Monday, July 17, 2017

Sermon July 15-16, 2017

Title: Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

A man, after 25 years with one company, was still doing the same old job and drawing the same salary. Finally he went to his boss and told him he felt he had been neglected. "After all," he said, "I've had a quarter of a century of experience." "My dear fellow," sighed the boss, "you haven't had a quarter of a century of experience you've had one experience for a quarter of a century."



When I worked in sales in the piano business and began waiting on customers there’s a principal we all learned: It is called the “KISS Principle,” as in, K-I-S-S: And it means, Keep It Simple, Stupid! In other words, if you want people to understand what you’re saying, and in my case showing them the benefits of owning a piano, I was reminded by the KISS Principal … to keep it simple. Don’t talk to technical or in ways that people can’t understand what you are really trying to say.

It seems a bit strange then that Jesus would use parables or stories that were something like a riddle at times to teach the crowd. How will they learn from these parables? Wouldn’t this complicate understanding? The disciples even asked about this: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v 10).

Actually, hearing God’s Word with understanding isn’t just a matter of “getting” the parables. Understanding God’s Word is hard anytime, and there are good reasons for this, but particularly when Jesus speaks in parables.

Jesus knows his audience well. There are things He knows that are keeping them from hearing and understanding what He is saying. Jesus teaches his disciples that even though 12 the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, Heb 4:12, the hearer – which is you and me - in our sinful state has the ability to resist and misunderstand God’s word.

As Luther says in the explanation of the Third Article of The apostles Creed:

I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

We understand that faith is a gift of our loving God. So what is it that keeps us from hearing … understanding and bearing fruit?

First, Jesus says, it’s the devil. He is like the birds that come and snatch the seed off the path. Certainly, we all can attest that the devil exists … because we notice the sinfulness of our thoughts even, at times as we wonder off while listening to a sermon. No that would never happen.

What are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking about what you did last night or what you might do after church? Whatever it is … you can be sure that the devil will shorten your attention span and even introduce thoughts into your mind … that have no business being there at this time!

[Edited: Story of attending a funeral for a classmate and how though the funeral had many good points and opened the ears of those who needed to hear there was one speaker who closed the ears of all by talking too long, being unfocused, and turning the funeral into a Bible Study so that the loved ones having ears closed had to lead him back to his seat. We need to know when to speak and when to hold back and just love those who are hurting before they close their ears to the message.]

The second thing Jesus says is that it’s your flesh. The sinful flesh, yours and mine, looks for the next spiritual high. As long as everything is going well, we’re all for the Word. But when problems arise, or when tribulation and persecution come, we’re quick to abandon the word and leave it far behind. This is like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more palatable and to our liking.

[Edited: Contrasting a funeral I officiated at on the previous Tuesday evening that had many ears opened and the evangelizing work of Robert Fisher who was a member of Peace and had passed away and how he brought Jesus to many through his mentoring in AA. One man said Bob was his sponsor and mentor for 17 years ... "He literally saved my life!" The value of word and dead to keep the ears open and the message received.]

Third, Jesus says it’s the world. We have many cares, some that even steal away the joy of listening to the Word. Yes, at times the word of God is joyful but we have work to do, whether from our employer or a teacher at school or even well intention friends. We may be concerned about our income, our children, the rising expenses of health care, and other essentials to our life – as our costs go up … sometime our income goes down. What to do?

When you deprive yourself of preaching and the word you steal the Good News God wants you to hear.

The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh make up the unholy trinity that keeps us from hearing and bearing fruit – they block the word if you will. The meaning of the Third Commandment, thou shall keep Holy the Sabbath day, calls on hearers not to despise preaching and God’s Word. It needs to be “set apart” which is what holy means, yet when you are listening problems and a lack of understanding happen and then this is precisely what occurs. The Preaching … and God’s Word are both despised.

But God’s Word is heard, and when it is - understood - what blessings! 

Jesus said to the Twelve,

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (vv 16–17).

How does that happen? Jesus answered the disciples’ question this way:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (vv 11–13).

Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word is given; it’s a gift.

You have just been gifted … Just now. Again … you have been given the Spirit of God in Christ. For many of you, that first happened at your Baptism. Your eyes have been opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. And you continue to hear God’s Word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life … just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.

With his death on the cross, Jesus has conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. This gives us the authority and the comfort to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This evil is not just some impotent, inanimate, impersonal substance. It is the evil one, who steals the Word from our hearts, who tempts us with suffering, and coaxes the world to follow him.

But our Lord has overcome the evil one, and in faith in his victory we may pray confidently and resist the snares and traps he sets. Our Lord has chosen you – dear friend - to receive this gift of faith so that you may hear and understand. This is grace and grace alone. No merit on your part has caused this, but our Lord and his love for you give it freely.

Jesus teaches the disciples to sow the Word of God liberally. There are no places, regardless of their potential to grow, where the Word of God may not or should not be preached. The Sower, in the parable is spreading seed everywhere … over the path, the rocks, and the weedy areas. That’s because God’s grace is for everyone. Everybody who hears the words you have heard today may be certain that Jesus really has died and has risen for them, has forgiven them, has given them eternal salvation.

Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!

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


Monday, July 10, 2017

Sermon July 8-9, 2017

Martin: The man! Video series for next 5 months on 2nd Weekend
Title: Monastic life, God, and Love in the Spirit!
Text: Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the daylong;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Peace in the monastery for Luther was doing things. The schedule was certainly difficult. Prayer, fasting and daily work was the life Luther entered. His focus was on God and how to make peace with an angry God who was ready to condemn … him.

Monastic life was hard, regimented and scheduled. Some of you may have experienced this type of life in your families growing up or it may sound familiar to those of you who have served in the military - When to wake, when to sleep, when to work and when to eat were daily scheduled. The attitude of the time for Luther, the people, and the church was that God was watching you … every moment of your life … and what must I do to be acceptable to him.

It’s also how we feel as kids, don’t we? Under the watchful eyes of our parents we feel less than free. It is only after we are out of the house and school that we really know how truly free we were … in our parents house … no bills, didn’t pay for food, and everything we needed was provided for us.

Throughout scriptures God is present among his people:

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Gen 28:16

1God is our refuge and strength, very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
[Jesus said] “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matt. 28:20b

God is always with us.

In Luther’s day vs. our own people believed God existed. They worried about his attitude towards them and were convinced that he was angry with them.

Today … people have crafted God in their own image … and are only angry with people and policies that go against their lifestyle, feelings and belief … going so far as to want to change God and his word to fit their own desires.

Some of the attitude in Luther’s day was brought about but a misunderstanding of repentance. Turning from sin or being sorry for sin is much different from “Doing Penance.” Do you ever feel that way as well?

When my own father told me to “Go to your room and think about what you had done.” It wasn’t the time in my room that my father was looking for and wished me to have … but he was looking for a change of attitude in me.

The misunderstand of repentance still has many trying to appease God by what they do rather than turning from sin to the one who restored peace between God and man – our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Luther, as a priest, even forgiveness found in the Lord’s Supper brought terror.

“How can a sinful man hold the body and blood of Christ in his hands without being damned?” he thought.

1 Cor. 10:16 would eventually bring him peace:

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

The body and blood of Christ are present along with the bread and wine. In the supper the bread and wine remain and we truly eat bread and drink wine but also in a sacramental union we also receive the real body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

Some still today see the Lord’s Supper … as a burden rather than gift. It makes the service longer they might say. It takes too much time. Why do we need it so often … even three times a month?

But God’s word tells us:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Cor. 11:26

The supper is gift not burden! It brings peace and forgiveness! Luther would come to find this out. It is not for all though … but only for those who believe Christ’s words “This is my body” … “This is my blood” … “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Even those with the tiniest of mustard seed like faith receive all that Christ has promised … forgiveness and peace in and through this blessed gift.

Even if it is mocked by the one presiding … “Bread thou art and bread thou shall remain and wine thou art and wine thou shall remain as Luther found in his pilgrimage to Holy Rome does not change what Christ said it is … his very body and blood … for you.

Ultimately we all, like Luther, take time to come to a full knowledge of the truth. We struggle with things of God because we are still in the tent of sin and in a corrupted world.

But like the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther we can rejoice.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sermon July 1-2, 2017

Title: Being lost in Christ is life eternal!
Text: Matt 10:34-42

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Yam Sing came from China to California and was brought to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [through the proclaimed word of truth]. When asked before baptism concerning his own faith, how he found Jesus. "I no find Jesus at all; He find me," was the answer from the converted man, an answer which showed the work of God’s Holy Spirit in him, and which showed that he had learned something of the love of Him who came to "seek and to save that which was lost."

S. S. Advocate.

Being lost in Christ is life eternal!

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

We as a people certainly know the difference between peace and war. The sword of war was brought to our shores after the Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4, 1776.

It read in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To achieve these self-evident truths peace fell into war for a time. Thankfully those who fought for our freedom and the life, liberty and happiness we all pursue were victorious. The war continues to rage in our life and work, on college campuses, and in the politically charged debate and talk that stretches across this great but troubled nation.

But peace … true peace came to the Earth at the promised birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to restore the peace that was lost through the fall into sin and the separation between God and man. Peace was earned, not by we who broke the peace but at the cross by Jesus Christ, where the price of sin was paid in full and satisfaction was finished.

God and man are now at peace but war still rages.

There is also another effect of God’s peace and the Gospel being proclaimed.

Maybe you’ve experienced it? Jesus tells his disciples:

36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.
Man against father and daughter against mother, daughter-n-law and mother-n-law will be at odds. Even during the Revolutionary War the colonists were divided between British Loyalists and American Patriots dividing families and loyalties within homes and families.

Christ says also that there is only one truth and one way, only one way for true peace. This sounds very similar to last week’s reading and Jesus’ warning as well.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life in this life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Where Jesus says that he came not to bring peace but a sword we need to understand this a bit more. What is the sword that Jesus Christ brings that his disciples should be aware of?

Paul gives us a glimpse in Ephesians chapter six when he uses the metaphor of putting on the whole armor of God and he here also gives us a better picture of who the fight is truly against

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood … but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The fight is real but many times the true foe is hidden. It may appear that the fight is against father and son or mother and daughter and these fights will have real battle scars of a true fight, but the truth is first that those who are opposed to the word of truth proclaimed and received by the work of the Holy Spirit are lead by a different spirit … the spirit of darkness whose fight is against the sword that Christ has – the word of God. Paul gives us the armor:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The armor that is put on has different functions:

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

All of the armor that is given for the use of the disciples and us is defensive.

All that we put on gives protection from the darts of the evil one though one … is given for our use as a weapon. The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God!

Being received into Christ is your great reward!


I had a conversation a number of years ago with a friend who I had been witnessing to. I had invited him to church and he said, “Sunday mornings are the time that my wife and I do things and go places.”

His wife was not a believer or interested in hearing about Christ at all.

I asked, “Do you get up early Sunday and do things?” He said, “No, we don’t really get up until about 10:00 am.” So, I said, “Why don’t you go to an 8:00 am service and you can be back home before your wife gets up and 10:00, then you have the whole day to spend together? I’ll even help you find one.” “No, that won’t work.” “Why not, I asked? Because she’ll be mad that I went to church … she thinks it’s stupid.”

Ultimately, they got a divorce. Both were at fault in the relationship. Unfortunately, their marriage was not built on the hope and comfort that Christ gives.

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life in this life will lose it, even if it appears that the love of wife, brother, sister, father, son-n-law, daughter-n-law or whomever, is a reason to forsake Christ and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Being lost in Christ is life eternal!

Jesus comforts us all:

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.

Your reward is in Christ. He has given you the most blessed reward of eternal life which is the prophet’s reward and the reward of a righteous person … Jesus Christ! It is yours because you are His!

This gift is not only for you but for all who have been brought to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit.

42 Whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Your reward is held fast in Christ by God Himself and you are His now and for eternity!

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sermon June 24-25, 2017

Title: Fear not for God knows you, loves you and is with you!
Text: Matthew 10:5, 21-33

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

The Bohemian reformer John Hus, who lived about a 100 years before Martin Luther, was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters of faith. He died, burned at the stake, for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus's last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood."

Source Unknown.

Fear not for God knows you, loves you and is with you!

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These are the twelve that Jesus sent out, instructing them. But the bulk of our text today points to what await those who profess faith in Christ.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The work of those who were sent would not be fun or easy. Persecution would be part of the lot of those sent. Not only would the world hate them but so too their family, brother, father children and so on. Christ says,

Have no fear of them … proclaim the truth! 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

This past week was to be my vacation … and it was … to an extent.

The Monday before my vacation began I got a call at church. It was from Carol Cutcher daughter of Glenn Blackerby one of my shut-ins.

Pastor: “Hi Carol, How are you and how is your dad?”
Carol: “Hi Pastor, I’m doing well and my dad has never been better. He went to be with Jesus today.”

Well, I was sad to hear of Glenn’s passing and Carol was going to meet with the people at Coats Funeral Home so I said, “I want to do your dad’s service so let me know when it is and I’ll be available.”

Glenn Blackerby was a dear man. Married to Dorothy for 63 years he was changed after her passing about 8 months ago. Not that he lost faith … but that he lost patience. He wanted to go and be with Jesus and with Dorothy whom he missed greatly.

I was blessed to do Dorothy’s service about 8 months ago and knew Glenn would get there soon enough. As we visited at his home he would say, pastor I want to go be with Jesus and Dorothy … I’m ready. I would say, “I know you are Glenn and Jesus will call you to be with him in his time and way but not just yet. It may be because I just need someone to visit.

Glenn and Dorothy … were a lovely couple and demonstrated a faith lived out in love and service to others. I remember so fondly Dorothy exiting the service and shaking hands with a pleasant thought and Glenn, grabbing my hand and saying:

A mother goes into her son’s room to wake him for church Sunday morning. When she told him it was time to get up he said, “I’m not going!” Why not his mother asked? “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One they don’t like me and two I don’t like them” “Well,” … his mother replied. “I’ll give you two good reasons why you’re going.” One, you’re 47 years old and two, you’re the pastor!”

Life and faith and … jokes we’re the lifeblood of Glenn Blackerby and his life’s joy left him when Dorothy passed on to heaven.

That is part of our lot as well. To endure sin, death and the devil and we wait for that call that will come for each one of us to go and be with the Lord. At times in this life evil invades our life as that police officer at Flint Bishop international airport found when he was attacked with a knife. Other times death comes and wakes us all to that reality that death is real.

I’ve done 8 funerals this year and only Glenn’s was for a regular attending member. All others were either for those who requested a Lutheran Pastor because there had been a Lutheran background or lapsed attendance. I always am willing to serve as it is an opportunity to bring the word’s of Christ to those who need to hear … and at a time that they will listen.

I spoke with pastor Merrell as there was a call to do a funeral in Ortonville this coming Monday and though I really could use a break I called and offered to do the service for a lady who had a Lutheran background. Thankfully another pastor called earlier so I don’t have one this Monday but I remarked to Pastor Merrell, “I know how we can grow the church! Get people to need a Lutheran pastor … before they die.”

As Glenn Blackerby was known to say:

Life is like a roll of toilet paper …
… you never know when the end will come.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Christ has promised that he has a room prepared and where He is you too will be also. And He gives you and me the work to do with this promise:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, John 14:12a

The work of God is this, to believe on him whom he has sent.

God calls some to proclaim that truth publicly but he calls us all to speak these truths to those who need to hear, in good time and bad and at time of joy and at time of sorrow.

As our epistle reading for this day reminds us:

23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

“To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1: 12).

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

Funeral Sermon for Glenn C. Blackerby June 20, 2017

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 Glenn.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac of Peace Lutheran Church of Waterford and I have had the blessing of being Glenn’s pastor for the last 4-1/2 years though I’ve know him for many more years.

Glenn and Dorothy … were a lovely couple and demonstrated a faith lived out in love and service to others. I remember so fondly Dorothy exiting the service and shaking hands with a pleasant thought and Glenn, grabbing my hand and saying:

A mother goes into her son’s room to wake him for church Sunday morning. When she told him it was time to get up he said, “I’m not going!” Why not his mother asked? “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One they don’t like me and two I don’t like them” “Well,” … his mother replied. “I’ll give you two good reasons why you’re going.” One, you’re 47 years old and two, you’re the pastor!”

That was Glenn Blackerby! A man who loved life, Jesus, his wife Dorothy and jokes.

As the reading from Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

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

For Glenn that time to be born was January 14, 1930 and his time to depart this life for his eternal home was 87 years later on Monday June 12th.

Though we all hope to hold our dear loved ones close and save them from this fate … it is appointed for each one of us … and it is a goal we all will achieve.

But in the Gospel text for today Jesus says:

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

So though we grieve and are sad at Glenn’s passing we can also have comfort as well. Jesus tells us that He has a place for us, and that included Glenn Blackerby, and it has been prepared for him and he has now taken possession of it.

Glenn knew Jesus and trusted Christ, and seeing Glenn and Dorothy in church over the years I got to know him and his faith in Christ. Of course I also got to hear his jokes – some tame, and some a bit rough, and some a bit long – especially when members of the church were trying to exit and he was holding up the line - but always jokes that if nothing else … made Glenn laugh.

I had a joyful time visiting with Glenn his home and over the last few years and in the hospital and bringing communion to him as it was difficult for Carol to get him to church on a regular basis. Carol would always tell me how they would stay up too late watching the old westerns on TV and sleep through the service time in the morning. I half expected one of his songs today to be the theme from Bonanza or Gun Smoke! But Glenn always really enjoyed receiving the Lord’s Supper at his home to strengthen his faith even though attending church was hard.

I visited Glenn and Carol monthly and we always had a nice visit. He would be sitting in his chair but was able to talk and communicate as he always did though a bit quieter and slower … Glenn confided to me that he missed Dorothy terribly, as we all do. He told me that he told the Lord that he was ready to go and be with him and Dorothy again. He so looked forward to going home and being with Dorothy and a heaven prepared for him.

We can all see the effects of time on our faces as we look into the mirror each morning and in my case an old man looks back where a young man once stood. It is the effect of sin and a broken world and as much as we might all hope to have the blessings of a long life like Glenn’s, the reality of death is real and sooner or later we will all answer the door when death knocks. But too, like Glenn, we can have comfort and peace because:

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work, and this blessed Good News.

As we together grieve the loss of our beloved Glenn and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

I rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Will keep me still in perfect peace.

Charles Wesley.

The Psalms can bring comfort at times like these.

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.

Comfort and peace, is what Glenn knew. That Christ had come to rescue him and you can know that as well. Comfort and peace, knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life by God grace and mercy.

Comfort and peace, is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter even by Jesus himself.

For Jesus Himself says that:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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

Because of Christ’s purifying death he allows you too, like Glenn, to depart in peace where all who trust in Christ will be with him forever!

So when the trials of life burden you and the storms of life rage and when even death is near, rest in the peace of Christ no matter the storms of life, but rests in the loving hands of Jesus the savior who reminds us in John’s gospel the wonderful comfort that Glenn knew:

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

Glenn was prepared, he was forgiven, and he 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!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sermon June 10-11, 2017

Martin: The man! Video series for next 5 months on 2nd Weekend
Title: Luther’s world, God’s wrath and Peace Eternal!
Text: Phil 3:7-9

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Those words of Paul to the Philippians could have been written from the pen of Martin Luther – but not yet – as we will see and learn in the video series Martin the Man.

Martin’s upbringing was hard, the time that he lived was hard, his parents were hard, and school – being caned 15 times for not preparing his Latin lesson correctly… was hard. This is not the world we live in today or that many of us grew up in.

My own discipline at home and school, like many of yours, was harder then today but for me the blood did not flow for stealing a nut. The threat of punishment for me was real. My own dad would come home from work and ask my mom to “Line them up and tell me which one I need to hit!” Though interestingly, I don’t remember ever getting hit.
Luther was not so lucky. While my own dad could whip his belt off and have it ready to use like a gunslinger from the old west … the punishment was:

“Go to your room, bend over, and wait for me.”

Luther’s view of God the Father was somewhat molded by his own view of his own dad and those who had authority over him. If his own father brought blood flowing punishment for stealing a nut … what possibly could he expect to receive from a Holy God whom he had sinned against in thought, word and dead daily?

Contrast Luther to my own experience:

I was sent to my room for something. It might have been for teasing my sister or brothers who all were younger and smaller than me. I waited a pretty good amount of time, as my dad would say, “Go think about what you had done!” Then the time arrived, my dad came into my room, as I bent over the bed and heard the belt snap to the ready position. But instead of pain and punishment … I felt a gently breeze. As I looked around my dad had a rubber band plane in his hand and the propeller was spinning blowing a breeze in my hair. My dad sat down and explained what I had done and why it was wrong but also … I was forgiven and received grace.

My view of God from my own dad and Luther’s were quite different.

Luther’s dad wanted Martin to be a Lawyer. His dream was more money, security and power.

My dad told me “Russ, whatever you do for a living you’re going to do it a long time so do something you like … and … if possible it would be nice to have heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.”

As a Roman Catholic Luther knew what penance was. Doing something to make up for what you had done wrong. You go to the Priest and confess you sins and have some satisfaction and prayers … so many Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s for Luther to say and as a young Roman Catholic for me as well.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last confession. These are my sins.” I teased my sister. I didn’t listen to my parents. I ran in the hall at school. I smoked a cigarette at the neighbor’s house.”

My penance: 5 Our Father’s and 5 Hail Mary’s.

As a young boy you learn to say them really fast: Our Father …. Hail Mary …. Done! I’m good to go for the next six months. No though of sin no thought of death. I just did 5 Our Father’s and 5 Hail Mary’s God and me are good.

While Luther feared God’s punishment I was blissfully naive to think that I was good with God because of what I had done … my own penance.

Luther thought:

Does, God condemn sin? Am I a sinner? Does God condemn me? And he had to answer yes to all of these questions.

At home Luther received punishment and when he did penance he wondered … “Have I done enough?”

In the movie, Martin Luther Heretic that I show the confirmation students there is s scene with Martin and his father superior Johann Staupitz talking.

Staupitz: “Martin, I’m told that you were in the confessional yesterday evening for six hours?”

Luther: “Yes Father Staupitz. If I commit a sin father I must confess it.”

Staupitz: “Six hours … so Martin are you now free from sin?”

Luther: “No father Staupitz. Father if I’m wrong, I’m ready to be corrected. Father can any man ever be free from sin? Then, how am I to escape?

Staupitz: “Escape! Martin you’re not in prison.”

Luther: “Not in prison. You don’t think so. There are walls all around me father. Can I be free from sin? No. Is there a day of judgment? Yes. Is God indifferent to sin? No. Must I be damned? Yes. …You see there are four walls father and there is no way out.

Staupitz: “Let Israel hope in the Lord with God there is mercy.”

Luther: Father is God merciful? If God’s merciful … let there be no judgment. Let there be no damnation and no hell. Let’s all go to Heaven and live with the angels.

Staupitz: “Martin you feel abandoned; you feel powerless; you’re filled with anger; you hate God. You think you’re the first man who ever doubted the goodness of God?

Luther: “Tell me what to do father!”

Staupitz brings some practical wisdom to Luther’s life.

Staupitz: “Eat more food, get more sleep … learn more about God.

Martin Luther Heretic: DVD quoted

By God’s Spirit Luther was brought to the proper understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness … but it would take some time.

Many people and burdens would come in his life as we will see throughout this series. But through the word of truth and by the Spirit’s work God would open Luther’s eyes to hear and see the goodness of God.

For you and me … we have received that same Spirit of God to know his mercy, his love and his forgiveness … and even like a gentle blowing breeze, through the propeller of a small toy plane from a loving father, brought forgiveness, we can all know that God’s mercy and grace is real and God’s forgiveness through Christ work is truly ours.

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


Sermon June 3-4, 2017 Pentecost

Title: The Spirit of truth has been poured into your hearts!
Text: Acts 2:1-21

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;

The Day of Pentecost begins the work of the church. In a dramatic way the Spirit comes.

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The work of the church begins with the Spirit; the rushing wind, the fire, speaking in foreign tongues, hearing in one’s own language, quite a dramatic scene. The Festival of Weeks – grain harvest – those Jews gathered together in Jerusalem – and the Spirit comes just as Jesus had said 50 days after Easter and 10 days after he ascended.
There were quite a variety of people too:

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.”

The church has a language too. For some it’s German, others English or Spanish, for some Hebrew or Arabic, Japanese or Indonesian. But also the language of the church has one important element and that is it … begins with and is understood through the Spirit.

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28

The Spirit has now been revealed as the one sent to glorify Christ. We have a greater measure of His manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our day than the believers of the Old Testament had.

"At the time when Jesus preached, He promised the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit was not yet there - not that He was not in existence in His person, but that He was not fully manifested – or made known - in His revelation and in His work.

For that is the special work of the Holy Spirit - that He reveal and glorify Christ, that He preach and give testimony concerning Him. That this office of the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ the Lord in the preaching of the forgiveness of sins, and how one may be delivered from the power of sin, death, and the devil, and have comfort and joy in Christ.

All this was at the time of Christ, unheard of and not mentioned; that deliverance, salvation, righteousness, joy, and life should be given us through that man, Christ, whom people did not yet know."

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 452

I made a home visit after Memorial Day on Tuesday and the lady had a page from her Portals of Prayer marked with a fold. For some reason she didn’t like it or understand it and wanted my help.

The text was John 21:17

17[Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” … “Feed my sheep.
The basic devotion began by asking the question, why do we love our church? It then went on to list some reason. Maybe we belong to a small group, or have strong friendships; maybe its youth activities or things for the kids; It might be a friendly church or a nice pastor or maybe we’ve been there for years and can’t imagine going anywhere else.

It continues that often there are social reasons that we come – personal relationships, friends, social activities or things we do … that in our mind no one else could do or at least do as well as we can.

But it continued that why we come is for the reasons that Jesus sent the Spirit. So that we might be taught, and fed on God’s word, which brings to our ears forgiveness when we repent and points out our sin when we are blissfully ignorant and happy to just keep on sinning.

The pastor, whether we like him and his personality, or think the church would be better served with someone else - is whom God has placed through the call of the church to be the under shepherd here, to proclaim God words through the working of God’s Holy Spirit. – to bind up we who are brokenhearted.

Portals of Prayer May 7, 2017 Dcs. Rachael D. Thompson (summarized)


My old neighbor Don had an interesting story. I must have been talking to him about changing churches from Heart of the Hills in Rochester to St. John Lutheran.

So Don said, “I’ve changed churches too … but I’m in the same building!”

I didn’t quite understand what he was saying so he explained that his church which was Baptist had grown too big for the building and moved. When the building was sold to another church a Methodist one Don stayed there and started worshiping with them. Later the Methodist church grew too big for the building and moved and it was a Pentecostal that moved in … and Don stayed. But for Pentecostal’s they don’t see the manifestation of the Spirit and his work in the same way as we do. They see the Spirit’s activity as the important work and rather than pointing to the work of Christ on our behalf, desire to see the Spirit work in a miraculous way like on the Day of Pentecost. The speaking in tongues for the Pentecostal is a normal working of God through the Spirit and unless you demonstrate that gift and speak in tongues – which to them are heavenly and indiscernible languages … at times, interpreted by others … who might also speak in indiscernible languages. So - after awhile … as Don said – “of the mumbo jumbo” – he left.

In a sense Don had it right and wrong. Wrong, because the building is not the church. It may be the place for a time where the church gathers and meets, and even other members of the body of Christ might meet and gather in that same place. But the true church is where the word of God, both Law and Gospel, is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered and by the working of the Holy Spirit Christ is made known.

Even those Christians who wrongly understand the work of the Holy Spirit and expect the miraculous working of God as on the Day of Pentecost as a normative sign of the Spirit’s work and faith in our day still have the word of God and God can and does work and teach through that word too.

Maybe that is why Don finally left.

Pentecost has come … and before the Lord returns to judge the world he tells us through the words of Peter’s sermon:

19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

But we are all left with this great comfort because the Spirit of truth has been poured into your hearts!

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

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