Monday, January 29, 2018

Local Tourist -- St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Livonia

Monday, January 29 provided the opportunity to visit St. Mary's Antiochian  Orthodox Church in Livonia, Michigan.  The church is Antiochian, meaning that it has its roots in Syria rather than Greece or Russia.  (Antioch was one of five major centers of Christianity in the early centuries of the New Testament Church.)

NOTE: This commentary is also being submitted to Father George Shalhoub who has served at St. Mary's Orthodox Church since its inception (1972) and was also chiefly instrumental in its construction.  Pastor Geoff Kieta and I were given our tour by Father George, for which we are especially grateful.

Being somewhat acquainted with Orthodox traditions, especially in regard to iconography and ceremonies, I was prepared to see a rather ornate church.  I was not disappointed. 

While the nave of the church is more plain, it is still reverent.  The walls and ceiling are white.  Low columns allign the side aisles.  The low columns, rather than the high columns and ceilings in Gothic architecture, make the people in the rear pews feel closer to the front.  Father George also explained that the columns reflect Syrian roots rather than Roman or European.  Clear windows are etched with symbols which proclaim doctrine as well as let in natural lighting.  Most striking, of course, are the vibrant colors in the chancel and in the copula where the cross-shaped church intersects.

The imagery in the murals is magnificent.  Once again, they proclaim doctrine as well as please the eyes.  In the archways, the symbols of the Gospel writers are seen (in descending order -- eagle, ox, lion, man).  Around the base of the dome are images of various saints which are significant to the Antiochian Orthodox tradition.  Ringed around, just above them, are the words: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Sabaoth.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord," which are part of the Communion liturgy.  It is a reminder both of where we are and who comes to us.  Above that are twelve Old Testament prophets, many of whom hold parchment which proclaims the Messianic promise unique to them.  Finally, the eye is drawn to Christ Pantocrator (the almighty).

The dome is held up by arches, and the Gospel writers are in the corners of the arches.  They are holding everything up, as it were.

The rood screen, which separates the altar from the nave of the church, has panels which depict apostles, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the dormition of Mary (after which the church is actually named), et al.  The doors which lead to the altar have on them the angels Gabriel and Michael.  Of course, the angels no longer bar the way to the Tree of Life.  Its fruit (Christ) is given to God's faithful in Holy Communion.

Behind the rood screen is the altar.  On the altar are the tabernacle, which holds the reserved elements for communion later, and the Gospel Book.  Behind the altar is depicted the Lord Jesus Christ celebrating the sacrament with his apostles.  Even Judas Iscariot is depicted, but he has turned and is walking away from Jesus and the feast.  Flanking the apostles further out are church fathers which are significant to the Antiochian Orthodox church -- St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, and St. Ignatius, each holding parchment which bears a quotation from them.  Above the altar sits the Virgin Mary with the Christ child on her lap.  They are flanked by angels, and above are the sun and the moon, representing all creation which worships the Christ.

A great deal of time can be spent simply absorbing what is proclaimed in the iconography and architechture of this church.  It also highlights the importance of using God's gifts to declare his promises and his praise in as many ways as possible.  Good artistry proclaims a lot!

Naturally, this was not done easily or cheaply.  Father George explained some of the challenges and hardships that his parish had to endure in the construction and beautification of his church.  Nevertheless, by persisting in their efforts, St. Mary's Orthodox congregation has a church whose images will be etched into the minds of their parishioners as well as the liturgy they use Sunday after Sunday.

What's more, they are not done yet!  Father George explained the plans they have for some of the white space that remains on the ceilings in the front of the church.  (The nave, he explained, will remain a white ceiling.)  He suggested that the remaining art and icons should be done by the end of this year.  That demands a return trip and another tour.

Here are some photos.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sunday Night Bible Series -- JESUS--Lord or Legend? begins Feb 11


JESUS – Lord or Legend?

Jesus of Nazareth is the most written about person in the world.  He is also one of the most debated figures in the world.  In this eight-part series, Dr. Maier explores a three-lane highway to the past through the  disciplines of Archaeology, History, and Geography.  Along the journey, we look back to the world that Jesus himself saw as he moved toward the cross.  The tentative schedule for this series is as follows.

History and Archaeology: God's “Back-up Systems”
SESSION 1  –  Our Sources of Information                     February 11
SESSION 2  –  Archaeology and History                        March 11
SESSION 3  –  The Works of Josephus                           April 8

New Perspectives on the Life of Jesus
SESSION 4  –  The Infancy Narratives May 6
SESSION 5  –  Jesus' Public Ministry June 10

The Crucifixion and Resurrection Revisited 
SESSION 6  –  The Week That Changed the World July 8
SESSION 7  –  The Resurrection Revisited August 12

The Explosion of Christianity
SESSION 8  –  The Explosion of Christianity September 9

After viewing a DVD segment, we will have questions & answers and follow-up discussion about the material which Dr. Maier presents.

All sessions will be on Sundays, beginning at 6:00 PM.  Desserts and/or snacks will be served.

Dr. Paul Maier, best-selling author, scholar and Lutheran pastor, has served for many years as a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Things that make me go HMMMMMMM -- Super Bowl 52

On Sunday, February 4, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles will face each other for Super Bowl LII (52, that is).  These two teams had played each other before in Super Bowl XXXIX (39, that is), with New England proving to be victorious, 24-21.

The previous Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl was played in Jacksonville, Florida.  This upcoming Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl will be played in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Which two teams did the Patriots and Eagles just beat to get to Super Bowl LII?

Things that make me go HMMMMMMM.....

A Pastoral Concern -- A Litany of the Gift of Life and for the Protection of the Unborn

A Litany for the Gift of Life and for the Protection of the Unborn,
grieving the legality of abortion in American since Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973)

P: Almighty and eternal God, you have created this world and all of us in it.  We praise you, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Lead all people everywhere to see that you are our Maker and that we are the work of your hands so that all would consider human life to be sacred.  Protect and defend all to whom you give life, whether born or unborn, until that day when you take our life from us again.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

P: Heavenly Father, you do not delight in the death of the wicked, but that all would turn from their evil ways and live.  Keep us from evil, and forgive us our sins.  Strengthen us to proclaim your Law and to warn those who would continue in their sins.  At this time, we especially pray that you would help us to warn those who continue in the sin of abortion.  Work mightily through your word to bring to repentance all who seek, provide, or support these willful acts of murder.  Change the hearts of people who see this wrong and dare to call it a right, and who are so blind to call good what is evil.  We ask not only that our nation may be cleansed of this heinous sin, but also that you turn all people from their evil ways so that they would live.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

P: Lord of the nations, you have given authority to the governments of this world to bring order and protection and to punish the wrongdoer.  We pray for our rulers that they would act responsibly in their positions over us.  Cause the leaders of our nation to restore justice for the unborn, who are being oppressed and killed.  Grant our President wisdom and courage to speak out against abortion.  Guide our legislators to propose, support, and pass laws that would protect the life of all people, whether unborn, elderly, frail, defenseless, or handicapped.  Move our judges to do your will in all cases which decide life and death.  Teach all rulers to despise what is evil and to cling to what is good.  Lord, in your mercy, 
C: Hear our prayer.

P: Heavenly Father, you have commanded us to live chaste and decent lives.  Bring all people to recognize the virtue of chastity, to exercise self-control over their sexual impulses, to honor marriage, and to keep the marriage bed pure so that every pregnancy is a cause for joy rather than regret.  Teach husbands and wives to regard children as a reward to be cherished and not a burden to be avoided.  Grant to all pregnant women, according to your mercy, a happy result in their childbearing.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

P:  Merciful Father, we thank you for the mercies you have bestowed upon us through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Many still bear the guilt, the shame, and the scars from sins they have committed against you.  Reveal to fearful sinners your mercies through the sufferings and death of your Son, Jesus Christ – whose body was cut, abused, and pierced to pay for sin, whose life was given up for the benefit of all, and whose blood was shed to cover over our guilt and shame.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

P: Gracious Redeemer, you have called us to be the salt of the earth that this world might be preserved from greater wickedness.  Grant that more people will take your word to heart so that they will not sin by killing their children.  Bless those who work in our Pregnancy Care Centers so that they may faithfully speak your word to those who come to them.  Let the fear of your wrath crush those who plot wickedness, and let your forgiveness deliver the penitent from damnation and despair.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

P: Gracious Redeemer, you have called us to be lights to the world.  Embolden us to bring your word to those around us.  Strengthen each of us so that, by our words, deeds, and prayers, we may truly be little christs to this world – doing your will, defending the helpless, aiding the needy, standing by the lonely, comforting the fearful, holding on to your truth, upholding your glory, and demonstrating your love.  Lord, in your mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

Other intercessions may be offered.

P: Heavenly Father, we bring all of our petitions and intercessions to you, trusting that you will hear and act for our good, according to the promises of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we join to pray….


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (January 21, 2018)

JONAH 3:1-10

In the name + of Jesus.

     The word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time... (Jonah 3:1)  The reason the Lord had called Jonah a second time is because Jonah had no interest in the Lord's call the first time.  Jonah had been called to preach to Nineveh.  Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, an enemy nation of Israel.  When the Lord told Jonah to travel east, Jonah boarded ship to head west.  As far as Jonah was concerned the brutal Assyrians did not deserve the word of the Lord.  They deserved whatever judgment God had in mind for them.  They were not God's chosen people.  They were outsiders.  As far as Jonah was concerned, they should die and go to hell.
     Jonah hated the Assyrians and refused to be a prophet to them.  When Jonah was tossed from his ship into the Mediterranean Sea, he rather would have drowned than preach.  Yet, the Lord was merciful to Jonah.  The Lord provided a giant fish to swallow Jonah whole.  On the third day, the fish vomited Jonah up on land so that he would live.  God did not owe Jonah any special favors.  Jonah deserved to die in the Mediterranean.  Jonah deserved to be damned for his blatant rebellion against God's word.  But God saved him.  Then, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach the word of the Lord, and to extend the same mercy which was shown to him
     So, Jonah began his preaching duties in Nineveh.  His message was blunt: “Forty more days.  That's all you get.  Forty days, and Nineveh shall be overturned.” (Jonah 3:4)  While it is likely that Jonah's sermons were longer than just those few words, God's blunt message to Nineveh had its effect.  It is not that the people believed Jonah.  Rather, it is written, “The people of Nineveh believed God.” (Jonah 3:5)  
     The people of Nineveh knew that God had them dead to rights.  The nation of Assyria had been cruel, brutal, and dominant.  They attacked other nations and built themselves up at the expense of others.  It made them a superpower nation, but it did not make them right.  When the people of Nineveh heard the word of the Lord, they did not sheepishly say, “Yeah, I suppose we've done some things we should not have done.  I suppose we stepped over the line a few times.”  That is not much of a confession at all.  It also suggests that much of what they had done was acceptable.  Instead, the people of Nineveh humbled themselves.  Their repentance was not merely a matter of words, either.  They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5) 
     When the king of Nineveh heard the word of the Lord, even he humbled himself.  He did not boast that being a king placed him outside of scrutiny.  He may have held the position of king, but he still had the status of a sinner.  He knew he was guilty of brutality and slaughter, greed and coveting.  Therefore, even the king humbled himself, and he decreed that everyone in Nineveh should humble himself in sackcloth and with fasting.  By wearing the scratchy sackcloth, their bodies would feel as miserable as their souls.  By refraining from food and drink, their stomachs would yearn for comfort as much as their hearts.  And the king decreed, “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows?  God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 3:8-9)  And the Lord was merciful.  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)
     While the Lord does not give us a deadline, his call to repentance is just as urgent.  As it was in Nineveh, so also our repentance should be evident in our lives.  If it is mere words—“Yeah, there were some things I should not have done.  I guess I crossed the line a few times,”—that is not repentance.  The Lord is rather specific in his commandments about how we are to live.  “Honor your father and mother” and all those to whom the Lord has given authority over you.  We do not honor them when we mock them or despise them.  “You shall not murder,” hurt, harm, or hate your neighbor.  A spirit of revenge and hatred defies God's word.  “You shall not steal,” or even covet what God has chosen to give your neighbor and has chosen to not give to you.  Yet, we envy our neighbor for his blessings, and we are not content with what God has chosen to give us.  Perhaps like Jonah, we treat our neighbor as an outsider, giving the impression, “The grace of God is not for you.”
     When the Lord calls you to repent, he calls you to acknowledge your specific sins against him and against your neighbor, and then to flee from them and fight against them.  This is much better than fasting and sackcloth.  But like fasting and sackcloth, it is repentance that engages your whole body, mind, and heart.  The king decreed the people of Nineveh were to put away their evil deeds and violence; so also we are to put away the sins we are guilty of.  Repentance is not just feeling bad; that is guilt.  Repentance means forsaking the sins that God condemns.
     The Lord calls you to repent.  But you are not saved by your repentance—as if you can measure if you are sorry enough, or as if you can finally overcome every temptation and make yourself sinless.  The message Jesus declared when he began his preaching was this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)  The Gospel message is that God has mercy upon sinners. 
     The Lord has relented from the damnation that he has pronounced against you for your sins.  He has not withheld judgment and damnation.  Instead, he diverted it so that it all fell on his one and only Son.  This is what the Bible says: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13)  The curse that we have brought upon ourselves for our sins against God and our neighbor Jesus has taken upon himself for us.  Jesus suffered and died as the ultimate outsider—rejected by his Father, forsaken, and cursed.  He died under God's divine judgment for all brutality, for all self-centeredness, and for all people.  Even if others make you feel like an outsider, Jesus does not.  Jesus has taken God's curse from you, and he has brought you inside of God's grace, God's love, and God's family.
     When Jonah had attempted to run away from Nineveh, the Lord was merciful to him.  He did not give Jonah the death he deserved.  The Lord provided a fish which swallowed Jonah whole and then, on the third day, spit him back out to live again.  This sign was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus.  Jesus died and was placed in the belly of the earth.  But on the third day, the grave had to give Jesus back.  Jesus rose from the dead to live again—in fact, to live forever.  Jesus lives to declare to you that his death has sufficiently paid for all your sins.  Jesus lives to declare to you that death has been overcome and that your grave will have to give you back in the resurrection on the Last Day.  Jesus lives to intercede for you and to proclaim to all of heaven and earth, “This one is mine.”  Jesus lives to assure you that God does not delight in the death of anyone—whether we would regard them as enemies or friends, whether we consider them brutal, braggadocios, or brotherly.  The Lord desires the salvation of all.
     The Lord sent Jonah to Nineveh because God wanted his word proclaimed to them.  I suppose the people of Nineveh always knew that they should have behaved better than they did.  But the Lord does not affect our lives with harsher laws or stiffer penalties.  The Lord affects our lives by taking our sins from us and by bringing us into God's family.  The people of Nineveh could not have known what God's mercy was unless it was proclaimed to them.  God was intent on being merciful to them, and he sent a minister to proclaim God's mercy.  Who better than Jonah, who knew what it was to be disobedient, and who knew what it was to receive God's mercy?
     Jonah traveled hundreds of miles to proclaim God's mercy.  You don't have to go any farther than your daily routine to meet people who are living in shame and guilt.  They might know that they should behave better, but they do not know Jesus who alone brings relief and comfort to sinners.  Who better than you, who know what it is to be a sinner, and who knows what it is to receive God's mercy?  This mercy God desires to be known to all whether in Nineveh or in Novi.  The Lord had been merciful to Jonah and sent him to proclaim God's mercy.  And so also you have been shown mercy.  You get to tell it to others—both as your confession and for their salvation.

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Local Tourist -- Detroit (Guardian Building, etc...)

What else is there to do on a cold, snowy, January day in Detroit except walk around the downtown?

With Laura and Peter having off of school for Martin Luther King Day, we made use of the day to see more of Detroit that we had not seen before.  That included stops at the Renaissance Center (we had toured the Ren Cen before), the Guardian Building, riding the People Mover, and eating at Greektown. 

While summer would have made the walk a warmer, I can't say it was not enjoyable.  Walking back to the Ren Cen in the wind got a bit chilly, but it's January.  What else should we expect?

Here are some photos.

Wintergarten in the Ren Cen.  Palm trees in the atrium; snow on the rooftop.

The Spirit of Detroit.

One of four Tiffany clocks  in the world

Relaxing at the shoe shine stand.

Lunch at the New Parthenon restaurant.

Digital aquarium at the GM Center in the Ren Cen.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 14, 2018)

1 SAMUEL 3:1-10


In the name + of Jesus.

     Do you envy Samuel?  Do you long for the Lord to speak to you directly?  If you do, it is probably for one of two reasons.  The first reason is because you want to be sure of what God has to say to you.  If God tells you directly, then you can be sure.  The second reason is because you want to feel important.  If God speaks to you, then you can boast to others about it.  This is idolatry.  It is a desire to honor yourself at God's expense, and it is a craving to feel important to yourself and to others.
     There are other serious problems if you want God to speak directly to you.  How do you know what you hear is the Lord speaking to you?  Is it because you like what you hear?  Or because it reinforces an opinion you already have?  Furthermore, if you believe that the Lord speaks directly to you, what if someone else claims the same thing?  You have to accept their claims, don't you?  After all, they have the same proof that you do that God speaks directly to them—they said so.  Finally, when many claim to have a message from the Lord, you will never know what the Lord actually has to say because there are so many different messages from so many different sources.  And you are right back to not knowing what the word of the Lord is.
     We all want to be certain of what the Lord has to say.  That is crucial if we want to know whether we are going to heaven or hell, whether we live under God's favor or God's curse.  Good news!  You can absolutely be certain of what God has to say, because God has put it in writing for you.  It is even an all-time best-selling book.  Behold!  The Lord speaks in the Holy Bible. 
     This is what the Lord says: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets....” (Hebrews 1:1)  We have one example of that in our Old Testament lesson.  Samuel was a boy, perhaps a teenager, serving under the priest Eli at the temple.  The Lord had not given any revelations to Samuel before; this was new, and so Samuel did not recognize it.  Samuel heard the voice, and it sounded like his pastor.  So Samuel went to Eli.  Eli eventually recognized what the Lord was doing.  The Lord, who dwelt above the ark of the covenant, was revealing his word to Samuel.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’”  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:9-10)
     Behold!  The Lord speaks!  The Lord came and stood by Samuel to personally deliver his message.  Now, before you envy Samuel, you might want to know the message God gave to him.  The Lord told Samuel that he was bringing judgment upon his pastor, Eli, and his sons, and that Eli's sons were going to be put to death for their sins.  It was not a message that Samuel wanted to hear, much less deliver.  Nevertheless, behold! The Lord had spoken, and Samuel delivered the word to Eli in the stead and by the command of the Lord.  Behold!  The Lord speaks. 
     It is trendy these days for people to claim, “I am not religious, I am spiritual.”  That usually means that such people have no use for the Christian Church but claim they are in tune to what God has to say.  Some will say, “God has laid this on my heart,” or, “God spoke to me.”  Once again, how do you know?  If you probe deeper, you will probably discover that this “god” who speaks directly to you apart from the Bible affirms what you already feel and believe.  This is invoking God's name to validate yourself.  This is saying that God's opinion which is not revealed in the Bible is revealed in your opinion.  In other words, this is idolatry.  God does not guide us by our feelings or preferences.  Behold!  The Lord speaks in the Bible, and only through the words recorded in the Bible
     When the Lord spoke to Samuel, the first word the Lord gave him was something Samuel would rather not have heard.  The Lord also tells us things we would rather not hear.  He shows us that we are sinners who love ourselves and who wrongly equate our judgment to God's judgment.  The Lord calls us to repent so that we will not die in our sins.  The Lord does not care about our feelings when he calls us to repent; he cares about our salvation.  He calls us to renounce any faith in our opinions, feelings, or efforts.  He reveals to us that our salvation is his work for us.
     Behold!  The Lord speaks to us in his word, and he proclaims what he does for sinners.  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... (Hebrews 1:1-2)  Jesus Christ is the God who dwelt above the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies and remained hidden from sinners behind a curtain.  But now he has come to dwell among them hidden under flesh.  The Lord became a man to suffer for the sins of man and to die under the curse that sinners deserve.  Rather than tell us we will be judged as we deserve as Eli and his sons were, the Lord reveals that he will be judged and punished for us. 
     Behold!  The Lord speaks and proclaims salvation for sinners.  Jesus does not tell us that we are forgiven of our sins if we feel forgiven.  He knows that our feelings are fickle.  There will be times when the devil throws your sins in front of your face and tries to convince you that you have no business considering yourself a child of God.  He will make you feel your guilt, and you will feel dirty and ashamed and worthless.  But do not trust your feelings, and do not listen to the devil's voice.  The devil is a liar. 
     Behold!  The Lord speaks to you, and the Lord always tells you the truth.  This is what the Bible tells you: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)  This is true whether you feel forgiven or not, because God's forgiveness is not based on how you feel; it is based on what Jesus Christ has done for you.  He endured the curse of death at the cross for you.  He died for your sins.  That is the payment for your sins, and that is why you are redeemed.
     Behold!  The Lord speaks in the Bible to you.  In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... (Hebrews 1:2)  The Son of God has come to declare God's salvation to us.  In turn, Jesus commissioned his apostles to record his words and works for us so that we can know God's works, God's promises, and therefore God's salvation for us.  That is why we come to God's house again and again.  We need to hear God's words and promises so that we will not be deceived by clever-sounding teachings and so that we will not despair when we are hit by feelings of guilt, doubt, hopelessness, or fear.  Just as a bride needs to hear her groom tell her that he loves her over and over again, so the Church needs to hear her heavenly Groom pledge his love for her again and again.  And he does.  His steadfast love endures forever.  Therefore, he has commissioned his ministers to proclaim it and bestow it to you from him.  It is poured out in baptism.  It is decreed in the absolution.  It is fed to you at the Lord's Supper.  And you can be sure you receive God's forgiveness and salvation through these things because Jesus attaches his words of promise to them.
     Behold!  You do not need to envy Samuel.  The Lord speaks to you every time you read your Bible, every time you come for Bible Class, and every time you gather for Church.  He speaks in the Scriptures so that you don't have to wonder or guess what the Lord has to say to you.  Behold!  The Lord speaks to you.  He gives you his very words so that you can be sure of your forgiveness, your resurrection, and your eternal life.  He speaks in the Scriptures so that you continue to be guided in your life to flee from sins and so that you will continue to find encouragement to do what is right.  The Lord speaks to you in his word so that you will continue to be comforted in days of sadness and soothed in days of distress.  The Lord speaks to you in his word so that you will know that you are his redeemed child now and forevermore.  It is true.  God said so.

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Luther Lecture Series -- final session!

We have been enjoying our Luther Lecture Series for just over a year.  The final session will be this Sunday, January 14 at 6:00 PM.

The topic for the final segment of these Luther Lectures is: The legacy of the Lutheran Reformation

Each Luther Lecture is intended to be an interactive discussion as well as informational.  Desserts will be served, and door prizes will be given.  All are welcome.

NOTE:  If you are willing to provide a dessert for the evening, it will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bible Information Class to start on January 15

All are welcome, with no obligations to do anything other than to study the Scriptures.

A new Bible Information Class will be starting up on Monday, January 15 (7:00–9:00 PM).  The schedule for the first session of this class (Session Two begins in March) is as follows:


Jan 15 What Do We Know About God?  Who is He?
           God the Father Created the World.

Jan 22 God the Father Promised to Save Mankind.
           Jesus is the Savior We All Need.

Jan 29 Jesus Christ Lived, Died, and Rose Again to Save Us.

Feb 5 When Will Jesus Come Again?
           How Does the Holy Spirit Serve Us?

Feb 12 The Bible is the Very Word of God.
           What is Holy Baptism?

Feb 26 What is Holy Communion?
           What is the Holy Christian Church?

While this class is geared toward people who are interested in church membership at Good Shepherd, taking the class does not obligate you to join the church.  If you simply want to grow in your knowledge of the Bible, this class is for you.
There is no cost.  All materials are provided.  You will not be put on the spot to answer questions (though we will ask your name).  You are not even expected to know anything.  Come with questions.  Come with friends.  Come and learn what God wants you to know.
Call (248-349-0565) or e-mail ( if you are interested or have any questions about this class.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sermon -- Epiphany, transferred (January 7, 2018)

MATTHEW 2:1-12


In the name + of Jesus.

     The word “Epiphany” has to do with a revelation or an appearing.  If I say, “I had an epiphany,” I means that something has occurred to me.  Either I did not know it, or I finally connected all the dots.  In the season of Epiphany, the Lord gives us a revelation about Jesus of Nazareth.  The Lord gives us an epiphany, revealing what we could not know unless God himself enlightened us to it.   The focus of the entire Epiphany season is that Jesus reveals himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
     Even before Jesus could speak, he was revealed as the Savior of the world.  The angel had appeared to Jewish shepherds to reveal that the Christ was born.  That Jews would celebrate the birth of the Son of David is not too remarkable.  However, when a star arose which lead the Magi to Jesus in order to worship him, that was remarkable.  The King of the Jews had come for the benefit of Gentiles, too!  Also remarkable are the effort, the expense, and the energy that the Magi invested in coming to see Jesus.  The coming of the Magi reveals this to us: Salvation is for all.
     We do not know where the wise men came from.  Some think they were Persians.  Others, based on our reading from Isaiah, believe they were Arabians.  St. Matthew does not identify their homeland, and it does not really matter.  Whether they were Persians or Arabians, these Magi would have had a king in their homeland who was their sovereign.  They did not stay to pay homage to him; they came to see the one who had been born King of the Jews.  So, they went where you would expect to find a king—to the palace at Jerusalem.
     When the Magi got to Jerusalem, they asked a good question: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)  But they asked a bad man.  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)  Herod was troubled because he had no interest in having a rival to his throne.  Herod had already killed his own family members when he suspected that they were a threat to him.  When foreigners came to Herod and asked about the one who had been born King of the Jews—well, that may as well have been a coup.  Herod had no interest in sharing his glory with anyone.  There was one throne in Jerusalem, and he would not give it up for anyone.
     Herod is not alone in his zeal.  Every one of us has a throne in our heart.  Like Herod, we want ourselves ruling there.  We make ourselves the authority over everything.  That is why we assume other people are idiots.  We don't know what burdens others are carrying, and we usually don't care—as long as we are not inconvenienced by it.  We assume the worst of others, and we are angry when they do not assume the best about us.  We even make ourselves the authority over God.  If we do not like what God has to say, we refuse to apply it.  “So I get drunk.  So I use obscene speech.  So I fornicate.  So I lie at work.  So I slander coworkers and family members.”—as if refusing to apply God's word means God's judgment does not apply either.  If, like Herod, you occupy the throne in your heart, you will eventually despise anyone who disagrees with you and you will reject God's word which is the only thing which can save you.  Repent.
     Herod's problem is not that he was unfamiliar with God's word.  When the Magi asked where the King of the Jews was to be born, Herod consulted with the priests and scribes.  They preached God's word to Herod, letting him know that from Bethlehem would come a ruler to shepherd God's people.  Herod did not listen to God's word about this shepherd.  Herod wanted his throne and rejected God's word.  Your problem also is not that you are unfamiliar with God's word.  God is very clear about what is good and evil, and God is very direct in calling us to repent of the sins we have committed.  And while it is good and right to stop doing what is evil and to align yourself with God's word, no one can ever achieve the perfect obedience God demands.  We still want the right to excuse ourselves for behavior that we condemn in others and that God condemns in us.
     King Herod had no use for a Savior.  The Magi, however, had left their king back in their homeland, and they sought a greater king than Herod the Great.  They came not merely to show respect, but to worship.  That is because the King of the Universe had come into the world for them.  It did not matter of the Magi were Jews or Gentiles.  It did not matter if we know their names or not.  God had revealed that their Savior had come—a Savior for all.
     And here is the good news for you, too: Salvation is for all.  The Savior comes into the world for sinners.  It does not matter what your blood line is, if you've been to church every Sunday or if you've just shown up for the first time today.  It does not matter if your reputation is squeaky clean or if you are treated like dirt.  Jesus Christ has come for you, because salvation is for all.  But salvation is not just given by God.  If Herod would refuse God's gifts, God would not foist his salvation upon him.  Salvation is for all, but it is received by faith in God's promises attached to this Savior.
     Once again, we need an epiphany to know what those promises are.  The Magi came to Bethlehem to worship their King.  God had revealed that to them.  However, what also must be revealed is what kind of King Jesus is.  Herod was a king, and Herod acted like most kings.  He kept control of his power and glory by having other people die for him.  Herod had put his sons to death.  Later, Herod would order the infants of Bethlehem to die in order to preserve throne.  Jesus, however, is a very different King.  Jesus does not come to have us die to advance his kingdom and to preserve his glory.  Rather, Jesus comes to die for us and to gain glory for us.
     Salvation is for all, and it was purchased by Jesus who took upon himself our guilt.  Jesus submitted himself to divine judgment for sins he did not commit.  This righteous and obedient one died for people who have been defiant and disobedient.  Jesus did not despise us because of our sins.  Rather, in his compassion, he died for us to take away our sins.  The King was crucified for rebels.  This is the promise that God has made to all mankind: Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)  And again, God promises, “Whoever believes and his baptized will be saved.  Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)  Salvation is for all, but by faith alone.
     Jesus came into the world for Herod just as much as he came for the Magi.  The Magi believed God's promises and rejoiced over them.  Herod did not.  God did not love Herod less.  That's impossible, because Jesus came for Herod and suffered and died for him just as much as he did for you.  But Herod would not accept another on the throne of his heart just as he would not allow another on the throne in his palace.  Herod, therefore, rejected the salvation God had provided for him.
     Salvation is for all, but by faith alone.  God revealed his promises to you so that you can know your sins have been taken away.  They do not condemn you anymore.  You are forgiven.  Jesus suffered and died for you, but also rose from the grave to show you that you, too, will have eternal life in him.  Death cannot have you; it must give you back.  The resurrection to everlasting life is yours.  And by your baptism, the Lord has put to death the heart that loves itself more than anything else.  He has given you a new heart in which Christ dwells and rules.  Therefore, you no longer view other people as your rivals.  Even if others are rude, the Lord works in you a compassion that understands it may be coming from a burden you know nothing about.  Such people do not need your snark, but your sympathy.  Your King reigns in your heart and teaches you to live and act toward others with the same love that Jesus has for you.
     At Epiphany, God reveals his salvation to the world through Jesus.  The Magi were made wise for salvation by God's epiphany to them.  The Lord enlightenss you to know his promises so that you will be saved by them, too.  Salvation is for all, but by faith alone.  Therefore, devote yourselves to what God has revealed so that you will always have God's salvation.

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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Local Tourist -- The Science Behind Pixar (Henry Ford Museum)

A trip to the Henry Ford Museum demanded that we see The Science Behind Pixar exhibit (on display into March).  Plan on taking a couple of hours if you want to view all of the videos, displays, and interactive exhibits.

Some photos.