Monday, January 15, 2018

Sermon January 13-14, 2018

Title: Jesus calls you to follow him!
Text: John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

This past Sunday I preached at the funeral service of Patti Dennis in Keego Harbor. I had never met Patti but knew her sister Marlene Wanke a member here at Peace so there was a connection with Marlene and her Son Brian. I learned a bit about Patti, her life and illness, met her husband and heard from family and friends how wonderful a wife, sister, aunt and friend she was. It is funny in death how much we learn about someone’s life.

Serving and preaching at a funeral has connected me to the work of a pastor better than almost anything I’ve learned in my studies. Hospital visitation too has brought the brokenness of life and the need for Christ into sharp focus.

Indeed, it is a privilege to serve as an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, service guild member or a pastor. But it is also an awesome responsibility.

It is therefore important always as we serve that we make sure we share the love of Christ with people so that God by the Holy Spirit can draw people to the Savior rather than by our words and actions drive them away.

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Finding the savior is not our work but Gods. He finds us even though we at times don’t know we are lost. Jesus found Philip and called him to “Follow me.” To this Philip responded in faith and called to Nathanael, “We have found him!” and “Come and see.”

30 years ago at another death and at another time God called me in a special way to a greater relationship with him. As my mom struggled with cancer and an upcoming death, I too wrestled with death in a profound way. Would she suffer long? How should I pray? What should I pray for?

My own prayer life was limited as it probably is for many. I didn’t spend much time in prayer … except at church … and even my attendance had been falling away. So as I wrestled with her illness and death I simply sat in my chair in my basement and asked the Lord to do what was best for me and my mom and that I wanted to know him better. As I sat I prayed the Lord’s Prayer – the one prayer that I knew – the Lord comforted my hurt and I was able then to go about my business.

God did the rest. He called my mom to his loving arms six weeks later, and he gave me comfort and peace in her reward and then … he drew me to himself through his word.

God calls us to faith and then to action. He called me to a renewed relationship in Christ and then as he continued to work in me through his word – as I attended services and read the bible - he gave me a desire to to serve him. I didn’t know what or how but God’s call – “follow me!” - was clear!

My friend Rob Bourassa is hearing that call right now. He was the one who God used to be a mentor to me early in my faith renewal. Rob was always in the word and sharing the Gospel. When we went to guitar festivals together he would get people’s attention with his guitar playing and then when the opportunity arose would tell them about Jesus. His understanding of scripture and zeal for God brought me to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and God called me to further service at our church through the SMP program at the Seminary. God is now doing the same thing for my friend Rob. His church leadership has asked him to consider the SMP program and service as Pastor of his church. What a responsibility, what a privilege!

God doesn’t always call us to ministry or even to service as church workers, though that is a blessed call. He calls us all first to faith, he opens heaven to us through Baptism, and with we who are his in Christ, he is well pleased. It is then that he uses us as his people to serve others. For some, it is in service here at Peace and Lord knows we have many places to serve. For others he calls us to be a witness to our friends and neighbors just as Rob was to me and Philip was to Nathanael calling him to “come and see!”

I've had the joy of doing both. Where and when will the Lord call you?

Jesus calls you and me though to follow him!

At times it is when you least expect it. Take Samuel in our Old Testament reading for today:
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

I felt the Lord’s calling me to service for the last 30 years but it took quite a while for me to discern his call, and to hear just how the Lord wished to use me and where.

These past 5 years we lost some blessed servants here at Peace who heard God’s call and served. But every time we lose someone who dies in Christ, or is called to move where the Lord needs them, we see the Lord work in the hearts of others to serve. Over the last few years we've had needs of a few Elders. Jim Rich, Bob Poe and Bill Krueger all answered the call. While others continued to faithfully serve. There is always a time to prayerfully consider what the Lord needs and how it might be best for you to serve.

Becoming an Elder Jim Rich told me upon his deliberation: “Pastor, I didn't want to accept the position unless I was willing to meet the obligations of the position but … God kept pursuing me.”

There are so many names and so many stories like this to tell. Ladies guild, Altar guild, Sunday school, worship committee … trustees and the list goes on and on. As we prepare for a Pancake Breakfast outreach to raise money for the Fallen Heroes Memorial Foundation - volunteers are needed and some have signed up. Women, men, boys, girls can all hear the Lord’s call to service. Set up, clean up, or serving others … it all is needed and for those that help we are be truly thankful.

But even though Jesus calls … we sometimes only hear the sinful call of our own selfish desires.

Whether it is our own sinfulness, 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” or the work of the devil to put the football game at the same time that the Lord needs you at church!

No kidding, some years back as I was getting ready for an ordination of a friend on a Sunday afternoon a pastor told him, “I hope you appreciate me giving up the second half of the football game with my beloved Packers to be here!” And, I believe that he was only partially kidding.

Service is hard. It requires sacrifice. Jesus knows you and he knows me. Truth be told, we all would take the easy way out … at first.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” or it might be interpreted:

“Behold one who is true to the name of Israel, and in whom there is nothing of the Jacob” or as God says of the Israelites: they are a stiffed neck people.

In some ways we too might be in Christ but not of Christ, following the way of deceit and missing the opportunity to serve, missing the mark which is sin.
You might ask, “How do you know me?” as Nathanael did. Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Christ sees you and me. He knows what we've done. He knows all our sins because they became his sins too. He took the sins you and I've committed and he has taken the ones that we have yet to commit to the cross. There he crucified your sins and mine. And no matter our guilt he has taken that away too.

Jesus calls us to follow him! How will you respond?

49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

It is indeed, a privilege to serve God and you here at Peace but God can use us all in so many ways. Desire it, enjoys it and thank those who serve. It is a privilege and a responsibility. May you always be blessed, as you hear and serve wherever the Lord Our God has called you.

Jesus calls you to follow him!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018 Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Dennis

Title: At home with Jesus forever!
Text: John 14:3 (English Standard Version)

3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our dear Patti.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac of Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church of Waterford and I am blessed to be here and to be asked to celebrate Patti’s life with you today her dear family and friends.
As Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

For Patti that time to be born was August 18, 1961 and her time to depart this life for her eternal home has now come. Though we all hope to hold our dear loved ones close and save them from this fate … it is appointed for each one of us to die and it is that one thing … that we will all achieve.

But in the Gospel text for today Jesus says:

1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

So though we grieve and are sad at Patti’s passing we can also have comfort as well. Jesus tells us that He has a place for us, and that included Patricia Ann Dennis, and that place with the Lord has been prepared for her and she has now taken possession of it.

Patti knew Jesus and trusted Christ.

Faith can take on many different looks. For some it is a pious life of service and attendance in church and for others it may be simple faith as small as a mustard seed that brings us to the Lord.

As Patti knew from her Christian upbringing at Peace Lutheran Church it is not - the things we do that make us acceptable in God’s eyes - our works do not save us - but it is our faith expressed in love of others that is a visible sign of what God has done in us and through us.

In John’s gospel:

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:5-6)

Patti learned this in her Lutheran upbringing at Peace and she held to it throughout her life. Many years ago as I served as an Elder at the church and was calling those who were still on the membership rolls at Peace I talked with Patti on the phone where she lived in Virginia. I asked if she would like to transfer to a church in the area where she lived and she said no because she would be moving back to the area someday and wanted to stay connected to Peace.

Sadly I never got to meet her in this life but there is an eternal home that she has now possessed that we can all receive as a gift by grace through faith where we all can spend an eternity together.

As we grieve now though we can find comfort in God’s Hymn book the book of Psalms.

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Last Sunday the Gospel message was the story of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a old man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus, brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ – the salvation of the world.

Sin and its brokenness, brings death.
That is what sin does.
We who are born in sin … will die.

Simeon had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this Christ child - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel. But this child would be not only Simeon’s peace but he is your peace and he is my peace and he was Patti’s peace too. We all can joy in the child that Simeon held because he has brought peace between God and man.

Patti received that peace of God when she was baptized and marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

It is God alone who moves and brings to faith. It is through the means of grace of word and sacrament that God turns us from God’s enemies born in sin and makes us His children by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Whether we have been blessed to be his child our whole lives like Patti or come to faith as we prepare to depart this life for the life eternal, the Lord of life has promised to give us all - the forgiveness and gift of eternal life - that Christ Jesus has earned. That is the blessed exchange. Christ takes your sin and gives you his righteousness.

The Holy Spirit continues to point you and me outside ourselves and death that await us all - to the open arms of the savior - Jesus Christ who is the way the truth and life not only for Patti but for all who believe.

You too have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust. Jesus has forgiven your sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, has given you the faith to believe in His saving work and a place prepared for you.

Because of his peace by faith we too, like Patti, have peace:

Remember the words of Jesus:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

That child, that babe, that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sermon January 6-7, 2018

Title: In Christ … the Father is well pleased with you!
Text: Mark 1:4-11

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Being well pleased is something I think we all would enjoy. At times we are pleased to be recognized for things we do. It might be at church, work, or school where the work we do is seen by others, or it just might be a self awareness of things we have done that we are pleased about.

This weekend we begin the Epiphany Season. Christmas is over and this is the time when Christ is revealed to the world, made known in the visit of the Magi bearing gifts – the wise men journey to visit this King of the Jews. But our Gospel reading for today is of Jesus – fully grown - and beginning his ministry.

In last weekend’s sermon, Jesus was brought into the temple to do what the Law required and Simeon lifted up this baby Jesus proclaiming that he could depart in peace now that he had seen the Lord’s Christ!

Today we read about the man Jesus - not the 12 year old boy sitting in the Temple and teaching with the teachers with authority - but Jesus who is 30, beginning his ministry, and the one recognized by John as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Here, Jesus goes out to where John is Baptizing. We know very little about what went on over the last 18 years of Jesus’ life from his sitting in the Temple questioning the teachers of the Law to this time now and the beginning of his earthly ministry. But Mark’s gospel begins with a quote from the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way. He calls the people to repentance – to recognize their fallen state as sinners – and to repent.

To this water, and to this repentance, Jesus comes to John as one, mightier than John and even one whom the sandals of Jesus - John is not worthy to untie.

So why baptism, why Jesus and why by John?

Well, John was sent to prepare the way. He was sent to fulfill what the prophet had foretold. He was to be the voice and herald to the one who would come and is now here.
Mark believes that his gospel and Jesus’ baptism is a fitting place to start.

John had had great success and the people were going out to John, to repent of their sin and to receive this Baptism of Repentance from John.

Jesus came to this baptism to replace John (his work was done), and to replace you.

When Jesus was baptized he fulfilled what was promised, marked as a sinner in your place, he came to take away the sins of the world.

Jesus had no sin, he needed no repentance, but he came for you and for all who are born in the natural way, conceived in trespass and sin. His baptism was a baptism of death, in that Christ Jesus was marked to be the Lamb of God the once for all sacrifice who takes away your sin, and the sins of the whole world, so that you can be marked not for death … but for life.

In Christ, the Father is well pleased with you!

We daily fall short and are not well pleasing to the father and others most of the time.

Ill.

Years ago at St. John in Rochester where I attended Dr. James Bolt, who was principle of the school, told a story about his son who was learning to drive. He had his learners permit and while dad was at work was practicing backing the car out of the garage and pulling it back in. As Dr. Bolt was getting home he said, “I noticed my wife and son waiting for me by the garage. As I walked up I could see the look of fear and sadness on my son’s face. As I got closer I could see that my wife wasn’t too happy either. Upon further investigation what I found out was that as my son practiced pulling the car in and out of the garage … on one of the times he was pulling the car in … he stepped on the gas instead of the break and pushed my table saw into the family room!”

“It was at that time that I had a really good lesson of Law and Gospel. As I looked at my son I saw that he knew quite well what he had done wrong and I didn’t need to remind him of that. So I gave him the gospel saying, you’re lucky your mom and I love you!”

And you [and I] are dead in trespass and sins. Eph 2:1

Because of sin and its consequence we live with the reality of being separated from God and of being God’s enemies. We live with this disaster and we die with this disaster apart from Christ because the wages of sin is death. Rom 6:21

We are born dead. Sounds funny? But spiritually we are dead. We are separated from God and it will take an act of God to restore us, to make us right with God and this is done only by Christ and only in Christ. With you and with me God is not pleased as we stand in our sinfulness and covered by our own righteousness in a sense having pushed his table saw into the family room.

But, Jesus came to be your substitute; to stand in your place; to be marked as a sinner, in your place and for you.

9 … Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Here Jesus takes your place as the repentant one, he is without sin and acceptable by the father to be the once for all sacrifice.

10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Father is well pleased with Christ and in Christ the Father is well pleased with you!

The Baptism of Christ leads from the waters of repentance by John to Jerusalem, to Jesus and ultimately to the cross for you.

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus Christ has gone into the water of repentance for you. He then goes to finish the work for which he came and to give you what you need and could never attain on your own merit. He gives you life and salvation by his death and resurrection and he give you the kingdom of God by his saving act for you.

Sound improbable?

Though it may seem improbable for man - it is not with God who makes all things new in Christ.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Dear friends you are united and made new by Christ in Baptism you are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord and:

In Christ, the Father is well pleased with you!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sermon Dec. 30- 31, 2017

Title: Christ has given you life eternal!
Text: Luke 2-22-40

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”


“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how? I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are excerpted from the book, Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, which was edited by my friend and fellow classmate Rev. Bob Scott.

While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 174 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing.

His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live.

Mary and Joseph had their own uncertainty.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

So Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

You may get a feel for this as we here at Peace do when a baby is brought into the Lord’s house and all the people come and gather around wanting to hold the baby with smiles of joy on their faces. But this brings a bit of a different reaction:
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus, brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.

The joy in Simeon’s song is, and will be once again sung by this congregation following the reception of the Lord’s Supper, as we too will sing in joy with Simeon what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. The forgiveness we receive is the forgiveness Simeon held!

New Year’s Eve is a day of both joy and dread for most of us. You know we joy in the celebrating of the end of the old year and all its failings with the hope for the New Year to come, and with it, a better outcome for our lives in all that we say and do.

I look to this New Year, like you, with the added hope of continuing my new life’s work and all that the Lord has called me to do, here at Peace as I celebrate 5 years as Pastor here on January 6th and the joys and trials that await me in this New Year.
In Forgotten Valor, General Willcox continues:

“Oh how can I but feel that God has been with me! How can I but determine again & again that I will begin the New Year with a renewed heart, and lead a new and better life. But how weak am I, how incapable of carrying out such plans! Help, oh Thou who hast hitherto sustained me, that I may make a good improvement of the New Year. Not by living entirely to myself, but by preparing both mind & body for serving Thee as circumstances require.”

The truth is resolutions we make are resolutions we break. It seems that no matter how many or how few we always fall short. So also with our spiritual life as the Law is concerned; our ability is unable to keep the Law and it continues to point to that reality. And too, just like you, I will fall short of the mark I set for myself with this year, this ministry, and this church. But, I am blessed to serve and rejoice in the Lord’s calling.

Our Old Testament lesson sings the same praise:

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Sin and its brokenness, brings death.
That is what sin does.
We who are born in sin will die.

It is at that time when many of us get older that we contemplate our life. Things we’ve done and things we wish we would have done; and we look at our finite lives and the eternity that continues after death wondering what will be.

If you think about measuring up and being good enough, how good will you need to be?

But, it’s bigger than that. It’s who we are. As those born in sin we come to this life separated from God. Hard as it may seem to us we are born God’s enemies and apart from God’s work we are condemned.

Simeon had, 26 [it] revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

He had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this baby - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel. But this child would be Simeon’s peace and het is your peace and my peace too. We too can joy in the child that Simeon held because he has brought peace between God and man.

Christ has given you peace and life eternal!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News. As we lose loved ones and think about this frail broken existence we inhabit here in this world - we can have peace. Not on our feelings … but on God’s word of promise.
Luther in his poem, The Unchanging word says:

“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”

― Martin Luther

Comfort and peace is in Christ, the Word of God, who has come to rescue you. Comfort and peace knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life. Comfort and peace is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter by Jesus himself,

“[Who is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him].

Dear friends, you have access to the father through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for each one of you and will give you true peace - perfect peace - found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave His life for you.

That child, that babe that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon Dec. 25, 2017 Christmas Day

Title: The radiance of the glory of God is given you in Christ!
Text: Hebrews 1:1-6

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.


Twenty years ago the question was posed in an email to me and other church members who were engaged in a bible study at a small church I attended.

It simple read: “Are there Prophets today?” The question was asked in regards to discussions that had arisen during the study. Some believed and had wondered if God still gave special revelation to people today – speaking to them directly – or in the same way that he had in the past? Many answered the email with thoughts, opinions and speculation.

After carefully thinking about this question I replied with the first 30 world of Hebrews 1.

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

In a grand way the letter to the Hebrews opens: In many and various ways God long ago, spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but at the end of these days spoke also to us in His Son.

He did not give the revelation of the salvation to come at one time and in its entirety, but bit by bit showing one fact concerning the coming Messiah and now another, revealing first the fact that He would be born of a woman, then that He would be of the seed of Abraham, then that Judah was to be His linage, and then that He was to be a son of David.

At other times, in this Son, we see his deepest humiliation, and then his highest triumph and exaltation.

In many ways God spoke of old: through institutions, or sacrifice, sometimes by parable, or psalm and sometimes in a dream or vision. Thus God spoke in the times of long ago. But that was not His final speech or his revelation.

And that is not to say that he is bound to never do that again.

But, he is bound to truth so that those who claim to be speaking for God better be darn sure that they are speaking truth … whether heard by dream, vision or audible voice or speaking forth what God has already said in his word, and it better be in accord with the truths of scripture.

The son is his appointed heir. But as Luther states: Everything that is said of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation must be ascribed to Christ the man, for the divine nature can be neither humiliated nor exalted.

Jesus Christ, God’s son according to His humanity has been appointed Heir of all things. According to this humanity and God’s will, he should be Lord over all things created and the universe should be in subjection to Him.

He is the rightful Heir of the eternal God and all that is his. The worlds and all things were created through Him and everything as we know it came to be through His almighty power.

Jesus Christ, in his humility and in his divinity, the second person of the Trinity, distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit as to persons, is nevertheless one in essence with Father and Spirit, and Himself the Creator of the world.

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E Kretzmann NT Vol. II Pg 439

Ill.

Like many I took philosophy in college and had to read many philosophers at the seminary. To say it got a bit tedious would be an understatement. If I never had to read Immanuel Kant or RenĂ© Descartes again would be too soon. I apologize if you are a fan … though looking for meaning in self and what is known … leads many Philosophers to unbelief and atheism.

One such Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and being near the end of his life told Pierre Victor: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God."

His fellow philosopher, atheist, and long-time live-in companion Simone de Beauvoir retorted: "How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?"

HIS Magazine, April, 1983.

Certainly, we who have been brought to faith in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit know and understand the work of God in the sinner and an eternity that awaits you and me who believe. I hope to meet Jean-Paul Sartre in heaven and maybe, just maybe he will be able to enlighten me to the benefits and value of philosophy?

At Christmas the coming of the Christ child reveals what God had long ago and in various ways spoken by the prophets. Through God’s revelation in these last days we see the flesh and blood of his means to conquer sin, death and the devil born to a virgin in a lowly stable. What had been spoken of … is now here to see in a tangible way as God’s word reveals it to us.

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

This God, who in the beginning was the word, and this Word was with God, and was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God [and] 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

He upholds the universe because according to the word of God all things were made by and through him.

But it is not in his deity and in his power that he restores all things but in coming as a child, for you, and being what we are that he finishes and fulfills all that was spoken of him in times of old and by the profits.

After making purification for sins …

This child, this Jesus came to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin. He came to restore the relationship between God and man. He came to die in your place and rise for your justification; which means he came to be what you and I couldn’t be. God’s son, begotten of the Father, 6 … when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

This child, this Jesus, this God/man … came for you.

… and he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the name of the Father, + of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Amen


Sermon Dec. 24, 2017 Christmas Eve

Title: The Father’s Love, Begotten in his Son Jesus … for you!
Text: 1 John 4:7-16
Readings - Isaiah 7:10-14, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Of the Father’s love begotten, Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!


The Father’s love is made known to us – you and me - in the sending of his son Jesus the promised incarnate son of God from eternity past the Alpha and Omega the first and the last.

In the beginning when God spoke all things came to be. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. God’s Christ – begotten of the father – born of a Virgin for you!

O that birth forever blessed, When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

We hear this Good News in the words of our gospel tonight.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The fall into sin brought death. All are born in death and live a life of death. You and I apart from Jesus and faith created by the Holy Spirit - have no hope. But that is the Good News of a savior who saves, redeems and calls from death to life. It is Good news tonight; it is good News tomorrow; it is good News because it is redemption, restoration and resurrection from death to life eternal.

This is He Whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected, Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!


In the past God spoke through the prophets of old as the writer to the Hebrews says but in these last days he has spoken through his Son.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (God with us)

God’s word made flesh, Jesus Christ, was spoken of, was prophesized and foretold, that the plan of redemption would come in God’s time and in God’s way. But who is this Jesus … and more importantly … as Jesus asked his disciples … who do you say that I am?

Your answer to this question determines quite literally life and death. 

This humble child that now lies in a manger is truly the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whether he is your King and your Lord depends on faith in him, this Jesus who created the heavens and the Earth, lived, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead for you … to bring peace to this broken world.

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!


Dear friends we speak of heaven, of angels singing, and of all bowing before the King, no silent throng but mighty voices. It is impossible to imagine the perfection of heaven but we can get a glimpse … in this child in the manger – the Jesus. The Perfection of God’s only begotten son sent down from Heaven and wrapped in swaddling clothes … would grow into the man Christ Jesus.

That God would become man shows the value of his life for you and your life in him.

Since the incarnation when God, born of a virgin, became man - no longer is God separate from you on a mountain, or speaking to a prophet for you. Now in his flesh he has come to unite his death, with your death, and his life, with your life, so that in him we are made righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit by faith.

John’s epistle confirms this when he writes:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

God remains hidden. He reveals himself by his Spirit through the word. If you wish to know him don’t look into the heavens as the angles told the disciples as they looked up as he ascended before them.

11b …This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11b

The ascension is not the end.

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!


The eternal victory is found in Christ’s glorious return to judge the living and the dead. Death is no escape. All will be judged. Some will depart to be with the Lord and others cast into … a hell of their own choosing.

The good news though is that the Lord is on his throne and he still calls those who have ears to hear. Listen, come, and drink the living water for the river of life that is Jesus.

As my Professor Peter Scare wrote on his timeline on facebook:

Cain lives in every heart and each of us must die. Who then can raise the brother slain? Christ alone is Able.

He is Able in the real sense and in the figurative sense. Unjustly killed Christ overcomes sin, death, and the devil for you. He is able to raise you up by the power of the simple things … water and word, bread and wine … for you and he continues through his church to make disciples.

Let the little children come to me he calls and as a little child born in a manger he came to be the savior of the world. And as the God/man in death he fulfilled all righteousness for you so that you too might be righteous.

As our epistle reading ends:

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment,

Have no fear for in Christ you are forgiven and he has a place of everlasting comfort for you that awaits all who believe and trust in Christ.

Because as [Jesus] is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

But you are perfect in him … evermore and evermore!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!
Amen


Sermon Dec. 23-24, 2017

Title: The Holy one of God came for you!
Text: Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.

In our reading today, we hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.

The traditional text of the Annunciation of Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is usually celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.

This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you! You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

So too we who are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives which can cause fear, can find comfort.

Do not be afraid. Fear not. You too have … favor with God.

And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel as Mary did:

31 That she … will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.

[And he has been given] the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Yet, we too hear the blessed result just as true as if the angel had visited us with the same good news as we read in our epistle lesson for today:

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— Romans 16:25-26

It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me.

God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.

God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.

Luther speaks of this when he says:

“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is [silly]. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man [our sinfulness] is to be put off.

Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press

True repentance brings sorrow for sin that only the comfort of the good news of the gospel can cure. It cannot just be an appearance of repentance because appearances can be deceiving, but must be a true repentance and brokenness that turns away from sin.

Ill.

There’s a story that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."

Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 19-20.

It’s the appearance of work, versus real work or the appearance of repentance, versus true repentance? It’s like those times when the children say “Mom … I’m not feeling well. Can I stay home from school?”

The statement and the truth of its meaning may not tell the whole story.

Mary though hears the truth of the angel’s words after she asks:

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:

“ … Mary, the pure virgin, had to contribute of her seed and of the natural blood that coursed from her heart. From her [Christ] derived everything except sin that a child naturally and normally receives from its mother. [If] he is not a real and natural man, born of Mary, then he is not of our flesh and blood. Then he has nothing in common with us; then we can derive no comfort from him.” 

LW Vol. 22 pg. 23

For in him God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.

By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ.

Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived … you hear the word of God through his means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit you believe.

When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.

Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.

What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen