Monday, August 31, 2015

Lutheran Reformation -- HOURS of Education! -- UPDATE:The Search


Do you want an education of the Lutheran Reformation and its relevance today?  How many hours do you have to spare????

If you take a look at Issues, Etc. right now in their On Demand Archives, you will discover dozens of interviews with scholars about various aspects of the Lutheran Reformation -- Luther's opinions on various topics, Lutheran hymns, Lutheran confessors through the years, Lutheran theology, myths about Lutheran teachings, why the Lutheran Reformation still matters today, etc.....  There are perhaps several DAYS' worth of interviews to listen to!

Issues, Etc. has often produced quality programs and is worthy of you checking them out.

NOTE:  This does NOT replace Bible class!
In the flesh is always better than on the web.

UPDATE:  For a few glorious moments yesterday afternoon, all the Reformation topics were lined up nicely on the archives page.  Apparently, Issues Etc had not intended that and replaced it with current programing (still worth a listen).  To find the Reformation topics, type "Reformation" in the search bar and scroll through the options.  All the interviews are there.  It just takes a little more hunting.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sermon -- 14th Sunday after Pentecost (August 30, 2015)

HEBREWS 12:18-24
In the name + of Jesus. 

     Even Moses was afraid.  So terrifying was the sight at Mt. Sinai that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”  (Hebrews 12:21)  The Lord had appeared to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.  Even though his glory was hidden with a thick, black cloud, thunder, and lightning, the people trembled before him.  Since the Lord was on the mountain, no one was allowed to touch it; for it had become holy ground.  Nothing sinful or mortal was allowed to defile it.  Even if a sheep had strayed onto the mountain, it would have to be stoned to death.  The people of Israel heard it and saw it, and trembled because of it.  The Lord himself spoke the Ten Commandments.  No one dared to speak back to God about his commands.  Rather, they pleaded that God say no more to them lest they perish in his presence.  Even Moses, to whom God had appeared before, was afraid.
     Perhaps you have thought that God would do the world a favor if he appeared again in such glorious fashion.  If God could make the whole world cower, they would listen to him.  They would believe what he says.  They would get in line and behave.  It sounds like a good plan.  But the people who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai were not pagans who were being corralled into the kingdom of God.  These people had been claimed as God's holy nation.  They did not become a holy nation because God filled them with terror.  It was because they were graciously redeemed by a loving God.
     The Bible says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10)  It is right to humble yourself in reverent fear before God.  He is holy; we are corrupt.  He is eternal; we will die.  He is omnipotent; we are frail.  He can do as he pleases; we are victims of circumstance.  But the fear of the Lord is only the beginning of wisdom.  You have not come to church to cower and tremble by God's holiness; you have come to be comforted by God's promises, mercy, and grace.  You have come to a new covenant.
     You have come to a covenant in which God redeems sinners and reconciles you to himself.  You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering... (Hebrews 12:22)   Mount Zion is where the Lord revealed the full measure of his love for sinners.  God did not come to you in his bare glory.  Rather, he hid his glory in humility.  He hid his power in weakness.  Jesus revealed both the love of God and the wrath of God in his sufferings and death.  Jesus was brutally beaten, utterly rejected, and divinely cursed for every sin ever committed.  He consumed the full cup of God's wrath for every sinner on earth.  If you want to know what God thinks of sins, look to the crucified Christ—for he bears your curse.
     On the other hand, if you want to know what God thinks of sinners, look to the crucified Christ—for he bears the curse for you.  God did not desire the death of sinners.  And since sins must be paid for, God sent his Son to make the payment for you.  Forsaking and damning his own Son is the extent that God would go to in order to deliver you out of your sin and guilt, to spare you the agony of death and judgment, and to bring you into an everlasting kingdom of peace.
     You have come to a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)  The blood of Abel was spilled by his brother, Cain.  Cain despised Abel because Abel was considered righteous by God and Cain was not.  Rather than repent, Cain resolved to get rid of the one who reminded him of his sin.  So Cain killed his brother.  When God confronted Cain for his murder, the Lord said to him, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother's blood is crying to the me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10)  Abel's blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies.  It demanded that justice be done because of Cain's blatant disregard for God's word.  That would be fair.  One who breaks God's word should pay the price for his sins.
     Should it be any different for us?  We have also sinned against God and have shown disregard for his word.  Perhaps our greatest sin is how little we are bothered by our sins.  We can go through each day dismissive of our sins.  We may even think that since we think little of them, God thinks little of them.  But God takes his word very seriously.  And God does not think it is little when we turn away from his word.  God is not the one with the problem when we are the lawbreakers.  We are right to fear the Lord and his wrath.  Repent, recognizing that taking God seriously is the beginning of wisdom.
     And now, you have come to a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)  God's justice was doled out at the cross.  His wrath was poured out on Jesus so that his mercy can be poured out upon you.  Justice has been done.  Jesus bore your guilt and, therefore, took your punishment.  For that reason, the blood of Jesus does not call for revenge.  Quite the contrary, it proclaims pardon.  The blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin.  You have been cleansed by the holy blood of Jesus in your baptism.  You are nurtured and consoled by the blood of Jesus at the Lord's Supper where we come together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven for the festal gathering.
     You have come to a new covenant in which God does not pile upon demands that you were never able to meet to begin with.  Jesus is not a new law-giver.  He does not bestow new or more difficult commandments for you to keep.  This new covenant is the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is God's grace by which God bestows his gifts and you receive good things from him.  You have come to the new covenant which includes you in the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven … and (among) the spirits of the righteous made perfect... (Hebrews 12:23)
     When the epistle to the Hebrews was first written, it was not an easy time to be a Christian.  For confessing their faith in Jesus, for gathering for worship, and for living godly lives which honored God and served their neighbors, these believers faced persecution, imprisonment, exile, and potentially even martyrdom.  There was great temptation to turn from Jesus in order to live an easier, happier life.  The writer to the Hebrews encouraged them to continue in what they had been given.  Whatever deals they thought they could make with the world would never forgive their sins, deliver them from the grave, or open the gates of heaven.  God's judgment of them was better than any opinions their fellowman would ever have of them.  Though the world might despise them, God assured them that they were his holy people, children of a new covenant.
     Like these ancient Christians, you also have come to a new covenant.  Perhaps the world has not been as hostile to us as it was to them, but neither do we find it particularly welcoming.  The worst we have had to endure has been mockery and maybe the loss of friends.  Perhaps our greatest battle is against our own sinful flesh which is not bothered by our sins but rather is enthralled by them.  The flesh will always insist a happier, easier life is to give in to sins and to not be bothered by God's commands.  But the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is wise to fear the Lord and repent at his word now so that we will not be destroyed by him later.
     But God's wisdom is fully revealed not in his holy Law, not at Mt. Sinai.  God's wisdom is fully revealed at Mt. Zion, where the Lord has provided forgiveness for your sins and entry to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.  You have come to the new covenant where the Lord does not scare or threaten you into obedience.  Rather, he pardons you of all your disobedience and makes you a holy nation—eager to do what is good, willing to suffer for it, and determined to remain faithful at all times and through all trials.  For you are the Lord's people.  Just as the Lord was eager to redeem you, so also he is zealous for preserving you both now and forevermore.

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

MLS Football vs. Bath (Varsity) UPDATE: Video footage now available!

Michigan Lutheran Seminary began their varsity season hosting the Bath Fighting Bees.  Bath got a new head coach and a new offense, and MLS lost a lot of players from last year, so we did not know what to expect from them or from us.

As it turns out, the MLS offense was clicking pretty well for the evening.  Most drives in the first half resulted in TD's.  And while Bath had some nice plays and some longer drives, they never managed to get it into the end zone.

The Bath defense certainly knew who Casey Williams was.  They made sure that the defense swarmed to him every time.  And they had pretty good success bottling up Casey except for one deep pass in the 1st quarter.  Andrew tossed a nice pass down the middle (I thought it would be too deep) and Casey ran it down for the TD.

Andrew also had a nice run (50 yards?) for a TD.  The hole the line gave him was enormous, and Andrew won the footrace to the endzone.

In the end, MLS came up with an impressive 42-8 win, and Andrew came out pretty much unscathed.

It took a while, but thankfully someone found the link to the TV highlights of the MLS game against Bath.  You can find the link here.  MLS highlights are first.  Incidentally, Andrew told me that the screen pass for the TD (featured on the news) was a screw up on his part.  He ran the wrong way.  He should screw up like that more often!

Some photos below.
Although this photo might not suggest it, this was the pretty TD pass that Andrew threw to Casey.

Andrew completed this pass to Caleb Heyn to convert on 3rd down.  Caleb had some nice runs, too.

This was Andrew's long TD run in the 2nd quarter.  I think even I could have squeezed through that hole!
Andrew with his proud mother.

Friday, August 28, 2015

MLS Football at Bath (JV)

Football officially began last night at the home of the Bath Bees.  Michigan Lutheran Seminary took the field, and the MLS fans stared into the sun for 3 quarters of football.  By the 4th quarter the sun had set and we got to watch without squinting, shading our eyes, or going blind.

Both sides exchanged TD's in the first half with Bath's coming on the final play of the half.  MLS had driven the ball pretty well but managed to sputter out a few times as they neared the end zone.  The story was pretty much the same for Bath.  Both teams gave up turnovers deep in their opponent's territory.

MLS finally grabbed the lead and scored the 2 point conversion for teh 14-6 lead.  Bath heave-hoed a long pass in response and scored their own 2 point conversion for the 14-14 tie.  That lasted late into the 4th quarter.

Bath was driving the field, and we were all watching the clock tick down.  On 4th and short in the red zone, Bath ran the ball and got stuffed.  MLS had a long way to go and under 2 minutes to go the length of the field.  We did not expect the final drive to go as it did.

QB Adam Arrowsmith threw a long pass into double coverage.  Caleb, who had outgrown his defenders, also outjumped the defenders and came down with the ball, getting us to roughly mid-field.  Later, another pass to a wide open Caleb added about 15 more yards.  The late hit out of bounds should have added more yards, but apparently tackling someone 5 yards out of bounds was conisdered fair play by the men in stripes.  Just a few plays later,

Arrowsmith threw to the back of the end zone where Caleb, again in double coverage, outjumped and out wrestled the defenders for the game winning TD with :14 left on the clock.  MLS wins, 20-14!

I would hate to think Caleb's sophomore season has already peaked, but it sure was a nice way to start the year.  Photos below.

Caleb is the kicker this year.  Sadly, his first (and only) attempt at Bath was wide left.  Had the distance, though!

4th quarter, second reception, with a lot of green in front of him for a long gain.

This was the game winner!  Great job, Caleb!!!

Family photos are always better after a win.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Football is back!

The Michigan Lutheran Seminary football season is getting underway.  A scrimmage at Caro High School last evening got things going.  The official season begins next week.

Football is back.  You can follow MLS' Varsity team on M-Live here.

Caleb, are you ready for some football?????

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 16, 2013)

HEBREWS 11:1-3,8-16

In the name + of Jesus. 

     The Christian faith allows you to be honest about this world and everything in it.  We recognize that God has filled his creation with many blessings and with much beauty.  People schedule their vacations to go to national parks to see the natural beauty of God's creation.  Families go to the zoo to see the amazing variety of animals, birds, and fish.  God gives us families and friends who bring happiness, stability, and comfort to our lives.  For all of these, we give thanks to God.
     But we are also honest enough to recognize that this world has its problems.  Yes, there is natural beauty, but there are also natural disasters.  Animals can be pretty, but they can also be pretty deadly.  Families and friends are a great source of blessing, but they can also be a great source of strife.  The world has its share of tragedies, heartaches, pains, and problems.  We are not immune to these.  We have endured hardship, sickness, and sorrow.  Our Lord has rightly taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.”
     Therefore, faith looks for a better home.  We long for a better life, one without problems and pain.  One without sorrow and strife.  In that way, we are no different from anyone else on the face of the earth.  No one enjoys the diseases, disasters, and difficulties that we face.  But, of course, just wanting a better home does not produce it.  For millennia, people have worked hard to make this world a better place.  And we are honest enough to recognize advances in that.  Life expectancy, for example, is much longer than it once was.  But it also means you have longer to expect pains and problems.  Despite man's best efforts, disease, disaster, and disorder are just as common as they ever were.  That's not doom and gloom; it is honest.
     The reason there are so many problems in the world is because sin entered the world.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was effected.  The Lord said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you....  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)  The pain, the toil, the sweat, the curse upon the earth, and death are all the consequences of sin.  This is why you suffer as you do.  Sin has corrupted everything—even our bodies and lives.  That is why this world is not a perfect home.  It is dying.  It is marked for destruction.  And so faith looks for a better home.
     Now, faith is not grounded on wishful thinking.  You can have faith that the Tigers are going to turn it around this year, but such faith is not based on anything but your love for the Tigers.  Many of the things we hope for are only based on our desire to have them.  They are pious wishes, perhaps even pie-in-the-sky wishes.  You may be disappointed that you do not get what you wish for, but you are probably not surprised—especially if not one promised you anything.
     The Christian faith, however, is not based on pie-in-the-sky wishes.  The writer to the Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)  Christian faith is based on the promises of God who does not lie.  When God declares something, it is certain.  When God created the world, he simply summoned things into being out of nothing.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)  And since the world we are standing on is very real and solid, so we know that every other word of God is real and solid.  We have no reason to doubt anything God tells us.
     And so it was for Abraham.  God appeared to Abraham and told him to go to a land that he had never seen.  Why would Abraham listen to that?  Abraham knew that the world was created all on God's say-so.  God said it, and so the world exists and continues.  God had warned that he would send a flood to destroy the world.  God had also told Noah to build and ark in which he and his family would be saved.  God was true to his word.  The flood destroyed the world, but Noah, his family, and all the animals with him did not perish in the flood.  Therefore, Abraham knew that his faith in God's promises was not foolish or pie-in-the-sky.  Faith is the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)   God promised Abraham a better home.  Faith looked for it and was certain of it.
     After Abraham had gone where the Lord told him to, Abraham was told that his offspring would inherit that land.  Logically, God's word was nonsense.  Abraham was almost 100 years old.  Sarah, his wife, was almost 90.  Nevertheless, Abraham believed God's word.  The Christian faith does not believe our senses and logic are greater than God's word.   If God has said it, it is real, reliable, and solid.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) 
     The Lord promised Abraham that he would receive a better home.  Abraham never owned the land that he had been promised.  But Abraham did not regard this world as his everlasting inheritance.  Nor did Isaac and Jacob.  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  (Hebrews 11:13-15)  Faith looked for a better home.
     You are not much different from Abraham in this regard.  You, too, are looking for a better home.  It is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming.  It is taking God at his word.  For God had promised to send a Savior into the world who would deliver us from our sin and all of its curses and consequences.  And God was good on his promises.  Jesus has come and has paid for all your sins.  To deliver you from the curses, Jesus received the curse for you.  He took your sins to the cross where he suffered and died in your place.  Jesus suffered the God-forsaken pains of hell so that you would be delivered from them.  He died for your sins so that you would be forgiven for them.  You are forgiven, cleansed in the blood of Jesus, and therefore you are now righteous in God's sight.  And if you are righteous, you shall enter the home of righteousness.  That's the home faith looks for.
     God has one more promise to fulfill for you—to deliver you from this corrupted world to a perfect Paradise.  Though you have never been there or seen pictures of it, you are certain that this is your eternal future.  That is because you believe God's promises, and God does not lie to you.  At the resurrection of the dead, you will be raised with a glorious, perfect body.  You will be delivered to the city of God, in which there is no sin, and therefore no sorrow, no pain, no difficulties, no death, and no problems.  It is the kind of world which most people dream of.  But our faith is not based on our dreams.  Faith takes God at his word.  Faith believes his promises.  Faith looks for a better home.
     Until that day, we will enjoy the blessings God gives us here.  God has not been stingy with his kindness.  We are grateful for the beauty of God's creation, the variety of the animals, the camaraderie of friends, and the consolation of family.  We are honest enough to recognize these as true blessings of God.  Nevertheless, we are also honest enough to see that there are evils from which we long to be delivered, including our own sin and death.  Jesus Christ has taken away our sin.  He will raise us up from death.  And he will bring us at last to a kingdom where we will once and for all and forever be delivered from every evil.  We don't have to dream about it, we simply have to wait for it.  For God has promised us a better home, a heavenly one.  Faith takes God at his word; and your faith will not be disappointed.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Things that make me go HMMMMMMM -- Silhouette on the hill

If you travel on I-96, you will see it on the south side of the highway, just up the hill past the Milford Road exit.  I have seen it for years now, and I am still as flummoxed as ever.  Here it is:

Yeah.  It is the silhouette of a man wearing a suit and a fedora.

A few people have tried to explain its existence to me, but no one has helped.
I have been told that the hill is a landfill site.  That is true, but it does not explain the man in the suit.
I have been told there are sports fields on the other side.  Again, true.  But how does that explain the silhouette?

If you've seen it and know why this is here, please let me know.  I am at a loss for explanations.

I do like the hat, though.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 9, 2015)


In the name + of Jesus. 

     Christians are not chameleons.  We do not adapt to our surroundings, changing who we are and how we act depending upon what company we are in.  If you are a child of God, that's not just in church, but wherever you go.  We do not say, “I am going to Vegas, so I am putting my Christian faith and life on the shelf this weekend.”  Nor do we say, “I'm at college.  I will behave myself when I get home.  But while I am on campus, I will do whatever the frat boys do.”  Nor do we say, “When I'm around my fellow church members, I will say the right things; but when I am with my colleagues from work, I will be as raunchy and obscene as anyone.”  If you profess to be a child of God, then you are child of God wherever you go.  And that may very well mean that you will not blend in like a chameleon, but that you will stand out.
     In the reading from Colossians, St. Paul reminds you of you who are.  You have been crucified and raised with Christ.  Your sinful nature has been put to death.  No longer are you a person who is owned and ruled by sin.  You have been redeemed.  You are now a child of God.  Just as Jesus' mercy upon you is not limited to specific times and places, neither are you a child of God for only a specific time and place.  You are a child of God no matter what day or age or place you are at.  That means your salvation is certain no matter what day or age or place you are at.
     It does not always look like you are a child of God.  It probably does not feel like it either.  Daily, you see evidence that says otherwise.  It is no accident that we have a confession of sins every week.  We do not forget that we still need a Savior.  Every week, we hear the absolution by which God forgives all your sins.  When he absolves you, he is assuring you that you are still a child of God.  It is no accident that we invoke God's name at the beginning of every service.  It is a worthy practice to begin and end each day by invoking God's name, too.  By this, we remember that the very name which marked us in baptism marks us still.  You are a child of God—even if it does not look like or feel like it.  That is because your life is hidden with Christ.
     Your life is hidden with Christ, which means that Jesus covers you with his blood and righteousness.  He has rescued you from a world of sin and death and has set you apart as his redeemed.  This is not only your eternal destiny, it is your place now.  And since you bear the status as a child of God, you are also set apart to live like it.
     St. Paul urges you: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8)  As a child of God, you are set apart for godly living.  You are to put behind you all wicked deeds which can be observed by anyone, such as sexual impurity.  But you are also to put to death wicked desires, such as passions and covetousness.  These may be able to be kept hidden before friends, but not before God.
     Though coveting cannot be witnessed, St. Paul equates it with idolatry because covetousness craves what God does not give.  Just as Adam and Eve coveted God's place, so we still do it today.  We are not content with what God has chosen to give to us.  This is idolatry; for we do not believe that God gets it right.  We think we are wiser and that we would do better if we had the authority, if we had the power, if we were God.
     We all covet someone else's blessings.  And so the single man covets another man's wife.  The married man covets the single person's freedom.  Since we envy someone else's popularity, we try to destroy that popularity with slander.  We even covet the sins of the godless, wishing that we could get away with what they do.  We forget that on account of these things the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:6)  Repent.
     Such evil deeds and desires still plague us all.  But now you must put them all away....   Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:8-10)  Your life is hidden with Christ.  Although he has declared you holy and blameless—for you are cleansed by his holy and precious blood—you are still being renewed.  Jesus slowly, continually transforms you so that you become more Christ-like.  The sins are taken off like a filthy garment, and you put on Christ with his godly deeds and desires.  Jesus continues to restore you to the creation he intended you to be—free from sin and wickedness.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  You are a child of God, and even if you don't think you look like it, the world will take notice.  Though our Constitution tells us that we have the free exercise of religion, society tells us, “You are free to believe whatever you want.  You can go to church and hear your pastor preach whatever he likes.  But don't bring that stuff out here in the real world.  It has no place here.”  But that is impossible for us.  How can we be children of God in this building but nowhere else?  That's like telling a lighthouse-keeper, “I don't care how many lumens you crank out of your Fresnel lens, I just don't want to see it out on the ocean.”  That would make the lighthouse useless.  The Lord Jesus Christ calls on you to let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)  You cannot suppress that light any more than you can stop being a child of God.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  Chances are, you don't see your life as anything spectacular.  Maybe you don't feel there is anything special about taking care of your family, showing up for work, and doing what is expected of you day after day.  That doesn't sound like glory, but drudgery.  And maybe it seems that there is nothing special about being patient and polite, honest and decent and chaste.  That doesn't sound like glory, but like setting yourself up to be a target.  But your life is hidden in Christ who—even though he was merciful and compassionate—was despised, rejected, and crucified for it.  Though you may think your life is nothing special, others see the light of Christ which shines from you.  Some may respect you for it; others may mock you for it.  But chances are, no one will think it is glorious, not even you.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  But when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)  At the resurrection, your life will no longer be hidden with Christ.  You, who are called children of God, will actually appear and act like children of God.  You will shine in glory.  You will no longer do battle with temptations or fall into sin.  You will never think about what it will cost you to do what is good and right.  You will never get frustrated that it is so hard to do what is right, and you will never feel guilty that you did not do it.  Rather, you will find unending joy in looking and acting like a child of God..  You will finally be the holy creation that God intended you to be.
     A Christians are not a chameleon.  You are a child of God.  For now, that status is hidden under your frail flesh, just as Jesus' glory was hidden under his battered body and crucified corpse.  Soon, your glory will no longer be hidden.  Just as Jesus' glory was seen at his resurrection, so your will be revealed at last when Jesus returns.  Jesus will reveal you to the world as sons and daughters of God, and he will bring you to eternal life and everlasting glory.

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Pastoral Concern -- Sunday School & Adult Bible Class attendance

FOOD FOR THOUGHT re: Sunday School & Adult Bible Class

Our Sunday School and Adult Bible Class go on hiatus during the Sundays in summer.  Our classes will resume again on Sunday, September 13 at 8:45 AM.

Yes, that time is 8:45 AM.  And yes, that sounds early for a Sunday morning.

Please reconsider your excuse.  Please.

What time are you required to show up for work throughout the week?  Do you tell your boss that it is just too early and that you will show up when it is more convenient?  You wouldn't dare.  What time are your children required to get up for school Monday through Friday?  Do you tell their teachers that you can't get them there until, say, 10:00 AM because that is the best you can do?  I doubt it.  Somehow, someway, we meet the appointed time because it is expected of us.  We may not be crazy about getting up as early as we do, but we do it anyway.  And we usually do it with limited complaint because work and school are important.  We recognize that, so we do what we have to in order to meet our obligations.

Granted, Sunday School and Adult Bible Class do not bring home a paycheck.  They will not give you a diploma or an advanced degree.  They are designed to increase your knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, to make you more mature in the faith, more confident of your confession in a world that attacks it, and better equipped to give an answer for the hope that you have.  It also teaches your children that the Christian faith matters.  It matters because they are here for Sunday School.  It matters for you because you make it a point to come to Bible Class while they are in Sunday School.  It matters so that your whole family will remain strong and even grow in the Christian faith.  Okay, that's no paycheck, but you can't say that it has no dividends.

If you want your children to be faithful to Jesus and to remain members in a confessional Lutheran Church, it is up to you to set the example.  That might mean getting to bed earlier on a Saturday night so that getting up on Sunday morning is not such a chore.  That might mean making a concerted effort for Sunday School and Adult Bible Class to be a part of your routine.  It means telling your children that this is what we do now and biting back any comments that suggest you would rather not be getting up that early either.  And it means reminding yourself that Sunday School & Adult Bible Class are worth every minute of your family's time—because they are.  Even as early as 8:45 AM.  We resume on Sunday, September 13.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 2, 2015)



In the name + of Jesus. 

     St. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)  In this short sentence, St. Paul reminds us how everything about the Christian faith is God's working, God's grace, and God keeping us in the faith.  We have been rooted in Christ.  We are being built up in Christ.  We have been established in the faith.  The Lord Jesus Christ has restored us to the kingdom of God, and Jesus continues to work through the Gospel to strengthen and preserve us in the one true faith until life everlasting.  Now, if you are going to remain rooted, built, and established in the faith, St. Paul urges you to walk in Christ—that is, to hear his word and keep it.  If you are giving Christ the opportunity to strengthen and keep you in the faith, he surely will.  If you walk another way or simply neglect Christ, you will eventually be uprooted and your faith will die.  
     When we visited Sequoia National Park, we learned why we had to travel all the way to California to see them and why there are no sequoias growing in Michigan.  All the conditions have to be just right for sequoias to grow—the soil, the elevation, the climate, the amount of rainfall, and so on.  If you don't have all of those conditions lined up, sequoias cannot grow.  Likewise, if everything in your life is going to be rooted in Christ, you ought to know if Christ is able to support and sustain you.  It is important to know into what you have been rooted.  It is important to know who Jesus Christ is so that you are not trusting in someone who is doomed to fail you or disappoint you.
     St. Paul testifies that in Christ, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)  St. Paul is saying in the strongest terms possible that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  It is not that Jesus teaches us about God.  It is not that Jesus gives us a glimpse of what God is like.  It is that Jesus of Nazareth is God Almighty—the whole fullness of God.  Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.  Therefore, your faith is rooted in one who does not lie or deceive.  Your Christian life is grounded in one who does not change with the times or culture.  Your salvation has been established in one who is immutable and immortal.  Money runs out.  Your health will fail you.  Leaders will disappoint you.  The world does not care about you.  But in Christ, yo have a Savior who is intently interested in you and desires you to dwell with him forever.  Jesus Christ is the only unshakable, indestructible foundation there is for your life, your faith, and your salvation. 
     Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  Not even Satan can uproot you from him.  Jesus taught, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)  Christ has established you in his kingdom and has put you under his care.  As long as you are listening to Jesus' voice, you are safe.  You will remain rooted.  Nevertheless, Satan speaks with a seductive voice, just as he did in the Garden of Eden.  If Satan can deceive holy people, then surely you should beware of him.  That is why St. Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)  
     The ways in which Satan attempts to deceive you are too many to go through in a sermon.  Satan cannot snatch you away, but he tries to lure you away.  His arguments sound appealing, which is why they are deceptive.  That is why it is essential to study the Scriptures and to hear sound preaching so that you will not be led astray by fine-sounding arguments.  No matter how Satan tries to deceive you, the end goal is always the same: To take your focus off of Jesus Christ and to have you walk a different way.
     Now, when I speak about walking in a different way, you probably think of things like debauchery, theft, violence, or some criminal activity.  And some Christians have wondered off in that direction to their own destruction.  But most simply neglect devotion to Jesus' word and sacraments.  Instead, they devote themselves to a comfortable life with nice possessions, up north vacations, Little League tournaments, and a respectable 401k.  They have bought the lie that being nice and staying out of trouble is the same as being a Christian.  Or they believe that since they have been confirmed and still remember enough about Jesus to zip through the “Bible” category on Jeopardy, they have saving faith.  Such people are captives to empty deceit.  Remember what Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  God's people continue to listen to him.  The sheep devote themselves to their shepherd's voice so that they will not be led astray by a different voice.  Satan's words will always sound alluring, but only Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Be alert so that you will not be deceived.  Be devoted to preaching and his word so that everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  
     St. Paul writes, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)  You have been united with Jesus in your baptism—crucified with him in your sins, but raised up again with him renewed and redeemed.  Your sins are taken away.  Your guilt has been cut off, circumcised from you.  And even the Commandments which had condemned you are now fulfilled in Jesus.  They still guide you in godly living.  They still direct you in what is good and evil.  They still remind you that you need Jesus.  But the Commandments no longer condemn you.  For, you are rooted in Christ, and there is no condemnation in him.  Sin does not condemn you.  Death does not own you.  Satan cannot claim you.  Christ has overcome them.  He has put them to open shame, rendering them utterly powerless.  And since you are rooted in Christ, you overcome them as well.
     Everything in your life is rooted in Christ, and that brings comfort and relief that cannot be measured.  You don't have to find ways to try to minimize your sins.  If you have sinned against God, be honest.  Confess your sins and then take God at his word: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  That means you don't have to pretend to be what you are not.  You don't have to play games trying to convince the world or God or yourself that you are better than you are.  Instead, you get to take God at his word that, though you aren't perfect, you are forgiven.  You are unworthy?  So what!  You are a child of God and an heir of his kingdom, because God has said so.  In fact, God calls you blameless because you are rooted in Christ.  Jesus' righteousness is now yours.  Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  Even your daily tasks are sanctified by him.  Though your work and your words may not seem like a big deal to you, Christ works in you and through you to do good to your fellowman.  You never have to end a day wondering if you did enough to please God.  You are in Christ, and therefore, you are always pleasing to God.  Whether your deeds are amazing or anonymous, God receives all of them as praise.
      Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.... (Colossians 2:6-7)  And as you continue to be taught, you continue to become more firmly rooted in Christ.  Since he is God in the flesh, your Savior will never fail you or fool you.  

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