Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sermon -- Funeral of Sandy K. Frey (August 31, 2017)

This sermon was preached at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of Belleville, Michigan.

+ Sandra Kay Frey +
(September 30, 1958 - August 28, 2017)

1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26


In the name + of Jesus.

M:         Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong: He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

     Death is the enemy.  It does not take prisoners.  It kills its victims.  And we are all its victims eventually, because we are all sinners.
     When Adam brought sin into the world, he brought down guilt upon all mankind.  And so, like Adam, we are marked for death.  St. Paul wrote that “in connection to Adam, all die.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, my translation)  Sandy Frey was connected to Adam in that she was born into this world a sinful human being.  Sandy was a very sweet, kind lady.  She was very nice, but she was not perfect.  And there is the problem.  God's command is not, “Be nice.  Be kind.  Behave.”  It is: “You shall be holy, because I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)  Adam was not holy.  Sandy Frey was not holy.  You are not either because sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned... (Romans 5:12)  Because she was a sinner, death has come to claim Sandy.  Death is the enemy, and sin is the weapon by which it inflicts its mortal blow.
     This is not how the Lord intended it to be.  God created Adam and Eve to be flesh and blood, body and soul people.  God saw their creation and behold! it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)  Very good means that man's body was not created to know cancer, to become frail, or to undergo chemo treatments which sometimes feel worse than the disease they are supposed to be curing.  God did not make our bodies to suffer pain and to die.  But when sin came, body and soul were infested and infected with corruption, disease, and decay.  And now we are all too familiar with phrases like “terminal” and “inoperable.”  Death is the enemy, and sin is the weapon by which it inflicts its mortal blow.
     But, as we heard in the lesson earlier, we do not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)  The first Adam brought sin and death into the world, but now the second Adam destroys death and restores life.  Adam first ate the fruit which brought death to us all, but now Jesus is the firstfruits from the dead.  Jesus destroys death and restores life.
     Jesus became our flesh and blood Savior so that he could redeem flesh and blood sinners.  Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world.  Jesus took into his body the judgment we deserve, and he was struck by the mortal blow on behalf of us all.  The flesh and blood Savior died under God's judgment and consumed all of God's wrath.  By that death, Jesus put an end to the curse of sin.  The punishment and wrath are gone.  Having died for us, Jesus was planted in the earth for burial.  But on the third day, new life sprung forth from the ground as Jesus rose from the dead.  By that resurrection, Jesus put an end to the power of death; for Jesus has conquered it.
     Jesus destroys death and restores life.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)  Sandy was connected to Adam by birth, but now she is connected to Jesus Christ by baptism.  In baptism, that that is Christ's became hers.  Sandy was put to death and God raised her up a new creation.  Throughout her life, she was covered in Jesus' righteousness.  God's judgment of Sandy was not merely that she was nice.  That is our judgment of her.  We know that she was a nice lady, a dear wife, a caring daughter, a devoted mother, and a loving grandma.  And you aren't wrong.  But God's judgment of Sandy is the only one that matters.  And in Christ, God has declared her to be holy and blameless.  Therefore, Sandy did not need to fear death; for not even death can sever her connection with Christ.  As Jesus lives, so does Sandy—dwelling in Jesus' presence, forever connected to him who destroys death and restores life.  And in a few moments, we get to feast with Sandy and all the saints triumphant at the heavenly banquet.  Our feast lasts but a moment at this altar; Sandy rejoices forever at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
     While this is our hope, we are not without grief.  For, death is present.  To some it may even seem like the enemy has won.  Its victim, the body which was afflicted with cancer and pelted with chemo treatments, lies here.  Sandy died at age 58.  According to standards of life expectancy, that is too young.  But Sandy is connected to Christ.  He has saved her and keeps her safely in the kingdom of God, and there is no such thing as a life cut short in the kingdom of God.  For this is what the Lord says of his redeemed: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) 
     Jesus destroys death and restores life.  Just as God never intended to have mankind die in his sin, neither did God intend that we be anything different than he created us to be.  God created us to be flesh and blood, body and soul people.  God does not intend that Sandy Frey stop being Sandy Frey.  Jesus did not redeem just our souls.  God created us to be body and soul people; therefore, Jesus became a flesh and blood man in order to redeem us completely.  Just as Jesus rose from the dead with his body, so he will raise up Sandy to be a body and soul woman forever.  And just as Jesus brought healing to many as a glimpse of his redeeming work, so the body that Jesus will raise will be restored to perfection.  Sandy will have no need for chemo treatments, hospitals, corrective lenses, or even Kleenex.  Her redeemed body will be raised incorruptible and glorious, just as God had always designed it to be.
     Jesus destroys death and restores life.  In Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)  
     Though death is our enemy, death has already lost.  Jesus destroyed death by his resurrection.  Since Sandy has been united with Jesus in baptism, he will raise her up to live forever with him.  Though we will commit her body to the grave today, we know that the grave will have to give her back.  New life will spring forth from the ground when Jesus comes on the Last Day.  And the Lord who destroys death will also at last restore life to Sandy and behold! it will be very good.  For, the resurrected bodies which are connected to Christ will be without sin, without pain, without sickness, without death, and without end.
     The enemy is destroyed.  Eden is restored.  Jesus is the firstfruts from the dead.  The rest of the harvest shall come up from the ground on the Last Day.  And we, who are connected to Christ, shall live because of him and with him forever.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Lutherfest 500 -- Less than two months away!

If you have not written it into your calendar yet, book it now!

Lutherfest 500, the Reformation celebration in west metro-Detroit, is coming in just under two months!  

Check out our web page at

On Saturday, October 28 from Noon - 5:00 PM, all are invited to Huron Valley Lutheran High School (HVL) for a day of fun, entertainment, fellowship, and an appreciation of our Lutheran heritage.

We will have a polka band, Die Dorfmusikanten from Milford, Michigan.  Check them out here.  

After all that dancing, you may be hungry.  Our food will be provided by Gary's Catering of Wixom.  Our menu will include bratwurst, hamburgers, hot dogs, German potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cookies, brownies, and chips.  Water, coffee, and soft drinks will also be available.  All of these will be available for a nominal cost.

There will be a Reformation Walk.  Take a walk to 16th century Germany!  This is a living history "tour" with costumed characters.  Each stop gives a brief overview of important people and events in the life and times of Martin Luther.  You can get an idea of what the Reformation Walk will look like here.  

If you are looking for more information about Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation, we will have plenty of opportunity for that, too.  Check out our Trivia Station which will test your knowledge of Luther and the Reformation.  Or visit our Quiet Room where you can read some of Luther's writings to see why we are excited to talk about him and why we would dare to call ourselves Lutheran.  Or sit down for a while and enjoy a movie about Martin Luther.  Or buy a book from our Luther Markt to take home.  The Luther Markt will be run by Northwestern Publishing House (NPH).  A sampling of what NPH might bring can be seen here:

Our Kinder Platz will be full of games with prizes and bouncy houses for the kids.  

After all of the fun and festivities, you will want to come back to HVL on Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 PM for the real highlight of our weekend -- our festival service in thanksgiving to God for the Gospel message of salvation.  This service will highlight the hallmarks of the Lutheran Reformation, the sola's, namely, that salvation is ...
          sola fide                    by faith alone
          sola gratia                by grace alone   
          sola Scriptura          by Scripture alone
          solo Christo              in Christ alone
          soli Deo gloria         To God alone be the glory!

While we say that this is the Lutheran heritage, it is all God's work and God's word and is intended for all.  All are welcome!  Tell your friends and bring them along.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2017)

ROMANS 9:1-8


In the name + of Jesus.

     Paul of Tarsus was an Israelite, a Jew.  He could trace his lineage to the tribe of Benjamin.  He had been chosen by God to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and was chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles for Jesus Christ.  Yet, he was grieved that his fellow Jews, by and large, were not disciples of Jesus Christ.  Paul was bothered that anyone would perish outside of Christ, but he is understandably bothered all the more that his fellow countrymen would perish because they rejected Jesus.  There is no other Savior.  There is no other source of forgiveness.  No one else delivers from death or opens the gates of heaven.  So, if anyone does not believe in Jesus alone, he dies in his sin and his lost.
     The Israelites boasted that they were the chosen people.  The Jews today still boast that.  But if anyone should boast that they are chosen, you should ask the question: chosen for what?
     Prior to Abraham, God extended a promise to the world: A Savior would come.  The promise did not tell anyone where the Savior would come from, when he would come, or how we could know him.  But then God chose Abraham.  God pinpointed the promise to one man and his offspring.  The Savior would come through Abraham.  That promise was repeated to Isaac, and then to Jacob whose name God changed to Israel.  That is why the Old Testament devotes most of its attention to the nation of Israel.  They were chosen by God from all the nations on the earth to be his own.  They were chosen by means of a gracious promise.
     St. Paul declares what Israel was chosen for.  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. (Romans 9:4-5)  They were chosen to be the people through whom the Savior would come into the world.  For that reason, the Lord gave specific decrees to Israel.  The law of Moses gave Israel a culture and customs which were distinct from all other nations to keep them separate so that God's promise would be preserved.  The Lord instructed the Israelites how to worship him so that they would always know that salvation comes from innocent blood being shed on behalf of the guilty.  God chose Israel by means of a gracious promise so that the salvation of the world would come through them and so that they themselves would benefit from God's gracious promise.
     When someone is chosen, there is a tendecy to boast about it.  If you are chosen first for the baseball team, you assume it is because you are better than all the others.  This is now how God's choosing works.  Israel was not chosen because of anything they did.  God did not chose Israel because they were bigger or stronger, because they were better, or because they deserved it.  They were chosen by means of a gracious promise.
     The fact is, the Israelites proved repeatedly that they were sinners.  When the Lord gave his Law at Mt. Sinai, God thundered from the dark cloud on the mountain, “You shall have no other gods.” (Exodus 20:3)  The Israelites responded, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 24:3)  And yet, just over a month later, the Israelites made a golden calf to worship right under God's nose.  The story repeats throughout the Old Testament.  Israel was a sinful, stubborn, and rebellious people.  Nevertheless, God was faithful to his gracious promise—not because they deserved it, but because God is gracious and desires the salvation of mankind.  God sent the Savior he had promised.
     That Savior is the Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth.  God's Son became a child of Abraham, an Israelite.  Jesus himself came by a word of promise.  The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary that she would conceive, and by that word, she did.  You are not saved by mere flesh and blood, but by God in the flesh who spilled out his holy blood for you.  Just as the Lord had directed Israel's worship, so it is with Jesus—his innocent blood was shed on behalf of the guilty.  And God attaches a promise to the bloodly sacrifice of Jesus: Whoever believes and his baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16:16)  Though God sent his Son through the nation of Israel, God sent his Son to be the Savor of all nations.  You have been saved by a gracious promise.
     Now, you have a great deal in common with the Old Testament Israelites.  For you are now a chosen people.  And again, we will consider the questions: chosen for what?
     You have been chosen by God to receive his good gifts and to be saved.  As it was with Israel, so it is with you.  God did not choose you because you are smarter, richer, or better than anyone else.  Like Old Testament Israel, we, too, prove that we are sinners.  We have been contolled by our greed, our lusts, and our pride.  We lie to others about ourselves and we lie about others to make ourselves look good.  We know what God has declared in his word, and we don't care.  We prefer our sins to holy obedience.  Like Old Testament Israel, we are a sinful, stubborn, and rebellious people.  We have no reason to boast.  We have not earned God's favor, but his curse.
     And yet, God chose you.  God chose you because he is good and gracious.  God chose you because he is a Redeemer and Savior, and it has pleased him to redeem you and save you.  He gave up his life as the price for you.  He has purchased and won you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil.  Through Jesus, yours is the adoption.  You are children of God.  Through Jesus, yours is the glory.  You are heirs of heaven.  Through Jesus, yours is the worship.  Jesus comes to you through word and sacrament to bless, to comfort, and to save.  Through Jesus, yours is the new covenant in his blood by which he feeds you and sustains your faith.  Through Jesus, yours is the gracious promise which releases you of all guilt and gives you the resurrection to life everlasting.  God has chosen to proclaim his proimse to you to bestow his blessings upon you and to save you.  You are chosen by means of his gracious promise to be his people now and forever.
     God chose to do all the work to save you.  Jesus lived, suffered, died, and rose for you.  God sent people to proclaim his promises to you—whether from a pulpit, at your family's dinner table, or at a Lutheran school.  Through that preaching, the Holy Spirit planted faith in your heart to receive and to believe God's promises.  Through that preaching, God continues to sustain you in the true faith.  He does not do this because you were born in the right country, belong to the right family, or go to a WELS church.  He does this not because you are better—or even good.  He does this but because he is good and gracious.  You are chosen by means of God's gracious promise.
     Sadly, not all who have heard this message believe it or benefit from it.  St. Paul was grieved that his fellow Jews had forsaken the precious gifts once given to them.  “But,” St. Paul writes, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,  and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.'”  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8)  Since God has not withheld his promise, he has not denied his grace.  Sadly, many reject God's gifts because they do not hear or believe his word.  They are sinners who insist on remaining in their sin and call God a liar.  Be warned.  There is no room for boasting in ourselves.  Your place in God's kingdom is God's gracious work, not your birthright.
     God has revealed these good and gracious promises to you.  God has chosen you to be his own, and he longs to be your Savior forevermore.  Once again—not because you are better or have the right heritage.  You are chosen by God because he is good and gracious.  You have been chosen to display God's glory and declare his praise.  God's choosing of you is not a reason to boast, but it is certainly a reason to give thanks and to continue to hear God's promise.  By means of this promise, God reveals his grace.  By means of this promise alone, you are chosen for salvation.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

MLS Football vs Nouvel Catholic Central (August 23 & 24, 2017)

Football season has begun!

The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals began their season against the Panthers of Nouvel Catholic Central of Saginaw.  The JV played at Nouvel on Wednesday, and the Varsity hosted Nouvel on Thursday.

The JV enjoyed some success against Nouvel, as the sophomores showed great improvement from last year.  That first year of experience took hold for them.  Philip had a good game, playing mainly on the defensive line.  He put good pressure on the QB and had a few tackles.

MLS ended up getting the win, 21-6.  Photos are here.

A light sabre battle raged during the game.

A tradition continues.  Philip was the holder for the PAT.

The varsity took the field on Thursday, but did not have the same success as the JV.  I think we were outweighed on the line by 20 pounds or more per player.  It showed as Nouvel was able to run the ball pretty effectively.  Nouvel went into halftime with a 14-0 lead

MLS came out much more spirited in the 2nd half.  The defense tightened up, and the offense switched to a more pass-focused offense which seemed to open up the field more and move the ball better.  MLS even had an interception return for a TD to finally get on the scoreboard, but it was called back on account of a penalty.  MLS finally did notch a TD in the 4th quarter, making it 14-7 with 9:13 left to go.

Unfortunately, that's when the wheels fell off.  MLS had given up a number of turnovers in the game, and Nouvel capitalized on all of them in the 4th quarter.  The score almost instantly jumped to 34-7.  MLS added a TD late in the game, bringing the final score to 34-14.  Caleb almost hauled in the TD pass on what would have been a great catch in the corner.  Although he stretched out for it, he did not quite pull it down.  Caleb was thrown to quite a few times and did have a number of catches.  He had a good night at WR.

Nouvel proved to be a quality opponent, and I think the final score showed the separation between the two teams on Thursday night.

An article from M-Live can be found here, which includes quite a few photos of the game.  You can also see some highlights on WNEM Friday Night Lights here.  The MLS-Nouvel highlights begin at the 4:10 mark.

Here are some of my photos.

Caleb's first reception of the season.

Pass interference, and he still almost pulled this one in.

This was almost a TD late in the game.  MLS scored shortly after this.

Traveling with the Schroeders -- family vacation

Part of our family vacation this year took us to some historical sites out east.  We went tHarpers Ferry, WVAntietam National Battlefield, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

We enjoyed our times at these places, and rather than give several paragraphs of description, I will just insert the photos.  Enjoy.

The main street at Harpers Ferry.

Looking up a side street.

John Brown's Fort, from which John Brown was finally arrested.
He was later tried and hanged for insurrection and treason.
This fort has been moved several times, so this is near the original site but not on it.

From Antietam National Battlefield.  These cannons are aimed at the Bloody Cornfield.

The sunken road, or Bloody Lane.  You can find a famous photograph of the battle's aftermath here.

Burnside Bridge, where the Union finally found some success at Antietam.
Nevertheless, the Battle of Antietam was not really a victory for either side.

Welcome Center at Fort McHenry, Baltimore.

Cannon, like the one used in the War of 1812, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

Birdseye view of Fort McHenry.

KOA Campground at Harpers Ferry.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse from Novi and a Pastoral Concern about created order

After making our eclipse viewer out of a cereal box, Peter and I went outside to see how the eclipse was coming along.  Unfortunately, we were battling cloud cover throughout the afternoon.  Fortunately, the clouds proved to be our friends and enabled us to see the eclipsed sun without going blind.

Here are some photos.

Peter checks out the progress of the eclipse.

This is what we could see in our box when the sun was not hidden behind the clouds.

Eventually, the eclipsed sun was seen with the clouds making a nice filter for viewing.

Now, the pastoral concern about the created order.

The eclipse grabbed the attention of many people.  And while most people seem to have embraced the theory of evolution in which all things assembled by a series of amazing chances which have resulted in our current universe, the eclipse makes a very strong argument that our universe could hardly have been achieved by chance.

Notice that the eclipse followed an exact path, and that scientists could chart the exact time when the total eclipse would happen over each location.  They even had the length of totality determined down to the second.  This is hardly random or chance.  This is incredible precision--as if it were designed and continues to be orchestated by divine power.

What's more, scentists were already telling us when and where the next eclipse would be, and when the next total eclipse would cover the USA again.  If the universe were a random process and continaully subject to grand evolution by chance, there is no way a scientist would be so confident in predicting eclipses with such confidence or accuracy.  And yet, they do; and they are right.  This is hardly random or chance.  It is precisely what the Scriptures state.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)

The Scriptures are trustworthy in all things because it is the word of God who does not lie or deceive or contradict himself.  And since his word is sure, so is the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead which Jesus Christ has secured for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection.  If the Scriptures are brushed off, then so is our salvation.  But since God has again proved himself faithful, we have more confidence in our salvation than scientists have in the next eclipse date and site.

Traveling with the Schroeders -- To Sheboygan

We had taken an actual vacation earlier last week, going to Harpers Ferry, WV, Antietam National Battlefield, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore.  More on that in a later post.

Here are some highlights from our trip later in the week to Sheboygan.  After a slow trip (thanks, Chicago!), we tried to catch the last brewery tour at Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee.  We were too late.  So, we coaxed Peter into having custard at Kopp's Frozen Custard on Milwaukee's north side.

We finally made it to Sheboygan.  On Saturday, we had a nice visit with the Schroeder clan.  Paul and Zachary made it from Fond du Lac, and Kris came up from Pewaukee.  Before they showed up, however, Peter had his own trip back in time as we pulled out my mother's old Smith-Corona typewriter for Peter to look at.  Then we zoomed up to 1980's technology with my mother's electric typewriter.

After a number of ping pong games in which I defeated Peter every time (no mercy shown there), we began the trip back to Michigan.  Between Chicago's slow pace on Friday and wanting to feel like we were still on some semblence of vacation, we drove over the top of Lake Michigan and came down over the Mackinac Bridge.  It was great to see the bridge again, but it made for a post-midnight return.  At least we avoided all the "up north" traffic which was already at home asleep while we drove down I-75.

Some photos.  (For what it is worth, Peter actually has more than one shirt.)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 13, 2017)

ROMANS 8:28-30


In the name + of Jesus.

     Throughout our life, God extends to us a promise for our on-going consolation and encouragement: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     First of all, it is important to understand what this promise is not.  The promise is not  that everything will always be good in your life.  You live in a sinful world.  You live among sinners.  You yourself are a sinner.  Therefore, bad things will happen to you.  You will suffer pain and loss and heartache.  You will have people sin against you, and sometimes it will be devastating.  The devil will taunt you by afflicting your soul with guilt and by afflicting your body with evil.  You have been taught to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” for a good reason.  Bad things will happen to you.  But in the midst of those evils that you must endure, you have a promise.  You have God's promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     Again, it is important to understand what the promise is not so that you will not be deceived or disappointed when the evils come into your life.  God works all things for our good.  That is the promise.  The promise is not that you will know how it will work for your good.  It may take years for you to know how God worked all things for your good.  You may never know.  But throughout your whole life, God's promise remains true: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
     Consider Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob.  He was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was seventeen.  This teenager was then sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.  In service to him, he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife.  Joseph was then cast into prison, though perhaps dungeon would give us a better image of his quarters.  There is no way Joseph could figure out how God would use this for his good.  Joseph was cut off from his family.  His reputation was that of a rapist.  And he was not expecting parole.  Joseph did not sugar coat his situation.  These were all evils being done to him.
     You probably know how the story turns out.  After Joseph interpreted dreams for some officials, he was summoned to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams.  Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph's wisdom, exalted him to second in command over all Egypt.  Eventually, Joseph was even reunited with his father and brothers.  Later, when his brothers pleaded with Joseph that he not wreak vengeance on them, Joseph commented, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...” (Genesis 50:19-20)  Even though Joseph eventually recognized the good that God worked out, which included the preservation of Israel and, therefore, the promise of a Savior, this took decades to be resolved.  In the meantime, Joseph had to suffer through many evils, and he acknowledged that.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  And still, Joseph believed that the Lord was good and merciful through it all.  God works out all things for our good.
     And so it is with you.  You, too, have to endure your share of evils.  It is honest to say so.  In a perfect world, you do not have to suffer the loss of property, health, reputation, or loved ones.  You do not need to sugar coat this and pretend that these are not evils.  These are the things you pray to be delivered from.  But no matter what your hardships are, the promise stands: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     One of the reasons we call our sufferings and losses evil is because we have put our trust and hopes in these things.  We love our worldly goods, and it grieves us to lose them.  Some of the evils you endure are accidental.  A storm may wipe out your home.  A computer virus may delete baby pictures.  Some evils are intentional.  People may steal your goods, slander your name, or wound your body.  We consider such loses a great evil—not because they are the result of sin, but because we personally have lost something.  We put our faith in medicine, in technology, in the economy, and in relationships.  Repent.  If you love your goods, then you will not believe that God remains good and merciful when your goods are withdrawn from you.  You will think that God is evil because, although he could have stopped it, he did not.  God does not make you bulletproof from evil.  Instead, God makes you a promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) .  
     You have been called according to God's purpose.  That is, you have been united by Jesus Christ.  You are not united to Jesus so that you will have wealth, health, and honor, but so that you will be delivered from the guilt of sin, the sentence of hell, and the taunting of the devil.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)  Before time, the Lord knew you and set you apart.  In our time, the Lord called you by the Gospel and united you to Jesus.  At the end of time, the Lord will deliver you from death and bring you to everlasting glory to dwell with Jesus forever.
     God works all things for our good.  That is God's promise.  And even though we cling to God's promise, our faith is not in an idea.  Our faith is in a man—Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  It is that fleshly God who has come to deliver us from all evils.  He has taken into his flesh all of our sins.  And his flesh was pierced to a cross where he absorbed the curse for our sins.  What was done to Jesus was certainly an evil thing—religious leaders who were jealous of his popularity and who stubbornly refused his grace demanded to have him put to death even though they could find no fault in him.  But what they intended for evil, God intended for your highest good.  Jesus' innocent death is the payment for your sins.  Jesus' precious blood purifies you.  And the fleshly Savior who died for you is now the firstborn from the dead.  He is risen.  And since you have been united with him, your flesh, too, shall rise from the grave to live forever.  That is God's purpose for you.  To this you were called so that you are now justified before God, and shall be glorified with Jesus Christ forever.
     If this is God's plan and purpose for you, then the God who chose you before the creation of the world and then became man to live in this creation will not forget you.  He remains good and merciful to you.  And he works all things for your good, even the evils you face.  If the Lord takes away your blessings through some evil, he does not take away his mercy or promises.  The blessings God gives don't save you; Jesus Christ does.  And if removing your goods from you reminds you of that, it is good.  When you discover to your shock that your friends have not been trustworthy, your Savior still is.  God uses the deception of man to show that he is true and trustworthy.  That is good.  And even if the devil taunts you, God will even use the devil for his own purpose—which is to cause you to flee to Jesus.  Because finally, at the end of life, you will have nothing to your name except Jesus—and that is all you need.  God's whole purpose for your life is to save you, to deliver you at last from all evils, and to bring you to everlasting glory with him.  God works all things for that purpose and for your eternal good.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In concert -- James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt

A big THANK YOU to Nathanael for getting the tickets and taking me to see Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor in concert.  Both were fantastic.  Bonnie Raitt has not changed in 25 years.  She played a few numbers from her Nick of Time album which I had not listened to since the last century.  I have been You-Tubing them quite a bit thi past week.

James Taylor was excellent as always.  And I am sure that I am in the gross minority on this, but I wish he would play fewer of the never-fail-songs from his concerts (e.g., You've God a Friend; Fire and Rain; Steamroller) and more of the lesser-heard songs from his albums.  For example, James Taylor played a fantastic rendition of First Day of May, and also played Never Die Young, both from the Never Die Young album.  Of course, when you have so many songs to choose from over the years, you will never play what everyone wants to hear.

We had great seats for the concern--only about 11 rows from the stage.  No need to watch the video screens; we could see it all.

I took precious few photos of the concert.  I prefer to enjoy where I am live rather than watch it through a cell phone.  But here are a few.  Enjoy!

In case you want to hear Bonnie Raitt, here is Have a Heart from her Nick of Time album.  She sounds just as good now!

Luther Lecture: Session 8


          Our next session will be THIS SUNDAY (August 13) at 6:00 PM. This is intended to be an interactive discussion as well as informational. 

          The topic will focus on the distorted translations of certain Bible passages. These resulted in distorted doctrines which Luther corrected by focusing on the correct translation of Scripture which Luther also put into the hands of the common man for his consolation and salvation. 

          Desserts will be served, and door prizes will be given. All are welcome.

         Join us at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church, 41415 W. Nine Mile Road in Novi, MI.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sermon -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost (August 6, 2017)

ROMANS 8:26-27


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  It seems to be somewhat trendy these days for people to insist, “I don't belong to any church.  I follow the Bible.”  Somehow, this is viewed as enlightened or the sign of spiritual maturity.  However, it is contrary to God's desire and design for his Church.  The Church is the body of Christ.  The body does not have stray parts that go it alone.  Parts of the body that are removed are diseased or dead.  Likewise, Christians are not designed to go it alone.  The Lord joins us to a body of believers for our own good.  We are weak, and we need each other to aid us in our weakness.  God unites us to him through his word and joins us to one another so that we can pray for each other, encourage each other, comfort each other, and if necessary admonish each other so that we do not fall into sin and away from the faith.
     However, the people with whom you are united are all sinners.  We all have our own particular weaknesses and struggles.  We are also absorbed in our own problems.  As a result, we are not considerate of the weakness or struggles of others.  We do not care for each other or pray for each other as we ought.  Some take this personally.  I might get upset that you do not have as much concern about my problems as I do.  My problems matter to me, and they should matter to you just as much.  Then sinful weakness continues to assert itself when I may question your Christian faith with the snide accusation, “I thought Christians are supposed to love each other,” suggesting that if you are not as absorbed in my problems as I am, then your faith is a fraud.  It may even get to the point where I leave the Church thinking that I am better off going it alone.  This is sinful arrogance.  Remember: We are all sinful.  We are all weak.  We do not serve each other as well as we ought.  Repent.  And remember your own weakness.  Then, you will remember to be merciful to others in their weakness.
     The Lord does not have any weaknesses.  He is faithful in his love for us.  That is why the Lord does not cut us off from himself.  We fail the Lord daily, but he continues to love us perfectly.  The Lord does not see our weakness and conclude that we are not worth it.  Rather, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  God gave you his Spirit so that he would help you in your weakness.  St. Peter urged the crowds at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:39)  At your baptism, the Lord united you to Jesus.  In your baptism, your sin became Jesus' sin, and his righteousness became your righteousness.  You were delivered from your sin and covered in Jesus' holiness.  You were adopted into God's family.  And more than that, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Now, the Spirit dwells in you.  The Holy Spirit has given you new life and continues to create in you a right spirit which wants to do all that God wants.  This is why your weakness frustrates you.  You want to do what is right, but you fall short.
     Nevertheless, the Spirit helps you in your weakness.  He continues to work in you so that you continue to fight against sin and temptation.  But he also assures you of your place in God's kingdom.  St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In (Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it....” (Ephesians 1:13-14)  The Holy Spirit, who dwells in your body, will also raise your body at the resurrection to receive eternal life in God's kingdom.  Through word and sacrament, he will preserve you in the Christian faith until life everlasting.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  This is especially true when we are seeking to do God's will in our lives right now.  Therefore the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)  
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He gave the prophets and apostles the words of God to write down so that we can know God's will and pray that it be done among us.  But we do not always know what God's will is.  Do I take a new job or not?  Should I move to a new town or not?  Is this the right person to marry?  Should I have the surgery or can I put it off?  God does not tell us these things in his word.  He leaves the judgment of these things to us.  But then we are left to groan under the uncertainty and stress as we wonder what to do.  Our prayers falter, because we don't know what to pray for.  Dear Christians, you have not failed when you stammer through difficult prayers.  That is when the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  He prays for us and carries us with groanings too deep for words.  Though the Spirit's intercession for us may be unspeakable groans, the Father and the Son hear his prayer loud and clear.  The Father and the Son know the mind of the Spirit.  And the Triune God is fully united in doing what is best for you.
     The Spirit helps us in our weakness, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)  You don't know what God's will is for every direction or decision of your life.  But you do know that the God who gave up his only begotten Son to redeem you and you has sent his Spirit to dwell in you will always do what is best for your eternal well-being.  And the Holy Spirit intercedes for you that this will always be done for you.  It does not mean that you will always get what you want.  Children always know what they want, and they are convinced that their ideas are always best.  Parents who are older and wiser recognize that it is not best to give children whatever they ask for.  In some cases, it is destructive.  You can't have ice cream and candy for every meal.  In some cases, it is unrealistic.  You can't go to Disney World every weekend.  And in some cases, parents recognize that denying a child or disciplining a child is what is best for them.  A spanking now purges bad behavior later.  Having your children learn not to gratify every craving now will teach them contentment in the long run.  You may have to hear tantrums now because they want their goodies.  Later, what is perceived as hardship now will prove beneficial.
     So it is with you.  Out of love, God may have you endure problems, struggles, and pain just so that he can highlight your own weaknesses to you.  You will not think so, but this is good.  God even graciously puts up with your tantrums as he lovingly shows you how much you need him.  If you know that you are weak, then you have to rely on God for your strength.  If you suffer, then you will look for comfort.  If you struggle and grow weary, then you will not pretend that you can go it alone and you will seek mercy and aid.
     The Lord does not desire you to go through your Christian faith and life on your own.  You can't.  Therefore, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  The Lord is our strength when we are weak.  Throughout a life of uncertainty, God upholds his sure promises.  Through days of sadness and death, the Lord promises us the peace and joy of eternal life.  In our frustration and weakness, when our prayers come down to groans of “Lord, have mercy,” he does.  The Spirit prays for us and helps us in our weakness.  The Spirit, who dwells in us, serves to comfort, to encourage, and to preserve us in God's kingdom for all time.  This is his work, because this is God's will.

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Traveling with the Schroeders -- Summer activities

We haven't gone too far or done too much throughout the summer.  Some trips were short (stayed in Novi), others were a little bit further.  Anyway, here are a smattering of photos to highlight a few of the summer time activities we have done.

Fishing at Island Lake Recrecational Area.  We mainly drown worms.

Peter was a participant in the Novi Youth Baseball League All Star Game.

Nathanael and Peter enjoy a day at Splash Universe in Dundee, Michigan.

Swimming at Brighton Recreational Area.  We did not go on the inflatable rafts, but we did see a water snake swim right by us when we were playing catch with a football.