Pray to the Lord of the Harvest

Luke 10:1-9 Preacher: Rev. Mike Vieregge As the leaves turn and the Fall harvest is at hand, we focus this week on the Feast of St. Luke, and on those who will carry the Good News throughout God's creation. Luke reminds us; "The harvest is plentiful but, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." When we pray for laborers, we so often look to people like Seminarian Chris Durham, who preached last week. But are we ever bold enough to pray that God would use us too? Our readings this week remind us that this is a difficult task to go out into God's harvest, but it is also one which He asks us to do. We never go alone! Our Heavenly Father promises to be with us. We gather, nurture and serve, because He loves! So let us also go out and gather others, nurture them and serve them so that they too may know that Jesus loves them. Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, School, Childcare in Birmingham, Michigan 48009

Mount Calvary

Confidence in the safety that the Lord provides to us on Mount Calvary. Text: Isaiah 25:6-9 Preacher: Seminarian Christopher Durham Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, School, Childcare in Birmingham, Michigan 48009

This weekend we conclude our three-week he “Heart Issues are Hard Issues” sermon series with the theme “Bringing the Fruit of His Steadfast Love,” based on Philippians 3:4b–14. But really, it's based on all three readings assigned for this weekend. We’ll look at the fruit of faith – the very love of Christ lavishly poured out on a world broken by what, in the Old Testament lesson, Isaiah calls “wild grapes:” sin, selfishness, and vain desire for earthly glory. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus rebukes the religious leaders of God’s people for their “wild grapes” – the fact that they’ve pitted themselves against God and His ways by desiring honor and power above all other things. And in the epistle lesson from Philippians, Paul boasts about his “pedigree,” then says it’s all “wild grapes;” worthless compared to the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. We will search the Scriptures to see how God calls us, His vineyard, to bring the good fruit of faith, into the divisive issues of the day — prejudice and injustice chief among them — by identifying the true enemy, seeing people as God sees them, and by being the light of Christ to break down barriers and become those who bring reconciliation and unity to a fractured world. Preacher: Rev. Steve Woodfin Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, School, Childcare in Birmingham, Michigan 48009

This weekend we continue the “Heart Issues are Hard Issues” sermon series with a look at why unity is so hard to maintain. God desires for people to be united. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that we are called to be of the same mind, same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Why is this unity so hard? In the church we aim to find our unity in the promises of God but fear and hatred keep pushing people toward divisions. Our society is growing increasingly divided and conditioned to respond to current events with anger and frustration. Is it possible still to look at this world with God’s love instead of political, economic, or sociological fears? Paul wrote with hope, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” With God all things are possible.

All that Matters

We live in a society imprisoned by injustice and ripped apart by racial and political tensions. How do we go about living with joy, hope, and confidence during these times? Two foundational truths matter when trying to figure out how to navigate these difficult days. First, our identity is wrapped up in Jesus. Second, our life is wrapped up in Jesus. When St. Paul was in prison, he trusted that God was at work advancing the gospel. The outward circumstances of a sinful world appear overpowering but we will trust that God continues to be at work advancing the gospel.

Forgiveness = Life

Matthew 18:21-35 In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the king first forgives the servant of an astronomical debt. Yet the servant cannot forgive a relatively small debt owed him by another, and so the king rescinds his forgiveness. Wait a sec. Forgiveness is very, very hard sometimes. What if I just can’t forgive someone? Does that mean God will remove His forgiveness from me? The answer God gives us in His Word is His new way of understanding forgiveness. It is not something we do, but something God gives. Freely. Lovingly. Lavishly. And that gift of forgiveness is not a one-time act; it’s a continual flow of grace, pouring into our lives. But it doesn’t – it cannot – stop there. It continues on, this flow of extravagant, unending mercy and love, to fill the lives of those around us. God delights in forgiving us, and seeing us act as channels of His grace as we deliver that grace to others. Preacher: Rev. Steve Woodfin

Labor of Love

On this Labor Day weekend as we try to rest and relax, God's message to us is hard. Take a moment to read the three passages assigned to this week: Ezekiel 33:7-9, Romans 13:1-10 and Matthew 18:1-20. These are law-filled sections of God's Word. And not only God's law, but also a clear description of the punishment we face for not fulfilling the law. Why is loving so hard and laborious, yet getting angry seems to come so easily? Why is it so challenging to be a slave to God's Law, yet so easy to serve our own sinful flesh? And why did our Heavenly Father choose to send Jesus to suffer in our place, when it is we deserve all that He took on Himself? We gather together this weekend, both in-person and online, and rejoice to hear God's answer...because He loves.

"The Stumbling Block of the Cross" Matthew 16:21-28 The solid rock upon which the church will stand is the promise that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter got it right when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” But in the next conversation, Peter gets it wrong. So wrong that Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!” God’s mission for the world to save us lost and condemned sinners will both be the solid rock upon which the church will stand and also become the stumbling block that we trip over. Jesus refuses to avoid the journey to the cross. Jesus turns toward the suffering caused by sin. Jesus turns toward the violence in this world. Jesus turns in love to this world even while we are yet sinners. In the name of love, we do not turn away from picking up the cross and following Jesus. Violence is not the ultimate power that we must hide from. We can turn toward this violent world and bring the love of God. We will suffer hate because of the love of Jesus. We will share the love of Christ anyways.

In times of distress, feelings of being lost and lonely can be overwhelming. God speaks words of comfort into our times of distress. God asks you to look at what He has done. The righteousness of God goes into this world like a light that will not be extinguished. Into the waste places, wilderness, and deserts of despair, God brings comfort, joy, and gladness. God brings the voice of song. So it is time to listen to God, look at what He promises, and trust His righteousness will not be dismayed.

Matthew 15:21-28 What keeps this Canaanite woman going? Jesus is ignoring her; the disciples are trying to get rid of her. Even when she finally gets Jesus to respond, what He says to her sounds like an insult. But she keeps going. And ultimately, Jesus was impressed, even inspired, by her faith. And He healed the woman’s daughter. What does it look like in our lives to pray with such passionate persistence? To demonstrate an unending faith in the face of difficult circumstances, where it seems God Himself has turned His back on us? Our Heavenly Father has given us the great gift of faith, and we can be confident that faith, made active by the Holy Spirit and strengthened by the Word of God, will allow us to stand firm to the end, no matter what the world throws at us.