Monday, May 21, 2018

Sermon May 19-20, 2018 – The Day of Pentecost

Title: The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Second Stanza of our opening hymn for today really speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

#913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In

Give to Your Word impressive power
That in our hearts from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing,
That in true Christian unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Your glory ever showing.
Hear us, cheer us
By Your teaching;
Let our preaching
And our labor
Praise You, Lord, and serve our neighbor.

Today we celebrate the sending of the Spirit which in the Book of Acts speaks of the Spirit coming as a mighty rushing wind and as tongues of fire, resting on the disciples and giving them utterance. This powerful speaking in other tongues gives the disciples the ability to be heard as Luke writes in the book of Acts:

“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7b-8)

And the diversity of those that hear is large.

9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:9-11)

The Spirit can certainly do marvelous things to reach all people! And that is what Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel reading for today.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Spirit of truth will tell you about Jesus.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

Christ met unbelievers where they were. He realized what many Christians today still don't seem to understand. Cultivators have to get out in the field. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life.

J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.

God can use us all. God will use us all.

My friend Rob makes his living teaching guitar and banjo. He is very talented and those he teaches learn well. But his mission is to tell the world about Christ and through his gift of music he gets an opportunity to tell the world about Jesus and Christ himself says that it is to your advantage that he goes away:

But if I go, I will send him [the Spirit] to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
John 16:7b-11

Ugly truth or beautiful truth?

The ugly truth is that we are born sinful and unclean and are God's enemies and rightly deserve to be cast into Hell and separated from God for ever. But the beautiful truth is that God came to stand in your place and to suffer death for you so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you might know this and by faith trust all that Jesus did for you and receive the promise of an eternity in heaven with him.

Satan has been judged at the cross. He has been defeated and it is now through the working of the Spirit that Christ’s work is made known to the world so that sin might be repented of and people come to faith in Christ.

We know that we ourselves need repentance and forgiveness, so also those who will come to faith by the Spirit’s work through the word. God’s means of word and sacrament are found here in God’s house but the word is active and goes with each one of us as we in our vocations take Christ with us in our daily lives as father’s mothers, brothers, sisters, and workers and too.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

As Jesus says:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
God’s Spirit leads you into all truth! John16:13-15

Christ and his work is who the Helper, the Holy Spirit points to and it defines what is His work and what He works to accomplish.

Jesus sends the Helper and by His work you are His!

We have peace to with God too because of the Holy Spirit. He brings us to life from our spiritual death and give us the faith that points and holds to Christ.

And as was confessed today in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spoke through the prophets …

The Holy Spirit is God the sanctifier or the one who makes us Holy…

Jesus sends the Helper the Holy Spirit and by His work you are His!

To be comforted at times is good,

To be helped at times is also good,

But to be forgiven and to receive the gift of faith in Christ and His work - for you - is the work of the Holy Spirit who was sent to draw people not to himself but to Christ. This is truly Good News!

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sermon May 12-13, 2018

Title: By his word the truth of God is yours!
Text: John 17:11b-19 Acts 1:1-11

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

There is a lot to consider this weekend. The ascension of our lord 40 days after Easter, the 7th Sunday/ weekend of Easter and Mothers Day; It should make for an interesting sermon.

In Acts Chapter 1:4-11 St. Luke describes the ascension of Jesus in this way:

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus desires unity around the truth. Jesus’ desire was in accord with the will of his Father.

Saying: I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost. Vs 12

Jesus’ desire is to keep and protect those whom he will leave as he returns to the Father. His desire is that they (his disciples) may be one in unity with each other just as Jesus and the Father are one … though distinct in person. Christ says that he has guarded them and that not one has been lost except for Judas - the one who went the way of destruction – so that the scriptures may be filled.

And as Christ prepared to leave them, he prays for them, that the Father would keep them in your name, in the name of the one true God, so that they would be guarded and not lost.

Christ knows that his disciples will remain in the world - just as you and I also remain in the world - and though are not of the world. We remain but also we represent the work of God in us to abide in Jesus to remain in him, to be his and to show forth his will against the power of the evil one who looks only to steal, kill and destroy.

We see division, brokenness, tension and the work of the devil in our day as well. We hear the cries for unity and truth distorted. We see death celebrated and life denied both for those just conceived and those ready to depart this life for their eternal rest.

We’ve heard the unity cries before.

All of us have differences. We all have conflicts. We have families and this too can pull us apart as we wrestle with the changes in society and civic life. Marriage has been redefined and gender has creatively been reinterpreted not for the true goal of tolerance but for a breakdown of the family as has been known and proclaimed through Biblical principles and God’s word.

Jesus says:

17 Sanctify them [or make them holy which also is to be set apart] in the truth; [he then tells us that] your word is truth.

Apart from God’s word we live in a world where God is re-made in man’s image and that is how the devil wants it. To turn what God has said upside down into that first deceptive question: “Did God really say?” It gives us all, like Adam and Eve, a high view of self and a low view of sin … which is simply, missing the mark and coming up short, on what God expects and so what do we do?

We lower the bar rather than honor God’s commands

We change the definition rather than honoring the truth. 

Your word – Jesus says - is truth.

Jesus’ desire for you and me … in this world … is that we may be sanctified [made holy and set apart] by the truth.

As Jesus returns to the Father he leaves his disciples with a promise.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Epistle 1 John 5:12

Our epistle reading follows this confirms this.

12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Unity needs to be … around the truth that Jesus Christ is the son of God.

How do we know this? How can we know this?

The word of God, it needs to be our highest authority.

At Baptism we are made God’s own child, one redeemed by Christ, who was crucified for you and me. This Jesus upon his ascension gave the promise that we would not be left alone and that the comforter, who would come at Pentecost, and would be with us to point us to the unity found in Jesus the word of God made flesh.

Dr. Scott Murray in his wonderful Memorial moment devotion reminds us that:

When the Word is lost everything is lost. Over the past twenty years, churches have begun to jettison the confession of faith in the Creeds of the church. They are no longer recited as part of church services. When this trend began the clergy, who were so eager to get rid of the public confession of the faith by the faithful, were quick to reassure the skeptical that even though they no longer said the words that they certainly still affirmed the content of the Creeds. More recently the clergy who jettisoned the recitation of the Creed are now quite aggressively rejecting the content of the Creed, including its Christological [focus on Christ] content. Once we stop saying the words, it isn't very long until we stop believing the content of them.

Dr. Scott Murray: Unloving Love Wednesday of Easter 6 13 May 2015

The truth comes to us in the word of God and is made know through the work of the Spirit who points us to the truth of Christ’s work.

Luther tells us:

"In the issue of salvation, on the other hand, when fanatics teach lies and errors under the guise of truth and make an impression on many, there love must not be exercised and error must not be approved. For what is lost here is not merely a good deed done for someone who is ungrateful, but the Word, faith, Christ, and eternal life, etc. are lost. Therefore, if you deny God in one article of faith, you have denied Him in all; for God is not divided into many articles, but He is everything in each article and He is one in all the articles of the faith."

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Christ has made you his own and will keep you by his Spirit connected to him and his truth. This is his promise.

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

Sermon May 5-6, 2018 Confirmation / First Holy Communion

Title: God’s own child I gladly say it!
Text: 1 John 5:1-8

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Processional Hymn: #590 Baptized into Your Name Most Holy
Opening Hymn: # 864 Shepherd of Thy Tender Youth
Sermon Hymn: #594 God’s own Child, I Gladly Say It
Communion Hymn: # 602 The Gifts Christ Freely Gives
Recessional Hymn # 689 Let me be Thine Forever

Stanza 1

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

God’s blessing to you as we together celebrate the Confirmation of Olivia Fisher and Brianna Squanda here at Peace. We also, as was begun last year, will celebrate the First Communion of Emma Carlson, Theo Fisher, Scott Dobson Jr., Sam Powell and Jaystin Slavic. It has been a joy to work with, teach, and mentor these children over the last year together and over the last two years for Olivia and Brianna.

Our epistle in 1 John begins:

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,
For all of these children this work of God began when they were baptized. They were marked by Christ as his own, having been born again and having their sins were washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The work of God in them as infants was certainly greater than their ability to speak this truth for our ears to hear at their baptism - and so as they’ve grown and have been taught what this work of God is – and they now in our presence will confirm what God did then - and continues to do in them.

Stanza 2

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Though we all are born sinful and unclean, at our baptism we received the gift of Eternal Life. That gift also came by means of another gift – the gift of faith. Through the means of grace [word and sacrament] we have received the Holy Spirit, and have overcome the world, conquering sin, death and the power of the devil through this baptismal washing uniting water and the word and Spirit. Today [Olivia, Scott, Emma and Theo] and Sunday [Brianna, Sam and Jaystin] will make this proclamation clear.

Stanza 3

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

God has united these children to himself in a special way and now they make this clear in a public way. Confessing with their mouths that Jesus is lord and believing the God has raised him from the dead … they are saved, have been saved and will be saved!

Salvation is God’s promise and is delivered through his means. The word of terror that the devil brings has been defeated at the cross and Jesus has declared his victory to the gates of hell that sin, death and devil have been overcome by him and we who confess this faith receive all that Jesus won. This is most certainly true.

Stanza 4

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

The wages of sin is death but the gift of god is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

That is how the Apostle Paul comforts his first readers of this epistle. And for we who many years later hear his same voice proclaimed through the Gospel promise by the Holy Spirit believe and have the same gift of comfort and peace now and always through the assurance of simple water and word connected, received and revealed. What a blessed comfort!

Stanza 5

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Martin Luther writes in his Lecturing on the First Epistle of St. John:

Thus the water cannot be proclaimed without the blood. Nor is the blood of Christ given without the water of Baptism. Besides, the blood and the water do not come to us except at the insistence of the Holy Spirit, who is in the Word. Therefore those three cannot be separated, but the three do one thing …
For these three constantly accompany one another, and through the word a daily immersion and a perpetual baptism takes place, a perpetual shedding of the blood of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, a continual cleansing of sins.

AE 30 pg 316 Lutheran Study Bible pg. 2180

These children and all God’s children who have been baptized have and receive God’s forgiveness and have salvation in his name. The blood of Christ paid the price overcame sin death and the devil and opened the gates of heaven for we who believe. The waters of Holy Baptism united with the word of God washes away are sin and by the Holy Spirit we believe and have the assurance of the promise now and into eternity.

As these Confirmands and those receiving their First Communion demonstrate today and for we who look back many years on what God has done in us we can all proclaim:

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!

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

Funeral Sermon for Veretta Cheal May 5, 2018

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 beloved Veretta.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac, Pastor of Peace and I've been blessed to be Veretta’s pastor for the last 5 years and joyfully be able to celebrate her life with you, her dear family and friends.

Prior to becoming her pastor I had only heard about her.

In the Gospel text for today we read: (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 what had I heard? Well she was a charter member of this church and had a long history here. She was a shut in and not regularly able to come to church. she was a name and a story. After ordination and installation here at Peace I received this folder. It was the shut-in and home visitation list folder. This is my latest and updated list.

Number 1 on the list is Veretta Cheal. This hand written list was Pastor Merrell’s. He was here before computers … maybe before electricity! He was here and served so long and especially the home bound members of Peace like Veretta. On his list Veretta is number 5, not because she was of less important but numbers 1-4 have gone to be with the Lord and Veretta has now joined them.

When it was my turn to make the visits from Peace I was a little concerned. Veretta had been burdened with depression for many years.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 come to mind: 

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
I couldn’t think of anyone more heavy laden than Veretta. How could I help? What could I do? On bad days it was heard. My typical call:

Pastor: Hello Veretta
Veretta: Oahhhh…
Pastor: I was hoping to stop by and see you.
Veretta: Oahhh….
Pastor: Would Tuesday work for you?
Veretta: No …. I have … an appointment.
Pastor: Great! I’m seeing Kathy on Wednesday and I’ll stop by and see you at the same time. That would be alright wouldn’t it?
Veretta: Oahhh … I guess so.
Pastor: When I get there, if you don’t feel up to a visit you can let me know and I’ll leave. I never left.

It took all of my 32 years of sales skills to out maneuver her. She was good. But as a salesman I knew how to answer objections … and once I earn her trust … this burdened, depressed, shut-in, charter member of Peace became a joy and a blessing in my life.

In John’s gospel:

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus 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)

Veretta knew the way and she knew Jesus as her Lord.

When the depression came she closed up like a shell but when she had relief from her illness she had joy to spare.

One of my last visits with her she had been burdened and as I thought about what to do I said to myself, I wonder when Veretta last sang some hymns? So I took my guitar and some song sheets and in Veretta’s apartment we sang I am Jesus little Lamb, Amazing Grace, Christ is our Cornerstone, I know that my Redeemer lives and a few others. We had communion and our prayers and went I was leaving I say, “Now Veretta you call me when you’re feeling better.”

Well a day or two later as I was sitting at home and thinking I should call her my phone rang. I looked at it and it was from Veretta. She had a wonderful way on the phone. 

I answered: “Hello Veretta its pastor.”

She answered: “Hi! … It’s Veretta. I’m feeling better. Debbie said I should call you.”

We had many calls. Sometimes it was for prayer and other times to rejoice. At times to simply ask for comfort and peace or to return thanks for his great blessings in our lives.

Veretta enjoyed growing up on a farm and always desired to get back up north whenever she could. She had a deep love for her husband Jim meeting at the bowling alley after moving down here for work at Consumers Power. Her apartment was … pretty … with quality furniture that showed Veretta’s joy for order and care. Each piece had special meaning to her and was decorated with family mementoes and joyful history.

Veretta was a focus in my sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday a few weeks ago as I shared her introducing me to her neighbor John Stade. Veretta wanted to make sure that John received the Lord’s care just like she did. It is that caring love that Veretta had for you her dear family and friends and also for her savior Jesus and all that he did for her in this life.

On one of my last visits before she entered the Lord’s presence I read her these psalm verses.

They can bring comfort and peace for you and me as we all grieve.

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.

Veretta prayed the Lord’s Prayer - which were her last words – and though is was hard and a bit labored, she did it as well as best she could. Debbie told me it was the last words she spoke.
Heaven is now Veretta’s home.

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, forgiven in Christ and forever with our Lord and savior Jesus, and that’s a Heaven and an eternity you can trust.

The Lord kept Veretta to himself and to Peace. He connected her to our physical congregation through my visits and through his gifts of word and sacrament. But more importantly he connected her to an eternal peace and an eternal life with Christ forever. Though Veretta is no longer here for me to visit we are forever united in Christ and one day we will be reunited with glorified bodies in heaven where no, doctor’s visits, hospital beds or wheel chairs will be needed. This is the Lord’s promise! 

Veretta was prepared, she was forgiven in Christ, and she will be … at home with Jesus forever because Christ has promised:

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.

May the Lord comfort you with this blessed good news now and forever!


Monday, April 30, 2018

Sermon April 28-29, 2018

Title: God works in you to bear fruit!
Text: John 15:1-8

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

My son got a new tree pruner. You may be familiar with them. It is a long pole with a saw blade on one end and a pruner that can lop off branches with the pull of the cord. It is pretty slick and I watched as he tested it out reaching up about 10 feet into a tree looping off a small branch with a quick pull. The branch was quickly tossed into the debris pile for later disposal or burning.

Pruning and branches are very familiar to we who live in Michigan. We clean them up in the spring and prune trees, bushes and vines in the fall or throughout the year. My privacy hedge along the road was planted many years ago as a protection for my children but Jon and Amy are now grown and long gone with homes of their own and that hedge is still there … all 200 feet of it … and still requires work and regular pruning to keep its shape and its height in check.

Our gospel text today consists of only 8 verses that follow the discourse in John chapter 14 where Jesus promises that many rooms are prepared in his father’s house for his disciples and that he will come again to take them to where he is. The comfort of the Holy Spirit will be the one to remain after Jesus has ascended to the Father to continue to work and point all in Christ to that true comfort and finished hope that is Jesus.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

Christ’s love for us and his death on our behalf was on our minds last weekend with the Good Shepherd gospel. The image of the Good Shepherd and the caring of the flock was the focus of Jesus’ care for those that are his and how he brings that about through his word and gifts through his church.

In our reading today Jesus speaks in image as a vine. But not just any vine but as the true vine the … “I am” the vine. The divine name that begins our reading is no mistake but is made to ring clear in the disciples ears as the name of God and Jesus as the rightful possessor of that name. He then connects his name to the Father as the vine dresser.

I chapter 14 in a more direct way when Phillip asks:

“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

And Jesus replies:

Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

So Jesus is making clear in the previous chapter and in this first verse - this connectivity:

Father, Son, Vine, Vine dresser, the great “I am”, and Jesus - united in unity and unity in truth.

2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

To be a disciple means two things; to be connected to Christ and to bear fruit. This work God does through the Holy Spirit. The branches removed here are not the unbelieving world but those who once connected to Christ have lost faith and do not bear fruit and have become useless to the vine. Because of unbelief … they are removed and cast away.

The fear in the text of being cut off and cast way for you and me is not the point of the text but for we who remain connected to Christ - it is the pruning and the bearing of fruit – which too can have its own pain and discomfort.

Those of you who have dealt with surgery know the pain of surgery and the blessing of looking at that it in the rear view mirror. It is the desire of Jesus that we are fruit bearers that the fruit of being connected to him shines forth in our lives … at church, at home, and in the world where we live and work.

A former pastor once said when faced with the “Judge not, that you be not judged.” scripture of Matthew Chapter 7 from a well intended person, replied:

“I’m not judging … but I am a fruit inspector!”

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

The work of God’s justifying grace has already brought us into his family as his adopted children. Through baptism we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and have partaken of the divine blessing that is Jesus … being marked in him as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

So this fruit inspection is not to see whether we are truly Christian … but whether the gift of God in Christ as his children is bearing fruit in our lives … or dying on the vine.

Death will come. But do we die removed from the vine or in Christ?

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

A good death, a death in Christ, a death that leads to eternal life is what God desires- it is our hope as well - and it only happen in Christ, the true and living vine with branches grafted in.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

To do the work of Christ and to bear fruit we have to be in Christ. We have to grow spiritually bearing the fruit that Christ desires. You might wonder what God requires. Are we being judged on our works and the things we do?

Certainly as Christians and especially as Lutheran Christians we know that Ephesians 2:8-9 makes clear how we are saved: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph 2:8-9

But fruit is evidence of a life in Christ for the Christian. It’s not a pious life or an outward righteousness but an inward change. It is God’s work and God’s continued working through his means of word and sacrament.

If I see my apple tree with a dead branch I cut it off and then prune those branches around it that bear fruit … so that they might receive more nourishment and bear even greater fruit.

We just finished going through a bible study during our midweek study called:

Unjustifiable Faiths: Four common - and wrong beliefs about justification. In these studies we learn where we at times put our hope.

1. Trust in your heart and what it is saying.
2. Prosperity as a sign that shows God’s approval and favor in our lives.
3. To trust that God only expects you to do your best.
4. Or trusting that I believe what my church teaches. (Can I pass the Confirmation exam?)

Jesus makes it clear as he continues:

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The fruit bearing is in Christ.

Our good deeds apart from Christ are quite literally nothing. They show no fruit and in fact if done with the intention of being a good deed, bring no fruit and can take us farther away from God trusting in a false god of our own making. Our works apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us … can do nothing, Jesus says.

1. Trusting you heart as opposed to trusting Jesus - leads to death.
2. Trusting your wealth as opposed to trusting Jesus – leads to death.
3. Doing your best as opposed to belief in Christ’s work – leads to death.
4. Faith in the church as opposed to faith in Christ – leads to death.

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

The abiding hope is a hope and work in God and of God.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

To have Jesus Christ abide in you is to be in the word.
To be in the word is to be in Christ the very word of God made flesh.
To do what God requires is to believe on him whom he has sent.

This work by the working of the Holy Spirit comes to you and me through the means of grace and points us to Christ so that we abide in him and he abides in us.

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

The gift of God makes us his and through this
the Father is glorified in his son and in we his adopted children are glorified in him and bear much fruit.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sermon April 21-22, 2018

Title: Love and death!
Text: John 10:11-18

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Call to worship: #473 Our Paschal Lamb That Sets Us Free
Sermon Hymn: # 490 Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won

Love and Death is kind of a strange phrase.

We might think life and death but love and death seems odd to me and may be to you as well? Going back in my past I remember a movie of Woody Allen’s from 1975 with that same title, Love and Death. It was a period piece set in Czarist Russia, and the story was about a neurotic soldier [what else would Woody play but one who is neurotic] who is in love with his distant cousin on the one side and his formulation of a plot to assassinate Napoleon on the other – so the title Love and Death.

In our readings for today we see another love and death. Jesus says in an analogy of a shepherd to his sheep that he is the good shepherd and that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In our epistle in 1 John also we hear in contrast that 16 By this [the death of Jesus] we know love, that he laid down his life for us.

So, the good shepherd is Jesus and we, and all who believe are his sheep and because of his love for us … he dies for us. And so again we have this odd phrase of … Love and Death.

Now we also know death. From the time of Adam and Eve and the fall into sin, death has been part the world. We see death all around us.

So our death, apart from Christ’s atoning death, is a death without hope. But in Jesus and by faith in his sinless life, vicarious death and glorious resurrection his death … is a death that gives life.

Jesus also says that apart from him - those that might shepherd the sheep in ways opposed to Christ and his teaching - are liars leading the sheep away from him and who in the time of need flee, leaving the sheep to care for themselves so that the wolves scatters them.

But in our reading Jesus – the Good shepherd- says:

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

So who are the other sheep and how does Christ bring them into this one flock?

Well, outside of the children of Israel – those believing Jews - it is you and me … and it is also those who will believe as the gospel goes forth throughout the world from now on until Christ returns.


Last Sunday one of our members went to be with the Lord. John Stade was a neighbor of Veretta Cheals at Elmhaven Manor where they both lived. I met and visited with John there at Veretta’s request. When John was moved to Clarkston Specialty for more assisted care I continued to visit him.
John was confirmed at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Rochester at 13 years of age in 1953. From his early adult life he had been away from regular attendance and this continued for many years. But through Veretta Cheal and her shut in visits the Lord used this time and this way to reconnect John to himself and our church to a lost sheep in need.
Each month I was privileged to bring John the news that was going on at church and the gifts of the Lord’s forgiveness in word and sacrament where he was - in his bed or wheelchair. 

I saw him last Sunday after church though he was unresponsive. I went back to see him last Tuesday afternoon only to find his room empty. 

Loss brings emotion and tears. It did for me on Tuesday. Even when I got home and told Monica she could see how John Stade’s death affected me asking me if I was alright.

As an under shepherd of Christ flock here at Peace I am given to the care of souls as a representative of the Good Shepherd. The good Shepherd is Jesus and he is our model and our hope. In him we find comfort and peace and bring that same hope and peace to others in need. 

The hope that is Christ was my hope and privilege to bring to John in his place and to all who are given to my care shut in or at hospital, or gathered here … to hear this blessed comfort and good news that is Christ Jesus and his forgiveness.

Like Jesus upon hearing of the death of Lazarus - I too wept at John’s death as well. Not being connected to his family the arrangements were made without me and my involvement was now completed I felt the loss and in a sense no closure. As Pastor Merrell once told me we only care for them while they are with us. Once they go to be with the Lord our work here is finished.

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

The Lord connected John to Peace. He connected him to our physical congregation through my visits and his gifts. But more importantly he connected John to an eternal peace and an eternal life with Christ forever. Though John is no longer there for me to visit we are forever united in Christ and one day will be reunited with glorified bodies in heaven where no hospital beds or wheel chairs will be needed. This is the Lord’s promise! 

The work of the Good Shepherd is clear and proclaimed to us by Jesus in his great commission:

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. 28:19-20

This living Jesus is with us now and always. For we who remain in the flesh and for all who have died in Christ - like our dear loved ones - he is the blessed hope on whom we wait. This hope though, is not a vain hope but a joyful hope of anticipation - one where the tears of loss are replaced by the tears of joy and a life eternal that we are all promised by Christ himself.

God uses each one of us in our vocations as husbands, sons, mothers, daughters, friends, and workers in public or private service to be salt and light in a dark world. He gives each to his place and calls to life, that which is dead by his love for us and his death on our behalf.

As Martin Luther said regarding God’s work throughout the world:

He is the Lord over all places. Wherever that word is heard, where Baptism, the sacrament of the Altar, and absolution are administered, there you must determine and conclude with certainty; “This is surly God’s house; here heaven has been opened.” But just as the word is not bound to any place, so the church is not bound to any place. One should not say: “The chief pontiff is in Rome. Therefore the church is there.” But where God speaks, where Jacob’s ladder is, where the angels ascend and descend, there the church is, there the kingdom of heaven is opened.

LW American Edition Vol. 5 pg. 244

In our sanctuary and in hospital and home visits, or in the conversations of family and friends where Christ’s Love and Death is proclaimed the Good Shepherd speaks comfort and peace to those lost is trespass and sin!

His forgiveness makes everlasting life with him a reality for us and by power of the Holy Spirit we know his love for us and his death on our behalf to accomplish just that.

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


Monday, April 16, 2018

Sermon April 14-15, 2018

Title: Christ has sent the promise of the Father upon you!
Text: Luke 24:36-49

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

As you joy in the Easter season may you be reminded that the Lord Christ has made peace with the Father for you and has sent the promise of the Father upon you!

In our gospel today we see a scene unfold as the scene from last weekends gospel in John, where Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples in the locked room. In Luke’s gospel though - it follows Jesus after he walked with the two men on the Emmaus road.

As these two men walk towards Emmaus which is about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem, Jesus joins them and remains unrecognized by them. He asks them what they are discussing and they can’t believe that he is unaware of what just happened in Jerusalem to Jesus of Nazareth. They recount that the Chief Priests had turned Jesus over to be sentenced to death and that he had been crucified and now it is the third day … and the women … who went to the tomb to anoint his body say his body is not there. There are some who even say they saw a vision of angels that say that Jesus is alive and has been raised from the dead!

As they continue on, Jesus open the scriptures to them – showing that the Christ would have to suffer, die, and rise again.

And finally:

30 When [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

This is where we pick up the story in the Gospel reading for today as these two Emmaus road disciples go back to Jerusalem to confirm to the disciples that they had seen the Lord.

Jesus is present with those gathered saying, “Peace to you!”

He confirms to them that it is him. “Touch me, and see!” For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And we are told that they disbelieved for joy … that this Christ … present here … was in a sense, too good to be true!

That can also seem too good to be true for you and me as well. Consumed at times by life’s activities, we are overwhelmed by so much that is given to us daily, that we can forget the one gift that is truly needed … peace with God.


Disbelieved for joy can be only unbelief for some.

A few years ago I received a call from my good friend Paul. He told me about his wife’s cousin Jolie, who was dying from cancer and had very little time to live. He also said that his wife Rebecca wanted to talk to me.

As he gave me some of the details, I found that not only was the cousin dying but she was an unbeliever and not receptive to hearing about Christ at all … even as she neared death.

Paul told me, his wife Rebecca would be driving up north to be with her cousin, who had been sent home die, as there was according to the doctors, “No hope and nothing left to do!”

But for we who name the name of Christ there is always hope and there is always … plenty left to do.

Rebecca wanted to know what to do, and what she could say to a cousin who said to her, “I don’t share your beliefs or faith.” This happened right after Rebecca called her cousin and wished her “Happy Easter,” on Easter Sunday.

What would you say … what could you say … what should I say?

As the time of a death nears for a loved one we often feel lost. We want to comfort them, we want to give them hope, and we also need to be comforted ourselves.
Jesus says to the disciples and to us,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44

The word of God written for us is Christ’s word and it is he – the word made flesh - who Paul tells us in first Timothy:

… desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Tim 2:4

I spoke with Rebecca about reading scripture to her cousin if at all possible, sharing her faith, and even singing some hymns. I told her a few stories of people that I had witnessed to but also told her … that she might not hear the words she so hopes to hear from her cousin … “I believe.”

But I also reminded her to, “not be discouraged, because it is God himself who opens the eyes of the blind and works in the lives of all who are brought to faith.”

It is his work, it is his grace, and it is his salvation … that we witness to and share with others - just as Jesus did on the Emmaus road.

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, as he did with his own disciples.

Even if we don’t hear the words of faith we long to hear from those we love, God can still do and accomplish all that he intends to do to draw and bring those he desires to a believing faith.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

That repentance … and forgiveness of sins … should be proclaimed in his name to all nations …

… even to one … on her death bed … up north … in Michigan.

48 You are witnesses of these things.

Rebecca was a faithful witness testifying to the things she has not seen - yet believes.

She read and shared God’s word with her cousin and as a believer she came to her cousin at a time of need and then came back many times with God’s word of comfort.

Jolie passed away this past summer – not immediately as the doctors had expected – and Rebecca never heard the words she longed to hear.

But in life and in death - we are left at times with simple hope and trust.

Hope in a savior who saves … and trust in the promise of God.
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The promise of the Father is upon you too, as the Holy Spirit dwells in you richly and points you outside yourself to a living hope, and a living savior – and a living Jesus who is Christ our Lord.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed Alleluia!

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