Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sermon -- 6th Sunday after Trinity (July 27, 2014)

MATTHEW 5:17-26

In the name + of Jesus.

     Earlier, we offered the prayer of the day which said, “God of all power and might, you are the giver of all that is good.”  God is not only the giver of all that is good, God gives only good things.  So when you hear the Commandments, you should realize that they are all good.  God did not give his list of “Thou shalt’s” and “Thou shalt not’s” to suck the fun out of life.  They were given to make life good.
     You believe the Commandments are good when others obey them.  You believe that it is good when your auto mechanic does not lie to you to defraud you out of your money.  It is good that your wife’s co-worker does not try to seduce her away from you.  It is good that your children treat you with respect and obedience.  It is good when you are not the topic of nasty stories online.  Well, if it is good that others keep the Commandments, it is equally good that you keep them.  The Commandments call for a good and godly life.  The Commandments are good because the God who has given them is good.
     For that reason, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.” (Matthew 5:17)  Jesus does not come to abolish what is good.  The Ten Commandments are God’s will.  They will never be nullified, not even in eternity.  Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)  The Law of God is good and wise.  Whoever does them is great.  Jesus said that he has come to do them.  Jesus does what is good, and he fulfills the Law.
     How about you?  Do you keep the Commandments?  Or are you guilty of trying to relax the requirements of God’s Law?  Yes, we believe that others should treat us as the Commandments dictate, but we argue for extenuating circumstances that allow us to cheat here and there.  The office gossip deserves to have some stories told about her.  A man should be permitted to visit seedy websites because his spouse is so cold.  Stupid people deserve to be cut down with sarcasm.  Or maybe we relax them when they condemn a family member.  “You know, normally I would agree that this is wrong, but my kid means well.  And who are we to judge anyway?” 
     Listen to Jesus’ words again: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven...” (Matthew 5:19)  There is no lower place for people who tell God that is Commandments are not good, or that those who break God’s Commandments are good, or that we are still good if we defend people who break them.  Repent.
     You are God’s people.  You have been set apart to live as God’s people.  That means that the Ten Commandments matter.  They guide your life so that you do not copy the world in its rebellion against God’s will.  Even after he fulfilled the Commandments, Jesus did not abolish them.  They are still good.  They are still Commandments.
     Perhaps you think that there is no real difference between Christians and others.  After all, both are capable of doing nice things for other people.  And that is true.  Outwardly, almost anyone can look good and do good.  That is why Jesus declared: “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) 
     The Pharisees had their origin some 170 years before Jesus.  While many of the Jews had compromised their faith in order to curry favor with the Greeks, there were a band of Jews who were determined to remain faithful to God’s Law.  These were noble and godly desires.  The Pharisees did not allow themselves to become sloppy in their obedience, either.  Instead, they invented more laws to bolster their efforts in doing God’s will.  They were devout, and they appeared very moral, very upright, and very obedient.  Jesus says that you need to be better than that. 
     Jesus said, “Whoever does (these commandments) and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)  Jesus is the one who is great, for he does what is good by obeying the Commandments.  Jesus’ obedience was no mere show.  He loved the Lord his God and obeyed his father with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  His motives were always pure, and his words and actions were perfect love.  Jesus kept every Commandment and by avoided every evil.  And so God is pleased with Jesus.
     More than doing what is good, Jesus does what is good for you.  Jesus’ obedient life was lived as a substitute for you.  Jesus makes sure that you have a righteousness which is greater than the Pharisees’ righteousness.  The Pharisees were good and noble in their outward appearance.  Likewise, you will find many people who don’t care about God can be very generous, patient, and understanding.  They will gain a lot of praise from a lot of people for their kindness.  But remember how judgment works: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) 
     Therefore, Jesus does what is good for you.  Jesus has cleansed your very heart.  This is what the Lord says: Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience… (1 Peter 3:21)  Jesus does what is good for you through your baptism.  He cleanses your conscience so that you are not ruled by sin or marked by guilt.  The blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin. (1 John 1:7)  It is certain because Jesus is the one who has supplied the cleansing.  You are baptized; therefore, you are forgiven and you are clean.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)  If you are in Christ, you have the very righteousness God demands of you.  You are holy and blameless in the sight of God.  Guilt does not cover you; the righteousness of Christ does.  Therefore, you have every reason to be confident of your salvation.
     Jesus does what is good for you.  And since you are God’s holy people, you get to live in joy as God’s holy people.  Jesus has cleansed your heart so that good may flow from it and be seen in words and actions.  You get to live according to the Ten Commandments and to seek the good of others.  You honor those in authority and benefit your community by being honest, law-abiding citizens.  You strengthen your marriage by honoring your spouse before others, and you strengthen the marriage of others by encouraging them to be faithful to each other.  You prevent the destruction of friendships and reputations by squashing malicious talk and rebuking careless Facebook posts.  You do these things to love God and love your neighbor, as the Commandments say.  You were set apart for doing these very things.  And you do not have to live under the stress of hoping that you will get it right this week and get better the next week.  For, the Lord has declared that you are righteous.  Through Jesus, God is pleased with you and, therefore also, your works.
     Jesus does what is good for you.  He has given you his Commandments in order to honor and serve him and your neighbor by them.  He has given you a clean heart and a right spirit so that godly words and works may flow out of them.  But mostly, he has given you himself as the sacrifice which covers your debt and the righteousness with covers your guilt.  Jesus has poured his blood upon you in baptism to cleanse you.  He pours his blood into you in the Supper to strengthen you for godly service and to console you with godly peace.  “God of all power and might, you are the giver of all that is good.”  Jesus seeks nothing but your good, and he continues to do what is good for you so that you will always remain in his good graces.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Local Tourist -- Dossin Great Lakes Museum

The Local Tourist got back out again last Saturday.  I have been meaning to get to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum for years now, but it has never worked out.  It doesn't help that the hours for the museum are only on Saturdays and Sundays.  On the other hand, admission is free.  Donations are welcome (and the museum is worthy of your donation!).

The museum is on Belle Isle in the Detroit River.  As soon as you walk in, you see The Gothic Room, which was the lounge from the passenger steamer, S.S. The City of Detroit III.  The City of Detroit III ferried passengers from Detroit to Cleveland and also to Buffalo until it was decommissioned in 1956.  The lounge (see below) is quite ornate with beautiful wood work.

We also got to see the pilot house of the S.S. William Clay Ford, and the bow anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The Edmund Fitzgerald had been anchored in the Detroit River in 1974 where it somehow had lost its bow anchor.  It was recovered in 1992 and now sits just outside the museum.

Some photos.

The Gothic Room from the S.S City of Detroit III.

Bow Anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald
Brothers check out the periscope.
The Pilot House from the S.S. William Clay Ford.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sermon -- 5th Sunday after Trinity (July 20, 2014)

LUKE 5:1-11

In the name + of Jesus.

     It was a peculiar exchange that took place between Peter and Jesus on Lake Gennesaret.  After Jesus’ miracle, Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8,10-11)  Not only did Jesus decline to depart from Peter, he called Peter to follow him, train under him, and eventually serve him full time.
    When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)  Jesus’ instructions defied all rules of fishing.  Why on earth are we going out to the deep waters when the net would never reach the fish down there?  Why on earth are we going out in the middle of the day?  Why are we going back out there when we’ve finally mended the nets after a long, fruitless night?  “But at your word,” Simon replied, “I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5) 
     They pulled up the nets, and they kept hauling in fish.  They filled one boat to capacity.  Then they filled another.  Both boats began to sink.  The miraculous blessing should have had these fishermen high-fiving each other for the rest of the week.  It ended up being a blessing that was about to plummet them into the murky depths of the lake and kill them.  What’s more, it revealed that Jesus was not just a rabbi who taught people about the kingdom of God.  Peter recognized that he stood before God in the flesh.  The King of the kingdom of God was dwelling in his boat!  Simon Peter…fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)    
     Peter uttered the prayer that is on the lips of countless sinners.  We do not want to face God in our sinfulness and shame.  When we feel the guilt of our sin and the fear of death and judgment, we beg that God would depart and leave us alone.  Like Adam and Eve after they sinned, we would rather run for cover and hide from God.  We are sinful people, and we don’t want to be shown that we are sinful people.  We would rather live in blissful ignorance.  We would rather pretend that we owe no answers and that we face no consequences.  We think that if God will just leave us alone, everything will be okay.
     I’m sure that Peter would have been pleased to see Jesus go away.  Adam and Eve would have breathed a sign of relief if the Lord had simply turned and departed from the Garden.  You too would be pleased if we never breathed a word about sin again.  But this addresses nothing.  It does not make sin go away.  The consequences of sin—sorrow, pain, and death—do not just go away either.  The Lord does not ignore them either.  In fact, if the Lord should leave you alone, that means you are left to die in your sin and to suffer shame, sorrow, and torment in hell forevermore.  If the Lord makes you afraid because of your sin, it is because your sin does demand an answer.  It does face a consequence.  Repent!
     But God loves you too much to let you be.  Jesus loved Peter too much to honor his prayer.  The Lord loved Adam and Eve too much to abandon them to their cursed death.  Instead, Jesus stays and has mercy.  Jesus consoles sinners.  Jesus spoke his, “Fear not!” to Peter.  Peter was a sinful man.  Jesus did not deny that.  But Jesus did not leave Peter to plummet to the depths of the Sea of Galilee or, worse, to the depths of despair.  And there is no need for you to fear or to face divine wrath either. 
     Your sin does demand an answer; Jesus supplies it.  Your sin does have a consequence; Jesus bears it.  Jesus plunged himself into the depths of sin and death for you.  Jesus took your sin from you and went down to the grave for you.  He died with your sin and left it dead in the grave.  Then Jesus rose from the grave to proclaim peace upon you.  Jesus consoles the sinner and declares, “Do not fear!  I have cast my net and caught you up from the murky depths of sin and death.  You are safe in the boat, that is, in the church.  And do not fear that you cannot live apart from your old life of sins.  For, I breathe new life into you so that you will live and serve in godliness.  I keep you safe from every predator.  I will sustain you and console you forevermore.” 
     Jesus did not go away from Peter.  Instead, he called this frightened sinner to be a preacher.  Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Peter knew what it was to see his sin and death right before him.  He experienced the terror which caused him to beg Jesus to go away.  For that reason, Peter could sympathize with other people who are petrified by sin and death or who live with secret shame.
     But more than that, Peter knew what it was to be shown mercy.  Sinners are not consoled without a Savior.  Peter was called to confess Jesus as that Savior.  He is not out to catch you so that he can flay you or char-broil you for your sins.  Jesus reveals that God is a loving Father who desires you to be saved.  He provides the answer for your sins.  God sent his Son so that your sins would be taken away from you.  He makes known that the consequence of Jesus’ death and resurrection is forgiveness of sins and life forevermore. 
     Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Peter was called to go and confess and preach the gospel.  Peter would cast the net of God’s grace into the world and to bring other terrified, guilt-ridden sinners into the kingdom of God.  The net does not care what it drags in.  Whether the catch is abundant or few, each one is precious to Jesus.  And there is no difference, for all are sinners.  All need mercy. 
     Likewise, you have received consolation for yourselves through Jesus.  Therefore, you make the same confession.  Most of you will not enter the ministry to preach the Gospel full time, but you all get to confess what Jesus has done for you.  Your family and friends know the same fears and guilt you know.  They, too, may be terrified of God and would rather have him keep his distance.  They will fight against the net of God’s grace, for sinners do not want to be caught.  But God loves them too much.  He has given them friends like you who know that God is not the source of terror, but of comfort.  Who better than you, who know what it is to face the fear of death and the guilt of sin, to confess that Jesus alleviates fear and guilt?  You get to confess to your troubled friends that Jesus delivers victory over death and opens Paradise to all who believe in him? 
     Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Through his ministers, Jesus brings consolation to the troubled and breathes life into those who are dead in their sins.  Through you, family and friends can be consoled by the good news of Jesus, and relieved of the shame that hounds them.  With the Church, we all can confess Jesus as our consolation and comfort.  For, Jesus will not leave us alone.  Rather, he saves us forever.

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sermon -- Memorial Service for Edgar Vollmer (Dec. 15, 1926 - June 20, 2014) July 13, 2014


In the name + of Jesus.

     I would like to say that I had known Edgar Vollmer, and from what I have heard about him, I wish I had.  His family, and no doubt his friends, all have fond memories of him.  That’s the way it should be.  Our Lord has put us on this earth to bless and to serve one another.  We want to be remembered well and loved dearly.  We want other people to believe and to tell us that we are good people.  We want to believe that we are good people.  And your family and friends will probably always tell you that you are, and you will be eager to believe it.
     When we stand before our Lord at the judgment, however, God will not ask you what your family and friends thought of you.  Nor will he ask your enemies if they have something to say against you.  Even if someone hates you, that does not affect your judgment.  On the other hand, no matter how many people tell you that you are great, that does not affect your judgment either.  The only thing that matters is what God thinks of you.  The judgment is his.  His assessment is the only thing that matters.  And therefore, you must hear his word to find your hope and your comfort.
     If you would desire to stand on your own goodness, then you must also know what God holds out as the standard to keep.  He declares, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)  You will notice that God does not tell you to try and do your best.  You can look up the Commandments.  None of them begins with the word, “Try.”  God demands that you always do good—not just to friends, but to strangers and even to your enemies.  And God forbids that you do any evil—not in deeds, not in words, and not even in thoughts or motives.  That is the standard by which God assesses the heart of every person, and he sees that all people are ruled by selfishness, envy, greed, and lust.  No man can stand before the Lord and boast of how good he is or that he has earned his place in heaven.  On the contrary, the Bible reminds us, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  It is what everyone deserves, and we can’t fix it.
     There is another part to that verse, however, and you do well to take it to heart. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  Our Lord does not desire that anyone perish in his sinful condition.  Yes, we will all die, but we need not be condemned for our sinfulness.  For that reason, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to deliver us from sin, all of its curses, and all of its consequences so that there should be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
     The Law demands obedience.  Therefore, Jesus lived a holy and obedient life.  He never sinned, but kept every Commandment of God continually.  However, if you know anything about Jesus, it is that he died a horrible death on a cross.  That was no accident.  While it might appear that Jesus was a victim of bitter enemies, Jesus went to that cross on purpose.  He took all of your sins to that cross with him.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Sin must be punished.  The wages of sin is death.  And so Jesus bore all your sin, suffered God’s wrath, and died under God’s curse in your place.  Through Jesus, every sin of every sinner has been punished.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
     But what does it mean to be in Christ Jesus?  Jesus answered that himself.  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)  While Jesus won salvation for all, it is only given through baptism and through faith in his promises.  It is faith which takes God’s word seriously.  Faith recognizes that we have a Savior whose blood covers over all our guilt.  Faith believes that God loves us, not because we have been good enough for him, but because Jesus Christ has supplied the very holy status we need and has covered us in it through Holy Baptism.  Faith clings to the hope that not even death can destroy God’s promises or remove his love from us.  Faith is sure that our judgment before God is certain because Jesus’ promise of forgiveness is certain.  Whoever does not believe this is lost, for such a person calls God a liar.  He stands outside of Christ Jesus and forfeits the love and salvation of God.  But, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
     How can we be so sure of these things?  Because the same Jesus who suffered and died a cursed death also rose from his grave on the third day after his death.  Jesus Christ has conquered death.  His resurrection proves that God the Father accepted his payment for sins.  His resurrection proves that Jesus has authority to declare your forgiveness, and even authority to raise you from the dead to eternal life.  Remember?  The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)  That is the confidence that every Christian has even in the face of death.
     There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)  On the contrary, we look for our own resurrection from the dead.  These bodies that we have are tainted with sin.  We get old.  We get sick.  We get weak.  Finally, our bodies give out—whether in old age or much earlier than expected.  These are not the bodies that will dwell forever.  But at the resurrection, the Lord Jesus will summon us from our graves.  And the grave must listen; for Jesus has authority over death.  And Jesus will transform these lowly, mortal bodies of ours.  He will give us the bodies that we can only wish we had.  But you do not have to wish for it; you only need to wait for it.  He will raise you up glorious, holy, immortal, and incorruptible.  Never again will you get old or sick or weak.  Never again will you hunger or thirst.  You will dwell in God’s presence where you will never again get sad or sore or die.  For, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23), and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) 
     Whoever believes this and is baptized into the name of Jesus will be saved.  That is God’s promise.  We live in it and we die in it.  More than that, we are saved by it and shall be raised to eternal life by it.  That is the truth, no matter what anyone tells you.  It is your final judgment if you cling to Jesus.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)  Neither tears nor heavy hearts nor even death can change that.  Jesus lives and reigns forever.  And those who believe in him shall live and reign with him.  God says so, and therefore it is so.

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

Sermon -- 4th Sunday after Trinity (July 13, 2014)

GENESIS 50:15-21

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus Christ has taught us: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)  Those words are often quoted by people who want to defend their sins.  Sad to say, people do not want to be justified before God.  We want to be justified for the sins we commit.  We bark out Jesus’ words so that no one will lecture or confront or condemn us.  “Do not judge me!  Jesus says so.”  There is a grain of truth in that.  Jesus is the judge.  It is not my place to assess your heart.  It is not your place to assess mine.  It is outside our authority to do so, and it is outside our ability to do so.  But this cry, “Judge not, or you too will be judged!” fails to recognize that Jesus has given us his word so that we can assess what is right and wrong.  When we quote Jesus, we are not making ourselves the judge.  Jesus remains the judge.  His word stands.
     Nevertheless, panicked and guilt plagued sinners try to cover their tracks.  We hope that hiding our past will make it go away, or that burying our guilt will keep it from haunting us.  Dear Christians, do you not realize that your Lord has a better solution for your guilt and regret?  It is the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ.  It is the word of absolution proclaimed through his minister.  Jesus does not want you to be haunted by your guilt or hounded by your sins any longer.  Only mercy can produce comfort, and only Jesus can supply the mercy that forgives all your sins.
     The guilt and regret that linger from sins are very real.  Satan even digs up the past and inflicts guilt from sins that were committed years ago.  So it was for the brothers of Joseph.  When Joseph was seventeen years old, his brothers had had it with him.  They despised him for being daddy’s favorite, a fact that was rubbed in their faces whenever Joseph wore his brightly ornamented robe.  They despised Joseph because he reported when his brothers were not behaving like the sons of Israel.  They despised Joseph when his dreams foretold that they would one day bow down in submission to him.  They toyed with killing him; they opted to sell him into slavery.
     After many years and divinely guided circumstances, Joseph found himself as the associate to Egypt’s Pharaoh.  Jacob and his family found themselves wasting away because of a famine.  The brothers traveled to Egypt for food.  Joseph recognized them and summoned the whole family to Egypt where they would survive the famine.  After a number of years in Egypt, Jacob died.  And this is where our Old Testament lesson picks thing up.  Joseph’s brothers were still guilt-ridden about selling Joseph into slavery.  Never mind that it had happened decades earlier.  They had not forgotten their evil.  Why would Joseph have forgotten?  And now, Jacob was no longer around to curb his son from exacting his revenge.  Joseph had both motive and means to stick it to his brothers. 
     Gripped with fear, they fell at Joseph’s feet and begged for mercy.  No one was crying out, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged!”  Joseph had them dead to rights, and they knew it.  Joseph did not want to crush them, but to console them.  Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.”  Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)  Only mercy can produce comfort.
     All that Joseph endured and did foreshadows what Jesus did more perfectly.  Jesus was also sold off to his countrymen who were eager to put him to death.  Everything that Jesus’ enemies did to him was intended for evil.  They despised him, mocked him, beat him, falsely accused and condemned him, and delivered him up to crucifixion.  Though the Pharisees could not make a single charge stick to Jesus, they declared him worthy of death.  Though Pontius Pilate found no fault in Jesus, he sentenced him to scourging and then to death.  Though his apostles vowed their undying allegiance to Jesus, they had all chosen to save their own skins and abandoned him.  Everything Jesus endured was intended for evil against him. 
     To this day, we still turn away from God’s commands and engage in evil.  And yes, you intend to do this evil.  For, you continue to return to your sins.  You do it because you like it.  You like going back to your sins more than you like believing the word of the Lord.  But all this ever does is pile up the guilt and regret that you carry.  As we considered before, burying your guilt and hiding your past will not make them go away.  And it will certainly not bring you comfort.  For, you know that the Lord has you dead to rights.  You cannot justify your sins.  You cannot justify yourself for committing them.  Your only hope is that of Joseph’s brothers—to fall on your knees and confess your sins.  For, only mercy can produce comfort.
     Jesus does not look to exact revenge on sinful mankind.  On the contrary, Jesus supplies the very mercy you need.  Though his death was meant for evil, God intended it for good, to bring about the saving of many lives.  God intended Jesus’ sufferings and death to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins.  God intended Jesus’ sacrificial death to be a guilt offering for you.  Through Holy Baptism, Jesus’ innocence covers over your guilt.  Through Holy Absolution, Jesus’ peace triumphs over your regret.  You do not have to worry about hiding anything anymore.  Confess and be forgiven.  You do not have to try to bury the past.  Your sins were buried with Jesus.  They are dead.  But Jesus lives to proclaim peace and mercy upon you.  He forgives completely all of your sin.  Only such mercy can produce comfort, for only when you know your sins are taken away is there comfort to be had.
     Just as Joseph’s own brothers sinned against him, so you have friends and strangers who sin against you.  You live in a world of sinners.  It is bound to happen.  And it is equally certain that you will sin against others.  Some sins are much more painful than others.  Yet all of them are evil, whether you meant to do them or not.  If you’ve sinned against someone, they have you dead to rights.  And if someone has sinned against you, you may think of how to avenge yourself against that person.  But neither grudges nor revenge solve anything.  They do not erase the sin; they add to it.  They will not take away the hurt; they will only increase the bitterness and hatred.  No one is reconciled through revenge.  There is no peace in a grudge.  And there is no comfort in rubbing someone’s sin in his face.  Only mercy can produce peace.
     When he had mercy upon his brothers, Joseph spoke kindly to them.  Literally, the Hebrew says “he spoke upon their hearts.”  So Jesus does for you.  He speaks upon your heart to console you.  He assures you that he holds nothing against you and that all is forgiven.  There is nothing to fear.  Likewise, your friend, your spouse, and your child need such consolation.  Speak upon their hearts.  Drop all the charges.  Forgive their sins.  Be merciful, even as you Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)  For, only mercy can produce peace.
     And do not fret if others abuse your mercy.  True, it may happen.  But that is not your problem.  Mercy is not given because it is deserved, but because it is needed.  Our Lord Jesus Christ continues to be merciful to you day after day.  His mercy is not based on how good you can be.  It is based on how good he is.  This is how you find your comfort, and this is how you supply comfort to those whose sins still haunt them.  Only mercy can produce peace.  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Local Tourist -- Fisher Building and Ford Field

The Local Tourist was back out in Detroit today.  A late start forced us to axe a few things off of our itinerary.  The Detroit Historical Museum (FREE!) will have to await a future visit.  We also had to be sure we were back home to pick up working kids from their jobs, so we could not really afford to get on too late into the afternoon.

Our first stop was to see the Fisher Building on Grand Blvd.  Occasionally, Pure Detroit offers free tours of this building and the Guardian Building, but not today.  We took our own brief, self-guided tour, along with a stop in the Pure Detroit shop.  The Fisher Building is called the Largest Piece of Art in Detroit, and it is magnificent!  Some photos.

Then we went to the 1:00 PM tour of Ford Field.  Though we had been there before, we figure the tour would give us some access to parts we don't get to.  We also learned about some of the ingenious steps that were taken in the building of Ford Field.  I thought one of the most brilliant and cool things they did was for the club seating.  The chairs in the box seats are from the Ford Explorer, and the higher end club seating uses chairs from the Lincoln Navigator.  Both were very comfortable, but far outside my price range on game days.  I also thought the concourse on what used to be Adams Street is especially cool as they made the concessions area look like a streetscape.  If you like stadium tours, go to visit Ford Field.  Some photos.

Proof that it has happened!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday after Trinity (July 6, 2014)

LUKE 15:1-10

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus told a series of parables about items which were lost.  It is easy to conclude that Jesus is telling this parable about you.  You were lost, but then Jesus went and found you.  That is true.  You were lost.  Jesus has sought and found you.  He has delivered you from the curse of sin, from the clutches of death and the grave, and from the accusations of Satan.  At the resurrection of the dead, he will deliver you from every evil in the world.  Week after week, the Church gathers to give thanks to God that he loved us enough to be slain as the sacrifice for our sins, and that he loved us enough to go to the grave so that he could overcome it for us.  Every week, the Church gathers to praise God for his deliverance.  Every week, the Church gathers to receive his mercies so that we remain among the redeemed and do not revert back to being the lost.
     But these parables are about more than the lost.  Consider the first parable.  A sheep wandered away from its shepherd and from the rest of the flock.  The shepherd was not content to have 99 out of 100 sheep.  He did not consider the lost sheep a waste of his time and efforts.  You might consider an animal which wanders off to be more trouble than it is worth.  The shepherd had a deep concern for the sheep because it was his.  So he sacrificed time, effort, and his own safety to seek it.  Rather than curse a sheep that had wandered, the shepherd rejoiced when he found it.  And when he (came) home, he (called) together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ (Luke 15:6)   The shepherd has a party for the sheep that he had recovered.  The Lord finds joy in seeking the lost.
     In the second parable, a woman had ten denarii and lost one.  So she swept her house until she found her missing denarius.  You can understand her concern.  If you lost a day’s wage, you would probably tear the house apart looking for it, too.  But here it gets strange.  When she found her denarius, she not only rejoiced, she also invited her lady friends to rejoice with her.  The cost of the celebration was more than the coin was worth!  We would call such a celebration foolish.  Why this waste of expense?  The Lord finds joy in seeking the lost.
     There is another parable which continues after our Gospel.  It is the story of a son who packed up and left home.  He did not pack up his own things.  He had asked his father to settle up on his will even before he was dead.  Then he took his inheritance and blew it on booze and prostitutes.  He became destitute, and he wanted to come home.  When he returned, his father did not set up a repayment plan.  The son was not demoted to the position of a slave.  He was received back as a son.  The father, whose estate had been squandered, now spent even more money on his son by hosting a party for him.  You can appreciate why the older brother refused to participate in that.  Why reward someone for his shameful, rebellious behavior?  Why rejoice over one who had dishonored his father?  The father did not care.  He was overjoyed to have his son back.  The Lord finds joy in seeking the lost.
     Jesus told this parable in response to the judgment of some Pharisees who were watching him.  Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)  The Pharisees and the scribes were the good, church-going types.  They did not cheat on their wives.  They did not spend time in jail.  They did not cheat people in their businesses.  They did their best to follow the Commandments.  Then they saw Jesus who was purported by some to be the Messiah.  And where did he spend his time?  Jesus was feasting with the low-lifes of society.  The sins of these people were observable and habitual.  Why would Jesus rejoice over them?  Why would he give them any attention, much less affection?  The Lord finds joy in seeking the lost, and the Lord rejoices when the lost are found.
     The parables Jesus told are aimed to show how much God is not like you.  You might think that it is nice that Jesus would take some efforts to reach out to the low-lifes of society.  After all, you might also give an afternoon to a soup kitchen or give some cash to a homeless person.  And after you put in your time, you go home.  But Jesus regularly spoke with and ate with these people.  He continued to extend words of hope and mercy to these people. 
     And this is where the Pharisee in each of us kicks in.  Why would you continue to show mercy to people who are going to continue in their sinful ways?  We know that Jesus does not condone sin.  Jesus did not give a free pass to the tax collectors for their thievery, to the prostitutes for their immoral lives, and to the liars for their twisted words.  And yet he continued to extend his friendship and to proclaim his salvation to people who would rather sin against him than repent.  Why would Jesus waste his time and efforts on people who are only going to rebel again?  Why not reward the obedient for their faithfulness?
     That is how the sinful heart thinks and feels.  You are convinced that there are people who are not worth God’s time and effort.  And if so, then you have also convinced yourself that you are worthy of God’s time and effort.  You think that have done something to deserve God’s blessing, and you should be rewarded accordingly.  Repent!  For, there is no difference among mankind.  All are sinners.
     Who is it that Jesus has come to extend mercy to?  To those who go on sinning.  Have you truly overcome your sinning?  Are you not those who leave God’s house, Sunday after Sunday, and find yourself still harboring grudges, still despising the co-worker, and still coveting your neighbor’s life?  Are you not the child who takes the heavenly Father’s forgiveness and uses it as an excuse to do what is wicked?  Are you not a sheep who wanders away from your Lord’s word and goes after sins which you find more appetizing? 
     But rejoice, for the Lord is different from you.  He does not cut his losses.  He is rather wasteful with his mercy.  Jesus continues to pour out his mercy upon you again and again.  Today, you have received his absolution.  Today, God has marked another child as his own.  Today, he prepares his feast again.  He is not a stingy miser who only has so much mercy to give and so must chart out who is worthy of how much.  No, Jesus did not give a few moments of time for the sins of the world.  Jesus gave himself up completely for you and for all people.  He was a whole sacrifice for total forgiveness. 
     The Lord rejoices in seeking the lost.  He does not ask how filthy your sins were or how often they were repeated.  He has absorbed all your guilt.  He has borne the punishment for all your offenses.  And if you sin again this week—and you will—his blood still atones for you.  He still lays out the sacred feast for you and summons you to come.  Jesus receives sinners and eats with them.  He holds a feast for his prodigal sons and daughters who have returned.  He summons people for a festival when he finds his lost coin.  He rejoices with the all the company of heaven when a lost sheep is restored.  The Lord rejoices in seeking the lost.  For, he has come to forgive, to comfort, and to save.

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sermon -- Wedding of Thomas & Mikaela Mattison (July 5, 2014)


In the name + of Jesus.

     It is probably no secret to anyone here that you actually pledged your marriage vows to each other about a year ago.  This was good and right to do, as it is God’s will that children come into the world through husband and wife.  Children are to be a blessing that God grants in marriage.  For, those who are outside of marriage usually respond to the news of pregnancy with anguish or regret.  This was not God’s intention for you, and so you did well to get married a year ago.  And God granted you a daughter who gets to rely on both mom and dad for love, care, and protection.
     And yet, one year later, you are here again before God’s altar.  This time, the ceremony is not so modest.  There are fine garments.  There is festive music.  And there is a wedding banquet to follow with music, dancing, and laughter.  It is no surprise that you want to mark your marriage with such a celebration. 
     St. John was given a vision of a great wedding banquet.  All of heaven rejoiced at this great banquet, as St. John heard angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven cry out: “Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come…” (Revelation 19:6-7)  This marriage feast of the Lamb is the eternal, heavenly union of Jesus Christ and his Bride, the Church.  Just as people dress up for the wedding banquet today, so it is even in the glory of heaven.  “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8) 
     The Lord Jesus himself prepared his Bride for the wedding.  For the Church is not naturally radiant and beautiful.  You can look at any group of Christians and they will prove that they are sinners.  Their words can get ugly.  Their deeds can be unattractive.  And their thoughts are often best kept behind hidden. 
     Tom and Mikaela, you are aware of these things, too.  Though you love each other and are going to pledge yourself to each other again, after a year of marriage you have gotten to know each other very well.  That is good, but it has a dark side to it as well.  When you were dating, you made efforts to hide your faults and blemishes from each other.  But being married, there is no hiding them.  You have seen each other’s sins.  You have witnessed ugly words, unattractive deeds, and even thoughts that you wished you had kept hidden.  You have sinned against each other, as well as against the God who has given you to each other.
     The Lord Jesus Christ knows of your sins, too.  He does not choose to overlook your faults or to ignore your sins.  Rather, Jesus took your sins and ugliness from you.  When a man and a woman get married, the Groom may have to assume the credit card debt of his bride.  Out of love, he will.  As a loving groom, Jesus assumed every debt and flaw and failing of his Bride.  He suffered the consequences for your sins.  He laid down his life on your behalf to deliver you from the wrath that you deserved for your ugliness and unfaithfulness.  Jesus purified you in your baptism and covered you in his righteousness.  These are the clean, bright garments that cover every blemish and every spot.  These are the wedding garments that you wear now.  These are what you shall wear in the everlasting, heavenly wedding banquet.  “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)
     Tom & Mikaela, when you sin against each other, do not pretend that it doesn’t matter.  Your sins against each other will leave marks and scars.  If they are allowed to fester, the fabric of your marriage will pull apart at the seams, fray, and rip apart.  Therefore, confess your sins to each other, and then forgive one another.  Forgiveness is not like ignoring a grape juice stain in the middle of your spouse’s shirt.  “Forgiving” and “ignoring” are not synonyms.  Forgiveness is saying, “I do not hold this against you.  I will not hold this over you.  I relinquish my rights to rub this in your face.  Instead, I choose to see you as beautiful and blameless.  I remain firm in my commitment to love you, honor you, and to cherish you.”  In this way, neither sin nor Satan will be able to reduce your marriage to tatters.  In this way, Jesus Christ will reign in your house with love and mercy.  In this way, your marriage will still echo the “Hallelujah!” you sing today in celebration of the marriage feast.
     Tom & Mikaela, those who have come to your wedding rejoice with you.  Everyone loves a wedding feast.  The hall is filled with friends and loved ones.  There is a sumptuous feast awaiting.  There is good music and good conversation.  It is one of the few times that people don’t care about the time, because everyone loves the feast. 
     “Hallelujah!  For…the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready…  Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6-7,9)  Your heavenly Groom, Jesus, has invited you to the marriage feast in heaven.  It will be a great hall filled with good music and good food.  Jesus’ Bride, the Church, will be beautiful, glorious, and pure, for he has given her wedding garments, garments of salvation, to wear.  And the celebration will be timeless, endless, and perfect.  The Church will rejoice in the presence of her Savior, and the Savior will rejoice that you are with him.  For that is the way it is with a Bride and a Groom—they delight over each other. 
     “Hallelujah!  Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6,9)  Blessed are you, who already feast on the marriage supper from this altar.  Blessed are you who are holy and blameless before God, every sin cleansed and every blemish covered.  And blessed are you who have made the Lord Jesus the foundation of your marriage and your home.  For, he who has saved you will also sustain you—both as husband and wife, and as children of his Bride, the Church.

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Local Tourist -- Motown Museum & Detroit Institute of the Arts

UPDATE:  Photos have now been added!

It has been a while since the Local Tourist was out.  Yesterday was a trip to some museums in Detroit.

First, we hit the Motown Museum, also known as Hitsville, USA.  Unfortunately, they would not allow any photos inside the building.  I grant them the right to set up their rules, but I did not see many reasons to forbid it.  Anyway, there was a lot of really neat Motown memorabilia there.  I wish they could have given us more time to soak it all in, but they tend to push the tours right through.  Hopefully, in the future, they will schedule each tour on an hourly basis and give everyone lots of time to read through and gaze at everything.

Especially cool was the stop in Studio A where so many great songs were recorded.  They even had us all sing "My Girl" by the Temptations and do the dance moves of the Temptations in the studio so we can say we sang with them right there.  They even showed us a spot where the producers sat to record all this music.  The floors where they sat were worn down to the floor boards from the producers stomping their feet along to the music.

After the Motown Museum, we went to the Detroit Institute of the Arts.

For the past couple of years, the DIA has had free admission for residents of Wayne, McComb, and Oakland counties, but we had still taken our sweet time getting there.  We took the guided tour (daily at 1:00 PM) which offered a little historical background of some paintings in numerous galleries.  We could have easily spent several more hours there, but we had other obligations to get back home for.  Oh well, I guess the Local Tourist will have to make another excursion there again.