Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Local Tourist -- Royal Oak: Vinsetta Garage

The Local Tourist spent a morning in Royal Oak, Michigan, walking up and down the main streets and popping in on a few shops, including Toyology, a toy store which was not only a blast of nostalgia, but also a really neat store to walk through.  If you need a toy or a game in Royal Oak, stop in here.  We also had success in Paper Trail Books, a used book store.  Peter found several Garfield books and was reading them all the way home.  Photos from Royal Oak will have to come later, as I am having issues with my laptop and the photos which were uploaded onto it. 

There were too many restaurants to consider.  They all looked good.  We settled on Vinsetta Garage for some burgers.  (The family thought I was joking when I said we were going to eat lunch at a garage.)  It is on Woodward Avenue, and the only problem with it is not enough parking.  I am sure they are aware of the problem, but they are on a lot where space is quite limited.  We parked 2 blocks up on a side street, and the walk was totally worth the food and the atmosphere.

In the meantime, here are some photos from Vinsetta Garage.

The best dinner companion ever!

Happy Anniversary!

          On this date, 26 years ago, I bound myself to my beloved wife, Laura.  I would do so again in a heartbeat. 

          We were wed at Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, and the majority of our 26 years of marriage have been right here at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church in Novi, Michigan.  We have enjoyed so many blessings over the years, endured a few hardships, and have been spared from even more.

          King Solomon taught us: "An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels." (Proverbs 31:10)  I certainly feel that way about my wife, and pray that other marriages enjoy the same joys that I have known for these past 26 years.  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; and his mercy endures forever.  And I pray that his mercies continue upon us for many years to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sermon -- Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24, 2018)

LUKE 1:57-67


In the name + of Jesus.

     We are not good at waiting.  We want what we want NOW.  We have been conditioned into believing that we are being insulted if we have to wait.  Go to a doctor's office and you will find a room full of people who are agitated because of the wait.  Then you go to the examination room where, again, you have to wait.  Your anger works up to a rolling boil at doctors, nurses, and receptionists who keep you waiting—as if that's what they came into work to do.  We hate waiting.  Text messages need immediate responses.  All news is breaking.  And we want our meals hot and ready. 
     Even expectant parents cannot stand the wait.  From creation up to now, the wait for a baby has been nine months.  But now, expectant parents host gender reveals for a baby which is months away from being born.  The name is chosen early.  Ultrasounds can even provide photos so that you can have baby pictures before you have the baby.
     Such advances are commonplace.  For that reason, we may have a hard time understanding the scene in the hill country of Judea where Elizabeth had given birth. Back then, no one knew the sex of their baby until it was born.  If names were discussed, they were not given until the 8th day when a boy was given the covenant mark of circumcision.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were the exception.  They not only knew that they would have a boy, they also knew his name because it was given by the angel.  Rather than honor Zechariah by naming the boy after him, Zechariah and Elizabeth honored the Lord by giving their son the name which had been assigned.  Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:63)
     The name “John” was intentionally given.  It comes from a Hebrew name which means “The Lord has been gracious.”  The Lord was certainly gracious in giving a son to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age.  They had waited years and years for the Lord to bless their marriage with a child.  Eventually, waiting turned into the resignation that God, in his wisdom, would withhold this blessing from them.  They did not know why, and God did not give them an answer.  Although they had yearned for a child, the harsh reality is that God did not owe them a child.  Still, the Lord was gracious to them, and the name they gave to their son was a testimony to that.  The Lord sent his long-awaited grace.
     Even when God is gracious, he is still criticized for it.  I can imagine people rebuking God for giving Zechariah and Elizabeth their son.  “Sure, withhold this blessing until they are old and tired.  Nice timing, God!”  We still criticize God, faulting God for aches and pains, sickness and disaster, poverty, violence, and war.  We forget that the world God created was perfect.  When you read through the Bible, you will notice that you do not have to wait long to see everything ruined by sin.  That was man's fault, not God's.  We have also added our own sins to it.  We are impatient with other people, caring nothing about their struggles, only wanting them to help us with ours or get out of the way.  We are impatient with God because he does not fix everything as quickly or as completely as we want.  When our children snarl at us because we are not moving fast enough to give them what they want, we rebuke them.  We may even stop what we were doing and withhold the blessing we had intended for them.  And yet, we feel vindicated to criticize God.  We do not deserve his blessings, but his rebuke and his wrath.  Repent.
     Despite all the sins of mankind in this wicked world, God still loves the people he has created.  The Lord did not make Adam and Eve wait to see what he would do to them.  The Lord was gracious.  He promised a Savior as soon as he was needed.  Nevertheless, the world would have to wait for God's Savior until the time was right.  For centuries upon centuries, the world was waiting, holding on to the promise that God had made.  And God proved himself faithful to that promise with the birth of a boy named John.  The Lord sent his long-awaited grace.
     While today's parents may know the sex and the name of their baby, they certainly do not know what career their child will some day have.  The angel Gabriel not only told Zechariah the sex and the name of his son, he even announced what he would do: “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17)
     The Lord sent his long-awaited grace.  John came to be the prophet who would prepare the way for the Messiah.  To do that, John came preaching a stern message of repentance.  John did not invent ways to scare people.  Nor did John embellish man's sinfulness or God's wrath.  John proclaimed the word of the Lord which declares who God is.  God is good, and the commandments he gives us show us what it means to be good.  But those commandments show us that we are not good.  We are not patient.  We are not generous.  We are not eager to help when it will cost us something.  We exalt ourselves, our interests, and our problems at the expense of others because we are corrupt.  And since that which is corrupt cannot dwell with him who is holy, we are marked for death and damnation.  This is what John preached.  They were not empty threats.  John did not embellish or manipulate.  John only proclaimed the truth: We are sinners who are going to die.  We cannot fix that.  All we can do is cry for mercy.
     God sent John to prepare the way for the Savior.  He turns our hearts from ourselves and causes us to cry out to God.  God sends his long-awaited grace to us by showing us our need for his grace.  God shows us our need for a Savior by showing us that we need to be saved.  And then, God shows us our Savior, who is Jesus.
     The Lord sends his long-awaited grace.  This time, the people did not have to wait long for him.  John was born just six months before Jesus was born.  God had made his promise, and God was faithful to it.  John means, “The Lord has been gracious,” and he came to show that the Lord has been gracious.  Then Jesus came, whose name means, “The Lord who saves.”  It is who Jesus is, and it is what Jesus does.  The Lord saves us from our sins by taking them away from us.  He proves himself to be good by serving us in our greatest need.  Jesus does not serve because he hopes to get something out of us.  Rather, Jesus serves because of what he hopes to give us.  He gives us credit for the perfect life he has lived, and he takes from us all the guilt and wickedness that was ours.  He gives us full pardon for all our sins.  He gives us victory over the grave and the resurrection to life.  He suffers and dies under God's wrath, marked with death and damnation.  And you, who have been cleansed by him in the waters of baptism, are credited with his holy obedience, marked for eternal glory, peace, and joy.  Although the Lord's grace was long awaited, it was not given in short measures.  The Lord's grace is abundant—covering over every sin and opening heaven to every sinner.
     When John the Baptist was first born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were filled with great joy.  Zechariah had questioned God's word, and he was made mute until that word was fulfilled.  When Zechariah finally had the chance to speak again, he praised God.  His praise, however, was not that he finally had a little boy to hold.  He rejoiced that God had held true to his promise.  The Savior was coming, and John would prepare the way.  While we lack patience in serving the Lord and each other, God has not lost patience with us.  God remembers us, and he acts to save us. 
     The Lord sends his long-awaited grace.  The promise that was made back in the Garden of Eden began its fulfillment with the birth of John the Baptist.  He was sent to prepare people for their Savior.  He showed our need for God's grace so that we would rejoice to know that God loves and saves sinners.  And while we wait for the heavenly glory God has promised, we remain confident that just as God was faithful to his word in the past, so he will be faithful to us now.  Those who wait on the Lord will not be disappointed.  They trust his word.  They receive his grace.  And they are saved.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 3, 2018)



In the name + of Jesus.

     We have all been taught that the definition for “holy” is to be without sin.  That is true to a point, but it is not entirely right.  When we speak of the Holy Bible, we do not mean to say the-Bible-without-sin.  When we speak of Holy Communion, we do not mean “Communion-without-sin.”  Even when we speak of God's holy people, we do not mean to say that we are without sin.  After all, we confess our sin in every Divine Service.  To be holy means to be set apart by God for his special purpose.  Therefore, the Bible is the book set apart for God's special purpose.  Communion is bread and wine consecrated for God's special purpose—in fact, the means by which Jesus comes to us in his very presence, giving to us the very body and blood which were sacrificed at the cross and which are risen from the dead.  And you are, indeed, God's holy people.  You have been set apart by the Holy Spirit as Christ's redeemed—saved by grace through faith created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)  
     The Lord had set apart the Israelites to be an entire nation holy to the Lord—chosen for his special purpose as the people through whom the Savior would come.  The Lord also commanded them to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  That is, they were to set apart that day for God's special purpose.  It was a day on which they were to refrain from all work.  This was more than a command to take a day off so that they would not run themselves into the ground because of too heavy a work schedule.  While there is wisdom in that, the Lord's purpose was greater.
     When the Lord first gave the commandment, he linked it with creation.  He spoke at Mt. Sinai: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)  God's people were to follow the pattern set by the Lord.  For six days, they were to labor and care for their needs—shepherding their flocks,   tilling their fields, building their homes, buying, selling, and carrying on business.  All of these were beneficial and necessary for them to live.  But the seventh day was to be a day of rest.
     Why?  The Sabbath is for salvation.  It was to be holy—a day set apart for the Lord.  For six days, the Israelites would labor and serve their neighbor.  But on the seventh day, they were to rest.  The Lord would serve them.  And so it is for you.  You are God's holy people, set apart for God's purpose.  All week long, you labor.  You go to work.  You care for your family.  You tend to your business.  All these are beneficial and necessary to live.  But you need the Sabbath far more—not for a break from work, but for salvation and life everlasting.  This time is holy, that is, set apart for God's purpose.  We do not come to God's house to do something for God.  After all, what do we bring to the service that God needs?  Nothing.  We are beggars.  We come indebted to God because we have not given him the love, the obedience, and the dedication that we owe him.  We may be God's holy people, but our lives do not reflect the title.  We all come as guilty sinners.
     But the Sabbath is for salvation.  Here, it does not matter what your income is, if your work is recognized or ignored, or if your labors are fulfilling or drudgery.  Here, you rest, and God serves you.  Here, the Lord provides all that you need for your salvation.  When you invoke God's name, God reminds you that you are baptized into Christ and are clothed in his perfect obedience.  You confess your sins, but the Lord abolves you of all guilt.  When you confess your faith, you repeat the promises which reveal God's mercy and assure your eternal life.  You come to the altar where Jesus gives you the body and blood which were given into death for your sins and which have overcome death to give you new life.  Here, God proclaims his word, gives direction for your lives, comforts heavy hearts, soothes fearful minds, relieves guilty souls, and grants everlasting life.  The Sabbath is for salvation.
     When the Lord first commanded the Sabbath at Mt. Sinai, he connected it to the week of creation.  When Moses repeated the commandments about four decades later, he made a different connection.  He declared, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:14-15)  Moses connected the Sabbath to Israel's deliverance from Egypt.  When the Lord delivered Israel from the land of Egypt, the Lord did all the work.  Israel did not need to draw up battle lines, polish their shields, or sharpen swords and spears.  In fact, Israel did not have weapons at all.  The Lord acted on their behalf.  The Lord put the Egyptian army to death.  Israel celebrated their salvation even though they did nothing but benefit from the Lord's work on their behalf. 
     That is also how we are to remember the blessings of our Divine Services as well.  The Sabbath is connected to Jesus' deliverace.  Jesus Christ has delivered you from sin, death, and the devil by his works.  Jesus bore your guilt when he went to the cross.  He endured the curse sinners deserve.  You did not suffer God's wrath, and you won't.  Jesus has delivered you from your sins so that you will not be condemned for them.  Jesus has also delivered you from death.  Jesus died for you, but then Jesus overcame the grave at his resurrection.  And this is what he promises to you, too.  The grave may hold you for a moment, but Jesus will raise you up; for you do not belong to death, but to Jesus who is victorious over death.  And Jesus also delivers you from the devil.  The devil will continue to hound you all your life about your sins.  He will accuse you and try to convince you that you are not good enough to be saved.  But the devil is a liar.  Jesus Christ has rendered his verdict upon you: You are forgiven.  And Jesus has delivered you from the devil's grasp.  The devil does not rage because he has you, but because he doesn't.  You are Christ's.  Therefore, you are saved.
     The Sabbath is for salvation because this salvation is delivered to you when we gather to hear his words and to receive his sacraments.  Salvation is not delivered to you because you are busy and obedient all week long.  While your good works are pleasing service to the Lord and beneficial to your fellow man, they do not save you.  After all, most people are busy all week long.  Many are diligent in taking care of their families and good at their jobs.  They may even be more generous, more cheerful, and more polite than you.  But diligence does not erase disobedience, and being polite does not purify anyone from their guilt.  Only Jesus Christ does that.  Jesus does not give salvation to people who work hard; Jesus gives salvation to people who rest. 
     That is why the Church continues to observe the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is for salvation.  Salvation is not given at the office, in the mountains, in the coffee shop, or at the gym.  Salvation is not given because you are successful, because you are well-liked, or because you are busy.  The Sabbath is holy, set apart for God's purpose of saving sinners.  Whenever we gather in the name of Jesus, Jesus is present with his gifts of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  It is in the preached word that God's grace is bestowed.  It is in the sacraments that God's mercy is given.  It is through the Church that our Lord brings people into his kingdom.  He does the work; we rest from our labors and from all effort to try to make God happy.  When we rest, we get to hear that our Lord is pleased with us for Jesus' sake.  And when our last day comes, our Lord will be at work again to deliver us from this sinful world to the eternal rest of heaven.  And then, we will have our eternal Sabbath.

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