Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sermon -- 18th Sunday after Pentecost (September 27, 2015)

LUKE 16:1-13
In the name + of Jesus. 

     This is probably the most confusing parable Jesus ever told, because it gives the impression that Jesus commends shady business dealings.  But we do well to pay attention to the words so that we are not misled.  Jesus declared, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” (Luke 16:8, emphasis added)  The dishonest manager was rightly going to be fired because of his mismanagement.  Nevertheless, while he still had his master's goods at his disposal, he was focused on doing whatever he could so that he would land on his feet when he was out of a job.  He was dedicated to one goal—to survive when he was in need.
     We see people show that kind of resolve and dedication when it comes to worldly concerns.  Entire industries have been established to get people a college fund, a retirement plan, supplemental insurance in case of a disability, and so on.  When it comes to worldly endeavors, we will dedicate much effort to make sure that we are taken care of in our need.  Sadly, we don't often see that kind of zeal when it comes to the kingdom of God.  We are slow to rid our lives of temptations because we do not see them as a threat.  We don't renounce sinful behaviors because we do not fear the consequences.  It is certainly not shrewd to play with sins or to let temptations linger.  If our goal is to dwell with God as his people, then we should live as God's people already.
     As clear as that is, Jesus' parable is still shocking to us.  “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” (Luke 16:8, emphasis added)  The dishonest manager had squandered his master's gifts.  We regard that as criminal, not worthy of commendation.  But the parable is not about business practices.  Jesus' parables are about the Kingdom of God.  And in the Kingdom of God, God's gifts are squandered and given to people who have neither worked for them nor deserved them.
     Before the manager was called to account for his management, he summoned “his master's debtors one by one.  He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’  He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’  He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’  He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”  (Luke 16:5-7)  This exchange tells us a great deal about the master.  First, we recognize that the master is generous.  One hundred baths of oil would have been worth three years' wages.  Who would loan that much?  One hundred cors of wheat was about 30 tons of wheat.  Again, what fool would lend out that much?  And yet, the master did.
     Now comes the dishonest manager who urged his master's debtors to slash their debts.  We don't hear the debtors saying, “No way!  The master would never let me get away with that!”  They knew the master was merciful.  They were pleased that he would slash their debts.  And the manager knew that his master would not come back to his debtors and say, “No way!  There are no discounts here!  Your debt stands against you!”  The dishonest manager squandered his master's goods, and in the process, he made his master look good.  The master appeared to be even more generous, kind, and merciful to his debtors than before.
     Once again, in this business world, this is all foolishness.  This is a recipe for bankruptcy and personal ruin.  But this parable is not in Business Week; it is in the Bible.  This is what the Kingdom of God is like.  God the Father is the gracious master of all.  Every thing we have is from God.  We falsely think in terms of my money, my house, my possessions, my time, and my life.  It is only yours because God has given it to you.  Since God is the author of life, he has every right to demand that your life conform to his will.  We owe God obedience; instead, we are indebted to him for our sins.  We have sinned against God with our self-centered lives.  We do not love God, and we do not love our neighbor.  They stand in the way of our selfish interests.  We would rather horde our wealth and possessions, as if these are what make us special.  Repent.
     God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to pay the price for our sins.  Jesus squandered all of God's goodness and mercy in order to save us.  He squandered God's gifts to make him look even better.  Only, Jesus did not cover the cost for some, or even most, of our sins.  Jesus paid the price for all of our sins.  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)—even though many in the world will never believe in him and benefit from his payment.  With his holy, precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death, Jesus selflessly offered himself up as the payment for all our sinful selfishness.  He fully and freely pardons all of your sin and cancels all of your debt.
     Jesus squanders God's gifts and makes him look good.  God the Father does not come back to us and say, “Oh, no way!  You still owe me, for you still sin against me.”  Instead, God the Father is shown to be most merciful and honors his Son who continues to squander God's gifts, his mercy, and his salvation.  Though we still sin against him, our Lord's mercy never runs out.  He fully and daily forgives all sins to me and all believers in Christ.  God is no stingy miser who only dispenses his gifts to the worthy.  Rather, he is the gracious Lord who forgives sinners, who pardons offenses, and who cancels our debt against him for the sake of Jesus Christ.
     Now that you are redeemed, your focus is heavenward.  You know that whatever God is pleased to give you in this world is only for this world.  Jesus said that the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:8)  That is because the sons of this world are focused on draining out of this world every drop they can get.  You and I, however, recognize that God gives his gifts to be used for his glory and for the good of our fellow man.  When we squander God's gifts in this way, we make God look good and kind and merciful.
     That is why Jesus said, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9)  The truth is that your money will fail you.  You will find it utterly useless when you die.  In fact, many will be damned because of their money and their love for it.  But you recognize that God gives you your wealth to serve him with it.  One of the ways you do that is by your offerings.  With your offerings, you support the preaching of the Gospel—not just so that you will hear it and be saved, but so that others will hear it and be saved.  In a worldly sense, this is purely squandering our wealth.  No doubt, we all could do nice things for ourselves if we dedicated our money for our own good.  The world calls it foolish.  In the Kingdom of God, it is a worthy investment.  Squander God's gifts to make him look good.
     With our offerings, we support the schools where pastors train who will preach to our children and grandchildren.  We fund missionaries to strange lands where the lost are found by Christ and brought into his Church.  You will likely never meet the future generations or far off Christians who will benefit from your squandering of God's gifts.  But when your money fails you, they (will) receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9) and rejoice that your generosity contributed to their salvation.  Squander God's gifts to make him look good.  For he is good, and it is he who saves you by his abundant goodness.

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

MLS Football at St. Louis (Varsity)

The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinal varsity team took their undefeated record with them to visit the Sharks of St. Louis, my favorite away stadium in the conference.  It is a really nice setting with the home stands resting on the hillside and a creek which runs behind the away stands.  And with no trees in the west end zone, you can anticipate a pretty sunset.  Really nice.

The Sharks were celebrating their homecoming, and they were one play away from coming into this game undefeated themselves.  Needless to say, they were pretty pumped up.

The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, but MLS was driving.  The second quarter is when MLS got very familiar with the end zone.  Andrew threw a deep TD pass to Tristan Pankow.  Later, Andrew scrambled around for a while and, just before getting hit, through a heave-ho pass that hung in the air seemingly forever.  It was about a 45 yard pass to Mark Burger, for whom time must have stood still as he was just waiting for the ball to come down, knowing that the defense was closing in.  Burger hauled it in for the TD.  The final TD of the half came after a turnover from St. Louis.  With about a minute left, MLS drove down the field.  Andrew ran in 5 yards out on a QB draw through a WIDE open hole (photo below). The offensive line literally formed a wall for him to run through.  Awesome!

In the 3rd quarter, Andrew took quite a beating on a long run.  We thought he was going to be out of the game with a concussion.  But he ran back in a few plays later with MLS getting ready to score.  Andrew tried a QB sneak and had his helmet ripped off and thrown to the side by the St. Louis defense.  No penalty, but they had drawn blood so he had to come out.  He went back after one play and a time out.  This time, Cade Kestner took over (for the rest of the game, in fact) at QB and Andrew lined up at wide reciever.  Kestner threw to the corner to Andrew for the next TD.

Finally, in the 4th quarter, Kestner dropped back to pass and had great protection.  He planted and threw deep to Andrew who was running a go route.  Andrew caught it in stride and scored on what was abouta 60 yard TD.  MLS ended up winning, 33-12.

You can read an M-Live article about the game here.  They also recognized that Andrew had a fantastic game.  He also had two interceptions at safety.  Wow!

Photos below.

The read option with Andrew, Tristan Pankow, and Caleb Heyn.

Look at the wall on the right and the left by the offensive line!  QB draw for a TD!
Picture perfect -- great protection from the offensive line, great pass from Cade Kestner, and a long TD for Andrew!
Andrew's 2nd interception of the game.
Peter is prepping for his football career.

Friday, September 25, 2015

MLS Football vs. St. Louis (JV)

Thursday night saw the Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV Cardinals host the Sharks of St. Louis.  MLS was still working with their back up QB, Noah Nordlie, because of Adam Arrowsmith's concussion.  Apparenly, Adam had just received the all clear, but he had not practiced all week, so he was still out.  It also meant that MLS would do most of his offense on the ground.  Caleb would spend most of his night blocking and tackling.

Caleb looked better on defense last night, a bit mor aggressive than he had been.  He engaged on a few tackles and ran at a few piles, too.

His blocking helped out on a few long runs and one punt return for a TD.  Caleb was targeted on two deep passes, but both passes fell incomplete.

MLS' running game did everything it needed to do, led by strong running by Noah Nordlie, Damon Pearce, and Jacob Lewis.  MLS won 33-6.

You can also tell it is autumn.  Here are a few photos--the first from the beginning of the game, the second from the end of the game.  The days are getting shorter.....  Other photos follow.

Caleb's block (far left) was a decleater.  That kind of thing encourages more blocking!

Caleb's block is far right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Octoberfest is coming on October 4!

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church 
(41415 W. Nine Mile Road, Novi) 
invites you to our annual


on Sunday, October 4.

5:00 PM  --  Vespers
5:30 PM  --  Bratwurst Dinner 
6:30 PM  --  Luther Lecture

This year's Luther Lecture is:
Love, War, and the Will to be Saved. (1525)

          “They have doubly deserved death in body and soul as highwaymen and murderers... they cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the gospel... thus they become the worst blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy name.”
— Martin Luther; Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, May, 1525.

  We hope that all guests of our Octoberfest celebration will gain a greater appreciation for the confessors and the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
  There is no cost for Octoberfest, but we will have a free-will offering to offset any expenses incurred from our festival.
  In order to be sure that we will have enough food for all who attend, please RSVP to Good Shepherd at (248) 349-0565 or at  Be sure to include how many will be in your party.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

MLS Football at Merrill (Varsity)

Michigan Lutheran Seminary's varsity travelled west down M-46 to Merrill to play the Vandals.  Though Merrill did not have a large squad numerically, they did have pretty good size on the players they did have.  They had a very talented line who seemed to get movement, especially in the first half.

Merrill's drives came up short except for one, resulting in a Merrill 6-0 lead at half time.  MLS had a chance to at least tie just before half time.  At 4th down from about the 12, Andrew threaded the needle between 3 Merrill defenders and found Jordan Hayes in the back of the end zone.  It looked like a catch from my vantage point--there were a lot of charcaol grey jerseys blocking my view--but apparently Jordan was unable to haul it in.  (Jordan would avenge himself later.)

In the second half, MLS found a way to get the ball moving down the field a little more consistently.  Runs in between the tackles resulted in some pretty consistent gains of five or so yards.  Those were supplemented with some passes.  One TD was from a hard run by Andrew with several broken tackles along the way.  Later, Tristan Pankow broke through the line for a sprint of about 60 yards (give or take). giving MLS a 14-6 lead late in the game.

It looked pretty good for MLS late in the 4th quarter.  But Merrill staged a drive (aided by two 15 yard penatlies) and scored with under a minute to play.  Add the 2-point conversion, and it was a 14-14 tie.  It was looking like overtime.

MLS got the ball on about their own 35 yard line.  A long pass down the middle to Mark Burger put the Cardinals deep into Vandal territory.  MLS was looking at the end zone to seal the game with a TD.  MLS put back up QB Cade Kestner into the game to split Andrew out at wide receiver.  Merrill did not miss the switch and focused on Andrew, who went in motion right.  Then Cade threw to Mark Burger who was open up the middle again.  The ball rested at about the 5 yard line with :09 left.  MLS took one more shot at the end zone, but Merrill tipped the pass just over Andrew's fingers in the corner of the end zone.

With :05.2 left in the game, MLS tried for a game-winning field goal, which went through.  A false start pentaly, however, negated the field goal and backed MLS up five more yards.  So, with :04.4 left (they did not adjust the clock back to :05.2, but should have), Jordan Hayes booted it through the uprights, making it 17-14 for the Cardinals with :01 left.

After a kickoff out of bounds, Merrill's last ditch effort was a long pass that resulted in Andrew's third interception of the night.  MLS won, 17-14, overcoming a tough, resilient Merrill team.

Photos below.
This was the first of three interceptions that Andrew hauled in.  Two of the three prevented Merrill TDs.

Andrew was pretty pleased with this tackle.  He put a hard hit on the runner.

A bit blurry, but this was the 3rd interception which sealed the game on the last play.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

MLS Football vs. Merrill (JV)

Michigan Lutheran Seminary's JV hosted the Vandals of Merrill on Thursday, September 17.  Both teams began by moving the ball right down the field.  Merrill had some sizable linemen who got a big push on our guys.  Their running backs got around the tackles for chunks of yards that kept moving the chains.  They also threw passes which usually meant success for them.

MLS, on the other hand, looked like we were going to move the ball with equal success.  Then in the first quarter, our starting QB, Adam Arrowsmith, was knocked out of the game with a concussion which he got while on defense.  Time to shift gears and work with the back up QB, Noah Nordlie.  Noah did a nice job of working the MLS offense.  Unfortunately, it also meant that we would not be passing the ball the rest of the game.  I am guessing that Merrill figured that out pretty quickly, making all of our drives thereafter pretty difficult.  Still, MLS had success moving the ball and put in some scores.

MLS was down 30-24 with little time left in the 4th quarter, when we took the Merrill kickoff for about a 40 yard return deep into Merrill territory.  Flin Breland was tackled by his neck on a vicious clothesline which was a TD saving tackle.  It also should have been a penalty, but the referees kept their flags in their pockets.

Nonetheless, MLS managed to get the ball down to the 1 yard line with seconds remaining and the clock moving.  With :01 (that's what the clock said), MLS tried to snap the ball and Merrill jumped offside (not really debatable).  The refs simply said the game was over because time had run out.  MLS fans felt like we were victims of some missed calls on that last drive.

MLS ended up on the short end of a 30-24 game.

Some photos are below.  Caleb's main role was blocking and taclking this game.  I think his blocking is getting better, too.

Caleb on a punt reutrn.

Monday, September 14, 2015

MLS Football vs. St. Charles (Varsity)

Michigan Lutheran Seminary's Varsity team hosted the Bulldogs of St. Charles on Friday, September 11.  The St. Charles team came in with a pretty sizeable line and hoped to capitalize on that.  And while they moved the ball some, it was never enough to punch it in for a score.

MLS began quick with a long pass from Andrew Schroeder to Casey Williams.  I was in the corner of the end zone where Casey ran it in.  It was cool to see that pass arch down the field and Casey outrun the corner.  I think I was calling TD before Casey even caught the ball.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals got the ball down to the 1 yard line for first and goal.  Andrew usually goes from the shot gun.  When I saw him walk up to go under center, I knew the QB sneak was coming.  The Cardinal O-line got enough of a push to get him in for the TD.

The second half began with the Cardinals receiving the kick.  After Jordan Hayes muffed the kick, he ran to scoop it up.  Casey also got there, and Jordan let him have it.  All Casey did was run it back for a TD.  I think they drew it up that way.

MLS managed two more scores in the second half, including a fumble returned for a TD by Tristan Pankow (photo below).  The game ended with a 34-0 score.

You can take a look at a couple of plays of TV coverage here.  Scroll to the 4:06 mark for the MLS game highlights, which includes Andrew's QB sneak score.

Photos here:

Andrew had some long, hard runs.  Sadly, this long run was called back.
The MLS coaches vehemently disagreed with the penalty call.  (I did not see the block.)
Tristan Pankow (#9, second from right) picked up a fumble.  He should have been called down,
but the referees never blew their whistle.  So Tristan alertly ran the distance for the TD.
The read option: Give or fake to Caleb Heyn on the dive, and then run the option with Casey (#1) trailing behind.

One of Andrew's runs.  If memory serves, he broke this tackle for a few extra yards.
Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt got to see this game.  I think MLS made it worth their trip.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sermon -- 16th Sunday after Pentecost (September 13, 2015)

LUKE 14:25-33

In the name + of Jesus. 

     One of the harder sayings of Jesus is spoken in today's Gospel: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)  One of the reasons this statement is so hard is because we teach our children that it is wrong to hate anyone.  To hate someone means that you wish harm and disaster on that person, whether you take it upon yourself to inflict that harm or you simply smile to yourself when you hear that that person has suffered loss.  However, Jesus is not saying that the 4th Commandment has been abolished and that you should now wish evil on your parents.  He is not saying the 6th Commandment is suspended so that you no longer love or honor your husband or wife.  Rather, Jesus is speaking in hyperbole here.  In any case, Jesus has your attention here.
     Jesus wants you to count the cost of discipleship.  If you would be a disciple of Jesus, you cannot live with divided allegiances.  Jesus is not abolishing the Commandments with his statement, but he is emphatically declaring that the First Commandment is the first one for a good reason.  You shall have no other gods. (First Commandment)  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)  Count the cost of discipleship.
     There were large crowds who were following Jesus at this time.  Not everyone came to Jesus for good reasons.  Many came because Jesus did miracles.  Jesus was the popular story of the day, and people wanted to be there for it.  Jesus was not interested in collecting fans.  Jesus called people to be his disciples.  A disciple is a learner, a student, and one who imitates his master.  Jesus was no deceiver; he wanted the crowds to know what they were getting into.  He urged them to count the cost of discipleship.
     So, when Jesus declared, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), he was hitting close to home.  In fact, he is hitting us in our homes.  If Jesus had said, “If anyone does not hate television” or “will not renounce chocolate, he cannot be my disciple,” we could probably go along with that.  But Jesus tells us that our loved ones should not be so exalted by us.
     Now, God gives us family and friends for our good.  Such people are there for us to love and serve, and they love and serve us.  We gain support and stability from each other.  But understand this: Your family is a gift of God.  Your family does not replace God or take priority over him.  It is God who decided to whom you would be born.  It is God who determined what children you would have.  You did not get to choose your family any more than you got to choose your own birthday.  Your family is God's gift to you, and you are God's gift to them.
     Even though your family is arguably the most precious gift God gives you in this life, it is still just for this life.  Everything in this world is temporary.  That is a hard lesson to learn.  Some things we don't miss if we lose them.  I remember having a blanket I had carried around when I was little.  It was a treasured possession then.  I can't remember what color it was now.  Other things in this world we know are only temporary.  Every meal, every oil change, and every bouquet of flowers are only good for a short time.  Even our families are temporary blessings—precious blessings, nonetheless temporary.  That lesson is learned only with bitter tears and mourning.  We will some day bid farewell to those people who provided support and stability for us, or they will bid farewell to us.  For as much as we love our families, and for all of the good that God gives us through our families, they dare never take priority over God.  That is idolatry.  The First Commandment always comes first.  Count the cost of discipleship.
     The problem is that our sinful flesh always loves itself first.  The flesh just wants to be happy.  And so, we do what makes us happy.  We encourage our families to do what makes them happy—even when it is at odds with God's word.  And when we are confronted by these sins, we take our family's side.  We fear the wrath and rejection off our relatives more than we fear God.  When you see your family neglect or defy God's word, do you admonish them?  Or do you defend them because at least they are happy?
      Satan lies to us and tries to convince us that the best we can do is be happy.  In some instances, we see through the lie.  Children are not happy that they have to eat vegetables.  We make them eat them anyway.  You would be happier at Disney World than at work.  You go to work anyway.  You do these things because this is what your family needs.  These are important.  The only thing that God gives you in this world that you could see in heaven is your family.  If you want to spend eternity with them, then you need Jesus.  You need his word and sacraments.  You need to be in church—regularly.  Your weekly attendance is your confession: This is important.  This matters.  Jesus comes first.
      Count the cost of discipleship.  This is especially hard for us because we want to cling to all of the temporary gifts God gives us—as if God is incapable of giving us anything else or anything better.  Jesus said, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)  We brought nothing into this world with us, and there is nothing that we will be taking with us.  There is nothing that you have in this world that will vouch for you at all at the final judgment—not your parents, not your spouse, not your children, and not even your own resume.  That is why Jesus calls you to renounce all things.  The only thing you truly do need is Jesus.
     Jesus Christ did count the cost of being your Savior.  He knew exactly what he was getting into when he left the glories of heaven to live among us.  He came in weakness, submitting himself to the pains and sorrows of life.  He came to suffer, to be slandered, accused, and mocked, to be spit upon, beaten, and flogged.  He came to die—nailed to a cross, executed for crimes he did not commit, forsaken by his Father, and tormented by hellish pains meant for devils.  Jesus knew all of this when he came to earth, when he was baptized in the Jordan, and when he prayed in Gethsemane.  He counted the cost, and he paid the price.  He did it for everyone, knowing that most would not care.  But he did it perfectly, and he did it for you.  This atoning sacrifice from this perfect Savior is all you need.  In Jesus, you find the complete forgiveness of your sins.  Your shame is covered by divine blessing.  Your grave is but a resting place until the resurrection of the dead.  And your final judgment is in: You are heirs of everlasting life.  Nothing on earth can buy this.  Only Jesus supplies it to you.
     Count the cost of discipleship.  Jesus supplies all you need for your eternal salvation.  But he does not leave you alone either.  It has never been God's intention that we live alone.  Just as he has given us families to support and encourage us in our daily lives, so he has brought you into a family of believers.  Your brothers and sisters are the ones who are sitting next to you.  And it is much more than just an hour a week bond.  You are going to be spending an eternity together.  You get to pray for each other, cry with each other, rejoice with each other, and feast with each other as you receive God's greatest gifts together.  Though you may lose family members, you never lose the Church of God.  You never lose the Savior who suffered and died to give you gifts that have everlasting value and a kingdom which endures forever.
     Count the cost of discipleship.  You need not feel as if you are sacrificing everything for Jesus.  Whatever you think you may have lost, Jesus gives you more and better and eternal.  Jesus sacrificed everything and gave himself as the cost for you.  The Triune God supplies all your needs for this world and the next.

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

Friday, September 11, 2015

MLS Football at St. Charles (JV)

Last night's Michigan Lutheran Seminary's JV team traveled to St. Charles to face the Bulldogs.  The most remarkable feature of this game was the unbelievable lack of mosquitos!  St. Charles has been notorious for the mosquito population in the visitors' stands.  I did not swat or slap once all night!

The game was an offensive contest, for sure.  The teams comblined to put up 82 points.  Unfortunately, the majority of those points ended up on the St. Charles side of the scoreboard.  The final was 48-34.

St. Charles had some pretty big bodies up front, and they had pretty good success running misdirection plays around the ends.  Poor Flin Breland who plays cornerback got crushed a few times by pulling offensive linemen who outsized him quite a bit.  Give Flin credit; he did not run away from contact.

MLS, on the other hand seemed to have its best success throwing the ball.  There were a few hard runs between the tackles, and some of those runs managed to be ground out to ten yards or so.  But there seemed to be a few too many 3rd and long's along the way.  Adam Arrowsmith threw some long passes to boost the yardage for the Cardinal offense.

Caleb managed to have another good game at tight end/wide receiver.  He made a number (I don't remember how many) of catches throughout the game, including three for TD's and one or two for 2 point conversions.  I thought he also improved on his blocking, and that is always a good thing.

The game had been tight until about the 4th quarter.  MLS was driving and needed about 4 yards to convert on 4th down.  A TD drive would have potentially tied the game.  But MLS failed to convert (about 2 yards short), and St. Charles drove the ball right down the field to put them up by 14 points with only a minute and change to go in the game.  An MLS fumble gave the ball back to St. Charles who kneeled on it twice for the win.

Photos below.

Caleb (lower left) has improved his blooking.  That is nice to see!
Caleb got upfield after this catch, broke some tackles, and turned it into a nice gain.

Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt made the trip up for the game.
Although they did not get to see a win, they saw Caleb get to  make some nice catches.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School -- September 8, 2015

Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School, Westland, MI


Take My Hand and Lead Me
to be Faithful to God's Commands.  

In the name + of Jesus. 

     The Lord had appeared to Israel at Mt. Sinai to personally establish a covenant with them.  The Israelites did not have to wonder what God thought or wanted or did.  God revealed it to them so that they would know.  God gave his commands so that his people could serve him faithfully.  They were not allowed to serve the way they thought God should be served.  No one was allowed to say, “Well, I think these choices or this behavior is right for me.  If I think my actions are good, you should not judge.” But that is not faithful service, because it is not being faithful to what God has commanded.  God sets the standard for good and evil.  God reveals this to you so that you can do the good and flee from the evil.
     You are still early in the school year, so this has probably happened to one of you.  Your teacher tells you not to blast ahead on some worksheet handed out to you, but to read or listen to the instructions before beginning your assignment.  But you brush it off, thinking, “Ah, I know what I'm doing.”  And you plunge in—only to discover that you messed something up.  You have failed because you did not listen to your instructor.  And the plea, “I thought I knew what I was doing,” will not save your grade.  Likewise, God does not tell you to serve him as you think best.  He tells you what is good and right.  God gave his word so that his people could serve him faithfully, doing what God has commanded.
     God has revealed his commandments so that you will know what is good and what is evil.  He does not tell you to try to do them.  No Commandment begins with the word, “Try.”  He tells you to obey, and to be holy.  God's commands not only reveal God's will, they also reveal our sinfulness.  No matter how hard we try, we do not do the good God demands.  No matter how much we try to avoid it, we still do the evil God forbids.  That is why we are tempted to change God's word.  We think that by changing his word, we will find wiggle room to disobey him.  But if we change God's word, they we are abandoning the God who has revealed it.
     That is why Moses commanded, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)  To change the word of the Lord is to change the God who revealed himself by that word.  It is to abandon God's truth and, therefore, his salvation.  Because God takes your salvation very seriously, he takes his word very seriously.
     God gave his word to Israel so that they would be faithful to him.  But God did not merely give his commandments from Mt. Sinai and then abandon the Israelites, saying, “Good luck with those!”  The covenant which God made with Israel also proclaimed how God would be with them and would bless them.  God made his dwelling with Israel, hiding himself under earthly things.  God told Israel he would dwell with them at the tabernacle.  That is where the blood sacrifices were made by which God assured Israel that they were his people and under his grace.  Being faithful to God's commands also meant faithfully trusting that God forgives the sins of his people through the blood of the sacrifices.  The blood and the sacrifices reminded the Israelites that they were God's children and heirs of God's promises.
     That is why God was serious about his commands.  He is serious about our obedience.  He is serious about punishing the wrong-doer.  And he is serious about our salvation.  To tamper with God's word is to mess with all of these things.
     Just as God dwelt with the Israelites under his old covenant, so also he dwells with you under the new covenant.  Our Immanuel came to reveal salvation to us.  God veiled himself again in earthly things.  He became flesh to keep the commands we have.  He came to bleed and die, taking our punishment for our disobedience.  Jesus did not try to find wiggle room to dodge the curse of God for sinners.  Instead, he took the curse and bore all of it for you.  That is why you do not have to be spiritual to figure out how to get right with God.  Jesus has made you right with God—in fact, righteous before God.
     God continues to dwell with us.  He came to you in baptism where he marked you as his children and cleansed you of all your sin.  He continues to give you his body and blood in order to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith.  Where the word is preached, there Jesus speaks to his people.  That is where God dwells with you and where God continues to pour our his grace upon you.  That is where God faithfully reminds you that you are children of God and heirs of his promise.
     And since you are children of God, you get to live like children of God.  You strive for what is good and flee from what is evil, for you have been set apart from a world which is dying.  By adhering faithfully to God's word, you spare yourself the scandals and scars that are inflicted upon those who indulge in sins.
     Remember who you are: You are children of God, not because you hope so or guess it must be so, but because God said so.  He gave you his word so that you can be sure of it.  And he adds to this new status a new nature which delights in what is good and hates what is evil, just as God does.  The children take after their Father, and are eager to serve him faithfully and please him.
     Still, when it is the end of the day and you wonder if your life has been enough to please God, remember who you are: You are children of God.  You are cleansed by the blood of Christ.  Your sins are covered.  Your place in the kingdom is secure.  Therefore, you don't have to wonder if God is pleased with you.  He plainly tells you that he is.  You are not ruled by guilt, but by grace.  For as much as you strive to faithfully keep God's commands, your confidence is that God faithfully serves you with his grace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sermon -- 15th Sunday after Pentecost (September 6, 2015)

HEBREWS 13:1-8
In the name + of Jesus. 

     You hear it often.  Who knows?  You might even believe it: “The Church needs to change and get with the times.  If the Church does not change, it will continue to hemorrhage members, and it will die.”  That is a common criticism.  It is considered to be conventional wisdom.  A number of church bodies have adjusted their doctrine and practice for the sake of popularity and relevance.  But you need to understand this: Any church which has changed its doctrine and practice to adapt to the times has also abandoned Jesus Christ.  Let me say that again: Any church which changes its doctrine and practice to adapt to the times also abandons Jesus Christ.  How can I say that so strongly?  Because this is what the Scriptures say: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
     The unchanging God blesses you with his unchanging word.  God does not change, therefore he never needs to adapt his word to any time or place.  From the time of Adam right up until today, the word of the Lord has been preached.  While God has added content to his revelation through the prophets and the apostles, he has never changed his message.  The word of the Lord to Moses is word of the Lord to David, to Peter, James, and John, to Chrysostom, to Martin Luther, to you.  The unchanging God blesses you with his unchanging word.
     The reason people want the church to change its message is because God's holiness bothers us and we don't want to be mindful of our sins and sinfulness.  We live in a world which finds sins to be entertaining.  We are certainly influenced by this.  We find ourselves chuckling at what is perverted and panting at what is promiscuous.  If we don't want to back away from our sins, we would prefer the Church back off condemning them.
     When we see church attendance dwindling, we assume that the Church has the problem.  We want to find ways to keep people—especially the younger people—in the church.  For the sake of not losing members, it is assumed that the Church should ignore their sins.  But the Christian Church is not about seeing how many people we can get in the door.  The task our Lord has given us is to be faithful in preaching his word—all of it, not merely the least offensive portions of it.  If people are going to love their sins more than Jesus, that does not give us permission to change his word.  The unchanging God blesses you with his unchanging word.
     I remember when I was younger hearing the older generations commenting, “I can't believe how bad the world has gotten.  I can't imagine it can get much worse.”  And now I think the same thing.  I suspect some of my sentiment is because I was oblivious to the world's evils when I was younger.  But it surely seems that the world has become more violent, more depraved, and more proud of it, too.  Remembering that many want the Church to change and to get with the times, do you really think the Church serves the world well by accommodating to its evil?  Not at all!  The word of the Lord endures forever.  It does not change.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  The unchanging God blesses you, not by accommodating himself to you, but with his unchanging word.
     Hear the word of the Lord: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)  These statements are actually imperatives, not granting permission but demanding obedience, so that they could be understood this way: “Thou shalt honor marriage and thou shalt keep the marriage bed undefiled.”  Marriage is holy and honorable because God designed it for the good of a man and a woman.  And he says that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage couples.  The marriage bed is pure.
     Outside of marriage, we hear that God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)  Outside of marriage, all sexual activity is defiled and falls under God's judgment.  Nevertheless, people argue that their sins are good and smart.  Couples who take up cohabiting argue that this saves on their bills.  Divorcing couples insist that abandoning their vows will make them happier.  Abortion rights activists insist that women should not have to bear the responsibility for their promiscuity.  All such actions defy God's design for marriage and the marriage bed.  You may have heard of Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple.  For this, she went to jail.  She claimed that she was the voice of God in defending marriage.  When it was reported that Kim Davis is on her 4th marriage, her strong stance on marriage certainly rings hollow.  The Church is not threatened by same-sex marriage nearly as much as it is by Christians who hook up, shack up, or cause their marriages to break up.  The Church still calls these things sinful and, therefore, calls people to repent of them.
     The writer to the Hebrews also writes, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have...” (Hebrews 13:5)  The reason we are not content is because we do not believe God will actually care for us and meet our needs.  We try to find joy in purchasing and pursuing more stuff.  We invest small fortunes to entertain and distract ourselves.  We even come to believe that we are owed some degree of wealth because we see so many other people with it (or at least, going in debt to fake it).
     In the book of Proverbs, Solomon has taught us to pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)  I am willing to bet you can pray half of that prayer, but probably not the half that pleads to be rescued from being rich.  And why?  We love and trust money more than we love and trust God.  Yet, your money will not save you.  It does not pay for even one sin.  It can buy you a lavish headstone, but it will not rescue you from the grave.
     We are always tempted to abandon the words and promises of God to fend our own way through life.  If the Church would adapt to the times, this is finally what we would do.  But apart from God, there is no life.  There is only sin, guilt, and death.  Repent.
     The unchanging God blesses you with an unchanging word.  Finally, this is why God has revealed his word to you—to bless you.  If he has revealed your sins, it is because he wants you to repent of them.  It is because he wants to rescue you from them.  And even though we have been proven sinners yet again, the unchanging God has not changed this promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  From eternity, the unchanging God had planed your salvation.  So, God became flesh to deliver you from sin and death.  He lived a perfect life of obedience—free from immorality, impurity, and infidelity to God's Commandments.  This perfect life, Jesus gave in exchange for your sin.  Christ died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)  And Jesus does not bring you to his Father as pathetic people who stand in the filth of our sins.  Rather, he has clothed you in garments of salvation, which are the righteousness of Jesus himself.  His blood purifies you of all sin, no matter how bad your sin has been.  Jesus Christ does not call you to repent so that you will wallow in shame and disgrace, but so that you would not defend your sins or depend on yourself.  Rather, depend on Jesus who is your Savior, your righteousness, and the atoning sacrifice for all your sins.  He is your sole defense against sin, death, and hell.
     The unchanging God blesses you with an unchanging word.  He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  In the Greek, this is written in the strongest possible terms.  I will in no way ever leave you.  I will absolutely never forsake you.”  The God who became flesh to pay for all of your sins does not renounce you because you have committed sins again.  Rather, the blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin.  And if that blood purified you before, it continues to purify you even now.  That does not change; for you have an unchanging God who blesses you with an unchanging word.  He and his word and his salvation will never leave you nor forsake you.

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

MLS Football at Carrollton (Varsity) UPDATE: TV highlights now included

Due to the Labor Day weekend, this week' games were bumped up to Thursday night.  The Michigan Luthearn Seminary Cardinals traveled just a few miles to visit the Carrollton Cavaliers.  Carrollton had dedicated this game to a former player, Derrick Nash,who had gone on to play at Central Michigan.  Derrick Nash died of leukemia this past summer.  Nathanael remembers playing against him at Carrollton just a few years ago.  There is a story about Derrick Nash here.  We expected Carrollton to come out fired up.

The field was rain soaked after a full day of deluge-type rain.  (We did not get nearly that much in Novi.)  The game was also slightly delayed due to lightning in the area.  And the game started slow, too.  Both teams staged their opening drives which consumed almost the whole first quarter.

MLS and Carrollton also exchanged turnovers a few times throughout the game.  Not surprisingly, the ball proved slippery.

MLS, however, found the end zone a few times.  Casey Williams hit the end zone four times this game--including two "how in the world did he stay in-bounds?" TDs.  Andrew also managed two long runs which scored TD's.  His second TD was the more memorable.  He had gone back to pass and was swarmed quickly by four Carrollton black jerseys.  Somehow, someway, he twisted away to his left, hoping just to get out of danger.  What he saw when he spun out of trouble was a whole lot of green, and he scampered past the remaining Carrollton defenders to go about 25 yards into the end zone.

MLS ended up with a convincing 41-12 win.  You can read about a recap of the game from the M-Live here.

UPDATE:  TV highlights can be found here.  MLS highlights are first on Friday Night Lights.

Photos below.

I'm pretty sure this ended up turning into one of Andrew's TD runs.

This comaraderie was good to see.  Just a few moments earlier, Tristan Pankow, an exceptional linebacker for MLS, was bent over backward pretty ugly as he was playing some running back.  What looked like it might have been a season-ending knee injury ended up being "only" an ankle injury.  Tristan is expected to miss the next game, but may be back after that.  Anyway, it was nice seeing Andrew, Casey, and Caoch Kesnter have a laugh with Tristan while he nursed his injury.