Monday, March 20, 2017

Sermon Mar. 18-19, 2017 Lent 3

Title: To worship Christ in spirit is to know the Truth!
Text: Romans 5:1-8

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it:
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
He wrote. "God's choice makes chosen men choice men ... We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice."

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 223.

Ill.

As I visited with my mother in the hospital and she wrestled with her terminal cancer we talked. She said to me, “I know that a lot of people in my situation might say: Why me? But as I think about it I ask myself … why not me?” 

When someone asked him, "Why do the righteous suffer?" C.S. Lewis responded:
"Why not? They're the only ones who can take it."

Unknown.

Suffering is no fun. We all know that. But, when Paul writes but we rejoice in our sufferings, we might answer, No we don’t! But something happens to us as we are made Christians and it is in the verse of scripture before this where Paul says that:

2 Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 

So our access to God’s peace is through, Jesus’ sinless life, death and resurrection and by faith we have access and receive God’s grace.

Ill.

Access is good. Last year I made a visit to the Oakland County Jail. Just in case you didn’t know … you don’t just walk in. As I went up to the door I pulled on the handle to the lobby – it was locked. So I moved to where the video camera is … that at first I didn’t notice and pushed the button.
“Can I help you came the voice?”

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac from Peace Lutheran Church in Waterford here to make a visit.

“Are you in the book?” 

“Yes, I should be in the book.” I said.

Now the book … who knows why or how it became … the book … but it just is. 

In researching my visit to the jail I called the head of Jail Chaplains who asked me, “Are you in the book?” 

“What book,” I asked. “You know, he said … the book.” 

He was referring to the Detroit Metropolitan Clergy Association or something to that effect which is a book of churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations where there is a list of churches and clergy and you had better be in the book … if you want to get in the Jail or use the clergy parking at Harper Hospital in Detroit. I had made a visit to Harper Hospital and had inquired about a clergy parking pass and was asked ...

… “Are you in the book?”

I had never seen the book … but I had heard about it.

I thought it must be a big book, probably leather bound, with buckles and latches on it and it has to be probably hand written by a scribe … in ink ...

… so that once you’re in the book … you’re in THE BOOK!

So as I stand in front of the video monitor for what seems like an hour the Police officer says, “You’re not in the book.” My heart drops and I left speechless … almost. But … I think for a bit, knowing that at any moment he may disappear into a jail camera labyrinth. I say, “How are you spelling my name because it is spelled T K A C.”

“One moment”, he says.

The time passes … and when he comes back he says, 

“Hey, you’re in the book.”

“Wonderful,” I say. Now the world of opportunity awaits me as I go about my pastoral duties.
Now, this is a bit of a long way around to see that through Jesus … we have access. We can be let in. Not to the jail as in my story, but to the Father as his beloved child whom we have been separated from. This access is by faith into his grace Paul says and that is our eternal hope.

But, along the way we suffer and yes it is no fun but from the Christian perspective Paul says we rejoice. This though is not in the suffering itself per say, but in how through suffering we are connected to Christ ...

… knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Ill.

My friend and coworker David Monaghan, mother-n-law was diagnosed with Leukemia some years ago. When she found out it was quite advanced and she didn’t live very long.

While in the hospital though, she joyfully shared her faith and the eternal hope with those she came in contact with. The Holy Spirit used her to proclaim the good news and blessing of Jesus’ sacrifice for you and me and his word and working of the Holy Spirit does not come back void.

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That is what justification is. The declaring of one being righteous and we are declared righteous not on account of what we have done but on account of what Christ Jesus has done for us and we access that grace … by faith in his finished work.

That is why we joy in our sufferings, and we endure … not because it’s fun, but because it produces character and hope, and hope in Christ never disappoints. His suffering and death has given us access to the Father by faith and has been poured into our hearts but the Spirits work.

Now about that book … I’m in. In my service as pastor I can visit and bring that hope of Christ to those who maybe feel they have no hope. His word goes in with me even though I have to leave my coat, wallet, phone, car keys and other things in a locker. I go in with his word and Spirit and it will never come back void. It will reach into the dark places and shine the light of Christ and his hope on a heart and person who is suffering and hurt.

The love of Christ by the Spirit’s work can bring real peace to a broken world and can declare God’s favor of account of Christ.

Are you in the book? Yes, you who believe and have been baptized have your name written in the Lambs book of life.

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

Amen

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sermon March 15, 2017 Lent 2

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Third Word: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
Text: Luke 23:35-43
 
Readings: Genesis 3:8-24, Revelation 2:1-7, Luke 23:35-43

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We know very little about heaven, but one theologian once described it as "an unknown region with a well-know inhabitant," and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But it's enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

In Genesis we have a picture of this paradise and a union of God and man living together in harmony. It is though, through our own sinful mind’s eye, hard to imagine what this really will be like. We can come up with an idea though.

Ill.

Last year I took a walk out back into the woods behind the church to clear my head. At times sermon preparation requires that time away and I walked around the pavilion but decided to walk through the 10 acres that are undeveloped behind the church. It didn’t take long for me to see a paradise only a short distance away from the church and parking lot. I understand why the kids want to hang out there – no blacktop, no houses, no fences for much of it and it feels like a walk up North … for a time. 

But looks can be deceiving.

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Then … back in the woods you see … the brokenness … the weeds throughout, and garbage and discarded junk … things of no further value left there when no one was looking.

9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 

As I walked through the property I almost wondered where the caretaker was and why this beautiful place was left in disarray. Hearing no one I kept walking. 

God kept walking too.

10 And [the man] said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

At times we have had intruders on the property. Sometimes they bring their machines … dirt bikes and race around the trails. I’ve tried to talk to them and follow them in the back but when they see me they flee or hide … perhaps they know that they are breaking the law and trespassing and just want to hide their sin too. Or … they are fearful of what I might say or do?

But God said to the man:

11 ... “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 

Maybe the guys on the dirt bikes are the ones that broke the pole that kept motorbikes off the vacant land? Maybe they’ve seen the sign and the gate – closed after church activities -and figured a different way to the back. 

When you get exposed where you shouldn’t be it feels a bit like being naked and you flee or hide.

12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

When I have had luck to speak to them there is always someone else who is to blame.

After one guy fled through the subdivision I had an appointment and got in my truck to leave and as I did I saw him loading his bike on a trailer … he doesn’t even live in the area. I stopped and said to him, “Hi, I’m the pastor of the church and that lot is our property and we don’t allow motorbikes on it for liability reasons; just wanted to let you know.” “Oh, he said, my friend’s parents said it was okay to use it … they’re members.”
 
“Who are your friend’s parents?” “The Johnsons;” came the reply. 

“Well we don’t allow motor bikes … I hope you understand? Have a great day.”

Sin has consequences.

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, [he told me it was okay] and I ate.”

There are probably snakes in the grass and on the property out back too. If someone was back there and got bit it might bring a law suit … not to mention the pain and suffering or an accident, or even death if one fell off the motorbike and got hurt.

But someone did … because of sin … die.

On another day and at another time, with the weather being nice … it’s the kind of day you might like to be outside for a few hours enjoying the weather … then you see it … something else is stirring, something else is about. 

Someone getting hurt is not even a concern. There are though some that will die … and some who are there to administer death.

35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”

Those being condemned are there for a reason. Two are thieves by trade and have been found guilty and are receiving what they have earned … which is death for their crimes but the other … what has he done? 

Even the solders, the executioners, join in the mocking. 

36 … coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 

One of those caught and rightly condemned taunts Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Jesus, mockingly was told to save himself by those ready to kill him, he was told to save himself and us by one who would be killed. He is at times mocked by us too as we fail daily to see him for who he is ... our blessed Lord and savior. 

He was there not because he had to be but because he chose to be … a long time ago … in a garden long forgotten … where God said to the serpent:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

The feet of Jesus being bruised and nailed to the cross and his arms outstretched in pain are there for a purpose, along with those crucified with him. Death is real and death will come to all whether by accident, or old age, or punishment. 

Three would die but one … by faith brings forgiveness.

40 … saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Simple faith turns death into life, paradise restored, and union with God real. 

It is that for you and me as well. Death will come but so will eternal life, because it is God’s promise. The enmity or deep rooted hatred that God has for sin, death, and the devil … has been removed through the seed of the woman, Christ Jesus our Lord … and as he dies he gives life to all by faith who trust in him.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you - today you will be with me in paradise.” No weeds, no sin … and no more death.

You, who have ears to hear … hear this wonderful news, God in Christ Jesus, has restored paradise for you. 

Today by faith paradise is yours!

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

Amen




Sermon Mar. 11-12, 2017 Lent 2

Title: You are born from above and born of God!
Text: John 3:1-17

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

On [Christmas Eve] December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited Genesis chapter one, verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.

https://youtu.be/J_hRRiXKdqc

William Anders began:

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."

James Lovell Continued:

"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Frank Borman concluded:

"And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good." "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8_Genesis_reading

I remember this like it was yesterday. As a 13 year old watching on TV I was fascinated to see the image of the earth from the perspective of the moon. But not until the pictures were published in TIME Magazine did I see the true vivid color of the Good Earth against the backdrop of a grey and black space.

Reactions to this reading were overwhelmingly positive though a lawsuit did ensue brought on by Madalyn Murray O’Hair who was the founder of the American Atheists, but it was dismissed by the Supreme Court, their reason … “It is out of our jurisdiction.”

Mixed reactions to God and his word have been around since the serpent questioned, “Did God really say?” In our gospel lesson for today another questioning occurs.

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night …

In the grey and black of the night a leader - a man of the Pharisees – comes to see Jesus. It is as if in and through the blackness of sin he sees the light of the Good Earth in the distance and in this person Jesus saying:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”


Nicodemus sees in the signs that Jesus has been doing, and probably his teaching as well - proclaiming; “Repentant for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Gods work, and it is through this work that God had brought Nicodemus to this place this night to be with Jesus.

Jesus’ reply that “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God …” comes as a bit of a surprise to him. In a similar sense the view from the Apollo 8 capsule and the connection of "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” also brings for some a questioning thinking, “It’s just a fable, it can’t be real. No one really believes this is how things came into existence, do they?”

Even Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

Just as God and his creation brings many questions that we and others might wrestle with God’s word points us to the source of truth and understanding … his son, our Lord Jesus.

Genesis’ beginning and the Gospel of John’s beginning have one thing in common and that is Jesus. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth or, in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God, have Jesus connected in a real way to creation and redemption. The word of God spoken in the beginning, and the word of God [Jesus] speaking to Nicodemus, is the same word of God heard now by you.

The word is not only connected to your hearing now but it is also as Jesus is making known to Nicodemus connected to the washing away of sins in Holy Baptism. He asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

In reality though even if this were possible it would do Nicodemus and you no good for being born in the natural way only brings forth one who is born in sin and brought forth in iniquity. One needs rebirth as Jesus tells him … to be born again which is a new birth that is born from above, born anew, or born of the Spirit.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the need to see with new eyes born from the Spirit when he writes:

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14

You too needed to be spiritually born and this came for you and me in our Baptisms. God’s word connected to simple water and his command and promise by the working of the Holy Spirit brings as our Catechesis bulletin insert says for this week about the benefits baptism gives:

“It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

As Jesus declared, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And the Apostle Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 6 when he writes:

… that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Saying:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Dear friends, we have been given the Spirit. God has called you to faith so that the Kingdom of God is yours.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
As one washed in the waters of Holy Baptism you have been born from above and born anew by God, that same God who from the beginning spoke God’s creation into existence and has breathed new life in you now and for eternity.

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sermon March 8, 2017 Lent 1

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Second Word: "Woman, behold your son! … Behold your mother"
Text: John 19:25-27
Readings: Ezekiel 43:1-7a, Galatians 4:22-31, John 19:25-27

26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

“For the kingdom is not being prepared, but has been prepared, while the sons of the Kingdom are being prepared, not preparing the Kingdom; that is to say, the Kingdom merits the sons, not the sons the Kingdom.

So all hell merits and prepares its children rather than they it.”

― Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

With Christ’s second word, "Woman, behold your son! … Behold your mother," we see the bondage between who we are and who we become.

Slave and free. 

Paul asks the Galatians in his letter: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

He then compares and contrasts the two alternatives using their mothers as an object lesson. Both bore children by Abraham. Both had sons.

23 But the son of the slave [woman] was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 

Abram before God’s promise had a son by the slave girl Hagar who bore him Ishmael.

Paul tells us that:

23 the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, that 25 Hagar is one covenant which gives birth to slaves, Mount Sinai in Arabia; she also corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

That says something about Jerusalem and those who are there today and look to it as the holy city and set apart for salvation. 

Now, we know of this city and its value and use by God in history for us who believe in Christ. But this city this Jerusalem Paul says is a city of slavery under the law. 

We are slaves

Now we know that we who are brought forth in inequity, born in the natural way in sin and under the Law are also slaves. It is who Luther in his debate with Erasmus in the Bondage of the Will calls God’s enemies saying:

“The truth of the matter is rather as Christ says, "He who is not with me is against me." ... He does not say "He who is not with me is not against me either, but merely neutral.”

― Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

We are not born neutral to God but are born his enemies, born against God and his will. We in fact are sons of the devil, as Jesus says and it is his will that we want to do and in fact do.

In John 8:44 we read:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

So, just as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that those who were against him were children of the devil Paul too points to those silly Galatians who wished to be back under the Law – our guardian as he calls it - and back in bondage. They didn’t understand freedom rightly. 

There is a promise.

For Paul also says that there is a free woman: while the son of the free woman was born through promise.

So the promise is that freedom comes through the promise and that is from the free woman. Hagar is the covenant of slavery but Sarah the covenant of promise and freedom, for freedom comes through her son Issac whom she bore, as we read in Matthew 1:2

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and so on down through the genealogy in Matthew until we read, 16 and … Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matt 1:2,16b

Slave or free … Law or promise.

It had been the habit for the Galatians through the teaching of others to point to the Law and its requirements and their falling back into bondage.

We too see this as we minimize sin and elevate self. 

But there is a different problem today in some Lutheran churches and teaching within our synod … that there is no Law at all … but only Good News and freedom without real change. 

Repentance is not just knowledge of sin and the freedom Jesus paid at the cross for the sins of the world, but it is a willful turning away from sin and a turning back to God by faith. Slavery and Law bind us and leave us without hope but freedom and promise without change give false hope that sinful ways can continue without consequence. We deceive ourselves to believe that we are really pretty good people in the eyes of God ... and that he is well pleased with us.

There was a story about a pastor’s wife who worked at an abortion clinic and she said, “God forgives me.” Yes, God forgives our sins … but also says “Go and sin no more.”

6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Rom. 6:1

But for John here in the gospel reading and for Mary the mother of Jesus the reality is different. Mary’s son is dying - his outstretched arms are on the cross. His mother has to be dying too. Who could endure to see their son die in this way? The reality of sin and the work of redemption is no half way measure. God didn’t think your sin was no big deal because It required of God his full commitment – the life of his son - for the life of the world broken by sin. 

What better place to hear this then under the cross. It is here where Jesus finished his work of redemption. “Woman behold your son,” he says to the mother who gave him birth, loved and cared for him, and is now by his death caring for her and the whole world as he pays the full price for sin.
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John’s, mother is our mother as well and by faith we are children of the promise and have forgiveness in his name. He will care for her physical needs and spiritual needs as well. The gospel will comfort her as it does us. She will grieve her son’s death but will rejoice in the forgiveness he won that the sins of the world have been paid for and that by faith in his work we receive what he won which is victory over sin, death and the devil.

“Woman behold your son,” … “Behold, your mother!” 

In birth the child of the promise was born in a manger
In death the child of the promise hung on a tree
You are no longer slaves to sin in this life
By faith in Jesus Christ … God has set you fee

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

Amen

Sermon Mar. 4- 5, 2017 Lent 1

Title: Temptation is defeated by the word of God … Jesus!
Text: Matt. 4: 1-11

4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

An old Indian legend says: Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. 

"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley." 

"No," said the youth. "I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." 

"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you." 

The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and leapt, biting him on the leg. 

"But you promised..." cried the youth.

"You knew what I was when you picked me up." said the snake as it slithered away."
 
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 5-7.

The fall into sin as was recounted in our Ash Wednesday Service spoke of the results of sin … separation and death. Temptation leads to sin and so we understand that sin brings death. Yet … we fall victim time and again.

You knew what I was … or you know what it is … all seem to fall on deaf ears as we give in to temptation again and again. Jesus too felt temptation.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Things like time, temptation and hunger … are all things we can all relate to … but going without food for 40 days is probably not one of them. 

When we speak of Jesus we need to speak of His humanity in real terms. We need to speak of things that are part of His human nature. His Godly attributes were still there but were veiled. Here his humanness is seen in a real way and so was the realness of his hunger … the type of hunger that I’ve never known.
Shoot, I have difficulty getting from one meal to another … and it took real will power for me to change my own eating habits so that I might be able to lose some weight and live a bit healthier. Yes, there was temptation there too over the 100 or so days that it took me to lose 40 pounds but nothing like what Jesus faced.

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Here the devil temps with real understanding:

First, he knows of Christ’s humanity and that his hunger is real.

Second, he know that Christ is God in the flesh and can do what his temptation calls for of turning stones into bread.

Third, he knows God’s word and he uses it not for blessing, but he twists it in such a way so that the sinful needs are met as opposed to God’s will and desire.

Finally, when temptation gives way to sin the devil knows that death and separation from God results and that is his desire. To give what appears good … but what really brings death.
In this real temptation the devil knows one truth, that many in this world fight in disbelief, and that is that Jesus is the Son of God … and Satan is doing everything in his power to see that God’s plan and our rescue fails.

Satan continues to do this as we all fall victim to sin and his tempting. 

Like the Indian boy on the mountain you might think “It will be different this time.” But once you give in … you know … “I’ve been bit!”

The truth is that sin is not just thought, word and deed. It is not just trying hard not to sin. It is who we are. Sin is what we are born in. Now, this is not to excuse it but to understand our human nature. You will fail and you will sin. At times it is blatant and at times you are unaware. Sin permeates our very being and that is why Satan so hounds you and me. 

The devil knows that when presented with a little sin it will lead to a bigger sin and the bigger the sin the guiltier you will feel. You will feel shame, and at times guilt for your actions, even an unkind word or a word misplaced can cause hurt. 

Ill.
I visit a number of shut in or home bound members of our church but also a few that are not associated with Peace. On one occasion I visited a 95 year old elderly woman who lives in a nursing and assisted care facility. It has taken me a little time to get to know her but she was raised Lutheran in a little church up north of Bay City. 

On a recent visit as I came in and said our hello’s she looked at me and said, “I’m mean.” I kind of smiled thinking she was joking. “I say things at the table to the others that are mean and I don’t mean to. She continues, “I just can’t help myself. I’m mean!” After being a bit caught off guard I said, “Well, we all say things that we wish we hadn’t some time and we need to say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness.”

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Pastor, I was confirmed at 11 years old at my little church and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The Pastor sat against his desk and told us to think of a feather pillow and how if a hole develops a feather can come out. He said as time goes on the feathers keep coming out and another hole might even appear in the pillow. He told us to think of the feathers that come out as things we’ve said that we wish we could take back but can’t because once the feathers come out you can’t put them back in.” 

I told her that I understood what she was saying and she looked at me and said “Oh, I’m just mean. I remember my grandmother asking me to do something and I turned to her quickly and gave her a smart, sassy answer.” The tears began to flow again. “Oh Pastor, how I wish I could go to her grave and put those feathers back in the pillow!” 

We sat there for a few minutes as she cried her tears of sorrow. I said, “Lucy, we can’t put the feathers back in the pillow but there is one who can and did and that is Jesus. He took everything we wish we never said, and all the sins we’d take back if we could and he took them to the cross, for you and for me. He buried our sins in the grave so that we can have the comfort and assurance of knowing that if we confess our sins that he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness. 

Do you believe this?” She thought for a moment and said, “Yes Pastor I do.” “Then as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son + and or of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Are you ready to receive the Lord’s Supper?” I asked. “Yes I am.” She replied. “Thank you.”

Though you like Lucy are forgiven you must die and rise daily. When you fall you must remember that Jesus stood the test of the Devil’s temptation and though tempted in every way He was without sin. 

Perfection is not who we are but it is who He is … and we can all have joy because:

Temptation is defeated … by the word of God … Jesus!

4 [Who] answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

It was God’s provision of Mana that humbled the Israelites … and they quickly found that they could not provide for themselves. Instead, they had to trust in God for their daily bread. Pg 291 Study Note 

Just as we ask of the Lord in the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” which includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body … because Jesus wants us to realize that our entire life and that of everyone else depends of God. 

Question/ Answer 219 Luther’s Small Catechism

The temptations continued for Jesus and temptations will continue for you and me as well. Unlike Christ after a few temptations the devil left him. As God’s son the devil knew that he would have to find another opportunity to attach Jesus but not so for you and me. We will fail and fall into sin … he knows that. It is the devil’s hope that we fall so hard and so far that the way back will seem not only difficult but impossible.

God knows it too and that is why the word of god can be such a comfort and place of rescue which says:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 

The common sins ... cause us to fall … and we do … but:

… God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [or endure]. But when you are tempted, [God himself] will also provide a way out so that you can endure it – [and get through it].

Christ is the one who conquered sin, death and Devil for you. It is he who took all the Devil had to offer or could give and though tempted he remained without sin. This brings real peace and comfort to you and me as we think about his sinless life and atoning death, which give real life and forgiveness to you and me. 

Temptation will come but one also has come who stood the test of temptation for you and has made a way that through him, through Jesus you have a way to the Father by his blood. Joy in that blessed good news and comfort now and forever!

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

Sermon March 1, 2017 Ash Wednesday

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The First Word: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Text: Luke 23:34

33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

"If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me, if I hung around daily with the killer who drove the knife into my brother's heart? Surely, I too must be an accomplice in the crime you might think? The truth is that sin murdered Christ. The question … will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the God’s only begotten son … can you love it?"

C.H. Spurgeon. 

As we begin this Lenten journey with Jesus as he follows the path and rocky road that leads to Jerusalem and the cross, we’ll begin by looking back and by looking forward.


The fall into sin.

God’s plan was perfection. God’s plan was peaceful. God’s plan … included his creation and God’s plan had a garden. We can imagine in our minds eye what a perfect, peaceful garden created by God might look like … beautiful and lush. God’s garden was located in the East of Eden. We are told that streams came up from the earth and a river watered the garden splitting it into four headwaters, the Pishon, the Gihon, Tigris and the Euphrates.

Adam, the man whom God had created, was given the task of working and taking care of the garden with God giving him this command:

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God also gave Adam a helper who he called bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh saying; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

In the midst of the garden man and woman had peace with God and felt no shame at their nakedness. But, there was another in the garden … a tempter … in the form of a serpent. His tempting was not boastful or coarse but beguiling and questioning. Simply asking … “Did God really say?”

You know the rest of the story. The tempter temps, the woman eats, and man eats, and sin and death take hold breaking the plan, the peace, and the life of God’s creation. Surly if they had only known what hardship lie ahead they would have not eaten of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and they would not have fallen. We would have hoped. But, they went against God and they disobeyed him and sin was brought forth.

Temptation leads to sin

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or so the saying goes. Their children born in sin have lost the image of God as they now reflect the image of their parents being fully conceived in sin. Spiritual death now gives way to physical death as Cain in anger kills his brother Able, who’s offering of the best and first born on his flock, was accepted by God while Cain’s gift of some of his fruit of his hands was not accepted … Able’s gift having been offered in faith while Cain’s was not.

We too at times find ourselves being tempted to see our sin as not so great a problem and ourselves as pretty good and acceptable.

Ill.

A story is told of a King who found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, "I am a great sinner; I fear meeting God." But the prince only laughed at him thinking it silly. This didn't help the king's disposition.
Though he had faith in Christ, the king too had gotten a glimpse of his own guilt for the way he'd been living - the Law written on his heart reflected his sinful image of himself - and he seriously wanted help. 

In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man's door at any hour it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother's door. The prince realizing with horror what was happening, quickly dressed, stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner who dragged the pale and trembling prince into the king's presence. 

In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother the King and begged “What have I done?” 

"My dear brother," the king answered, "if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?"
Walk Through Rewards.

We too, being born in sin, can have the same worry and concern. Have I done enough to make amends for my wrong? Am I doomed to eternal death? That was Luther’s question and Luther’s worry: 

“Does God hate sin … yes … am I a sinner … yes … does God condemn sin … yes … must I be condemned? Yes.

If left to ourselves we cannot have peace. We can never know if we had done enough. The knowledge of sin weighs heavy on us and that burden can only kill you and me by its weight.

The rescue

The Jews had known the promise. They had expected a Messiah. They looked for power to overcome those who oppressed them so they looked for and expected an earthly King.

But, God didn’t give what was expected. He sent what wasn’t expected. He sent a servant. Isaiah calls him the Suffering Servant.

In the first servant song God’s message of Law and Gospel is contained in the one, the Servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will fulfill the Law and brings the message of the Gospel to the poor and to the oppressed. It is through this servant that God gives breath and life to His people through His church, so that He may, through the means of grace, be a light to the gentiles and open the eyes of the blind. 

It is God Himself who will free the captives and release those who sit in bondage. The Lord’s glory will be found only in this humble suffering servant who breaks the bonds of sin and death by becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin, to appease God’s wrath, restoring the relationship between God and man and liberating His people from captivity.

As a nation Israel was at times called on by God to be His servant. But the Servant God sends, will be the one to rise up the tribes of Jacob and bring back the preserved of Israel and he will be a light for the nations so that God’s forgiveness reaches to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6

God’s servant will be despised because God’s Law brings condemnation and death, but also His servant will provide a way out delivering freedom from sin and the devil by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Isaiah points out Israel’s sin measured against the servant’s obedience. The servant is faithful and listens to the voice of this loving God. In contrast to you and me, who are a rebellious people, the servant listens to and does the will of His heavenly Father.

The servant is abused but also sustained by the Sovereign Lord’s help just as Jesus was in his passion at the cross.

Even this death on a cross will not bring disgrace to the servant who gives over his will to that of the sovereign Lord. God’s servant will accomplish the salvation that he intends but salvation will come through suffering.

Dear friends, our human condition knows God’s Law only as judgment. This judgment comes to you and me as we fail to live up to the laws in a civil society and God’s Law written on our heart.

The judgment of the servant, who was, stricken, smitten and afflicted by God for the sins of another, is something different. The punishment of this servant is in being numbered with we who are sinners. It is in this servant Jesus and his suffering where we find peace and by his wounds we are healed.

Peace and forgiveness

33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

May you have peace and joy in his forgiveness and may you rejoice that in him you are forgiven.

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sermon Feb. 25-26, 2017 The Transfiguration of our Lord

Title: To follow Christ is to obey the call of the Spirit!
Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

When John Paul II was Pope back in 1984, he was to visit a hospital and everyone there was anxiously awaiting his visit. A doctor who had a handful of paperwork took a seat in a wheelchair and busied himself with his notes. The Pope swept in, and blessed the doctor, who immediately stood up and walked forward. Those in the Pope's entourage were astonished - crossed themselves and looked upward.

L.M. Boyd, Crown Syndicate, January, 1984.

Did the pope heal the man in the wheelchair … no. Can God continue to do miraculous things … yes.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

In his last letter to the church of God Peter writes of his witness to God’s work. He and the other apostles were not deceived, he says to follow stories and myths but we were eye witnesses – not of mistaken miracles like a well person rising from a wheelchair – but of his majesty.

Transfiguration weekend is here and it is the last weekend in the church year before Ash Wednesday and Lent begins. The revealing of the true nature of Jesus Christ as both God and man as he was transfigured before them.

Peter here, as he is writing is an old man. Reasonable dating for this epistle is 68 AD. It has been almost 40 years since the crucifixion. Peter may be in his early 70s and he is preparing to depart this earthly tent saying just previously to our epistle:

13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

It is Peter’s hope to leave a lasting impression for the church so that - after [his] departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

So recalling that time long ago – and for we who are a bit older – looking back 40 years is not much of a stretch. With my son Jon and Elizabeth Nold preparing to get married in a few weeks it certainly is easy to think back 35 years and longer.

1982 seems like yesterday to Monica and me, though much has changed but the image in our minds eyes remains vivid. Preparing for the church service and reception with friends, relatives and neighbors, some old and some new come to mind. Many still are in our lives and many have long departed like my grandmother Wilma Lanyi who was in attendance but left to be with the Lord in 1983. Much could be written and maybe much should be for our children and future grandchildren if it be the Lord’s will.

That is Peter’s focus here as he recounts his presence with the Lord. 17 For when [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

This presence with Christ remained clear for Peter just as much of my own wedding does for me and I’m sure for Monica as well. Well … for her better than me as she remembers details I’ve long forgotten. But Peter is clear here that he heard God’s Majestic voice and saw Jesus transfigured as his glory and honor were revealed because he along with the others were with him on the holy mountain.

We’re I to tell you that the car Monica and I road to the wedding reception in was a 1976 Lincoln Continental Town Car, silver 2 door hard top with a maroon velour interior - You’d have to take my word for it as one who was there and was an eyewitness. But, even better yet, I was the one who asked my friend John who was one of my groomsmen to ask his dad if he would let us use his car.

Monica and I had a picture taken sitting in the back seat before it departed for the reception but unless you had an eyewitness account … it would be near impossible to know the cars, make, model or year. Now, though it is written in a sermon if anyone cares to know.

In Peter’s account the value of his eyewitness reporting is of much greater importance. He says in verse 15 one verse before the epistle for today:

15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

He writes this so that when he is gone the value of his knowledge and witness might be made known then and now through his prophetic witness as he points us to the scriptures.

We have photo albums and wedding photographs to leave a record and trustworthy witness for our children – today it’s video, cell phones, facebook, twitter and instagram for those who come after us. We have eyewitnesses who were there and those who heard their witness, just as this church does in pictures and Voter’s meeting reports and stories for those who wish to know what we did in the life of the church. Can memories be mistaken and can pictures be deceiving … sure. So, why is Peter’s witness reliable?

Because it is not Peter the man but God by the Holy Spirit that his witness is true.

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

It is in the transfiguration account that Peter, James and John went up on the mountain with Jesus. Matthew who was a Tax Collector writes of this account in the gospel lesson for today.

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”

The vision is good, right and salutary for you and me as well for it is here in the written account that Matthew by that same Holy Spirit connects Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Prophets. All that God did and said is illuminated through him – through Jesus - and it is we who still have access to this witness … his word of promise and fulfillment … by his means of word and sacrament.

As Peter said: … you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

God’s gift to you and me points back to God being manifest and made known in the person and work of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today this same Holy Spirit points us back through the word of promise and hope in testament and prophets to all that Jesus came to do for you and me, and it looks forward to his glorious return where he will gather his bride to himself, but it also sustains us this day and every day with the sure and certain hope that past, present and future are united in him. 

Where his bride the church are, there is the Jesus … the bridegroom … the way the truth and the life … and the way to the father.

“Lord, it is good that we are here.”

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





And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever. Amen