Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sermon -- Advent Vespers: 1st Week (November 30, 2016)


Advent Announced.

In the name + of Jesus.

               Satan is not creative.  He does not need to be.  Every temptation from him echos his first one: “Did God actually say...?” (Genesis 3:1)  The devil was not asking about the Lord's vocabulary or grammar.  He questioned God's love and God's wisdom.  “If God really wants you to be happy, why does he withhold things from you?  If God really loves you, why won't he let you have whatever you want?  Why not think for yourself?  Do what you want!”  With that, he got Adam and Eve to question God's love and wisdom.  With that, he is still effective against us so that we do sins that we know are wrong.  But we do them anyway, because we think that doing them will make us happier.
     Satan is not creative.  He does not need to be.  Satan still leads us into sin because we are sinners.  We have already fallen.  And since we have no strength in ourselves to rally and take our stand against him, he easily knocks us down again.  Satan entices us to believe that sins are good and that God gave his Commandments to squeeze the joy and the fun out of life.  So we go back to our sins, forgetting the regret and the shame that accompanied them before, and foolishly hoping that they will not burden us again.  And if you should not feel any shame over your sins, then be especially afraid—because you are lost.  But whether a person boasts of his sins with braggadocios stories or sits silently in shame because of them, it does not matter.  All are guilty.  We are all worthy of God's wrath.  We have all earned the grave.  We deserve the depraved world we live in, because we have contributed to it.
     Even though Adam and Eve turned their back on God and his word, God did not turn his back on them.  Adam and Eve fled from God in terror, but God sought them in mercy.  As soon as a Savior was needed, the Savior was promised.  Advent was first announced in the Garden of Eden.  The Lord promises the coming Savior.
     It is astounding, though, that when the Lord promised a Savior, he was not speaking to Adam and Eve.  He spoke to Satan.  While Satan was still in the form of a serpent, the Lord declared to him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  
     Advent was announced.  The Lord told Satan that Satan's victory over mankind would be undone.  And Satan himself would be undone.  The Lord promised our coming Savior with these words: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  (Genesis 3:15)  Satan brought sin into the world by deceiving a woman, but through a woman the Lord would bring the Savior into the world.  Advent is announced: The Seed of the Woman would come to crush the serpent's head.
     The Lord promises our coming Savior.  He spoke to Satan, as if the Lord were saying, “You intended to destroy what I had created.  You seduced them into rebellion and sin.  You corrupted their hearts so that they would always be terrified of the Lord and repulsed by his commands.  You have perverted them so that they will never find peace and joy no matter how fiercely they pursue it in this world.  You have taught them to fill their life with money and goods, knowing that they will end up going to the grave empty-handed.  Your rule over them is always with sin and fear and doubt and death.  And you insist that by infecting them with your deadly venom, they are yours forever and will suffer and die forever.  
     “Satan, that is what you intended, but a Savior will come to crush you and to turn all of your plans to dust.  A Savior will come to set mankind free from sin.  Your most fervent accusations against them will be useless.  All their doubts will be erased and all their uncertainties will be made certain as they take refuge in God's clear words and promises.  Their terror before God will be replaced by the Savior who shows them how dearly God loves them, wants them to be with him, and to receive his blessings forevermore.  To that end, even death will be overcome.  Satan, neither you, nor sin, nor death will ever own them.  For you will lie crushed underfoot.  Your power and your kingdom shall be destroyed, but they—my beloved creatures—they shall live and rejoice.  For, they are not only my created people, they shall be my redeemed people.  For, Advent is announced.  Their promised Savior will come.”
     But of course, there is a price to be paid for salvation.  The enmity between Satan and the woman's Seed would not leave him without scars.  The Lord had foretold it: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  The serpent would sink his teeth into the Savior as he crushed him.  The Savior would take in all the venom Satan had to give.  He would absorb into his body all the sin and shame, all the guilt and regret in the world—even for the people who have no regrets over their sins.  Jesus would take it all, and he would suffer for all—the good and the bad, the Pharisees and the tax collectors, the virgins and the prostitutes, the church-goers and the atheists.  Your Savior would give his life into death to deliver you.
      Advent is announced, and it declares this: Satan cannot harm you anymore.  He will hiss, but his fangs have been kicked in by Jesus.  The serpent has been crushed.  By taking all sin into himself, Jesus has delivered you from guilt and from its judgment.  By dying, Jesus has redeemed you from the grave.  And by rising from the dead, Jesus has burst a hole in the grave so that it can no longer keep its dead.  Advent is announced to reveal that the Father in heaven is most merciful, that he does not delight in the death of the people he has created, and that he has worked salvation for you.  Therefore, you not only have peace of conscience and joy in this still-sin-infected world, but endless peace, joy, and blessing in the perfect glories of heaven.
     Advent is announced.  The Lord promises our coming Savior.  The Lord declares to Satan that his defeat is definite and imminent.  But it was not a private conversation.  The Lord declared this in the ears of the sinners who need that salvation.  Adam and Eve got to hear God's love for them as the Lord announced his plans to destroy the devil, to reconcile the people whom Satan had estranged from God, to redeem them from death, and to rectify the damage Satan has done.  Adam's and Eve's comfort was not from guessing what God might do, but from hearing what God would do.  And he would do it for sinners!  The Lord would restore the Paradise Garden to what he had always intended it to be.  He would fill it with the people he has redeemed.  And he will bring us there to live the life God always intended us to have.
     The defeat God had announced has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  That salvation is announced to you today through God's word.  That promise and proclamation of victory rings not just in Satan's ears, but in yours, too.  This is how Jesus saves you.  He speaks to you so that you will hear and believe, and so that you will be sure of peace, comfort, and joy through Jesus.  Just as the world waited once for the Savior to come, so now we wait for our promised Savior to come once more.  Soon he will deliver us from this world of sorrows to the everlasting joys of heaven.

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

Advent Vespers


It is Advent.  

It is a season of preparation, repentance, and prayer.

With that in mind, Good Shepherd is having mid-week services (we call them "vespers" which is a prayer service) so that we can quietly contemplate the coming of the Savior.  He has come once to save us, and he will come again to deliver us from this sorrowful world to the endless joys of heaven.

Our Advent Vespers will be Wednesdays at 7:00 PM. 

Our theme this year will be:

          The Lord Promises Our Coming Savior.
                    Advent Announced.   (Genesis 3:15)          November 30      
                    Advent Awaited.   (Psalm 14:1-7)      December 7    
                    Advent At Hand.  (Malachi 3:1)      December 14    

To make your attendance as convenient as we possibly can, we will be serving a supper at 6:00 PM.

For one night each week, spend some time not worrying and hustling and bustling.  Here is a quiet hour to hear and remember God's promises to weary and burdened souls.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Advent (November 27, 2016)

ROMANS 13:11-14


In the name + of Jesus.

      St. Paul has good news for you: Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)  Though the Church has been waiting eagerly for centuries, the Lord's return is closer than it has ever been.  Perhaps the Lord's patience is making us impatient.  Perhaps the Lord's patience even has us questioning his faithfulness.  We do not know the day of his return, but we live in the faith which insists that he will return.  The Groom will not forget or forsake his Bride.  Christ will come for his Church.  And that day is nearer now than when we first believed.
     But Jesus' return demands our vigilance.  It means not only praying for Jesus to hasten on his return.  It also means that we persist in faithful service to the Lord until he does return.  Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  St. Paul spells what that means in very practical terms.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:12-14)  
     Keep watch.  Your salvation draws near.  It should not be a surprise to you.  Nor should it be a surprise to you will be enticed to forget about the world to come and to embrace the world which is here and now.  And it should not surprise you that you will struggle with your own sinful desires.  Perhaps you are drawn to sexual sins and seek entertainment to gratify those urges.  But those urges never are satisfied; the more they are fed, the hungrier they get.  Perhaps you are drawn to intoxication, preferring to alter your senses with drugs and alcohol than deal with your responsibilities and realities.  Those are sins which people take upon themselves.  While you may be prone to sexual immorality and drunkenness, no one makes you do them.  Those are sins you take into yourself.
     But other sins fester within us.  St. Paul said, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, … not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)  Bitter feelings arise within us, but we let them take root there.  They only reveal themselves when we tell our friends how we feel, expecting them to support us in our hatred and envy.  And because friends are interested in our happiness rather than our salvation, they assure us that we are right in souring a sibling's happiness, in destroying a co-worker's rapport with fellow workers, or in divorcing a spouse who is never good enough.  St. Paul warns: “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)  It is not that sins catch us by surprise; it is that we make plans to do them and we are comfortable in continuing in them.  Repent.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  We pray fervently for our Lord to return in order to deliver us from temptations, from sins, from weaknesses, and from the frustration of dealing with friends who encourage us to neglect the faith, but we should not get the idea that salvation will only be achieved when the Lord returns.  Your Lord comes to you now to deliver salvation to you.
     If you long to be delivered from sin and guilt, then flee to this altar where the body and blood of the Lord are given to penitent sinners.  That body and blood were first given for your sin and guilt at the cross.  Jesus bore your sin in his body, and he gave his body to be wracked with the torment of crucifixion and with the anguish of God’s wrath in order to atone for all your sins.  Jesus shed his blood as the perfect sin offering which covers over your sins.  Salvation has been won by Jesus’ body and blood which were given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Salvation is delivered to you by Jesus' body and blood which are eaten and drunk by you for the forgiveness of sins.  Salvation is also delivered by the words and promises of God which are proclaimed to you, declaring not only that God is merciful, but especially declaring that God is merciful to you.  And if guilt still plagues you, then come to Private Absolution where you are the only you to whom forgiveness is given.  It is not that God will save you someday down the road when he returns.  Jesus saves you now.  Forgiveness is yours now.  His judgment is rendered to you now: You are delivered from sin and death.  You have everlasting life.
     Nevertheless, we pray fervently for Jesus’ return.  For, when he comes, we will be taken to the glories, the peace, and the joys of heaven.  Never again will we worry about struggles against our flesh.  Never again will we have friends who entice us to sin against God with acts revenge inspired by jealousy or with plans which sound brilliant only because they are fueled by alcohol.  Your friends may congratulate you for your sins, but your conscience will condemn you and you will have the bear the guilt for it.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  There is no doubt about what Jesus has done to win our salvation.  His sufferings, death, and resurrection have achieved everything for us.  There is no doubt about the salvation Jesus delivers to us.  His forgiveness does not come with strings attached or conditions which have to be met.  The only thing that makes us tremble in regard to our salvation is ourselves.  That is why St. Paul warns: Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:12-14)  We can sabotage our own salvation by taking our sins lightly, by giving into them, by using the Lord’s forgiveness as an excuse to sin all the more, or even by neglecting the word and sacraments which provide our forgiveness.  If you should lose your salvation, it is not because Jesus failed you.  It is because you proved yourself to be faithless with a life that either was given into sin or a life that did not care for the good gifts Jesus gives.
     Therefore, keep watch!  The temptations which come to you are common, and the desire to continue in faithful obedience often grows weak.  In other words, you and I are still sinners.  That is why we continue to flee to Jesus.  Jesus continues to be merciful to us.  He forgives our sins.  He strengthens our faith.  He fills us with the spirit to do what is good and to recognize that sins are not only destructive to our lives, but even to our souls.  So, while doing good works will not save you, refusing to do them will condemn you.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  The day is soon coming when these struggles will come to an end.  Now, our lives are lived in humility, in patience, in struggles against temptation, and prayers for mercy and strength.  Advent remains a time of repentance, prayer, and keeping watch.  We strive for godliness, fighting off the lusts of our selfish flesh and rejecting the enticement of worldly immorality.  Now is our time of fasting and keeping watch.  But your salvation draws near.  And when Jesus comes again, we will rejoice and feast and sing.  For, he is the source of our joy and peace.  And he comes soon to bring joy and peace that will not be bothered with struggles, sins, or sorrows.  That deliverance is what we long for and pray for.
     Good news: Your salvation is drawing near.  Therefore, we will keep watch.  We give our attention to Jesus’ words, and we pray for Jesus appearing.  He has saved us, and he will bring his everlasting salvation.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sermon -- Thanksgiving (November 23, 2016)



In the name + of Jesus.

      Have you ever wondered what the world might be like if Satan had complete, unchecked control of it?  You probably would think of a world that is constantly at war.  You would think of marriages falling apart and marriage itself under attack.  You would think of protests, riots, and rebellion against authority.  You would envision many people dying of various diseases, nations suffering from natural disasters, and people at odds over who should receive help and who should not.  In other words, you might envision the world as we know it, but worse.
     The Lord issues a warning with a much different picture.  The Lord does not warn Israel about a world of troubles, but a world of prosperity.  Consider this: If Satan were given unchecked control of the world, there would be no wars on any fronts.  Crops would grow in abundance and no one would be hungry.  The economy would boom.  The abundance of wealth and the lack of war would result in a housing market which allows people to build luxurious homes to live in.  Now, isn't that the exact scenario we pray for and work for?  We yearn for wealth, health, peace, and prosperity.  These are the kinds of blessings which prompt holidays like Thanksgiving.  So what is the problem?  The problem is that Satan warps God's gifts to us.
     The Lord said: “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God....” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)
     The Lord warned Israel about the danger of peace, prosperity, and wealth.  If the Lord would give all these blessings and all these blessings made life easy for the Israelites, they would quickly forget the Lord.  After all, if everything is going great, who needs the Lord?  They could devote themselves to building up their own worldly kingdoms at the expense of the kingdom of God.  Heed the warning so that you do not go astray.  Remember the Lord your God.
     No matter who you are or what you believe, Thanksgiving is a day to express gratitude that you have received blessings, and that these blessings are gifts.  Even if you insist that you earned your wealth, the Lord notes: Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17)  Even if you did earn your wealth, the Lord gave you the ability to do so and blessed your efforts.  But you and I have not earned God's blessings; they are simply given.  You did not earn your birthday, your parents, your family, your abilities, your interests, sunshine, rain, peace in our land, music, art, pumpkin spice flavor, and so on.  These are gifts that are graciously given, and even the most stiff-necked atheist can appreciate them.  But if this is as far as our Thanksgiving goes, then we are no different from the stiff-necked atheist.
     Remember the Lord your God with thanksgiving.  Listen again to the reasons the Lord gave to Israel why they should remember him.  The Lord is the one “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” (Deuteronomy 8:14-16)  Four times, the Lord declared his faithful grace to Israel.  The Hebrew accentuates this all the more.  He caused you to go out of the land of Egypt....  He caused you to go through the great and terrifying wilderness....  He caused you to attain water out of the flinty rock....  He caused you to eat in the wilderness....”  The Lord had not only delivered Israel out of Egypt and destroyed their enemies for them, he also sustained them on their way to the Promised Land.  The Lord is the cause for all their blessings.
     It did not matter that the wilderness could not produce crops or supply water to feed them; the Lord miraculously fed them and nourished them.  It did not matter that serpents and scorpions threatened them; the Lord defended them.  The Lord used the impossible situation in the wilderness to highlight that he was the cause of their salvation, their sustenance, their defense, their hope, and their very life.  The only reason Israel survived in the wilderness for forty years is because the Lord was with them to bless and keep them.  For that reason, they should always remember the Lord their God with thanksgiving and with faithful and humble obedience.
     Beware, lest your wealth causes you to forget the Lord's highest blessings.  Yes, the Lord supplies you with all you need to live and more.  He supplies it with abundance and variety.  But these blessings will not save you.  They do not pay for sins.  They cannot bribe the grave.  And no matter what blessings the Lord does give you, they will all pass away.  
     Remember the Lord your God with thanksgiving.  Remember that it is the Lord who saves you and sustains you.  He has caused his Son to come down to earth for sinners.  He has caused your sins to be lifted from you and taken up by Jesus.  He took up your cause, to pay for your sins by his sufferings and death.  And since Jesus has risen from death, the grave now owes Jesus its dead.  The Lord was pleased to cause this gospel to be preached to you so that you know where to find forgiveness for your sins, comfort for your soul, deliverance from death, and assurance of the resurrection to eternal life.  He causes his word to come to you still—whether it is proclaimed mercy in preaching, or it is added to water which has cleansed you of your sin, or it is added to bread and wine so that you can be sustained through this life and delivered safely to the heavenly land.
     Remember the Lord your God with thanksgiving.  For, he causes all things to work for your good and to bring you to everlasting glory.  That is true even in the hardships you face in this life.  It is true especially in the hardships you face in this life.  When your situation seems impossible, it is because you do not have strength to deal with poor health, with faithless friends, with political turmoil, and with death.  It is because God shows you that all earthly blessings—no matter how beneficial or beloved—will finally be lost.  The Lord causes hardships, bitterness, frustrations, and temptations to work for your good.  For, when these come upon you, then all you can do is to pray to God and to cast your cares upon him.  And if that is what it takes to have you call upon God and to cast your cares on him, then the Lord is blessing you when he sends you hardship so that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. (Deuteronomy 8:16)  
     Remember the Lord your God with thanksgiving.  He is always the cause of your comfort, your hope, your joy, and your salvation.  He is the only cause of your comfort, your hope, your joy, and your salvation.  This life with its disappointments and even with its blessings will come to an end.  Life with Jesus Christ will not.  When disappointments invade your life, you learn that the only comfort that matters is what Jesus supplies.  Remember the Lord your God who alone forgives all sins, who alone gives you eternal life, who alone promises you glory which will not be destroyed or be devalued.
     What would this world look like if Satan had unbridled control of it?  That doesn't matter, because he does not.  Jesus has delivered you from your enemy.  He lives and reigns to defend you from every enemy of salvation and to preserve your life in the midst of sin, death, and the devil.  We give thanks to God for whatever gifts he is pleased to give us.  We use them to honor God and to serve our neighbor.  For, we know that we are merely passing through this world, more eager to receive the kingdom that God has promised us than building up our little kingdoms in this world.  Therefore, we flee to Jesus who sustains us every day and will finally deliver us to the perfect and endless blessings of heaven.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Football -- Final edition for 2016

The final edition of the football portion of this blog includes a number of "lasts" in the Schroeder family.

The last game of the year for Michigan Lutheran Seminary came on Saturday, Novembmer 19 in the state semi-finals against Ottawa Lake-Whiteford, hosted at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn.  Snow showers blew through before the game got started, but it all melted away for the game.  It's too bad.  I think the 4 inch snowman I made would have liked the game.  The winds, however, continued to blow from west to east (I think), that is, from our right to our left.

Whiteford had some big boys on their offensive line, which enabled them to run the ball and gain enough yards each three plays to get first down after first down.  MLS, on the other hand, was able to break long runs a few times, but we needed the ball a lot more to do more damage.  The end result was a 40-21 loss.

Although it was the last game of Caleb's season (who had one catch for a pretty good gain), it was not the last game of his career.  We anticipate a good senior year for him.  Meanwhile, on to basketball.

You can check out an article from M-Live here.

Pre-game optimism with Micah Neumann.

Caleb walks off the field for the last time in his Junior year.

From the way it sounds, Nathanael and Andrew have both played their last games at Concordia.  Andrew has plans to try to make a Division 1 squad.  Right now, we are hoping that the University of Cincinnati will be his destination.  We are still waiting for all the steps to be taken to get that done.  Interestingly, if he does make the team there, he will retain the Red-Black-White color scheme that we have gotten used to (Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Martin Luther College, Saginaw Valley State, and Concordia - Ann Arbor).

Nathanael, although he has one year of eligibility left, seems to be content to concentrate on studies and pursuing a career.  Below, you can see photos of Nathanael's final game (the ones where he is in the red uniform).  Concordia won big.

Concordia had one more game in which Nathanael could have played, but he took a hit on his knee which was originally diagnosed as an MCL sprain.  Although he finished the game, he was hobbled.  He figured he could have had a TD catch deep if he had full strength in that knee.  Anyway, his last catch, and the hit that did him in, are both posted below.

For many players, football ends at high school.  Nathanael got one more chance to play at Concordia, and we got to enjoy watching him play one more time.  He has enjoyed his share of success from the Novi Bobcats to the MLS Cardinals to the Concordia Cardinals.  I hope that he has good memories from all of these years.  I know that he will have better stories to tell his kids than I have.

This is Nathanael's last catch.
You can see Nathanael getting tackled and his knee taking the brunt of it.
This is the injury that has pretty much put an end to Nathanael's football career.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of End Times: Christ the King (November 20, 2016)

LUKE 23:35-43


In the name + of Jesus.

      One of the emphases of the Lutheran faith is that we are saved by faith alone.  Usually, faith is put in contrast to works.  No one can do the works which God demands because all are sinners.  Therefore, it is faith in God's promises which saves us.  However, our Gospel lesson highlights that faith also stands in contrast to knowledge.  People know the difference between right and wrong, but that does not save them.  Many know the stories about Jesus, but merely knowing that Jesus walked on water or was crucified does not save them.  Some have already cracked out the Christmas music, listening to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and Silent Night.  But even if you know the lyrics and sing along, that does not save you.  The most popular part of Handel's Messiah is the Hallelujah chorus in which people belt out the confession of Jesus, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”  And while many people know that is the Christian confession of Jesus, many do not believe it.  We are not saved by knowledge.  The devil knows his Bible, but he is not saved.  We are saved by faith.
     We confess that Jesus is the King of heaven and earth, but for many people, Jesus is an underwhelming king.  We expect more from kings or rulers or presidents.  Kings demonstrate their authority by making laws and enforcing them.  Those who will not obey the king's decrees are arrested and imprisoned.  In harsher regimes, lawbreakers are executed.  Kings do not put up with dissenters.  Kings impose taxes.  Kings enjoy luxury and wealth at the expense of their subjects.  When kings want to show off their muscle, they have a military parade to demonstrate their strength to the world, to their country, and to themselves.  If the king deems it necessary, he will even order those soldiers to go into battle and die for him.
     But your King, Jesus Christ, does not live or act to demonstrate how powerful or how fearful he is.  Your King reigns for you.  Jesus came in humility to serve you and to seek your good.  He did not come to tax you or to confiscate things from you.  He has come to pour out his goods and gifts to you.  He has not come to declare new and harsher laws upon you so that you will behave better under the constant threat of death or revenge.  Instead, he delivers you from the curse of the Law which had stood over you.  And your King did not command you to go forth and die for him.  Instead, your King came to die for you.  He reigns for you.
     Now, this all seems backwards.  In fact, the people at the foot of the cross thought that it was all worthy of mockery.  They despised Jesus and laughed at him for being such a King.  The religious authorities scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35)  Then the military powers also mocked him as king.  Their job was to show the world what happens to anyone who dares to claim authority over a worldly power like Caesar.  The soldiers also mocked him … saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36,37)  Even a convicted felon joined in: “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)  Now the irony in all of their mockery is this: Everything they said about Jesus was true.  They knew that Jesus had healed, cleansed, and saved others.  They knew that he had claimed to be the Christ.  Who knows?  They may have even heard the testimony that God the Father himself had declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen One.” (Luke 9:35)  They knew it, but they did not believe it.  Even though Jesus had also come for them, they rejected him.  Sadly, they perished apart from Jesus, apart from his forgiveness, his salvation, and his mercy—not because Jesus is a cruel King, but because they were stubborn, faithless rebels.
     But there was one who not only knew the facts about Jesus, he also believed them.  There was a criminal dying next to Jesus.  He did not pretend to be anything more than what he was.  He confessed his sin and acknowledged that he deserved to be put to death for his crimes.  He did not offer excuses, only confession.  He also knew that Jesus was not guilty of anything.  His words are much stronger than saying, “He is no felon.”  He stated that “this man has done nothing 'out of place.'” (Luke 23:41)  
     The repentant criminal was not offended by Jesus' humble appearance.  He was not even deceived by Jesus' bruised, bleeding, and dying body.  He knew that Jesus is the King who establishes an everlasting kingdom of glory.  And his prayer to Jesus was simple.  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)  Remember your mercy.  Remember that you have come to die not for sins of your own, but for sinners.  And the King promised he would remember his beloved subject: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)  
     You and I are not different from that criminal.  We, too, are lawbreakers.  We have not kept the Lord's Commandments.  And just as knowledge cannot save us, neither has it helped us in being obedient to God's Commandments.  We know what God declares to be good and what God declares to be evil.  God has not kept that a secret.  We even have our Catechism Class memorize the Commandments, and you do well to review them often..  But that does not mean we keep them.  We are guilty.  We have broken God's law.  We offer no excuses.  We are worthy of God's wrath.  We deserve death.  We can only make confession and plead for mercy from our King.
     The King is most merciful.  He does not destroy us because we have broken the law.  Rather, he has taken our place in the judgment.  Jesus Christ went to the cross to die as a lawbreaker on behalf of all lawbreakers.  In that humble, beaten, and bleeding body, Jesus bore the curse for all your sins.  Jesus was pleased to be counted among the lawbreakers to pay for your sins so that you would be counted among the innocent.  But his sufferings and death for you, Jesus pardons you of all guilt and drops all the charges.  His royal decree is forgiveness of your sins.  Your King reigns for you.
     And the King who has gone into death for you has also conquered death for you.  The body that was pierced to the cross, that bled, died, and was buried—that body is risen from the grave.  Jesus lives and reigns forever.  Therefore, his royal decree of salvation overrules every accusation against you and nullifies even the rule of the grave over you.  And he who set you free from your sins also sets you free from death and the grave.  He will raise up your body to live and reign with him forever.  For, Jesus remembers you.  He put his name on you when you were baptized, and he remembers that you are his.  He gives you the body and blood which were given into death for you and which conquered death for you, and as he feeds you he remembers you.  He strengthens your faith and forgives your sins.  And even when death should come to you, Jesus remembers you.  He assures you that not even death can sever you from his love.
     Your King reigns for you, and his promise stands: “You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)  Paradise is a word which means garden.  Think of the Garden of Eden where all things were right—where there were no struggles or sorrows, no illness or pain, no rivalries or jealousies, no wars, and not even weeds.  Your King has done all things to make right all that went wrong with sin.  He has rescued you from your sins, and he will deliver you from a sinful world to a perfect Paradise in which Jesus will reign for your good.
     You are saved not by knowledge, but by faith.  Knowledge tells you that the King reigns.  Faith tells you that the King reigns for you.  Faith believes the promises, that Jesus is the King of glory, that he will give you all his gifts, and that he will make you partakers of his glory.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sermon -- HVL Chapel (November 14, 2016)

This was preached at chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School in Westland, MI.

JOHN 5:19-24
The Authority of the Son.

In the name + of Jesus.

     If there is one verse of the Bible that Satan teaches well, it is this: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” (Luke 6:37)  This verse is used regularly to cover over sins and to condemn people who would dare to call evil what is evil.
     A year or so ago, there was a Planet Fitness in which a man who was identifying himself as a woman was making use of the women’s locker room.  One woman went to complain to the management.  The management responded promptly.  They revoked the membership of the woman who complained, and they let the man stay in the women’s locker room.  They told the woman that their fitness center was a “judgment free zone,” and that her kind of judgment was not welcomed there.  Ironically, in expelling the woman from their gym, the “judgment free zone” had to make a judgment.  They judged that it is not men in the women’s locker room which is wrong, it is people who say that men should not be in a women’s locker room who are wrong.
     It is impossible for us to not make judgments.  Murder is wrong, and the murderers who commit them are evil.  Lying is wrong, and liars are evil.  And even casting judgment is wrong if our reason for doing it is not out of loving concern for the person who is caught in sin, but we judge to exalt ourselves above others and to credit ourselves with being more righteous than the people we judge.
     Our judgments are always flawed.  We confuse our sense of right and wrong with our likes, dislikes, and opinions.  We tend to think that God’s judgment of people agrees with our fondness of people or our dislike of them.  That is why we are not good judges, and that is why we should not judge.
     However, there is one man who not only judges others, he is also authorized to do so.  God has entrusted all judgment to Jesus of Nazareth.  But Jesus is not like earthly rulers who enact laws that are in keeping with their own opinions.  Jesus does all things in perfect keeping with his Father’s will.  Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)  When Jesus makes a judgment, it is perfect alignment with the Commandments.  Therefore, when Jesus judges something or someone to be evil, it is not because he looks at that person with suspicion or a jealous eye.  It is not that Jesus says, “I don't like his tattoo or his accent.”  It is because he sees a sinful heart.  And when Jesus judges something or someone as good, it is because he sees a heart and mind that are perfect.
     When our Lord comes again to judge the living and the dead, all his judgments will be right and fair.  Jesus will come to condemn all who are guilty of sin.  That is fair.  That is giving people what they deserve.  But enforcing God's Law and pronouncing judgment against the guilty saves no one.  It would certainly demonstrate God's holiness, but it would save no one.  Fair is that we all go to hell.  We deserve it; for we are guilty.
     But more than enforce God's Law, Jesus also fulfilled it.  Jesus of Nazareth obeyed all the Commandments of God at all times.  Jesus has done all the good that God demands be done.  But rather than credit himself with perfect obedience, Jesus credits you with it.  And rather than judge you for the sins you have done, Jesus takes your sins and your judgment from you.  Jesus was convicted and condemned under holy judgment.  He, in turn, sets you free.
     Therefore, when Jesus judges you, it is based on his merits and his mercy.  Jesus, rather than convicting you of guilt acquits you.  Jesus has authority to do this because he has paid for your sins.  Rather than have you die an eternal death, Jesus will raise you from the dead to have eternal life.  Jesus has authority to do this because he has conquered death.  Rather than banish you to the torments of hell, Jesus will bring you to the glories of heaven.  Jesus has authority to do this because he is the man who has ascended to heaven to make it the dwelling of all mankind who believe in him.
     Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, but he has already pronounced your verdict to you.  He says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will....  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:21,24)  
     Jesus delivers you from sin and death, and Jesus bestows on you blessing and life everlasting.  Jesus will judge you based on his merits, not yours.  Therefore, you are declared righteous.  Jesus will judge you based not on what you deserve, but based on his mercy.  Therefore, you are forgiven.
     You will continue to go through life making judgments about everything.  But you will submit your judgment to the word of the Lord so that you can say with certainty what is good and what is evil.  And rather than spending time judging others, we will judge ourselves so that we do not give ourselves over to what is evil.  We will continue to do what is good, and to flee to him who his good.  He rescues us from sin and judgment so that we will have life with him forevermore.

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

MLS football vs. Royal Oak Shrine (playoff edition)

On Saturday, November 12, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals played host to the Knights of Royal Oak Shrine.  Both entered the game with 9-2 records, and neither had ever seen each other before.  Scouting reports, according to Caleb, suggested that the teams were quite similar.  So, the pre-game analysis came down to cliches like: "The team who makes the fewest mistakes will win."  I guess we can always trust this maxim: "The team who scores the most points will will."

Both teams traded touchdowns early on.  MLS's score came on its first play from scrimmage as Casey Williams ran about 73 yards around the left end to the end zone.  Royal Oak Shrine, on the other hand, put together 2 drives which consumed pretty much the rest of the first quarter.  If memory serves, at the end of the 1st quarter, we noted that MLS had the ball for about a minute and a half.

MLS managed to put on one more first half TD on a nice pass to Jordan Hayes who was streaking across the field at the 5 yard line and then turned it up for the go ahead TD.  As it turned out, it was the game winning TD.

The MLS defense turned up the heat.  Damon Pearce, having come directly from his grandmother's funeral (we gave him the ride) had a great game.  He sacked the Shrine QB on a key 3rd down play right in front of us.  Caleb (our favorite Cardinal!) also deserves a shout out for a really nice defensive play in breaking up a pass in the 2nd quarter.  That was neat!  (See the M-Live article below and scroll through the photos for a picture of that.)  In the meantime, MLS put up two more TD's, with Caleb Heyn and Casey Williams both going right up the middle in some nice holes produced by the offensive line.  The final score was a 28-7 Cardinals victory, bringing the Regional Championship trophy to the MLS squad.

You can read an M-Live article here.  If you scroll through the photos, you will find a nice one of Caleb deflecting a pass from a Shrine receiver in the 2nd quarter.

There are also a few TV highlights from WNEM which you can see here.  MLS is featured starting at the 1:50 mark.

Once again, MHSAA rules prohibit posting photos from the game, so here are a few post game photoes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of End Times: Saints Triumphant (November 13, 2016)

LUKE 20:27-38


In the name + of Jesus.

      We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  Out of love, he made this world and all that is in it for mankind to care for and to enjoy.  Out of love for you, he put you in this world at the specific time and place he wanted you to be.  God owed none of this to anyone.  It is all by his grace.  It is all because God is love.
     God put you in this world, and he has not designed you to be disposable.  To God, no person's life is disposable.  While it is true that every person has a day when he will die, no one is disposable.  God created Adam and Eve to be people whom he would love forever.  So it is with you.  When you die, you do not evaporate.  No soul is annihilated.  The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)  The body returns to dust, but that is not how God designed it to be.  Death is the result of sin's curse, not God's design.  God loves what he has created.  You are not disposable.  Therefore, God redeemed what he has created so that death is not the end for you.  Though the body goes to the grave, the grave must give up its dead.  On the Last Day, we will see what we believe: We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. (Nicene Creed)
     Not everyone believes in the resurrection of the body.  The Sadducees didn't.  They were the temple priests.  They did not believe in angels, spirits, or any resurrection.  They limited their concerns to the here and now.  So when they came to Jesus to ask about the resurrection from the dead, it was not out of curiosity.  It was mockery.  The Sadducees presented Jesus with a hypothetical case which was supposed to prove that the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting are a farce.  They assumed that, if there were an afterlife, it would be the same as life is now—with multiple marriage partners, broken homes, and dysfunctional families.  If such things are common even in Christian homes, the Sadducees wondered how messed up things would be in eternal dwellings.
     Jesus responded bluntly.  “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36)  The fact is, there will not be broken families, strained relationships, or shattered lives in the world to come.  That is one of the reasons we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
     God's design for a family—established by the marriage of a husband and wife—is a blessing in this world.  Through the marriage of a man and a woman, the Lord provides love, discipline, care, and stability for the children who are born into each family.  Marriage and the children that come from it are necessary for this world since generations continue to die.  Each generation repopulates the world with its offspring, and then it passes away.  Each subsequent generation has to grieve as they bury their parents and  grandparents.  And while it is heart-rending for the children who must do it, it is not unusual.  Death comes into the world because of sin.  And since all are sinners, all die.
     The Sadducees dealt with this reality by dismissing thoughts of an afterlife.  Like the Sadducees, many care only for what they can get out of this life.  But this hope is nothing more than a denial that we are accountable to God for our lives.  If we don't have to face a sentence at our judgment, then we don't have to answer to God.  It is a horrible way to contend with guilt because it rejects what your conscience plainly tells you—you ARE accountable for your actions.  Why else would you feel badly about them?  Still others prefer reincarnation—being born back into a sinful world with its pains and sorrows again and again and again.  This does not elude death; it repeats the cycle again and again and again.  Neither of these is true, nor actually deals with one's sin or overcomes death.
     We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Christians rightly look forward to a joyful reunion with all the saints in heaven.  Still, the relationships that we know now will not be the same in heaven.  The Lord does not need us to have marriages to repopulate heaven.  There is no need for birth announcements because there shall be no obituaries.  All of God's people, like the angels, shall live forever in God's presence, and with perfected personalities.  For that reason, you will not have a strained relationship with anyone who is there.  Nor will you feel distant from any of the saints there.  Here, families can be shattered by divorce, and people can be unfriended because of which for filling in the wrong oval on November 8.  Even Christians know what factions are like—whether because of denominational differences or because you don't feel like you belong to your own congregation.  That's because we are still sinners and we don't love perfectly.  But in the life of the world to come, you will not feel unwelcome, lonely, or awkward.  You will know that you are just as wanted and welcomed as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as apostles and prophets, and as bold confessors and humble, unknown servants of Christ.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)  Therefore, you are all shall be brothers and sisters who are beloved of God, and you will be perfectly beloved by one another.
     For Jesus Christ, who has suffered and died to take away our sins, will raise us up in absolute perfection.  Here on earth, we strive to serve the Lord with holy lives.  But we continue to give evidence that we do not live up to the righteousness God credits us with.  You may feel slighted because you don't think others are making enough of a fuss over you and your ego is not being fed enough.  Or you may be so self-absorbed that you don't even realize that you fail to give attention to others or put forth effort to make them feel welcome.  You know that it is not always easy to live with sinners.  Repent; for you are not always easy to live with either.  But that is why we continue to come to our Savior.  He forgives our sins.  He feeds our faith.  He heals our wounds.  He transforms our hearts so that we forgive others, amend our own lives, and demonstrate true compassion for others.  And he will finally deliver us from lives which are often weak on love to glorious, eternal lives where we are perfected in love.  That is another reason why we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
     “But that the dead are raised,” Jesus said, “even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living...” (Luke 20:37-38)  The Lord had declared to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6, paraphrased)  The verb tense matters.  He did not say, “I was their God,” but “I am their God.”  In other words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive and well with the Lord.  For, God did not make people to be disposable.  God created us to live.  And God loves what he has created.  So he sent Jesus to redeem us from death so that we could live forever with him.  Even the damned will not be disposed of.  Their existence will go on forever, but in hell.  But not so with you who believe in Jesus.  You have been rescued from death and hell.  And like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you will live with the Lord forever.
     Finally, on the Last Day, we will receive our perfect and permanent victory over death once and for all.  Jesus, who rose from his grave with his perfect, glorified, and immortal flesh, will raise up our flesh to be perfect, glorified, and immortal.  Never again will we get sick or frail, diseased or disabled, or bitter, suspicious, or mean.  We will be perfected in body and soul, heart and mind.  And while we will be like the angels, you will not become angels.  God created you to be you.  Not even your humanity is disposable, just as Jesus is and remains true man forever.  He redeemed you as you.  And he will raise up you to be the perfect you he always intended you to be.  For God loves what he has created in you.  He has redeemed you, and he will raise you up to live with him and all the saints in holy bliss forever.  This is what we pray for and confess: We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Something from ... Augustine on Grace and Good Works

          “Grace makes us lovers of the law; but the law itself, without grace, makes us nothing but breakers of the law."

-- St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Selections from “On Grace and Free Will,” chapter 38

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Times: Last Judgment (November 6, 2016)



In the name + of Jesus.

      Everywhere, people are suffering, and you can't escape it.  Regardless of where you live on the map or on the political spectrum, regardless of economic or racial background, whether you pray to God or deny God even exists, all people have endured the pain, grief, and sorrow of living in a sinful world.  Neither money nor piety nor intelligence makes a person immune from weeping by a loved one's grave, from keeping vigil with a sick child, from dealing with stress on the job, or from cleaning up after a disaster.  How and how much a person suffers may vary, but all suffer the effects of a sin-infected world.
     St. Paul, however, reminds us that Christians endure afflictions specifically because we are Christians.  Persecution had forced Paul to flee from Thessalonica when he had first preached there.  He left behind a fledgling congregation, and wondered if they would remain faithful in the midst of their own afflictions.  St. Paul rejoiced to learn that the Thessalonians were willing to suffer for the name of Jesus rather than renounce the forgiveness and salvation which only Jesus supplies.  Despite the persecution, those Christians persevered.
     The reason that Christians are marked by this world is that we have been set apart from it.  Through the preaching of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit has called you to repent of your sins and to despise all that God calls wicked.  He has led you to recognize that sin brings wrath, and that the wrong-doer deserves condemnation.  Rebels are never ignored, and they are certainly not rewarded.  St. Paul warns what sinners bring upon themselves: 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... (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9)
     You and I are worthy of such a judgment; for we have rebelled as well.  But the Lord Jesus set you apart from that destruction and that vengeful judgment.  At Jesus' first coming, Jesus submitted himself to your judgment.  The eternal Son of God suffered punishment for all sins of all time.  At the cross, Jesus was consumed in the wrath of the Father.  That is where Jesus suffered your judgment for you.  By faith in Jesus, you receive the benefit of his sacrificial death.  Through baptism, the Lord marked you off from all vengeful judgment.  For, by your baptism, Jesus removed your guilt from you.  Since your guilt is removed, you are set apart from all that is cursed.  Therefore, no condemnation can come upon you.  This is Jesus' glory that you have been delivered from death and damnation and are now marked as his saints.
     Just as you have been set apart from the Lord's wrath, so also you have been set apart for the Lord's glory.  Just as you recognize that sin brings wrath, so also you recognize that God's Commandments are good.  So, you now order your life according to God's will as revealed in those Commandments.  Out of love for your Redeemer, you strive for a holy life.  You reflect God's glory with words that are honest and decent, not vulgar, deceptive, or abusive.  You reflect God's glory by being useful to your neighbor rather than in using him, by having mercy upon him rather than destroying him, and by praying for the salvation of your enemy rather than wishing he were dead.  The love that Jesus Christ pours upon you, you get to pour out upon others.  You understand that love and mercy do not come with a list of conditions; they are simply given.  This is Jesus' glory that you, who have been set apart as a saint, also live as one.
     But the world we live in considers godly living foolish.  In this world, people take pride in how inventive they are in cheating others.  People have no shame about sexual exploits and drunken weekends.  They mock people who don't practice these things or participate in the celebration of them.  Gossipers cannot wait to tell the next slanderous story, and their stories always find ears which want to share in the destruction of someone's reputation.  In our sinful desire to be popular and to be praised, we are ashamed of being decent and chaste.  We even wonder what is wrong with us that our stories are not as good as those who revel in their sins.  This sinfulness, however, is the reason that judgment is coming upon the world.  Do not admire it.  Repent and flee from it.
     The Lord Jesus Christ has set you apart from this world.  The world does not know God; they prove it because they do not fear his wrath.  The world does not have any regard for his gospel.  They do not wish to be forgiven because they do not believe they have anything to be sorry for.  The world notices that you are not like that.  You fight against sin and temptation and strive for what is good and holy.  You come to church because you crave God's forgiveness and mercy and because you need God's encouragement so that you don't tire of doing what is good.  For this, you are mocked and reviled.  This is life in the Church Militant.  This is what you have been set apart for.  Not only do you battle against worldly attitudes, you even battle your own sinful desires which would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
     The battle is hard.  The devil, the world, and our flesh do not quit.  The wounds hurt.  And we wonder when we will be done with it.  We wonder when the enemies of Jesus and his Church will finally suffer any consequences for their prideful rebellion against Jesus.  Do not be surprised or discouraged by the Lord's patience.  He desires the repentance of all, and he is granting more time for that.  Therefore, the battle will continue to rage throughout your lifetime.  The world is corrupt, and the Church Militant will always battle her enemies.  So, when does deliverance come?  St. Paul answers, “Indeed 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...” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)  The Lord will come to be glorified in his saints.  He will come to render a vengeful judgment on all who despised and dishonored him, and loved their sins.  Vengeance is the Lord's, and it will come.
     But you—your place is not to clamor for vengeance.  Your place is to honor God as those who have been set apart for his glory.  The Lord is coming to be glorified in his saints.  And you are evidence of God's glory.  God's glory is not that he smites the wicked, that he is holy, and that he is almighty.  It is true—God is all those things.  But those things do not save anybody.  God's glory is that he is merciful and loves sinners.  God's glory is revealed in Jesus who came to suffer and die for sinners so that we would be redeemed and have eternal life.  You, dear Christians, are evidence of God's glory.  You give evidence of that glory when you flee from sin and walk in the path of righteousness.  And you will be the Lord's evidence of his goodness when he comes again on the Last Day.
     The Lord will come to be glorified in his saints.  On that Last Day, the Lord Jesus will present you to the world as his beloved redeemed.  No more will you struggle with temptations from without or from weaknesses within.  You will actually look and act like the child of God which Jesus has declared you to be.  And you will be spared from the vengeful judgment of God—not because you are better, but because Jesus Christ has saved you.  And we will marvel at the sight of him just as we marvel at his gracious promises now.
     The Lord will come to be glorified in his saints who are set apart from the wrath and judgment of God.  Until the Lord comes, we remain those who are set apart for godly living, even if the world should mock us, vilify us, or attack us for it.  For, while the world rejoices in its sins now, we will continue to rejoice in the one who has set us free from sin, death, hell, and wrath.  We find our refuge in Jesus.  We partake in the heavenly feast which the Lord provides to his saints.  And we honor our Savior as people who are set apart by God's grace, for God's glory and praise, and to be his in the Church Triumphant forevermore.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

MLS Football vs. Nouvel (Playoff edition)

On Friday, November 4, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals hosted the Panthers from Nouvel on the west side of Saginaw for a cross-town show down, and for the District Championship for D8 in Michigan State Playoffs.

Nouvel has a long history of state championships in numerous sports, and they had hoped to add to that.  They came in confident, even posting a banner on their sidelines that read, "Your School, Your Field, Our Game."  They were 2/3 right.

Casey Williams took the opening kickoff on a reverse and ran 80 yards for a TD just seconds into the game.  I wish we had seen that, but delays in from the Novi/Livonia area meant that we did not even get to MLS until the 2nd quarter.  By the time we had parked the car and got into the game, MLS was up 14-6.  That was the score at the end of the half, too.

The MLS defense was solid in the 2nd half.  Although Nouvel began a drive starting at their own 1/2 yard line and drove most of the way down the field, they did not manage to get it into the end zone.  Nouvel had another chance for a momentum swing when MLS tried to get a 4th and 1 near midfield but fell short.  But the defense was stiff again and Nouvel could not advance the ball.

On the other hand, MLS managed to get the ball in the end zone 3 more times, completing a 34-6 victory.  TD's were had by Casey Williams (2), Cade Kestner (2), and Micah Nuemann.  St. Peter's alum, Damon Pearce, led all tacklers with 10.  All the more impressive, Damon played after his grandmother had died in the early morning hours that very day.

The MLS Cardinals will also be hosting the Regional Championship next Friday night.  We still wait to hear who our opponent is.

You can read an article from M-Live here.
You can watch highlights from WNEM's Friday Night Lights here.  The MLS segment begins near the 2:10 mark.
More TV highlights can be seen here.

Posting photos online from during the game is prohibited by the MHSAA.  You have to come to my house to see some of those.  Here are some photos from after the game.

The junior class on the MLS football team.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Pastoral Concern -- The Election of a President

In less than a week, American voters will again elect government officials.  The most notable and important election will be that of our next president.

The sides of the two major parties are polarized more than any other time in my life.  Each side considers the other to be the one who would usher in the end of America as we know it.  Some even fear for the world.  And perhaps more than any other time in American history, people are more inclined to vote against a candidate rather than vote for one, hoping to avoid an evil rather than to promote good.

Let each Christian prayerfully consider whom he or she will vote for.  But if you would like my own pastoral advice regarding this election, here it is:

"Do not put your trust in princes; in mortal men who cannot save" (Psalm 146:3, NIV) -- the same as any election.

If your preferred candidate does not win the election, maybe that is just as well.  Then you can stop putting your faith in who the president is.  Then you can put your focus on Jesus, on his promises, and on his kingdom.  Then you can pray more fervently for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then you can turn away from political speeches and promises and devote yourself to the promises of a Savior who does not lie and, when he speaks, he does not do it to pander to people.  

In other words, you can start to act like the Church, which is what you have been called to do to begin with.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Something from ... Augustine on God's recompense

          This coming Sunday has its focus on the Last Judgment.  With that in mind, St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430) has us reflect on God's judgment and how he repays sinners according to both his justice and his grace.

“It is, I think, sufficiently clear that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills wherever He wills, whether to good deeds according to His mercy, or to evil after their own desserts; His own judgment being sometimes manifest, sometimes secret, but always righteous.” (Augustine, Selections from “On Grace and Free Will,” chapter 43)

“God will, therefore, certainly recompense both evil for evil, because He is just; and good for evil, because He is good; and good for good, because He is good and just; only, evil for good He will never recompense, because He is not unjust.  He will, therefore, recompense evil for evil—punishment for unrighteousness; and He will recompense good for evil—grace for unrighteousness; and He will recompense good for good—grace for grace.” (Augustine, Selections from “On Grace and Free Will,” chapter 45)