(Sun, 11-09-14, 10:30am) — “Checking Your Oil” — Matthew 25: 1-13


November 9, 2014 Text: Matthew 25:1-13

Dear Friends in Christ,

When it comes to preparation, how well do you do? Do you usually have things in order are you running around at the last minute? Did you know what you were going to wear to church today last night or was it a snap decision this morning because you were in a green mood? I had to prepare to deliver this message: read and study the text, check the commentaries, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom, then sit down and do it. If you have schoolwork or a project at work you prepare. If you don’t, well you know the consequences of that decision. Think of these two-word phrases that can scare most of us: “pop quiz”, “surprise inspection”, “unvited guests”.
Another area of life where most of us prepare is when we take a trip. This tends to change as we age. In college my friends and I took my car to Daytona Beach, Florida and I don’t even remember checking the oil. I would not dream of doing that today. I get the oil changed in our cars regularly. It is good maintenance. It is good preparation. It is just plain smart. Today, in our text, we have ten virgins. Five have oil for their lamps. Five do not. Who is prepared and who is not?
“CHECKING YOUR OIL”
In Jesus’ day, the couple’s parents would have arranged this marriage. Part of the joy and anticipation of the festivities would include the bridegroom coming to meet his bride. The bridegroom could come any time day or night. The bride was to be ready. The bridesmaids would help to keep her awake.
In the parable, we have half being wise and half being foolish. The Greek root of foolish is the English word moron. A moron is someone who lacks good judgment. The virgins are outwardly alike. In spite of this five of them did not have any oil. Oil symbolizes spirit and life. In other words, the foolish ones fell away from the faith. The flame of the lamp and its light is faith and its good works. The oil is grace through the Word. The lamp is our outward Christianity. The foolish virgins have the outward signs but inwardly are strangers to Christ. We need to be going back constantly for that oil. Checking your oil.
How does our faith look to the world? Is my lamp burning? Have I prepared? Have I checked the oil? Am I leaking oil as I get distracted by career, family, hobbies, anger, lust, greed. Not to mention worry and doubt. Do the distractions of this world cause us to run ourselves into the ground? Cause our light to flicker? Does our lamp become a burden?
God in his unconditional love goes to great lengths to protect our faith. Faith can die. Jesus talks about priorities and commitments. His desire, His plan, is to keep our lamps filled with oil so we can rejoice when he, the Bridegroom, arrives. Jesus is our Savior. He suffered and died for us. He gives us lamps. He lights our lamps. He fills our lamps with oil. He keeps our lamps full of oil.
How does He do this? Our lamps are filled with Christ through His Word. We need the oil that Holy Scripture can bring. In worship, oil is poured into our lamps so that we are prepared for whatever may come our way. At the font Christ filled you by washing you clean and warding off the attacks of Satan. At this Holy Table, where Christ enters your body and soul to forgive your sin, strengthen your faith in this difficult, fallen world, and where He promises you a place at the greater feast to come.
And when He comes, no matter when that will be, your lamps, your faith, your lives will be filled with Christ – the “one thing needful.”
Putting oil in our lamp is best accomplished as more than a once-a-week chore like filling the gas tank. It is more than a weekend hobby. It is an existence. We are prepared. Christ has prepared us. Jesus keeps us prepared. God keeps our lamps full of oil and our lights burning so that we can see the way to go. When are eyes are on Christ, his promise to us fills our lamps with oil.
Amen.

Bulletin Announcements Nov 9, 2014

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  Matthew 25:4: “….but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.”  Why did they take flasks of oil with them?  Because they listened to the Bridegroom’s words and believed them.  Our actions always start with and flow from our beliefs.  What do your actions in the realm of stewardship say about what you believe?

TODAY is our 2nd Sunday door offering for Reverend Michael Kearney and Seminarian Chris Suggitt.  We received a letter from Chris and his family and it is posted on the bulletin board outside the church office.

2014 COMMITMENT CARD:  Your 2014 Commitment Card is available for pick-up in the narthex.  Next Sunday, November 16th, the new Commitment Cards will be handed out and Stewardship Sunday will be on November 23rd.

 FOOD COLLECTION:  Our Food Collection for Home Sweet Home Mission will continue through this coming Saturday, November 15th.  On that day we will deliver the food and serve a meal at the Mission.

 NEXT SUNDAY is the deadline for items to be submitted for the DECEMBER NEWSLETTER.  Mandy Kluender is our Editor for the church newsletter and any announcements you want to be published in the Newsletter should be submitted to her at mgkluender@hotmail.com.

 ANNUAL VOTER’S MEETING:  Good Shepherd’s Annual Voter’s Meeting is next week on Sunday, November 16th, following the 10:30 Worship Service.  We will have a potluck meal.  The church is providing the meat and drink.  Please bring a side dish or dessert.  The 2015 Budget proposal and the list of candidates for church offices are located in the narthex.

 FINANCIAL STATEMENTS:  If you would like a copy of your 2014 Financial Statement please see Joyce Schneider.

 ENERGY NEEDS ENVELOPES are still available on the table in the narthex.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS:  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

 CAN YOU HELP:  Greetings to all of you, my dear Church family.  I wish to thank each and every one of you for ALL you have done for my family and me: meals, prayers, other help.  I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many people.  This has been the hardest challenge so far for us and we pray that our Lord will heal and restore me to my family.  Stage IV and secondary cancer is no joke and when I have to sleep, I am left with no choice – go in and lie down or fall down!  Which leads me to my point.  I have had to learn to ask for some help.  So here is my humble request: would any of you have some easy slow cooker recipes you would be willing to share with me?  I am collecting some recipes but would sure love to have some of yours. If anyone has slow cooked a roast or a ham or chicken in one, please let me know how for how long you’ve cooked it.  Please email any recipes or instructions to me at: dogdiva2@comcast.net.  Thank you again for everything! Love in Christ, Laura Kessler.

THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “S.O.S. …Call Upon Jesus is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.  God’s SOS brings real lasting hope and rescue, an SOS that shows us our Savior.  The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Tune in!  You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

“DEATH: THE LAST GREAT ENEMY” — I Corinthians 15:26

Nov. 2, 2014 – All Saints Sunday Text: I Corinthians 15:26

Dear Friends in Christ,
Paul gets to the point in our text. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is not our friend. Death is not a celebration. Death is not natural. Death is punishment. Death is the horrendous separation of body and soul.
We can dress it up any way we want. We do it in our language – “She passed away.” “He has gone to the great beyond.” “At least they died together.” We do it in appearance. “Doesn’t he look good?” “Didn’t they do a nice job with the color of her face?” When my mom died we had a closed casket but before that the family could see her. Family thought I needed to see her. I didn’t need that. I saw her the day she died and what death and sin do to our mortal body. I’ve seen death up close and personal and no amount of makeup changes the devastating affects.
We talk of death, but today, All Saints Sunday, is to be a celebration. How can that be? How can death be so tough to deal with and yet we can belt out “For All the Saints” with a smile on our face and the hair on the back of our neck tingling? You know, because you are here. Christ Jesus makes the difference. Our Christian faith brings the joy. Heaven is our home. Let us see how we overcome . . .
“DEATH: THE LAST GREAT ENEMY”
Death is an enemy and it has friends. Child abuse, genocide, starvation, violence, oppression. Picture the scenes. A soldier rapes in the name of a cause. People are beheaded because of where they are born. We see abortion clinics where mother and precious child both are sucked up in a culture of death.
Look at death in some of our neighborhoods. The homeless shivering in the winter and sweating in the heat. Drug deals stealing youth and hope alike. Gunfire breaking the silence. The rise of suicides. Children cutting themselves.
Death is ruthless. It ambushes some and slowly sucks the life out of others. Unless Jesus returns you are another statistic at the local morgue waiting to happen.
American culture does not want to hear this story. We glamourize it. We see it so often on big screen and small screen that we become desensitized. We hide it from view and seldom talk about it because it makes so many uncomfortable. There is no greater law than a dead body. It pierces the heart and is an in-your-face reminder that you to will face this enemy.
We have hope. Oh do we have hope. Defeating the enemy because we believe in the resurrection of the body. The Apostle’s Creed directs us to that victory when we confess, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
We have concern for life after death – the interim state of the soul – but do we miss what has been called “life after life after death?” This is the Christian’s hope – the final day, the resurrection of the body, and the new creation of the heavens and earth.
In the Bible you will find our temporary state as we await, even in death, the return of Jesus. When He comes again He will fully and finally defeat death. Look at Jesus’ words: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
So what is the ultimate and final victory over death? The last day finds God not abandoning His creation but redeeming it. The last day resurrection brings back our bodies with all their senses and members. These bodies will not be subjected to disease and decay; we will be transformed like Jesus’s glorified body. Justice will prevail as all things are made right. You know the phrases – no more tears, no more hunger, no more thirst, no more pain, no more abuse, no more genocide, no more abortion, no more addiction. No more of death’s friends to wreak havoc on our bodies. And joyfully, wonderfully – no more death. Indeed, no more death!
All this happens when Jesus returns to earth. His return is the biblical answer to death. Our hope is the same as Martha when Lazarus died. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) Hope anticipates. Hope looks forward. Hope eagerly awaits. We simply are not prepared to die unless our hope is the true biblical hope, which is standing on its tiptoes watching and waiting for Jesus’ return.
How do we prepare to die? By proclaiming the victory over death that Jesus’s return brings. By taking the friends of death and turning them into defeated foes on the last day. By describing the glories of the resurrection. By reading the Scriptures and looking forward to the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ, and simply declaring what those words say to us.
In the meantime, those who live with this future hope are invited, called, and urged to bring glimpses, moments of that hope into this broken world. Paul ends the great resurrection chapter in Corinthians with these words: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the
Lord, knowing that in the lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Whatever we do to combat that great enemy death and its wretched friends is not wasted. Our acts for the least of our world, care for all of God’s creation, defense of the oppressed and defenseless, contributions to feed and clothe others, and thousands of other acts of justice and beauty in opposition to the ugliness and injustice of this evil age are not in vain.
Join in this work of re-creation now. Be kingdom people who stand confident in the face of death and know your actions make a difference.
We are prepared to die and overcome the last great enemy death when we preach and hear God’s word. Confess the creed. Celebrate the resurrection each Sunday. “There breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Amen.

Bulletin Announcements November 2, 2014

TODAY:  We welcome to our Good Shepherd family this Lord’s Day Ann Hammond.  Ann is joining the congregation through Adult Confirmation.  She works at State Farm as a Staff Support Assistant.  She has two adult children and a cat that lives at home.  She enjoys music, gardening, and cooking.  Ann’s address is 1454 E College Ave., #8 in Normal.  Ann’s email address is: organistparexcellance@hotmail.com.  Please take a moment to welcome her.

NEXT SUNDAY, November 9th, will be our 2nd Sunday door offering for Reverend Michael Kearney and Seminarian Chris Suggitt.  We received a letter from Chris and his family and it is posted on the bulletin board outside the church office.

FOOD COLLECTION:  Our Food Collection for Home Sweet Home Mission will continue through Saturday, November 15th.  On that day we will deliver the food and serve a meal at the Mission.  If you would like to be a part of this outreach please speak with Pastor or Angelina Isaac.

ANNUAL VOTER’S MEETING:  Good Shepherd’s Annual Voter’s Meeting is in two weeks, Sunday, November 16th, following the 10:30 Worship Service.  We will have a potluck meal.  The church is providing the meat and drink.  Please bring a side dish or dessert.  The 2015 Budget proposal and the list of candidates for church offices are located in the narthex.

 FELLOWSHIP HOSTS:  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

 CAN YOU HELP:  Greetings to all of you, my dear Church family.  I wish to thank each and every one of you for ALL you have done for my family and me: meals, prayers, other help.  I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many people.  This has been the hardest challenge so far for us and we pray that our Lord will heal and restore me to my family.  Stage IV and secondary cancer is no joke and when I have to sleep, I am left with no choice – go in and lie down or fall down!  Which leads me to my point.  I have had to learn to ask for some help.  So here is my humble request: would any of you have some easy slow cooker recipes you would be willing to share with me?  I am collecting some recipes but would sure love to have some of yours. If anyone has slow cooked a roast or a ham or chicken in one, please let me know how for how long you’ve cooked it.  Please email any recipes or instructions to me at: dogdiva2@comcast.net.  Thank you again for everything! Love in Christ, Laura Kessler.

THE CHURCH OFFICE has free tickets for the ISU Women’s Volleyball “Pack the Arena” match against Bradley this coming Saturday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m.

THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “God Is Not Against You” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  Christ’s work on the cross shows that God is really on your side and wants what is eternally best for us.  The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Tune in!  You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

Celebrating November 2014

Birthdays

Caleb Evans                    11/2

Ryan Kleiboeker              11/2

Sheri Piper                      11/4

Shirley Potter                   11/4

Patricia Hanner               11/6

Jeanette McNeely           11/6

Phoenix Kleiboeker         11/7

Holden Lueck                  11/9

Curtis Kessler, Sr            11/15

Cannon Kleiboeker          11/17

Theron Noth                    11/19

Joshua Parry                   11/23

Gordon Schroeder           11/24

Aaron Scott                     11/29

Baptismal Birthdays

Jacquelyn Semelka         11/1

Stacia Dowell                  11/5

Janet Evans                    11/7

Cheryl Reichert               11/14

Tammy Brewer                11/16

Gwendolyn Hardy            11/18

Ryan Kleiboeker              11/19

Thomas Anderson           11/20

Jason Scott                     11/25

Penny Culp                      11/26

Holden Lueck                  11/28

Joshua Parry                   11/28

Pastor’s Notes November 2014

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A person traveling in England came across a sign on the desk of a Country Inn. The sign read: “Please introduce yourself to your fellow guests since we are one big happy family.” And then underneath were these words: “Do not leave valuables in your room.” That little sign says a lot about human INCONSISTENCY.

We live in an inconsistent world. If something doesn’t please us right away, or turn us on in an instant or if it means the smallest self-sacrifice – well, forget it. It’s no wonder relationships and children and hard work and loyalties and church attendance is being thrown to the wind.

We need consistency in our lives. Our children need consistency in their lives. God calls us to consistency in what we embrace and believe as revealed in His Holy Word, the Scripture. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) Thank God for the CONSISTENCY OF GOD that firmly holds us to the cross of His dear Son. Thank God that for Jesus’s sake we are consistently reassured: “I. even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isa. 43:25)

How could we possibly be convinced that the CONSISTENCY OF CHRIST’S LOVE FOR US means that INCONSISTENCY IN OUR LIVES IN OK? Listen to this:

“A man who has a layover at an airport does not go into the bathroom and start redecorating. Why? Because he doesn’t live there. He has a home in another place. Why do we Christians work hard at trying to make our life in this world more comfortable? This is just the airport and we are in transit. We should spend our energy on enhancing our eternal reward, and not worry so much about the bare walls in the airport restroom.”

May the Lord bless your consistency in worship and Bible Class and Sunday School. Not hit and miss – here and there. Not giving the Lord our leftover time. We strive for consistency in many areas of life. Let’s do the same with our faith life.

In Christ,

Pastor

“What Happens When Things Fall Apart?” — Psalm 46

October 26, 2014 – Reformation Text: Psalm 46

Dear Friends in Christ,

Isn’t life interesting? The ups and downs. The good times and bad times. I like to say that all of us in this sanctuary are dealing with something. Some have health challenges. Some have family upheaval. Some have job uncertainty. Some have problems with a spouse. Some have college choices to decide. Some have financial issues. Some of you have to live with the consequences of life choices.
The church is also not immune to life. Because of job movement, deaths and leaving our area we have less people in our worship services. The church at large is under attack from its adversaries to the Word of God. The church in the world is being massacred for believing in a Savior. It surrounds us. I’ve seen more of it in the last few years than at any other time in my ministry. What do you say?
“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS FALL APART?
We will look at these questions this morning through Psalm 46. These words will help us discover how we should respond when things fall apart.
The psalm is familiar, isn’t it? Martin Luther based “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on it. As we look at Psalm 46 we will see the events described are happening all around us right now. God’s Word is always contemporary.
Right away the author makes a bold statement about the position people of faith take when things fall apart: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (vs. 1-2a) We will not fear. Period.
Then the author describes three scenes. Verses 2-5 describe hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. The earth is giving way. The mountains are falling into the sea. The oceans are in chaos and the earth is shaking and trembling. In the middle of the scene what do we see? “There is a river who streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” (vs. 4-5) God is in the river. God is present. God is there to help.
Verse 6 gives us our second scene. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” Sudan, Syria, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, geopolitical conflict and terrorism, Ebola outbreaks. Yet in the middle of the chaos what do we see? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (v. 7) A fortress. The Lord Almighty is with us. A place of safety and security. A hiding place where we can rest secure.
Our third scene is verses 8 and 9. Here we have some fascinating words that describe the holy, unbridled power of God, doing things that God in his wisdom sometimes does without our comprehension. Breaking spears, destroying kingdoms, bringing desolation upon the earth. Sometimes God’s mighty, unbridled power intersects with our lives and there is collateral damage. In the middle of this what do we hear? A voice. “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v. 10)
Which of these three scenes do find your life right now? Natural calamities where things are falling apart in your home or with your health? Interpersonal conflicts? The power of God where things just happen you can’t explain? In the middle of the chaos and anxiety and uncertainty, how is your faith? Where is your faith? In whom is your faith?
Without intending it, Luther found himself in the midst of conflict that rocked the world. He raised some questions, 95 of them, that he wanted to debate and have an open discussion about. Those questions changed the face of Europe and the world and brought the threat of death and excommunication from his church. Where could Luther put his faith? In whom?
No matter what scene you are in, God comes to us like he did with Luther, with these words: “Be still. I am your refuge and strength. I am your fortress.” The writer of Hebrews states, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (13:5) God stands beside us through His Son Jesus. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection took away the sin that had separated us from God. This Table – this body and blood – is the guarantee that the Lord is always with you providing you strength to face life. The waters of baptism were poured over you like the river that the Lord is in the midst of during your challenges. We depend on the Lord’s presence throughout our lives. We can say with the psalmist: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (v. 11) This enabled Luther to stand against popes and armies.
Do you ever notice that in the midst of things falling apart the Lord through His Holy Spirit still gives us some joy, something to hang on to? Think of it this way. You may have health problems, but your children are a blessing. You may have job insecurity but your marriage is loving and solid. You may face financial challenges but your favorite sports team is doing well. I mean if you are a fan of the Cardinals you have nothing to whine about. They have been the most fortunate team in all of sports the last few years. Believe me, my stomach and anxiety level knows! And one thing to add on the blessing side – our church here at Good Shepherd. If we know of things causing your life to fall apart we are praying for you and lifting you up to the Lord. You have brothers and sisters in Christ who care because none of us are immune to the foibles of this world. The Lord continues to bless.
We are going to see these three scenes continue to play out in front of us. How will we respond when things fall apart? God comes in this psalm to encourage: Do not be alarmed. Do not worry. Do not be afraid.
These are opportunities for us as Christians to speak these words to one another. We will not fear. Be still. We can sit at home or in our workplace and read the words over and over again: God is our refuge and strength. In the middle of the chaos, we have a calm, peaceful river that warms the heart of God. A strong and mighty fortress. A voice speaking to us: “Be still. For I am your God.”
Amen.