Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sermon Oct. 24-25, 2020 - Reformation

Title: The gospel is free and for all!
Text: Rev. 14:6-7

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6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

Many years ago when we had a preschool here at Peace, I had an opportunity to stop by for a visit with Pastor Merrell. I was probably in the area for work and took a few minutes during the day to stop and say hi.

While I was here, the preschool was in session and there were 30 plus children in attendance. As I walked over to see what was going on with the children I saw something interesting. The children were milling around and a bit loud and talking. As I walked in, the teachers, seeing me, began raising their hand with their finger extended. It took only a moment but very soon the room was quiet. The children knew that when the finger went up they needed to be quiet and listen to the teacher speak.

Things have changed. Our preschool is closed and listening has become a lost art. The din of noise in the world has gotten louder and louder as one voice struggles to be heard over the other. In our world, loud becomes louder, as differing views cease to listen and simply yell louder and louder to be heard over each other.

The Catholic Church has been taking its lumps lately. And I don’t mean this as a pretext to my Reformation sermon. One news anchor recently threw out the term ordinary Catholic as opposed to - I suppose - the term extraordinary Catholic or as we might surmise, a believing Catholic; and we need not leave this dilemma to only the Roman Catholics as Lutherans, Baptists and I would assume all other Christians face a similar problem or question.

Do we actually believe what our faith teaches?

So, from our perspective as Lutherans, what does it mean to actually believe the message as opposed to just appear to be going through the motions?

Our first reading begins:

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

As I began this week to think about the reformation and my sermon for this weekend, this text jumped out at me:

With an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

What is it?
What does it mean?
And who is it for?

That’s what Martin Luther, a faithful believing Roman Catholic, wrestled with as he compared faithful Catholic teaching with the word of God.

Martin knew his sin. It is why he became a Monk and found his place in the monastery and service there to somehow and in some way to appease God and his wrath.

How many prayers must he pray?
How many sins need to be confessed?
How can a sinful man stand before a Holy God?

Our Epistle and bulletin cover tells of the problem and solution:

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:24-25

So let’s get back to what it is, what does it mean and who is it for.

What is it?

Our brokenness in sin has separated us from God. But, by God’s gracious work in Christ and for us as a gift we have redemption!

What does it mean?

Well, it means that no longer does God see us who believe as his enemies but as his children and by the gift of faith we have God’s peace and favor.

And who is it for?

Well it’s for all who have sinned and so it is also for all, by faith, that the gift has been given.

with [this] eternal gospel, [it is to be] proclaimed to those who dwell on earth,

Every Nation,
Every Tribe,
Every Language,
Every people,
It’s for you and it’s for me,
No one is left out of this Good News!

If that is what it is, what it means, and who it’s for, then who opposes it?

Well, the devil opposes it,

Saint Peter tells us to, 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

And the world opposes it,

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:14; 17

Our own sinful flesh opposes it,

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23

Concluding with the gospel promise,

but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is God’s work!

Ill. [I was reminded of this story last week by a friend.]

Many years ago I would go to my friend Rob’s studio in Royal Oak to play guitar. We didn’t see each other often so when we had a chance to hang out a bit, play music and get lunch, it was a fun time. You probably have those kinds of friends too?

This particular time I had parked my car around the block and was walking to Rob’s studio on 5th street near Main when I heard “Excuse me sir could you help me?”

I turned to see a black man about my age at the time approaching me. He said he had just gotten out of jail and wondered if I could spare a dollar for bus fair so he could get back home.

My mind is saying … “Oh no, go away! I’m busy! Can’t you see I’m here to see a friend? I have no time for you right now?” but, I don’t say that … I stop and look at him and he continues telling me something about being picked up by the police and mistaken identity. “They just let me out … could you help me? Do you have a dollar to spare?”

What’s the Christian response?

At this time in my life the Holy Spirit had been working overtime on me. I was reading the word of God and my conscience was telling me to help him. So I looked in my wallet. I had three bills - a dollar, a ten and a twenty. What to do? If I give him the dollar I thought, I can meet his need and what he asked me for and get on with my day. The twenty, I was going to use for lunch for Rob and I, but there was the 10 dollar bill, so I handed it to him and said,

“Jesus loves you and so do I. I hope this takes care of the bus fare and gets you something to eat.”

I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth. In public no less and I looked … and he had a tear in his eye. He gave me a hug and we went our separate ways. I quickly looked back to see which way he was going and he wasn’t there. Not sure where he went or what to think, he didn’t have time to go far but that verse in Hebrews 13:1-2 kept coming to me:

13 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ESV

We, you and me, walk in our communities as children of the King. He is the light of the world, and we as children of the King shine that light of Christ in our daily lives wherever we are.

The devil, the world, and our own sinfulness raises its finger in the world telling us to be quiet and to keep your faith to yourself, even at times saying what one former member said to a fellow believer here at church as they discussed God’s word and the Bible, saying:

“You don’t really believe that do you?”

That really is the problem. Do we really believe God and his word?

When we speak of believers or believing Christians needing to be, in the world but not of the world, we may also find those who call themselves Christians and who even come to church weekly who are in the church but not of the church, neither knowing Christ nor believing his word.

As our reading in Revelation concludes,

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

As Luther found out, there is no hiding place from God. Not in the monastery, not in our homes, and not in the world!

He is righteous and holy. Not someone to leave behind as we depart from the doors of our little church and make our way into this vast and broken world by ourselves, but someone who goes with us, and is in us, by his Spirit. As we live our lives, God, by his word turns us to repent of our sins and comforts us in Christ that our sins have been forgiven by God on account of Christ’s work.

This joy we feel must be shared, because it is not only our blessing, as those redeemed from sin, death, and the power of the devil, but also must be our proclamation as we lift our hand and finger in a world, calling them to listen, while they remain

determined to shout us down and drown us out.

Dear friends, we have good news to share and an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by [God’s] grace as a [free] gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord!

Believe it!
Receive it!
Proclaim it!

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

Amen


 

 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Sermon Oct. 17-18, 2020

Title: By faith you bear the likeness of Christ!
Text: Matt. 22:15-22 

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15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his words.

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

Something similar to this might have been said to my grandfather Michael as he arrived at Ellis Island upon his immigration to the United States. My dad’s dad had been born and raised in Bratislava Slovakia and so had my grandmother Anna, though she had been born in Liverpool England where her parents went to work in the shipping and boat building industry while my great grandmother was pregnant.

To this day I feel a kinship and connection to Liverpool and the Beatles though I’ve never been there. Wishful thinking I suppose.

Throughout my life I’ve had time where people would come up to me and say, “How do you pronounce that name?” To which I would reply, “Russell.”

“No, no!” they would say, “Not that name, the other name!”

“Oh.” You mean Tkac. “Tack? How’d you get tack out of that?”

Well, the Slovak pronunciation for T-K-A-C is (T) Kach with the T silent. My grandfather tried to explain this to no avail so he changed the pronunciation to Tack. No big deal, but if he would have moved the letters around a bit my life would have been a lot easier. In fact when my youngest brother Tom went to the Naval Academy and a military career in 1977 he formally changed the spelling of Tkac to Tack. He felt it would be simpler than trying to explain it throughout his life.

My brother is still Tom Tack, though the youngest he is still the tallest at 6’-3” and of all the boys he most closely bears the image of my dad in appearance, singing and dance moves!

If my dad was ever offended by my brother’s decision to change the spelling of our family name I never heard about it. In fact, all I heard about from my dad was,

“Did I tell you what Tom did?”

“Did I tell you where Tom is?”

“Did I tell you how much money Tom saved me by going to the Academy?

My dad’s image is all over my brother Tom and no spelling change was going to change that.

What my brother’s and I know is that the size of our nose is directly proportionate to our resemblance to our dad.

But there is another important resemblance to be aware of:

By faith you bear the likeness of Christ!

To say that the Pharisees are not happy with Jesus would be an understatement and they begin to plot and make plans to trap him. They were kicked out of the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-44), then they were removed from the wedding feast and cast into outer darkness (Matt 22:1-14), and now they want to catch Jesus in something that they can then accuse him of, and turn him over to the authorities to have Him tried, and ultimately their hope is to have Him put out of their midst and put to death so they can get rid of him once and for all.

6 And they sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians …

The disciples of the Pharisees went to Jesus and also brought some of the Herodians with them. The Herodians are only mentioned a few times in the New Testament and there is some debate as to whether they were a political sect distinct from the Pharisees and Sadducees and supporters of Herod Antipas, or were actually soldiers in Herod’s court. Either way … the Pharisees were bringing a political or military group with them in opposition to Jesus.

… saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

This is what might be called … painting a picture.

“Saying” … we believe everything you say, because we know you’re telling the truth. You don’t care what others say … even if they are the religious leaders so why don’t you say it in front of these Herodians, these followers of King Herod … and of course we mean you no disrespect!

So, 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

So, speak up so these Herodians – who either make the laws or in force the laws - can hear you.

We know in the two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of the world God works. He works through word and sacrament in one and through those who rule, lead or govern in the other.

In the Old Testament reading for today in Isaiah 45:1-7 God calls the Persian King Cyrus – his anointed saying,

whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:

The Lord says –

2 “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

God calls Cyrus for his purpose just as God called Pharaoh to serve his needs in the Exodus from Egypt telling Moses in Exodus 7:

2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Exodus 7:2-5

God works in the church through his means of grace and in the world through those he wills, both good and bad, for his ultimate purpose. We might remember Jesus’ response to Pontus Pilate in John 19:10-11

10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”

The Pharisees and the Herodians – were working to thwart God and his will in redemption through Jesus. But, God would have his way.

18 [To this] Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” as if they didn’t know 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

Some years ago as I drove through Pontiac, I came to an intersection where the light was yellow. I quickly accelerated through the intersection and saw the light was still yellow as I passed through.

Shortly after feeling good about my decision I heard the siren of a Pontiac Police car and feeling angry I pulled to a stop down a side street. The officer wrote me a ticket for failing to stop at a red and when I said the light was still yellow he said “Well, you’ll have a chance to appeal that in court.”

Court day comes and the Judge is a kindly old visiting Judge in his late 80’s. He speaks softly as all those before me accept their responsibility before the judge for the violations they are charged with. My turn comes and when the Judge asks me my plea, “I plead not responsible, your honor!”

I then give my side and the officer gives his. The judge in his kindly and grandfatherly voice says, “Russell, you have an impeccable driving record. I don’t think I’ve seen one as clean as yours? But, it’s going to cost you to keep it that way! I find for the plaintiff, no points but fees of $250. Case d ismissed!”

You and I know the laws. We know what or whom has been placed over us whether it is the laws that are on the books, or the police officer that has just given you a ticket, or the judge or political official who has just ruled or voted in a way that is contrary to how you think or desire or maybe even how God’s would desire.

We are all called to live and proclaim God’s truth in a world of believers and unbelievers alike.

We are called to love those who persecute us. If the laws call us to do something contrary to God’s word we need to sand firm and use our ability as citizens to also exercise our rights in the kingdom of the lift to bring about change.

The things that in this life may grieve us as Christians grieve our loving God as well. But He who is righteous is long suffering.

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 2:9

God is slow with you and He is slow with me. Not giving up on us and our failings but calling and bringing us by the power of His Spirit to believe.

God in Christ has suffered with us and for some of us for many years as we at times choose to fall away from His word looking to what society and the civil leaders tell us what to believe and do.

He is long suffering towards us and we need to be long suffering to those that don’t see things as we do.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

This image is very simple to see. The question of should we pay tax is simply answered by Jesus to give to Caesar or give to the State what it requires but then it becomes a bit harder. Give to God what is His.

I gave the state the $250 fine. God has called me to read his word and follow him, to trust and to believe.

You are called to respond to the call of the gospel. The Pharisees and Chief Priests had been called and they had refused to care for the vineyard and ignored the invitation to the wedding feast. We too look to things other than the things God’s desires and drift away from Him and his word. God’s desire is you and that you fully trust in Him.

God has claimed you and made you His! So that, by faith you bear the likeness of Christ!

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

Amen

Monday, October 12, 2020

Sermon Oct. 10-11, 2020

Title: In the midst of trial Christ clothes and comforts you!
Text: Matt. 22:1-14 

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11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

When I was 18 or 19 years old, my friends Bob, Jimmy and I went to weddings. No, I don’t mean we went to a wedding we were invited too, we just went to weddings. We dressed up in suits and headed to Mercy College. Almost every weekend they hosted four or more wedding receptions and having little money we devised a plan for a free evening.

We’d arrive with cards in our hands, slip into the reception and found a seat far away from the action. We looked like we belonged and if the time was right we got a good meal or if not we got a drink or mingled among the girls working the event. It seemed like a harmless way to kill and evening and meet girls we thought.

If the reception got a little boring we moved down the hall to another room to see if the celebration and action was better. After two or three receptions we happened upon the last wedding reception, slipped in and found our seat.

The bride and her father were just beginning the daddy, daughter dance and soon others joined in to dance with the bride. To my surprise as I looked on my friend Bob walked up and took his turn dancing with the bride. A bit bold you might say, but this was the fourth wedding this evening and by now we were pros at this.

Following the dance Bob, Jimmy and I were having drinks at the bar when this man came up and started a conversation with us. As we talked he asked us what side of the family we were from. Bob quickly said, “The groom’s side!” To which the man look right at him and said, “I’m the groom!”

Needless to say, we were shown the door.

Trusting in ourselves and without a proper invitation we were found out and cast out into the darkness of the evening left to find our car and go home.

In the midst of trial Christ clothes and comforts you!

22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

So Jesus moves right from the master and the vineyard parable from last week to the parable of the wedding feast. The chief priests and the Pharisees had just realized that Jesus was talking about them as the ones who would be removed from the vineyard and it would be given to other tenants.

Now, with the wedding feast parable He once again paints the picture of those who will be welcomed at the feast.

4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”

5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

The chief priests and Pharisees are once again singled out as those who having abused the vineyard and the servants sent to get the master’s good grapes are now in this parable, the ones called to the feast but pay no attention and shun the invitation.

So like the master in the previous parable who will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants:

7 The king [too] was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

So He tells them;

9 Go … to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Both … bad and good … those who, to human eyes appear to be worthy, and those who we might assume would never be invited, are called.

Maybe you found my little wedding story funny. It is, though in hindsight it can be one story on the road to destruction. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase;

"Remember that for every mile you drive there are two miles of ditch".

It’s just a simple analogy but profound reality that for every road we travel in life, there are two miles of ditch along the way inviting us to veer off the road and into the ditch. There are twice as many chances on either side for us to stray away from God and end up in the ditch.

I’ve had times in my life where the road wasn’t clear, where it wasn’t easy to see the shoulder until the tires hit the rumble strip and woke up my awareness directing me back towards the road!

Few of us ever intend to drive into the ditch. For most of us, it is simply that in life … little by little … we move ourselves from the safety of following Jesus and end up lost and off the road God intends us to be on.

The gift of grace and faith becomes rejected and little by little the wedding garment of salvation is removed as once again you clothe yourself in the filthy rags of your own self righteousness. Those rags, like a well worn pair of jeans can be so comfortable at times that you might not even notice the change. But the reality is there. You shun God’s word, reject God’s gifts, return to your old ways and if it’s not you … maybe it a loved one who’s rejected God and is in the ditch.

It is a lonely way at times.

Without the wedding garment, you are not invited to the wedding feast and the clothes you have on, no matter how comfortable and nice they look, stink and give you away as an imposter when the bridegroom comes and asks:

11 … ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’

The wedding garment is the veil and righteousness of Christ. It is given to you by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. You are clothed with it in baptism and made Christ’s disciple and follower. The garment of Christ identifies you as one invited to attend the feast and your place at the table is secure.

Your name card is at the table now and by faith in Christ you wear the wedding garment right now!

The devil, the world, the ditches, of life and the stain of sin cannot remove the garment of forgiveness given you in Christ!

Unlike Bob, Jimmy and me you don’t have to look for a wedding to crash because the one invitation that’s needed you have, and the one feast that matters is given to you in Christ, and Jesus has secured your place!

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

Amen





Saturday, October 3, 2020

Sermon Oct. 3-4, 2020

Title: In the two kingdoms grace overcomes the world! 
Matt. 21:33-46 

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37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

In 2007 a remarkable thing happened. A brand new Plymouth Belvedere that was buried in a vault in the ground in 1957 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood was unearthed. 50 years after it was buried the ground was moved away from the top and the concrete slabs that entombed the car were removed. A crane lifted the car in celebration of Oklahoma’s Centennial, though the result that emerged was not what was expected when the car was first buried. 50 years of water underground had turned a once new 1957 Plymouth into a pile of rust.

Not even the key for the car’s ignition survived fifty years under ground and under water!

So too the things of this world; what we hope to preserve in this life will be destroyed but what God changes by his word of truth will be preserved by his work for eternity!

Following our lesson last week where the Chief Priests and elders questioned Jesus’ authority and which ultimately caused Jesus to ask them this question; “John’s baptism was from God or man?”

“I don’t know” was their reply fearing both Jesus and the people.

So too Jesus also refused to tell them where his authority came from.

Today we see also Christ’s continued teaching to the Chief Priests and Elders with his use of parables. And we know that a parable is a story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.

Jesus here begins with an image of a vineyard, life, fruit and sustenance.

You can imagine a beautiful vineyard contained within a fenced [walled area] and all within the vineyard is the masters having been leased to the tenants to tend and produce fruit. So too, this world that God created and gave to the children of Israel who were to manage his creation and produce fruit.

34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

As the harvest approaches the master sends servants to get what is His. But they are mistreated, beat, stoned and one is killed.

The message of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees was to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, to turn away from sin, and to receive the washing of repentance in the baptism he offered - pointing forward to the one that was to come whose sandal he was not worthy to untie.

Those who study the Law and the Prophets should have connected this to the Book of Isaiah, but they had hardened their hearts and refused to hear.

John was sent to prepare the way. He ultimately was killed.

The question asked last week by Jesus in our gospel lesson, 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” put the Chief Priests and Elders on notice. Jesus simply asks them, do you trust God or man? Their answer was a decisive, “We don’t know,” coming out of both fear for Jesus and the crowds.

36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.

Our Lord here shows the Chief Priests and Elders that they too acted like the tenants in the parable, treating the servants sent from God as despised and rejected. They were caretakers of the Lord’s vineyard and they have fallen short.

37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son … they said to themselves,

‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’

It is no coincidence that the tenants killed the son for in keeping with the parable Jesus was showing the type of death he too would suffer.

39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus was led outside the city gates where the prisoners were taken to a small hill called Golgotha to be crucified, so the image of the master’s son being thrown out of the vineyard parallels the Lord’s own rejection and so to those who name the name of Christ, whether Apostle, whether King or just simply you and me.

So Jesus asks this question …

40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” What will he do to those who have been given the responsibility to care for all that is the masters?

We’ll, the Chief Priests and Elders answer for themselves:

41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
The point is; that those who had been given the vineyard as tenants to care for the master’s property thought more of the property for themselves than the master.

Even His son they killed. The analogy of heaven and hell is a good one for Chief Priests and Elders desired a heaven apart from Christ and a heaven apart from Christ … is hell.

43 Therefore [Jesus says] I tell you; the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

A baptism of repentance with John has become a baptism of forgiveness in Christ. Physical Israel, those born of the flesh, has given way to Spiritual Israel, those born of the Spirit, born again, born anew and born from above.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:5-7

You dear friends, who have been baptized, who have been born of the Spirit, who have been born from above, have been given the Kingdom.

You have been marked as Christ’s, and redeemed by Christ.

He has washed you clean and you have been given the Vineyard and heaven is your home and God by his Spirit, continues to work in you and me to bear fruit for his Kingdom!

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

Amen

Monday, September 28, 2020

Sermon Sept. 26-27, 2020

Title: The authority is Christ’s given for you!
Text: Matthew 21:23-27

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23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to [Jesus] as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Who gave you this authority? This is the questioned asked of Jesus.

By what authority are you doing these things?

Authority has to come from some place.

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Rom. 13:1

God rules his church and has given the church the authority to call pastors to preach and teach his word and to administer his gifts. We cannot claim this authority by ourselves but it is given by God through the working of the Holy Spirit sent on the Day of Pentecost through the church.

Authority is given to the church by God in this Kingdom of grace. But, God also works in the Kingdom of the world, through his authority, given to governments and elected officials, and in Luther’s day, through princes, emperors and magistrates to keep the peace and care for the people.

In 1981, 69 days into his presidency Ronald Reagan was shot.

In the aftermath and confusion there was a famous miscalculation by Alexander Haig, Reagan’s Secretary of State. He claimed, wrongly that – he was in charge of the government. Maybe it was just the inclination of a former general who had once been in charge, or as has been suggested, there was much jockeying for power between those in the cabinet. To this Defense Secretary, Casper Weinberger said: “He’s wrong! He doesn’t have such authority,” President Reagan eventually signed over authority to George Bush his vice President, because he had the authority to do so.

During this pandemic year there have also been quite a few times when authority has been questioned. Who has the authority and power? The Governor or the Legislature; the States or the Federal Government; the courts that determine or the people that elect?

At times power is claimed.

And other times power is questioned.

Jesus replies to the question of his authority with a question of his own because He knows from where His authority comes.

24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come?

From heaven or from man?”

This gets to the chief priests and elders as they know …
“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

A least Secretary Alexander Haig was man enough to take a stand in time of crisis even if he was wrong and misguided, while the chief priests and elders both show their fear of Jesus and the crowds.

Jesus has authority and Jesus gives authority.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee … 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:16-20

Jesus gave authority to the disciples who would build the church through Christ’s means of word and sacrament.

Article VII: Of the Augsburg Confession, concerning the Church says:

1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, such as, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

But where is the church?

Is it in a boat on a lake communing with nature and thinking about God and his majesty? No.

Is it in the better home and living provided for the family? No.

Is it where the children want to go because they have fun and feel welcome? No.

It is where Christ is and where his gifts are and where forgiveness of sins is found in His name. Yes!

It is here … at Peace Lutheran Church and countless churches around the world where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered according to Christ’s institution.

As both saint and sinner the devil is quick to point our reason and understanding to other things. Yes, the sporting events are back, and school has resumed and many other activities we enjoy can distract us from the one thing needful and that is the hearing of God’s word and receiving of his gifts.

Even the turmoil of Covid 19 and the political battles that rage, which bringing joy or fear for us in one outcome or the other, cannot comfort us with the blessings the church gives in Christ’s forgiveness and gifts.

God works through these means of grace, in word and sacrament to bring about his will. It is he who has the authority to forgive and retain sins and it is given to His church on earth for your benefit.

Our epistle reading gives us this charge:

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Phil 2:1-2

Friends, just like Saint Paul, you too have received your forgiveness from the one who has authority to forgive, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

Amen

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Sermon Sept. 12-13, 2020

Title: Forgiveness and mercy is Jesus!
Text: Matt. 18:21-35

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21 Peter came up and said to [Jesus], “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

You remember the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens, A Christmas Carol? He was a man of means and one who held onto what he had in this life with little or no love for those around him. He had no interest in Christmas, Bah Humbug! and were it not for the visits of the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come he would have remained in his state of miserly misery until death closed his dark eyes and he returned - in the sleep of death - to the earth awaiting the final yet to come visit without hope, without peace and without comfort in his life.

We too are all born Scrooge like in our sinful state and destined to die with the idols we cling to in this life left behind for others, while we await the judgment to come.

But in the Christ of Christmas, there is a marvelous change that takes place whereby we are made new and hope, peace and comfort are given freely in an eternity yet to come - that never ends.

“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: Luther writes, wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it.

And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them [and] in the same manner as He grieved and suffered in our sins … we rejoice and glory in His righteousness.”

–Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608.

In the gospel reading for today Peter asks Jesus a probing question.

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”

It’s easy to see that Peter believes himself to be quite generous in his view of forgiveness. Maybe even thinking that at some point certainly after seven times, I’ll be able to justly not forgive my brother and end this nonsense.

To this Jesus replies:

“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

It is not the Lord’s intent to show a definite number of times where forgiveness is to be delivered but that for God’s people who have been forgiven by grace, may understand that the content of their hearts should contain … only God given love and forgiveness.

But for we who are Christians, saved by the mercy and grace of our Lord, we live daily within that tension of being both saint and sinner. Both, brought forth in iniquity, and conceived in sin as Psalm 51:5 reminds us, yet justified by faith, receiving God’s peace through Christ’s work by the power of the Holy Spirit as St. Paul writes in Romans 5:1.

We have received in essence, the favor of God on account of Christ through this blessed exchange, our sin … for Christ’s righteousness.

“The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore ought to forgive [others], but that God Himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is truly incalculable.

No matter how much has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of our Lord.

Take for example the parable our Lord tells today in the Gospel:

The servant owes his master 10,000 talents.
This is a large sum.

1 denarii = a day’s wage
1 Talent = a hundred days wages
10,000 Talents = you are in big trouble!

For you and me when we think of billion dollars. It is a bit beyond comprehension.

$100, 1000, 100,000, 1,000,000, 100,000,000, 1,000,000,000, it’s beyond what we can even think or imagine in reality … the sum is that great.

Now, you are called in to the King and he gives you your debt. Let’s say it is $100,000,000. What do you do? If you are like me, you can’t pay. Even if you sell everything you have at the best possible price, your home, your stuff, and at the most favorable time and price you can’t even cover 1/100 of the debt.

So you go to the King, which in our case might be the IRS – it’s a joke - and you say as you fall on your knees:

“have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.”

You know you can’t … and you’re just pleading for mercy.

And this is the part of the story that won’t pertain to you or me,

27 And out of pity for him [the IRS] released him and forgave him the debt.

But Jesus says, in light of the great debt and the Lord’s great mercy, you and me and the servant in the parable are forgiven!

If we know anything of [our own] forgiveness, if we have glimpsed anything of the magnitude of [our own sin] and the debt we owe to God … our forgiveness of others will not seem to be such a large leap.”

–D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 80-1.


“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God. … not even one.” Rom.3

The truth is that as sinners we have a very high view of self and a very low of sin. To that end, the indebtedness that we owe to Christ for our rescue is devalued and you either see your sin as really not all that bad or Christ’s forgiveness and rescue as really not all that good or necessary.

The servant in the parable’s joy didn’t last very long.

When he was confronted with a fellow servant who owed him 1/10,000 of the debt he himself had owed and had just been forgiven of, he showed no mercy to him and had him put in prison until he could pay.

What should he have done?

Well, he should have forgiven the debt, bought him the big Christmas Turkey in the window, picked Tiny Tim up in his arms and proclaimed,

“God bless us, everyone!”

As sinners, we too can be Scrooge like with grace. We expect it for our own wrongs but are stingy and hell bent at times when doling it out.

But, apart from God’s action and working, every one of us would remain, dead in trespass and sin. And like Lazarus who was unable to free himself from the bonds of sin, death, and the tomb, wrapped in grave cloths and dead until the voice of Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”
We too would remain entombed in our own sin, dead to God, forever separated from the love of Christ found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ’s mercy for we who deserve death is a nothing but pure gift.

Even one sin would separate us from the love of God in Christ, not to mention the 10,000 talents, worth of sins and more that we have been forgiven of!

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,

This 5th petition in the Lord’s Prayer has real significance for you and me in how we see sin - our sin - and how we see the Lord’s forgiveness and grace.

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

God bountiful mercy is given us for the sake of Jesus, who paid the debt of our sin.
He has [freed] us from the imprisonment we deserve and has forgiven the debt.
Therefore, we have the obligation of gratitude resting upon us that we gladly forgive our fellow-men what they have sinned against us.
Even if such a [sin] great in the sight of men, it cannot come into consideration in comparison with the debt which God has mercifully forgiven [you and me].

Luther – Kretzmann NT pg. 103

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

You have been set free from eternal death may the love of Christ live freely in each one of us.

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

Amen

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Sermon Sept. 5-6, 2020

Title: Be childlike in faith and love!
Matt. 18:1-20

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18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Last year after I finished one of our Sunday services, I was standing in the Narthex greeting the people by the door as they came out of church. It was a time of joy and laughter, hugs and handshakes as was the norm for that time. As I stood there, little four year old Atarra Rich walked out, looked at me, waved and said, “Hi Jesus!”

It’s funny. I laughed as did those who heard it. But in reality Atarra didn’t see me - Russ or even Pastor Tkac. In the robe and stole she saw the one called to be Christ’s under shepherd, here at Peace. She saw Jesus and heard his word proclaimed. Though she might have not heard and understood all that was proclaimed. God, by the working of his Spirit as one baptized and marked as God’s redeemed, she recognized Jesus by faith.

Today in our lesson we learn of this faith and that to be a true Disciples of Christ one must first:

Be childlike in faith and love!

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Last week we talked about being a disciple of Jesus and picking up our crosses to follow Him. The bearing of one’s cross can in this life lead to death, or as Jesus said:

“… whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

But, the disciples start talking among themselves wondering who, among them, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The work of Satan and their own sinful pride were at work as well as the pride of life. Though they had been discussing this privately Jesus knew what had been going on and in the gospel of St. Mark asks them specifically in chapter 9:

“What were you discussing on the way?” Mark 9:33b

So, Jesus, as has been his way teaches again the disciples an important lesson. He calls a little child to himself so as to illustrate the point in a very tangible way. St. Mark goes on to say that Jesus took the child in His arms [Mark 9:36] and we could understand the Lord’s comfort to this little one as he places the child in their midst saying,

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

To this we need to be reminded to be childlike in faith and love!

Sinful pride can become arrogance.

Ill.

During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet [which is a low protective wall or earthen defense along the top of a trench or place of concealment for troops], over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise … and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. "Nonsense," snapped the general. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--." And as his words fell silent … General Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.

Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.

How too our own sinful pride can drop us once again to the ground of dirt and sin back into our own filthy rags from which we have been washed clean and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb. Pride can cause us to look at who we are in the Kingdom, and what status we hold or to even look at others with prideful arrogance. Jesus says that:

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

Those who trust Christ with simple faith have Jesus and receive all that Jesus has promised.

Luther says,

Consider Christ himself, how he draws little children to him, how urgently in Matthew 18 he commends them to us and praises the angles who wait upon them, in order to show us how great a service it is when we train the young properly.

LW Vol. 45 pg. 372

As we consider our regular worship, social distancing, pandemic, school and all that our normal life use to be and we hope will be again, we also need to get back to the holy work God has given us to do,

To, train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6

The responsibility even from the time of infancy calls parents of those who have been brought to faith in baptism to not let these little ones who believe in me to fall … back into the sinfulness they were born into … before being called to faith in Jesus Christ by the working and power of the Holy Spirit.

You have a Godly calling as a parent to raise your child in the faith, especially if they are baptized and to make sure that they are brought to God’s house for worship, where Christ gives his gifts of word and sacrament.

Also, the good work available in VBS this year was a take home program for parents and guardians alike to see to it that these little ones stay connected to Christ.

We all have, in Christ, a Godly calling to keep children connected to Jesus and his word.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:

27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:27-32

Be childlike in faith and love!

By childlike faith, God in Christ has given you faith in Him and life!

He has lifted you up as a little child giving you comfort and peace in him.
He has placed you in the midst of the world as his disciple to shine the light of Christ.
He has given those under your care the joy to teach them about Jesus and his love.
He will bring forth, by faith, those who believe in him to confess as the church confesses … “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!”

May you be comforted and joyful as little Atarra was who sees in God’s church, word, and gifts, Jesus!

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

Amen