Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sermon September 3-4, 2016

Title: Discipleship is a bear!
Text: Luke 14:25-35

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

If you were to look at Rembrandt's 1653 etching of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his own sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.

Source Unknown.

We also recognize that by our own sins Christ was nailed to the cross.

Discipleship is a bear!

25 Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” 

To live for Jesus is to deny life itself. Boy, discipleship is a bear!

And now Jesus tells these followers in the crowd: 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Sounds like a good way to help those who were following Jesus to fall away, doesn’t it?

In our Old Testament lesson today we hear the very familiar call.

... choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

The idea of choosing sounds good to we who, living in a democratic society, get to choose quite a lot of things. We can choose where we live in the country, what career we might wish to go into, and whom we marry. The call of … choose life … is often confused in the life of a Christian and applied to the work of evangelism as though we can choose to believe just as we can choose to be born.

The gift of life is both given in our natural birth as well as the gift of faith is given in our spiritual birth from a God who came to redeem those who were unable to redeem themselves and that is why the text here today is a good one for us to understand and rejoice in.

The call of God in this text is not to the world but to God’s people Israel. Those chosen children of Abraham whom Moses had given God’s Law written on the tablets of stone by the finger of God, were called by Him to choose to stay in the relationship with Him apart from falling away into sin, false gods and idol worship. This keeping of God’s commandments, his statutes and rules would bring God’s blessing to them as they entered into the land that He was giving them to possess.

So too our own lives as we cannot be Christ’s disciple without bearing our own cross. The reality of Jesus’ call … to hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters … figuratively as opposed to literally, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. This, none the less, is a serious matter meaning that we cannot let anything draw us away from the gift of following Christ and being his disciple, the gift of being his child.

Ill.

Some years ago when witnessing to a friend, he joyfully came to me at work one day to proclaim to me that the night before he had prayed to Jesus - receiving him as his savior. He was quite happy because this had been a long and tedious process with many and various talks about Jew and Gentile, the Old and New Testament, and Sabbath verses Sunday worship. I even met him on a Sunday and went with him to a church in his area so as to help him transition into being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

A few weeks later I asked him if he had been attending the church. ‘No”, he said. Sunday was the day that he and his wife slept in. She wasn’t much interested in religion and he didn’t want to offend her. As we talked, I shared this text with him and suggested that he might … without offending her … rise early and go to the 8:00 am service and be home at 9:00 am to spend the rest of his day with her. There also might be opportunities to share what he had heard and learned by attending worship. 

… “Who knows, I said, Maybe God will soften her heart as well and draw you both closer to him and to each other?”

Well … they never attended church … and their marital situation, which hadn’t been good, became even worse. Ultimately he cheated, and they divorced. The devil does not hope for you to live in wedded bliss, as a Christian, or as a pagan and unbeliever. He desires to destroy everything God has brought together, father and mother, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, even the very fabric of the family unit - the devil hops to destroy and tear apart. 

Isn’t it interesting that what my friend tried to hold together himself … excluding God from his life and marriage … fell apart.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

He came to be a follower of Christ and by faith received Jesus, but he didn’t welcome him into his home. There is a cost to becoming a Christian and with that we must place Christ first. Many put family first and it certainly is a great blessings to have a loving family but the devil uses all things to divide and pull us away from Jesus and the family can be used for that as well.

I did a baptism a few years ago for a little boy. The family doesn’t attend church here anymore though they desired baptism for their child. They had been an active member once but moved out of the area … to Clarkston. As I spoke with them about the importance of regular worship and being fed God’s word the mom said, “Well we’re a sports family and the weekends are tied up with the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings!” Its funny how from Clarkston to Peace is so far that being in worship even occasionally is impossible, but driving to Downtown Detroit for a sporting event is no big deal and becomes a family tradition. It puts a bit of perspective as to what Jesus is talking about. What is it that draws you away or me? Give it some thought. What is it that draws loved ones away or our kids? 

The devil divides and he delights in division.

33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The great work of Dietrich Bonheoffer the Cost of Discipleship comes to mind.

He writes:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 1937

This is the message of Jesus. Let nothing come between you and him and his saving Gospel. This past Thursday pastor Merrell and I officiated at the funeral of Betty Buchanan. Betty had the ups and downs of life that we all know. She had problems, she lost her husband in 1971; she lost her oldest son 19 years ago and her youngest 11 years ago, she lost her eyesight and largely the ability to care for herself, dementia stole her memory at times and brought sad time of her life into view as if it was happening all over again. But the Holy Spirit was with her pointing out that Jesus died for her, that Jesus carried her cares and burdens and that Jesus was always with her never leaving her nor forsaking her. To be Christ’s is to give away all that you are (sinful and unclean) so that you receive all that he is. (righteous and just)

May that be your joy now and always!

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

Amen

Funeral Sermon for Betty Jean Buchanan - Thursday September 1, 2016

Thursday September 1, 2016
Funeral Sermon for Betty Jean Buchanan
Title: At home with Jesus forever!
Text: 2 Cor. 4:16-18 English Standard Version

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Betty.

I’m not sure how I’ll deal with Betty’s passing as I move forward. Granted, I visit and have visited quite a few members who were shut in and required visits to their homes, care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. With Betty, I think I’ve been to them all to see her.

Most recently I would go and visit her at Pine Tree Place – her home away from home - asking how she was doing … and she would always say with the shrug of her shoulders and a laugh … “As well as to be expected!” Sitting in her recliner which also served as her bed for many years, Betty felt safer in the chair than in the bed which she had fallen out of many times over the years that I visited her.

Betty didn’t see well. She was for all intent and purposes legally blind but when I visited her I just let her know it was Pastor Tkac for a visit and she would light up a smile and we had a great visit.
I learned quite a bit about Betty over the years.

One, she loved Jesus and was always ready for communion.
Two, she loved her family and they were close to her heart daily.
Three, she didn’t like wine … but we got over that! (Betty had been receiving grape juice and I forgot and only had wine with me on one visit. I told her that I could come back another time and she said, “Never mind, I’m sure it won’t kill me!” But she would take the wine and then make such a face, shake her head and yell out … Wow! It was kind of funny.

We both tempered the amount and reaction to the wine as our visits continued.

The Apostle Paul writes:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

So though we grieve and are sad at Betty’s passing, we can have comfort as well. In all the time I knew Betty and have visited with her I wouldn’t say she was ever what I would call healthy. She was always sitting and in need of help … getting up, walking or walking around.

Ill.

The first time I visited Betty, Pastor Merrell and I went together. She was on his regular schedule at her home on Alhi St. in Waterford. As we pulled up to the house and were walking up, I was pleasantly surprised to see Shirley Penny coming out after visiting Betty. Shirley and I have known each other from my former life in the piano and organ business at Evola Music and also worked together teaching music to seniors at the Dublin Center in White Lake. So it was great to see Shirley and it helped a new Vicar – who is a student pastor – get comfortable with visiting. Because I was the new guy, Betty didn’t want me in the kitchen … stuff in the sink … that Pastor Merrell later told me but she and I fast became friends. Maybe it was that no matter where she ended up, St. Joseph Mercy, Lourdes Nursing Home, Pine Tree Place or even the short lived assisted living home in Ortonville … Betty didn’t like it as I’m sure she made clear to everyone. She said to me, “They have me all the way out in the country and … I’m not a country girl!” Well I assured her that Ortonville was not way out in the country and was actually pretty close and easy for me to get to … so not to worry.

If you knew Betty … then you knew she trusted Christ, desired to receive the gifts Christ gives, prayer and the Lord’s Supper. She wanted to support the work of the church with her gifts and though she could no longer get to Peace for regular worship I assured her that it was the churches pleasure and blessing to send me in service to her.

Betty’s trust was in Christ. Though at times during these last few years I know she questioned Jesus. Why wasn’t Jesus leaving her in her home? The confusion of being unable to take care of her own needs and not being able to get to church – to financially help - or to be with family and friends were a few things that troubled her. Where was she going she wondered … and why?

The Apostle Paul continues:

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Betty knew Christ was her strength. I visited with her at Pine Tree Place quite a few times and during her hospice stay. She would say, “I want to go home.” And we all knew that home was with Jesus. We all will probably fight that same fight when we get close to our time of departure for heaven too. The next two visits I made in July and August she was sleeping to soundly it was not my intent to wake her up so I prayed for her and anointed her with the oil of gladness which has a Fragrance of Frankincense and Myrrh. The ladies enjoy that. But, the last time I saw her was on Tuesday, August 16th just before I began my vacation. This time she woke to my voice and was alert. We talked, we prayed, and she received the sacrament for the forgiveness of sins. She had comfort and peace because she was Christ’s.

Betty’s hope was in the blessed hope of her Lord and savior Jesus Christ and the home she knew was waiting her in heaven. She was looking to be with Christ and today heaven is her home and her recliner and hospital bed are left behind because in heaven Betty won’t need them. She has been redeemed and in baptism her sins were washed away … and Christ promises to make all things new. For Betty and for you and me.

She knew her sins were forgiven too on account of Jesus’ death on the cross. She knew that because Jesus rose from the dead, she would too. She knew Heaven was her home and that Jesus had prepared a place for her, so that even with the veil of death lurking at the door and waiting to cover her, She had the blessed hope of reunion forever with Jesus and with all the dearly departed who have gone to their eternal rest in the Lord before her.

I shared these Psalm passages with her and May they bring comfort and hope to you as well:

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.

As I prepared to leave Betty I said,

“Betty it is okay to go and be with Jesus. When he calls … go, and rest in his loving arms.”

The Apostle Paul concludes:

18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Heaven is now Betty’s home.

You too have this wonderful home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you too can believe and 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 receive 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 inherit just like Betty.

Our own flesh, the corruption of this broken world and the work of the Devil are going to do everything possible to make sure that we who remain behind see that death is not peaceful, restful or kind. It is the consequence of sin and the fall of Adam and Eve … a fall and sin we all share.

But, you too can know that the path of rescue that our Lord and savior Jesus followed, to the cross, for you. It was not peaceful, restful or kind either. It was a death that shook the very foundation of this world as Satan fought in every way to keep Jesus from standing in Betty’s place and in your place too.

In First Corinthians St. Paul writes:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."

55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor. 15:54-58)

Betty received that victory in baptism marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and now has the fullness of that reality.

She was prepared, she was forgiven, 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. John 14:3

Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has prepared a place not only for Betty … but for you and me as well.

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

Amen






Monday, August 29, 2016

Sermon August 27-28, 2016

Title: The humble will be exalted in Christ!
Text: Luke 14:1-14

10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady. 

The nexand apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Our Daily Bread.

Humility, or pride and arrogance can drive the decisions that you make and through sin can cause you to try at times to reach places of honor for yourselves in this life. You can be comforted that:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,

Ill.

Friday night the 5th of August, Monica and I attended a wedding for our niece Nora and her husband Justin. There was beautiful weather and the wedding was outside at the Casino on Belle Isle with the reception afterward in the hall, decorated with linen and the finest food that you might expect. It was a beautiful wedding!

As we entered the hall with tables throughout … we noticed a table with our names and the names of my brother and sister and their spouses. We walked through the hall and found our table, off to the left of the head table in a corner. And as you might expect, it wasn't the table of honor. That was reserved for the wedding party and the ones closest were reserved for the parents of the bride and groom. Monica and I though relatives ... were not elevated to the level of Nora and Justin’s family.

Had the table seating designations not been clearly visible, you can imagine just how confusing the seating might have been. Possibly even coming to us and asking if we could move to the back corner so that the bride’s parents and soon to be in-laws could take the seats closer to the main table.

In our lesson today, Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee.

And as a guest Jesus had noticed just how those who had been invited, Pharisees and lawyers, were looking to have the seats of honor at this dinner. Ordinary, feasts of the Jews were usually attended to in a more casual and informal manner, but with this diner and in the wedding feast of Christ’s illustration, rank and status among the guests was important.

… do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, Jesus says.

I always found the irony in Jesus statement here, as an invited guest to this diner, as the only begotten Son the God … who could be more distinguished? Here, God in the flesh is among them, but as was read earlier in the Gospel, the ruler of the Pharisees and the lawyers who were in attendance had another agenda.

There just so happened to be a man with dropsy in attendance at this diner.

Now, I looked up this medical condition reference and dropsy could be understood as the equivalent of congestive heart failure today.

We've all seen this condition in many of our friends, neighbors and relatives and Jesus, knowing the Law better than the Pharisees and lawyers, knows that it is quite alright to show acts of mercy on the Sabbath, so He heals the man, saying to those whose intent was to trap Him as a violator of the Law:

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

6 And to this question, they could not reply to these things.

So the intent of their false feast is crushed by Christ’s healing of the man with dropsy, but He doesn't stop there. He now points out the true arrogant nature of their sitting in the place of honor when one truly more distinguished than they … has been invited … and is now sitting among them.

The arrogant sinner will stand before the throne of grace covered in their own righteousness but:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

You and I also exalt ourselves at times; taking too much credit for things we’ve done in the world or in the church. You do … and I do. The sinner always minimizes sin and exaggerates virtue. It’s what sinners do. The sinner sees the sin of others clearly … in view … with no distractions. But, their sin remains masked in a veil of acceptance, false piety - which is nothing more than the quality of being religious or reverent - or indifferent.

Ill.

In those running for office we see much false piety in many of the candidates. Humility is very hard to sense. “I did nothing wrong” is the standard cry and blame falls to those in the fringes of the campaign who largely remain nameless and faceless.

The line will be long for the politicians at the Pearly Gates as St. Peter says in a voice reminiscent of Ricky Ricardo to his wife Lucy.

“… you have some ‘splainen to do!”

So, the point is … that we, you and I, when we let sin deceive us, place our desire to not recognize sin for what it is, over and above God’s word … well, we just elevated sin to a place of honor, when someone more distinguished – the living, active and incarnate Word of God Himself, is among us and in us.

11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The truth of sin taking a place of honor in your life is nothing new. Luther called it the Bondage of the Will. That our will in and of itself is bound to sin and that is all it can do, but thanks be to God that because you have been raised to newness of life by God the Holy Spirit, there is truly Good News that:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

So, Jesus goes up to the host, the ruler of the Pharisees, who had invited him and He says:

12 “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Those who Christ came to redeem are the poor sinners, crippled from birth and lame, blind to God’s saving work in Christ if not drawn to believe through the invitation and working of God the Holy Spirit in them by faith.

You too, dear friends, have received this blessed invitation to His banquet feast and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb by faith. And you receive a foretaste of this feast when you receive Christ’s true body and blood in the blessed table of the Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar – given and shed for you!

It matters not which seat at the table you occupy because the host of this feast comes to where you are – bodily – in, with and under the bread and wine so that you truly receive Him, who is and was and is to come, in a real and tangible way – for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Even though these sins, sill at times work havoc in our lives, they are forgiven as far as east is from the west … not to be remembered by the Father ever again.

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

Christ humiliated himself so that you might be redeemed. At times we too are humbled so that another can be served, just as Booker T. Washington did in service to his neighbor.

You have a defense and a protection that will never fail because it is God Himself, not you, who will protect you because He came to live, suffer and die for each one of you and as a result you are his, the table is set, and you are invited, in fact you have already received all that is promised … rejoice!

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

Amen


Monday, August 15, 2016

Sermon August 13-14, 2016

Title: In Christ, fire is cast for the just and the unjust!
Text: Luke 10:49-53

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

C.S. Lewis says:

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable, [broken and retched] world -- and might even be more difficult to save.

C.S. Lewis, quoted in Against the Night, Charles Colson, p. 139.


It’s like the story of the school teacher who lost her life savings in a business scheme … by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and her [dreams were] shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. "Why on earth didn't you come to us first?" the official asked. [“Well], she said … I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it."

Jerry Lambert. (modified)

You see … the truth is … we want to believe the lies.

It in a way it explains the cross. Not as peace and comfort but as agony and death. Not as accomplishing anything good … but only something bad that shouldn’t have happened, we think. What truly lies beyond the cross … the resurrection of Jesus and salvation that he gives is unable to be seen through the eyes of self and can only be received as a gift through the eyes of faith.

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, [Jesus says] and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

What fire is Jesus talking about? Why is he anxious and distressed? And what does baptism have to do with it?

Well, the fire is the wrath of God cast down from heaven on the earth as punishment for sin; and yes Jesus wants it done with and finished. He also has a baptism to be baptized with – not of washing away sin - but of receiving the sins of the whole world upon him so that God’s wrath might be focused in one place, on Jesus, once and for all. That brings Jesus great distress because his baptism is a bloody baptism.

As Christ was baptized by John he was marked for you and me and all as our substitute. As the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the word, Jesus saw the Spirit descend like a dove 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The father was pleased because Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice. Without spot or blemish, he could stand and receive God full wrath and make payment for sin with his sinless life and death in your place. And with that – his death on the cross - God’s wrath would be appeased.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?

Well yes, we want to believe. Jesus said to bring the little children to him and not prohibit them. He hoped to gather Jerusalem to himself like a hen gathers her chick under her wings. He told the woman found in adultery to go and sin no more after her accusers left and Jesus said neither do I accuse you. So yes, we want Jesus to bring peace. But he says:

No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.

Ill.

A story is told of John Wesley and a dream that he had. Whether the story is apocryphal – well know but probably not true – or not. The principal has merit for us all.

In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, "Are there any Presbyterians here?" "Yes!" came the answer. Then he asked, "Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists? [Any Catholics and Lutherans"] The answer each time was Yes!

Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was No! "No?" To this, Wesley asked, "Who then is inside?" The answer came back, "There are only Christians here." (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Source Unknown.

53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

The devil delights in division. He delights in apathy. He delights is discord. He delights in death. He delights in whispering in your ear. “You’re a pretty good person. You’ve helped many in need and done good things. You know right from wrong and there are certainly many others who do much less than you. God will be pleased with you!”

Families are divided. The church is too. The world is broken in sin. Children are killed in the womb, the elderly euthanized and many call it good. If you believe that the right choice this November will solve the world’s problems you are sadly mistaken. Yes, do your civic responsibility. Vote, but do not put you hope in princes and Kings or horses and chariots.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? [Jesus says.] No, I tell you, but rather division.

The world and its leaders can bring no real peace and the peace of Christ divides believers from unbelievers.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles

Ill.

Martin Luther wrote: "All the prophets did foresee in Spirit that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc., that ever was or could be in all the world. For he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world is not now an innocent person and without sins...but a sinner." He was, of course, talking about the imputing of our wrongdoing to Christ as our substitute.

Luther continues: "Our most merciful Father...sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him...the sins of all men saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now comes the law and saith: I find him a sinner...therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed from all sins."

The presentation of the death of Christ as the substitute exhibits the love of the cross more richly, fully, gloriously, and glowingly than any other account of it. Luther saw this and gloried in it. He once wrote to a friend: "Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not.'"

What a great and wonderful exchange! Was there ever such love?

Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, Page October 20.

Dear friends, the brokenness of this world will not get better. But Christ has secured your rescue in a world that will be destroyed.

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 2 Peter 3:9-10

Christ is our hope and rescue. You are marked as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified. You have God’s favor on you because when he sees you he sees Jesus. May that be you strength and confort.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sermon August 6-7, 2016

Title: Fear not, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!
Text: Luke 12:22-34

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

J. Arthur Rank, an English executive, decided to do all his worrying on one day each week. He chose Wednesdays. When anything happened that gave him anxiety and annoyed his ulcer, he would write it down and put it in his worry box and forget about it until next Wednesday. The interesting thing was that on the following Wednesday when he opened his worry box, he found that most of the things that had disturbed him the past six days were already settled. It would have been useless to have worried about them.

Source unknown

22 And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Following of Gospel from last week and the storing up in bigger barns the things of this life Jesus now speaks to the anxiety that accompanies us during our life. “What to do, what to eat, what to wear, where to go or not go – should I stay with my employer or find new work?” Have you asked yourselves these questions? For those who are reaching or have reached retirement age the questions continue. “When should I retire? Should I go earlier or wait until 67? Should I work after retirement, volunteer, or find a hobby?”

All are these are important decisions in life, but our Lord reminds us:

24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

Ill.

Last year I moved my bird feeder to my front yard. In the back my dogs would run out to chase the birds and also the squirrels that eat the seed that falls to the ground from the feeder. Out in the front the birds eat to their contentment. There are such a variety - blue jays and sparrows, cardinals and mourning doves, blackbirds and woodpeckers and all looking for food. Because my dogs are not involved and there is no disruption of the meal they seem to clean me out in a day or two. Every last drop of food is consumed.

As I mentioned to Monica … “I can’t feed every bird in God’s creation every day so they them may have to look else ware and trust in God’s bountiful blessings and promises to feed them- because I’m only filling it once a week!”

But, it’s not about the birds or even the Lilies - who are clothed in greater glory we’re told than even Solomon in all his glory could have hoped to be bestowed with. The birds aren’t knocking on my door saying, “Where’s the food … we’re hungry!” They just find it somewhere else … for a time.

30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Ill.

In my former life as a manager and salesman I remember a time of great worry. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience:

I had worked for the company for over 20 years but my boss Jim had changed. He wasn’t talkative with me like he had been. He seemed distant and uninterested or even mad at me. I worried a bit about it. “What had I done?” I thought I must have been the cause of the problem and maybe even that my job was in jeopardy.

What I found out years later was that this was during the time that he was trying to finalize the purchase of the business from his dad. There had been tensions and he was also doing all that he could to raise the capital to make it happen … remortgage his life if you will so that he could assume the business debt and inventory from his dad. The problem was not with me at all but with my boss and after the trial of this business change life returned to a more normal feel. I just didn’t know the cause or solution. My worry caused my business and home life to suffer a bit and it was completely unnecessary. Had I just trusted in the Lord and not my own worry I might have had greater comfort.

This spring I was the speaker for the LWML Zone Rally. It was a fun time to share my story that I titled, "Trust in the Lord - A pastor's journey from Rock n’ Roll to the Rock of Ages." The text was Proverbs 3:5-6:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Back in the 70’s I played on an album by James Issac Elliot. He went on to become quite a songwriter in Nashville. At the time of my participation he was just starting out. He took Proverbs 3:5-8 and wrote a song called Trust in the Lord.

Trust in the LORD          James Isaac Elliot

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him
and he will direct your paths.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him
and he will direct your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes
fear the LORD, depart from evil.
It will bring healing to your body
and strength to your bones.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him
and he will direct your paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-8 NKJV)

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The stuff you’re storing up? Sell it! Jesus says. Give to those in need and use the money or riches that doesn’t grow old or isn’t worthless as the day approaches for your departure. Because, the treasure that will have real value is stored up for you in heaven and is accessed by the power of God in you by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.

In baptism you were clothed by God with the royal robes of the God/man Jesus Christ himself. Nothing in this life compares to the perfect righteousness that is freely given through the proclamation of the gospel and this Good News is the treasure of the Kingdom of God given in Christ for the redemption of all who believe.

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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

Amen












Monday, August 1, 2016

Sermon July 30-31, 2016

Title: Do not trust in things, but in him who made all things!
Text: Luke 12:13-21

20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The Bible defines worldliness by centering morality where we intuitively know it should be. Worldliness is the lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), the lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and the pride of life (self-satisfaction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done).

Worldliness, then, is a preoccupation with ease and affluence. It elevates creature comfort to the point of idolatry; large salaries and comfortable life-styles … become necessities of life.

Dave Roper, The Strength of a Man, quoted in Family Survival in the American Jungle, Steve Farrar, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 68.

In life there are necessities and the Lord desires to give you good things, but also warns that when the focus of life becomes the things we covet and desire we need to be reminded that:

Do not trust in things, but in him who made all things!

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus had just been talking to the crowd about the leaven of the Pharisees and their hypocrisy, not to fear those who kill the body but fear the one who has the authority to cast into hell and to acknowledge the Christ before men so that Jesus will also acknowledge them before His Father in Heaven.

This is pretty heady stuff about life, death and your eternal security … right?

And from the crowd someone yells out in interruption, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Sounds whiny to me and like this guy hadn’t really been listening to what Jesus had been talking about all along. So, as interruptions go Jesus replies:

14 “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

Now, I don’t know about you because the Bible doesn’t necessarily give us a sense of how Jesus might have responded but every time I’ve read this response from our Lord I always get a sense to read it as …

14 “Man! … who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

I hear just a little bit of emphasis on “Haven’t you heard a thing I've been saying?” “I’m talking about eternal security and your thinking about temporal blessings?”

And then the Lord gives him and the crowd this little reminder:

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Now, that might have been enough to sit the interrupter down. But the Lord decides to use this interruption as an opportunity to teach by parable or a story, and illustration if you will, what covetousness can ultimately lead to. This might be the parable Jesus would have used had he in his humiliation walked among us in our day:

Ill.

A young banker was driving his BMW, in the mountains, during a snowstorm. As he rounded a turn the vehicle slid out of control and toward a cliff. At the last moment he unbuckled his seat belt and jumped from the car. Though he escaped with his life, his left arm was caught near the hinge of the door and tore it off at the shoulder.

A trucker passing nearby witnessed the accident, stopped his rig, and ran back to see if he could be of help. There standing, in a state of shock, was the banker at the edge of the cliff moaning, "Oh no, my BMW, my BMW.” The trucker pointed to the banker’s shoulder and said "man you’ve got bigger problems than a car".

With that the banker looked at his shoulder, finally realizing he’d lost his arm, and began crying "Oh No, my Rolex, my new Rolex!”

Now, Jesus’ parable gets to the meat of the matter. What shall I do with all my stuff for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods, my BMW and my Rolex 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; nice home, 60” flat screen, house on the lake and even a boat, relax, eat, drink, be merry.”

Have you been there? Have you let the desires of the world keep you from the true joy of faith in Christ?

God knows you have. It seems that no sooner than the acquisition of the next thing on the demand schedule than you and I are off with our eyes set on the next need. The sinful nature can do that. That is why we are warned in the 9th and 10th commandments not to covet your neighbor’s house and wife, manservant and maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

I’ve talked before of some of my own coveting. Usually stylish and made of wood … or fast and sleek and made of steel … yes … guitars and bicycles! I have quite a few at times to my own dismay. The guitars have accumulated over many years while the bikes just a few over the last few years.

It can consume you: Boy that yellow one would look good! or maybe it’s a vintage Trek from the 80’s or a Schwinn, Superior or Paramount; maybe a Peugeot from France or Bianchi from Italy? a Raleigh from England? All good bikes and all … completely unnecessary … but fun none the less.

Back in 1981 George Carlin did a piece called “Stuff” that hits the nail on the head. He said in part:

So when you get right down to it, your house is nothing more than a place to keep your stuff … while you go out and get … more stuff!

George Carlin 1981

It’s funny because the irony that he uses is true; exaggerated but true. We all fall victim to this need for stuff. And when we get the stuff we want … we want more stuff. That is what Jesus said in the parable when he brought it to its logical conclusion:

20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself (all that stuff) and is not rich toward God.”

The reality hit home again for me and for us all upon hearing of the passing or Roy Kushnereit. Life has a way of giving us the perspective that we don’t know the day or the hour.

Jesus knows our needs. He desires to give you the desires of your heart.

Last week he promised that:

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

He has given His Son to die for you and me has made you heirs along with Christ. You have all things good given to you. In Christ you have an eternity that will never end. Roy knows that now all too well. For your sake Jesus has conquered sin and death and has triumphed over the devil, just for you. You have been adopted as sons and daughters of your Heavenly Father.

While the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – guitars and bikes - can cloud your view of the Kingdom. God has given you clear vision through Baptism as you have been washed clean and marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified!

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

Amen

Funeral Sermon for Roy Kushnereit Thursday, July 28, 2016

Title: Forgiven in Christ and in heaven forever!

1 Timothy 6:12 (English Standard Version)

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved and dear friend Roy,

“Tell all the people at Peace that I miss them!” Those were the words Roy shared with me a number of times on our visits at church or over the phone. The last few years we talked on occasion when Roy visited the church at Christmas, Easter or most recently at our Chicken BBQ. Once in a while we talked on the phone mostly when he called to have someone added to the prayers at church; so if you’ve been sick or in need of prayer Roy probable added you to the prayers here.

Over the last several years we talked and saw each other less, but for many years we’ve served together here at Peace on the board of Elders and at church events we’ve had plenty of time to talk.

Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Roy confessed his faith in Christ to me personally on many occasions and also confessed it publicly often. If you knew Roy you knew he was a Christian. He knew Jesus as his savior and knew salvation in his name. He wanted others, especially his boys, to know that too. So he brought them to Sunday school even at time I’m sure against their will … but that’s what good dad’s do if you think something is important. Roy also served here on the board of Elders, helping with the services and distributing communion and he interviewed the confirmands as well who were being examined before they made their confirmation.

Roy would ask the parents after the students had passed their exams, “And what are you going to do to make sure that your child stays connected to the church?” He would ask … in a booming voice.

One mom … a bit startled at his directness and even a bit choking back tears said, “Bring them to church?” In a voice of question … hoping she got the answer right.

Roy smiles and said, “Good answer!” Somewhat indicating that had she got the answer wrong … she would have had hell to pay with God and Roy.

“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all … even death … rather than to fall away from it?”

Roy at his own confirmation answered to that very same question: “Yes, with the help of God.”

Jesus says:

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

Roy bore fruit, in service to Christ, here at Peace, and for the members of this church family … for many years … but also for the many friends he had and even the two pastors who had the pleasure to know him and serve with him.

If you didn’t know this … Roy wasn’t perfect. In fact Roy was a sinner just like you and just like me. But … here is the Good News. Jesus only came for sinners!

1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV) The Apostle Paul writes:

15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

I bet when you came here today you didn’t expect to hear the Apostle Paul and Roy Kushnereit in the same sentence and favorably compared? But the Apostle Paul and Roy will have much in common in heaven. Both were God’s enemies born sinful and unclean, The Apostle Paul had his Damascus Road Experience where he was knocked to the ground by the voice of Jesus, blinded and led to the house of Ananias where his eyesight was restored and by the Holy Spirit he believed. 

Roy too was God’s enemy born in sin and dead to Christ and he also had his eyes open being led to the waters of Holy Baptism where his sins were washed away and by the Holy Spirit he believed.

Roy loved his family and friends but especially his boys. As St. Timothy said in our epistle reading for today. Fight the good fight of faith. As often happens in life and with those you love fights happen and it was not something Roy was immune to. He had battles in life with family, friends and even in church. Roy and I bumped heads a few times as well. Mostly as it related to the softball team that had the church’s name on the shirt … but we also forgave one another before our God whom we both trust and serve.

One of my fondest memories of Roy and church was the one year he was on vacation when Vacation Bible School was happening. He came every day and walked to classes with the kids and sang the songs and … yes … danced. Not one of his many talents. It was a bit like a robot that needed a computer upgrade but as an IT specialist for ATT for many years maybe he knew he needed a new hard drive?

God comforts us … as we go to comfort others.

And even though Roy had a good life … for those that loved him and cared about him, he was called away from you, his loved ones, his family, his friends and this life that he loved very much.
Despite our grief Jesus’ words still can comfort us all:

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. 

Roy was a man who loved life, sports, his family, friends, and loved ones. He knew that he was truly blessed - sinful and flawed though he was.

Today we honor his life, as we say our goodbyes. But, the grief that fills us all with loss and sorrow who knew him as beloved relative and friend will one day be replaced with our blessed reunion in heaven for all who believe. Our loving God in Christ Jesus will wipe away every tear of sadness that we have today and in that day replace them with tears of joy, as we together rejoice in Heaven with our resurrected Lord who has come to conquer sin, death and the power of the Devil – not only for Roy - but for you and for me as well.

In Christ, death is not the end for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day. But, it is only a time of parting … for a while. 

For the Apostle Paul – Roy’s buddy in heaven - brings great joy when he says in the Epistle to the Romans in chapter 8:

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. (Rom. 8:38-39)

Heaven is now Roy’s home. 

You too, who trust in Christ, have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins - is the wonderful Gospel message Roy trusted and you too can trust. He has forgiven your sin and has called you to faith by the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and has given you faith to believe in Christ’s blessed saving work. 

There is a place that has been prepared for Roy that he has now taken possession of and there is a place waiting for you too and for all who believe by faith the Good News that in Christ, you are:
Roy is forgiven in Christ and in heaven forever!

Amen.