Monday, April 30, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 9 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 9 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Mercifully bless the education and instruction of the children, that they may grow up in your fear to the praise of your name. I commend to you also the nursery of our church, the Christian day school. Hinder and frustrate all enemies of this institution. May I ever regard and accept it as a precious gift of God! Give our congregation able and apt teachers. Preserve them from every form of indecent and evil speech and behavior. Bless the work of our Sunday school teachers, and help them to lead the little ones into the Savior’s loving arms. 

It may seem unlikely, but the WELS has the 4th largest parochial school system in America.  And like just about all other parochial schools, it is suffering.  It costs a lot of money to make Christian education a high priority.  It costs a lot of money to train future teachers for these schools, and Martin Luther College does a fine job preparing teachers to do their job.  Usually, the teachers are asked to do more than they should.  For the most part, these teachers accept the extra burdens and do these things without extra compensation and without complaint.  The reason?  They love their Savior and they love the children whom they are teaching and to whom they proclaim God's word.

While owning and operating a school comes with great commitment and expense, we accept these responsibilities because we believe that teaching our children on the foundation of Jesus Christ is that important.  Therefore, we pray for our schools and our teachers.  [Note: Good Shepherd does not own or operate a Lutheran elementary school.  We refer people to St. Paul's Lutheran School in Livonia (pre-K through 8th grade), and we try to offset the cost of tuition with assistance from our own congregation.  We are also part of the association which owns and operates Huron Valley Lutheran High School in Westland (9th - 12th grade).]

In addition to the Lutheran schools, Good Shepherd also offers Sunday School (8:45 AM Sunday mornings) to children from age 3 through 6th grade.  These classes teach the children the basic Bible stories so that they will understand how God's love was demonstrated from the creation of the world to their own lives.  It all centers on Jesus who lived, died, and rose to save sinners.

Therefore, the pastor prays for the Sunday School and its teachers so that the children may learn more about God's grace, be strengthened in the Christian faith, and be assured of their place in God's kingdom.  The prayer is not only that students and teachers alike grow in God's word, but also that their lives would serve as an example and encouragement of godly living so that the children recognize that the Christian faith is not merely a theory, but is put into practice every day in our lives.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 8 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 8 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Preserve and keep the youth of our Church from falling way and joining the world, and keep them from the many sins of youth. O Lord, you know how difficult it is to lead the young on the right paths and to divide the Word of Truth with respect to them; therefore, I pray, give me particular wisdom and skill to be stern without estranging their hearts, and mild and charitable without strengthening them in frivolity and unruliness. 

I find myself praying this petition in various forms more often and more fervently.  Perhaps it is because my own children are at this age.  But I also think it has something to do with looking at the photos of old confirmation classes on the wall of our church and recognizing just how few of these youth--now young adults--are still going to church. 

High school and college years are prime time for the devil to seduce people away from Christ.  Their world opens up, and the friends they make may be appalled that the young people from church have not given themselves over to sex, binge drinking, drugs, and other forms of wickedness.  I suspect that we have many young people who feel like they have to apologize for having lived a chaste and decent life.  At the very least, they are emboldened to sin, and they are celebrated when they do.  They need prayers.

It is not helpful to overlook sins.  That only encourages people to continue in them.  At the same time, the young people may be living with guilt and shame that is crushing them.  They fear coming to their pastor because they expect him to disown them or to make their guilt worse.  For the pastor, he tries to determine who needs a call to repent and who needs the soothing words of mercy and forgiveness.  What deeds should be addressed, and what deeds can be chalked up to young, ambitious, creative minds who are engaging in harmless fun?  It is not always so easy to tell.  And no pastor wants his words to be the ones which drive people away from the church.

As much as I try, I want to give the young people the benefit of the doubt and encourage them as dear Christians.  When I recognize trends, I will address them accordingly.  And if I have to expose excuses for what they are (e.g., "I can't go to church because I am so busy" -- We are ALL busy), I will for the sake of their spiritual well-being. 

But whether they know it or not, whether they are saying their own prayers or not, I am praying for these young people.  And if they do drift away, I hope they also understand that our doors are always open to them, and that we welcome back people no matter how prodigal they have been.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 7 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 7 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

And since hypocrites and ungodly people are often found within the visible church organization, I pray, Lord, do not permit Satan to disrupt this congregation through such people or to hinder the efficiency of my office. If there a such people in our midst, let your word be like a hammer upon their hearts of stone. Have patience with them, but if they persist in their unbelief, hypocrisy, and wickedness, reveal them so that they may be put forth from your congregation. Give me a forgiving heart towards all, and help me, especially for their sake, to speak and act cautiously.

In his parable of the weeds and the wheat, Jesus informed us that hypocrites will be intermingled with God's people.  The parable also highlights that the hypocrites and the faithful are pretty much indistinguishable from each other.  In most cases, the Lord himself will sort this out at the final judgment.

However, people may prove their hypocrisy and wickedness as actions eventually betray hearts that are persisting in sin.  Of course, it is never the particular sin that is the chief problem--for, we are all sinners.  If we disciplined people for sinning, who would be left in church?!  Rather, it is the persistence of one's sin which reveals their impenitence and unbelieving hearts.  And while the unbeliever may insist he believes in Jesus, he cannot be holding to the truth if he persists in a life that continually and unapologetically defies God's word.  That makes a confession: "I do not believe God's word on that point; in fact, I reject it as a lie.  And will live in a way that proves it." 

While no pastor delights in expelling such people from the church, he must do it for the following reasons.
     1)  In order to faithfully uphold the word of God as true and faithful.
     2)  In order to call the sinner to repent.  By excommunicating him--if it must come to that due to the stubborn heart of the member, we hope it will cause him to realize the severity of his sin.  In this way, God's Law acts as a hammer on their stubborn hearts.  The goal is not to get revenge or to humiliate, but to bring to repentance so that they might be forgiven and joyfully reconciled.
     3)  In order to demonstrate to the congregation that God's word is to be taken seriously.  We do not deny God's word for the sake of friendship or convenience.  This would only embolden others to engage in sinful living themselves.

Nevertheless, the pastor is aware that his judgment may be flawed.  He does his best to be faithful to God's word in his assessments, and he is obligated to defend his actions based on that word.  If he is guilty of acting in a loveless or vengeful way to someone whom he either does not get along with or who has wronged him personally, may God grant him the humility to repent, apologize, and rectify as much as he can.  Therefore, the pastor prays that he would always be willing and ready to forgive people.  And in that vein, he prays to be careful that his judgments are not rash or reactionary, but always done in love for God's truth and for the people who bear Christ's name.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wills Awareness Seminar at Good Shepherd, Sunday, April 29

What happens when a person dies? The Bible tells us what happens to our body and soul; it does not tell us what happens to our estate.

Good Shepherd will be offering estate planning and advice for preparing your will so that your estate will be executed the way you want it to. Rev. John Kenyon will be here this Sunday (April 29) from the WELS office to walk through these things. Church is at 10:00 AM. The Wills Awareness Seminar takes place at about 11:20 AM. A continental breakfast will be served.

For more info, see this link:

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 6 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 6 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Furthermore, I pray that you would at all times fill the offices of this congregation and its various groups with upright, honest, and sincere men and women, who have the welfare of their congregation at heart and are able to help me in my office with their counsel and their deeds. Unite their hearts with me in love for the truth; give them the spirit of prayer for me and for their congregation, so that we may in unity and harmony build your kingdom in this place. 

The church is not about the pastor.  The church is the people of God who have been called out ("called out" is the meaning of the Greek word for church, ekklesia) of sin and darkness to receive Jesus' righteousness, new life, and salvation.  Since the pastor and the people have all been called out and set apart to honor the Lord and to serve each other, it is right for the pastor to pray for the members who are willing to give their time, talents, and treasures for serving in this congregation.

Every congregation has members who are willing and eager to serve.  The pastor prays that they will all continue to grow in God's grace through word and sacrament so that they will be united in their devotion to the Lord, in their service to one another, and in the mission to bring in the lost, the struggling, and the straying.  The goal is not merely to add to our numbers--as if the glory of God's kingdom is measured by its population.  Rather, our goal is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is cherished by our own members and proclaimed to as many as possible so that, by God's grace, some will be saved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 5 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 5 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Graciously take into your fatherly care the sick and the needy, all widows and orphans, and all who are in any trouble, temptation, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Comfort them, O God, with your Holy Spirit, that they may patiently endure their afflictions and acknowledge them as a manifestation of your fatherly will. Preserve their soul from faintheartedness and despondency, and help that they may seek you, the great Physician of their souls. And if any pass through the valley of the shadow of death, sustain them so that, in the last hour, no pain or fear of death would cause them to fall away from you, but let your everlasting arms be underneath them, and grant them a peaceful departure and a happy entrance into your eternal kingdom. 

This intercession covers all who are enduring any physical afflictions.  It remembers people whose afflictions are happening because they have lost the support that the Lord usually provides through a family.  The widow does not have the support and headship of her husband whom God gave her for her benefit.  Because of the harsh reality of death, this grieving wife now bears the full responsibility of the household and the children in it.  Even more dire is the circumstance of the orphan who has lost his/her parents.  Besides concerns over the source of their meals, clothing, and shelter, these children have lost the love, care, and discipline of the parents to whom they were given.  The children were a gift to their parents, and the parents were a gift to their children.  For whatever reason, that blessed relationship was severed too early.  Such children need our prayers, our compassion, our attention, and our physical aid.

While widows and orphans bear their own particular crosses, much more common is the sickness that afflicts people.  Hospitals are often too full.  And while sickness and disease are common, that does not mean they are easy to endure--whether we are enduring it personally or we are watching a loved one who is afflicted.  

God never tells us why we have to endure a particular illness or a disease.  Often, the reason is this: The world is broken and bad things happen in it.  But even when they do happen, God's people have the comfort of knowing that the Lord remains our good and merciful Father in heaven.  He has also extended this promise:  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)  We may never know how things work for our good; but we can remain confident that they do because God does not lie to us.

Finally, not all who get sick get well.  Many die.  We know that death will come for us at some point.  But when you are bedridden and have too much time to do nothing but think, the devil will taunt you and try to bring you to despair.  To do this, he simply reminds you of your sins.  And he does not have to make anything up.  He simply reports, and your conscience convicts you.  The above prayer is for such people, that the devil's lies will not cause fear or despair to rob someone of comfort, or worse, to cause them to fall into disbelief.

The devil is a liar.  Even when he reminds us of sins that we know full well we are guilty of, the devil is a liar.  For this is what the Lord says: "The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  That overrules all sin and guilt.  This enables us to have a peaceful departure from this world, whenever that day should come.  For, since we have been marked by the blood of Christ, we already have our verdict--forgiven and, therefore, heirs of eternal life.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Today's Earworm

An earworm is a tune that you can't get out of your head.  It bores itself into your ear.

Today's earworm is "Do It Or Die" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section.  Hopefully posting this will help me to move on, but to be fair, it is a catchy earworm.


The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 4 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 4 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Glory and honor, praise and thanks be to you, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all the mercy and faithfulness you have shown to this congregation. Your word has not returned unto you void, but you have here gathered a people that knows you and fears your name. Give me your Holy Spirit, that I may at all times see the good things in this congregation and praise and thank you for them. Bless your word in the future, that it may preserve the believers in your grace, convert those that are not yet yours, and bring back the erring and delinquent. Gather your people as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and be a wall of fire around your congregation. 

I have found this paragraph to be particularly helpful, as it begins by thanking God for the good he has done, particularly in having gathered a group of people who delight in hearing his word, praying, singing, confessing the faith, and working together for the kingdom.  It is easy for a pastor to moan and lament that the church is not full.  Too often, the pastor only sees the people who did not come to church rather than the ones who faithfully do come.  (This is both good and evil.  The pastor does truly grieve over those members who are not attending, knowing that they are not receiving the grace of God in word and sacrament.  He prays over them more than the members who do attend.  On the other hand, the pastor also struggles with his own ego, wondering why these people do not come to hear him!  As with all people, the pastor's motives are mixed--both noble and selfish.)

The prayer remind the pastor, and thanks God appropriately, that there are people in whom the Holy Spirit lives.  They make their confession evident by coming to church.  The pastor dare not forget that.  His faith, too, is evidence of God's grace, that God has brought life to one who was dead in sin.  Each worshiper is a reason to rejoice.

Nevertheless, God desires to be gracious to even more.  So the pastor remembers the members under his care whose attendance is seldom or has ceased.  He also remembers the many who live around us who do not attend church because they are not (yet!) a part of the Good Shepherd's flock.  The prayer is that God's word would be proclaimed and that God would gather more and more under his mercy and care.  And since the world will always be hostile against Jesus, the pastor prays that the Good Shepherd will always protect his people and keep them faithful to him.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018)

ACTS 4:23-33


In the name + of Jesus.

M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)  The disciples of Jesus knew this to be true.  Jesus had proclaimed the message which brought them into his kingdom.  He had foretold that he would go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the elders of Israel, die at the cross, and on the third day rise again.  They not only heard that message, they also witnessed its fulfillment.  Jesus suffered, died, and rose, and he did it for sinners.
     Jesus appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days, teaching them about the kingdom of God.  But then he also gave them this charge: Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)  The Good Shepherd desires to bring more and more people into his flock of believers.  But no one can know about Jesus' salvation unless they are told.  For, faith comes by hearing the message; and people cannot hear it unless it is proclaimed.  Faithful to their Lord, Peter and John went out and preached, starting in Jerusalem.
     The disciples proclaimed the good news, but some did not welcome that news or consider it good.  Peter and John were arrested and commanded not to preach about Jesus or his resurrection.  After they were threatened, they gathered together with the church.  In unity, the church prayed.  What is remarkable is not only what they church prayed for, but also what they did not pray for.  They lifted their voices together to God and said, ... “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24,29-30)  The Good Shepherd had united his flock in its confession.  Together, they called on the Lord to recognize the threats they were facing, but they did not pray for the death of their enemies or even for their harm.  For that matter, they did not even pray that the threats would stop.  Instead, they prayed that Lord would strengthen them so that they would continue to proclaim the good news even with the threats they faced.
     The Good Shepherd had united his flock around this confession, and he would sustain his flock by this confession.  He does the same for you.  The Lord brought you into the Christian Church by the voice of your Good Shepherd.  He has revealed his salvation to you by his word.  He has declared you forgiven by his word.  He has affixed his word of promise to your heart through baptism.  He makes you children of the resurrection by the message which we both hear and confess.  The Good Shepherd unites his flock in its confession, and by that confession he keeps you united to him and to each other.
     But as it was for the disciples, so it is for us: The world does not want to hear that confession.  If you feel that our world is becoming more hostile to the Church's message, then understand that we are facing nothing new.  Perhaps it is new for us, but it is hardly new to the Church.  You may feel that it is easier to keep your confession to yourself rather than to risk ridicule or rebuke.  And you may feel that it is safer to limit your Christian faith to these four walls.  In some respects, that is true—it is usually easier to do nothing, and it is always safer to say nothing.  However, keeping to yourself makes your confession almost useless.  Faith comes from hearing the message.  So, how can anyone hear the message and be converted to Christ if we will not confess it?  To say nothing means that you fear what man can do to you more than what God can do.  It means you fear losing the praise of men more than praise of God.  And, it also means that you are content to let others perish in their sins because you keep God's good news to yourself.
     Keep in mind, it is not up to the lost sheep to find the Good Shepherd.  It is the Good Shepherd who goes out to find the lost sheep and bring them in.  This is only done when the Good Shepherd's voice is heard.  And the Good Shepherd's voice is heard when the Church goes forth and preaches the Gospel.  If you desire to see more people confessing Christ than despising him, it will only happen when they hear our confession.  The Good Shepherd unites his flock in its confession, and the Good Shepherd urges us to proclaim it.
     The Good Shepherd unites his flock in its confession.  Some people will rejoice and join us in that confession.  Others will hate it.  It will always be this way.  When the believers in Jerusalem prayed, they recognized this: “Sovereign Lord … who through the mouth of our father David … said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.’” (Acts 4:24-26)  But fear not.  Even if the whole world takes a stand against Jesus, they do not erase what Jesus has done for you.  They cannot nullify the promises he has made to you.  Jesus suffered and died for sinners, just as he said he would.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, just as he said he would.  The Good Shepherd has laid down his life for the sheep, and the Good Shepherd has taken it up again.  The Good Shepherd lives and reigns to serve you, to comfort you, to encourage you, to feed you, and to protect you.  Jesus has secured for your everlasting life and resurrection from the dead.  The world cannot take that away from you, no matter what they say about you or do to you.  Therefore, we continue to gather as the Church to unite in our confession and unite in our mission to bring this confession to the world.
     If you are concerned at all about what you may have to face for the sake of Jesus, or if you fear that you may falter when you have opportunity to speak for Christ before a hostile audience, then do what the early church did.  Join with God's people to pray.  Let your prayer be like theirs: They lifted their voices together to God and said, ... “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness....” (Acts 4:24,29)  The Church does not seek to live an easy life; the Church seeks to be faithful to her Lord.  The flock knows there are predators who seek to devour them.  They know they are helpless.  That is why we need our Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd unites his flock to hear his voice and to confess the faith.
     The Good Shepherd unites his flock in its confession.  And that confession is not done merely with words.  The early Church confessed its faith with actions as well.  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32-33)  These Christians did not live for themselves, and they did not regard this world as their home.  The Good Shepherd had united them in their love for one another.  Since their focus was their heavenly home, they did not hoard worldly goods for their own worldly kingdoms.  They devoted all that they had—yes, their money and goods—for the good of others, as each had need.  In other words, they loved their neighbors as themselves, even the neighbors who hated them.
     The Good Shepherd is the only one who can instill this kind of love.  For, we love our money and goods more than we should.  But these will all perish.  They will not save us, but they can do good for our neighbor and for the Lord's kingdom.  We have been set apart for such good.  The Good Shepherd has brought us into a better kingdom which endures forever.  This is where our hearts and minds are focused.  This is what we confess with our words and works.  The Good Shepherd unites us in this confession for our salvation and, we pray through our witness, for the salvation of all.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Something from ... Veith's blog re: Early Christians

Logo from Gene E. Veith's blog.
It is also the seal of Lucas Cranach,
resident and mayor of Wittenberg,
German artist (1472 - 1553).
I ran across a neat article from Cranach: The blog of Veith regarding the early Christian Church and the lives of the Christians in it.  You can read it here

Dr. Veith links to a work of apologetics from an early Christian who explains who these Christians are and why they live and act the way they do.  21st century Americans cannot help but read this without a degree of guilt and shame.  The early Christians suffered for their faith, and yet they continued to love each other and their enemies.  They demonstrated the love of Jesus in very trying circumstances, and they did not let those circumstances alter how they put their faith into action.

While we might see ourselves in the words of the ancient apologist, we will not see ourselves in other parts.  My own personal concern and fear is that we have adopted too much of our American culture to put up with persecution.  We seem to want to be good Americans (not that this is entirely bad) than good Christians.  We are trained to demand our rights, but I wonder if we are as willing to bear our cross.

Of course, that is a question each must consider for himself.  I can't believe and live for you any more than you can believe and live for me.  And I also believe that there were less-than-stellar Christians in the days of the early Church too, who found it more advantageous to be a good Roman than a good Christian.  There is nothing new under the sun.

May God grant us all the courage and commitment to take God's word to heart--first for the comfort and confidence in the salvation our Lord Jesus Christ bestows upon us, and then for the commitment to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him, even it that comes at a great cost.

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 3 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 3 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

O God of all grace and mercy, you have also called me, a poor unworthy sinner, to be a servant of your word and have placed me into that office which preaches the reconciliation and have given me this flock to feed. In and by myself I am wholly incompetent to perform the work of this great office; and, therefore, I pray, make me an able minister of your Church. Give me your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of courage and joyfulness, of sanctification and the fear of God. Fill me with the right knowledge, and open my lips that my mouth may proclaim the honor of your name. Fill my heart with a passion for souls and with skillfulness to give unto each and every sheep or lamb entrusted to my care what is due unto it at the proper time. Give me at all times sound advice and just works; and wherever I overlook something or in the weakness of my flesh speak or act wrongly, set it aright, and help that no one may through me suffer harm to his soul.

Any pastor who takes God's word seriously is filled with trepidation over what has been entrusted to his care.  The writer to the Hebrews declares, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." (Hebrews 13:17)  While Americans chafe at the words "obey" and "submit" and may even find it degrading to think that a man keeps "watch over your souls," the pastor hears these words that remind him he "will have to give an account." (Hebrews 13:17)  And this is why most pastors feel wholly incompetent.  We are aware of our own weaknesses and faults, and we know that we make mistakes.  We even sin against those we serve.  Sometimes the members are not very forgiving about that; we pray fervently that God will be merciful and forgive us our trespasses.  We pray the members might, too.

We are also filled with trepidation that we will given to each of God's people "what is due unto it at the proper time."  This is wisdom that God must provide.  Is the member engaged in sinful behavior which needs to be rebuked and admonished because he is embracing it, or is the member like a bruised reed who is struggling mightily with his sins and needs to hear God's grace and encouragement?  How is a pastor to know?  He makes his best judgment.  And he can get it wrong.  Therefore, he prays that God will use his word as is best for his people, and the pastor prays that what he says and does will not cause harm to the souls of any.

There are many stories by people who say that they have been mistreated and disrespected by the church.  When that happens, it is especially sad; for, people are driven away from the Church and, therefore, Christ, because of the sins of men.  There are others who mistake a call to repentance as disrespect and are upset that the pastor did not cater to their ego and commend them in their sins.  This is completely different, but to those who tell their stories, they sound the same.  Since the pastor cannot always know what is needed, he prays that he is not the cause of anyone's alienation or pain.

Martin Luther's sacristy prayer states: "Lord God, you have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon you: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon your word. Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all." This is a common theme and prayer for the pastor. May God work and send his Spirit to keep his people faithful -- through or even despite their pastor.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 2 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 2 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

I thank you also, O faithful God, for my family, my wife and children, and for all my relatives. You have given them to me purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. Preserve them in good health, and give them their daily bread; but above all keep them in your grace and in the true confession of your name unto the end.

It is fitting for any pastor to give thanks for his family.  They are his most ardent supporters and bring great joy to the pastor.  It is a good reminder that the pastor's wife and children are not owed him, but are gifts from a gracious God.  "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." (Proverbs 18:22)  "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." (Psalm 127:3) 

My prayers for my family often include that they be spared of whatever may harm them in body and soul.  The soul is of particular concern.  The body, no matter what happens to it, will be raised anew and glorious at the resurrection of the dead.  However, the most fervent prayer of any Christian is that his/her children be kept safe in the Lord's hands.  Rev. Alois Schmitzer, under whom I served my vicar year, includes this verse in his correspondence to his children, and I think it is most fitting: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)  That remains my prayer, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Pastor's Daily Prayer (Part 1 of 13)

The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 1 of 13)

The following paragraph comes from the Pastor's Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Agenda (c) 1941.  It has been slightly edited (thee's and thou's to you and yours) to make it sound a bit less archaic; nonetheless, some archaic terms have been retained for the sake of endearment of the original version.

Full disclosure: I do not pray this every day, supplementing this with other prayers, but I do manage to pray through the entire Pastor's Daily Prayer at least once each week.

O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto you all my sins and iniquities; especially do I acknowledge my indolence in prayer, my neglect of your word, and my seeking after good days and vainglory. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them; and I pray you, of your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of your beloved Son, forgive me all my sins, and be gracious and merciful to me.  Indeed, cleanse me through your Spirit by the blood of Jesus Christ, and give me more and more power and willingness to strive after holiness, for you have called me that I should be holy and blameless before you in love.

The Pastor's Daily Prayer begins with the pastor acknowledging his own sinfulness and failings.  Such acknowledgement is not limited to this paragraph, but it sets the correct tone for the entire prayer--humility and recognition that the pastor is in need of the Lord's mercy as much as anyone he serves or meets.  The prayer also pleads for divine mercy and aid for living a God-pleasing life, not as a pastor, but as a person.  The pastor is not to set himself above those whom he serves, but recognizes that Jesus is the Savior even of a "poor, miserable sinner" as him.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of Easter (April 15, 2018)

1 JOHN 1:1 – 2:2


In the name + of Jesus.

M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     St. John begins his first epistle with the comment that he has seen the Lord who was crucified and has risen.  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you... (1 John 1:1,3)  
     One of the main messages of Easter is that the risen Jesus was seen, heard, and touched by the disciples who knew him and confessed him.  We heard that in our gospel reading from Luke: (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  (Luke 24:38-40) 
     The reason for this emphasis on actually seeing, hearing, and touching Jesus after he had risen from the dead is to demonstrate that Jesus' resurrection is a real, historical event.  The risen Jesus shows the reality of salvation.  Therefore, when the apostles went out to preach the Gospel, they were not merely proclaiming an idea.  The good news declared from pulpits today is not based on pondering, “What if this happened?” or “What if that happened?”  This is not a mental exercise where we wonder, “What do you think happens when a person dies?”  When you confess the Creed, you are not proposing an idea; you are declaring the truth.  The Christian faith is not a theory; it is a historical fact that truly delivers us from sin and death.  The risen Jesus shows the reality of salvation.
     There are many people who would like to pass off the Bible as a book of legends or stories which are supposed to convey some kind of truth.  If that is all it is, then we would put it on par with all religious thought, with Aesop's Fables, or with whatever lessons can be learned from children's programing on PBS.  St. John insists on much more.  He proclaims a flesh-and-blood Savior who died a real, excruciating, cursed death on the cross, but who is now truly risen from the grave in that body and who lives forever.  Jesus is not a teacher of ideas; he is your Savior.
     Jesus has come to deliver you from your enemies of sin and death.  These are not just ideas either.  St. John warns about denying the reality of sin:  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8,10)  Sin is real, and it produces real damage.  If someone has sinned against you, you feel the betrayal, the anger, the pain, and the sadness from it.  Sin wrecks marriages, destroys friendships, and sends nations to war.  Sin is demonstrated in people doing and saying awful things to each other.  Sin is not some flexible idea about what is right and wrong which adjusts itself to culture, era, or person.  Sin is whatever defies God's word.  God is light, in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)  But we see the darkness of our hearts exposed by sinister words and selfish acts. 
     The result of sin is death.  Just as sin is not an idea, neither is death.  Anyone who has stood by the grave of a loved one knows the grim and painful reality of death.  We grieve over others who have died, and we fear our own death.  Sin and death cannot be overcome by ideas or by giving them different names.  We cannot save ourselves from them.  Someone else must act to deliver us from sin and all of its consequences.
     Therefore, when God acted to save us, he did not send an idea into the world.  He sent his Son who became a man.  God came into the world as a flesh and blood man to deliver mankind from sin and death.  The sufferings and death of Jesus are well documented facts, even outside of the Bible.  There is no denying the reality of that.  But what God reveals is why Jesus suffered and died at the cross.  St. John wrote: He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)  In other words, Jesus is the sin offering which has satisfied the wrath of God against sinners. 
     God cannot ignore our sins, and he does not dismiss them as if they were never really offenses against him and his word.  Therefore, Jesus took into his body all of our guilt and shame—and not just ours, but the guilt and shame of everyone on earth.  He suffered and died the hellish death that sinners deserve.  The punishment Jesus suffered was real; therefore, your forgiveness is real.  Forgiveness is not something you wish for or to pretend you have; it is given to you by Jesus who has paid for all of your sins with his innocent sufferings and death.
     Forgiveness is not an idea; it is an establish fact.  Jesus gives it to you.  Here is what God promises: The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)  The blood which St. John witnessed flowing from Jesus' side was poured out for you.  That is the blood which was poured on you in baptism.  That is the blood which is poured into you in holy communion.  The blood of Jesus cleanses you and renders you pure before God.  God does not love you in theory.  God's love for you is not just an idea.  God demonstrated his love through a Savior who bled and died for you.  God applies that love to you through physical things such as water, bread, and wine.  By these, Jesus takes away your sin and cleanses you of all unrighteousness.  By these, Jesus marks you for eternal life.  By these, God saves you.  He rescues you from darkness and death, and he brings you light and life because he loves you.
     The risen Jesus shows the reality of salvation.  Just as the Christian faith is not a theory, neither is the Christian life.  St. John proclaimed the risen Jesus to reveal the new life that we are to have in him.  “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” (1 John 2:1)  Forgiveness is not a license to sin.  Forgiveness means that we get to live as God's own people and we get to do the good that God has created us to do.  The risen Jesus reconciles us to God and restores our fellowship with the Lord.  It means that the Lord's mercy, his favor, and his heavenly kingdom are ours.  Nothing can take these away from us—no enemy, no difficulty, not even death.  For we are Christ's redeemed.  We are a new creation, created in Christ to do good works for the good of one another.
     The risen Christ assures us that, even in our weakness, we need not fear.  We are still the Lord's.  For, St. John assures us: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)  You may recognize that your works are not as pure and your motives are not always as innocent as they should be.  Fear not!  The risen Jesus purifies you of all unrighteousness.  God is pleased with you.  He delights in your works, and he benefits others through them.
     The risen Christ shows the reality of salvation.  We don't live theoretical lives.  We are God's flesh-and-blood creation.  We live and work among others and strive to provide real benefit for them.  We have been saved from sin and all its consequences so that we are not haunted by guilt.  And we don't have to guess what happens when we die.  Just as Jesus rose from the grave with his body living and glorified, so will we.  We will live in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever; for that is what our Lord created us for.  And that is what he has redeemed us for.  St. John saw and heard and touched the evidence for us.  He does not proclaim to you an idea; he declares what is true: The Lord is risen.  Your sins are forgiven.  Salvation is certain.  And God loves you dearly.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pastor's Conference -- Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, Macomb Township, Michigan

On Tuesday - Wednesday, April 10-11, the pastors of the Southeast Conference in Michigan met at Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church in Macomb Township.  We were not excited to see the snow on the way there, but the reception by Pastor Simons and his congregation was very warm.  Here are some photos from Ascension.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of Easter (April 8, 2018)

JOHN 20:19-31


In the name + of Jesus.

M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     When the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room on that first Easter evening, he greeted them with these words, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)  This was not merely the traditional greeting of one Palestinian to another.  It was more than, “Shalom, my friends, shalom!”  It was a proclamation. 
     You may recall that the last time these apostles saw Jesus alive, they had failed him.  For most of them, the last time they saw Jesus was when he was being arrested in Gethsemane.  The band of soldiers bound up Jesus to cart him off to trial before the Sanhedrin, but they ran into the night.  They abandoned Jesus in order to save their skin.  The last time Peter saw Jesus was right after he had denied him the third time.  Jesus, having been struck and spit upon, exchanged glances with Peter who went out and wept bitterly at his failure.  Misery loves company, so the disciples huddled together in Jerusalem in misery in the room they had used for the Passover.
     On Easter night, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)  The risen Jesus proclaimed peace, and he emphasized that peace by showing them that the body, which had been crucified, was indeed risen.  The disciples were glad because the Lord Jesus has conquered death.  They were glad because God's peace was bestowed upon them.  They were glad because Jesus had not come to rebuke them or condemn them.  He did not even say that he was disappointed with them.  The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.
     When the church gathers together, it is always a group of sinners that meets.  No one has served the Lord as faithfully as we would like to think.  We have all failed our Lord.  Perhaps you failed to confess your faith when you feared it would bring ridicule on you.  Or maybe acting according to your faith and refusing to partake in sin as the world does meant you might lose a job or a friendship.  Those are the moments we discover that our faith is not as strong as we think.  We fail in our weakness.  It results in guilt and shame.  We become frustrated and disappointed in ourselves for failing to serve the Lord as we know we ought to.  What would Jesus say to us if he appeared personally to us in the flesh?
     The apostles can tell you.  When Jesus appeared on Easter evening, he was not angry, and he did not regret going to the cross for them.  And so it is for you, too.  Jesus declared, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)  Peace because God does not hold your sins against you.  Peace because your shame is removed from you.  Whatever sins you have committed are forgiven.  God does not hold your sins over you, waiting for future day for retribution.  He does not even use guilt to goad you into doing better next time.  The wounds on Jesus' wrists and in Jesus' side are evidence that Jesus had been crucified.  Jesus' crucifixion is for you.  It is the payment for your sins.  The wounds themselves proclaimed peace. 
     The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.  The risen body of Jesus is living proof that the payment for sins is complete.  Jesus is risen, and he has earned the right to forgive the sins of mankind because he had paid for them.  He lives and reigns to declare sinners pardoned.  Therefore, Jesus' greeting, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) was not an expression of friendship or wishing well.  It is a declaration.  The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.
     When Jesus appeared to the disciples that Easter night, Thomas was not present.  And Thomas was not ready to believe any reports, even from reliable sources such as his fellow apostles.  The world today would congratulate Thomas for being a skeptic.  And if you think that Thomas demonstrated wisdom in this, then understand that Thomas also ended up dwelling in his grief and guilt for a full week longer than he needed to.  As far as Thomas was concerned, Jesus was dead.  And if Jesus was dead, so were Thomas' hopes.  He did not have God's peace, and blessing eluded him.  But that is not because God had failed Thomas.  It was because Thomas did not believe God's word which was fulfilled by Jesus, which was witnessed by the other apostles, and which was joyfully declared for Thomas' benefit.  But Thomas, in his prideful skepticism, rejected all of it.  As a result, Thomas remained stuck in his guilt and shame.
     On the following Sunday, Jesus appeared again to all the apostles, and this time Thomas was there.  Once again, Jesus did not condemn.  Once again, Jesus came and declared, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)  Peace, even for Thomas who made demands of God rather than rejoice in God's word.  When Jesus appeared to Thomas, we do not hear about Thomas poking into Jesus' wounds to inspect them as he had demanded.  We only hear Thomas' confession: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)  
     The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.  While he proclaimed peace to Thomas, Jesus extends this blessing to you: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)  God has worked in you to believe him and to take him at his word.  By that word, Jesus gives you peace.  Jesus' peace is not based on what you can see and feel.  If you feel forgiven today, you may not feel that way tomorrow.  Satan is good at dredging up the past and reminding you of how you failed Jesus with your sins.  But Jesus does not tell you to look to yourself for comfort.  The risen Jesus declares peace to you and bestows his blessing upon you.  It is his word that delivers his peace, and his word does not change like your feelings.  Therefore, your peace remains.
     The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.  He will not appear to you as he did to the apostles and to Thomas.  Jesus has ascended to heaven, and we will not see him until he comes again to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.  But Jesus has acted so that you can find comfort, peace, and blessing in his word.  Jesus said to (the apostles) again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:21-23)  
     Jesus has commissioned his ministers to go in his name, to speak with his authority, and to forgive sins in his stead.  Once again, it is not merely that the pastor wishes you well or wants to express his friendship with you.  Hopefully, you do have your pastor's friendship, he does wish you well, and even prays for it.  But your pastor's fondness does not take away your sins.  Jesus' word does.  And so Jesus tells his ministers to go and proclaim blessing, peace, and forgiveness in his stead, in his name, and by his authority.  The declaration “I forgive you” proclaimed by the pastor is Jesus' word; therefore, it is Jesus' forgiveness.
     It does not take much to destroy our feelings of peace.  Feelings of peace are quickly destroyed by our own sinfulness.  We endure guilt, doubt, fear, and frustration because we are not as faithful as we ought to be.  Like the apostles who failed Jesus and hid themselves away, we too can wallow in misery, thinking that God is disgusted with us, expecting that God will disown us, or fearful that God is disappointed in us.  After all, we are often disgusted and disappointed in ourselves.  But God is not angry.  Jesus does not regret being crucified for you.  The risen Jesus gives blessing and peace.  His “Shalom” assures you that God is your friend.  He does not merely wish you well; he restores your soul and will deliver your body from death.  He gives courage to timid souls and comforts miserable sinners.  The risen Jesus gives you his blessing and he lives to proclaim, “Peace be with you.”

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bible Information Class begins Monday, April 16

Bible Information Class 
will begin on Monday, April 16.
Classes will be 7:00 – 9:00 PM.

The schedule for the first session of this class (Session Two begins in June) is as follows:


Apr 16 What Do We Know About God?  Who is He?
God the Father Created the World.

Apr 23 God the Father Promised to Save Mankind.
Jesus is the Savior We All Need.

Apr 30 Jesus Christ Lived, Died, and Rose Again to Save Us.

May 7 When Will Jesus Come Again?
How Does the Holy Spirit Serve Us?

May 14 The Bible is the Very Word of God.
What is Holy Baptism?

May 21 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.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sunday Night Bible Series continues April 8 at 6:00 PM

at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Novi

JESUS – Legend or Lord?
Next session will be 
Sunday, April 8 at 6:00 PM.

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  --  completed
SESSION 2  –  Archaeology and History                          March 18  --  completed

>>> 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.

A Pastoral Concern -- The Opportunity for Evangelism

We are currently enjoying a series on Christian Apologetics on the 2nd Sunday of each month (schedule below), in which we are considering how archaeology, history, and geography aid in support of the history recorded in the Gospels about Jesus Christ and the Church.  Such knowledge is helpful for Christians to recognize that our faith rests in historic fact, not myth or fantasy or propoganda.  

However, more and more the average person in America is becoming more and more ignorant of the most basic of Christian teachings.  Consider this article from the blog of Gene E. Veith in which he refers to an article referencing Easter.  In that article, the writer originally described Easter as “the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven.”  NPR later ran a correction, but the alarming part about the poor--no, false--description of our Easter celebration is that the author claims to be Roman Catholic!  A Christian does not know what Easter is about?!  Apparently, yes.

The reality is that many people in America will claim to be Christian.  Take a look at church attendance and you will know that many who claim to be Chrisians don't go to church.  Their Christian faith is limited only to their claim or to which box they might check on a survey.  Many do not know what the Bible says or what the Christian faith is, even though they claim to be Christians.  And while today's adults may have some vague recollection since their parents took them to church a few times until they were 8 years old, many of today's children are completely in the dark, having never gone to church.

I suppose the situation is lamentable.  If only more people came to church, it would be better.  On the other hand, the opportunity for evangelism is staggering.  Your neighbor does not know what the Christian faith is.  Their guess may be as poor as the report's above.

What that means for Christians is that your efforts for evangelism are much easier than you might have thought.  You don't need some years' long study about methods.  You only need what you learned in Sunday School, or the most basic recollection of last Sunday's sermon (whatever the Sunday).  This will likely be news to the average person you meet.  It is certainly the good news we crave to hear.  I suspect that many will find that news equally good.  At the very least, many will find it new.

Evangelism just got much easier.  You don't need to convince anyone of anything.  You simply need to confess what you know.  At the very least, you will remove people's ignorance.  While we pray for their conversion, that remains the work of the Holy Spirit.


JESUS – Legend or Lord?

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  --  completed
SESSION 2  –  Archaeology and History                          March 18  --  completed
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