Monday, September 18, 2017

September 16-17, 2017

Title: Forgiveness is …for you!
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

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

In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

Michael Williams.

“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it.
And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them [and] in the same manner as He grieved and suffered in our sins … while we rejoice and glory in His righteousness.”

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

Martin Luther understood that:

Forgiveness is …for you!

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

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”
And then quickly answers that question himself with what he thinks is a good answer.

“As many as seven times?”

It’s easy to see that Peter believes himself to be quite generous in his view of forgiveness. Maybe even thinking that at some point certainly after seven times, I’ll be able to just whack my brother and end this nonsense.

To this Jesus replies:

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

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

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

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

“The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore ought to forgive [others], but that God Himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is truly incalculable. No matter how much has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of our Lord.

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

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


20 years ago as I wrestled with the aftermath of leaving the church of my birth [Roman Catholic] and I was also confused at the time with some of the doctrines and teaching from the nondenominational church I was then attending [Heart of the Hills Christian church]. I happened upon the radio program, the White Horse Inn. May be you’ve heard of it? The program and its hosts discuss theological issues from a reformed and Lutheran understanding and perspective.

In the episode that I was listening to the hosts had their producer go around the hall of a Christian Booksellers Convention asking people in attendance;

It has been said:

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

To this the respondents replied:

“Gee that’s harsh!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, I don’t believe it!”

One man even asked, “Who said that, a Neo orthodox theologian?”

To which the reporter replied, “The Apostle Paul in Romans 3.”

The radio went silent. “Oh … ?”

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

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

The wages of sin is death. Paul tells us in Romans 6. Rom. 6:23a

And death is real whether it is in Syria or Iraq, or Charlottesville North Carolina; whether it’s by one’s own hand in suicide; or a senseless murder of mother shot in the back in our own Waterford. For all of these … death is real.

23 but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23b


I thought about this when President Matthew C. Harrison was first elected president of the Lutheran Synod. There was quite a bit of tension and a pretty dramatic scene back in 2010. He was elected on the first ballot and this in of itself was a bit out of the ordinary. While Dr. Gerald Keishnick was visably surprised and disappointed he displayed a great amount of grace as he invited President –Elect Harrison to address the assembly. President Harrison said: “You have kept your record intact of electing a sinner to be president of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod. I will sin against you and ask for your forgiveness and if any of you have sinned against me … I forgive you.”
Christ’s mercy for we who deserve death is a pure gift. Even one sin would separate us from the love of God in Christ, not to mention our complete corruption from the fall for we who are born sinful and unclean.

But, because Jesus is the mercy and peace of forgiveness; we who have been given faith in Christ can joy in that forgiveness!

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

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

Luther – Kretzmann NT pg. 103

May Christ Jesus’ bountiful mercy and peace comfort you, as you joy in the forgiveness won at the cross and given to you freely by faith in Him who was and is and is to come.

While I know all too well that I have sinned against you here at Peace I ask for your forgiveness and if you have sinned against me … I forgive you.

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


Monday, September 11, 2017

Sermon September 9-10, 2017

Martin: The man! Video series Session #4
Title: Fear not! Here I stand! In Christ!
Text: Romans 10:26-28

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The tension continues. Luther is called to give a response. How about you or me? What responsibility do we as Christians have in our own day?

We too live in tension between the secular and the holy. What God has said versus what man and the world says.

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This first line from God’s word in the book of Genesis, which means beginning of something, is put in tension between man and science that says creation began or was the result of no creator … but only because of a bang of cosmic proportions that set all things in motion.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures …

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.”

Darwin’s theory of evolution on the other hand says that there is no creator but only natural selection which over time changes and adapts from one kind into another called Macro evolution. As Christians we understand micro evolution or changes within kinds and adaption to environments.

In a May 13, 2015 posting on Live Science “What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution” Kar Than writes:

In the first edition of "The Origin of Species" in 1859, Charles Darwin speculated about how natural selection could cause a land mammal to turn into a whale. As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open:

"I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale," he speculated.

God’s word again says:

7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

God creates life. He gives man and animals the same command to be fruitful and increase in number.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Man says, on the other hand … it is only a fetus and that life begins at birth so pay no attention to the prenatal care that the medical community calls for, it is your right and your decision to remove that inconvenience and to take that life, in the womb. Or … as the activists call for on demand and without apology.

The conflict in our day is much the same as Luther’s. What does the word of God say and do we stand on the word of God or on the word of man?

Luther’s theology started to develop even as early as 1518. It started to go beyond the paying of indulgences to free those in purgatory, to the theology of the cross and the understanding of God’s mercy not earned by what we sinners do - but that God’s mercy is purely a gift, given to you and me by faith in the suffering servant Jesus Christ, who by his sinless life, substitutionary death and glorious resurrection paid the price for the sins for the whole world.

Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)

16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The night Jesus was betrayed both Judas, who betrayed him, and Peter, who denied him, ran off with broken hearts. Judas turned inward and being overwhelmed with guilt killed himself. Jesus appeared to Peter and restored him. (“Follow me” John 21:19b)

Lutheran Hour Ministries Study Guide Session 4 pg2

Luther had to answer the questions posed to him. “Martin Luther, are these your books?” “Yes.” “Will you recant all of these writings?”

So he gives an answer without “horns or teeth” … a straight answer.

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms
April 18, 1521

We too need to take a stand in our day and time being captive to the word of God. To do so we need to know the word and be in the word. Our little book a simple explanation of Christianity can be a great help. It can make us captive to God’s word – what he demands, who he is, what he has done for us, and how we can call on him, in prayer, praise and thanksgiving as he unites, feeds and sustains us

We learn of the Father’s creative power making all things; and the redemptive power of the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, his only begotten son a who lived, died and rose again for you and me; and the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and the lives and intercedes in the lives of his children … you and me, sustaining us and keeping us in the one true faith.

In our our gospel reading for today we read:

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

In humility and love as god’s children … speak the truth. Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength and you neighbor as yourself.

Here we stand … we can do no other … so help us God. 


Monday, September 4, 2017

Sermon September 2-3, 2017

Title: Dropping dead in Jesus!
Text: Matt 16:21-28

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Death is part of life. It’s heartbreaking. We see those we love … no more.

At times we can anticipate death and prepare for its arrival. Other times death is thrust upon us when we least expect it - leaving little or no time to prepare for the loss, confusion, and sorrow that is left behind.

At times death is met by denial.

No way! I don’t believe it! I was just with them!

Or … it is met with the sad question, “What’s in it for me?”

In our gospel for today and immediately following Peter’s confession of faith from last week 21 … Jesus began to show his disciples [and to prepare them for death … his death] that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Death was real for Jesus. He knew it would come; he knew his purpose in our redemption … but his disciples didn’t yet fully understand.

Certainly Peter didn’t. For what a change we see in Peter, as he goes from confessing: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Receiving praise from Christ for his good confession revealed by the Father to in the span of 4 short verses saying: “Never, Lord!” … “This shall never happen to you!” So much for building the church on Peter the man as the stern rebuke of the Lord confirms …

23 … “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; But also for each one of us (you and me) as we too wrestle with the Saint / sinner dichotomy within us both redeemed in Christ and bound in sin.

So, Jesus tells Peter: You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Human concerns though, are real; especially when they affect us and we’d rather not think about the one major human concern that we all have - death and the consequences it brings.

As one loved one said to me after the funeral of her deceased boyfriend:

“We didn’t make plans for this. This was so unexpected.”

We are a self aware people and many look to self when death is near. For me as a pastor and for those under my care, it can be heartbreaking. Driving as I often do to visit shut-ins I am always reminded of those blessed departed souls that are no longer on my list to visit having departed to be with the Lord.

Planning for a funeral for we who remain has changed in our day as well, as many who take care for the affairs on the deceased are no longer active church members themselves or at times even believers so the emphasis has gone:

From the pastor and the church - to the funeral director and funeral home

From the reality of death seen in light of Christ and his resurrection - to a simple celebration of life

From death as our enemy - to death as our friend at times even over age and sickness

From the congregation of the saints - to simple family and friends

From the resurrection of the body imperishable - to the immortality of the soul

From burial - to cremation

Rev. William Cwirla Reformation Insights into the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying

These are just some of the changes I’ve seen inside and outside the church and as one who gets to proclaim Christ, at member and nonmember funerals alike, the trend has become similar.

Death becomes sanitized, life accomplishments heralded, and pictures of a life well lived celebrated. 

It is good to celebrate life, it is a gift of God ... but so is eternal life.

But Jesus says in our gospel:

26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

For the Christian, sin and death has been killed with Christ’s death. And we who have been brought to faith in Christ have been raised with him in his glorious resurrection to a life eternal. So as we deal with the impending death of a loved one or think about death and that reality that waits in our own lives, how should we think?

Martin Luther in a letter to his dying mother thought this way and wrote in this way:

“Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome? Do you, Death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the one who has said to you, “I have overcome the world?”

Luther’s letter to his dying mother (Letters of Spiritual counsel)

Death is not good. Death was not God’s plan … for you. Death is a result of sin and the fall and we are born in sin and born to die. How else could we understand the lunacy that is this broken and corrupt world where we live? But there is good news for we who hope in Christ and have overcome death because Christ has overcome death for you and for me triumphing over it at the cross.

Dropping dead in Jesus was a workshop on pastoral care that I attended at the, Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music conference in Chicago the past July. Our church, like the whole Christian church on earth, is a dying church; and I don’t just mean declining members that we see in the pews in the earthly sense, because for us - death – closes the temporal exposing the immortal.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:42-44

Our hope is in Christ, whether we depart this life to be with the Lord at death or the Lord returns to gather you and me, the wheat into his barns, we will be and we have the guarantee that we will be raised with the Lord and will be with the Lord forever.

Those whose hope is not in the Lord … have no hope at all.

As Luther writes in his preface to the Burial Hymns:

“Since they are beyond the pale of faith in Christ, they must either, cherish this temporal life as the only thing worthwhile and hate to lose it, or expect that after this life they will receive eternal death and the wrath of God in hell and must fear to go there.”

LW 53:325-326

It is in keeping with the text of our gospel today where Jesus says:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life [in this temporal and broken world] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake [being made God’s child by the working of the Holy Spirit] will find it.

In keeping with that joyful understanding of losing our life for Christ’s sake and receiving life eternal as we in this life take up our own cross, let us sing together the 3rd verse of Hymn #708 from our Lutheran Service Book, for your convenience written in our bulletin.

Lord Thee I Love With All My Heart.

3 Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram's bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace,
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon August 26-27, 2017

Title: Bound in sin and freed in Christ!
Text: Matthew 16:13-20

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

To have access to our church building you need a key. During services the building is opened and access granted. Following services the building is locked and you can’t get in … unless you have a key.

God’s word functions in a similar way; Locked and opened, bound and free, command and promise, Law and Gospel.

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

Here, wages are contrasted against a free gift and sin and death exchanged for eternal life by means of Christ Jesus our Lord.

To proclaim the truth of who Christ Jesus is and what he has done … you have to know the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done. You have to be brought from death to life. This change and this knowledge comes to you – not by your own efforts or wisdom and strength – but by the power of God’s free gift through the Holy Spirit, working through the word, so that you and I can - by faith - trust and confess Jesus Christ.

15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

From the region of Tyre and Sidon and the encounter with the Canaanite woman from last week, Jesus and the disciples move to the east and a bit south towards the area of Caesarea Philippi again working their way back towards Galilee. As noted last week the disciples missed some of Jesus’ teaching. They saw the 5000 fed; saw Jesus and Peter walk on the water and the wind and the waves calmed by Christ on the Sea of Galilee; saw steadfast faith from a woman who was not one of the Jews, God’s chosen people, which resulted in her receiving healing for her daughter’s oppression by a demon – immediately. Now, we move ahead a bit in their journey past the feeding of the 4000 to where Jesus asks the disciples a question.

13 … “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Jesus asks this question to the group. They all had been missing some of His teaching and what he had revealed about himself, even saying at one point “truly, you are the Son of God.” Matt. 14:33b. They, along with the people, had seen the signs and miracles done along the way and Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Well, the peoples responses vary. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The disciples had heard some of the talk among the people. They thought maybe that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead or that one of the prophets from long ago had returned.

Luke 1:17 tells us:

17 [John] will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

The people got some of what was proclaimed understanding that John, Elijah and Jesus are connected in some way. So Jesus asks the disciples directly:

“But who do you say that I am?”

Now I want you to understand the importance of the question Jesus asks and the answer that Peter gives. It can’t be answered by human wisdom.


If I were to ask you this same type of question about myself, “Well some might respond saying you’re Russ a childhood friend who grew up in Allen Park, or Russ a co-worker for many years at Evola Music in Bloomfield Hills. Some might say that I’m someone they attended St. John Lutheran Church in Rochester 20 years ago while others might say a member of Peace Lutheran Church here in Waterford.

But to that same question directed to you all here, “But who do you say that I am?” One might speak and answer for the group and say.

"You’re our pastor.”

The answer doesn’t mean that only one member in the church understands who I am and that I've been called to serve as pastor here. But in some way when the truth has been stated, the others know, understand, and agree. 

This though, is known by human wisdom. But to the question Christ Jesus asked about himself, it is only known as it is revealed by the working of the Holy Spirit and by faith working through the word.

By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!

Many though in our day neither know God’s word or Christ Jesus the word of God made flesh. Bound in sin we are all brought into this world as God’s enemies and consigned to death. Through the proclamation of the word God works faith in and where he chooses turning those bound in sin free so that they too might confess and call Jesus, “the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Some might say that the confession – you are the Christ the Son of the living God - is the sign and the evidence of faith. It is for sure, but we as Lutheran’s also trust the word of God and the promise.

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

We are to follow Christ’s command and promise, and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Parents teach their children by singing hymns and songs to them or reading them Bible stories and lessons. We then bring them to Sunday school and Church so they can be instructed and learn what this faith - that they have been given - means and so it doesn’t just die away from them from lack of feeding, or by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others and the working of the devil.

Baptizing is good and it’s God’s work, whether it is a baby or one old enough to be instructed and once instructed desires baptism.

Luther says in his writing on, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, which is a big title that simply means the church held captive:

“For the Word of God is powerful enough, when uttered, to change even a godless heart, which is no less unresponsive and helpless than any infant” Pg 41, Paragraph 2

It is God who brings to faith and it is faith that says as Peter did:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus commends Peter!

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!

And he tells Peter where the source of this confession comes from:

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter [which means rock], and on this rock [which means the rock of Peter’s confession of faith] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus does not build His church on Peter’s person but on Peter’s confession which is your confession too, and Peter faith is nothing more than your faith and the faith of all, given by God through word and sacrament so that God’s church, and God’s kingdom against sin, death and the devil, is built.

Finally Jesus is speaking to the disciples says:

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The keys are given to the church and administered by those called to serve in the place and by the command of Christ. That is why when the pastor says, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you can trust that you are forgiven as if Christ himself were speaking the forgiveness to you directly.

Receive the forgiveness of the Lord. Joy in his word and sacraments which bring faith that trust is Christ and confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

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


Monday, August 21, 2017

Sermon August 19-20, 2017

Title: God’s work your reward!
Text: Romans 11: 32 and Matthew 15:27-28

32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Our bulletin cover for today references the text from Matthew 15:28 and says:

“God cares for all his creation, rich and poor. He provides everything needed to sustain this body and life. He gives to us his good gifts, small and great, especially his love and forgiveness. We may not all have the same blessings in this life, yet God provides for all. And to those who believe in him, he gives life eternal. How thankful we are to have such a generous father.”

2017 Concordia Publishing House Matthew 15:27 CPH

But are we?

Not from the pictures and descriptions coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia this past week. Racism, ideology, and political division are alive and well and it seems that our country is as broken as it ever has been.

Death came to a young woman who was run down during the protests.

(Her mother lamented the loss saying she was proud of her stand against hate)

Death may come to a young man accused of being the driver of the car that ran her down.

19 others were hurt and two police officers were killed when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the events.

Death has come and death will come … Lord have mercy.

How do we as the church respond? How should we? How in the face of evil is peace possible?

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

Here we see another mother, at another time, crying for her daughter.

Born in sin … death is real. It is what we all have as a guarantee. Death is yours and it is mine. We are all born to die no matter of race, gender, political view or status. We are all consigned to death and it is what we deserve.

Some die fighting for what they believe is right; some die protecting the rights of others; some die in the womb, and some die from a myriad of diseases young and old alike. Death is no respecter of persons. We are all equal under the Law and we are all condemned … to death.

So she cries … 23 But [Jesus] did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”

The disciples had been sent explicitly by Jesus in Matthew 10 saying,

“Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

So we might understand their response because it is our response too.

Go away! It’s not my problem! Ask someone else!


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

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

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

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

What’s the Christian response?

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

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

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

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

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

And the woman in our gospel reading for today 25 … came and knelt before Jesus, saying, “Lord, help me.” Just as in a similar sense the man who was let out of jail needed help and cried out to me saying, “Excuse me can you help me?”

The woman would not take no for an answer. She recognized Jesus as both Lord and savior. She like we deserved nothing. The man I met didn’t know anything about me but when he received the money he knew from whom and where it came; God’s gift and God’s mercy.

All that we have we also receive as gift. We deserve death but are given life in Christ. We merit nothing but have everything. Mercy is given and mercy is received because God in Christ is merciful.

26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Both the feeding of the 5000 which comes before and the feeding of the 4000 which comes after this account feed the multitudes as gift. The loaves and fish are multiplied and the scraps fill 12 and 7 baskets respectively. Those outside of Israel were looked upon as dogs and not worthy of the Kingdom. But where does Jesus go? He goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon, to those outside the Kingdom.

Jesus is speaking here in a general sense to the giving of what was meant for the children to their pet dog. He is testing the woman a bit.

The woman is not letting go of Christ or his question.

27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

Saying in essence, “Yes Lord, I know I don’t deserve anything, nor my daughter or anyone else … but just a crumb from you (the master) will do.”

Death is what you and I deserve but God gives us forgiveness and life. God’s wrath is what we merit, but in Christ, we receive what we don’t deserve … God’s mercy.

28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

How should the church respond to evil in our midst? Calling sin what it is, calling all to repentance, and then like Jesus responding with forgiveness, mercy and love.

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


Monday, August 14, 2017

Aug. 12-13, 2017 sermon

Martin: The man! Video series 3rd installment
Title: Guilt, punishment and freedom in Christ!
Text: Hebrews 10:11-18

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A man entered a bar, bought a glass of beer and then immediately threw it into the bartender's face. Quickly grabbing a napkin, he helped the bartender dry his face while he apologized with great remorse. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I have this compulsion to do this. I fight it, but I don't know what to do about it." "You had better do something about your problem," the bartender replied. "You can be sure I'll remember you and will never serve you another drink until you get help." 

It was months before the man faced the bartender again. When he asked for a beer, the bartender refused. Then the man explained that he had been seeing a psychiatrist and that his problem was solved. Convinced it was now okay to serve him, the bartender poured him a drink. The man took the glass and splashed the beer into the barkeeper's astonished face. "I thought you were cured," the shocked bartender screamed. "I am," said the man. "I still do it, but I just don't feel guilty about it anymore."

Charles Sell, Unfinished Business, Multnomah, 1989, p. 223.

Guilt and punishment; two parts of forgiveness, one – the guilt - you take care of by confessing your sins to a priest, the other – punishment - had to be paid in this life or in the life eternal.

By Luther’s day purgatory was a pretty established fact. Since 1274 AD and the Council of Leone payment of sins had become a fact of life.

Today also we see some pretty established facts being challenged.

• Marriage, ordained by God between and man and a woman. Now challenged by those who see marriage as only love between two or possibly more people.

• Life, a gift of God created and begun at the time of conception. Now seen as a medical health issue with abortion as an acceptable means and solution for an unwanted pregnancy.

• Noah’s Ark – God’s judgment of the world as opposed to a nice story of a boat and animals two by two going aboard.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

The idea of sins needing to be paid for and it – in our guilt - being our work was one the people knew and worried about.

“How can I be right with God?” 

“How can I stand in the presence of a Holy God?

Purgatory made sense to believers. Sins need to be paid for and it may be a while before all my sins were purged away. My guild was forgiven but the punishment I needed to pay.

6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

When Jesus said, It is finished” in John 19:30 He wasn’t talking about his life. He was using a term in the Greek that means “Paid in full.” The debt for all our sins has been paid!

The church needed money for fighting wars and territory protection and the selling of indulgences was a means to raise money and make payment of sins possible – not by a repentant heart but by the form of monetary payment.


As a former salesman; I’ve heard and seen the promises that some salesman make.

“Yes! If you buy it right now I promise to have it at your house tomorrow.” Only to find that it can’t be prepped and delivered in a day so … excuses are made or left to the warehouse and drivers to look like the bad guy. In other words – “Tell them what they want to hear and do whatever you want.”

I even heard those exact words from a pastor when I was asking what to expect when I went for my Theological Interview at the seminary. Not what have you learned of true doctrine but, “I told them want they wanted to hear.” Meaning I do something different than want our church believes, teaches and confesses. Sad but true.

You can see the church and its teaching leading the sheep to a different sheepfold … not one where Christ is the good shepherd but one where we shepherd ourselves and guide ourselves.

But what does God again say in our epistle?

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Guilt and punishment are both laid on Christ. No distinction. Not Christ’s work, and my work together saving me. It is finished … all in Christ. You are forgiven. Go and sin no more. Grace alone, Faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone.

But Luther is not there … yet.

The posting of the 95 theses were intended to have a discussion. A theological discussion, if you will, in hope of a change of heart, like repentance … a turning from error … and a turning back to Christ.

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Walking on the water of our own self righteousness we will eventually sink in the sins of our own self worth. How great the words of Christ sound in our Gospel for today.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

It is finished!

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sermon July 29-30, 2017

Title: The kingdom and treasure that is Christ is given to you!
Text: Matthew 13:44-52

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

As we begin today, we again look at the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew. If we remember the last two weekends we recall that the sower, who sowed seed everywhere, found that the seed that fell on the good soil took root and produced a crop that yielded 30, 60 and even 100 fold.

Last week we learned that the wheat that grew from the good seed, was planted by the Son of man, in the field of the world, and that the devil also planted weeds among the wheat where both would grow until the harvest, separating both wheat and weeds or believers and unbelievers by God’s angles at the end of the age.

Today we have three short parables and they all bring to mind the topic of the kingdom of heaven. We’ll look at these and see the truth that, through the Gospel:

The kingdom and treasure that is Christ is given to you!

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

In last week’s parable Jesus explained that the field was the world and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. In today’s parable the children of the kingdom is the treasure hidden in the world brought to faith by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel’s proclamation. Christ then is the man who found you, His treasure, but this treasure of being his child is hidden apart from faith, in the field of this world.

So to purchase the world back, Christ empties himself, sells all He has, as it were and gives Himself as a ransom to buy and redeem this world lost in sin, death and the power of the devil.

Jesus then says:

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Knowing that a perfect pearl, of large size, of spherical shape, would far surpass in value hundreds of small, imperfect pearls, this merchant, an expert in his line, set out to seek, and, if possible, to find, such a rare valuable pearl. Having found one which seemed to him exceedingly precious, he risked his all, stripping himself of all his possessions in the one great venture of his life. The glory and beauty of God's mercy in the Gospel - so great and precious a gift that all else sinks into insignificance beside it.

Popular Commentary of the Bible, P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol.1 Pg.76-77

The pearl of the Christians is the greatest treasure in the kingdom of God … salvation in Christ! He who has learned to know this priceless gift will gladly renounce all goods, joys, and delights of this world, and consider all human wisdom and righteousness as loss, in order to gain Christ.


As I was driving some time ago, I caught a story on the Moth Radio Hour. This show has people speaking in front of a live studio audience and relating a story that was of some significance to them.

The speaker was Christof Koch an American neuroscientist who had been raised Roman Catholic and struggled with his own belief in God alongside his work as a scientist. The topic was: God, Death and Francis Crick. Francis Crick was also a scientist, who made his mark in DNA research and was an atheist. The two, though from different generations, spent many years in collaboration and study even authoring a book together called The Quest for Consciousness.

One day as they worked together, Francis Cricks received a call and confirmation that his terminal cancer had returned. Christof said he was immensely impressed with the Stoic faith of his atheist elder friend. “No doom and gloom, no gnashing of teeth and no tears just, “Accept what you can’t change.” And then he went on with what Francis Crick had to say, “Everything that has a beginning must have an end … those are the facts, I don’t like them, but I’ve accepted them.” This also caused Christof to reflect on his own mortality. Ultimately, he saw Francis Crick as his hero, with how he dealt with his own demise.

The show concluded with Christof speaking of being saddened by the loss of his belief and religion like, fond childhood memories, concluding that we all have to grow up, which is difficult for many and unbearable for the few, concluding that we have to see the world as it really is and stop thinking in terms of magic.

Or, he says, as Francis would have put it, “This is a story for grown men not a consoling tale for children.”

To that Jesus says:

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The net of the Word of God and its Gospel proclamation is cast into the sea of the world and at the end of the age it will be gathered to the shore.

Here the angles will separate those, the righteous, who by the power of the Holy Spirit, are brought to faith in Christ and believe - while others - called evil, will be thrown into the fiery furnace of Hell and there, no matter how stoic they may be in this life, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

During the Festival of Lutheran hymns on Thursday evening at the Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music conference that Katherine and I attended last week we sang the first Hymn Martin Luther ever wrote – interspersed throughout the hymn festival Thursday evening. It is called Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice.

As we sang the second section, stanzas 4-5, I marked an X by it as it speaks beautifully to our message today. Broken and condemned by the Law we are rescued by Christ and made his child and forgiven. Please turn to Hymn #556 in your hymnal and let us joyfully sing these important words into our hearts receiving the forgiveness they convey in the work of Jesus to give us forgiveness, comfort and peace!

But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world's foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me, A father's heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave His dearest Treasure.

God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with you forever.

We can’t know who will be gathered … but we can trust that God knows. He will gather his children unto himself and all that believe in Christ will be saved. Those who have once shared this faith but have fallen away, God, by his Holy Spirit will continue to call and we pray once again give them life by the Spirit found only in Christ.

The kingdom and treasure that is Christ is given to you!

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