Monday, April 30, 2007

Now THAT is a Processional Cross!!

So beautful and unique is the processional cross at Good Shepherd that it needs it's own post! This cross was made especially for the congregation by a wonderfully talented Lutheran artist in Grand Rapids. It has two sides, our crucified Lord with the four Evangelists on one side and Christ, our Good Shepherd with various symbols on the other side.

This is the Church's emblem, the chi and rho presented as a shepherds staff and the alpha and omega.

It seldom happens...

that something is so much better than you ever thought possible. Many times good things will happen, but it's not often that those good things just keep getting better. For example, it was a good thing that I received a call on Call Day, it was better that it was close to our families, it was better still that they were looking for a traditional, conservative Lutheran pastor, but after our first visit to the village of Middleville this weekend, we just don't know what to think!

We arrived at a beautiful little white church. As you will see in the pictures in the link, it is a charming and reverent place of worship. We were greeted by the vacancy pastor, Rev. Goltz. Entering the church for the first time was a delight, my own words just cannot express it, so look at the pictures in this link!

And the people were wonderfully welcoming to us. Everyone seemed so happy to meet us! They had a cake for us after church (welcoming us, they even spelled Lesa's name right! My Dad doesn't even do that!) The level of education and devotion these people exhibited for the Lutheran faith was a real blessing. It happens much to infrequently these days that Lutherans know what they believe and are not ashamed of what they believe. My first impression of the congregation at Good Shepherd was that they not only know what they believe, they take great delight in the Cross of Christ and the Word and Sacraments.

In short, I could not ask for anything better!

The Lord be with you!

Tonight was the big night, no, not Administrative Professionals Day (although it was). Tonight I learned of the greatness of God's love for His Church as He graciously provided candidates and vicars to serve in our LCMS cogregations. Tonight I learned where I will be blessed to serve God and His Church.

To the Saints at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Middleville, Michigan!
In the name of our Good Shepherd, Grace and peace to you in the name of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ!

I have been waiting for you for 8 years, when I first decided to go to the seminary. I have been praying for you for many months as I pray you have been doing for me. Tonight was one of the happiest of my life! I look so forward to meeting all of you and being for you the best pastor that I can be. I want to serve you in love and patience, in the joy of our mutual forgiveness in Christ and the blessings of our communion in His Word and the Sacraments. This is an informal greeting and I will be getting in touch with you soon, but I wanted to at least say 'hi.'

May our Good Shepherd keep you in love and peace until I am blessed to serve you in the office of the Holy Ministry!

The Lord be with you!

Jim and Lesa Roemke

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Our Good Shepherd

***Seeing as how I have been called to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, I thought it appropriate to dig this old post out of obscuity and re-post it (Originally Posted 08/05/05)

This icon presents a radically different view of Christ as the Good Shepherd than any other depiction I have seen. Here we are shown a shepherd that is determined to get His sheep to safety. Notice the look of determination of the face of Christ. This is not the “hippie” looking Jesus portrayed in so many pictures. This Jesus has a firm and steady gaze, He is serious and His stance and appearance give the impression that nothing will come between Him and His precious sheep, not the devil, death or the cross (notice the holes in His hands and the cross behind Him). He went through and overcame all the pain, humiliation and death of the cross. He bore our sins and He is not going to let us go!

Notice now the sheep. It does not look particularly happy. Christ comes to us when we are lost in our sins. He does all the work of getting us out of our sin and then it is Him who holds on tight to us. The sheep may not want to be held on to, but it has no choice because it is not the sheep that is making the choice. This icon is so great because it is all about Christ and Him crucified. It shows the power and glory of the risen Lord.

Now, having said all that, other portrayals of Christ as the Good Shepherd are not bad. They often portray Christ as a loving and gentle shepherd, which He is. I think the danger is when portraying Christ like that we forget about what He went through for us, His lost sheep. The cross was no frolic in the pasture; it was brutal, humiliating, painful, crushing and deadly.

That’s my two cents, for what it's worth. Christian art is an important part of devotional life, along with music. I think it is just as important that we examine and deeply think about what we are looking at as Christians because it will shape and influence how we look at Christ and His work for us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Polls are Closed!

As if it really mattered! This is the work of the Holy Spirit!
Tune in tomorrow to find out where the gracious and merciful Lord of the Church has called me to serve His people with His strong Word and the blessed Sacraments.
Pray for us!

The results:
Indiana with 10 votes has 16% of the vote
California with 3 votes has 5% of the vote
Wisconsin with 4 votes has 6% of the vote
Minnesota with 2 votes has 3% of the vote
Illinois with 4 votes has 6% of the vote
Texas with an astounding 29 votes has 45% of the vote
Michigan with 3 votes has 5% of the vote
Ohio with 3 votes has 5% of the vote
Florida with 2 votes has 2% of the vote
And Other with 4 votes has 6% of the vote

Friday, April 20, 2007

Celebrity Sighting!

My wife and I went out tonight for her birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETIE!!)

After supper we went to Ted Drewes, and can you guess who was right in front of us in line?!?!

Ok, you probably can't. It was Phyllis Smith! Ok, you may not recognize the name, but if you are a fan of The Office on NBC (which Lesa and I are) then you would recognize her instantly has the soft-spoken Phyllis Lapin (now Vance, of Vance Refrigeration!) We talked to her and she was the nicest person ever! What a great surprise! And she if from St. Louis originally.

Thanks for being so nice Phyllis! It was great to meet you. Keep up the great work!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Easter Meditation

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job 19:25

What beautiful words from Job in the midst of his suffering. These are Easter words, words that we take comfort in and express the hope that gives our joy.

We know that no matter what, no matter what difficulties befall us, no matter how many times cars are stolen, no matter how much student loans we may have, no matter what kind of cancer the doctor said, our Redeemer lives!

This verse also gives us the Easter reason for our faith. I have been focusing on this verse in my evening devotions. As an antiphon between prayers it serves as a joyful reminder of the certainty and reality of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray this verse before and after reciting the 10 Commandments. For I know that my Redeemer lives, He has kept the Law perfectly for me. For I know that my Redeemer lives, I am able to live in His new live and follow His precepts.

I encourage you to meditate upon this verse these weeks of Easter. Not only Job 19:25, but the preceeding and following verses. It is not just our Lord who lives, but we who have life now in Him.

He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there!

A Devotion on Augustine's Confessions

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Psalm 119:73
+ + +
The Good Giver

On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will (223).
-St. Augustine, The Confessions

My wife likes to make lists. She makes lists of things to do at home, at work, on vacation, what to buy at the store, books she has read, books she would like to read, songs she likes, and, just about anything else that you can imagine making a list for. She is a list person. In many ways, I am the opposite. I enjoy living somewhat more spontaneously, but I have my lists. I like to make mental lists of all the good things I have done. When I unloaded the dishwasher, all the times I cleaned out the cat box, when and where I went to church, etc.
These are two very different ways of making and keeping lists. These lists are pretty common, and, even though I sometimes feel like I’m boasting, I don’t mind admitting to keeping these kinds of lists of “good things.” But there is a different list that I keep, and I’m sure to some degree everyone keeps a similar list. It is the list that comes unbidden on a sleepless night, the list that comes after a failure, the list that comes when you know you are wrong, that list of our failures. You know what this list is like. You are lying in bed after a hard day, you are tossing and turning and you just cannot get that one particular thing out of your head. It is this kind of list that haunts us, that gives that ache in the heart, that makes the stomach quiver a bit. It is this list that we all keep, but do not want anyone else to know about: our list of sins.

It is this same kind of list that Augustine enumerates in detail in book 10 of his famous confessions. Here we see the most private, at times absurd, at times heart-wrenching confession of one of Christendom’s great men of faith. This man is revered by Christians of all stripes, and yet he is so unlike those Christians who revere him. Quite unlike the attitudes of self-righteousness, holier-than-thou Christians we have all encountered (and perhaps have been), this beautiful saint of God in Christ shows us just how depraved he is. It’s not enough for him to simply confess to a general sinfulness, he goes through the senses and enumerates in painful detail just how sinful he is.

And yet, there is no sense of over-powering shame. There is no sense of hopelessness or despair in these confessions. Rather there is a sense of great relief. A relief that comes from knowing your disease and the cure. A relief that comes from having the answer in all its simplicity: “Give what you command, and then command whatever you will.” Augustine is a saint, not because he was perfect, not because he is credited with certain miraculous signs or an extraordinarily holy life. Augustine is one of those most beautiful and precious saints of God because he places all his failures in God’s hands and receives all of God’s riches in return. This is the wonder of these confessions of St. Augustine, that he is so honest in his shortcomings and so bold in faith.

I will continue to make my lists. I will continue to fail, to fall short, to embarrass myself and to sin against God. I will continue to feel terrible about all of those sins on sleepless nights. That is part of being human. But instead of hiding those lists in the deep recesses of my heart, I will hold them up in beggar’s hands before the face of my glorious King and loving Father. I will hold them up as an unworthy offering and He will give me that most perfect righteousness that is found in His only Son, Jesus Christ.

+ + +

Holy Lord, You know the list of my heart. You know my ways, You know my unworthiness, and yet You still love me with and ever-lasting love. How can I please You? What offering could I make for so great a gift as this? I will offer up to You my weakness and sinfulness and You will provide me with the righteousness of Your only Son. I will give You my nothingness and You will give me Your holiness. What amazing love this is to be given so freely. On Your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever You will.

Only One Week Left!

It's been a long 4 years filled with many ups and downs. My wife told me the other day that if she would have known all the stuff we would have to go through, she wasn't sure she would have done. And yet, she is glad that she did!

The Lord knows what we go through and it is His loving-kindness and mercy that see us through.

Next week at this very moment the call service will be starting. In about 2 hours from this time next week I hope to be talking to one of my parishioners!

Oh where, oh where has my little car gone?

Yesterday morning I woke up and got ready to go to class. I opened the blinds and looked out the window and could not believe what I saw (or rather, what I did not see!)

Our new car was not in it's parking spot! I had a moment of disbelief! Had I forgotten where I parked it? Surely not! Then I call to my wife and tell her, she thinks I'm joking, but unfortunately I was not. Our car, the one we have had less that 3 months was stolen! Gone without a trace!

It shook us up and we are praying that it would be returned, and we ask anyone who may read this blog to pray about this situation. Currently we are driving a rental (provided by insurance).

If anyone owns a Dodge, buy the Club. The Police Officer told us the Dodge vehicles were the easiest to break into (something about the lock mechanism).

What a hassel, what a headache! It's moments like these that take our eyes off of Jesus. Funny how the "little things" seem to do that more so than the really big ones.

Lord, help us in all circumstances to give thanks to You, for no matter what, our salvation is assured by Your all-atoning sacrifice.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Bond of Prayer

To God’s people at the congregation I will serve His Holy Word and Blessed Sacraments at:

Grace and peace to you! I do not yet know who you are, where you are, what your traditions and customs are, what your fears and anxieties are, the sickness of body and soul that you are enduring. I don’t know anything about you, and yet I feel that I love you.

I have been praying for you. Day and night in my daily prayers, in the middle of the night when I can’t go back to sleep because of the excitement and anticipation of being your pastor. I pray for you often, and it is through this praying that I feel connected to you. Your Father and mine has built a relationship between us in prayer, and I trust that you have been praying for me too.

I pray that I would be a faithful and good shepherd under our Good Shepherd, but I also pray for more “trivial” things. I pray that you would like me. I pray that you will like my dear wife who has played such a huge role in my formation as your soon-to-be pastor. I pray that you would be welcoming to us and that we would grow in mutual love and respect toward each other as we share in the gifts of God-His Word and Sacraments.

There are only 2 weeks left separating us from knowing each other better. I pray that that first meeting would be the beginning of a vibrant life together. There is no greater joy that I have than knowing I will get to serve you saints of God in Christ Jesus.

Until April 25th, I remain your yet unknown candidate for service in the Office of the Holy Ministry. I am praying for you!

The Lord be with you!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

The King of Glory

[Jesus] was not greeted in heaven as the King of Glory until He had been condemned to the cross as the King of the Jews.

Tertullian, Chaplet 14

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Give me that Ol' Time Religion!

No doubt you’ve heard the song “Give me that Ol’ Time Religion,” and, if you are like me, you have cringed at those sappy, simplistic words set to music that has no value other than to give warm fuzzies. But I’ve noticed that people like to talk about their perception of that ol’ time religion.

Some will not use instruments in worship services because, according to them, it is not part of that ol’ time religion. Some will not allow contemporary worship songs or liturgies, because, again, it’s not that ol’ time religion. Some will not conform their hearts and minds to traditional, liturgical and historical worship styles, because, you guessed it, for them it’s not the ol’ time religion.

But let’s put aside all of those perceptions of that ol’ time religion for a moment and look at the truly ol’ time religion.

How far back does it go?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5)

What is it?
Just take a look at Hebrew 11!

Where does it come from?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
(Ephesians 2:8)

So from Scripture we see that that ol’ time religion was in the beginning and comes from the Word of God, that same Word made flesh Jesus Christ.

From Scripture we see that faith is the thing that saves us and makes us righteous before God.

From Scriptures we see that faith is not our own work, but a gift from God.

Give me that ol’ time religion! I’m saved by faith alone, through grace alone in Christ alone.

Links to this post: The Fast Ends, The Carnival Begins Anew from Aardvark Alley

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Good Friday

Does it please you to go through all of My pain and to experience grief with Me?
Then consider the plots against Me and the irreverent price of My innocent blood.
Consider the disciple’s pretended kisses, the crowd’s insults and abuse,
and, even more, the mocking blows and accusing tongues.
Imagine the false witness, Pilate’s cursed judgment, the immense cross pressed on My shoulders and tired back, and My painful steps to a dreadful death.
Study Me from head to foot. I am deserted and lifted high up above My beloved mother.
See My hair clotted with blood, and My head encircled with cruel thorns.
For a stream of blood is pouring down like rain on all sides of My Divine face.
Observe My sunken, sightless eyes and My beaten cheeks.
See My parched tongue that was poisoned with gall. My face is pale with death.
Look at My hands that have been pierced with nails and My drawn-out arms.
See the great wound in My side and the blood streaming from it.
Imagine My pierced feet and blood-stained limbs.
Then bow, and with weeping adore the wood of the cross.
With a humble face, stoop to the earth that is wet with innocent blood.
Sprinkle it with tears, and carry Me and My encouragement in your devoted heart.

Poem on the Passion of the Lord, Lactantius (authorship questioned), from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, 1999 Hendrickson Publishers