Monday, November 30, 2015

Sermon -- 1st Sunday of Advent (November 29, 2015)

JEREMIAH 33:14-16


In the name + of Jesus.

     You probably remember stories or movies from the past where a guard would be keeping his post at night.  Throughout the night, he would cry out, "Whatever o'clock and all's well!"  I suppose the news was met with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, you were thankful that all is secure.  On the other hand, you had to be awakened in the middle of the night to learn that. 
     When security becomes a big issue, it is because your security is either being threatened or has been disrupted.  France and Belgium are acutely interested in security right now because they have been the targets of ISIS attacks.  Simply surviving the day should not have to be a laudable goal, but when security is shattered, it is.  They welcome the cry, “All is secure!” now.  Entire industries have been built in order to guarantee your security in one fashion or another.  LifeLock exists to save you from identity theft.  Guardian Alarm helps to secure your home against intruders.  Investment companies are supposed to secure your retirement years.  The fact that we have to go to some lengths to get this security tells us that it is more fragile than we would like to believe.  We will often pay good money to hear the “All's secure!”
     In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, Jerusalem had lost its security.  The Babylonian army had marched against the nation of Judah and besieged Jerusalem.  The only security Jerusalem had was its walls, but those walls would be breeched soon enough.  Inside the city, life was brutal.  Food and water were scarce.  The threat of Jerusalem being overthrown was imminent.  Nebuchadnezzar's armies finally burned the temple, ended the Davidic kingdom, destroyed Jerusalem, and took its citizens into exile.  Jerusalem would not know security; they would only know death, destruction, and captivity.
     In the hardship of those bitter days, Jeremiah foretold a better day.  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)  Even before Jerusalem was destroyed and the kingdom was wiped out, in the midst of the siege against Jerusalem, Jeremiah promised: The days are coming when all will be secure.
     Now, as we had considered earlier, security means different things to different people.  In the midst of the siege, the residents of Jerusalem certainly were interested in security.  Many of them wanted only to go back to a life of buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage with little thought at all of repentance and obedience to the Lord and his word.  Oh, they would have given the Lord a polite acknowledgement on their traditional holy days.  For the most part, though, the Lord was reduced to quaint nostalgia.  But it was for this very reason—this pathetic and apathetic faith—that the Lord sent his destructive judgment upon Jerusalem.  If they would give so little devotion to their Lord, the Lord would devote their city and temple to destruction.
     Now, did the life of the people of Jerusalem sound much different from our lives today?  It is so easy to relegate our devotion to Sunday mornings and our faith to personal, even secret, meditation.  The entire Christian Church in America appears to be quite apathetic about the faith—willingly and eagerly forfeiting Sunday mornings to pursue other activities.  I can't say that a threat will besiege us as Babylon besieged Jerusalem—for the Lord has not said so in such specific terms.  But the Lord does use threats and terror as a foreshadowing of the judgment and destruction that will come upon all mankind.  On that day, there will be no escape.  All will have to give an answer for their apathy.  Repent.
     The situation for the citizens of Jerusalem was hopeless in many ways.  The Babylonian army was not going to go away.  Jerusalem was not going to be spared.  The temple and the Davidic kingdom would not survive.  And yet, Jeremiah proclaimed a hope for these people.  It would come much later, after their captivity.  All was not lost.  God's anger was not permanent.  The days were coming when all would be secure.  God's promises would be fulfilled.  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)  The days were coming when all would be secure.
     If the Lord chooses to afflict you with terror or loss, either on a national level or a personal one, he does it for your good.  He is showing you that all the security you trust in is a fraud.  Even if it makes your life here easier, it will not save you from sin or death.  Your security is found in Jeremiah's prophecy as well.  Whenever we hear the phrase, “The days are coming, declares the Lord” in the Old Testament, they point to the Messiah.  He is the Branch which would spring up from the stump of Jesse, the kingdom of David.  Jesus would establish a new kingdom—one that would not be corrupted by greed, one that would not be twisted by favoritism, and one that would never be overthrown because of its wickedness—for there is no wickedness in it.  Jesus would “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15)  It is because of Jesus' justice and righteousness that all will be secure.
     We like the idea of justice being executed because we believe that we are innocent and will be spared.  Our vengeful spirit cheers the idea of the wicked getting their just deserts.  We cheer when we hear about ISIS leaders getting bombed.  We fist-pump at the reports of our least favorite candidate's alleged scandals or embarrassing comments.  We even smile at the misfortune of people we just don't like because they are not like us.  But Jesus does not come to do the kind of justice we would like done.  Rather, his justice is executed by his own execution.  In order to atone for our apathy, in order to put an end to our vengeance, Jesus was crucified.  It was at the cross that God handed out both the cruelest and the most gracious stroke of justice.  It was cruel because Jesus was condemned for sins he did not commit.  It was most gracious because Jesus willingly suffered God's wrath for us.  The guiltless one was convicted and condemned on behalf of us for all our guilt.  How can we be apathetic about that?  It is what secures for us God's favor.  By his death, Jesus has secured our forgiveness.  By his resurrection, the Son of David has secured his place on the heavenly throne and has secured our resurrection to eternal life.  The days are coming when all will be secure.
     Make no mistake about it: All is secure.  Even if someone would steal your identity, the Lord knows you and claims you as his own.  Even if your stuff is taken, your true treasures are in heaven.  Even if you should be slain, that does not undo your resurrection to eternal life.  Your place in God's kingdom is secure.  Your everlasting salvation is secure.  You might feel that the world is dangerous and poses many threats upon you and your family.  Perhaps.  But none of them can destroy God's favor.  None of them can negate Jesus' love and salvation.  If you seek security, then flee to Jesus.  For, the days are surely coming when all will be secure, when the threats will be over, when your troubles will cease, and when God's peace will reign forever.  Jesus will come again.  He will bring you to his heavenly kingdom, just as he has delivered you to his kingdom of grace.

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sermon -- Thanksgiving Eve (November 25, 2015)


GENESIS 8:20-22


In the name + of Jesus. 

     The Christian Church confesses, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."  Luther's Small Catechism offers this explanation of that confession:: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures, giving me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason, and all my faculties.” (Luther's Small Catechism, First Article of the Apostles' Creed)  Luther goes on to teach us that God is the giver of all that we need from day to day.  He daily and richly provides what sustains us through our life, and he protects us from many evils that could harm us.  Now these things are true whether people acknowledge them or not.  Rich and poor alike receive clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, … and all (they) own. (Luther's Small Catechism, First Article of the Apostles' Creed)  Whether a man is pious or pagan, he still enters this world at God's decree, exactly where, when, and to which parents God determines.  Even people who defy and deny God receive good gifts from him.  As Jesus reminds us, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:48)
     God the Father does indeed deserve our thanks for all of his blessings.  Another year has gone past, and God has richly and daily provided his blessings again.  While we may fret over how we are going to pay some bills, we have never fretted about whether or not there will be food this year or whether the sun will come up again.  God demonstrates his faithful kindness to us every day of every year—as Luther also taught, “All this God does because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it.” (Luther's Small Catechism, First Article of the Apostles' Creed)  These things shall never cease, for his mercy endures forever.
     Our sinful hearts, however, betray us because we often think that we deserve better from God.  We feel ripped off if our blessings are not as rich as another's.  God has been so kind and so faithful in bestowing his blessings that we assume that we have a right to them.  It does not take much for us to lodge our complaints, either.  Every once in a while, harvests are lean.  If frost strikes Florida, for example, the orange crop will suffer.  The price of orange juice goes up.  And we cry foul.  It is not as though God failed to provide for us.  We will either have to pay more for orange juice or choose another beverage.  But we blame God, as if God owes us.  God is so faithful and generous in what he does that we forget he owes us nothing and yet he gives us everything.
     But sinful hearts are nothing new.  Man has always sinned against God, decrying, denying, and defying him.  Back in the days of Noah, the Lord's patience for this had worn out.  The LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7)  And the Lord sent a Flood to destroy everything living thing that was not in the ark with Noah and his family.  The Lord treated people as their sins deserve.  He who does not acknowledge and obey the Lord shall perish forever.
     Once the Flood had subsided and Noah and his family left ark, Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil form his youth.” (Genesis 8:20-21)  
     Even though the Lord had scrubbed the earth clean of the people who had wickedly sinned against him, man had not changed.  His heart is still sinful.  We do not have to be taught how to sin.  We are selfish and greedy from the very beginning.  As we get older, we do not improve.  We may learn to be more subtle about it with passive-aggressive comments or manipulation, but the sinful condition has not gotten better.  We still expect better, and we complain when we do not get it.  And yet, the Lord has promised that he will withhold his destructive curse.  He will not destroy the planet and all mankind as he had done at the Flood.  What's more, the Lord added this promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)  These things will never cease.
     Dear Christians, you have the Lord's own word on this.  The seasons will always pass. The Lord will always bless the earth with seedtime and harvest.  Day will follow night.  These are not surprises.  These are promises.  We need not fear that the Lord will fail to take care of us.  If he will take care of the unjust and the evil, he will surely take care of us, too.  These things will never cease; for his mercy endures forever.
     But the Lord loves you even more than than.  He does not only love you enough to make sure you get pumpkin pie and turkey.  The love of God is not measured in how well-fed, how well-clothed, or how well-protected we are.  The Lord's love is not damaged by an early frost, and his care for us is not destroyed by a jihadist attack.  The Lord reveals his love to you similar to how he revealed it to Noah.
     Noah had found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)  That is not to say Noah was a sinless man who earned his spot on the ark.  Rather, Noah listened to the word of the Lord and took God's promises to heart.  Most specifically, Noah believed God's promise that a Savior would come to take away his sins.  The sacrifice of clean animals that Noah made was a foreshadowing of the one sacrifice which would once and for all save us from sin and death forever.  Just as the Lord revealed himself to Noah as one who delivered him from death in the Flood, so also the Lord revealed himself especially as the one who delivers from death and hell.  This faithful love will never cease.
     And it is this faithful love which the Lord has revealed to you and which saves you, too.  The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve.  Instead, Jesus was treated on our behalf as our sins deserve.  He was slain—the Lamb of God, clean, pure, and innocent on behalf of sinners such as us.  Jesus suffered for our selfishness, for our ingratitude and complaining, for our disobedience and our failure to trust that he will actually take care of us, and for every sin we have committed.  The Guiltless has suffered for the guilty.  And by Jesus' sacrifice, your sins have been paid for.  By baptism into his name, Jesus has imparted to you gifts such as peace, joy, salvation, grace, and mercy.  These things will never cease; his mercy endures forever.
     For many people, Thanksgiving is a day to remember that we have stuff.  Some stuff fills our hearts, and some stuff just fills our homes.  All people have been blessed by God with body and soul, with food and clothing, with sunshine and rain.  All this God does because he is (our) good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because (we) have earned or deserved it. (Luther's Small Catechism, First Article of the Apostles' Creed)  God is most gracious.
     But you have all the more reason to be thankful, and it is impossible to limit your thanksgiving to any one day or one moment.  The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve.  He has freed us from its curse.  He promises deliverance from death and the grave.  He assures us that our eternity will be with him in everlasting peace and rest.  It is not because you are better; it is because God is most gracious to you.  This will never cease.  Therefore, neither will our thanks.  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. 

MLS Football -- Year end wrap up

We attended the MLS football banquet on Sunday night in the MLS cafeteria.  The players were all introduced and Coach Schmugge offered nice comments on each one.

Andrew was also honored with a few awards -- 1st team all-conference at safety and recipient of the Loren Dietrich MVP award.  Obviously, we are very proud of him.  But we are especially proud of the way he has handled himself all year.  We consider it our duty to remind our children that their talents come from the Lord and we will squash arrogance if we must.  We have never had to.  Andrew has worked hard, and I think he knows that he is talented.  But he remains humble and has a great deal of fun playing the game.

You can check out an article from M-Live here in which the Saginaw News honored Andrew with another award -- Saginaw area Dream Team for defense.

There is also an article about Andrew receiving all-state recognition (special mention) in an M-Live article here.

Believe it or not, this play ended up going for a TD -- the last of his high school career.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of End Times -- Christ the King (November 22, 2015)

LUKE 23:35-43


In the name + of Jesus. 

     It was a strange request, at a strange time.  It was made by a desperate, dying man to a man who looked even worse off.  A condemned criminal hung on a cross, and he turned to another man who hung naked, bleeding and dying from his cross, and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)  The people at the foot of the cross were already mocking Jesus, but this request must have produced quite a bit of laughter from them.  Jesus hardly looked like a man who was ushering in a kingdom.  The only thing about Jesus' appearance which even suggested “King” was the charge that was posted above his head, reading, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:38)  Perhaps he still had the crown of thorns, too.  Still, everything else about Jesus looked utterly pathetic.
     Dear Christians, this is your king.  Your King is the Crucified.  As Jesus hung from the cross, he appeared neither glorious nor glamorous.  His body was bruised from all the punches he received, and lacerated from the scourging he endured.  But do not be misled by appearances.  This is how God has revealed his glory to you.  The criminal recognized it, not by sight, but by faith.  And he sought mercy from his King, the Crucified.
     It is ironic how this criminal came to believe in Jesus.  It was by the spiteful, sarcastic words spewed out by Jesus' enemies at the foot of the cross.  The rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35)  The rulers did not make these things up.  They repeated the claims that Jesus had made about himself.  They retold the miracles that Jesus had done.  “He saved others”?  Yes, he had.  He made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.  He drove out demons and even raised the dead.  “If he is the Christ of God”?  Yes, that is exactly what Jesus had claimed.  In fact, it is what the Sanhedrin condemned him for.  Jesus' claim in this is no small matter.  By confessing that he is the Christ, Jesus claimed that he is the fulfillment of all of God's promises.  And he is.  “If he is God's Chosen One”?  In fact, God the Father had said exactly that when Jesus was baptized.  The soldiers also mocked him ... saying, “If you are the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:36-37)  In fact, Jesus is the Son of David.  His ancestry is well documented.  He came not to take his place on a throne in Jerusalem, but on a heavenly throne to rule over all things for all eternity.  Your King is the Crucified.
     Granted, your King does not look very impressive as he was at the mercy of his merciless enemies.  He did not look glorious as his life flowed out of his body, and as his body writhed in pain and torment.  But this is where God has demonstrated his glory to you.  For, this is the price which has been paid to save you from all of your sins.
     The criminal who prayed to Jesus was also right in his assessment.  He rebuked the hardened criminal, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)  It is not even that Jesus was innocent of anything that deserved crucifixion.  The criminal declared that Jesus had done nothing out of place.  Jesus' life had been pure and perfect.
     We, on the other hand, share the confession of the criminal: “We indeed (are) justly (condemned), for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” (Luke 23:41)  That's not to say you and I deserve to be executed.  It is to say that we are guilty of breaking God's Commandments.  We deserve to have God's wrath poured out on us.  We not only fail to live up to the standard that God has set, we also mock God to his face when we come up with excuses why our sins are not so bad, why we are not as bad as others, or why God's word just does not apply to us the same as it does to others.  Beware of such reasoning.  For, if God's word does not apply to you regarding your sin, it surely cannot apply to you regarding salvation.  If God is not to be believed regarding our sins, how can he be believed regarding our forgiveness?  If we insist upon our innocence, what forgiveness can God give?  If we are not condemned, what need is there for a Savior?  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)  We are guilty.  We are indeed justly condemned, which is the due reward for our wicked deeds and designs.
     It is a good thing if you see yourself as desperate, dying people.  Even though we are not nailed to a cross, we are all dying.  No one escapes that.  And it would be good to be desperate; for, if we have no hope, then we have to turn to someone else for our hope.  And that is precisely what Jesus supplies.  He is your only hope, for he alone saves.  Your King is the Crucified.
     The Lord reveals his glory at the cross through a bleeding, dying Savior.  That is where God displays a love for sinners.  Jesus Christ is God in the flesh who has taken our sin and guilt.  He has put himself under judgment for our sins.  God does take sins seriously.  That is why Jesus died.  But in the weakness of Jesus' sufferings and death, we see the depth of God's love for us.  He has suffered the curse and endured the hellish torments so that we will never have to.  And though he was laid in a grave, he did not stay.  Jesus rose from the dead to enter his glory.  He is victorious over sin and death and the grave.  He has ascended to take his place on the throne in heaven to live and reign forever.  But he lives and reigns for you.  His curse means your forgiveness.  His death means your life.  His resurrection means you shall rise from the grave to receive eternal life.  His ascension means that you will be taken to live and reign with him.  That is where the glory will be seen.  But that glory does not come apart from the death which is the atoning sacrifice for sinners.  And that is why, even though Jesus is risen, your King is the Crucified.
     The prayer of the penitent criminal is still the prayer of the Church today: “Jesus, remember me.”  And just as Jesus promised to remember the criminal, so he remembers you.  He remembers you because he has redeemed you.  Even if you feel forsaken, forgotten, or alone, you are not.  The Lord Jesus Christ remembers you.  He remembers the covenant he made with you at your baptism.  He remembers the payment he has made for you through his death.  And when he summons you to the altar, saying, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he remembers and supplies the benefits of all his promises to you.  If Jesus has done that much to save you, he will certainly remember you and bring you into his kingdom.  Your King is the Crucified.  He was crucified for you, and he lives and reigns for you.
     Jesus did not look very impressive when he hung from the cross.  Yet, he still extended the promise of salvation to the penitent criminal.  Furthermore, he fulfilled it.  Jesus has entered his kingdom, and he did remember the one he redeemed.  You and I do not look very impressive as God's children.  The Christian Church does not look very impressive as the kingdom of God in this world.  But God's promises are not based on how grand or pathetic things look.  It all rests on God's word, and all of God's promises are “Yes” in Jesus Christ.  The Crucified is your King.  He lives and reigns forever.  He will remember you, and he will finally deliver you to his glorious, eternal kingdom.

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

Traveling with the Schroeders -- MLC Basketball

The Schroeders hit the road this past Friday to see Faith play basketball in Milwaukee.  This game was the closest game she would play to us by far.  We were not able to make it in time for the Friday contest against Calvin College, but we saw the MLC Knights play Finlandia on Saturday.

The first leg of the trip took us to Sheboygan where we spent the night with my parents.  We were hoping to beat a snow storm before we got there, but we hit the worst of it on the north side of Chicago.  Once we hit the Wisconsin state line, the snow lightened up quite a bit.  By the time we reached Port Washington, WI, the snow had stopped.  We got to Sheboygan late, and then woke up to snow there.  (Peter woke up at 5:30 AM CST -- of course, not on a school day).

After a nice visit with my parents, we went down to Wisconsin Lutheran College to catch the game.  The MLC Knights won, pulling away in the 2nd half, 82-65.  If memory serves, Faith tallied 6 points on the afternoon.

We got to visit with Dan & Liz Schmidt and their children, Grace and Nathan, during and after the game.  They made the trip because they had never seen Faith play before.  (Now we have to return the favor and fly to Riverside, CA to see Emily play.)  Then we got to visit with Faith for a while before she had to pack up and start to make the long trek back to New Ulm.

We headed out of Milwaukee about 4:00 PM or so and made the long drive back to Michigan.  The drive was made especially longer because of painfully slow traffic in downtown Chicago and because of very heavy lake-effect snow in southwest Michigan.  But slower also meant safer, and we got back about 12:30 AM on Sunday.  I think a nap is in order this afternoon.

Some photos from the trip.

With Grandma and Grandpa Schroeder

Some things never change -- the low dip on the free throw.

Faith, Philip, Peter, Grace, and Nathan (not in that order).
Dan & Liz Schmidt with Laura and me.
We always cheer for #40!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Pastoral Concern -- Sinning against our children

          Parents want what is best for their children.  Many parents will put forth great effort and expense to help their children excel in school, sports, or whatever pursuits interest them.  Parents will also put forth great effort and expense to entertain their children--whether it is a trip to Disney World, iPods, iPads, X-Boxes, Netflix, etc....  None of these things is wicked in and of themselves.  Parents have the right and the responsbility to take care of their children as they see fit.

          Children are a gift from God.  He does not owe them to anyone, but he blesses parents as it pleases him.  Children are also the only gift God gives us in this world which we might see in heaven.  Disney, i-devices, x-gadgets, and soccer trophies will not be there.  They will neither be helpful nor missed when it comes to eternal life.

          But parents sin against their children when they simply assume that they and their children will have a place in heaven.  Parents may assume it because they went to church when they were younger.  They remember the Bible stories they once learned, and they assume that their children know them too.  Or they assume that their child's happiness is most important.  And if soccer makes a child happy, then soccer is paramount.  Or maybe parents have concluded that Sundays are for sleeping in (often because we intentoinally stay up late on Saturday).  Somehow, this great need for sleep does not factor into Monday through Friday.  Though children probably do not want to get up for school, parents will dutifully get them up, get them fed, and get them ready.  They will even scold a whiny, tired child and say, "You're going to school.  This is important!"  On the other hand, no one demands that school start at 10:30 so that children can get the sleep they need.  Instead, we put them to bed earlier.

          But Jesus does not get priority.  He is inconvenient.

          I think it is safe to say that parents want to see their children in heaven.  But if children are not taught God's promises, they will neither know them nor believe in them.  Furthermore, children who are raised NOT going to church and Sunday School will learn not to go when they are older.  If they are not raised in the church, they will not be faithful later.  If they do not hear their Shepherd's voice in their younger years, they will not listen for it when they are older.  This failure falls not just on the children who stray from the faith, but also on the parents who taught them by their attendance habits that Sundays were not meant for church.

          The Lord Jesus Christ said, "Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:47)  In other words, God's people listen to him, and his voice is heard from the Bible which is preached and taught every Sunday at church.  Parents who do not bring thier children to hear and learn God's word sin against them by raising them to not be God's children.  They will learn to listen to other voices.  And even though listening to other voices might make the children happy, they will not lead them to heaven.  Only Jesus does that.

          I think it is safe to say that parents want to see their children in heaven.  If this is your desire, then it must also be your desire and your duty to have your children grow in grace and in faith.  To do that, they must hear and learn the story of salvation as proclaimed in the Bible.  That is what Sunday School is for.  (Such stories are also good for family devotions.  If you are looking for a devotional book to use with your family, please speak to the pastor for suggestions.)

          Sunday School attendance also teaches the children that Jesus and his Church matter.  It is the responsibility of parents to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  The actions that parents take now will likely be the pattern followed by their children.  I am not blowing it out of proportion to state that this has eternal consequences.  Children are the one gift God gives to us in this world which we hope to see in heaven.  No one gets there without Jesus, no matter how much you love them.  And your children will not learn about Jesus unless you bring them to Jesus by means of Sunday School, church attendnace, Lutheran schools, and home devotions.

          It may well be that your children will not want to get out of bed and get ready for Sunday School (8:45 AM--later than school starts).  It may be that parents will find it drudgery to make Sunday School a part of the weekly routine.  Satan will give you many reasons to skip.  They will all sound good.  But if you seek the eternal welfare of your family, you will put to death the excuses of your sinful flesh and make it a weekly habit to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Parents can come to Adult Bible Class while their children are in Sunday School.  Your weekly attendance will teach your children that this matters.  Jesus will teach your children that they matter to him--enough for him to suffer and die to take away their sins and win them a place in heaven.  That is paramount.  Its value is eternal.  And it is giving our children the best possible care that can be given.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sermon -- HVL Chapel (November 17, 2015)

HEBREWS 10:11-18


The Spirit Assures Of Forgiveness.

In the name + of Jesus.
     The theme for your chapel this week is, “Lord, take my hand and lead me, confident in life and death.”  That confidence is what will grant you peace no matter what is going on in your life, and no matter when death comes.  And it cannot be confidence that you are a nice person—most people are.  It is not confidence that you do nice things—most people do at least once in a while.  It is the confidence that God is pleased with you and bestows his favor upon you—not because you think he should or assume he does, but because God himself says so.  That is the only way you can have a confidence that sustains you in life and death.  And it is the Spirit who assures you of such confidence with his forgiveness.
     Now, you might think that such confidence is no big deal.  I am guessing many of you do not struggle with that because you have grown up as baptized, church-going Christians.  But I assure you, there is no greater blessing than this confidence which comes through forgiveness.
     There was a member of our congregation some years ago named Mike Roy.  Mike was a devout Christian and a fine gentleman.  I don’t know if anyone had anything bad to say about him.  But Mike got cancer and spent the final months of his life in hospice.  He had lots of time to think.  Unfortunately, that also meant that Satan, whose name means “Accuser,” took time to accuse Mike of his sins.  As Mike knew that death was imminent, he also reviewed his life.  Satan did not have to make anything up to accuse Mike.  He simply reminded Mike of who he was—a sinner who had not kept God’s commandments.  So, as Mike’s life was coming to its end and as his personal judgment before God was approaching, Mike was terrified.  He did not have confidence because he knew that he was guilty.  He knew he was a sinner.  He knew he deserved God’s wrath, and neither his conscience nor the devil would let him forget it.
     Satan is good at destroying whatever confidence we have.  But even when Satan preaches that we are sinners, he still lies.  For, he denies the promises that Jesus Christ has given to us.  As the writer to the Hebrews declares, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)  Jesus offered up himself in holiness and innocence to be the atoning sacrifice for all your sins.  Of course, this was not your idea; this was God’s plan to deliver you from your sin and guilt.  The blood of Jesus Christ was applied to you in Holy Baptism to cleanse you of all your sin and to cover you in Jesus’ righteousness.  The blood of Jesus Christ is still given to you in the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of all your sins.  And the word of the Lord Jesus is repeated to you in the Holy Absolution so that you do not have to hide your shame or bear the burden of any guilt.  This is how the Lord makes you righteous in his sight.  This is where he bestows the confidence which sustains you in life and death.  You don’t have to guess or hope that God’s favor rests upon you; the Spirit assures you of your forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us … “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:15,17-18)
     If your confidence is shaken, it is likely because you are basing your confidence in the wrong things.  Mike Roy was terrified because he recognized that he was not perfect, as God demands us to be.  Even though Mike was a fine Christian gentleman, that would not save him.  Mike did not feel saved, and so he was panicked.  Likewise, you must be sure that you do not put your confidence in the wrong things, either.  Remember what our theme for today is: The Spirit assures us of forgiveness.  And where is the Spirit at work?  Through the word and sacraments.  These proclaim that Jesus Christ has dealt with all your sin.  His sacrifice is sufficient.  It always cleanses, always forgives.  Jesus’ righteousness supplies all you need.  It always covers, always forgives. 
     When I had opportunities to visit with Mike, I urged him, “Forget about your good works.  Don’t pay any attention to them.  And if you are concerned about your sins, then acknowledge them.  Yes, we have sinned.  That is no surprise.  But don’t focus on yourself.  Abandon everything, and cling to Jesus.  He has dealt with your sins, no matter what they were.  He supplies forgiveness.  He covers you in his innocence.  He even has dealt with death for you so that you will rise from your grave to receive eternal life, and you will live with the God who so loves you that he has done all these things for you.”
     So, if you want to have confidence in life that God’s favor rests upon you, if you want to be confident in facing death that God will not condemn you, then flee to Jesus.  Flee to where he provides his gifts to you—in the word and in the sacraments.  Everything Jesus won for you by his death and resurrection are supplied to you there.  The Spirit is at work there.  And that is where the Spirit will assure you of God’s decree: You are forgiven.  You are saved.  You are beloved forever.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

MLS Football at Our Lady of the Lakes, Waterford (Playoff Edition)

          The Cardinals of Michigan Lutheran Seminary travelled down to Waterford to play the undefeated Lakers of Our Lady of the Lakes on Saturday, November 14.  This was the state quarter-finals, or the regional championship.  Although Our Lady of the Lakes had an undefeated record, we still had our hopes up.

          Unfortunately, the Lakers ran a very effecient offense, and we had some problems getting our offense going.  By the end of the 1st quarter, we were down 15-0.  Though MLS posted one TD in the 2nd quarter, the Lakers added points, too.  The 3rd quarter saw MLS run a total of three plays (three and out was a far-too-common theme).  By the end of the 4th quarter, we had several shots down in the red zone, but they all came up empty.  The final score was 32-6.

          MLS can be proud of what they accomplished this year, wrapping it up with a 10-2 record.  The only two losses they suffered are to teams that have advanced to the semi-finals in state, and Ithaca is expected to win it all again.  Well done, boys.

          You can view an M-Live article here and see the post game coach's speech.

          With this game also comes the end of Andrew's high school career.  It did not seem like long ago that Andrew was suiting up for the Novi Bobcats.  Now his time as an MLS Cardinal has concluded.  (And today happens to be his 18th birthday.)  Man, these things go fast.  It has been great watching him play all these years.  It remains to be seen if and where he will play in college.  But for now, we are observing another set of lasts -- the last high school football game for Andrew and the last time Andrew and Caleb will play football together (Caleb got pulled up for the playoffs, and they were never on the field at the same time).  Some lasts you don't recognize until after the fact -- the last catch, the last TD, and so on.  But it was a fun ride.  I would be happy to go on it again, and I think Andrew would too.

          Some photos, but not from the game because the MHSAA forbids that.

The final walk off the field.
The final team huddle.
A farewell hug with Coach Schmugge.  Thanks for everything, Coach!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of End Times: Saints Triumphant (November 15, 2015)

ISAIAH 65:17-25


In the name + of Jesus. 

     Are you having a bad day?  If not, you probably had one recently.  There are countless reasons you could be having a bad day.  Maybe you are still reeling from some bad news.  Maybe you were the victim of someone sinning against you.  Maybe your body is aching.  Maybe you had car trouble, or are cold, or stubbed your toe.  Maybe your hair simply would not work for you today.  Sad to say, bad days are commonplace in this world—though some are downright horrible, such as in Paris on Friday.
     That is frustrating, but it is hardly new.  Bad days began with that very bad day back in the Garden of Eden.  Before sin entered the world, everything was good.  There were no fights, no rivalries, no diseases, and no death.  When the Lord presented the animals before Adam for him to name them, Adam did not fear being bitten, mauled, or trampled.  Every part of God's creation was in perfect harmony with God's will and obedient to God's word.
     Then Adam and Eve sinned against God.  They defied his word and disobeyed his command.  That sin not only effected Adam and Eve, it also corrupted all of God's creation.  Adam was told by God, “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....” (Genesis 3:17-18)  The earth was cursed.  The creation was corrupted.  And Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.  Eden was lost.  It was the first of many bad days to come, and now we are all participants of bad days because we are sinners living in a sinful world.
     The people to whom Isaiah preached also knew their share of bad days.  Isaiah forewarned them that worse days were ahead.  The people of Israel had not followed God's word.  When the Lord sent prophets to call them to repent, those prophets were ignored, persecuted, and killed.  Nevertheless, the Lord remained patient.  He sent more prophets.  He repeated his call to repentance through them.  The people still did not listen.  They did not take the word of the Lord seriously, but continued to live their lives as if nothing were wrong.  Finally, the Lord's patience wore out.  Prophets, such as Isaiah, no longer preached repentance.  Instead, they proclaimed judgment.  He who is slow to anger was finally stirred to anger against the Israelites.  They would be overrun by enemies.  They would be taken from their homes and lands.  Others would move into their homes and feast on their crops.  Many would be slain; others would be exiled.  Though it was not Eden, the Promised Land was lost.
     But even before the Israelites would be exiled, the prophet Isaiah spoke of their return.  He assured them that, after they had been taken captive by the Babylonians, the Promised Land would be restored to a remnant.  This restoration was foretold by Isaiah: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.  They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.” (Isaiah 65:21-23)
     That's not to say that the Israelites were done with bad days after they resettled the land.  They were still sinners.  They still lived in a corrupt world.  They still had enemies who surrounded them.  And there were day-to-day frustrations and hardships to contend with—from untimely deaths to envious family members to muscle cramps.  Still, they were restored to their land and to their Lord.  The joy of being restored to the Promised Land was incredible.
     That was a mere glimpse of the joy which will be ours when we enter the Paradise of God.  The Lord does not merely tell us that our days will get better.  They will be perfect.  This is what the Lord says: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:17-19)  Eden will be restored, and the old order of things shall be no more.  The bad days will not even be remembered.  There will be no more crying or calamity, no more problems or pains, no struggles, no stress, and no death.  For the Lord will make a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  Eden will be restored.
     “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)  The reason that the new creation will be perfect is that there is no sin in it.  And if there is no sin in it, not even the consequences of sin—the thorns and thistles, the sweat and pain, and every bad day—will ever bother those who dwell there.  Eden will be restored.
     Now, the only way we can enter the new heavens and new earth is if we ourselves are without sin.  The Israelites of old were banished because of their sin.  It would be no different for us.  No matter how we try to overcome it, we are guilty of sin.  Many of our bad days are self-inflicted.  Our sins often result in consequences now—lost friendships, loss of respect, lost jobs, or even jail time.  If the world will not put up with our sins when it is wicked, how can God put up with us when he is holy?  You and I are accountable for our sins, and we have nothing to offer but lame excuses.  Like the Israelites of old, we deserve banishment—not merely from our homeland, but from God's presence and blessings.  Repent!
     Yet, the Lord has not lost patience with us.  He does not merely tolerate us for our sins; rather, the Lord has had mercy upon us and cleansed us from our sin.  Jesus took our sins and made them his own.  Then he was forsaken at the cross for us.  He shed his holy, precious blood for us who are sinful and corrupt.  And he has cleansed us in that holy, precious blood so that we now stand before God as people who are holy and blameless.  If God loved you before you were holy and blameless in his sight, how much more does he love you now that you are his saints!  That is why you shall enter the new heavens and the new earth.  The old order of things—the brokenness and brutality of a sinful world—shall be no more.  Instead, you shall have peace forevermore.
     Isaiah depicts that peace this way: “'The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox....  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,' says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:25)   There will be no enemies and no animosity when Eden is restored.  No one will despise or devour anyone else.  No actions will be tarnished by sin, but all will love one another and be at peace, in perfect harmony with the God who has created us.  Eden shall be restored.  The Lord will have good things for us for a lifetime, and that lifetime will be eternal.
     I don't know how many bad days you will have here.  I don't know how bad those days will get.  Some will be downright miserable.  But even in those days, maybe especially in those days, take refuge in God's promises.  A better day and an immeasurable glory is coming.  The Lord Jesus, who suffered, died, and rose to gain us a place in the new Jerusalem has ascended to prepare our place with him there.  He will surely return to deliver us to that place.  The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17)  But the peace, the glory, the life, and the joy will go on without end.  Eden shall be restored, and  we shall dwell there forever with the Lord.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MLS Football -- Regional Championship Preview

          MLS will be traveling to Waterford to take on Our Lady of the Lakes and try to tarnish their undefeated record and to advance to the state semi-finals.  Weather looks like it will be decent for mid-November.  You can check out a preview from Friday Night Lights here.  The MLS coverage begins at about the 1:00 mark.

          Go Red!  Go White!  Go Cardinals!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Local Tourist -- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

          It was 40 years ago, on November 10, 1975, that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in the waters of Lake Superior, just northeast of Whitefish Point, Michigan.  (The wreck site is actually closer to Canada.)  A mammoth Great Lakes freighter, the largest of its kind at the time, became a victim of the nasty weather that can hit the Great Lakes.

          I can't say I remember this when it happened, although I was almost 8 years old when it did.  Nevertheless, I have to say that I am fascinated by it.  I have visited the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point several times to see the bell from the Fitzgerald.  The lifeboats are in a Valley Camp Museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  (The Great Lakes Museum is inside a retired, docked freighter.)  And one of the anchors is at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit.  (It had fallen off the ship when it was docked in the Detroit River and was recovered many years later.)  I still have not popped into the Maritime Cathedral in Detroit, though.  Sounds like a visit for the Local Tourist someday.

          Here is the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  This particular video includes TV footage from the 1975 report of the shipwreck, footage of the Fitzgerald, and the names and photos of the captain and crew of the Fitzgerald.  Very nice.  (NOTE: If you do manage to get up to Whitefish Point in the U.P. to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum--worth your effort!--prepare to hear this song a LOT while you are there!  You have been warned.)

Some Local Tourist, Edmund Fitzgerald related photos are here:

Anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald, resting on Belle Isle in Detroit.
Lifeboat from the Edmund Fitzgerald, housed in the Valley Camp Great Lakes Museum, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
That's Nathanael and Andrew in July, 2008.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, Michigan.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Times: Last Judgment (November 8, 2015)



In the name + of Jesus. 

     In the book of Revelation, there is a scene described by John in which the souls of the martyrs in heaven cry out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)  Though these martyred saints dwell with the Lord in heaven, they still long for God to vindicate his glory against those who neither honor him or believe in him.  The martyrs pray for the day of the Lord in heaven, just as the Church on earth prays for the day of the Lord to come quickly.
     When St. Paul had first brought the gospel to Thessalonica and God gathered people into his church, others persecuted the church.  In fact, St. Paul had to flee from Thessalonica in the middle of the night to avoid arrest or perhaps even martyrdom.  The Christians at Thessalonica, however, did not flee.  They stayed in their city.  They also stayed in the church.  And they remained victims of ridicule and persecution.  The ridicule they endured did not quench their love for each other.  They continued to worship together, to pray together, and to encourage one another.  The persecution they faced did not destroy their faith, either.  By God's grace, they persevered.  In fact, St. Paul even noted that they grew in the faith: We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)
     Although God had sustained the Thessalonians in faith and love, they echoed the prayer of the church in heaven: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)  The answer for the church in Thessalonica was the same as the answer for the church in heaven.  Look forward to the day of the Lord.
     Now, we don't face persecution as intense as the Christians in Thessaalonica had to endure, and certainly not to the extent that the martyrs had to endure.  We do not face fines,  imprisonment, or martyrdom.  Nevertheless, we may find it exhausting, at times, to remain faithful to the Christian faith in a world that revels in its immoral behavior.  We strive to be merciful, but mercy gets abused and we get taken advantage of.  We see immorality being praised and promoted so much that we are re-trained to think that perversions are normal and wholesome.  Pray for the young Christians in college who are shamed because they do not give themselves over to drunkenness or who feel like they have to apologize for not sleeping around.
     Sadly, even Christians have gotten to the point that what is right is no longer determined by what God says in his word, but by what the government says is legal.  To call evil what God says is evil is considered hate speech.  Just as St. Paul could not know how long the Thessalonians would have to endure the persecution they were under, I don't know how long we will be spared from real persecution in America.  Our faith is challenged by the world, and Christians may get weary from the fight to remain faithful.  We are also struggle because we want the wicked to love us and praise us.  We are not as concerned about God's praise as we are the world's praise.  Beware, and repent.
     Though you and I have not suffered to the point of shedding blood, perhaps we are close to echoing the prayer of the martyrs in heaven: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)  The answer for the church in Thessalonica, the answer for Church in heaven, is the same answer as today.  Look forward to the day of the Lord.
     Everything that we long for and pray for will come in its fullest measure on the day of the Lord.  Just as God did not forget the saints in heaven who were martyred, just as God did not ignore the Thessalonians Christians who were suffering, neither does God fail to see that Christians today are beleaguered and berated for the sake of Jesus.  Look forward to the day of the Lord.  For, God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints.... (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
     Now, of course, our prayers are not for people to be damned.  We are not motivated by revenge, but love.  Revenge seeks to harm your neighbor; love seeks his good.  So, we pray for all to repent—for that is what God wants.  We confess our faith as we have opportunity—for that is how God works through his Church.  We confess and show the love of Jesus so that if people do perish, it will not be because they were ignorant of God's word.  If we bear the name of Christ, our words and actions will give that away, just as it was among the Thessalonian Christians.  And if we should suffer for that, we also know that God does not overlook our afflictions nor those who afflict us.  If they should attack you, they are also attacking Christ.  The Lord will vindicate his people and avenge his saints.  Meanwhile, we cling to the Lord for comfort and hope in the midst of any afflictions we must endure.  He who suffers for the sake of Jesus is blessed.  He who denies or despises Jesus also denies and despises forgiveness and salvation and will be cursed.  Do not fear.  The Lord will grant you relief from your enemies and rest from your struggles.  Look forward to the day of the Lord.
     St. Paul reminds you why that day will be glorious.  When the Lord comes on that day, he will be glorified in his saints… (2 Thessalonians 1:10)  There is a question with the phrase “to be glorified in his saints.”  Does it mean that the saints will be glorified as they are exalted by Jesus Christ and taken to everlasting glory?  Or does it mean that Jesus will be glorified because of the saints whom he has redeemed?  While translators are forced to make a choice for the sake of their translation, both are true.  How does God reveal his glory to us?  By saving sinners.  Jesus Christ has revealed the glory of God as one who does not count men's sins against them.  But since he cannot merely dismiss sins—because God does take his Law seriously—he sent Jesus to deliver us from the curse of our sins.  Jesus went to the cross and suffered as a God-forsaken sinner for us sinners who should be God-forsaken.  Jesus offered himself up as the holy, innocent sacrifice which atones for our iniquities.  Therefore, God is both just in condemning the guilty one, which was Christ, and in pardoning us, who have been cleansed in Jesus' blood.  This is God's glory.  He will be glorified when he comes again as he gathers those he has redeemed into heavenly glory.  Look forward to the day of the Lord.
     He will also glorify you on that day.  When Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, all people who have ever had life will be gathered before the holy judgment throne.  The Lord Jesus will divide all people as righteous and unrighteous.  Jesus will personally declare you to be his very own redeemed saint in the presence of all people, even of those who despised you or mocked you.  He will transform your lowly body to be like his glorious body.  He will bring you into everlasting glory, peace, and rest.  You will be glorified by Jesus; for Jesus has redeemed you.  And Jesus will be glorified in you; for you are his redeemed.
     Look forward to the day of the Lord when you will finally and forever be delivered from all your troubles and trials, from being afflicted by sinners and by your own sins.  Look forward to the day of the Lord when you will finally and forever be delivered to peace and rest, to being glorified by Jesus, and to glorifying him for his gracious salvation.

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

MLS Football vs. Fowler (Playoff edition) -- more video

I found more video coverage of the Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals, including interviews with Cade Kestner and Andrew.  You can find it here.

Go to part 4.  MLS coverage begins at 0:49.

Then go to part 5.  Andrew's TD catch made the Top Five plays of the night.  To find out where it ranked, begin at the 2:25 mark.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

MLS Football vs. Fowler (Playoff edition)

On Friday, November 6, Michigan Lutheran Seminary played host to the Eagles of Fowler for round two of the playoffs.  The winner would go home with the trophy as District Champs.  As it turned out, the trophy stayed home for the District Champs!

I had little idea how good Fowler might be.  They had compiled a 7-3 record, and their three losses came against playoff teams.  I figured that they would be pretty good, and they were very well disciplined.  In fact, both teams played disciplined games as there were precious few penalties on either side.  I'm glad the refs were not getting paid by commission, because they would have come out pretty poor.  On the other hand, their little yellow flags will not need to go to the laundry this week.

After both sides exchanged possessions a few times, Fowler punted and it was received by Casey Williams.  Casey shifted and shimmied through all kinds of people.  I think Dan Gensmer had the best chance to tackle him.  Dan wisely let him go and Casey scored the first points of the game.  We missed the PAT, so MLS went up 6-0.

Later in the 1st quarter, MLS had the ball somewhere around the Eagles 35 yard line (M-Live said 39).  Andrew went in motion from left to right.  Cade took the snap and pitched it to Andrew.  Andrew rolled out and threw a beauty to Hunter Miller for another TD.  I don't know how many receptions Hunter had all season, but the playoffs sure agree with him.  Hunter as three TD's in the past two weeks!  So cool to see others make plays!

Fowler was driving as we were getting close to half time.  The Cardinal defense was playing very well.  Fowler's offense seemed to be a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust kind of offense.  In the first quarter, that was only one or two yards and a cloud of dust.  By the end of the 2nd quarter, it was more like five yards, as MLS seemed to be wearing down.  Fowler's offense also seems to be the kind of offense which holds the ball for a long time on their drives.  When you have the lead, that works brilliantly.  When you are down 14-0, that could mean trouble.  MLS held them out of the end zone and went into the locker room up 14-0.

The second half saw more of the same.  Fowler hoped to string together long, time-consuming drives, but the MLS defense got some rest at half time and was stingy again.  Fowler also had to resort to more passing than they were used to.  They had some success there, driving the field in the 4th quarter to score with 4:30-something left to play.

Backing up to the 3rd quarter, MLS had the ball in Eagle territory, needing to pick up seven yards on 4th down.  Andrew received the pass and turned up field, hoping just to get the needed yardage.  But then he broke a tackle.  And then another.  And then another and cut against the grain.  Once he got to the outside, it was off to the races.  A 2-point conversion later and MLS had a 22-0 lead.  After Fowler's TD in the 4th quarter, MLS never let them get the ball back.  MLS completed the game with a 22-7 win and a District Championship.

Articles from M-Live can be found here and another one here.  You can also check out Friday Night Lights here.  MLS is featured at the 2:40 mark.  Friday Night Light also features the Concert Choir members on the football teams singing part of the national anthem at the end of the clip.  We also saw Andrew getting interviewed after the game by FOX Sports, but I can't find that anywhere right now.

The photos below are NOT from the game, as that is prohibited by MHSAA rules.  So, if you want to see photos, you have to come to my house.
District Champs 2015!!!
This interview is out there somewhere.  When I find it, I will post the link to it.
Mom deserves a hug.
The senior MLS Cardinals walk the field after their final home game.  Thankfully, it was a pretty happy walk.
District Championships can wear a person out!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sermon -- All Saints' Day (November 1, 2015)

MATTHEW 5:1-12

In the name + of Jesus. 

     Chances are, when you think of All Saints' Day, you think of early Christian figures such as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Augustine, or St. Athanasius.  While it is true that they are saints of God, sainthood is not limited to apostles or martyrs.  The word “saint” means holy one.  It refers to all who are righteous in the sight of God and live under his favor.  In other words, you are saints.
     Every Sunday we confess: “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.”  There is only one kingdom of God, not many kingdoms.  We confess it in the Apostles' Creed: “I believe in the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”  We confess that the Holy Christian Church is united, whether they are saints in heaven or on earth.  In our communion liturgy, we join with all the saints on earth and hosts of heaven, lauding and magnifying the name of Jesus.  The Church in heaven and on earth join in praise and in the heavenly feast.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     If you just don't feel like a saint, that's because we are sinners.  None of us looks or acts like a saint.  Our words and actions mount up plenty of evidence against us.  But that is why we confess, “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”  It is God who tells us that we are saints.  Our eyes and ears and our consciences say it cannot be true.  But God says it is.  And so, we take God at his word and believe God over all the evidence that says otherwise.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     If you recognize that you do not look or act or feel like a saint, that is a good thing.  It is good and right to confess that we are sinners.  Jesus said that this is what his disciples are like.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)  One who is poor in spirit does not boast of anything or claim any kind of credit before God, as if we should receive some kind of reward from him.  We all come to God as beggars.  We have nothing with which we can appease God.  If we are to have anything good, it must come from God.
     God has been good and merciful to you.  Blessed are the saints of God.  Jesus pours out this blessing upon you.  He comes to you and says, “Yes, you are poor in spirit.  But in place of your poverty, I will pour out great riches.  I take from you all that condemns you.  I take your guilt, your punishment.  I die your death and take your curse.  I submit to hellish torment so that you will not have to.”  In exchange, Jesus gives you a place in the kingdom of heaven.  Listen carefully to Jesus' words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)  The blessing is not something you will receive some day; yours IS the kingdom of heaven.  You are children of God now.  You are possessors of God's good gifts now—peace, rest, forgiveness, and joy.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     Still, you can't help but notice that you are not experiencing the glory you'd think a saint would have.  Yes, there is peace.  You know that God's wrath has been removed from you.  There is rest.  You do not have a list of tasks to perform endlessly so that God will stay happy with you.  There is forgiveness.  Your sin no longer condemns you.  There is joy.  Your place in God's kingdom is secure.  But where is the glory?  We are still weak and frail.  Our bodies fail us.  Our minds fade.  And we still fall into temptation because our sinful flesh never gets better.  We don't see the glory that should come with the title, “Saint.”
     Twice in the Beatitudes, Jesus says of the saints, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3,10)  But in the majority of the Beatitudes, Jesus uses a future tense.  Blessed are the saints of God.  “For they shall be comforted.  They shall inherit the earth.  They shall be satisfied.  They shall receive mercy.  They shall see God.  They shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:4-9)  The glory that we are hoping to see will be ours in the future.
     But this need not surprise or disappoint you.  It was no different for Jesus himself.  When Jesus preached and served on earth, he acted in humility.  He did not radiate with glory.  Rather, he subjected himself to false accusations, ridicule, arrest, injustice, and cruel death.  He did this all for you.  Jesus mourned over the sins of mankind, was meek, sought our peace, hungered and thirsted for our righteousness, was merciful, and was crucified with a pure heart and innocent life.  Jesus lived and died in humble and obedient weakness.  But then he rose from the grave.  It was after Jesus' resurrection that he entered into a glory that will never fade.  So it will be for you.  You will be shown mercy.  You will inherit the earth.  You will see God.  You will be raised gloriously and for eternal glory.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     St. John caught a glimpse of the Church in heaven.  There were innumerable people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.... (Revelation 7:9)  These white robes are the wedding garments given to everyone by the Lord at baptism.  For, this is what the Lord says, “All who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)  You have this righteousness now, for you have been baptized.  When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus.  But at the resurrection, you will actually appear as the saints God says you are.  That is where you will receive the glory you hope for—with hearts unable to sin, minds unwilling to think evil, hands unwilling to do evil, and bodies unable to die.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     The final words of the Beatitudes, however, are a bit disconcerting.  With them, Jesus reminds you that your glory will not come yet in this world.  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)  
     Though you fail to see yourself as a saint, others may see it.  They see it when you do not give yourself into sins and do not apologize for a chaste and pure life.  They notice that you confess the name of Jesus, worship him, and pray to him.  They know that, since you are a Christian, you believe that God's Commandments are uncompromising truth and that you insist that there is no other way, truth, or life than Jesus Christ.  In this day and age, those are fighting words.  But you are not those who fight.  You are merciful—not vengeful, meek—not belligerent, pure in heart—not wishing evil on anyone.  And for this, you may be persecuted and reviled.  They may utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus' account.  Dear Christians, if you should suffer such things, Rejoice and be glad.  Yes, those are Jesus' words: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12)  All this means is that, while you fail to see yourself as a saint, the world does!  It means that the world recognizes that you bear the name of Christ not only as a status, but even as you live.  And if they hate Christ, they will hate you, too.  Yet, Jesus reminds you—their slander is false.  Their hatred is misdirected.  And you are still saints.  You still have God's blessing upon you.  The kingdom of heaven is still yours.  Blessed are the saints of God.
     It is true.  We do not look like saints.  We do not even act like saints.  We do not see the glory that saints possess.  But that is why we confess, “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”  We do not see it; we believe it.  And we believe it because God says so.  We have been baptized into Christ.  We are clothed in his righteousness.  We are children of the resurrection and heirs of heaven.  And even if the world should revile us, we cannot do better than what we have.  Blessed are the saints of God, for you shall be comforted.  And the kingdom of heaven is yours.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.