Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday in Lent (February 28, 2021)

MARK 8:31-38

YOU CANNOT HAVE CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT THE CROSS.

In the name + of Jesus.

      Every year, people make New Year’s resolutions.  Either you resolve to address an area of your life where you could do better, or you resolve to improve yourself by doing something new.  If a New Year’s resolution is an admission that you need to do better, Lent is a season which admits that you are broken.  It is a season of repentance.  If your focus is on repentance, the focus must also be on your sins—the thoughts, words, and actions you need to be repentant of and to root out.

     The Bible has often tied repentance with fasting.  Fasting is done as an expression of grief.  If you have ever grieved over some difficult experience, you probably did not feel like eating.  Your nerves were frazzled.  Your stomach was in knots.  Your heart was broken.  You were told to eat something because you needed to, not because you wanted to.  This is why fasting has been tied to Lent.  We are grieved over our sins.  With fasting, repentance ends up being more than a mental exercise.  We engage our bodies in it so that our bodies and souls both grieve over our sins.

     In Luther’s Small Catechism, we memorize these words: “Fasting and other outward preparations may serve a good purpose.”  If fasting—or the more generic “giving up something for Lent”—enables you to focus on your need for Jesus, then it serves a good purpose.  But if it is something you do just to boast that you went 40 days without chocolate, then it is useless.  Giving up something for Lent is supposed to be a discipline that curbs your flesh, fights against the sins you struggle with, and highlights your need for Jesus.  That is the only thing that makes any ceremony any good.

     This is what the Lord says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)  You cannot have Christianity without a cross.  It isn’t optional.  When Jesus tells you to deny yourself, it is an imperative.  An imperative is not a suggestion; it is a command.  But “Let him deny himself,” is far more than denying yourself chocolate or soft drinks during Lent.  It is denying your very self.

     We all have a sinful nature that desires what exalts us.  We want praise, acceptance, ease, and luxury.  We want the closest parking space, the first place in line, the biggest portion of dessert, and the most important job title.  We don’t want these things because we can benefit others with them; we want them for our own benefit.  The sinful nature loves itself above all things.  It corrupts us and co-opts our attitude.  Since we appear to benefit from granting our sinful nature what it wants, we do not want to give it up.  But this is what the Lord says: “Whoever would save his life will lose it…  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:35-36)

     If you do not take Jesus’ words seriously here, it is only because you don’t think you can really gain the whole world.  Not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffet can have that much.  But the reality is you can gain the whole world.  How?  By going along with the world in all its corrupted attitudes.  Today, people are goaded into denying God’s word and celebrating perversion.  You can be rewarded by being “on the right side of history,” or you can be cancelled for refusing to comply.  You can be erased from social media for saying the wrong thing.  You can lose your job for simply stating what the Scriptures teach about God’s created order or what the Commandments decree about right and wrong.  Increasingly, it seems that there will be a cost for standing on God’s word.  If your highest good is to save your life in this world, to enjoy the opportunities it offers, to be compensated and celebrated in this world, it is easy to do: Learn to confess the world’s creeds.  But by doing so, you will have to profess your shame in God’s word.  You will gain the world and everything in it, but the cost will be to forfeit your soul.  And the Lord Jesus will be ashamed of you when he comes to judge the living and the dead.

     Even if you don’t adopt the world’s creeds and causes, you still will battle with yourself.  This is why Jesus tells you to take up your cross.  It is only when the Lord puts a cross on you that you recognize how much of a sinner you still are.  What is the cross for?  It is for killing people.  And your sinful nature does not want to die.  It does not want to lose praise, pride, pleasure, or possessions.  We would rather avoid the cross or to cast it off.  But you cannot have Christianity without the cross.

     “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)  A life of repentance is not optional.  And to make you see what you need to repent of, Jesus tells you to deny yourself.  This means to put others first.  You put the needs of your wife above yours.  You help your neighbor carry his burdens.  You seek the good of your co-workers even when they are rude, obnoxious, or spiteful.  And when you recoil at this and consider it nonsense, Jesus has you ponder: If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47)  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45) 

     If we are to be children of the heavenly Father, we are to be like him.  But we are not.  Our heavenly Father’s love is pure.  He does not play favorites.  We do not love as we ought.  We do play favorites, and we give our love as a reward rather than for free.  So, rather than defend ourselves, let us deny ourselves.  We have nothing to boast about or be proud of.  We take up our cross and crucify the sinful nature which wants only to save its pampered, self-centered life in this world.  For, repentance is not a theoretical exercise; it is put into practice.  Repentance does not merely admit that sins are bad; it engages in the discipline to renounce them and to crucify them.  You cannot have Christianity without the cross.

     Of course, it is not your cross that saves you.  It shows that you need to be saved.  It puts to death the sin which is in you so that it will not ensnare you.  But you are not saved by how well you deny yourself, by what you give up, by what you suffer, or by how repentant you can make yourself feel.  That would mean your salvation is up to you.  It is not.  It is up to Jesus.  And even for Jesus, there is no Christianity without a cross.

     That is what Jesus told the apostles: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly.” (Mark 8:31-32)  This is what Jesus must do.  It was necessary.  It was not optional.  And it certainly was not easy.  Jesus did not get to choose how he would save you.  This is what was foretold and proclaimed throughout the Scriptures.  Yes, Jesus would crush the head of the serpent, but the serpent would strike his heal.  Yes, there would be atonement made for sinners, but atonement means a sacrifice.  Blood would have to be shed on behalf of those who would be pardoned.  Redemption would be won, but to redeem someone, there has to be a payment made.  What payment could deliver the entire world from death?  The life of God the Son.  The Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected, and be killed to do this.  If he does not, there is no atonement, no pardon, no resurrection, no hope.  You cannot have Christianity without a cross.

     It was perfect love which drove Jesus to that cross.  He had to suffer many things.  He suffered from people who sinned against him.  He had to endure lies and slander.  He was subjected to entrapment by public challenges to his teachings and to intrigue by secret meetings to kill him.  He had to endure disciples who boasted of their importance and who failed to understand the kingdom of God is about grace, not greatness.  He was betrayed and denied by friends; he was falsely accused and unjustly condemned by enemies.  In all of this, he still loved those for whom he was sent and for whom he was slain.  He was crucified for those who sinned against him, even for those who fail him, who are ashamed of him, and who curse him. 

     No matter what your sins are, he died to atone for you.  His love is pure, and he did not play favorites.  Jesus had asked, What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)  In contrast, Jesus gave up his soul into death to gain the whole world.  He is the Lamb of God who was slain so that every soul could have life eternally.  If anyone perishes, it is not because Jesus Christ was stingy with his grace.  People may reject and deny Jesus, but Jesus will never deny who he is—the Son of God in the flesh who has suffered and died for mankind.  Salvation may be forfeited by men, but it will never with withdrawn by the Son of Man.  That faithful love that was poured out at the cross was poured upon you in your baptism and is poured into you from this altar to save you.

     You cannot have Christianity without the cross.  The cross is where your sins are paid for, and the resurrection is proof that the payment is sufficient.  The resurrection is the proof that there is new life for all who believe in Jesus.  Jesus has snatched you away from your sins to give you this new life.  He calls you to deny yourself and to take up your cross so that you are not snatched back by your sins.  He calls you to follow him, to cling to him, and to trust in him for your salvation.

     Fasting and other outward ceremonies may serve a good purpose.  They provide a discipline against your flesh and highlight your need for Jesus.  Bearing the cross that Jesus puts on you is good; for it puts to death the sin which is in you and it drives you to Jesus.  Jesus’ death on the cross is your highest good; for that is where he has atoned for you.  This is the focus of our faith.  It has to be.  For you cannot have Christianity without the cross.

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

Friday, February 26, 2021

Something from ... Luther re: Colorful language in proclaiming Christ's victory

This is Luther's comment regarding the Law, sin, death, and the devil trying to claim Jesus in his crucifixion.  Some might think it is crude.  I love it.

          "For He not only redeemed us but also freed us rightfully for Himself, so that not only the devil and hell were compelled in strict justice to let Him go, because they killed the innocent Son of God.  Therefore the Law burned its fingers, and death dirtied its pants.  The devil, death, and sin overreached themselves.  There they all became guilty and debtors to God, to this Son Jesus Christ, who now has the right over against His enemies." (Martin Luther.  Luther's Works: American Edition. Vol. 9 [Lectures on Genesis, chapters 45-50], page 162)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

YouTube -- Lenten Vespers (February 24, 2021)

Here is the service from February 24, 2021.  Lenten Vespers, led by Pastor Paul Schaefer of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Plymouth, Michigan.



Update from Good Shepherd (February 25, 2021)

Greetings!

REGULAR SCHEDULE

Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays, in person and on Facebook Live.  Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  The final Sundays of our series on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is coming to a close.  Starting March 14 a new series will begin entitled, "Elephants in the Room: Evolution vs. the Message of Scripture."  The schedule can be found here.
Lenten Vespers -- Wednesdays at 7:00 PM (through March 24).  You can see the schedule here.

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.

Good Shepherd 40th Anniversary Photo Compilation 
           
This year is the 40th anniversary of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church!  To commemorate the occasion we would like to put together a compilation of photos to develop into a video.  If you're interested, please find photos of your time with the congregation that you would like to share and email them to Brian Wilder, Pastor, or Dan LeFevre so we can compile them into a video.  Also, if anyone has experience developing a video for this type of project and would like to assist in the creation any help would be greatly appreciated!  
            There is still time to submit photos, but we do need them soon to have time to put together a video.

EASTER FOR KIDS 
            Easter for Kids will be a do-it-yourself event, after participants pick up their materials from Good Shepherd.  The pick-up date will be Saturday, March 27 (9:00-11:00 AM).  Registration forms are now available in paper and online -- Good Shepherd Lutheran Church - EASTER For Kids REgistration (goodshepherdnovi.org).   Please share the link and invite family and friends to participate!

EASTER FOR KIDS PREP MEETING – March 7, 11:15 AM
            Easter for Kids will be a do-it-yourself event, after participants pick up their materials from Good Shepherd. The pick-up date will be Saturday, March 27 (9:00-11:00 AM). Registration forms (in paper and online) will be available soon.
            In order for this to be a worthwhile event for participants, we will have a lot of preparations to make so that children who are involved in Easter for Kids will still feel a connection to Good Shepherd.
            Here is what we need: 
                 >>  Recording the lesson
                 >>  Recording instructions for the craft
                 >>  Posting those recordings to YouTube (setting up the link)
                 >>  Painting the Sandwich board for the church yard
                 >>  Packet assembly (late March)
                 >>  Set up and manning the drive-through booth (March 27, 9-11 AM)
                 >>  Publicizing Easter for Kids in the community. 
             If you are willing to help with the preparation, publication, and/or distribution of materials, please speak to Pastor Schroeder.

ADULT BIBLE CLASS – NEW SERIES
            “ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM” – Evolution vs. The Message of Scripture begins on March 14.  Classes begin at 8:45 AM
            One of the great wars being waged against the Christian faith today is done by attacking the biblical teaching of creation. Many within the Church have tried to find a compromise between creation and science (evolution) called theistic evolution. This Bible study (the schedule is here) compares scriptural teaching with theistic evolution and shows that theistic evolution ends up compromising, not just biblical creation but all the major teachings of Scripture: the nature of God’s original perfect creation, the origin and perfect nature of the first humans, the fall into sin, sin’s curse on creation, God’s plan of salvation for sinners, the saving work of Jesus Christ, and the source of “right and wrong.”
            Each lesson begins with a study of Scripture and then compares that with the teachings of theistic evolutionists presented in their own words.
           The book “Elephants in the Room: Evolution vs. The Message of Scripture” may prove beneficial for your studies with this class. If you are interested in purchasing a copy ($16), please order it by March 7 so that you can get it quickly. Confirm your order with Pastor Schroeder. Checks can be made payable to Good Shepherd.

CONCERNING PASTORAL CARE
             Pastor Schroeder is 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
         Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  The service from February 21 is here:  Good Shepherd Novi, Divine Service - Feb. 21, 2021 - YouTube
         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!

BAD WEATHER POLICY FOR SERVICES AT GOOD SHEPHERD 
        We will always have services as scheduled at Good Shepherd. Since I live across the parking lot, I can get to the church no matter how bad the weather gets. Even if the service is just me and my family, we will be here. For everyone else, please use your God-given common sense to determine whether or not you will get on the road to attend any service when the weather is bad. We don't want anyone to risk his or her life to be here. But if you do venture out, the scheduled service will take place. It may be only a handful with a cappella singing and/or spoken liturgy, but we will be here. 
        Bible Classes and meetings may be canceled due to weather. Check your email regarding announcements to see if any of those scheduled events is canceled. If there is no email about it, it is not canceled. But again, use common sense to determine if you can make it, and call the pastor to let him know if you will not be coming.

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.
LENTEN VESPERS, Wednesdays at 7:00 PM (through March 24).

GOOD SHEPHERD’S WEBSITE

PASTOR SCHROEDER’S BLOG

www.LutheranSubject.blogspot.com  

Adult Bible Class -- A new series begins on March 14

ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM: 

Evolution vs. The Message of Scripture

One of the great wars being waged against the Christian faith today is done by attacking the biblical teaching of creation.  Many within the Church have tried to find a compromise between creation and science (evolution) called theistic evolution.  This Bible study compares scriptural teaching with theistic evolution and shows that theistic evolution ends up compromising, not just biblical creation but all the major teachings of Scripture: the nature of God’s original perfect creation, the origin and perfect nature of the first humans, the fall into sin, sin’s curse on creation, God’s plan of salvation for sinners, the saving work of Jesus Christ, and the source of “right and wrong.”

Each lesson begins with a study of Scripture and then compares that with the teachings of theistic evolutionists presented in their own words.

                March 14             What is Theistic Evolution?  The Big Picture

                March 21             The Creation from Beginning to End

                March 28             God’s Love Amidst Suffering

                April 4                  Easter Sunday – No Bible Class

                April 11                Who We Are According to Scripture

                April 18                Right and Wrong, Sin, Death, and Judgment

                April 25                The Work of Jesus Christ

                The book “Elephants in the Room: Evolution vs. the Message of Scripture” may prove beneficial for your studies with this class.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy ($16), please order it by March 7 so that you can get it quickly.  Confirm your order with Pastor Schroeder.  Checks can be made payable to Good Shepherd.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In case you ever wondered -- Sermon prep

This was part of my sermon prep this week, a walk through Meadowbrook Lakes subdivision just north of the church.

The bright sun, blue skies, and "warmer" weather were all nice.

 



Monday, February 22, 2021

YouTube -- 1st Sunday in Lent (February 21, 2021)

 Here is the service from February 21, 2021.  For the first time in a long time, the entire liturgy was observed in the regular service rather than delaying Holy Communion until after the live-stream.