Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sermon -- 1st Sunday of End Times -- Reformation Sunday (October 30, 2016)

NOTE: This sermon was preached at Good Shepherd, Novi at 10:00 AM, and again at a Reformation Rally at St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jackson, Michigan at 3:00 PM.



In the name + of Jesus.

      This verse from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans probably got Martin Luther into more trouble than any other verse in the Bible.  Part of it had to do with his theology—that we are justified before God by faith alone.  The other part of it had to do with that word—alone.
     That word “alone” caused a firestorm because Martin Luther added it to his translation in Romans 3:28.  The verse we read before is rightly translated: For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)  But Luther added the word “alone”—or “allein” if you prefer the German—to that verse.  Kind critics accused Luther of being ignorant.  Harsher critics accused Luther of blasphemy and of altering the word of God for his own self-centered purposes.  Many were in uproar over one little word.  As to why Luther dared to add the word “alone” to his translation, Luther himself answered that question when a woman wrote him a letter to ask why.  We will come back to that later.
     Perhaps it sounds wrong to hear that we are saved apart from deeds.  After all, the Commandments reveal what God demands of us.  The Commandments are not optional.  Every person on earth knows that there is a standard of right and wrong.  Though some may not care about doing what is right, everyone gets a sense of justice when they've been wronged.  From the most pious Christian to the most ardent atheist, people understand that we are expected to do good.  Even St. James wrote: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)  
     It is true that the Commandments tell you what you are supposed to do.  But the Commandments also highlight that you have not done.  Even when you have wanted to serve God faithfully, you have not lived up to God’s glorious standard.  The Law does what St. Paul said it is designed to do: The law…speaks…so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  …Through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)  There is no difference between the most pious Christian and the most ardent atheist: All have sinned, and all continue to fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, translated by me to convey the tenses of the Greek verbs)
     Martin Luther was haunted by this question: “How is a man made right before God?  Where does he get the righteousness he needs to be saved?”  God’s word reveals God’s Commandments.  It tells you God's will so you can do what is right and good.  But God's word, more importantly to the conscience-stricken sinner, reveals an alien righteousness—that is, a righteousness that does not come from you since you don't have it, but rather a righteousness that comes form God who does have it.  This righteousness comes to you through Jesus Christ.
     Jesus Christ is the Righteous One whom God himself elected.  Jesus has obeyed all of God’s Commandments perfectly.  Remember, the commandments are not optional.  Man must keep them.  And now we have a man who has done just that.  But the righteous life that Jesus lived was not merely for him.  Jesus is the Righteous One, but he is especially the Lord Our Righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:6, emphasis added)  Jesus lived a holy and obedient life for you.  His righteousness was put upon you when you were baptized.  God now views you as holy and blameless—not because you did the works, but by faith in the one who has done the works for you.  We are saved by faith alone.
     On the other hand, our sins against God’s Commandments cannot be overlooked.  Just as obedience to the Commandments is not optional, neither are the consequences for law breakers.  The guilty must pay.  But your iniquity has been laid upon Jesus.  He suffered and died for crimes and sins he did not commit.  So, the consequences have doled out.  Jesus suffered the consequences and paid the price for all sins.  You are saved from God’s wrath—not by works you have done, but by Jesus who has done the works for you.  You are justified before God by faith alone.  That is why we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works.
      This one little word, alone, supplies all our comfort and confidence in life and in death.  For Satan will always be your “Accuser.”  That's what his name means.  He reminds you what the Law says and he accuses you of your sins against it.  And the devil makes nothing up.  He simply shows you what you have been.  He highlights that you have not been good or right.  But now, one little word shall fell him.  You are saved by faith alone apart from the deeds of the Law.  You don’t have to lie to overcome Satan's accusations.  You cling to faith alone which points to Jesus, the Word made flesh, who has overcome the devil and who silences his accusations.  When the devil comes to show you that your deeds have failed, you respond, “I’m sorry, you are bringing your accusations to the wrong person.  Jesus Christ answers for me.  He has redeemed me.  Therefore, I belong to him; so you must speak to Jesus about me.  He tells me I am forgiven.  So, off to hell with you.  I have work to do.”
     One little word shall fell him.  Martin Luther added that one little word “alone,” to his translation.  We hold that one is justified by faith alone apart from deeds of the Law. (Romans 3:28)  That “alone” means that every part of our salvation is in Jesus’ hands, not ours.  And since salvation rests in Christ alone, we are sure that it is complete and certain and perfect.  Faith rejoices in what Jesus has done.  Faith yearns for what Jesus continually gives through his word and sacraments.  There, Jesus creates, strengthens, and sustains your living and saving faith.  You are justified by faith alone; but as St. James mentioned, faith is never alone.  Faith cannot just sit there on its hands.  While faith receives good things from God, faith also desires to give what it receives.  Faith desires to work, to love, to serve, to praise, to confess, to pray, and to forgive.  By faith, we are declared right before God.  And by faith, God creates a right spirit within us to do the right things he desires.
     We hold that one is justified by faith alone apart from deeds of the Law. (Romans 3:28)  Martin Luther added one little word not to edit God’s word, but to keep our focus on Jesus Christ.  When asked why he added this word, Luther explained that he wanted St. Paul to speak good German.  A German would say that he came to market not with barley but with grain alone.  Since that's how Germans speak, that's how the Bible should speak to Germans. Therefore, we are justified not by works, but by faith alone.
     Faith alone confesses salvation by Jesus alone.  The devil always wants you to focus on your works so that he can drive doubt into your heart.  But one little word shall fell him.  It is not our doing; it is the work of Jesus Christ alone.  Salvation is not our work; it is by faith alone in Jesus.
     One little word shall fell him.  One little word—the Word which became flesh which was laid in a manger for you; the Word made flesh which overcame every temptation and fulfilled every Commandment for you; the Word whose flesh was nailed to a cross and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins for you; the Word made flesh whose flesh has risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty for you.  One little Word shall fell him.  And by faith alone, that Word completely saves you.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

MLS Football vs. Merrill (Playoff edition)

On Friday, October 28, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals hosted the Vandals of Merrill for the first round of Michigan High School playoffs.  These two teams had been conference rivals for years until a reallignment this past year had them in different conferences.

The weather was good for a late October night, with temps in the 50's and fairly light winds.  MLS had high hopes for winning this game, but the reality was a very hard fought first half in which MLS continually came up short of the end zone.  MLS finally found the end zone on a play which could just as easily been a pick-six for Merrill.  A pass bounded off the hands of a Merrill defender and into the hands of Jordan Hayes who ran a good 40 yards for the only MLS TD of the first half.

The second half was more productive for both Merrill and MLS.  Both were able to move the ball well, but turnovers really hurt Merrill.  Cade Kestner hauled in four interceptions on the night, and MLS turned a few of those into TD drives.  Mark Burger caught a TD pass after getting hit hard in the end zone but still hung onto the ball.  Casey Williams and Caleb Heyn also had TD runs, completing the 27-0 MLS victory.

You can read an M-Live article about it here.

The video from WNEM Friday Night Lights can be seen here.  The MLS segment begins at the 2:30 mark.  The very first thing you will see is a player wearing a Schroeder #4 jersey.  That is Andrew's jersey from last year, but Andrew did not even make it to MLS for last night's game.  An underclassman was pulled up for the game.

The MSHAA forbids the posting of game photos, so here are a few post-game photos.  Game photos can be seen at my house.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Local Tourist .. Autumn Dusk in Maybury

There is never enough time to enjoy the brilliance of autumn in Maybury State Park.  It especially does not help when the schedules of the Local Tourist and Mrs. Tourist limit the hiking to the dusk hours.  Therefore, the photos are a bit dark and the magnificent colors of the trees will not be as good as live.  (And when are photos ever as good as live?)

The days of enjoying autumn at Maybury are running out, as the leaves are dropping fast.  The leaves on the paths make shuffling the feet a bit more fun as we kick up the leaves, but the reality of the coming of winter is punctuated by every bare tree.

Some photos from October 14, 2016.

Some photos from October 25, 2016.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Football -- Catch Up edition

Football season has been chugging along, and so has every other part of life which is the reason I have fallen behind on the football coverage this fall.

On Sunday, October 9, Nathanael had a game vs. Heidelberg University of Tiffin, OH.  While the Concordia reserve squad started out strong against Heidelberg, Heidelberg got stronger in the 2nd half.  The result was a loss for the Cardinals of Concordia, 28-21.  Nathanael had some nice catches, though.

MLS JV at Pinconning (Thursday, October 13)
Since the game at Pinconning would have been a very long drive for us, and we likely would have shown up late, we did not make the trip.  Philip reported a 42-22 win for the Cardinals, though.  He also reported getting a sprained ankle--not during the game, but during the return trip from the locker room to the field at half time.  Add to that his concussion earlier this season during a pick-up game, and I think that Philip is safer on the field than off of it.

MLS Varsity vs. Pinconning (Friday, October 14)
We were told that this would be a hard-fought, nail-biter of a game.  Prognosticators from M-Live had predicted a win for the Pinconning Spartans, but the Cardinals came to play and they played hard.  The defense for MLS was stifling, limiting Pinconning to precious few yards all game.  In fact, going into the 4th quarter, MLS had not given up a first down, and going into the locker room at half time, they had held the Spartans to negative yardage.

In the meantime, MLS put up a lot of points.  The result was a 42-8 Cardinal win.

You can read M-Live articles about the game here, here, and here.
It was Parents' Night for the game vs. Pinconning.

Concordia vs. St. Francis (Indiana) (Saturday, October 15)
This game was a pretty forgetable game against the #4 team in the country.  St. Francis dominated the game from beginning to end, ending up with a 45-6 win, and looking very much like a top ten team.

Andrew was a good sport after the defeat and had his picture taken with Dan & Jeanette Schneider.

MLS Football vs. New Lothrop

MLS JV vs. New Lothrop (Thursday, October 20)
The Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV Cardinals hosted the Fighting Hornets of New Lothrop.  The Fighting Hornets were a pretty big team and had some speed at their skill positions.  That reflected in the final score, 45-22.

The Cardinals, however, were playing pretty solid football in the first half, answering every New Lothrop score with one of their own.  The game was tight with MLS going into the locker room trailing only 23-22.  But the 2nd half was all New Lothrop, and the JV season ended with a disheartening defeat.

Despite getting a sprained ankle in the previous week's game, Philip managed to play in this game, and he got more playing time than we thought he'd get.  He also almost recovered a fumble.

The silver lining is that a large number of Freshmen played and got one year of experience.  They will return next year bigger and faster and eager to avenge losses.  Go Cards!

Almost a fumble recovery.  One MLS player sure thought it was.

MLS at New Lothrop (Friday, October 21)
Once again, the MLS Cardinals were considered to be a clear underdog in this match up at New Lothrop.  That is understandable, with New Lothrop entering the evening with a 61-game winning streak in regular season football.  The last time MLS played here was in 2013, which was Nathanael's senior year for a play-off contest which New Lothrop won handily, 35-0.

It was looking like more of the same after New Lothrop took their first drive right down the field for a quick 7-0 lead.  But whatever adjustments MLS made took effect.  MLS stopped New Lothrop time again with solid defense and good tackling and a few interceptions.  As a result, New Lothrop was held out of the end zone until the 4th quarter.

In the meantime, MLS made plays to advance the chains.  Casey Williams also faked a punt and managined to slice his way through multiple defenders to find the end zone.  He also threw a TD pass on a halfback option, and Jordan Hayes made a spectacular catch in the end zone.

MLS entered the 4th quarter up, 24-7.  New Lothrop then found their rhythm on offense.  A touchdown drive with about 6 minutes left brought the score to 24-13.  After an MLS fumble, New Lothrop found the end zone again after another short drive, making the score 24-20 with just under 2 minutes left.  MLS got the ball after an unsuccessful onside kick attempt.  Add 15 yards to that because of a late hite, and MLS had the ball just past mid field.  A few run plays had New Lothrop burn their final time outs.  MLS opted to go for the first down so they could run out the clock, but the pass went incomplete, stopping the clock.  A punt later, and New Lothrop had the ball with about 1:30 left.  They made their way toward the end zone.  The final play of the game came from the 6 yard line, where the QB fumbled the ball forward into the end zone.

Both sides waited for the official ruling.  Whichever team had recoverd won the game (although I am nto sure what the high school rule is about fumbling the ball forward -- do they get the extra yards?  Because they did earlier on that drive, too).  Anyway, MLS recovered the ball and sealed the 24-20 victory.  They also sealed home field for the first round of the playoffs.  Way to go, Cardinals!

An M-Live article recapping the game can be found here.
The highlights from MLS at New Lothrop were featured on Friday Night Lights from WNEM, Channel 5 from Saginaw.  MLS highlights are up first.

The team reacts jubilantly as the referee signals that MLS recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
Caleb celebrated by jet-packing out of the end zone ... at least, that's what it looks like.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sermon -- 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (October 23, 2016)

LUKE 18:18-27


In the name + of Jesus.

      A rich young ruler came to Jesus and addressed him as “Good Teacher.”  The word “good” has different shades of meaning.  Usually, when we call something “good,” it is because we find it pleasing or preferable.  After your favorite meal, you wipe your mouth with your napkin and say, “That was good!”  But that does not mean your children like it.  They might look at your favorite meal and sneer, “Ugh, that's no good.”  When we speak of our favorite song or our favorite flavor, we call them good because we like them.
     But another use of the word “good” refers to something that is inherently good.  Being alive, being honest, being humble, and being generous are all good.  If someone calls you lazy, that is not a compliment.  If someone calls you industrious, you thank them because being industrious is good.  This is the definition of “good” the rich young ruler used to describe Jesus.
     Jesus' response to the rich man is interesting.  Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)  It is as if Jesus were saying to him, “You call me good.  Only God is good.  Is that your confession?  Are you calling me the Christ, the Son of God?”  But Jesus leaves that hanging out there for the moment.  He goes on:  “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:20)  The Commandments are God's word. They declare God's will.  So, they are inherently good.  And good people do what the Commandments say.  Those who do not live up to the commandments are wicked.
     Apparently, the rich young man was an upstanding young man.  He claimed of the Commandments, “All these I have kept from my youth.” (Luke 18:21)  He was no criminal.  He had always known how to behave, and he stayed out of trouble.  And even if he could boast that he had done good deeds from time to time, Jesus demonstrated that he was not as good as he thought.
     Jesus ... said to him, “One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:22-23)  The one thing the rich man lacked is the very goodness he thought he had.  Jesus told him to distribute his riches to the poor where they would truly do some good.  Rather than take pride in his obedience, he was saddened by this commandment.  The fact is, he loved his wealth more than anything God had to say to him.  His riches were his highest good, and he would not sacrifice them for anything—not for eternal life—and not for anyone—not even for God.  He feared, loved, and trusted in his wealth above all things.
     You have more in common with the rich young ruler than you think.  Like him, we all want to believe that we are good.  In fact, we work hard to preserve our image so that everyone thinks we are good.  We blame someone else when the group's project fails.  We are good drivers; all other drivers are idiots.  Whenever you tell a story about something that happened to you, you always end up being the good guy.  The other people are the villains who plotted to inconvenience you, or did not notice you, or did not share your opinion.  To make sure that we are the good guy,  we will lie and slander.  To make sure that we are the good guy, we will even make God the bad guy.  The rich man's highest good was his riches.  Our highest good is ourselves.  And therefore, we are not good.  We prove what Jesus says: “No one is good.” (Luke 18:19)  Repent.
     Jesus is the Good Teacher.  The Good Teacher is good for you.  He comes to do what we have not.  Jesus truly loves his neighbor, giving up all he has not only for friends, but even for his enemies.  Jesus comes to have mercy upon lawbreakers, not because we deserve it but because he is good.  Jesus assumes our guilt.  Jesus suffers and dies for people who love their money and their reputations and themselves.  So, the only one who is truly good is condemned so that all who are not good can be acquitted.  He does not leave you to invent ways to explain why you are not as bad as you are.  Instead, he has died for all of our bad, and in turn he credits us with all of his good.
     This is what the Lord says: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)  Unlike the rich young ruler, you do not have to try to convince God that you did all the good you need to do to be saved.  In fact, it is impossible.  You and I don't even love our loved ones very well.  What chance do strangers have?  Instead, you have been credited with the perfect obedience of Jesus.  With God, this is not only possible, this is a clear promise and established fact.  You are clothed in Christ.  Therefore, when God looks at you, he sees a saint, one who is cleansed of all sin and cloaked in Jesus' righteousness.  All the good that needs to be done for salvation has been done.  Jesus has done the work, and Jesus gives you the credit—not because you did anything to deserve it, but because he is good.  The Good Teacher is good—for you.
     The rich man came to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)  It is a rather strange question.  You can't do anything to inherit something.  Inheritances are not earned; they can only be given.  It is up to an individual to bequeath it to you.  Of course, the person who is giving it has to die.  The Good Teacher teaches you that salvation is a gift.  He has made you heirs of the kingdom.  And, of course, Jesus died so that you would have it.  But Jesus is risen.  He lives and reigns to teach you that this Gospel is your highest good.  For it gives you what money cannot.  It supplies the goodness you lack.  It even delivers you from death to life eternal.  All this, not because you deserve it, but because Jesus is good, and his mercy endures forever.
     The Good Teacher is good for you.  Jesus alone is inherently good, and he bestows this goodness upon you.  Jesus also works all good in you so that you honor him.  When the rich young ruler came asking what he needed to do, Jesus pointed him to the Commandments.  Although they cannot save you, they are good because they teach you what godly service looks like, no matter what your vocation is.  Your Good Teacher has taught you to love God because of his amazing love for you.  This love for God reveals itself in your love for your neighbor.
     The Good Teacher is good for you.  You can learn about a lot of things from different teachers which you might consider good.  The lessons you learn might do you good as you pursue a career.  Who knows?  You might be as prosperous and upstanding as the young man who came to Jesus.  But no matter how good you might have it in this life, collecting trophies or putting awards on your walls, these will never supply the good that Jesus Christ does.  That is why he is the Good Teacher.  He alone forgives.  He alone saves.  He alone grants you a glorious and eternal inheritance.  The Good Teacher is good, and he is good—for you.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sermon -- Hymnfest (October 16, 2016)

Songs of Ancient Days
          The hymns for our Hymnfest featured songs from our hymnal that pre-date the Lutheran Reformation.  The hymns and their authors are noted in after the Scripture references and the devotional notes that follow them.  We got to enjoy other hymns besides the ones listed below.  These were part of the "sermon" as we walked through the Church Year.
     All of these hymns are centuries old.  We are separated from its authors and original singers by time, space, and language.  Nevertheless, the Church's song and confession are made with a united voice.  What a joy to sing with the Church of all ages, praising God and confessing what the church catholic has always taught!

Lesson Genesis 3:8-15
     As soon as the world needed a Savior, the Lord promised one.
     Satan had come in the form of a serpent and convinced Eve that obeying the Lord's command was not in her best interest.  He got her to question God's love.  He got her to rebel against God's command.  She desired the fruit God had forbidden.
     Adam had been given the commandment.  He was to proclaim it to his bride.  He was to watch over her, to care for her, and to protect her.  He stood by and said nothing.  He forfeited his place and followed her lead.  He rebelled against God's order, and he did not love his bride.
     Adam and Eve both ate the fruit God had commanded them not to eat.  Sin and death entered the world.  Guilt and fear entered Adam's and Eve's hearts.  Everything was corrupted.  Everything fell under God's curse.
     Before Adam and Eve could even ask for God's mercy, God was merciful.  He promised to send a Savior to the corrupted world.  He would crush the serpent's head.  He would suffer the serpent's bite, but he would destroy all the evil that the serpent had brought into the world.
     Therefore, mankind has been set free from sin and death by the Savior of the nations.  And the Church longs for his coming again so that all creation can finally and forever be free from the infection of sin.  We continue to sing the prayer of St. Ambrose; for it is our prayer too.

Hymn 2 Savior of the Nations, Come             Ambrose (340-397)

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Lesson John 1:1-14
     God sent his Son, his only begotten Son, into the world to be our Savior.
     God did not sent a good man.  There are no good men; none that are holy.
     God himself became man to deliver mankind.  He did not change into a man; he became man.  He united himself to us and our cause in order to deliver us from sin and death.
     Eternal God became man so that man could have eternal life and dwell forever with God.
     He is the Seed of the Woman promised back in Eden's Garden.  He is born not from Joseph's seed, nor any man's seed.  He is not even conceived by man's will.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit as the angel Gabriel told Mary.  She who was a virgin, who could not possibly have become pregnant, conceived by God's will and command.  And so the virgin conceived and gave birth to God the Son, begotten of the Father from eternity, but born man to save mankind.
     And so we join with Prudentius to praise God for his Savior and for our salvation.

Hymn 35 Of the Father's Love Begotten       Aurlius Clemens Prudentius (348-c. 413)

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Lesson Matthew 2:1-12
     You have been set apart from the world.  You are a chosen people and a holy nation, set apart by Christ for salvation, and set apart for Christ to honor him with godly living and loving service.  Though you live in the world, you are set apart from it.
     Still, like Herod, we are still too enamored with this world, its power, its wealth, and its privilege.  We are more concerned about the kingdom of this world and its leaders and officials than we are about the kingdom of God.
     King Herod had no interest in a newborn king, even though the newborn King had no interest in Herod's throne or realm.  Other royals, however, came on a lengthy and costly journey because they sought to honor one whose kingdom is not of this world, and whose kingdom endures forever.
     The world and its leaders shall perish.  Your Messiah-King, however, lives and reigns forever.  And all who kneel before him, confessing him as the King of kings and Lord of lords, shall live and reign forever.

Hymn 91 The Star Proclaims the King Is Here      Coelius Sedulius (5th century)

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Lesson Mark 11:1-10
     See!  Your king comes to you!  He who is David's royal son comes to establish an everlasting kingdom that cannot be overthrown by enemies or death or time.
     See!  Your king comes to you!  The people who greeted him cried out, “Hosanna!” which means, “Save, now!”  And that is precisely what Jesus comes to do.
     See!  Your king comes to you!  He comes in humility, because he comes to suffer and die for sinners.  By his death he pays for our sins.  By his resurrection, Jesus will open up the kingdom of heaven to us.
     See!  Your king comes to you!  He still comes to you in the bread and the wine.  The body and blood of Jesus are fed to you to strengthen your faith and to forgive your sins.  These are the most holy things in our service, for they are Christ.  He comes to you to save, to forgive, and to bless.
     And so we let our Hosannas ring with Theodulph of Orleans, and our Redeemer King continues to answer our hymns of praise with his blessed gifts.

Hymn 131 All Glory, Laud, and Honor           Theodulph of Orleans (c. 762-821)

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Lesson John 19:16-31
     Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a series of hymns, meditating on seven parts of Jesus' body which was nailed to the cross.  We are most familiar with the hymn which focuses on Jesus' head.
     Bernard would have us consider in the thorn-crowned head and in the pained and pale face of Jesus what he had to endure for us.  It is not that a man dies in the tortures of crucifixion.  It is that this man dies for us and for our sins.  This man is God; and by pondering his death we can barely appreciate the severity of our sins.  This is what our guilt has brought upon God the Son.  The holy One dies on behalf of the guilty.
     Still, Jesus lays down his life willingly.  He goes to the cross on a mission—to save sinners.  Just as Jesus' death shows the depth of our guilt, so it also shows the depth and the height and the breadth of God's love.  This is what God would do to save you so that you would not endure a cursed death or the tortures of hell.  God loved the world in this way—he gave his Son; and the Son gave up everything for you.
     Therefore, when death comes, we need not fear.  Jesus already endured the worst that death can do to us.  And he does not forsake us as death comes.  He continues to be our Savior, our consolation, and our shield when we must die.  And if we die in faith in Jesus, we die well.

Hymn 105 O Sacred Head, Now Wounded    Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)

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Lesson Luke 24:1-12

     The dead shall live, because he who died lives!
     The grave shall give up its dead, because our buried Lord is risen!
     Mankind has been delivered, because our God has become man to deliver mankind!
     Hell is vanquished.  The devil is crushed.  Death is dead.  Jesus is risen!
     Even creation rejoices that the children of God have been delivered, and creation awaits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed at the Last Judgment.
      But the children are delivered, for the grave is empty.  Peter marveled at what had happened; for his Lord was risen from the grave.  Therefore, not even death can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; for Jesus is greater than death.
      Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today!  This is the Christian faith, which daily celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is the Christian faith, which eagerly looks forward to our own resurrection and the life of the world to come.
      And so we join with Fortunatus and the centuries' worth of Christians who repeated his hymn of victory: Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today!

Hymn 163 Welcome, Happy Morning    Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530-609)

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Lesson Acts 1:1-11

     The Venerable Bede urges you to ponder this: Christ, by a road before untrod, ascends unto the throne of God.
     Now the dwelling of God is with man, and the dwelling of man is with God.  For, we have a man who has entered into heaven.  More than that, this man reigns there over all things!  And he lives and reigns there for you; for, he is your brother.  He who united himself with us and saved us now lives and reigns for us.
     Jesus Christ has not ascended to heave to abandon us.  Rather, he is with us always to the very end of the age.  For, he sits at the right hand of God the Father.  The right hand of God is wherever God is.  It is wherever God is to work for our good and for our salvation.  Therefore, there is nowhere you can go where Jesus is not.  He is with you always.
     But he is most specifically here, where his word is preached and where his sacraments are administered.  There Jesus is not merely as your omnipotent God, but as your blessed Savior.  In the word and sacraments, there Jesus is for you.
     For now, we gather in God's house to receive Jesus' blessings.  Here, Jesus is veiled in weak things—word, water, bread and wine.  But hereafter, Jesus you shall see returning in great majesty.  And then Jesus shall take us to where man first ascended by a road untrod—into the presence and eternal glory of God.
     Let's join the Venerable Bede and declare our Alleluias for this great Savior and salvation.

Hymn 171 A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing Venerable Bede (673-735)

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Lesson Acts 2:1-21

     For centuries, the Lord had told the Church that he would meet with them in one specific place.  That place was the tabernacle, later replaced by the temple in Jerusalem.  This is where the Lord was pleased to reveal himself in the atoning sacrifices.  This is where the Lord made his dwelling among his people.
     On the Day of Pentecost, there is an amazing shift.  No longer does the Lord dwell in one specific temple.  Instead, the Lord takes up his dwelling place in those who hear and believe his word.  The words of Jesus have been fulfilled: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)  So the Holy Spirit has come to you.  He has taken up residence in you, so that your body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God dwells in you and is with you.  He makes your heart his place of rest, sets it on fire with his love, and enlightens our minds so that we live and work for the glory of God.
     The Holy Spirit makes his dwelling with us so that we, at last, we will enjoy our eternal dwellings with God.

Hymn 178 Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest             Rhabanus Maurus (776-856)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sermon -- For the Funeral of Wilma Hilscher (October 15, 2016)

Wilma Hilscher (December 29, 1928 - October 9, 2016)

JOB 19:23-27


In the name + of Jesus.

      This reading came from the final devotion I ever had with Wilma Hilscher.  It was actually a prayer that was on her lips for the last year or so worth of visits I had with her.  More than anything, she longed to be with Jesus.  And I think she was getting a little impatient about it, too.  Her prayer was continually to go to her heavenly home.  Finally, on October 9, 2016, the Lord answered her prayer.
     One of the reasons Wilma was so eager to go to her heavenly home is because she was not the woman she once was.  I am sure that you had a hard time seeing this.  She was not as vibrant or industrious or witty as you remember her.  I am sure your memories are more of her teaching Sunday School, baking goodies, or knitting slippers and mittens to be donated to the underprivileged.  That is understandable.  God did not create us to become frail.  God created us to live.  And yet, because we are all sinners, none of us gets to remain as lively and robust and healthy as we are in our prime years.
     To that extent, Wilma Hilscher had a few things in common with Job.  Job was a man of high regard in his city.  He not only held a position of trust, but he was blessed with a large family and great wealth.  However, he lost everything.  His wealth was stolen.  His children were killed when a house collapsed on them.  And finally, Job's health shriveled up like an autumn leaf.  His friends were appalled at his appearance when they came to see him.  It is that Job who, in the depths of his pain and suffering, makes this great confession: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)  
     As my Redeemer lives, so shall I!  Job's confession is not sentimental jibberish or wishful thinking.  He is so sure of it he wants in engraved on a rock.  Job was certain that his death was near, and he wanted his tombstone to declare his everlasting hope.  He had a Redeemer.  His Redeemer lives.  And as his Redeemer lives, so shall he.
     This is the Christian faith which Wilma Hilscher was baptized into.  It is the faith she confessed at church, and it is the reason she went to church—to hear this promise proclaimed.  At church, that Redeemer fed her with the heavenly feast at the altar, and it is the feast which she enjoys now at the heavenly banquet with her Redeemer.  As her Redeemer lives, so does she.
     Wilma had a Redeemer; that means she needed to be redeemed.  I know you all loved her dearly, and she loved you dearly too.  But our fondness for people is not what saves them.  No one is perfect.  We say that to excuse our sins.  God says it to confront us with our sins.  We all bear guilt before God for our sinful nature and for our sinful behavior.  Wilma Hilscher had a sinful nature, too.  Maybe you remember times when that sinful nature revealed itself in sinful words or actions.  Now, since she was your mother, your grandmother, or your loved one in some capacity, you chose to overlook those things.  That is not how we think of loved ones.  But even if you overlook her sins, the Lord does not.  He cannot.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  That is what brings us here.
     The Lord Jesus Christ did not overlook Wilma, either.  But he did not act to smite her; he acted to save her.  He is her Redeemer.  Jesus Christ lived the holy life that none of us has lived.  When Wilma was baptized, the Lord wrapped her up in his righteousness.  That is how God saw her all her life.  Not by her good deeds, as many as there were, is Wilma saved.  It is by Jesus' holiness that she is declared to be a holy child of God.
     But once again, the Lord Jesus Christ could not overlook her sin.  And again, Jesus did not act to condemn her, but to save her.  He is her Redeemer.  The cost to redeem her and all mankind from sin and death was the cursed death of the Son of God himself.  Jesus bore all her guilt when he carried it to the cross.  Her sins were not overlooked.  They were paid for.  Jesus shed his blood for them.  The benefits of Jesus' death were poured upon her in baptism.  The benefits of Jesus' death were poured into her at the Lord's Supper.  The benefits of Jesus' death were bestowed upon her through sermons she heard, in personal devotions she had, and Sunday School lessons she prepared for.  Her sins are paid for by Jesus.  He is her Redeemer, and she is his redeemed.
     The Lord declared Wilma Hilscher to be a child of God.  Especially in these past years, she did not look like it.  She was frail and a shadow of her former self.  Like Job.  She suffered the effects of being a sinner in a sinful world.  Because of sin, bodies age and get frail.  We lose our agility, our health, and our memories.  This is not how the Lord intended it to be.
     But the Lord Jesus has also addressed that.  The same Jesus who went into death to redeem Wilma Hilscher has risen from his grave.  Jesus conquered death.  He lives and reigns forever.  And as Job confessed, so does every Christian: As my Redeemer lives, so shall I!  Listen again to Job's words: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)  
     As my Redeemer lives, so shall I!  Like Job, Wilma is a child of the resurrection.  Jesus abandoned his grave, and he will not abandon us to our graves.  Death will hold us for a while, but Jesus will raise us up to live as he had always intended us to be.  He will raise Wilma from the dead—not someone like Wilma.  She will not become someone different.  God created her to be her.  God redeemed her to be her.  She will be Wilma, with a glorious, incorruptible flesh, with her personality and abilities not only restored, but perfected.  Jesus will raise her up with a body that will never get weak, tired, sick, or broken, nor will she ever sin or die.  That is what we all pray for.  That is what Wilma prayed for in the final year or so of her life.  That is what Jesus delivers.  As my Redeemer lives, so shall I!
     The patriarch Job made this confession in his condition of disease, poverty, and misery.  He would not let the pain and sorrow of his life change his confession.  He wanted it permanently etched in stone.  There is no need for you to be any different.  Jesus, our Redeemer, lives, and he has the final word.  It is written in Jesus' blood, firmer than stone—because Jesus lives and reigns forever.  And as our Redeemer lives, so shall all who believe in him.  So Wilma's soul does now.  So her body will at the end.  And so shall it be forevermore.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sermon -- 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 9, 2016)

Paul of Tarsus

2 TIMOTHY 2:8-13


In the name + of Jesus.

       St. Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy from a Roman jail cell.  As he had noted in our reading, he was in chains.  As he had noted elsewhere, he was also on death row, awaiting his execution.  For preaching about Jesus, for telling all people they were sinners who needed to repent, for telling all penitent sinners that the only rescue from judgment and the grave comes by faith in Jesus, for proclaiming that Jesus is King over every authority and that his kingdom is higher, greater, and shall endure longer than any earthly kingdom—for all of this, Paul was deemed too dangerous to live.  Tradition tells us that Paul of Tarsus was martyred in Rome about 68 AD.  Though St. Paul was executed, his epistles are read regularly in the Church.  The Roman Empire is gone, but the kingdom of God endures.  And though the grave claims as many as it ever did, Jesus is risen and lives and reigns forever.
     From his jail cell, Paul wrote to Timothy one last time: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8-9)  St. Paul urged Timothy to keep on remembering Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.  It is that Savior which enables us to endure whatever situation we are in.  Timothy did not need to be fearful or ashamed that Paul was about to be put to death for preaching the gospel.  As sad as Timothy would be when Paul was killed, that did not change God's word or God's love.  And nothing, no circumstance in life, changes God's word or God's love for you, either.
     We often think that the worst thing that can happen to us is if we die some sudden or tragic death.  Death quite often comes as a surprise.  Death is often tragic, coming without warning.  The people who endured Hurricane Matthew had warning that the deadly storm was coming.  The death toll in Haiti stands around 800, but few of them actually expected that they would die.  We all seem to think that death will elude us.  Someone else will have a heart attack, not me.  Someone else might be killed on the commute to work, but not me.  Although the timing is often a surprise, death itself is not.  We all get one.  But death is not the worst thing that could happen to you or your loved ones.
     St. Paul tells us what the worst thing is which could happen to anyone: “If we deny him, he will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12)  There are many reasons people give for quitting the Christian faith.  If you feel like you have been treated badly by members or the pastor, you might walk away from the church.  People are often outraged that they should have to worship with sinners.  But even if you are wronged, someone else's disobedience should never lead to your rejection of God's word.  No matter how much you may have been mistreated, forsaking Christ and his salvation never ends well.  Sometimes people leave the faith because they will not repent of their sins.  It is never a wholesale rejection of the Bible, just selected portions of God's word.  Rather than repent, they abandon the Church and confess a Jesus who applauds their sins.  Those who reject the word of the Lord, oddly, still believe that the Lord does not reject them.  Such bold statements ignore the Bible's warning: “If we deny him, he will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12)  
     The worst thing that can happen to you is that you love your sins, defend them, and refuse to repent of them because you reject God's word about them.  To reject his word is to reject the Word made flesh; for Jesus cannot be separated from his word.  We are all going to die.  But to die apart from Jesus Christ is to die without forgiveness.  It is to die in your sins and, therefore, under God's curse.  Apart from Christ, there is no life, there is only death.  There is no peace, only wrath.  There is no heaven, only hell.  Therefore, to be without Christ is the worst thing that can happen to you.
     Paul was on death row, but he was not without Christ.  And with a violent death imminent, St. Paul still urged Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ.  “The saying is trustworthy, for: 'If we have died with him, we will also live with him...'” (2 Timothy 2:11)  This is why St. Paul did not fear death, and it is why you do not need to either.  The “if we have died with him” statement has already happened.  Jesus Christ put you to death when you were baptized into him.  He drowned the sinner and raised you up a new creation.  In baptism, Jesus' death became your death.  All that Jesus gained through his sufferings and death was given to you.  Therefore, you already get to live with the confidence of knowing your judgment before God and with the comfort of knowing your place in glory is secure.
     Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. (2 Timothy 2:8)  The same Jesus who suffered and died for you is risen.  He lives, and death cannot touch him.  Now, you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.  In baptism, you were marked as Christ's.  His death is yours.  His righteousness is yours.  And even his victory over the grave is yours.  Yes, the grave will hold you for a little while.  But you are Christ's, and Christ has conquered death.  Therefore, Jesus will raise you up from the grave.  We will live with him in the glory he has attained for us.  We will live with him and reign with him as heirs of an everlasting kingdom.  And there, we will never have to endure the pains and sorrows, the jealousies and rivalries, the lies and slander, the loneliness, the sickness, and the mortality of this world again.
     St. Paul's days were numbered, and he knew it.  Your days are numbered too.  I don't know how big that number is or how many days you have left.  But we all face an end in this world.  Timothy got the word that St. Paul was about to be executed.  Paul urged Timothy to come to him so that they might see one another briefly before that day came.  I don't know if Timothy made it in time or not.  Either way, Timothy knew that his mentor, father figure, fellow pastor, and friend was about to die.  And while he was certainly grieved by that, it was not the worst thing that could happen to him.  Likewise, we also have loved ones.  Either they will stand beside our grave site, or we will stand beside theirs.  And while it will be sad, it does not erase the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
     Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. (2 Timothy 2:8) His sacrificial death, which has paid for all your sins, still stands.  Nothing can erase that.  Jesus' resurrection, which guarantees your victory over the grave and eternal life, remains firm.  No one can undo that.  You are heirs of heavenly glory, and nothing changes that—no difficult day, no wrongful imprisonment, no governmental ordinance, and no violent death; not even overdue bills or a child's illness or a car accident.  None of these can change Jesus' salvation for you. The Savior who lives and reigns lives and reigns for your eternal well-being.  Therefore, remember Jesus Christ and all his promises.  And no matter what you must endure in this life, be assured of this: Jesus Christ remembers you.

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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

MLS Football vs. Valley Lutheran

JV vs. Valley Lutheran
On Thursday, October 6, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV Cardinals played host to the Chargers of Valley Lutheran.  MLS QB, Max Nordlie, had an excpetional game with a number of long TD runs.  A strong and productive first half meant that many MLS players got a chance to see the field.

Philip mainly played defense.  But when he got to play guard in the 2nd half, he ended up having to block a Freshman for Valley who was probably 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than he is.  Needless to say, Philip had his hands full.

The end of the game was a bit bizzare.  The game ended with two final scores.  If you are an MLS fan, the final score was 40-14.  If you are a Valley fan, the final score was 40-20.

What happened?  Valley had converted a first down with the clock at about 0:03 left in the game.  The refs did not stop the clock for the moving of the chains, so time ran out.  Valley complained and were allowed to line up for one more play.  The refs spotted the ball and motioned for the clock to start, which at this time read 0:00.  Even if you put the 0:03 back on the clock, the Valley offense took their time snapping the ball, so the clock would have run out then.  In any case, the play ran and Valley scored a TD on a long pass.  But then they did not get to run a PAT.  If the play was valid, why didn't they get the PAT attempt?  And if the play was not valid, why was Valley given a TD?  Strange, but in the big scheme of things, meaningless.

Some photos:

Philip's blocking assignment, with mixed success.

The Freshmen from the 2016 JV team.
Varsity at Valley Lutheran
On Friday, October 7, MLS drove down Bay Road and took a left on McCarty to face Valley Lutheran at their homecoming.  We got delayed badly and did not make it to Valley until just about halftime.  As a result, we missed Casey Williams running wild, posting 5 TD's on 7 carries.

We also missed Caleb getting a flurry of tackles early in the game.  With the score being lopsided, the refs imposed a running clock which made the 2nd half go pretty quickly.  The final score was 47-0

Some photos from the 2nd half.

Valley chose not to kick it deep to Casey (don't blame them), allowing Caleb to return the kickoff.
Caleb (left) seals the block to help QB, Adam Arrowsmith (far right), scamper into the end znne.

Pastors' Conference at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Dexter, MI

This is a bit tardy, but here are a few photos from our Pastors' Conference held at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Dexter, Michigan back on September 26-27.

It's too bad we were not there a few weeks later when the fall colors would have been at a better hue.  The drive there on North Territorial would have been down right therapeutic.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Football -- MLS vs. Ithaca; Also Concordia news

The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals faced the Yellowjackets of Ithaca last week.  The JV had a home game on Thursday, September 29, and the varsity traveled to a rain-soaked Ithaca stadium on Friday, September 30.  Ithaca has proven themselves to be a powerhouse program, and they produced victories at both contests.

Ithaca's JV team had some big players plowing the way for many TD runs.  They were very disciplined which resulted in a 48-7 victory.  With the MLS squad being predominantly freshmen, I hope that a full season of experience will get them better prepared and hungry for a better contest next year.  When I played high school ball, I was on the wrong end of many decisive victories, so I know the feeling the MLS JV had.  Keep your heads up, boys, you have many better years and games ahead of you!

The varsity game was a much tighter contest than the 17-6 final score would suggest.  Ithaca had problems mounting long drives all game, with the exception of one drive late in the game which resulted in a turnover deep in Cardinal territory.  All of Ithaca's points against MLS came on drives of 20 yards or shorter.  Two followed up turnovers, and the other followed a punt attempt where Casey Williams slipped on the soggy turf and MLS turned the ball over on downs somewhere near their own 10 yard line.  When you give a team a 10 yard field, it usually does not end well for you.  Despite all of that, MLS contained Ithaca to 17 points and shut them out in the 2nd half.

Caleb Heyn had a fantastic game running the ball, including a 70 yard (give or take) run on which he was tripped up one yard short of a TD.  MLS did punch that one in later.  Caleb also had 2 catches.

There are precious few photos.  Since it was so rainy, I wanted to keep the camera dry.  I did sneak out a few, though.

Concordia has been enjoying some good football this fall, putting up some solid games and one nail-biter last weekend that went into overtime.  Concordia pulled out the victory, 24-21.  Andrew had a TD catch (and a fantastic catch it was with a defender hanging all over him) earlier in the game.

For the first time in the history of the program (which has only been about 6 years now), Concordia is ranked in the top 25!  They enter the rankings at #23.  You can read about it and see the rankings at an article here.

In addition, the reserve players finally got a chance to play a game on Sunday, October 2.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend.  Fortunately, Concordia won, 31-24 (I think).  Nathanael even scored the first TD of the game!  Go Cards!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sermon -- Octoberfest Vespers (October 2, 2016)



In the name + of Jesus.

      While the Lord supplies us with many blessings in this life, most do not have any enduring value.  Even though we value our possessions, we are reminded: You can't take it with you.  That is true of every blessing we get, even our children.  You will not take your children with you when you die, but your children are the one thing that God gives you in this world which you hope to see in heaven.  If you truly want to see them there, then you will make it your highest priority to bring them to Jesus and declare the wonders of God to them.
     What is why Moses told the Israelites to make God's word a regular part of their daily conversations.  The word of the Lord is not like the fine china.  The fine china is special and precious, but it only gets used two or three times a year on the most special occasions.  God's word is like the every day place setting.  It serves what we need day after day.  And we are right to feel comfortable with it.  God's word is precious in that it reveals our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was crucified to redeem sinners.  But God's word is not reserved for rare occasions.  Just as we sin daily, so we also daily need the Lord's mercy and salvation.  That does not come by mere reflection or meditation.  Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)  If the message is going to be heard—and more, if the message is going to be familiar—it needs to be spoken.  Talk about these things.
     What do you say?  You say what God reveals.  Who is God?  What is he like?  What does he want?  What does he do for us?  You don't have to guess at these answers, and you surely don't want your children to be ignorant of them—not if you want to see them in heaven.  God tells us in his word, and if you need it simplified any more than that, turn to your catechism.
Who is God?  I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit.
What is God like?  Maker of heaven and earth.  He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature.  He daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers in Jesus Christ.
What does he want?  You shall have no other gods.  Honor your father and mother.  You shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet.
What does he do for us?  Our Father, your will be done.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us, for we forgive others.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Talk about these things.  Make them familiar and comfortable.  In fact, commit them to memory.  They are, indeed, most precious because they save.  But they are necessary for daily use, for we daily need this mercy and direction.  Talk about them in your homes and on the road.  Keep them in your mind and in front of your eyes.  Let them guide your hands, your feet, and your mouth.  While God's many gifts are good for a while, these are good for eternity.

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sermon -- 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 2, 2016)

HABAKKUK 1:1-3; 2:1-4

In the name + of Jesus.

      Habakkuk was a frustrated prophet of the Lord.  He was preaching to God's covenant people, but they were not acting like God's covenant people.  They were not being faithful to the Lord by keeping his word.  They even had given themselves over to violence, oppression, and strife.  People did not love their neighbor; they took advantage of him.  Disinterest in God's word revealed itself by indifference to sins.  Each one lived as he pleased, practically defying God to judge him for it.
     Habakkuk had had enough.  He voiced his complaint to God.  “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)  Sin was blatant, and the Lord was idle.  People defied God's word, and God did not seem to care.  Habakkuk was frustrated and complained, “How long, Lord, until you step in and stop it?  When, Lord, will you condemn the guilty?  When will you fix everything that is going wrong?”
     Can you relate?  We are very frustrated too.  We see wickedness go unstopped and often unpunished.  We see people suffer and grieve.  We teach people to honor marriage, but everyone seems to prefer fornication to chastity and cohabiting to marriage vows.  Even churches don't seem to care.  We tell our children to be honest, but we deal with people who regularly lie and cheat.  And they win awards for it.  Sin runs rampant and sinners prosper.  Like Habakkuk, we cry out to God, wondering, “How long, O Lord, until you do something?  Why are you idle?  How long until you step in and put a stop to it all?  How long until you condemn the guilty and fix everything?”
     Habakkuk's frustration finally exploded in a complaint to the Lord, but Habakkuk's complaint was lodged in the right direction.  It was also lodged with the right spirit.  Habakkuk did not presume to give orders to God or to suggest that he could do a better job.  Habakkuk declared, “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1)  This frustrated prophet waited for the Lord to respond.  He knew the Lord, and he knew that the Lord does not turn a blind eye to sins.  The Lord knows that the world is evil and that the people in it are violent and conniving.  He knows that people are filled with jealous thoughts, utter cruel words, and anonymously post mean tweets.  Since the Lord upholds his commandments, the Lord would act.  Habakkuk would wait patiently for the Lord's reply, and the Lord responded to the frustrated faithful.
     “The Lord answered me: 'Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.'” (Habakkuk 2:2-3)  Not only did the Lord speak to Habakkuk, his response was meant for all.  It was to be written on a tablet, and messengers were to run with the word and declare it.  The Lord responds to his frustrated faithful.
     The Lord's response is for you, too.  When the Lord brought you into the kingdom of God, never did he promise you that the world was suddenly going to be better.  He did not say that your life would be without pain or sorrow or frustration or temptation.  Do not blame God if you do not experience heaven on earth.  God never promised that.  What God did do is act so that you would be delivered from a world of sorrow, pain, grief, and death and brought into the peace and joy of heaven.
     The Lord responds to the frustrated faithful.  He says, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)  The righteous shall live by faith.  But we are not righteous.  As the Lord noted to Habakkuk, we are like all men—puffed up.  We consider ourselves to be better than others.  We are frustrated at other people and bothered by their sins, but we overlook our own.  While it is true that the violence of others makes the world evil, we do not improve it either when we exalt ourselves over them.  You are rightly frustrated by the sinful world, but you should be equally frustrated by your own sinful self.  And if you aren't you should be scared because you don't even recognize your sins.  As the Lord says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10)  “All have sinned.” (Romans 3:23)  So, where do we find our righteousness?
     The Lord responds to the frustrated: The righteous shall live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)  Although we have not done the righteous works God demands, we have a Savior who has done them for us.  Jesus Christ is the Righteous One.  He has kept all the commands of God perfectly.  But he is also called “the LORD Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:6)  Jesus gives us the righteousness we need to stand before God.  By faith, we are credited with Jesus' works.  We are declared righteous.  Therefore, we shall live.
     Jesus not only gives us the good we need, he also removes the evil that clings to us.  Just as he has lived for us to save us, so also Jesus died for us to save us.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)  By faith, we again receive credit for the work which we did not do, but which was done for us by Jesus.  And since Jesus has gone into death for us, we need not fear it.  Having been declared righteous by God, we shall live.  We live in comfort now, and we shall live forever in peace forever.  This is the Lord's response to the frustrated faithful.
     And he gives you even more.  As we had noted earlier, being in the kingdom of God does not make you immune to the problems, pains, and griefs of this fallen world.  When these come, we cry out like Habakkuk, wondering how long God's people will have to endure such misery.  God promises deliverance, and it will come.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come... (Habakkuk 2:3)  You are not delivered from frustration here; your deliverance will come at the Last Day, and it will be everlasting.  For the Lord created you to live, to enjoy his goodness, and to delight in serving him and others.  That is hard to do here as we battle a violent, selfish world and our own lazy and selfish flesh.  But deliverance from your frustrations will come soon.  By faith in Jesus, you who have been declared righteous by him, will have everlasting life.
     The Lord responds to the frustrated faithful.  And he promises you all that you need to overcome your frustrations.  He brings you the comfort now of assuring you that you are redeemed.  You have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and are, therefore, righteous in God's sight.  The righteous have already been judged by God.  He is delighted in you.  By faith, you have been pardoned of all guilt.  By faith, you have been clothed in Christ.  By faith, you do not even have to fear death.  For, Jesus has overcome death.  And since you belong to Jesus, his victory is yours too.  By faith, you are children of the resurrection and heirs of heaven.
     In the midst of our frustrations, we have a Savior.  We are his.  He does not forget us or forsake us.  He continues to console us and encourage us.  And you are not alone in your frustrations.  God has given us each other for mutual consolation, for aid, for prayer, and for encouragement.  The Lord responds to the frustrated faithful.  He urges us to persevere through momentary troubles, no matter how troubling they are.  He teaches us to pray for the glory to come, and to hasten the Lord's return.  He assures us that we will forever be delivered from all frustrations, and we will live in joy with all the righteous faithful forevermore.

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