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The Our Shepherd Difference

The Our Shepherd Difference: A Christ-centered School of excellence in academics and faith. 

As we close out the 2019-2020 school year, I celebrate the wonderful achievements of some of our students and alumni. 

Every day, we strive to lay a solid foundation for our students' futures, shape a Christian world-view, and foster a love of learning. We pursue excellence. Our Shepherd provides a Christ-centered religiously integrated curriculum that meets or exceeds state standards for high quality schools.  

Our Shepherd extends a warm congratulations to Sarah Gundlach, our Valedictorian for the 2019-2020 school year. Sarah has been awarded the Academic Gold Scholarship which she will use at her new academic home, Marian High School. Way to go Sarah! We are proud of you.

In the same vein of celebration, we not only celebrate with our OS 2020 grads, but we have reason to celebrate with many of our alumni from previous graduating classes. We extend a warm congratulations to Grace Vollmert, OS class of 2016. Grace has earned the Lutheran High Northwest Valedictorian award for this year's senior class! Grace will attend Hope College next year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She will study PreMed as a Biomedical Major. Way to represent OS and your Lord with your gifts and talents, Grace!

Our Shepherd is proud of their alumni and we have a very long list of success stories! Not only is an OS alum the valedictorian this year at LHNW, the 2019 LHNW Valedictorian is another OS grad! Elisabeth Holquist, class of 2015 earned this prestigious honor at last year's convocation ceremonies. Elisabeth has just finished her first year at Wayne State University where she is studying Biochemistry. 

A number of Our Shepherd alumni were recently honored for academics, Christian conduct, and athletics at the Lutheran High Northwest Honors Convocation.

As a matter of fact, we are extremely proud of ALL of our OS alums and the success that they experience in high school and beyond! There is nothing more wonderful than hearing from previous OS students about their success in high school as well as their collegiate success! Our Shepherd students spread their wings at many of our prestigious area high schools, from the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, to Marian and Brother Rice in Birmingham, Shrine in Royal Oak and Lutheran High Northwest in Rochester Hills and DeLa Salle Collegiate High in Warren, not to mention our local area public schools such as Birmingham Groves and Seaholm, Troy High and Troy Athens, Royal Oak High School, and Berkley High to name just a few. The success rates of our alumni in high school rank among the top percentages in the areas of academic excellence, athletic excellence, leadership and spiritual involvement.  

Our Shepherd is proud to call alumni students from some of the finest colleges and universities both in our state and across the country. We have students who go on from high school to excel academically at our public state institutions such as The University of Michigan and Michigan State University as well as some of our smaller private schools such as Hope College in Grand Rapids and Hillsdale College in in Hillsdale, Michigan. We also have students who make their collegiate homes in prestigious schools as far away as Stanford University in California, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, Loyola University, and New York University, and Clemson University in South Carolina. Our students go on to study in impressive academic fields, play collegiate sports and become involved in amazing projects of research and philanthropy. 

At the heart of all that we do is the love of Christ that emanates inside each of our children and when they leave here, not only are they extremely prepared for the rigors of high school, but they are strong and solid in their faith to withstand the storms that the high school experience and the world of college can try to batter them in. When our students leave Our Shepherd, they are prepared for high school, they are prepared for college, they are prepared for the world. This starting block is one that gives them a solid foundation of faith, academics, confidence and leadership to go out into this world and become godly young men and women.   

We are proud of the 2020 graduates of Our Shepherd, and we are confident that like the classes before them, and like the classes who will come after them that they will be prepared for their next experiences with best practices, strong confidence in their abilities, and a solid understanding of who they are as well as WHOSE they are.  

Our Shepherd will continue to place a high value on academics, social relationships, and emotional security, and your child's faith journey which is encouraged and nourished here at Our Shepherd will have benefits that will last for eternity. 

Thank you for a wonderful year. To God be the glory. 

Church and State Relationships During Stay Home Orders

The brokering of honest dialog between the church and the state reveals to me how individuals can view an issue with the same care and end goal but have wildly different means of approach.

In the news this past week there have been examples of how different congregations are handling social distance rules. There is not a uniform voice in the Christian community about how to confront current restriction on large public gatherings.

How different Christians and congregations are reacting to stay-home and stay-safe policies in our country reveals that Christians will disagree on the best social and political policies to keep people safe during this time fighting the coronavirus. Unfortunately these different approaches can threaten our unity in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

General principles can have wide consensus. Inside the Christian community we can agree that life is sacred and God loves the world. When these agreed principles are applied to concrete issues and situations, the practical implementation of principles can result in less and less consensus.

The LCMS produced a document, "Render Unto Caesar-Lutheran View of Church and State" in 1994 to help congregations and pastors navigate how to have influence in church/state relationships. This document draws heavily on a framework for public theology developed by Robert Benne in his book, The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century.

This document outlines four ways a church can exercise influence. These four ways are built up like a pyramid. The bottom level of communication has the most broad agreement in the church and includes conversation that is primarily intended to influence the Christian community. Throughout these layers of political engagement and influence, Christians try to discern how to speak on civic matters in a manner that will best preserve the Church's unity in proclaiming the Gospel.  As we move up the pyramid toward more direct and intentional civic action there will be a decreasing ease of building consensus and and increasing risk of polarizing controversy. 

The core message for the church is Jesus as the Christ, the savior of the nations. The biblical witness to that event and the key teaching of the church to that event should be clear and confident. Moving out from this core to the moral vision of how Christ changes society, including social teachings, and then to specific policy positions will lead to more disagreements in the church and in society. The unity of the church that comes from Christ glows with the radiance of the love of Christ. When the unity of the church is found in our work in the world, then human judgments about social or political goals slide into the conversation more front and center than God.

The message that unites individuals and the church to God is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This message will influence our relationships and actions in the world. But we can have differences of opinion inside of the church about the best social policies to bring about the transformation of society. The themes of the Gospel do not have a predetermined set of political policies. When pastors and Christians speak in the public square of politics about specific social policy decisions, there will be disagreements about particular actions. These disagreements can cause confusion and confrontation in the public square. This confrontation may be necessary when law and gospel is being proclaimed to reveal sin and proclaim forgiveness. Sin resists the light of God. When sin is revealed, there will be tension. On the other hand not all tensions the church experiences in the public square is a result of sin being unmasked. Social confrontation in the politics of society may have an unintended consequence of placing a stumbling block in our witness to the core message of the Gospel. Determining when confrontation is necessary and when it is a hindrance is difficult.

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Our Shepherd is utilizing technology to continue to share the gospel in our community and through this technology probably beyond our own local community. I grieve that we have not been able to gather in our sanctuary for worship. I respect the the need to be loving and caring for our neighbors' physical well-being by not unnecessarily exposing people to the danger of community transmission of the coronavirus. I know that in Michigan and other states people will have strong opinions about how best to balance the risks between physical and economic health. As a pastor, I am cautious about speaking definitively against social and political policies because I do not want my personal witness to the gospel to be obscured. I do have opinions, but I respect that different people will determine the appropriate time to directly address an issue with intentional words and actions. 

Posted by Evan Gaertner

The Church has been here before

Pastor William Cwirla at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, CA recently shared on Facebook an excerpt from a 1918 edition of The Lutheran Witness. This article reminds me that the Church has been through dark times before, but the Son of God has risen from the dead. The day of the resurrection sometimes will look like the sun at Noon. High and lifted up. There will be other times in our lives when the the twilight of the night still surrounds us but we see on the horizon the promised truth of the Light of the World shining.

The article says about the flue epidemic of 1918:

Family Devotion - During the present epidemic the Boards of Health of many cities have requested that congregations close schools, churches, and Sunday-schools until the danger had passed. Not only our pastors, but also the ministers of others churches advised their people through the public press, or otherwise, that during the closing of the churches they should read the Scriptures at home and have family prayers. In those homes in which this had been the custom before it was easily arranged. To others it was a novel experience. It is to be hoped that some who tasted the spiritual delight of family devotion will continue the practice in the future. Let no one imagine that the churches or the pastors fear that people will take to prayer in the family and neglect public services. The family that enjoys the reading of the Scriptures and family prayers during the week is the one which is most ready to visit the house of God whenever the doors are thrown open. The more members of a congregation practice home or family devotion, the better will be the church attendance in that congregation. That father and head of the house who gathers his household together each day because it is his intention and determination: "I and my house will serve the Lord," - that father will be of the same mind on the day when the churches are open and the pastor proclaims God's Word.

Are you looking for some good work to do? Would you do something to glorify God, something whereby you may show your gratitude towards the Savior, something whereby you may be yourself blessed, and whereby you may bless your neighbor, something whereby you may be a blessing to your whole country? Institute family devotion daily in your home. Go about it in a cheerful, friendly, evangelical manner. If that is daily done, you have accomplished something that will bless you and yours in time and eternity." 

From page 1 of the October 7, 1918 St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

We do not need to fear the present pall of fear and virus that has befallen our world. Romans 8:31-38 expresses the great confidence that has been true of the Christian faith from the beginning:

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I have no fear that a stay at home order can destroy the faith of believers and the institution of the church. Faith comes by hearing. Hear the Word of God in your homes. When this is all over our doors will be thrown open and we rejoice to dwell in the habitation of our Lord.

Psalm 24 finishes with a celebration:

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

Daily, Pastor Woodfin and I are posting devotions at 8:45am and 8:45pm on Facebook Live and YouTube: You can find the playlist of devotions on our YouTube channel.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

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