Daniel LeCouteur

Pastor Daniel LeCouteur is the presiding pastor of the Family of Faith Lutheran Church. 1646 Maple Ridge Way Traverse City, MI 49686 Mailing address: PO Box 7061 Traverse City, Michigan 49696 If you wish to contribute to Family of Faith, please use this link here

Sunday Sermon – Fearfully And Wonderfully Made

Psalm 139:1-18

Most of you know that I am involved with Michigan’s Heartbeat initiative and in the ensuing weeks I will be encouraging all of us to participate in Life Chain Sunday. As such, the Holy Spirit has put it on my heart to reflect on the sacredness of human life. The child in the womb, the elderly, the weak, the mentally challenged, and those with physical limitations are all precious in God’s sight.

Our Heavenly Father is the giver of life. Genesis 1:26-27 reads: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Or as the psalmist put it, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Human life is a gift that should be celebrated and protected. Unfortunately that is not always the case. The right to life is an issue that sparks heated and sometimes hostile debate. The issue of abortion is one that divides families and friends. Some people are pro-choice while others are pro-life and the argument as to when life begins rages on.

I believe, with all that is in me, that life begins at conception. Many disagree with me, but the reality is, my opinion does not matter and neither does theirs! In fact, it doesn’t matter what the congress says, it doesn’t matter what the President says, it doesn’t matter what Planned Parenthood says, it doesn’t even matter what the Supreme Court has to say on the subject… what really matters is what God has to say about the value of human life.

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Sunday Sermon – Render Unto Caesar

Who owns the vineyard.

Luke 20:1-24

One of the questions I get, as a pastor, is how I go about writing a sermon. For me, it begins with a review of the scriptures we have been given for the week. I think all of you know that we are a tradition that uses the common lectionary, which is a three year cycle of readings, that includes an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament Reading and a Gospel reading. I start by searching for one of the readings that might have a relevant message within in it.

When I read through the Gospel lesson, however, which was only verses 9-20, I was a little confused because the parable by itself made no sense at all. So, I pulled out one of my bibles and began reading from the beginning of the chapter and continued on a few verses beyond the parable. This is what I just read to you, and when I had the context of the situation it made much more sense to me. It was then that I could see that Jesus was begging the question, “who owns the vineyard?”

The chief priests, the scribes and the elders knew they had been bested by this question so they plotted further to trip Jesus up. So they send spies who pose the question of taxes. I am going to actually begin with that question, because it offers us a little context of the day.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were vexed at living under a foreign, pagan government, whose rule was enforced by an army of occupation. The Jews paid a land tax, an income tax, a poll tax, an import tax, and a tax on grain, wine, and oil. We may think we are heavily taxed today, but things were far worse in first century Israel. Well that is unless, of course, our current governor gets her way.

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Sunday Sermon – Why Christmas?

Worrying about the actual date of Christmas may miss the point of it.

“Why Christmas?” Why does the entire world seem to at least acknowledge that the 25th of December is Christmas?

For just a moment I’d like us to ignore the obvious – that it is the celebration of Christ’s birth, because if we were totally honest with ourselves, that isn’t what it means to the vast majority of people who celebrate it. I mean, look around us. This is a very festive looking room, but what don’t you see? I’d like to take a few moments to examine the history that surrounds some of the traditions of Christmas.

Many people realize the date of Christmas was originally used by pagans to celebrate the passing of the winter solstice. They knew that by this time in December that the shortest day and longest night had passed, and with that came the promise of longer days, shorter nights and eventually spring.  The date of December 25th, as the celebration of Christ’s birth, however, was first seen in a Roman calendar dating from approximately 336 AD.

But it is very unlikely that Christ was born during the winter months. Why not? Good question. In Luke 2:8 we read: “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Now, the usual time for the sheep to be kept in the fields surrounding Bethlehem is after the last of the winter rains in April and before they start up again in November. So, if there were shepherds in the fields then the birth likely occurred between April and November.

But December wasn’t always the choice for celebrating Christ’s birthday. In the two hundred years after the death of Christ, Christians celebrated his birth on January 6, April 19, May 20 and several other dates. A few years ago a British physicist and astronomer, David Hughes, calculated that the date of Christ’s birth was September 17th, 7 BC.

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Sunday Sermon – The Oft Forgotten Commandment

Mark 12:28-37

Many years ago a shabbily dressed boy trudged several miles through the snowy streets of Chicago, determined to attend a Bible class conducted by D. L. Moody.

When he arrived, he was asked, “Why did you come to a Sunday school so far away? Why didn’t you go to one of the churches near your home?” He answered simply, “Because I find love here.”

As we think about that story, we need to ask ourselves whether others can say the same about our families and our church, and it is because we all struggle with loving God and loving others. But love is the greatest need of humans and it also the greatest obligation of humans. Let me repeat that: love is the greatest need of humans and it also the greatest obligation of humans.

If you can recall the last couple of Gospel readings – and don’t feel too badly if you don’t, because I find that a hard thing to do myself – but if you do you would recall that Jesus was continuously being opposed by the religious authorities. He was opposed by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, and in last week’s gospel by a group of Jews.

He taught them; “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But they didn’t understand, they didn’t believe. And in today’s gospel Jesus is tested by a scribe. Now, if you aren’t familiar with scribes, they were the persons who were responsible for copying the sacred texts so the next generation would have them available. Scribes were highly educated and were meticulous at their task.

Just to illustrate how meticulous they were: I am sure you have all heard of the Dead Sea scrolls.

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Sunday Sermon – God & Marriage

Genesis 2:18-25

How does one define marriage?

  • Well, to some – it is “the quickest way to kill a good romance.”
  • To a live-in girlfriend, it might be a piece of paper that guarantees she will get some money for all the time she invested in a bad relationship.
  • To others it is the answer to most of their problems – and still others it is where most of the problems began.

Turning to our first reading, however, we find that God conducted the first wedding in the Garden of Eden. Hence, we find this possible definition: It is the union of one man and one woman by the will of God into a growing relationship of love for life.

Biblically speaking, marriage fulfills four purposes God has for mankind.

  • The first is to populate the earth. In Genesis 1:28 God tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.”
  • The second is to avoid loneliness. In our opening verse we find that for the first time in the creation account something is NOT good. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
  • The third purpose is to satisfy sexual desires. In 1 Corinthians 7:9 Paul says, “. . .it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
  • And the fourth is to build character so as to produce godly children. This is found in Malachi 2:15, “Has not the Lord made them one?” And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring.”

Of course, one of the the most damaging situations for any relationship is one’s own demeanor. If one is content or happy with their own life, then they will most likely extend that contentment or happiness into the relationship.

And it is also true that most relationships benefit from both persons bringing this type of attitude into the relationship.

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State Of Our Union

Isaiah 32:1-8; Matthew 5:1-18

This Independence day message is from this last Sunday’s Sermon

Well, we celebrate Independence Day this week.

It is always a very patriotic time, at least for most of the nation. So, I have once again changed our readings around so that I might talk about the State of the Union. And I am going to start with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The first thing we should know about the pledge is that it was not composed by the Founding Fathers. It was written especially for children in the summer of 1892 to commemorate that year’s celebration of Columbus Day.

The pledge first appeared in print on September 8, in The Youth’s Companion, an educational publication. In its original form, it read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which is stands — one nation indivisible– with liberty and justice for all.”

Its author was Francis Bellamy, an assistant editor of The Youth’s Companion, who intended it for a one-time recitation by public school children across the country. But its immediate popularity transformed it first into an annual Columbus Day tradition – and then into a daily classroom ritual. It became one of the earliest verses memorized by students.

Since its debut, Bellamy’s pledge has undergone two major alterations. In 1923, the National Flag Conference of the American Legion replaced the somewhat ambiguously personal “my Flag” wording with the more explicitly patriotic “the Flag of the United States of America.” And in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill that added the words “Under God.”

The pledge of allegiance, then, comes to us in its present form after having been shaped and transformed over time. So too, ours is a nation which has had its character shaped by specific factors over time.

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Sunday Sermon – Not My Fault

Genesis 3:8-15

The Word of God – through which the Holy Spirit will be guiding our hearts and minds today – is recorded in our reading from Genesis. (3:8-15)

It is a familiar story to all of us, as it speaks to the origin of mankind. In this story, the only fruit in the Garden of Eden that is forbidden is that which hangs from the tree in the midst of the garden, but Adam and Eve eat from it anyway. So, God first approaches man and asks if he has eaten the forbidden fruit and man responds, “well, the woman gave it to me.” In other words, “it’s not my fault.” God then turns to the woman and asks, “what have you done?” And woman responds, “well, the serpent deceived me.” And again she was saying, “it’s not my fault.”

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun,” but many in the modern world may disagree. They consider the modern world more advanced, more sophisticated. We have devices and technology un-imagined years ago. But has the world – or the people in it – really changed? Are people innately different now than years ago? Has human nature fundamentally changed because we have cars and space shuttles, televisions and computers? Have we learned anything about ourselves from those who lived long ago?

Motivational speaker Travis Robertson writes: consider the statements below and see if any of them resonate with you:

  • It’s not my fault that I’m overweight. My parents were overweight and it runs in the family.
  • It’s not my fault that I have anger issues. My dad physically abused me when I was a kid.
  • It’s not my fault that I lie a lot. I had to in order to survive growing up.
  • It’s not my fault that I lost my job. My company was mismanaged and went out of business.
  • It’s not my fault that I’m addicted to pain pills. I am in constant pain after the accident.
  • It’s not my fault that I..

…well you get the idea.

He goes on to say that all of these things may in fact be true. Many things that happen to us may not be our fault. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where things happen to us that are outside of our control. Kids are abused and abandoned. They grow up in terrible environments with terrible parents. People are permanently injured in accidents that weren’t their fault. Lives are altered sometimes through no fault of our own.

But here’s the reality: just because something isn’t our fault, that doesn’t mean it’s not our responsibility.

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Sunday Sermon – Memorial Day

Today's sermon

Hebrews 12:1-10

  • I’d like to share something I found on the internet:
  • It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
  • It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
  • It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
  • It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us the right to assemble.
  • It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
  • It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
  • It is the VETERAN who salutes the Flag,
  • It is the VETERAN who serves under the Flag.
  • It is the VETERAN who rests under the Flag.

Did you notice those last three refer to our flag? We talk about our flag and we talk about the colors of courage – but did you know that when the Stars and Stripes were officially adopted in 1777 that the red, white and blue used for the flag had no particular meaning? Those colors did, however, have specific meaning in the Great Seal of the United States.

Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, while reporting to congress on the seal, had this to say: “The colors of the pales – the vertical stripes – are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness and valor; and Blue, the color of the chief – the broad band above the stripes – signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.”

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Sunday Sermon – Palm Sunday

Rejoice Over Your King - Zechariah 9:9

Today marks the opening of a very serious and yet enjoyable time of year for Christians.

It’s the week we call Holy Week. We have been planning events, making arrangements and preparing ourselves for this special season of worship. And we call it “Holy Week” because we celebrate the events which led up to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is this series of events which point to the most significant time in human history – a point which all prior history had looked forward to with expectancy, and all history since has looked back upon with wonder.

Certainly the ministry of Jesus Christ spanned more than a week, but this one week in His life was filled with so much significance. Every moment was driving toward the culmination of His rising following His propitiatory work on the cross.

Holy Week begins today with the very memorable scene from Scripture.

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Sunday Sermon – The Adventure

Acts 2:42-47

On April 11, 1970, 3 men set off on an adventure. They were the Apollo 13 crew, and their adventure was to be the 3rd manned moon-landing. Their spacecraft looked like this drawing. The main module, the Odyssey, was designed to be their home for the journey to and from the moon, and attached to that was the lunar module Aquarius, that would allow two of them to land on and lift off the moon.

A little over two days into the flight, they contacted NASA with these now famous words: “Houston, we have a problem” Now, that that turned out be something of an understatement. What they’d had was an explosion. Exposed wires had set off an explosion that destroyed one oxygen tank and damaged a second.

They still had enough oxygen to breathe, but those oxygen tanks were also used to power the fuel cells in the main craft. With those tanks gone, the fuel cells would be increasingly depleted to the point where the crew would never be able to make reentry into earth’s atmosphere.

They realized that if they could power down the Odyssey and move into the landing module they just MIGHT make it home. But that created another problem. The landing module wasn’t designed to hold 3 men that long. So, CO2 remained the biggest issue.

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