Thursday, December 31, 2020

Update from Good Shepherd (January 1, 2021)



Divine Services are at 10:00 AM on Sundays, in person and on Facebook Live.  Share our services and invite friends to tune in.

Sunday School is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.
Adult Bible Class is on Sundays at 8:45 AM.  We are continuing our series on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The schedule can be found at this link.
Bible Matters is a discussion group is on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM.  The topic for January 6 is "Suggestions for meditating on God's word."

>>>  Offering Envelopes have been prepared.  Each confirmed member of Good Shepherd should have a box of envelopes at church already.  If you don't have one (which is possible because of a glitch with labels), please contact the pastor.
>>>  Bible Reading for the year can follow this schedule.  This enables you to read through the entire Bible in a year, including the Gospels twice.  If you would prefer a less aggressive schedule, you can find a "Through my Bible in Three Years" brochure at church.
>>>  A Bible Information Class will begin on Monday, January 11 (7:00-8:30 PM).  This class covers basic Christian doctrine for any level of familiarity with the Bible.  It is a valuable refresher for long-time members, and it is an excellent way for anyone to get to know the Bible's teachings even if you feel like you know none of them.  There is no cost.  Contact the church ( to register.  Good Shepherd members: Consider whom you might bring to this class!

Private Confession & Absolution
For anyone who desires assurance of the forgiveness over the sins that grieve them, Private Confession & Absolution will be available at church on Monday, January 4, 6:30-8:30 PM.  No appointment is necessary.  Private Confession & Absolution is available at other times by appointment.

          Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM – Noon.  
          The pastor will be in his office unless a meeting has been scheduled elsewhere (consult the weekly schedule).  The pastor is also available by appointment.  Call or text (248-719-5218).  You may also email (, but the response may be slower.

        Besides Facebook Live and YouTube, you can find the pastor's sermons archived on this blog.  You can use the search bar to find a particular date, day of the Church Year, or Scripture reference.
        Pastor Schroeder will be available for private devotions, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion to members in small groups or to individuals.  You may call to set up an appointment at any time.  Visits by appointment can be done either at church or at your home.
        If you want to ask for intercessions for loved ones, we will certainly remember them in our prayers, too.  If your loved one has no pastor, ask if they would like Pastor Schroeder to visit them.  

         Feel free to share the videos.  For other services, do a search for "Good Shepherd Novi."  The service from December 27 is here: Good Shepherd Divine Service - Dec. 27th, 2020 - YouTube
         Bulletins for services can be downloaded from here (scroll down): 

While we may not be meeting for worship, we do have financial obligations to meet.  You may either mail your offering into Good Shepherd, or you can set up your offering to be transferred electronically from your bank.  If you are interested in the automatic transfer of funds for your offering, please contact the church at (248) 349-0565 or

Look for Good Shepherd on Facebook.  Then “LIKE” us for updates and other postings.  Be sure to share posts with friends.

We desire as many as possible to rejoice in the Gospel which we proclaim and confess.  Share the information from our weekly email blast, links to our web page, and even to the pastor's blog to let others know that we have a space in our congregation for them!

In Christ,
Pastor Schroeder
DIVINE SERVICES -- Sundays at 10:00 AM  (We also stream on Facebook Live )
BIBLE MATTERS on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM



Growing in God's Word in 2021

God is granting us another year of his grace.  While there are many projects we could take up, and many of them would have some value to them, we also have the opportunity to grow in God's word, to strengthen our faith, to prepare against any attack on our faith, to become confident in confessing our faith, and to yearn more deeply for the glory of the heavenly kingdom to come.

With that in mind, here are many opportunities for you to grow in God's word in 2021.  Let's make the most of the opportunities that our Lord gives us!

ADULT BIBLE CLASS -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

            We will continue our study on the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
            We will focus our attention on how God's promise of a Savior was proclaimed and worked through these men of faith.  We will recognize their faith and their flaws, but especially God's grace.  Classes are Sundays at 8:45 AM.
            The class will follow this tentative schedule.

01/03     Genesis 28:1 – 29:30 Jacob flees to Haran; Jacob marries Leah and Rachel
01/10     Genesis 29:31 – 30:43 Jacob's children; Jacob's prosperity
01/17     Genesis 31:1 – 33:20 Jacob flees from Laban; Jacob wrestles with God; 
                                                                    Jacob meets Esau
bypass   Genesis 34:1 – 36:43 (Dinah; God renames Jacob to Israel; 
Esau's descendants)
01/24     Genesis 37:1 – 38:30 Joseph's dreams; Joseph sold into slavery; Judah and Tamar
01/31     Genesis 39:1 – 41:57 Joseph & Potiphar's wife; Joseph interprets dreams
02/07     Genesis 42:1 – 43:34 Joseph's brothers come to Egypt
02/14     Genesis 44:1 – 46:27 Joseph makes himself known; Jacob and Joseph reunited
02/21     Genesis 46:28 – 48:22 Israel settles in Egypt; Israel blesses Joseph's sons
02/28     Genesis 49:1 – 50:26 Israel blesses his sons; Israel dies; 
Joseph forgives his brothers

BIBLE MATTERS, A Discussion Group

Bible Matters is a topical discussion group that enables God’s people to become more comfortable in discussing matters of the Christian faith and more confident in defending the Bible’s teachings.  We encourage open dialogue and welcome bold questions.  All are welcome to consider how God’s word addresses various topics.

            Topics for our winter sessions are:

                January 6         Suggestions for meditating on God’s Word
                January 13       Can a Christian hate anything?
    January 20       Does God speak through dreams?
                January 27       Why Lutheran?
                February 3       When God is silent, what is our confession?
                February 10     “Male and female he created them.” Why is this controversial?
                February 17     Ash Wednesday; Lenten services begin.

Bible Matters meets on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM

Bible Information Class will begin on Monday, January 11. Classes will be 7:00 – 8:30 PM The schedule is as follows: 

        January 11         God's Plan of Salvation
        January 18         God Created a Beautiful Universe.
        January 25         Why is the World So Crazy?
        February 1         How did Jesus Save the World?
        February 8         The End is Coming!
        February 22       Why do We Need the Bible?
        March 1             God Works through Holy Baptism.
        March 8             God Works through Holy Communion.
        March 15           God Gathers His Church.
        March 22           A Conversation with God.
        March 29           Our Spiritual Heartbeat
        April 12             Love the Lord your God
        April 19             Love your Neighbor – Part 1
        April 26             Love your Neighbor – Part 2; Take good care.                

                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.  

            Here is a schedule you can use to read through the entire Bible in 2021.  This schedule would have you read through the Gospels twice.  Granted, it is an aggressive schedule, but if you read just 20 minutes each day, you can do it.  
            You can find the schedule here: WORBIbleThroughTheYear.15373011.pdf 
            If you should desire a less aggressive schedule, I can find a Through My Bible in Three Years schedule for you.  God bless you as you grow through the word in 2021.

Today's Earworm -- Lazy Day by Spanky and Our Gang

Truth be told, this ear worm was from a few days ago, but I thought I would share it all the same.

I still don't know why particular ear worms get into my head.  It's not like I have listened to this song in the past 15 years or so.  Nevertheless, there it was.  And here it is for you.

Christmastide with the family

We spent our Christmas time in Novi and in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  Our time in Novi was especially nice because we managed to have all of the children home for a number of days, although jobs took a few people away for a while.  Getting everyone together in one place is becoming harder and harder to do, and I know it will only get more challenging as time goes by.

The trip to Sheboygan was a little different as my dad was in rehab.  We got to visit him there for 25 minutes as he sat behind plexiglass and we talked over the phone.  I'm glad we got to do that much.  Thankfully, he has been released as is back at home.  Unfortunately, we had left and could not be part of the welcoming crew.

We (my brother, Paul, Laura, and I) managed to do a bit of shoveling for my parents.  On the way home, we stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle near one of the Kenosha exits.  Nathanael said it exceeded his expectations.  We were pretty sure it would.

Here are some photos.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sermon -- Festival of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (December 27, 2020)

1 JOHN 1:1 – 2:2


In the name + of Jesus.

      That which was from the beginning is eternal.  The universe, laws of physics, matter, and time had a beginning.  God did not.  But then, that which is eternal entered our time and had an actual beginning. 

     God is spirit.  He is invisible.  No one has ever seen him.  And yet, John says, 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 … we proclaim also to you.” (1 John 1:1,3)  The invisible God took on a form which could be seen, heard, and handled.  The God who is spirit became flesh and blood.

     God is immortal.  He is the word of life and the source of life.  All living things have their being because God has been pleased to grant it and to sustain it.  And yet, the living God allowed himself to be put to death.  The immortal God died.  And then, this dead man brought himself back to life.  Never again can he die, but he lives forever.

     There were many who had seen and heard Jesus.  John was one of twelve men chosen to be an apostle of Jesus to see his miracles and hear his teaching.  John was a witness to Jesus’ sufferings, death, and resurrection.  And John was commissioned by Jesus to bear witness to all of this and to preach forgiveness of sins on account of all of this.  John wrote: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)  The blessed apostle declares a blessed fellowship.

     If you are associated with Jesus Christ, it is because he has been pleased to bring you into fellowship with him.  Jesus Christ does not have association with liars and phonies.  It is important to understand what that means.  You might get the impression that Jesus Christ does not have association with sinners.  That is false.  Jesus called twelve men to be his apostles.  They were all sinners.  Even John, who was known as the disciple Jesus loved, was rebuked by Jesus for his desire for greatness and for a vengeful spirit against a Samaritan village which did not welcome Jesus with open arms.  In addition, Jesus was ridiculed by the Pharisees for welcoming people with low moral standards and poor reputations.  So, Jesus did not despise sinners.

     But Jesus will not have association with liars and phonies.  St. John wrote, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  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 1:6,8,10)  So, what is the great lie?  That we are good people who deserve to be treated better by God.  That if our friends don’t think our sins are a big deal, God won’t either.  That God’s word does not apply to us when we don’t like it and that we have defensible reasons for our sins.  If we believe all these things, we call God a liar.  If we say that we are Christians when we persistently live contrary to God’s word, we are phonies.  This is unbelief, and whoever does not believe will be condemned.  Jesus is not hostile to sinners, only to unbelievers.

     But John, the blessed apostle, declares a blessed fellowship.  This blessed fellowship is established by Jesus Christ.  He takes away from you everything that prevents fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We know that sins are nothing to brag about, and we don’t.  We wish we could take back so many careless and cruel words.  We wish we could go back and be much kinder to people, especially if we have learned about the sorrows and stress they were dealing with.  If you have such regrets, it is because God has worked in you sorrow over sins and a desire to never repeat them.  But now comes the promise proclaimed by John: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7,9)  The blessed apostle declares a blessed fellowship.  Jesus is not hostile to sinners, only to unbelievers.

     Unbelievers reject the forgiveness won for them by Jesus.  No matter how much an unbeliever protests that he is good and no matter how many works he can present to prove it, he is still in his sin.  His heart is corrupt.  Therefore, his works are corrupt, and he is judged accordingly.  But by God’s grace, you have learned to put no trust in your merits, knowing you have merited punishment.  Rather, you cling to your Savior; and the blood of Jesus cleanses you of all sins.  This is God’s faithful promise to you—that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.  If you believe and are baptized, God upholds his promise to you that you are forgiven of every offense and purified of all unrighteousness.  Rather than make excuses to others you have sinned against, now you make amends.  This is part of what it means to walk in the light.  But your forgiveness is not based on your making amends.  It is purchased by the blood of Christ.  It is applied to you by the blood of Christ.  And it is sustained in you by the blood of Christ.  This is the benefit of the blessed fellowship declared by the blessed apostle.

     The apostles were chosen by Jesus to go and to bear witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  They declared that salvation and forgiveness come only through Jesus Christ.  They were all consistent in their testimony, and they all were treated the same for their message—they were persecuted, tortured, and killed.  John was an exception to this.  Tradition says that John died of natural causes at a good old age.  That does not mean that John’s life was easy.  While John is known as the disciple Jesus loved, that love was not revealed through preferential treatment.  It was revealed only through the mercies of a God who saves.

     For preaching about Jesus, John was banished by the Roman emperor Domitian to the island of Patmos where, it would seem, John was left to die.  While on Patmos, John was cut off from any companionship or contact with his fellow Christians.  The Christians whom John had served could pray for him, but they could not be seen by him.  John still had a blessed fellowship, for he had not been cut off from Jesus.  But John was not able to benefit from that blessed fellowship with other believers who had been redeemed by Jesus.

     This is not exactly the heart-warming message that you might want to hear as we still revel in the joys of Christmas.  But it is no accident that even in the joys of Christmas we are reminded of the cross.  Yes, we remember the cross of Jesus, but we also remember the cross that Jesus has us bear for the sake of his name.  The harsh reality is that you cannot have fellowship with the world and with the Lord.  The world may enjoy Jesus as long as he remains a cute baby in a manger.  But when Jesus actually has words of substance, the cuteness of Jesus wears off.  In fact, he becomes offensive.  Many reject the idea that they need to repent and need a Savior.  They insist on being accepted the way they are—without a change in behavior, without a concern for God’s word, and without apology.

     But God has worked in you a change in behavior, a concern for God’s word, and a mouth that confesses Jesus.  This is why the world despises you.  Your godly confession and your godly life testify to the world that it is evil.  Even if others jump all over you because you have sinned and they call you a phony, it is not true.  If you confess your sins and sorrow over them, you are not a phony.  You are acknowledging that God’s word is right to convict you.  Those who do not call God a liar.  And they may despise you for saying otherwise.  The world may be hostile to you, but God is not.  St. John reminds us: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1,2)  God is not hostile to sinners, only to unbelievers.

     The blessed apostle declares a blessed fellowship.  John declared a real God, not a theoretical one.  John is a witness that God entered our world as a man, associated with everyone, was interested in their lives, and even probed into their hearts.  Jesus is a God who could be seen, heard, and touched.  It is by Jesus’ death that your guilt is taken away, and it is by Jesus’ resurrection that God declares that he is pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice and, as a result, with you.  Therefore, God’s love for you is not something you have to convince yourself that you have.  It is tied to a real man whose crucifixion and resurrection were real, historical events.  Since Jesus is real, so is your forgiveness and salvation.  St. John saw it, and he tells you so.

     The blessed apostle declares a blessed fellowship.  That fellowship is still established by means that you can see, touch, and hear.  Just as God came as a physical person, so God still comes to us through physical means.  By the waters of holy baptism, you have been brought into the family of God and enjoy the fellowship and benefits of God’s kingdom.  By the bread and wine of holy communion, Jesus gives you the body and blood which have conquered death and live forever.  Rather than assuming you are forgiven, God has established holy absolution by which you hear Jesus’ minister speak the very words of God.  This is how the immortal, eternal, invisible God meets his people to keep us secure in his love forever.    

     The blessed apostle declares a blessed fellowship.  John wrote his epistle to fellow Christians who needed this comfort and encouragement as much as we do.  When God joins people to his church, he unites us to other flesh and blood people.  The Lord Jesus Christ attaches us to one another for the good of each other.  We get to see one another, hear each other’s concerns, and touch one another’s lives.  In this way, we get to strengthen and support one another as we continue to live in a world which is hostile to Christ and which mocks godly lives by God’s people.  In order to not be swept away by fellowship with the world, we need this blessed fellowship with one another.  For this is how our Lord Jesus Christ strengthens and keeps us in the one true faith.  Here alone will you find a real forgiveness and even the tangible love of God. 

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

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Minor Festival -- Festival of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

                Lutheran worship is liturgical.  While that often refers to an order of worship, it can also refer to the calendar of the Church Year.  The Church Year includes major festivals, such as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, etc...  Today we recognize a minor festival, the Festival of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist.

               John was the son of Zebedee and the brother of St. James.  John and James were known as the “Sons of Thunder,” which reveals their passionate nature (sometimes misguided).  John was one of the three apostles who was privileged to witness Jesus’ most intimate moments in his ministry (e.g., the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus’ transfiguration, Jesus’ sufferings in Gethsemane).  John, who refers to himself as “the other disciple” or “the disciple Jesus loved” in his gospel, seemed to be Jesus’ closest friend.  This apostle wrote the final books of the New Testament (a gospel, three epistles, and Revelation).  We know that, toward the end of his life, John was exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith.  Tradition says that John was the only apostle to die of natural causes.  Whether we go to our grave peacefully or as a martyr, we would pray that our Lord keep us faithful as he did for John.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Something from ... Luther on the Incarnation of our Lord

It is easy to limit Christmas to something cute and charming.  A young lady holds a new born baby.  Who would snarl at that image?

But Christmas is celebrated because it is far greater, far deeper, far more comforting, far more mysterious, and far more majestic than an ordinary birth.  On the one hand, it is an ordinary birth.  There was nothing about the birth of Jesus which appeared any different than what we see today.  A pregnant lady endured labor, pushed when the child was ready to leave the birth canal, and breathed and sweated through the pains of childbirth.  And the boy, coming out bloody and naked, entered our world.  He was cleaned and wrapped in cloths the keep him warm.  There was nothing usual about this.

But we also know the mystery of Christmas.  This baby who was born is the Lord--God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, through him all things were made.  God, who is not limited by time and space, entered the world in our time and confined himself to human flesh and blood.

God became one of us to redeem all of us.  This is the marvel of the Incarnation of our Lord.  Now, here is one of Luther's reflections on this incarnation.

          "The fact that God, as is stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews (2:16), is concerned with the descendants of Abraham, not with angels, is an incalculably great honor to that wretched mass of the human race.  For it was not difficult or impossible for Him to bring His Son into the world without a mother.  But He wanted to make use of the female sex.

          "He could likewise have formed a body suddenly from a virgin  just as He formed Adam from clay and Eve from a rib of Adam.  He did not choose to do this, but He adhered to the order which He Himself had established.  For a  maiden has been created in such a way that she should conceive, be with child for nine mothers, and give birth.  Therefore He wanted His Son to be conceived, carried and born in the womb of a maiden, not formed from clay and not conceived by a male.

         "It is surely a great comfort that it did not please God that His Son should become man from any other material than the human race.  He wanted His Son to become our brother and to adorn us with the exceedingly great honor of having a God born and made man in our flesh and blood." (pp 161-162, Luther's Works: American Edition.  Volume 4, Lectures on Genesis, chapters 21-25)

Sermon -- Christmas Day (December 25, 2020)


o logos is the Greek for "The Word,"
which is the name St. John uses
for the second person of the Trinity.



 In the name + of Jesus.

      When you hear the phrase, “Word of God,” you likely think of the Bible.  Your answer is not wrong, but it is incomplete.  The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” (Hebrews 1:1)  While we have the Old Testament Scriptures to refer to, we do not have the full content of every vision, every dream, and every revelation that God gave.  It is likely that God said a lot to Adam and Noah that were not preserved in writing.  The Holy Spirit preserved what we need to know, but whatever the Lord declared was still the word of God.

     The word of God is also a creative force.  The writer to the Hebrews wrote that “through (the Son) he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2)  God the Father is the Maker of heaven and earth, but it was all made by means of the Word.  The Word of God sounded forth, and all things came into being as they were summoned.  By that Word, the entire universe continues to function.  “(The Son) upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3)  This is a Word that no one hears.  The Word of God goes forth to sustain the orbits of the planets, the revolution of the earth, the tides of the oceans, the reproduction of the animals, and the sprouting of crops.  It is not a word that saves, but it is a word that allows mankind to live and thrive under God’s gracious providence.

     The Word of God is also a person—the second person of the Trinity.  St. John proclaimed: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)  It is noteworthy that God is known as the Word.  If God is the Word, that means that God is not some distant and unknowable force that randomly created us and anonymously guides our world and our lives.  Rather, God is one who desires to communicate with us.  The Word is a God who speaks.  In the past, he spoke through prophets, through visions, and through dreams.  But now, with the birth of Jesus, God comes to us in person, in the flesh.  St. John declared, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)  The Word made flesh is God’s Word, but more importantly, the Word made flesh is God’s Word for you.

     At Christmas the Word became flesh, but we still need the revealed word for Christmas.  It is too easy to focus on what strikes our emotions rather than on what enlightens our faith.  We think about a poor maiden who is on a journey with her husband and is about to give birth.  In our mind’s eye, she has barely set foot in Bethlehem when she is in full blown labor.  Panicked efforts to find a hotel fail, and Joseph and Mary are forced to seek shelter in a barn.  So, there they are—homeless, helpless, and humbly forced into such horrible circumstances.  We don’t consider the bloody mess of birth.  We envision Mary and Joseph and perhaps even the animals glowing with serenity and awe as they stare at the newborn baby boy.  That sentimental image is too good to pass up even if it is embellished or inaccurate. 

     God reveals his word to pull back the curtain and to let us know what going on in Bethlehem.  Yes, a young maiden gives birth to a son, but God tells us who enters the world in Bethlehem.  “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Hebrews 1:3)  The Word has become flesh.  God the Son has made himself one of us.  The eyes see a Hebrew baby boy.  Faith confesses, “My Lord and my God.”  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,” (Hebrews 1:1) but now God comes himself to communicate with mankind.  The Word made flesh is God’s word for you.

     While Christmas marks God’s entrance into our world, the writer to the Hebrews covers the entire purpose of his coming.  The God who created the world and sustains it comes into our world.  And “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)  This is why the Word becomes flesh—so that you may be cleansed of all sin, so that you would have peace for your mind and your soul, and so that you can receive the eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom.

     You know what it is to be born into a world of sin and sorrow.  In your younger years, you were probably sheltered from a lot of the sorrow, but it increases as life goes on.  It is not just sin out there that makes life difficult or miserable.  You may have been a victim of the wickedness of others, but you are not accountable for that.  Rather, it is the sin which is in you for which you are accountable.  And that is a condition you were born with.  We confess with King David, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)  That sinful condition marks us for death.  And every day that leads up to our death, that sin in us produces a rebellion against God’s word. 

     God has given us words to speak so that we can benefit our fellow man.  God gives us words so that we can promote each other’s welfare, encourage one another to strive for morality, and support anyone who is downhearted.  Words are supposed to communicate for the good of others.  This is the word of the Lord: “Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor…  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion….” (Ephesians 4:25,29)  But because our minds and our mouths have been corrupted, what happens?  We complain about how much our neighbor annoys us.  Or we insult him to his face that he is stupid or belittle him for getting in our way.  We boast about how we smart we are to take advantage of other people.  We embellish our stories so that we are the victim or the hero, depending on whether we want our audience to feel sorry for us or to celebrate us.  We use our mouths to spread our own fame, and we smear others to do it.  We are no better than the politicians we grumble about. 

     Our Lord has given us words regarding our sinful condition, and we do well to confess them so that we will not perish in our sins.  Once again, we confess with King David: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2)  And this is exactly why the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  The Word made flesh is God’s Word for you—to provide purification for sins, to reconcile us back to God the Father, and to assure us that “God with us” is not a sentence of terror, but an everlasting blessing.

     The Word made flesh is God’s Word for you.  The prophets foretold who Jesus is and what he would do: “Of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.’” (Hebrews 1:8-9)  In loving righteousness, Jesus did everything right.  More than that, in loving righteousness, Jesus did everything to restore things and to make everything right again.  In hating wickedness, Jesus avoided every sin and overcame every temptation.  More than that, in hating wickedness, he removed all wickedness from you.

     In order to make purification for sins, the Word became flesh for you.  The Word of God put himself beneath his own commandments in order to fulfill them.  His flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in purity and remained pure through his entire life.  Even when other people were using their words to slander, mock, and betray him, Jesus held back any words of anger or cursing.  He even prayed for his enemies and blessed them.  Then the fleshly Word was pierced in his hands and feet to be pinned to a cross.  He not only died in perfect obedience to his mission to save sinners, he also died for the disobedience of the very sinners he came to save.  He paid the price for every lie, every snide remark, and every cruel comment.  He bore the disgrace and the damnation, giving his body into the fiery wrath of God for you.  He did this to take away all wickedness from you.  Jesus made purification for sins, and then he purified you through Holy Baptism.  This is why the Word became flesh.  He came for you.

     And while we marvel at the Word becoming flesh, born to peasant parents, wrapped in cloths, and laid in a manger, we know the rest of the story too.  The writer to the Hebrews looks past Jesus’ humble birth and points us to Jesus’ exaltation.  The birth of Jesus is not the climax of the story.  It does no good to stop at the beginning.  We don’t merely wrap the presents and look at them, we tear into them to see what has been given.  We don’t merely prepare a Christmas dinner to look at the nice table setting, we feast and laugh and talk with our loved ones.  So also, we don’t merely worship a baby in a manger.  We rejoice that the Word made flesh carried our sins in his flesh, gave his body into death, and rose from the dead to live and reign.  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” (Hebrews 1:8) 

     We rejoice that the Word made flesh is still God’s Word for us and still speaks to us.  And his words are always given for our good—curbing us from our sins, encouraging us to strive after morality, comforting us when we are downhearted, and sustaining our faith until life everlasting.  More than that, we rejoice that the body which lived for us and the blood which were shed for us are now given to us to deliver God’s gifts to us.  The sacrament is the visible word by which Jesus gives us gifts by means we can see, touch, smell, and taste.  This, too, is the Word of God for you.

     “In these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:2)  He is the Word, and he is a God who likes to communicate with us.  He created us.  He sustains our world and our lives.  He became one of us so that we would always be his—purified of all sin and recipients of divine peace.  And to assure us of that, he continues to be God’s word for you—for your comfort, for your salvation, and forever.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Sermon -- Christmas Eve (December 24, 2020)

On Christmas Eve, we follow the order of A Service of Lessons and Carols.  There are nine lessons.  I offer a brief devotion after the first eight of those lessons, the 9th lesson being the Gospel for Christmas Day.  I save those thoughts for Christmas Day.

Here are two of the devotions from Christmas Eve.

2nd Lesson  --  Genesis 22:15-18                

God’s promises to Abraham


            From all of the people and nations on the earth, the Lord had called Abraham to be the one through whom God would bring the Savior into the world.  The Seed of the Woman would also be the Seed of Abraham.

            The Lord had promised that salvation would come through him, and through his promised son.  The promise was astounding.  It was first given when Abraham was 75 years old.  It was not until Abraham was 100 years old that the Lord provided the son through whom that promise would be kept.  Understandably, Abraham loved his son, his only-begotten son of a promise.  But the Lord tested Abraham.  He commanded him to sacrifice his only begotten son as a burnt offering.  But to do so was also to sacrifice the promise.  What was Abraham to do with this? 

            Abraham did not try to work around the word of the Lord.  The Lord had made a promise, and—somehow, some way—the Lord would be faithful to his word.  Abraham had a heavy heart, but it was an obedient heart.  Abraham would offer up his son as a sacrifice to the Lord.  And the Lord—somehow, some way—would be faithful to his word.  Before Abraham slew his son, the Lord stopped him.  Abraham had proven himself faithful and obedient.  In place of Isaac, the Lord provided a ram to be slain.  The Lord—somehow, some way—was faithful to his word.  It was not this son of Abraham who would be an offering.  It would be the son who would come later.

            Through the Seed of Abraham, all nations would be blessed.  When Abraham’s Seed would come, he too, would be the only begotten Son of his Father.  God the Father would send his Son to be a sacrifice.  But this time, there would be no mercy.  No one would stop his death.  The Seed of Abraham would be offered up by God’s command—a substitute for the whole world. 

            Jesus is the “how” God would be faithful to his word.  Jesus is the “way” God would provide salvation to sinners.  The Seed of Abraham, the Son of God, would pay for the sins of the world; for the sins of you.  Through Abraham’s Seed, you and all the world are blessed. Through Abraham’s Seed, you are saved.


3rd Lesson   --  Isaiah 9:2,6,7 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light


            People have always longed for a ruler, a leader, or a king who would fix everything.  We crave an honest man who would put an end to suffering, to hardship, and to any number of problems we must endure.  Stop the war.  Feed the hungry.  Clean up the system.  Fix the economy.  Find a cure for COVID.  Leaders come and go.  The problems still remain.  In a broken world, that should not surprise anybody.

            Even the Lord is zealous for such a ruler.  For, the Lord is not fond of a broken world or crooked rulers.  Nor is the Lord pleased by broken lives or crooked hearts.  The Lord is not the one who broke it, but he has promised to fix it.  The Lord did not make it crooked, but he would act to straighten it all out.  The Lord said he would send a child.  He is the Prince of Peace.  Everything weighs on him.  His reign will not be limited by nationality, race, language, borders, or even time. 

            What's more, he is not crooked.  He does not play favorites, and he cannot be bribed.  His rule will be marked by justice.  The guilty will be punished.  Those who have done wrong will pay the price.  It does not matter who you are; the Prince of Peace is not impressed by your fame or pity you for your anonymity.  It does not matter if someone's sins are flaunted or concealed.  He knows who is guilty, and the guilty will be judged as guilty.

            But he does not revel in shaming and condemning.  He is the Prince of Peace, and he acts to secure your peace.  It all rests upon his shoulders.  He takes your guilt from you.  He becomes the guilty and pays the price for you.  Therefore, the punishment has been taken.  If all the punishment is gone, there is nothing left but blessing.  If the wrath has been removed, there is only peace. 

            The Prince of Peace establishes an everlasting kingdom.  In his kingdom, all things are right.  In his kingdom, everything which was broken shall be fixed.  Every rift will be reconciled.  In his kingdom, darkness will be chased away by light.  In his kingdom, everyone will see God’s mercy and salvation.

            Don’t think he has failed because this world is still broken and the people in it are still crooked.  Rather than make a heaven on earth, the Prince of Peace will deliver you from this broken world to a better one—the everlasting, heavenly kingdom and the home of righteousness.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this; for he is zealous for your salvation.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Bible Information Class to begin -- January 11, 2021

  Bible Information Class

will begin on Monday, January 11.

Classes will be 7:00 – 8:30 PM.

The schedule is as follows:

            January 11                   God's Plan of Salvation                     

            January 18                   God Created a Beautiful Universe.               

            January 25                   Why is the World So Crazy?             

            February 1                   How did Jesus Save the World?                    

            February 8                   The End is Coming!              

            February 22                 Why do We Need the Bible? 

            March 1                       God Works through Holy Baptism.               

            March 8                       God Works through Holy Communion.

            March 15                     God Gathers His Church.

            March 22                     A Conversation with God.

            March 29                     Our Spiritual Heartbeat

            April 12                       Love the Lord your God

            April 19                       Love your Neighbor – Part 1

            April 26                       Love your Neighbor – Part 2; Take good care!

           NOTE: Depending upon how many questions or discussions we have with the material, we may be able to complete more than one lesson in a session.

          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.  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.