few minutes to listen to what Anita, a WELS member who survived child sexual abuse, says in her Freedom for the Captives video at wels.net/abuse-prevention. For more information, email freedom@wels.net

OFFICE HOURS
Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower.

CALL FOR NAMES FOR REMEMBERANCE ON SAINTS' TRIUMPHANT
Every year, we remember the names of loved ones who have died in the Christian faith, praising God for the mercy he has had upon them and thanking God for preserving them in that saving faith throughout their life.  Normally, the names of these departed souls are recalled in a prayer on All Saints' Day, which is November 1.  Good Shepherd will transfer this prayer and these remembrances to the 3rd Sunday of End Times which focuses on Saints Triumphant.
  In addition to members of Good Shepherd who have been called to eternal rest, you may submit the names of your own loved ones who have died in the Christian faith between November 17, 2019 and November 15, 2020.  

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        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.
        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.
        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.  

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         The service from October 11 did not record, but there are a number of services posted on YouTube to peruse.  Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

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 (248) 349-0565 or welsnovi@aol.com.

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!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
REGULAR SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
BIBLE MATTERS, a discussion group, on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Something from ... Luther re: the vocation of parents and good works

It seems we don't exalt the vocation of parents highly enough.  We are impressed with what people accomplish at their jobs, with what accolades they achieve, and with what they accumulate.  We invest a great deal of time, money, and effort in schooling to make the most of our careers.  All of this is fine to a point.  But the greatest impact a man or woman can make in this world is to get married, have children, and raise them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  All other accomplishments, accolades, and accumulations will be lost as time goes by.  But children are the one gift God grants that you, by his grace, will see in eternity.

If you want your children in eternity with you, then you must bring them to Christ now, and regularly.  If you set the example that Christ and his Church are essential, they will likely remain faithful to that their whole life long.  If Christ and his Church are optional, they will likely find an option that is more entertaining.

Being a parent provides daily, abundant opportunities for good works.  Parents get to care for their children for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.  It also enables parents to get a glimpse of God's grace.  For, parents often feel that their service is a thankless task.  They serve for the good of their children and they do find joy in it because they love their children.  But parents also will remember when they were being raised and how little they thought of their parents labors on their behalf.  Now that these people are doing the same for their children, they finally appreciate the sacrificial love that goes into it, seldom with their children acknowledge or appreciating their labors.  God, of course, does this and more for us daily.

If your goal is to get a good job, you can probably attain that.  If you are seeking to do good works, God presents them to you in your own home.  And the benefits of those good works has an eternal impact as well.  The vocation of a parent is a high and holy calling, and it should be upheld as that. 

From Luther:  “Thus it is true, as men say, that parents could attain salvation by training their own children, even if they were to do nothing else.  If parents do this by rightly training them to God’s service, they will indeed have their hands full of good works.  For what are the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the alien if not the souls of your own children?  With these God makes a hospital of your own house.  He sets you over them as the hospital superintendent to wait on them, to give them the food and drink of good words and works.  [He sets you over them] that they may learn to trust God, to believe in him, to fear him, and to set their whole hope upon him; to honor his name and never curse or swear; to mortify themselves by praying, fasting, watching, working; to go to church, wait on the word of God, and observe the sabbath.  [He sets you over them] that they may learn to despise temporal things, to bear misfortune without complaint, and neither fear death nor love this life.” 

-- Treatise on Good Works, Luther's Works: American Edition, p 85

All Saints' Day -- Call for names for remembrance

Every year, we remember the names of loved ones who have died in the Christian faith, praising God for the mercy he has had upon them and thanking God for preserving them in that saving faith throughout their life.  Normally, the names of these departed souls are recalled in a prayer on All Saints' Day, which is November 1.  Good Shepherd will transfer this prayer and these remembrances to the 3rd Sunday of End Times which focuses on Saints Triumphant.

  In addition to members of Good Shepherd who have been called to eternal rest, you may submit the names of your own loved ones who have died in the Christian faith between November 17, 2019 and November 15, 2020.  When submitting these names, please included

1.  the name of the deceased

2.  your name

3.  how he/she was related to you

4.  the dates of his/her birth and death, if known

All names given by Thursday, November 12 will be submitted in the bulletin.  Names may still be submitted as late as Sunday morning, but will not be printed in the bulletin.

The prayer which will be spoken on the Festival of All Saints is listed below.


PRAYER FOR ALL SAINTS’ DAY

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

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

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

Cong: Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Traveling with the Schroeders -- October Break

Last week, we hit the road early on a Thursday to head north to fall colors and Great Lakes.  Our trip to Mackinaw City had us visiting Colonial Michilimackinac on the tip of the lower peninsula.  This is a reproduction of a military fort which also served as a site for fur trading.  It was occupied by French and then British soldiers.  After an attack by Odawa and Chippewa tribes, the British moved the fort to Mackinac Island and burned the wooden structure on the lower peninsula.  The footprints of the homes, barracks, and other buildings remained, enabling the Michigan State Park system to reproduce much of the fort.

At night, we went to Wilderness State Park to the dark sky preserve and saw the Milky Way overhead.  We got to see a shooting star or two, and even saw a satellite flying overhead.

On Friday, we visited Fayette State Park on the northern shore of Lake Michigan.  This is a ghost town of what had been a thriving iron smelting community.  Many buildings still stand, and the trees were at peak color.  Unfortunately, a blustery day made spending too much time outside rather annoying.  And what is often very blue waters in the harbor were churned up and almost black.  Still, a very neat stop.

After that, we drove down the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan and visited Grandma and Grandpa Schroeder.  We spent Saturday with Faith, who took us to a county park in Waukesha County for some hiking.  We also got to wear out her dog, Radon.  We went with Faith to church at Mt. Lebanon Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.

On Sunday, we made an impromptu stop at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.  Then, after another brief visit in Sheboygan where my brother also showed up, we made the trek back home.  Mercifully, Chicago traffic was no big deal.  Still, our 11:30 PM arrival time made for a short night's sleep.  I'll have to make up for that tonight.

Here are some photos of our long weekend.




















Thursday, October 8, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (October 8, 2020)

 Greetings!

DIVINE SERVICES
      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.

FALL SCHEDULE
Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays. 
Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We will be going through the epistles of St. John.  The schedule can be found here.
Catechism Class is on Wednesdays at 3:30 PM. 
Bible Matters, a discussion group, is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  More information on Bible Matters can be found here.  Topics coming up:
     Oct 14 -- What is God going to do about evil?
     Oct 21 -- I have doubts about the Bible.  Now what?
If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact the pastor (welsnovi@aol.com) and I will send you a link.  Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature. 

IN OUR PRAYERS
We keep in our prayers the family of Victor Vogt, father of Colleen Fadool, who was called to his eternal rest on October 3.  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)

FREEDOM FOR CAPTIVES
          Parents are looking for “safe” schools during COVID 19, but at all times informed parents are also alert to questions of safety from sexual abuse. They look for clues on websites and in your published information. Take steps to protect children in your school and church. Freedom for the Captives provides sample protection policies and resources at freedomforcaptives.com. Please take a few minutes to listen to what Anita, a WELS member who survived child sexual abuse, says in her Freedom for the Captives video at wels.net/abuse-prevention. For more information, email freedom@wels.net

OFFICE HOURS
Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower.

OUT OF TOWN
Pastor Schroeder will be out of town Thursday, October 8 - Sunday, October 11.  In case you need pastoral care, please contact Pastor Matt Minzlaff of Immanuel Lutheran Church of South Lyon at (608) 343-9555

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        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.
        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.
        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.  

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         The service from October 4 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb_TsHc1JNo  Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

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 (248) 349-0565 or welsnovi@aol.com.

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!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
REGULAR SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
BIBLE MATTERS, a discussion group, on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Pastoral Concern about suffering for the faith

I listened to a podcast from Issues, Etc. about the possibility of soft totalitarianism coming to the USA.  The man interviewed, Rod Dreher, makes an alarming but compelling case about what Christians may be facing in the not too distant future.  In fact, he notes that in some cases, it is already upon us.  The interview is about 55 minutes, but worth your time.  Note: It is a warning, not a cheery story.  But I also think it is something that Christians ought to consider seriously.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://issuesetc.org/2020/09/30/2742-a-christian-response-to-soft-totalitarianism-rod-dreher-9-30-20/

While Mr. Dreher refers to totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, he notes that soft totalitarianism will not necessarily eradicate the Christian Church.  It will just make it very uncomfortable and inconvenient to be faithful to Christ.  

This raises a concern: What we are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ?

We have become quite accustomed to having our freedoms in the USA.  In fact, we rebel against inconvenience--not persecution or oppression, but inconvenience.  This is how "Okay, Karen!" became a saying.  Since we are a free society, we can get away with it.  We may be labeled as rude and we may be asked to leave the premises of where we are, but we would likely not be jailed.  So, we have the freedom to be rude and the freedom to gripe when we are asked to wait a minute (not that using our freedoms that way is admirable).

But we come back to the question: What we are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ?

Are we willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of Christ?  How about taking a financial hit and being forced to live with less--much, much less?  How about being refused a job or enrollment in college because we are Christian?  Are we willing to be reviled or shunned for confessing our faith publicly?  Are we willing to stand up for the truth of God's word and refuse to buckle to incessant pressure to accept what is deemed social justice by our society?  Are we willing to tell our children that they will not be participating in sports anymore because the coach demands a commitment to him that means church always comes in second place?  Are we willing to suffer physical harm?  Or to watch a family member suffer physical harm for the faith?  Are we willing to die?

Although we might be bold enough to credit ourselves for a willingness to die for confessing Jesus (and if that ever should come upon you, I pray that our Lord will sustain you through it), chances are, we are ready to shrink back from our confession much earlier than that. Soft totalitarianism may take root, but it seems to me that we are soft ourselves.  We have had to suffer precious little for Jesus' sake.  How much are we willing to endure before we deem it too hard, too inconvenient, or too unpopular to remain a Christian?  I can't answer that for anyone.  Each of us must answer for himself.  And if we are honest, I suspect none of us would like the answer we give.

If church attendance, hearing the word, participating in the sacraments, and prayer have not been a high priority for you, it is time to make them a high priority.  Whoever has not made a habit of attending church weekly will find it very easy to leave the Christian faith when persecution comes.  If you have taught your children that church attendance is an occasional thing, persecution for the faith will present them an occasion to leave the church altogether.  It will be easy to denounce Christ for a person has not been listening to him much anyway.

I am no prophet.  I don't know what is in store for the USA, and I can't promise that persecution is coming soon.  The trends, however, suggest it is not far off.  So, what can we do?

If we are going to be willing to suffer for the faith, we need to be grounded in the faith.  If we are going to stand firm in our confession regardless of the consequences, we must be confident of what we are confessing and convinced of its truth.  In other words, we must flee to our churches to be strengthened in word and sacrament.  We must bind ourselves together to fellow Christians so that we know we will not be alone if we should suffer for the faith.  We must commit ourselves to caring for those who end up suffering for the faith.  We must pray, and pray, and pray.  All of these things are good and right whether we face persecution or not.  They are essential at all times.  Thus far, our religious freedoms have permitted us to be lazy about these things.  But laziness leads to apathy, and apathy for the faith in times of persecution guarantees that faith will be renounced.  You can't fireproof a house that is already burning; therefore, you cannot prepare for persecution when it is already upon you.

If you yearn for eternal life for yourself and your family, you will cling to Christ who alone gives it.  Hear his word.  Receive his sacraments.  Enjoy the fellowship of believers.  While persecution, whether soft or harsh, is never enjoyable or easy, no persecution nullifies the salvation that Jesus gives.  We are confident of that.  It is necessary to flee to Christ as our refuge so that we remain secure in that--and are even willing to suffer all things, even death, rather than lose it.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sermon -- 18th Sunday after Pentecost (October 4, 2020)

 ISAIAH 55:6-9

GOD REVEALS HIGHER THOUGHTS AND BETTER WAYS.

In the name + of Jesus.

      It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: God does not think like you do.  While that is obvious, we usually assign fault to God for it.  Man may boast, “If I were God, I would put an end to cancer and COVID.  I would wipe out climate change, wildfires, and floods.  I would eliminate wars and riots and racism.”  Now, if there anything noble to be found in those sentiments, it is that people recognize that this is not the way things are supposed to be.  We do our best to find remedies for the evils we face, but we can't fix everything.

     To assign blame to God for the evils that we see in this world suggests that God is not good and gracious.  It suggests that God is ignorant, negligent, or impotent.  Worse, the root of our thinking is that we deserve better from God.  If I suffer loss, sickness, or calamity, I may get angry with God because, in my way of thinking, I deserve better.  

     It is a common among sinners to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  We do that with people, and we do it before God, too.  Should God treat you with more respect?  Does God owe you better?  Perhaps before we consider that, we should ponder this: What does God owe you?  What do you deserve, and why do you deserve it?

     God has revealed his thoughts and his ways to us so that we can know who God is and what God is like.  God gave us his word to reveal what is good and what is evil.  Those standards have never changed.  What is good has been good from eternity.  What is evil will still be evil into eternity.  To those who do what is good, God promises blessing, life, and heaven.  But to those who do what is evil, God promises wrath, death, and hell.  Despite all the promises attached to doing what is good and all the threats attached to doing what is evil, we still do what is evil and fail to do what is good.  This is our wretched condition as sinners.

     Do you respect to people who don't do good?  No.  So, why should God?  Do you think others deserve a reward when they do evil?  No.  So, why would God owe us better treatment when we sin?  Just as God is not stingy with his blessings for those who are righteous, neither is he stingy with his wrath for those who are not.  We have earned his wrath, just as we confess it: “I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.”  If you do not believe this is true, that your condition is really that bad, then you believe that God is a liar and his grace means nothing to you.  

     But if you do believe it, then hear the Lord's summons: “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)  God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  He is not like we are.  The Lord God extends grace to sinners and gives us much better than we deserve.  He is not content to let sinners go their own way and perish in ignorance or unbelief.  He summons all people to himself, because he is the only one who can pardon sinners, and he is the only one whose compassion actually benefits the wicked.

     You might find a lot of people who claim to have compassion on the wicked.  Man's thoughts are to refuse to call anything or anyone wicked.  Man's ways are to encourage the wicked in what they do.  This is called compassion, because then the wicked don't feel bad.  But man's thoughts and ways are foolish.  If you and I agree that certain behavior is no longer wicked, God does not concede to us.  His standards still stand.  Just the same, his judgments still stand.  Therefore, he urges, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6) 

     God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  God has compassion upon sinners.  He wants to see no one damned, but all people abundantly pardoned.  Of course, the pardon is not free.  It is free to you, but not for the Lord.  He gave his only begotten Son to win your pardon for you.  The Lord gave his only begotten Son to be criticized, maligned, abused, and executed by the wicked.  He let sinful mankind have their way with him so that Jesus could rescue mankind from their sin.  Why would the Father allow his own Son to suffer what he did not deserve?  Why would God the Son willingly accept a cursed death and the torments of hell when he was innocent?  And why would the Lord bear such a cost on behalf of people who have defied and denied him?  Does this make any sense to you?  Of course not.  But God does not think like you do.  God does not act to seek his own good, but yours.  The holy one seeks the good of sinners.  God does all this for you, and he is not stingy with his grace.  God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  

     For the sinner who knows he deserves condemnation, there is no sweeter news.  But some are embittered by this, failing to appreciate grace.  Consider the parable that Jesus told in the Gospel lesson.  The master continued to gather people into his service throughout the day.  When those who were hired at the beginning of the day saw others receive a denarius, they expected more.  They reasoned, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. (Matthew 20:12)  We deserve better from the master because we did more.”  However, that is not grace.  That is a wage.  Shall we conclude that our reward from God is earned because we have received grace from infancy?  We might not begrudge those who are brought into God's kingdom later in life, but do we think that we have a greater claim on grace or deserve better from God?  Beware: The servants who argued that they deserved better were dismissed.  If they would not receive the master's grace, they had no part of the master's estate.

     God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  This is true in regard to how God grants salvation.  He has compassion on sinners so that we are not condemned.  He abundantly pardons, for he continues to cover our sins so that we are continually righteous and blameless before him.  Therefore, we get to live in continual comfort and confidence.  We get to go to bed each night assured that God is pleased with our works and delights to call us his people.  We can even laugh in the face of death, knowing that we will be raised up from the grave to receive eternal joys and everlasting glory.  All who believe in Jesus are promised such a denarius, and we will not be short-changed.

     God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  It is also true in regard to how God works in your day-to-day life.  Since God is eternally good, whatever he gives you is for your good.  King Solomon wrote: “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)  It is unlikely that you would face the day of adversity with a smile and say, “This is good.  God has sent it; therefore it must be good for me.”  But God reveals higher thoughts and better ways.  The only reason you would know and believe the day of adversity is good is because you know who God is and what God is like.  If you don't understand how the day of adversity is good, you do know that God is good.  And if God makes life hard, you know that somehow, some way, God is doing it for your good.

     This is what the Lord declares: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)  This does not explain how hardships are for our good.  It just highlights that God's purposes are higher than our understanding of them.

     Consider another parable.  A rancher had a broken fence.  His neighbor said, “That's bad.”  The rancher asked, “How do you know it's bad?”  The next day, a wild horse was found in the fenced area.  He had wondered in where the fence was broken.  The neighbor told the rancher, “That's good.”  The rancher asked, “How do you know it's good?”  The rancher's son tried to break the wild horse so he could be ridden.  He was thrown from the horse and broke his arm.  The neighbor said, “That's bad.”  The rancher asked, “How do you know it's bad?”  At that time, a war had broken out and men were being summoned to go off to battle.  Because the son had a broken arm, he was excused from the war.  The neighbor said, “That's good.”  The rancher asked, “How do you know it's good?”  The lesson, of course, is that our thoughts and our ways are flawed.  We only judge things by considering, “How does this look?  How does this make me feel?”  

     But the Lord's thoughts are higher and his ways are better.  Everything God does—whether you like it or not, whether it makes your life easier or harder—is done for your eternal good.  If Jesus willingly suffered sorrows, torment, and death so that you could be abundantly pardoned, will he not continually have compassion on you?  Will he not continually do all things for your salvation?  And of course, the answer is a heavenly, “Yes!”  He is not stingy with his grace.  While his thoughts are higher than yours, you can be sure that you are in his thoughts.  And while men will always desire their own ways, the Lord has revealed to you a better way.  It is Jesus Christ, and it ends in glory with him.

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

Friday, October 2, 2020

A Pastoral Concern -- regarding the election

As we head into the more heated part of the election season, only about a month away from the date for US elections, I offer my counsel.  It is the same as it ever was and ever will be: "Do not trust in human helpers, in a mortal man who cannot save you.  His spirit departs.  He returns to the ground he came from.  On that day, his plans have perished." (Psalm 146:3-4)

While the election of our president, congressional representatives, and other offices is important and we rightly give prayerful consideration for whomever we cast our vote, we also ought to recognize that Jesus lives and reigns over all things.  When we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we mean our Lord's will.  Martin Luther, in his explanation of the 3rd Petition of the Lord's Prayer, wrote: "God's good and gracious will is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also."  

Will the politician you vote for do the will of God?  Who knows?  Will God work out all things for the good of his people?  Yes.  He promises exactly that (Romans 8:28).  That will happen either in conjunction with an elected official or despite him.  It will happen as the policies enacted by our government benefit Christians or put a heavier cross on them.  We don't know what an elected official will finally do; we do know what our God will do.  Therefore, we are right to trust in that.  And if the world should burn and perish because of what an elected official chooses to do, the kingdom of God will still be secure and God's people in it will never perish.  They may die, but they will not perish.  For those who dwell in the kingdom of God have eternal life.  And so our prayer remains that, as God's will is done on earth, it will be done among us.  In other words, no matter what happens, we pray that we remain faithful as God's people.

Unless you don't care at all what happens in the election for our president, you are probably strongly devoted to one candidate or another.  You may even believe that the candidate you do not support is evil and that those who support him are warped, if not evil themselves.  Such is the political climate of our country.  Those who support a different candidate are not just people we disagree with; they are our enemies.  This societal attitude affects us in the Church, too.  We look at each other in terms of "us" and "them."  And while we may lament that it is sad that such divisions exist, we usually assume that "they" are the ones with the problem.  That itself is a problem.

So, what does the pastor say about all this?  What will he say to people who disagree with him?  Here it is.

Are you supporting Biden or Trump?  I will tell you about Jesus.

Are you a staunch Republican or Democrat?  I will tell you about the kingdom of God.

Do you want to see the state turn Red or Blue?  I will talk about God who loves the world in this way--he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  

Do you lean Left or Right?  I will tell you about the paths of righteousness where our Lord leads us for his name's sake.

Do you prefer socialized medicine to cover all people or do you prefer privatized health care?  I will tell you about the blood of Christ which purifies you of all sin and of heavenly glory where our bodies will be immortal and incorruptible.  

"Do not trust in human helpers, in a mortal man who cannot save you.  His spirit departs.  He returns to the ground he came from.  On that day, his plans have perished." (Psalm 146:3-4)  If you put your trust in elected officials and in their plans, you will perish with them.  The Christian hope is focused elsewhere: "My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:2)  

If you are putting your hope on "the right man" becoming president, then perhaps the Lord is doing you a favor having "the wrong guy" win.  This will force you to pray more and pay greater attention to God's promises.  That is, after all, the will of God being done among us.

The world and its glory is passing away.  The kingdom of God endures forever.  The plans of man will come to nothing.  The word of our God and his mercies endure forever.  This is the message and the focus of the Christian Church.  Whoever longs for a perfect and permanent kingdom will flee to the Church for the word which endures and for the sacraments which strengthen faith and give eternal life.  This is all that matters, no matter who wins what election.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (October 1, 2020)

Greetings!

DIVINE SERVICES
      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.

FALL SCHEDULE
Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays. 
Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We will be going through the epistles of St. John.  The schedule can be found here.
Catechism Class is on Wednesdays at 3:30 PM. 
Bible Matters, a discussion group, is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  More information on Bible Matters can be found here.  Topics coming up:
     Oct 7  –  The Church and the LGBTQ+ Community: How shall we love them? 
NOTE:  There is a booklet entitled “Gay and God” from Time of Grace Ministry (https://timeofgrace.org/), which will be a guide for our discussion.  While it is not mandatory to read it beforehand, it is valuable reading and may aid your thoughts before our session on October 7.  It is available at Good Shepherd, free of charge. 
If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact the pastor (welsnovi@aol.com) and I will send you a link.  Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature. 
     Oct 14 -- What is God going to do about evil?
     Oct 21 -- I have doubts about the Bible.  Now what?

REDFORD PREGNANCY CARE CENTER UPDATE
The RPCC is seeking donations for gently used fall/winter clothing.  We could really use 18 mo. - 4 T clothing.  For more information, please contact Carol Beeskow (cbeeskow@gmail.com). 

WELS LISTEN LIBRARY
          You may not think your church has any blind members. What about people who can no longer read your service folder or are too frail to hold a book or have dyslexia?
          WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) posts audio versions of Meditations and Forward in Christ and Christian audio books on a new website called the “Listen Library” at listen.wels.net. You can see the Listen Library for yourself – it’s open but the recordings are password protected. For members to listen online, download to their devices or order book or periodical on a USB flash drive, they (or someone in their family or church) applies to MVI. A Service Application form is on the Listen Library landing page. The National Library Service for the Blind has free digital players available to all who are blind. MVI continues to produce braille and large print materials. 
          Coming soon: Professor Emeritus Daniel Deutschlander is recording his books for Listen Library clients to hear for free! Find out more about resources for members who can no longer read a book at wels.net/mvi.

OFFICE HOURS
Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (welsnovi@aol.com), but the response may be slower.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
        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.
        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.
        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.  

GOOD SHEPHERD ON YOUTUBE
         The service from September 27 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzQaauPNnYw&t=1s  Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

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 (248) 349-0565 or welsnovi@aol.com.

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!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
==============================
REGULAR SCHEDULE
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
SUNDAY SCHOOL & ADULT BIBLE CLASS on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
BIBLE MATTERS, a discussion group, on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE