Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Something from ... Luther on this 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation

This day marks the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.  This is usually considered the event that kindled the Lutheran Reformation.  This momentary event was years in the making, and years of study, struggle, prayer, preaching, debating, writing, etc. continued well after October 31, 1517.

It is fitting to consider a comment from Martin Luther on this date.  And while there are so many valuable quotations to choose from, I submit this one to you for your consideration on this Reformation Day--500 years to the day when Martin Luther dared to question the practices which had invaded Christ's Church and directed people away from Christ. 

Luther's only goal was direct people to Jesus Christ whose life, sufferings, death, and resurrection had given him such solid assurance and enduring comfort for his own salvation.  It was an assurance and comfort he yearned for others to know as well.  With that in mind, I offer this from Martin Luther.

“Therefore, my dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified.  Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin.  You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.'”
Martin Luther, Luther's Works: American Edition, Volume 48, p 12

This is the door frame of the Castle Church where Luther posted his 95 Theses.
The current doors are brass with the 95 Theses embossed on them.  The original wooden doors burned years ago.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sermon -- 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 29, 2017)

MATTHEW 22:1-14


In the name + of Jesus.

     “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son...” (Matthew 22:2)  This very first sentence tells us a great deal about the kingdom of heaven.  It is ruled by a gracious King.  He invited many to the wedding feast for his Son.  He did not sell tickets or talk about a fee.  He supplied all things for his guests.  He prepared choice food for them at his own expense.  He had taken pains to let his subjects know that the feast was coming and that they would be the King's honored guests at his banquet.  When all things were ready, he invested the time and energy to gather those who had already been invited.  Finally, this was all done to honor the King's son to celebrate the union of him with his bride.  The King wanted to share his joy by graciously bringing many guests into his feast.
     So, the cry went out.  The King has prepared a feast.  But when these subjects were told that all things were now ready, they despised the King's feast and rejected the King's grace.  At first, they simply ignored the King's summons.  The King, ever gracious, sent out more servants to repeat the summons.  “The King has prepared a feast.  Come and rejoice!  Come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. (Matthew 22:4-6)  
     While some of the king's subjects violently rejected the king's grace, others just shrugged it off.  One went to his farm, another to his business.  They did not go out to do anything wicked.  One could even argue that their pursuits were noble.  But no matter how noble their activities were, the fact is that they rejected the king's grace.  The king did not refuse them grace; they rejected it. 
     The King had prepared a feast, and it was despised and rejected.  Therefore, the king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matthew 22:7)  It was not only the murderers who fell under the King's wrath and judgment; it was also the subjects who found other things to do than to go to the wedding feast.  Polite rejection is still rejection.  This, too, earns the King's wrath. 
     Jesus' parable was fulfilled shortly after his ascension.  The Jewish people who had rejected Jesus as their Messiah fell under God's judgment.  The Lord sent the Roman armies into Jerusalem who then destroyed the city and burned it to the ground.  Whether politely ignoring God's promises or plotted the death of God's Son, they had rejected God's grace.  They paid the price for it in 70 AD and even worse, eternally.
     Even though many fell under the King's judgment, the King was still determined to be gracious.  He said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’” (Matthew 22:8-9)  The servants went out and found whoever they could.  They did not run background checks to see who was good or bad.  They gathered whomever they could, whether good or bad, so that the wedding banquet would be full.  For the King had prepared a feast, and the King was determined to have grace upon people.
     Now, the heavenly King has been most gracious to you.  He had no reason to choose you to be a part of his kingdom, but he did.  He has spared no expense to bring you into his kingdom.  The King sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to labor throughout his life, to resist all temptations, and to provide perfect obedience to all of God's Commandments.  Jesus did the work that we have not done so that God's Law would be fulfilled in perfect, willing obedience.  This work had to be done; and now we have one who has done the work.  More than that, Jesus did the work for us.  The holiness you need to have to dwell in God's kingdom Jesus supplies.
     And again, when it comes to taking away all that brings the King's wrath against you for resisting his word, failing to do what he commands, or even refusing to do what he commands, Jesus has done the work for you.  Jesus has suffered the curse for your sins.  Jesus has taken the wrath of God from you and was put to death in your place.  You, on the other hand, have been set free from guilt, from punishment, from wrath, from hell, and from a cursed death.  You have been brought into God's kingdom.  Jesus has secured your place at the heavenly feast. 
     The King desires to be gracious.  The King has prepared a feast for you.  St. John wrote, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)  This is eternal life in the heavenly kingdom where you will be forever free from problems, stress, temptations, and evil.  There, you will know only joy, celebration, happiness, and blessing.  The Lord Jesus has secured your place at this heavenly feast.  There is no greater blessing for you.
     But you do not need to wait until you die to partake in this feast.  The King has prepared a feast, and the fact is that he invites you to it Sunday after Sunday.  Look at this altar.  The feast is here.  It is not reserved for some special day when you have departed from this world.  It comes to you now.  And you need it now.  What is this feast?  Jesus himself tell you: It is the body and blood which Jesus gave into death to gain for you the forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  This is the heavenly banquet which is delivered on earth.  Here, the King feeds you to forgive your sins, to deliver you from death and the devil, and to strengthen and sustain your faith against all the threats in the world which try to deceive you and rob you of your salvation. The King summons you to this feast not for his benefit, but for yours.  He desires to be gracious.  He desires to bring his salvation to you.
     But what does it mean when we politely reject the King's summons?  It was not just the murderers whom the King slaughtered in the parable; it was also the ones who politely declined coming to the King's feast because they had better things to do.  Polite rejection is still rejection.  It is telling the King, “I don't need your blessings; I have all I need.  Now excuse me, I have to get back to what matters to me.”  It is despising the King's grace for worldly goods, and it forfeits the good the King desires to give.
     The King has prepared a feast.  And the King desires to be gracious.  If we refuse his grace, he will find others to whom he will be gracious.  For the King desires to have his wedding hall filled with guests to whom he will be gracious.  What's more, the King even supplies the wedding garments for us so that we will not be like the guest who was cast out of the feast.  Naturally, the guest who had been pulled off the street would not have been wearing the right garment when he was brougth to the King's feast.  But the King is gracious.  He not only provides food for his guests, he would have even provided the garments.  But this guest, too, had rejected the King's grace.  He did not put on the garment the King had given him.
     The garment the King gives you is your baptism.  St. Paul wrote, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)  We cannot stand before our Lord in our sinful garments.  Even our best works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Therefore, the Lord covers us in the righteousness of Christ.  Your baptism supplies the very holiness God demands of you.  The King sees you now as holy and blameless and, therefore, worthy to have a place at the feast.  And it is through the feast that the King keeps you in his favor here until he finally delivers you to your place at the wedding feast of the Lamb forevermore.  The King has prepared a feast.  The King is eager to be gracious to you.  He rejoices that you are here, because he delights in being gracious to you and saving you.  And he will be eternally pleased that you will rejoice in his grace here and hereafter.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017



Tomorrow, Lutherfest 500 is finally here! 

The festival will be Saturday, October 28 from Noon - 5:00 PM at Huron Valley Lutheran High School.

Here is a schedule of events.

Here is our menu.

You can preview our polka band, Die Dorfmusikanten hereIf you don't know how to polka (horrors!), you can get a quick lesson hereThe video will start automatically.  (Scroll down just a little bit; look on the right side of the screen.)

You can get a sampling of our Luther Markt here.

You can get an idea what you might see at our Reformation Walk here.

If you want to sit down and watch a movie, you can see the movie Return to Grace Luther which was released just this year.  You can view the trailer here:

We will also have bouncy houses, games, and prizes for kids.  A $3 hand stamp allows for unlimited play.

You can test your knowledge of the Lutheran Reformation at our Trivia Station.

If you want some quiet time to consider the events of the Lutheran Reformation and, in particular, to read some of the writings of Martin Luther to see why we would dare call ourselves Lutheran, you can stop in the Quiet Room.

Please note that, while admission to the event itself is FREE, tickets for food, beverages, and games must be in cash only.  The Luther Markt is able to accept credit cards for any purchases you choose to make there.  Thank you for your consideration.

Join us!  For more details, check out the website: www.Lutherfest500.orgLink it to your Facebook page.  Invite your friends.  Spread the word, and join us!  

Oh, and remember: It comes TOMORROW!

On Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 PM, we will have our festival worship service at HVL as well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MLS Football vs. New Lothrop

This past weekend wrapped up a number of lasts for the Schroeder family.  It was the last games of the season for both JV and varsity.  It was Philip's last football game on the JV level.  It was Caleb's last home game, and it was his last game of high school football ever.  In the photos below, you will see his last catch which ended up completing a 2-point conversion.

Unfortunately, both games were heart-breakers.  On Thursday, October 19, the Michigan Lutheran Seminary JV Cardinals traveled to New Lothrop.  Laura and I could not make this last game because we were sitting in the Secretary of State for three hours.  Grandpa Schmidt got to represent the family.  His updates let us know that MLS was down 14-0, then came back to grab a 21-14 lead, only to lose in the final seconds 26-21.

The MLS Cardinals welcomed the Hornets of New Lothrop for the varsity contest on Friday, October 20.  It was Parents' Night, but Laura could not make this one either.  Peter had a living history presentation he had to make for St. Paul's. 

New Lothrop was a big team who ran their offense well.  MLS went into the locker room at halftime down, 14-7, but grabbed a lead in the 3rd quarter, 16-14.  Unfortunately, MLS could not put together any long drives, and New Lothrop continued to make theirs.  The final score was 35-24.

There are no photos from the JV game since I wasn't there, but here are some from the varsity game.

The last pre-game speech, delivered by Coach Karl Schmugge.

The last run under the banner.

Caleb on punt coverage.  If memory serves, he ended up making the tackle.
Halftime. One last chance to make adjustments.

The last catch, for a 2 point conversion.

Caleb walks off the field for the last time.

The last team huddle.

It has become a tradition for the seniors to walk the field after their final home game.  It is one of the most bitter-sweet moments of high school football.  So much work, so much dedication, so much camaraderie, so much sweat, and finally so many tears.  And now, it is delegated to memories.  It was so much fun to watch, and I will miss it as much as Caleb.

Teammates.  Seniors.

Grandpa Schmidt with Philip and Caleb

Monday, October 23, 2017

Lutherfest 500 -- 5 days away!

As I said, five days until Lutherfest 500!

Saturday, October 28 from Noon - 5:00 PM.

We will be at Huron Valley Lutheran High School (33740 Cowan Road in Westland, MI).

Check out www.Lutherfest500.org for more information.

Also come to our festival Reformation service, also at HVL, on Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 PM.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sermon -- 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 22, 2017)

MATTHEW 21:33-46


In the name + of Jesus.

     For the third week in a row, we hear Jesus speak a parable about workers in a vineyard.  And for the third week in a row, Jesus issues a warning to his listeners.  In fact, there is almost no good news to be found in this parable at all.  The vineyard is used repeatedly in the Bible as a metaphor for the kingdom of God.  The vineyard belongs to the Lord.  He graciously finds people to receive the benefits of it.  In turn, the Lord seeks fruit from his vineyard.
     The tenant farmers in this parable enjoyed their place in the master’s vineyard.  But they did not love the master.  The servants he sent were abused, beaten, and slain.  When the master sent more servants, they were treated the same.  Finally, the master sent his son.  The master reasoned, “He bears my name.  He comes with my authority.  Certainly, they will treat my son with the same regard they would have for me.”  And in truth, they did.  They enjoyed their place in the master’s vineyard, but they did not love the master.  They, likewise, despised his son.  They cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
     In its original context, Jesus told this parable as a warning to the religious leaders of his day.  The priests and the Pharisees enjoyed their place and their prestige in the Lord’s vineyard.  But they did not pay heed to God’s word.  The Lord had sent servants to warn them to stop trusting in their reputation and in their positions of power.  They were to repent; for dust they were, and to dust they would return.  But they despised the prophets.  John the Baptist had been the latest in the line of casualties.  Surely they would respect God’s Son!  They did not.  Even though the Pharisees recognized that Jesus’ parable was about them, they did not heed its warning.  Just three days after Jesus told this parable, the priests and Pharisees fulfilled it by killing Jesus.
     The original purpose of this parable was to warn the Pharisees and to call them to repent.  But it is not included in Matthew’s gospel just so we can hear Jesus stick it to his enemies.  There is a stern warning for us as well.  You, dear Christians, are workers in the vineyard.  The Lord has graciously brought you into his vineyard to receive the benefits of his kingdom.  In turn, the Lord seeks fruit from his vineyard.  But like the Pharisees, we can get really comfortable and assume that we are entitled to a place in the Lord’s church.  When that feeling of entitlement comes, we forget that we are sinners.  We no longer are driven to repent.  We even begin to challenge parts of God’s word and tell him that they do not apply to us. 
     Consider how the Pharisees attacked Jesus.  They presented Jesus with questions in which they tried to play, “Gotcha!”  They were not interested in producing fruits of faith; they were interested in proving that parts of God's word did not include them.  They came to Jesus and asked, “Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?  Moses told us to write a certificate of divorce and that’s all there is to it.  Do you disagree with Moses?”  Jesus pointed them to the first marriage for what God intends a marriage to be—a lifelong union of man and woman.  Today, people challenge that and insist, “Marriage is just a piece of paper.”  This is an insult to God and to everyone who is married.  Marriage is hard.  A sinful man and a sinful woman daily put their selfishness to death to seek the good of the other.  It is not a piece of paper; it is the image of Christ who sacrificed himself for the good of the Church and of the Church who submits to Christ to receive his blessings.  Marriage is blessed by God and is designed to bring great joy.  Sinners make it hard.  You don’t have to go through a divorce to know that.  But joy comes from marriage only when you put in the work.  The Lord seeks this fruit from his vineyard. 
     The Pharisees also challenged, “Do we really have to honor our government?  Caesar calls himself a god.  The government is corrupt and brutal.  Are we really supposed to support that?”  Jesus asked them for a coin.  “Let me see, whose inscription is on this and whose image?  So, if you use Caesar’s money, and travel on Caesar’s roads, and enjoy the peace and order Caesar brings to your society, then you owe Caesar obedience and honor.  Give him what you owe, and honor God above all.”  We have enjoyed peace, prosperity, clean water, paved roads, law and order, and so on from our government.  We give them scorn, but not our prayers. 
     There is nothing new under the sun.  Like the Pharisees, we don’t like what God says about marriage and divorce, about obedience to the government, and the list of sins goes on.  The Lord seeks fruit from his vineyard, and we are the laborers in that vineyard.  The service God seeks is glad obedience to his word, even it it is hard, unpopular, or inconvenient.  If God’s word exposes our sins, then we ought to repent, not make excuses.  It is incredible to hear Christians be shown that their lives do not align with God’s word only to have them dismiss it by insisting, “Well, in this case, it’s different.”  The only thing different is that it is you.  You probably do not feel bad hearing Jesus warn the Pharisees.  You might even feel smug about it, because it is not you.  But when Jesus’ warning is directed to you, you get defensive.  It is not different.  Jesus issues the warning so that you do not lose the blessings you have been given.
     Jesus wants you to take his warning seriously, so he does not mince words.  “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)  The Lord did remove the kingdom from the Pharisees.  God’s judgment came down on them hard.  Sadly, it is a common refrain.  Martin Luther saw it too.  He compared the preaching of the Gospel to a rain shower that falls on a certain place for a while.  It brings life and refreshment to the people who first hear it.  But then people get bored with it.  They assume that salvation is theirs while they go on with worldly and selfish pursuits.  For that reason, the Gospel shower stops.  The kingdom is taken away.  500 years after Martin Luther, the German churches have been reduced to museums—beautiful, but empty.  It seems to be happening in America too.  The church here does not dwindle because of persecution; it dwindles because of pleasure, money, and leisure.
     Now, as I had said earlier, there is not much good news to be found in this parable.  But we do find some.  First of all, you are in the Lord’s vineyard, which means God has brought you into his kingdom.  You have been washed clean of your sins through baptism.  You have been entrusted with God’s word.  You are fed and nourished with the body and blood of the Lord for the strengthening of faith and the forgiveness of sins.  These are priceless blessings.  These are where the Lord delivers his salvation to you.
     And there is good news that the Lord Jesus cares enough for you to warn you not to lose what he has given you.  He is the cornerstone on which the Church is built and on which salvation is found.  If this rock dashes you to pieces, it is because he desire to reform and restore you into godly people.  He works repentance in you so that you do not fall off the foundation of God’s word.  If he rebukes you, it is because he loves you.  It is because he wants you to benefit from the sufferings and death he endured to pay the price for your sins.  Jesus submitted himself to the evil plans of the priests and the Pharisees for your good.  It is at the cross that God’s wrath has been removed from you.  Jesus did not see anything different about you and your sins.  He suffered and died for you just as much as anyone else.  If you insist your sins are different, then Jesus’ sufferings and death are not yours.  But if you are a sinner, then Jesus’ sufferings and death are for you.  Your guilt has been taken by Jesus.  Your sins are forgiven through him.  And his word of peace is yours.
     The Lord seeks fruit from his vineyard.  He wants to know that the faith he has worked in your heart is seen in your life.  The words which declare God’s forgiveness are yours; and it is the same Lord who declares what is good and godly for you.  If the Lord is good, then so is his word—all of it.  The same word which saves you also works in you to guide you, comfort you, direct you, encourage you, and console you.  The Lord is good.  His word declares what is good.  The Spirit works in you so that you prodcue what is good.  All this so that you will remain in the Lord's vineyard for good.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MLS Football vs. Pinconning

The season is coming to an end here pretty quickly.  The second last games of the season also produced some "lasts" for the Schroeder household.  Philip played in his last home game as a JV player.  Caleb played in his last away game ever for high school football.  (There is a very slim chance for playoffs which would be one more away game, but a number of dominoes have to fall just right for that to happen.)

The second last week of the season was pretty enjoyable for Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinal fans.  The JV hosted the Spartans of Pinconning on Thursday, October 26.  Just about everything went right for the Cardinals, allowing them to post a 47-7 win.

Some photos of Philip's game.

Philip has been the holder for PAT's all season. 
He did actually manage to get this one down in time for the kick!

The varsity travelled up the road to Pinconning.  The Schroeders sat and sat and sat on US 23, but we still managed to make it in time for kickoff.  Once again, a lot went right for the Cardinals.  They put of a 41-6 victory on a very comfortable, football-friendly October evening.  Also, one note about the stadium at Pinconning.  From the visitors' side, you get to view farmland behind the stadium boundaries.  There was not one windmill with the blinking red lights to corrupt the view.  Nice!

Some photos of Caleb's game.

Caleb was in good position for the interception, but he could not haul it in.

Caleb was able to field the kickoff.  I think he returned it only a few yards though.

I think this was Caleb's only catch on the night.  Nice gain, though!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sermon -- 19th Sunday after Pentecost (October 15, 2017)

MATTHEW 21:28-32


In the name + of Jesus.

     In last week's Gospel, the master of the vineyard went to the marketplace to find day workers.  He hired many, and he sent them to work in his vineyard.  In today's Gospel, it is a father who calls his own sons to go out and work in his vineyard.  These two are not merely hired hands who serve the master for a day.  They are sons of the house and heirs of the estate.  They already possess all of the good things of their father.  To serve one's father when asked should not be considered a burden.  It was their own estate which would benefit from their labors, and their father would be honored by their work.
     When the father asked the first son to go into the vineyard and work for him, he replied rudely: “I will not,” but afterward he changed his mind and went.  And he went to the other son and said the same.  And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (Matthew 21:29-30)  Now the parable was told as a warning to the Pharisees.  They were the religious leaders, not only studying the Scriptures but also teaching it to others.  They knew what God desired of all people.  And they gave the response to their heavenly Father just as the second son had.  It was a dutiful, “Yes, Lord.  I will Lord.  I know.”  But the Pharisees only paid lip service to their Father's word.  They did not do the things they said they knew were right.
     On the other hand, Jesus told them, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)  The tax collectors and prostitutes were like the first son who heard the word of the Lord and replied, “No.  I will not.  I will do what I want and serve myself.”  The tax collectors were thieves.  They were Jews hired by the Romans to tax their fellow Jews.  They inflated the amount of tax which they were owed and pocketed the extra for themselves.  Everyone knew it, but no one could really do anything about it without facing charges for tax evasion.  For this, the tax collectors were despised.  And prostitutes?  Well, we know what they did.  And yet, when John the Baptist preached and called them to repent of their sinful ways, they did.  They did not merely say they were wrong and were sorry.  They gave up stealing and selling themselves.  Both gave up lucrative habits because they were wicked habits. 
     Now, remember, both were considered sons in the parable Jesus told.  All the people Jesus spoke about were Israelites under God's covenant.  Both knew the word of the Lord and, therefore, their Father's will.  And both had sinned against him.  The Pharisees, however, did not repent, but persisted in not following the will of their Father.
     It is hard not to read through this parable and to try to figure out which son you are.  In fact, that is why the parable is told.  It is a warning either way.  Tax collectors and prostitutes were not told that their sins did not matter.  Their sins were obvious, and everyone in society knew it.  They were commanded to repent and flee their sinful living; and they did.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, enjoyed a good reputation in their society.  They were the polite son.  They said all the right things.  Every Christian should take warning so that we do not become Pharisees.  We come to church and publicly confess that we are sinners—that we have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.  The confession is pretty generic.  It is true, but it is still generic.  We probably do not take stock of the specific sins we have committed against God.  And if we have not been specific, then we probably are not too intent on fleeing from the sins we are guilty of.  It is easy to confess generic sins; we bristle when we are called to repent of specific infractions.  For example, it is easy to agree with, “You shall not steal.”  But we get defensive when we hear, “Stop telling the theme park your son is twelve so you can save $5 on admission and then brag about it to your family.”
     Take warning: Like the Pharisees, we say all the right words.  We know what the Father's will is, and we know the right thing to do.  But we do not follow up the right words with the right actions.  We think that since our sins are not as obvious as that of a prostitute, then we don't need to be so concerned about our repentance.  Or we think that God's absolution is also God's permission to change nothing.  Repent.  The prostitutes and tax collectors are more commendable than that.
     Throughout our lives, we have been both sons—both the son who rejected the Father's word, and the son who politely said he would do the Father's will but did not.  We have vowed to live according to God's truth, but in our weakness or laziness, we did not do it.  Or we have heard the word of the Lord and protested, “That is too hard.  That will cost me something.  I will not do it.”  Both are wrong.  Both are sin.  None of us has been an obedient child of God.
     But your place in God's kingdom is not yours because you have been such an obedient son.  Your place in God's kingdom is yours because of another son.  He is not a son mentioned in the parable.  He is the Son who told the parable.
     Jesus Christ is the perfectly obedient Son of the Father.  Even before the creation of the world, the Father had determined that his Son would come into the world to save sinners.  The Son obeyed the Father's will.  He did not argue or shirk his duties.  The Almighty God came into this world as a helpless infant.  The designer of the universe and the laws of physics submited himself to the sinful designs of mankind and their corrupted laws.  What's more, the Son of God came to suffer for crimes he did not commit and to die under a curse he did not deserve.  Jesus was not only innocent of crimes; he was holy in all things. 
     Now, if you were falsely accused of a crime, you would not humbly and quietly go to prison for it.  If someone handed you a large fine for someone else's violation, you would refuse to pay and get pretty enraged about it.  You recognize that justice means the guilty should pay the price for their own misdeeds.  Jesus points you to the obedient Son.  He dutifully took up sins he did not commit.  He willingly accepted as his own the charges that stood against us.  Jesus paid the price for all sinners.  Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)  It is that holy, innocent sufferings and death, willingly endured by Jesus for us, that saves us.  This is what the Lord says, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)  The blood of Christ marks you as children of God.  And if you are children of God, then you are heirs of his estate. 
     Jesus points us to the obedient Son.  The Son of God has made you all sons of God.  And if you are sons, then you are called to live according to the will of your Father in heaven.  Even though you will not hit perfection in this life, you will still strive for it.  You have been taught the word of God so that you know what faithful, obedient service looks like.  God shows you what is good in his commandments.  He does not tell you it will always be easy.  You will be fighting against the world which mocks you for denying yourself whatever sins you can get away with.  You will be fighting your own flesh which yearns and aches for sinful pleasures.  And your flesh will also gripe when doing what is good and right is inconvenient or costly.  Still, the fight and the struggle are necessary.  The tax collectors and prostitutes did not use Jesus' forgiveness as a reason to return to their trade.  They abandoned what was wicked because sin brings a curse.  They turned to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins and for strength to live as the Father desires.
     And so it is with you.  Jesus is the obedient Son who calls you to be obedient children.  Even though you are weak, God does not revoke his love.  Even though you fall into temptation, God does not withhold his mercy.  He still assures you that you are his beloved child.  He works repentance in you, which not only seeks forgiveness, but also seeks the strength to will and to live according to the Father's will. 
     We confess our sins, and we confess our faith.  But our confession is not merely lip-service.  We give our whole lives to confessing our faith.  We do not just call ourselves children of the heavenly Father; we strive to live like it.  And our comfort forever remains this: that our Father in heaven delights to call us his children for Jesus' sake, now and forever.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lutherfest 500 -- just 2 weeks away!

Just over two weeks to go until Lutherfest 500 is here!  That's 16 days from now.  Just a bit more than a fortnight.  The clock ticks down.....

The festival will be Saturday, October 28 from Noon - 5:00 PM at Huron Valley Lutheran High School.

On Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 PM, we will have our festival worship service at HVL as well.

Here is a tentative schedule of events.

Here is our proposed menu.

You can preview our polka band, Die Dorfmusikanten here.

You can get a sampling of our Luther Markt here.

You can get an idea what you might see at our Reformation Walk here.

If you want to sit down and watch a movie, you can see the trailer (below) for the movie Luther which was released in 2003 and stars Joseph Fiennes.  (The final decision has yet to be made for which movie about the Lutheran Reformation we will show.)

We will also have bouncy houses, games, and prizes for kids.  A $3 wristband allows for unlimited play.

You can test your knowledge of the Lutheran Reformation at our Trivia station.

Join us!  For more details, check out the website: www.Lutherfest500.org.  Link it to your Facebook page.  Invite your friends.  Spread the word, and join us!

Monday, October 9, 2017

MLS Homecoming 2017

MLS had their homecoming on Friday, October 6.  This was also in conjuction with a Teachers' Conference Laura went to in Bay City on the Wednesday-Friday of that week.  Peter and I were looking forward to a getaway for a chunk of the Wednesday-Friday, but duties meant that we were not going to get to Bay City until Thursday afternoon.

Here are some photos from the Thursday-Friday of the week, including football games against the Bulldogs of St. Charles.  The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals traveled to St. Charles on Thursday, October 5 and came up with a 43-34 victory.  The varsity hosted the Bulldogs and put together a 38-0 victory for the homecoming crowd.  Both Caleb's and Philip's best contributions were with good blocking for their teammates.

Some photos.
Philip seesm to get doubled teamed a lot on defense.

Wienermobile in Bay City.

Another hard day for Peter.

The seniors boys from the MLS football team who are also in concert choir sing the national anthem.

Just out of bounds.  SO close to a TD

Good block to seal the edge for the TD run.

This was offensive pass interference.  Either that, or Caleb attacked his shove with his back hairs.

Caleb and Nathanael at homecoming.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sermon -- 18th Sunday after Pentecost (October 8, 2017)

MATTHEW 20:1-16


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus Christ is a terrible business man.  He does not understand the value of a dollar.  He does not comprehend what it means to pay people what they deserve.  Even though some work harder and bear heavier burdens, he does not compensate them accordingly.  The worker who shows up late gets the same salary as the one who is on time and works all day.  From a business standpoint, it teaches us that you may as well be negligent because everyone gets treated the same anyway.  But here is the catch: It is not that our Lord Jesus Christ is a terrible business man.  It is that our Lord Jesus Christ is not a business man at all.
     The Lord's business is grace.  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1-2)  The workers did not come to the master looking for work.  He had to go out and find them.  He called them to service, and he promised to pay them what was right—a denarius, a day's wage.  But then the master continued to call in workers.  Some worked nine hours.  Some worked six.  Some three, and a few only one.  And then the master compensated all of them a full day's wage.
     If it seems unfair to you, you are not alone.  Jesus spoke about one man who lodged a complaint with the master.  “On receiving (the wage) they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” (Matthew 20:11-12)  From a business standpoint, his complaint is legitimate.  He who works longer and harder deserves more.  But the Lord Jesus is not a business man.  The Lord's business is grace.
     For as much as we all rejoice that we have received God's grace and for as much as Lutheran's repeat one of the pillars of the Lutheran Reformation—that we are saved by grace alone—we also are guilty of despising grace.  We are like the worker who lodged the complaint to the master against the workers called at the last hour.  Most of us here have been baptized as infants and raised in the Christian Church.  We have known nothing else.  The Lord brought us into his vineyard for service for the full length of our lives.  While this is a great blessing, it has also brougth on great struggles.  You know what it is to fight against temptation rather that to simply give into it.  You know what it is to see your friends embrace a perverse and worldly attitude and to feel very much alone in refusing to go along, refusing to celebrate it, and even refusing to suggest that it is okay.  You know how frustrating it is to fight the good fight of the faith when your own sinful flesh would just love to quit the faith for an evening or a weekend.  This is the burden we all bear as Christians, and the heat of the day seems destined to pick up as we face ridicule and revulsion from the world because we walk in the way of God's truth.
     Now, when we see or hear about someone who repents late in life, we protest.  We lament that it is unfair that someone else got to indulge in whatever sex, drugs, and rock and roll he could handle, and that a death bed confession excuses all of it.  It is as if we actually envy the unbelievers and wish we could indulge in sin and get away with it.  Repent.  You think of yourself more highly than you ought to.  First of all, if you were born into a Christian family who raised you in the church, that is God's grace too.  God could have placed you in a family of hard core pagans.  He chose to bless you instead.  Secondly, death bed conversions are rare.  Most people die as they live.  If they were rebellious, perverse people throughout their entire lives, they will almost certainly die as rebellious, perverse people.  Third, your lament makes you just like the laborer from the vineyard who complained: "Lord, you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” (Matthew 20:12)
     Ironically, the complaint is true.  The Lord does make you equal.  You are not a Christian because you are better.  You are not saved because you have worked harder.  The Lord does not owe you salvation, or anything good for that matter.  The Lord's business is grace.  That means the Lord gives you what you have not worked for and what you do not deserve.  The Lord's business is grace.
     We complain because we think we deserve better.  But our own hearts convict us.  We do not rejoice at the repentance of all sinners.  We believe that some are beyond forgiveness.  If you had heard that Adolf Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden repented before they died, you might be angry rather than rejoice.  You want them to pay for their evil deeds.  You may even find yourself praying that God would give people what is fair.  But if God were fair, then we all must perish.  If God is fair, then you have to pay for your merciless attitude toward others.  We have not mastered love, not even when we have received it.  We are sinners.  We are no better.  We are all equal under God's law.
     But God's business is grace.  God did not act to save good people.  God acted to save sinners.  God acted to pay the price for people who do not love all others, who boast about their works, and who are not merciful enough.  Jesus came to secure the same forgiveness for all sinners.  Rather than concern himself with who is a worse sinner or a better sinner, Jesus came to suffer and die for all sinners.  The holy and innocent blood he shed on the cross is on behalf of all who are guilty, no matter how long they have lived in their guilt.  Jesus' righteous life was given up for all people.  No one is so good that he does not need Jesus' forgiveness.  No one is so bad that he is beyond Jesus' forgiveness.  Jesus has won deliverance from death and hell by his resurrection.  Jesus has granted you all of his blessings to you through your baptism—whether than was when you were days old or if it were just a few days ago.  All who believe and are baptized have received the same forgiveness, the same salvation, the same “denarius.”  It is not fair.  It is grace.  But God's business is grace.
     Our own sinful nature will always complain that we have labored longer against sin and temptation than other people—not that we've master it.  But our Lord has us bear a cross so that we daily crucify our sinful desires and so that our Lord will raise up pure desires in us.  This is a daily struggle.  Often it is a hard struggle.  Life in the Church Militant demands this fight.
     But you do not need to envy those who neither struggle nor fight.  You are under God's grace.  And if you have been under that grace your whole life—as it is for many of you—that means you have always known your sins are forgiven.  That means you have always known that God works even the evil things in this world for your ultimate good.  That means when death's hour comes—whether peacefully or violently, whether it comes as expected or by surprise—you know that eternal life in God's glory awaits.  We look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.  You know these things because our gracious Lord has revealed them to you and delivers them to you again and again through word and sacrament.  Should not the world envy you for this?
     The master told the disgruntled servant: “I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matthew 20:14-15)  The Lord has been pleased to bestow his grace upon you.  And he still desires to bestow it upon others.  It does not come at your expense, but at the Lord's.  The Lord's business is grace.  And he has made it his business to include you in his grace.  Let's make it our business to proclaim God's grace to others.  We lose nothing by doing so; and we will gain other people to labor with us in the vineyard and to thank God with us.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

MLS Football -- A month's worth of catch-up

I have been slow in getting photos of the season on this blog.  Part of the reason is time.  Part of the reason is that the season is not going as well as we had hoped.  It does not appear that there have been any M-Live articles since the first game.  I don't know if MLS has been featured often Friday Night Lights (WNEM, Saginaw); but then I have not scoured the internet for any coverage, either.

Caleb (#3) has enjoyed some success at wide receiver in his senior year for the Michigan Lutheran Seminary Cardinals, including a few long TD catches.  Philip (#70) had an ankle injury while on JV, which contributed to some limited playing time.  He is working on becoming a better defensive lineman.  He also played some on the offensive line.

Here is a smattering of photos from the season for the past number of weeks, including scores.

Wednesday, August 30 -- JV
Ovid Elsie    25
MLS               7
If memory serves, Philip was injured and did not play.  Therefore, we chose not to make the trip and took no photos.

Thursday, August 31 -- Varsity
MLS               14
Ovid-Elsie      34
Caleb hauls in a catch at Ovid-Elsie.

Thursday, September 7 -- JV
Hemlock     22
MLS             6

Friday, September 8 -- Varsity
MLS           38
Hemlock    16
Caleb makes a nice block (far left) to seal the hole on the TD run.

Caleb (on the far end) lines up with the Cardinal D on the goal line.

Thursday, September 14 -- JV
MLS      15
Ithaca    44

Friday, September 15 -- Varsity
MLS       7
Ithaca   42
MLS recovers an Ithaca fumble.  I don't know if Caleb recovered it, but he is one of the red jerseys by the ball.
Just shy of blocking the PAT.
Thursday, September 21 -- JV
St. Louis   21
MLS         35
Good block there, Philip!

Yes, that is Philip holding on the PAT.  He has been doing this all season.
Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt made the trek to see Philip play.  Peter models the helmet.

Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23 -- Varsity
MLS          22
St. Louis    25

This game at St. Louis ranks as one of the most bizarre games I had been to.  (The Hall of Fame Game which was cancelled on account of bad paint will forever rank at the top.)  There were about 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  MLS was down 25-14.  MLS was near mid-field and, finally having some momentum, was driving.  Cade Kestner dropped back to pass, released the ball ... and the stadium lights went out.  Dark.  That's what we saw.  Dark.  The game was suspended and finished Saturday morning.  We opted not to drive the 2 hours to watch the final 7 minutes.  Apparently, it was an exciting finish, but MLS came up short.

Deep throw to set up a 1st and goal at the 4 yard line.  Too bad we did not punch it in.

TD catch by Caleb on a 3rd and goal from the 40...really.  Sorry it is blurry.
 I was paying more attention to live action than to the camera.  (Sometimes I watch the game.)

Sweet catch!
Thursday, September 28 -- JV
Valley Lutheran

Philip at center, getting final instructions (the snap count?).

Good work getting that snap down!
Friday, September 29 -- Varsity
MLS                    48
Valley Lutheran    7

The catch....

...and crossing the goal line for the long TD!!!

Sealing the edge of the PAT.