Friday, August 30, 2013

MLS Football (Varsity) vs. Carson City

Thursday night was the MLS varsity opener at Carson City (a LONG ways away).  All in all, it was a forgettable game.  MLS turned the ball over too, too many times (6 fumbles and 2 INT's?).  They came up short 42-14. 

On the upside, Nathanael caught a TD pass in the 3rd quarter.  Photo below.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MLS football is back!

The JV kicked off its season against Carson City-Crystal at MLS's field.  It was a fun game to watch from the Cardinals' side of the field.  Final score was 41-28, with MLS playing mainly 2nd string for much of the 2nd half.

Andrew started at QB and safety.  He scored two TD's, had an interception, and a fumble recovery.  I hope his season has not peaked already.

His most exciting play was on a 4th quarter TD run.  Andrew led the option and ran for about 30 yards.  As he was being tackled, he pitched it to the RB who ran the final 30 yards for the TD.

The interception.

Making his way through the defense for his second TD.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vacation review

We are back, about 1,800 miles later.  Okay, we took the long way back.  We went to New Ulm, Minnesota via Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, and Rochester, MN.  We returned via the Twin Cities, Duluth, Marquette, MI, the Mackinac straits, and down I-75.  The northern route was to avoid the blistering heat and humidity.  We managed to avoid the heat (80's, not 90's, and much cooler for sleeping), but not the humidity.  Technically, rain is really high humidity, right?

Highlights of the trip included...
...Great River Bluffs State Park on the shore of the Mississippi River, just south of Winona, MN
...Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN (got Faith moved in and she is now a college student!)
...Martin Luther College Book Store (books, shirts, car stickers, choir CD's, etc....)
...Hermann the German monument on the bluff overlooking New Ulm
...a tour of the Schells Brewery Company in New Ulm, MN with Nathanael and Andrew to make sure that they successfully registered themselves at Michigan Lutheran Seminary (they did)
...a failed attempt at getting to the Maritime Museum in Duluth, MN
...Palms Book State Park and a little raft trip over the Kitch-iti-kipi spring and some really, really big brook trout
...Seul Choix Lighthouse, a bit south of Manistique, MI
...Mackinac Bridge (but no fudge)
...Swimming in Lake Michigan at Petoskey State Park

Some pictures follow.....

Looking south toward La Crosse, WI from the bluffs in Minnesota.

Hermann the German overlooks New Ulm, MN.
Old Main (1884), Martin Luther College.

Faith is officially an MLC Knight!

 Looking down from a raft into crystal clear water, 45 feet to the bottom, and full of enormous trout.  No fishing allowed.  Palms Book State Park, near Manistique, MI in the U.P.
Seul Choix Lighthouse on the northern tip of Lake Michigan.

The most beautiful bridge in the world.

Sunset over Petoskey Bay.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon -- 13th Sunday after Pentecost (August 18, 2013)

LUKE 12:49-53

In the name + of Jesus.

     There are a number of times each year when we hear the lesson and wonder, “That was the Gospel of the Lord?!”  We think of the Gospel as a reading that warms our hearts and makes us smile.  This one makes us scrunch up our eyebrows.  Jesus states, Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)  Where was the good news in Jesus’ words this morning?  In fact, it sounds quite unlike Jesus. 
     Admittedly, these are harsh words: Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)  Jesus produces the great divide.  He produces animosity and discord among various people, even family members.  It’s not that Jesus delights in doing this.  He simply states that this will happen when we let his words stand and when we take our stand on them.
     It cannot help but happen.  Darkness and light cannot exist together.  That which is holy cannot co-exist with what is sinful.  There is a division between the two, and they cannot be meshed together.  So it is with the Prince of Peace and the prince of this world.  Their kingdoms are divided.  You cannot be a child of God and a child of Satan at the same time.  You cannot live according to the Spirit and according to the principles of this world at the same time.  Jesus produces the great divide.  It can’t be any other way.
     But we hate the great divide.  We hate that we are marked differently from the world because that means we are marked.  And the great divide is not merely a difference in opinion or taste.  It is not as innocent as, “You like vanilla ice cream, but I like mint.”  It is a great divide, as in, “This behavior is pure and that behavior is wicked.  Those who will not confess and repent of their sins will perish.  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus will be saved.”  Jesus produces the great divide, and it is great, indeed. 
     Still, we hate the great divide.  We would rather straddle it.  We want to be loved by God and by the world.  We would like to have one foot in each kingdom.  We are influenced by our culture and we have adopted its ideas.  We are afraid to call immoral what God says is immoral.  We are afraid to condemn what God says is wicked.  We would much rather see people happy than repentant.  We don’t care if our children go to hell as long as they are happy now.  And if defying God’s word makes them happy, who are we to stand in the way?
     Now, you ought to know that if you let God’s word stand and if you take your stand on God’s word, you will surely see, know, and feel the great divide that Jesus produces.  The dividing lines may well be drawn up in your own family.  “In one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother,” (Luke 12:52-53) and so on.  No, it is not fun.  It is not enjoyable.  And you will have family and friends get in your face and demand, “Are you happy now?!”  Happy?  No.  Grieved.  But then so is the Lord who is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) 
     The world has a simple solution to all of this: Let sinners have whatever they want and call it good.  As long as the sun comes up and cows still give milk, why should you care what anyone does?  But guess what.  Every day, people are murdered, boyfriends use their girlfriends, women become unwed, single mothers, and workers cheat their clients.  And the sun still comes up and the cows still give milk.  Does that mean it is okay?  Not at all.  God sets the standard.  God enforces the rules.  Jesus is kindling fire to destroy a wicked world.  Judgment is coming, not because people have different opinions or tastes, but because people are wicked.  A holy God cannot tolerate sin.  And you play with fire when you adopt, tolerate, or turn a blind eye these evils.  If you want to straddle the great divide, you will fall, and you will perish.  Repent!
     The Lord Jesus Christ has a very different solution to all of this.  He is not wishing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)  Therefore, he has acted to rescue you from your sins.  Jesus told his disciples, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50)  The baptism Jesus referred to meant that he would be immersed in God’s wrath.  As a result of bearing our sins, he would endure our punishment and curse.  Jesus was distressed because he knew what suffering the wrath of God meant.  He understood just how great the divide is between God’s blessings and God’s wrath, between life and death, between heaven and hell.  And yet, God the Son departed from his Father in heaven so that he would be forsaken by the Father on earth.  Jesus was cut off and banished for your sake, for your sins.  Jesus was damned by the Father so that you would be delivered from your curse.  Therefore, you have been redeemed from your sins.  You have been snatched from the kingdom of darkness, from the claims of the devil, and from the fires of hell.  You have been brought into the kingdom of God which is not ruled by judgment but by mercy. 
     Jesus produces the great divide, and that divide is still there.  As heirs of life, you have been separated from a dying world.  As children of light, you are noticeably different from the depraved and darkened world.  That fills your soul with peace and your heart with joy.  But if you are children of light, then you will also live and act so that your light shines in this sinful world.  How can you engage in what is wicked, especially since you know it incurs God’s wrath?  How can you tolerate attitudes and actions that are based in Satan’s lies and result in banishment from God’s blessing?  How can you expect God to bless that which you know God condemns?  God has rescued you from sin and death.  How could you return to it, even if the whole world would celebrate it?
     Granted, you may have to suffer for letting God’s word stand and for taking your stand on God’s word.  The world is still in rebellion against Jesus.  And since you have been delivered into his kingdom and bear Jesus’ name, the world will hate and rebel against you too.  You may see and experience the great divide as you are forsaken by friends and despised by family.  So be it.  With the Lord are mercy and forgiveness and salvation.  Apart from the Lord there is only damnation, death, and destruction.  That is nothing to celebrate, no matter how much the world demands that you should.
     You may be separated, but you are not alone.  Look at the people around you.  We call each other brothers and sisters for a reason.  Here is your family.  Here are the ones who have been rescued along with you.  Here are the ones who help you bear your burden now and who pray for you daily.  Here are the ones who kneel with you at the Lord’s altar to receive the body and blood of the Lord for the forgiveness of sins, for mercy, and for assurance that your place in heaven is secure.  Here are the ones you feast with now and will feast with forever in heaven.  Here are the ones to whom you are united; for you are all united to Jesus. 
     Jesus produces the great divide.  Though you have been separated from the world, you are joined to the kingdom of God.  And though the division Jesus produces is great, the blessings Jesus provides are greater, and they are everlasting.

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

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Reading Snippets -- A wicked character vs. A corrupt nature

Here is a quote from Charles Porterfield Krauth, regarding a person's character vs. his sinful nature.  A man's character is what we usually judge (e.g., Is he jovial or is he a grouch?  Is he generous or is he stingy?  Is he helpful or is he self-absorbed?).  All people vary in their character, as some are more friendly, more patient, or more charitable than others.  But all men have the same sinful nature, and it is fully corrupt.  That is what God sees and judges, no matter how highly or lowly we think of a person's behavior or character. 

Here is Krauth: 
          The relative innocence of any human being cannot in itself save him.  The innocence of any human being can only be relative.  There is a great difference in the character of unregenerate persons relatively to each other, but there is no difference whatever in their nature.  A thousand things mould and modify character, but the corrupt heart is untouched by them all.  The phenomena of a corrupt heart are infinitely diversified, not only in their number, but in their intensity.....
          Every man is more guilty absolutely than he is innocent relatively....
          God can no more save sin in nature than he can save it in character, and hence a new nature is as absolutely needed by an infant as by an adult." (pp 415-416, emphases are Krauth's, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology)

The world may still regard an unbeliever as a wonderful person and a believer as nothing special because of their deeds, but God judges the nature.  One's character will, by and large, remain what it is after conversion (a grouchy person may not magically become jovial), his nature and status do change.  God no longer regards the man a sinner, but a saint.  And that's the only judgment that matters.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 11, 2013)

LUKE 12:32-40

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus spoke of servants who were waiting for their master to return from a banquet.  They were to be dressed for service.  They were to keep their lamps burning, expecting their master’s return at any hour, even a late hour.  The Lord Jesus has gone away, ascending to the banquet in heaven.  And the Lord Jesus will return for his people.  The Church confesses it every day: He ascended into heaven...  From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. (Apostles’ Creed)
     Jesus declared, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (Luke 12:37)  There is a great blessing upon those who are ready for their Lord’s return.  If you are eager for Jesus’ return, it is because you know that you have been cleared on all charges of sin and that you will be forever free from sorrow, grief, and sadness.  It is terrifying, however, when doubts creep into your mind and you wonder, “Am I ready?  Am I worthy?”  There are many people who are convinced they are going to heaven, but their hopes are based on their high opinion of themselves.  They have judged themselves worthy.  But they are not the judge.  Jesus is.  Only his judgment matters.  Only his judgment stands.
     So we are back to the terrifying thought, “Am I ready?  Am I worthy?”  If you have such fears, do not feel that something is wrong with you.  Every Christians feels such fears as we become aware of our iniquity.  We know that we have not been blameless.  We regret our snippy remarks, our petty competitions, and our spiteful and jealous thoughts.
     Even when we feel good about ourselves, it is usually a false pride.  It is because we have measured ourselves against our coworkers, our friends, and our own imagination.  We see the worst in them and compare it to our best moments.  We commend ourselves for being better, and we assume that we should be rewarded for it.  But we are not as good as we like to think.  Try as hard as we may to be the kind of servant that God demands, and we find ourselves growing more frustrated, more tired, and more terrified.  We know what we should be and should do, but we have not done it or been it.  We are all frauds.  And we are terrified that God has been watching, that God knows, and that God will judge us as we deserve. 
     Such fears are valid.  In fact, such fears are good.  If you are terrified that you have not done enough or been good enough to enter the kingdom of God, then you have recognized your sin.  And if you recognize your sin, then you will appeal to a hope other than yourself.  Your hope is Jesus.  He responds to your fears.  Listen to him again: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)  You do not have to fret whether or not you have done enough to gain the kingdom of God.  For, it is never earned.  It is only given.  And the Father is pleased to give it to you.  Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master to bring them there.
     Now, perhaps that does not alleviate your fears entirely.  Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom of God.  But it can be lost.  You can forfeit what God has given you.  So, how do you avoid this?  How can you be sure that you will not lose what God has given you?  How do you know that you will be found a faithful servant when the Lord comes again?
     Jesus again answers your question and alleviates your fears.  “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (Luke 12:35-37)  
     Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.  They are dressed for action, poised to serve.  So what is the proper dress?  It is what Jesus Christ has already given you.  If you take a peek into heaven with St. John, you will notice that the saints who gather around the throne are all dressed in white robes.  When St. John asks about them, the angel replies, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:15)  The Lamb of God was slain for you.  Jesus became a bloody sin offering to atone for all of your guilt.  And having been baptized, you have been washed in his blood.  You have been clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.  God was pleased to do this for you so that, when he comes again, you will not appear before him in the filth of your sin.  You are now dressed in garments of salvation, ready for Jesus’ return.  Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.
     Jesus also urged you, “…Keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35)  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and he has enlightened you to know and to do his will.  Jesus himself is the one who keeps that light burning within you.  That is why your life is to revolve around the Divine Service.  Here, Jesus is at work to sustain your faith.  He instructs you in the truth so that you will not be deceived.  He admonishes you so that you will continue to put your sin to death and repent.  He encourages you so that you do not grow weary in doing good and in hating sin.  He comforts you so that you do not lose heart in a world that loves inanimate goods and possessions but hates the living God. 
     Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)  It is not normal that the master serves the servants.  But that will certainly take place in the heavenly kingdom.  You will rest from your labors, and the Lord will serve you.  Dear Christians, you already get to partake in that feast.  Isn’t that exactly what happens here in our Divine Service?  You kneel at the railing, and the master, Jesus Christ, serves you his body and blood to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith until life everlasting!  Here is the feast of heaven.  Here, he keeps your lamp burning.  Here, he makes sure your garments remain pure.  This is why your life is to revolve around the Divine Service.  This is where Light and Life are given and sustained.  This is where Jesus alleviates your fears; for this is where you hear his voice and receive his blessing. 
     Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.  While you are waiting, you get to serve the Lord in your various vocations.  You are dressed in Jesus’ righteousness.  You let your light shine in this sin-darkened world as you serve God and your neighbor.  You get to do good to your clients and customers, to your spouse and your children, to your neighbors, friends, and relatives, and even to strangers.  Even your possessions are to be employed for the good of others.  But your treasure is in heaven.  That is where your Lord has ascended.  It is from there that your master will return.  And that is where your Lord and Savior will bring you soon.  For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)  Blessed are you, the servants who are waiting for your master.  For, you will soon rest from your labors, and you will forever feast at the banquet your master serves you.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 4, 2013)

LUKE 12:13-21

In the name + of Jesus.

     You may have noticed that King Solomon was a bit of a downer this morning.  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)  The word translated “vanity” has the idea of a breath on a cold day.  It is empty and it is fleeting.  That is how Solomon saw life, which is striking because he was a king.  It is how Solomon saw his possessions, which is striking because Solomon was filthy rich.  But Solomon recognized that life does not last forever.  No matter how much stuff you have, eventually you are going to have to leave it to someone else who did not work for it. 
     Though you might cling to your goods with both hands and labor and toil to collect more, they are like a vapor.  What’s worse, when God takes you out of this world and requires your soul from you—for even that is God’s gift to you—your wealth and your possessions will prove to be absolutely worthless and useless to you.  Vanity of vanities!  Utterly meaningless!
     A man spoke to Jesus.  His parents had died, and now he and his brother were in a battle to divvy up their goods.  The fight was over wealth neither one had earned.  But Jesus was not going to play these games.  Moses had already laid down the law.  If this man wanted to enforce the demands of the Law, he would have to appeal to Moses, not to Jesus.  But if he were to appeal to the demands of the Law, it would not help him.  The Law merely exposed his covetousness and greed.
     So Jesus told a parable about a rich man who suddenly became much richer.  His blessings had been a gift of God.  His bumper crop was another gift of God.  He loved his goods, and he loved himself, but he did not love God who gave them.  He wondered, “What shall I do about my crops?  I will make my barns larger.  There I will put my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Relax.  Eat, drink, and be merry.’”  My, he used the word “my” a lot!  Though the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the rich man claimed his goods and his very soul as his own.  He denied God his rights. 
     God had blessed the rich man with greater riches, but the rich man turned them into a curse.  As long as he had his wealth, he was content.  As long as his barns were full, he was pleased.  But—vanity of vanities!—he went to his grave with full barns and a fat wallet.  Though all he had was from God, he had little or no room for God.  The rich man died impoverished.  He died without wealth, without name, without forgiveness, and without hope.
     Now, the lesson is not hard.  Your riches cannot save you.  They cannot help you.  They will not love you.  The lesson is not hard, but our hearts are.  It is easy to sit here this morning and call the rich man a fool.  Yet, how much does your peace and contentment rest on your bank account?  And if it does, how willing are you to bid farewell to your wealth?  Perhaps you ought to pray, “Heavenly Father, you have blessed me richly.  But I am finding that I am putting my trust in my wealth and finding my truest joys in my possessions.  I am not turning to you for hope.  So, please, I implore you, take it away from me.  It is too much for me, Lord.  Please, wipe it out.”  The sinful flesh will never say such a prayer.  Rather, our prayer is for more goods and bigger barns.  Repent.
     Do not seek comfort in what you have prepared for yourself.  Instead, find your comfort in what Jesus has prepared for you.  Do not put your hope in what has your name on it.  Rather, put your hope in the knowledge that Jesus has put his name on you.  Jesus is the one who enriches you.  He is the one who pours out you God’s good pleasure, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, and God’s salvation.  All that Jesus has done for you, all that Jesus has fulfilled for you, and all that Jesus has promised you can never be lost or stolen or worn out.   
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  Jesus fills you with peace by making known to you that your place in God’s kingdom is secure.  That place was purchased not with gold or silver, but with Jesus’ holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death.  Jesus was holy and innocent because he had always and perfectly sought God first.  But Jesus suffered and died for everyone who has not put God first—which is everyone.  Jesus emptied himself of his glory so that you would receive the glories of heaven.  Jesus endured the pains of hell so that you could have the comforts of heaven.  The eternal Son of God gave himself into death so that you could live as children of God forever. 
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  Jesus is the only one who can grant you eternal blessings.  Now, be sure of this: Everyone on earth will face eternity.  The rich man in the parable, too, received eternal things, but none of them were blessings.  He did not love God or serve him.  Since his heart was opposed to God, he would not be spending his eternity in God’s presence.  That means no blessing, no rest, no peace, and no life.  But Jesus assures you that your eternity will be filled with blessings and rest and life.  Jesus is the one who enriches you.
     Jesus will enrich you, but he already enriches you now.  The peace which you crave is already yours.  You don’t have to live in doubt or fear about God’s love and forgiveness.  God generously delivers it to you.  It was poured upon you when you were baptized.  It is poured into you when you come to the altar for the feast of heaven.  It is applied to you when you are absolved.  You have God’s reminder of it when you cross yourself with every invocation and with every benediction.  You are God’s own.  He has put his name on you.  That peace can never be lost or taken away.
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  He bestows the blessings of heaven and he bestows your blessings on earth.  Both are good, and both are to be received with thanksgiving.  When you delight yourself in the joys of heaven, then you are able to rightly enjoy the blessings on earth.  King Solomon reminds you: There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)  When you know that you are the Lord’s, and when you know that your goods, your time, and your life is in his hands, you can enjoy your life and your blessings.  And you know that when they come to an end, you have really lost nothing.  The everlasting joys, riches, and life are still to come.
     Jesus is the one who enriches you.  For many, there is nothing more heart-rending than losing your stuff.  But for God’s people, you know that it everything is the Lord’s.  He lets you have your wealth and to enjoy it as long as he sees fit.  But the only blessings that truly matter are the ones that you have forever.  Jesus has not short-changed you here.  He enriches you—pouring out peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, comfort, encouragement, and salvation.  Though the Lord may take other blessing from you, he will never take these away.  They are yours because you are his.

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

Archaeology hype -- Jesus' cross

Oh, good grief!  Here we go again.

Another story has popped up about someone finding a relic that is allegedly from Jesus.  This time, it is his cross.  See story here:
This is a piece of a stone case which allegedly, potentially held a piece of Jesus' cross.

While my skepticism about its authenticity runs very high, I am not too bothered by this.  If somehow they prove that it is from the cross Jesus was nailed to (which I highly doubt), that's neat.  If they find it to be inconclusive, that will be no surprise.  If it is declared to be a fraud (which I expect), I won't lose sleep or stop preaching.  The Gospel accounts will not be re-written no matter what is proved or disproved about this latest discovery.

Archaeology has done a great deal in helping us understand the Biblical world.  It has often vindicated what Christians have always believed to be true by providing further evidence of the Biblical record.  This find, however, I do not think is helpful at all.

It seems to me that discoveries such as these have Christians running around screaming, "See?  See?  Our faith is not a fairytale!  Jesus was real!"  That isn't really faith.  That sounds more like desperation.  And it also sets up the Christians to hear their critics say later, "See?  See?  Your cross is a fraud!"  If you hang your hopes on discoveries such as these, you will also find your hopes dashed later.

The Christian faith rests on the testimony of the prophets and the apostles.  The word of God speaks for itself.  We do not need to tour Noah's ark before we believe Genesis 6-9.  We do not need to find Goliath's head before we believe that King David existed.  And we don't need to hold, rub, or bow before a chunk of wood before we believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world.  God has already convinced us of that.  We live and die in that conviction. 

Well, rather, we live and eternally live in it, for "whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25)  Our Savior went to the cross and rose from the grave to guarantee that.  We don't need a chunk of the cross to prove it.  We have God's word.  If we can't trust that, then all of the archaeological discoveries in the world will not help -- even if they are neat.