Monday, July 2, 2018

Sermon June 30-July 1, 2018

Title: Your faith has made you well!
Text: Mark 5:21-43

41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. (And many of us love our pets.)

Wrap love carefully around your hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock love up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness.

But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable ... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love … is Hell.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960, p.169.

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.

Jesus did not stay put he went among the people and they followed him.

22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death.[my heart is wrung and nearly broken] Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

One of the rulers of the synagogue comes to Jesus because his daughter is at the point of death. He knows that if he does nothing she will die and be lost to him forever. He has obviously heard about Jesus … the healings that he has done and is convinced that Jesus can heal her and can make her well, so he seeks him out and falls at his feet to implore him to come, so that she may be made well and live.
Jairus has faith in Jesus and trusts Christ Jesus to give his daughter life.

35 [But] while he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This is truly devastating news? Jairus learns from these people that his daughter has died and he is told “don’t bother [Jesus] any longer.”

Life, death, love, and faith all at work and all connected to Jesus.

Your faith has made you well!
I would like to share a story from my friend Paul Ruehl. It is also a story connected to my past as we have been friends for over 50 years.

Ill.

My friend Paul Ruehl had a life changing encounter that built his faith regarding his two daughters, Diana and Michelle.

Paul writes:

Diana was born June 8, 1979, nearly 3 months premature. She was perfectly formed and the most beautiful baby I have yet to ever see. She was a fighter. She was a preemie but she had a lot of spunk. The doctors put gauze around her ankles and wrists and pinned them to the sheet so she wouldn't pull the various monitors off or the tube that breathed air into her lungs. I was told that the first 48 hours were the most critical. At almost exactly 48 hours of life on June 10, 1979, Diana had a brain aneurysm and, literally, died in my arms. I could sense the life leave her as she died. I was 24 years old and absolutely devastated.

We fast forward one year. On June 9, 1980, my second daughter, Michelle was born, also nearly 3 months premature, but appearing in much worse shape than Diana had been. Michelle had absolutely no response to external stimuli. She did not respond to needle pricks as nurses drew her blood every hour, her eyes did not dilate when light was shined in them, she had no suck reflex and she could not breathe. A ventilator pumped 100% pure oxygen into her lungs. Room air is about 21% oxygen. I was told on June 10, 1980, the doctors did not think Michelle would make it through the night; that she would die on the same day one year after Diana had died. By this time I had been up nearly two days straight and went home to rest. The nice thing about Children's Hospital in Detroit is parents of the babies in the NICU can come and go at any time. I intended to sleep a few hours and come back and spend whatever time I could with Michelle. As I lay down to sleep, I cried out to God like I had never done before. I prayed a silly prayer asking God to allow her to live past midnight so she wouldn't die on June 10.

Then at 10:13 PM, June 10, 1980, I had a vision.

I had never had a vision before nor have I had one since. It was a vision and not a dream for I was clearly awake. In my vision, I saw Abraham laying Isaac on the altar, crying as he did so. I assumed God wanted Michelle's life so I cried out in a loud voice, "take her Lord, she's yours". I then fell into a deep sleep and slept at least 8 hours. When I awoke I was quite angry with myself for sleeping so long. I drove quickly to the hospital and ran up to the NICU. I scrubbed and put on a gown and literally ran to where I had last seen Michelle; her crib was gone. I was devastated and began to weep in sorrow. The nurse who had been taking care of Michelle the previous day asked me what was wrong. I said, "Where’s my baby". The nurse said, "We moved her, one of the other children needed her life support". I asked, "Why did you move her, did you give up on her?" The nurse spoke the sweetest words I have ever heard. She said, "Give up on her? She doesn't need it anymore." She proceeded to explain what the night shift nurse had told her when she reported for duty. She showed me the medical chart for Michelle from the night before and these charts literally record anything the babies do in NICU. There was a brief notation at 10:13 PM the night before. It stated, "baby extubated self". This means Michelle reached up with her own hand and pulled the tube out of her nose that was breathing for her. When Michelle did this, it set off all sorts of alarms which brought the doctors and nurses to her bedside. As one of the nurses was about to put the tube back in her nose, the doctor said to wait and see how she does. They watched in awe when she seemed to come alive and squirm and respond to ALL stimuli. She was ravenously hungry.

She was healed.

I was told that since Michelle had been on pure oxygen, she was likely brain damaged and blind. Michelle came home more than a month before she was due to be born. At about her original due date I took her to see a pediatric ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked. As the doctor evaluated her, he looked at the hospital report and he looked at Michelle then at me. He repeated this a couple times then asked me, "Why is she here?" I explained her start to life and what the doctors at the hospital had been concerned about. He told me, "this child has the eye sight of a one year old … I don't need to see her until she's ready for school." So much for being blind! As for being brain damaged, Michelle graduated third in her high school class and graduated from the US Air Force Academy. [At the time of this writing] Michelle is now a retired Major and pilot in the Air Force having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our joke is … if she was brain damaged, the Air Force would have made her a general!

The final chapter to this amazing story occurred only a few months after Michelle was born … at home, and doing very well.

In prayer, asked God what the vision meant. I knew I had seen it and obviously missed the point; I thought Michelle would die. To this day, I would swear I heard the voice of God chuckle and say "read the story, did Isaac die?" God wanted me to yield her life to him - he didn't want her to die. God heals today like he did when Jesus was walking the earth, in his way and his timing. That truth, this experience, has sustained me as much as anything I have experienced in my walk of faith. God can raise the dead to life, spiritually and physically. Praise His name forever.

Michelle’s Story: Paul Ruehl

Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

[And taking] the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

By faith, Jairus trusted his daughter to Jesus and she was raised from death to life. By faith my friend Paul commended his daughter to the Lord and she was removed from life support and given life. It is hard for me to believe that was already 38 years ago … because it seems like yesterday as I too lived with my friend through that experience.

And also by faith parents bring their children to the waters of Holy Baptism so that they too might be brought from death to life. Here they receive God’s mercy as they are buried with Christ and raised to newness of life in Baptism.

The apostle Paul articulates this in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 when he writes:

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

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

Amen

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sermon June 16-17, 2018

Title: The Lord produces fruit in you!
Text: Mark 4:26-34

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Dear friends,

There is a scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where nearing the end of his quest, Indiana, reaches an opening in a cliff but for him to continue on he must take a leap of faith to reach the other side.

As he looks out at what is before him he sees a chasm below that is seriously deep and way too far for him to reach or jump to on the other side. He has followed the directions in a book his father has given him. He faces a dilemma. What to do?

Finally as the scene climaxes and sweat pours off his face, he raises his leg, and stepping out in faith, walks off the face of the cliff. His foot lands on a solid bridge that was invisible to his sight. From his viewpoint there was no way to the other side. What we are shown as he continues across is that the perspective of the cliff face, on the other side, concealed the bridge that was right in front of him. In his leap of faith … perspective is everything.

So too in our lesson for today … Jesus had been sharing with His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God and using parables to explain their meaning. Jesus talked about seed and the sewing of the seed and how it took root and grew or didn’t depending on the soil where it landed.

And we read in Mark Chapter 4 starting at the 4th verse:

4 Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

The good soil produces an increase … growing … 30 … 60 and even 100 times the amount of seed that was planted!

The Gospel message, the good seed of the word, proclaimed and by the working of the Holy Spirit … produces fruit in you!

Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in our text today, as if a man should scatter seed. The image is vivid in our minds … at this time of year as we plant gardens or take vacations seeing the many farms and farmers planting seed in the ground. They all hope and expect a yield come harvest time.

At the time of our Lord’s lesson in the Gospel reading for today, the blessing that we know of running water, at the turn of the tap, and hoses that get the water to the plant was far off in the distant future.

And so the man who had sown seed, sleeps and rises … night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

29 … But, when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus continues to speak in our Gospel lesson today about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the mustard seed … a seed so small that when it is sown, into the ground, is tiny … 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The leap of faith that was taken in the fictitious character in the movie Indiana Jones was staged and it was achieved by sleight of hand and movie magic … but the reality of the powerful tool of the Gospel given in word and sacrament to you by faith is still for some … no big deal.

Even here in church the seed of the word is scattered and falls upon different soil. Some falls on the path … being left where it fell for the birds to find, some on the rocky soil and it sprouts quickly in the service but upon leaving church is scorched by the sun and the cares of the day. Other seed falls among the thorns, which can be those of you who really don’t want to be here and grudgingly come, but the word gets choked and yields no grain. But, some seed falls on good soil and with you the seed of the word takes root; it sprouts and grows – very slowly at times. But, with joy you leave here, sharing the word and the love of Christ producing a yield of 30, 60 or even 100 times!

For others … You might come to church reluctantly. You might have opportunities to tell someone outside church about Jesus … and forget to. You might even at times feel like you are … well … small and insignificant.

You might feel that what you say won’t matter, or that what you say won’t have the eloquence of speech of others, or that what you say concerning Christ … won’t work to expand God’s kingdom.

The doubts you feel … many feel. But Jesus tells you in this parable that God will take your imperfect speech, He will take even the slightest and smallest witness … through your failed stuttering and muttering about Christ and His saving work and grow His kingdom 30, 60 and even 100 times. The word which has been sown will not return void!

We read in Isaiah Chapter 55

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Just like the tiny mustard seed … which seems at the beginning …so insignificant … God grows to unbelievable dimensions over time so that the riches of Christ reach so far out that even those that don’t want to come to church and those that don’t want to hear the message of salvation will be transformed through the word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word of God is power. We’re told in Romans 1, by the apostle Paul:

…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16)

I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate my point:

(Silence)

You see … the story about Christ and His saving work can’t be heard … if no one tells the story. If you think that someone else, better than you, will come along to tell the story later … all that may be heard by your friend, neighbor or relative is silence. The word of God is the power and the seed that is sewn unto salvation for those that need to hear the Gospel, and by this power – God - will transform hearts and grow his kingdom now and for eternity. Sometimes it is a very slow growth but understand God is working and His church is growing.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but we have plenty of room here at church in this service and have been on a downward trend these last 15 years. It’s time to sew the seed of the word and trust that God will use the smallest, slightest and weakest witness about Himself to grow His kingdom.

He will bring the truth about Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit and plant, in the lives of others, the seed of the word and grow the church to unbelievable yields.
He gives you the power to change lives … by His word, through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There is a poem that poses a question we all need to ask ourselves. It’s called Builders and Wreckers.

As you listen to this poem consider the work of God and the tiny mustard seed and what can be done by the power of the God’s Spirit in the lives of those who build the kingdom through our failed abilities and efforts … by God’s word and Spirit.

Builders and Wreckers (A poem to ponder)

As I watched them tear a building down

A gang of men in a busy town

With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell

They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,

And the men you'd hire if you’d want to build?"

He gave a laugh and said, "No, indeed,

Just common labor’s all I need."

"I can easily wreck in a day or two,

What builders take many years to do."

And I thought to myself, as I went my way

What about me, which role do I play?

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my work as best I can

And patiently sharing the Master’s plan?

Or, am I a wrecker who walks to town

… Content with only tearing down?

"O Lord let my life and my labors be

God’s work, built up for eternity!"

Author Unknown


Friend’s, the power of the gospel will build the kingdom of God. Through the weakest of speech and the slightest of skill, the power of God will use even your smallest of efforts, in proclaiming Christ to a dying world, to do His will and bring His people to faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Those that are bound in this life to sin, death and the devil are set free by the power of the Gospel message and believe. The kingdom of God is found only in Christ and His saving Gospel which is the Good News and the message of salvation for everyone who believes.

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom comforting you with this truth

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

Amen

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sermon June 9-10, 2018 Anniversary

Title: Your sins are forgiven in Christ!
Text: 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

What a joyful time for our congregation! We celebrate today the many blessings of God given here at Peace over the last 55 years as we honor this place of worship now well into our 30th year!

Our first worship service was held here in this building on September 13, 1987 and our Festival of Dedication service was held on October 25, 1987 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with Pastor Merrell officiating as the liturgist and the Festival Sermon being delivered by the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Schlecht – now called to glory and at home with the Lord.

Pastor Merrell, who has served Peace as pastor for over 32 years and additionally 5 years as pastor emeritus, is once again fulfilling that great blessing of conducting the church’s liturgy for us here at Peace today, and I get to stand in for Dr. Schlecht - a man I knew and heard preach many times during my time at St. John in Rochester in the late 90s.

What a wonderful blessing and humbling experience to say the least.

Surely the Lord is in this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Alleluia! Gen. 28:16-17

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he has girded himself. Psalm 93:1

So began the introit for the dedication of this wonderful building some 30 years ago quoting Gen 28 and Psalm 93.

In the same joy Paul addresses the Corinthians:

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The glorious word of God who spoke in time past – was written for our learning - and also we have spoken and continue to speak God’s word, here and in this place, as a confident hope of a savior who saves – Jesus Christ our Lord.

The confidence of those Peace members, of time past, who undertook this big project of building a new church and a new home by a step of faith did so, not in their own confidence or power, but in hope and in the power of God.

“No phase two!” Judy Harroun once told me about the planning of this place. “You never get to phase two or three so we decided to build what we needed from the start.” And so it was here at Peace. A big church was built, for a growing congregation, with a fellowship hall, on a large piece of land (17 some acres), with room for expansion.

Dr. Schlecht’s sermon was titled “Time for Praise and Commitment” a fitting title for then and a fitting thought for today as we rededicate and recommit ourselves to the Lord’s work here at Peace in this beautiful sanctuary now 30 years old.

So what do the next 30 years hold?

When this building was dedicated this congregation had been around for almost 25 years. Much had changed and Pastor Merrell was the fifth pastor to serve Peace. An average of 5 years of service for each pastor - though some had only served three years here. Pastor Merrell was already changing the culture here at Peace and pushing the average up. By the time he retired those same 5 pastors had served the church for 50 years of its existence thanks to 32 years of Pastor Merrell’s service.

God blessed Peace much during his service. As he once told me when they closed the old building and dedicated the land here for it future use it gave the congregation a real picture of whom and what the church is – the people. Not any people but the people here that God has called and gathered to hear his word and receive his gifts now 55 years into existence.

As Paul reminds the Corinthians:

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

We are here today to give thanks for the grace of God that has been extended to the people of Peace in our previous building and in this place today. We celebrate with joy and thanksgiving all that God has done and this time of praise and recommitment for God’s people here.

How do we go forward? What does the future hold? Who is going to do the work tomorrow and in the years to come?

I don’t know – but the Lord does. It is in fact his house, his people, and his kingdom.

On Transfiguration Sunday in February of 1963 when this church began I was a 7 year old Slovak, Roman Catholic boy living in Allen Park Michigan with no connection to Waterford, Peace, Lutheranism or what the future held – but the Lord did.

In 1987 at the Feast of Dedication service here at Peace I was a 32 year old married father of two still with no connection to Peace or Lutheranism – but the Lord had moved me to Waterford!

In February of 2013 as we prepared to celebrate our 50th anniversary of this congregation I was preparing to officiate as the newly ordained and installed 6th Pastor here at Peace. Much had changed in my life and change had come upon Peace as well. But it was all in accord with the Lord’s will, plan and desire.

What was once a new congregation and what was once a new building have now been in mission and ministry for 55 years together. 

Much has changed and many who have served here are resting in Jesus. We think of them, we miss them, and we thank them for all that the Lord has given us through them.

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

It is the Lord’s work though he uses sinful people in service to him and in service to one another.

Though we age and change through the years his plan and work continues.

Though we as a congregation are not a new mission start as we were in 1963 we can still be renewed as we focus on our mission and ministry together.

Our Mission Statement makes clear what we as Christ’s followers and children here at peace are to do – "To witness and live as followers of Christ; serving one another in Christian love, so that God’s Holy Spirit may save the lost and strengthen the saved”

We live our lives together as followers of Jesus so that the love of Christ might dwell in us through the forgiveness of sins found in the gospel of Jesus and that by God’s continued work through the Holy Spirit those who are lost might be saved and we who are saved might be strengthened.

The work of the church hasn’t changed but the times that we live and the people have. Our work as the church requires new people, new thoughts, and a new vision as to how we might best fulfill God’s mission here at Peace.

It might require new people and a new thinking as how best to do the work God has given us to do here. Obviously the internet, email, and social media were not part of the fabric of society in 1963 and social norms, same sex marriage and gender identity were not embraced by our society - as they are today - when this building was completed and dedicated in 1987. So how we share the love of Christ and the gospel message going forward will require new ideas, new methods and new opportunities.

7 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The things that are seen are transient – lasting only for a short time; impermanent – even this building and its use as a place of worship may someday come to an end.

As we ourselves will leave this tent that is our earthly home for the life eternal one day - knowing that we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

This is the hope that all followers of Christ have and will continue to share - that all our sins will be forgiven and that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

I pray that this joy and this hope will be our focus and mission as we together make know the love of Christ to a broken world here at Peace and here in Waterford.

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

Amen

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sermon June 2-3, 2018

Title: Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest!
Text: Mark 2:23-28


27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Well, I’d say that summer has arrived. Not that we had a spring mind you but last weekend was beautiful and hot! On my day off which was Friday I was planning to take a long motorcycle ride and enjoying the weather. But, as happens … I noticed some things that needed to be done in the yard so I dug out the area around my bird feeder and cleaned out the landscape rocks, replaced the area with some new sod and did a few other landscape projects in my yard. By the time the day came to a close I was tired and needed rest.

I’m sure you’ve felt those times as well? Tired, burdened and wearied … and you just need to rest.

In our gospel reading for today Jesus and his disciples are walking on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. Now God’s work of creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day God rested from all his work.

2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:1-3

God made the Sabbath – holy - or set apart as a day of rest.

The religious leaders made rules to expand and explain what God intended. The Ten Commandments became more than 613 Jewish rabbinical laws and rules to explain and define them.

Take the Sabbath for instance:

Instead of a day of rest it became a day of Mitvah and Gezeirah – laws and rules. Each with varying degrees of punishment.

From Religion facts about Rabbinic law:

“A gezeirah is a rule instituted by the rabbis to prevent inadvertent violation of a mitzvah. For instance, it is a mitvah to refrain from work on the Sabbath, but a gezeirah to avoid even the handling of any work instruments on the Sabbath.”

http://www.religionfacts.com/rabbinic-law

So it’s bad and against religious law to clean the ground around the bird feeder and move the rocks on the Sabbath, but to even take up the shovel which might lead to work breaks the law as well.

General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colon Powell besides being generals both worked as Shabbes goys. A Shabbes goy was a non Jew who was hired to do work on the Sabbath that was not permitted for the Jew himself to do. So even though the Rabbinic laws were being broken, and even though the intent of the Jewish homeowner was to break the law, because it was a Gentile worker that did the work and broke the law the Jewish homeowner might believe – no harm, no flow – I’m good!

The intent of the law was broken and the spirit of the law was broken. So I guess that there is no rest for the weary on the Sabbath.

24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they [your disciples Jesus] doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Even though it is not you Jesus that’s plucking the grain – they are your followers – what are you going to do about it!

What do you do with those that break the law?

You charge them! You find them guilty! You sentence them! And you punish them!

3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:3

As one commentator put it: “Jesus lays his finger on the real trouble with these Pharisees: too much reading of rabbinical law and not enough of divine law.”

The interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel R.C.H. Lenski Pg 126

Or: too much trying to become righteous and not enough of being made righteous.

Too much Work and not enough rest. Or, as Lutherans we might say a confusion of Law and Gospel.

Keeping the law is good.

1. You shall have no other gods
2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
3. You shall remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy

The first table of the Law – the first three commandments - pertains to our relationship to God.

Have no other gods, do not misuse god’s name and keep his day holy – or set apart.

Luther in his explanation to the Small Catechism and keeping the Sabbath day holy tells us that we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

To hold it sacred - is to keep it holy or set apart. To gather together as the community of faith, to hear the word of the Lord, to learn all that god would have us know and to rest … in the mercy and work of God.

Ill.

As a child growing up during in a Roman Catholic household during Lent eating no meat on Friday was a given. It was a Law it was a rule in my house. Friday … no meat! The purpose of this was to give up meat and to fast and focus on Christ and his walk to the cross to sacrifice his life for me. But, all it did was to get me to focus on meat! I wanted it and would do whatever I could to figure out what I needed to do to get it - without my mom knowing. Maybe there was a good intent to meatless Friday’s but it brought a wrong outcome for me.

25 And [Jesus] said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

I don’t believe that it was Jesus’ intent here to point out a loophole. He is not saying “See, what David did! My disciples are not doing nearly as bad as they did.” If his intent was to make a point, Jesus, could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25 which reads:

25 If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Jesus would have surly known this miscellaneous law from Deuteronomy 23 as I’m sure the Pharisees did as well. But the greater point that Jesus I contend is making - is with his conclusion:

7 ...“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The day of rest is for us (you and me) - not we for the day. Our feeble attempt to keep the Law of God shows that we trust ourselves and our work as opposed to Christ and his finished work on our behalf. 

We keep the Law when we rest in Christ and his word. As we hear God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit we are either turned in repentance or comforted by God’s forgiveness.

In fact thinking that we are keeping the Law by our effort is a pretty sure sign that we have another god and another gospel made in our own image.

Not that the Law is bad mind you, but apart from Christ it is another idol made in our own self-serving image. The Pharisees did not love God, with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and they did not love their neighbor as their self. They were in fact loving themselves and justifying their own works of Law keeping while the very Lord of life who rested and instituted the day of rest for you and me walked with his disciples through the grain field.

The Sabbath rest is in Christ. Our Sabbath rest is Christ!

It is no longer a specific day or time though Sunday – the first day of the week – is marked as the day Christians gather together to hear the word of the Lord. The Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest in him. The day, the time, and the Law are all fulfilled in Jesus and we rest in him whether we work on the weekends and worship during the week - or come together:

On the first day of the week.

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!” Mark 16:1-1-2;4b-6

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

Amen

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sermon May 26-27, 2018

Title: Through Christ your salvation is secure!
Text: John 3:1-17

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The early church father St. Augustine was once accosted by an unbeliever who showed him his idol and said, "Here is my god; where is yours?" Augustine replied, "I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see Him."

Unknown.

In our Old Testament reading for today we read of Isaiah's Vision of the Lord.

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Our God cannot be seen apart from God’s own revealing. This Weekend we celebrate the working of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity for the salvation of the world.

By God’s own working we know that:

Through Christ your salvation is secure!

The story of Nicodemus from the gospel of John in chapter 3 is a foundational and interesting one, in which we hear from the Lord Himself as to what the working from God is, and how He redeems His fallen creation from the sin of Adam and Eve … restoring the relationship between God and man.

Jesus begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with a description of man’s fallen condition, saying in chapter 2:25: “For He (Jesus) knew what was in man.” Meaning the brokenness and sin we all have inherited.

As Jesus begins His talk with Nicodemus who is called … “a man of the Pharisees,” Jesus says: 3 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The ESV translates the Greek word ὰνωθεν (anōthen) as born again, which can also mean born anew or born from above, which conveys maybe a better understanding of this fallen state that you and I are born into and how God working through the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit, points, we who are dead in trespass and sin, to the finished work of Jesus Christ for the restoring of the relationship between God and man.

Being born in sin as stated earlier … man (each one of us) must now be reborn, born again, or born from above – born of God. The flesh, Jesus speaks of in John 3:6:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Is speaking of our human condition, which gives birth only to our broken sinful self through the natural means of birth, we can only be conceived in sin but through our rebirth from above, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born anew to a newness of life given by God and called to be His own children, As Saint Peter says, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23) This born again alludes to the Spirit’s work, in you and in me, working through the word.

Jesus explains to Nicodemus that, this rebirth from above comes from being born of water and the Spirit (Vs 5) and comes to us through the waters of Holy Baptism. God through the word connected to the water and by Christ’s command and promise, brings this rebirth to fruition. Through this water and word the Spirit works. Just as our Lord and savior, Jesus “comes from above,” so to the redeemed, His children, must be born “from above.”

We live in a broken world and it seems to get more broken all the time.

The recent shootings at schools in Florida and Texas bring into clear focus just how broken in trespass and sins we are.
How can you make sense out of this?

Well for one, a breakdown in the family leads to a breakdown in society.

We’ve been going down that road for quite a long time. No connection to the faith for many - and that is also evident in the children of believers as well -who have left the faith and active attendance in worship to find hope in society that promises no real hope.

For many around the world - just confessing Christ can bring death and martyrdom in a world that has become so very small and all too close for comfort for our own lives. Life surly seems at times as bad as it can get and you like me must feel at a loss … What can I do?

From above the Son came down and dwelt among His people. Though He was united to flesh in His incarnation, it was the sinless flesh of the God/man Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, the revelation of God and the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. (Col 2:9)

This one who came down from heaven would be lifted up as well on the Cross … for you. Just as the serpent was lifted up in the desert by Moses as a type of the Christ and in the same way that some of the Israelite's looked to the bronze serpent on the pole in the desert and lived, so too those who look to the Son – even in the midst of persecution - lifted high on His cross and trusting in His finished work for the forgiveness of sins, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will live.

Just as God saved His people Israel in the desert by the lifting of the serpent on the pole by Moses, so to God has delivered His people from their sin, death and the power of the Devil by the atoning work of Jesus Christ at the cross.

The fullness of God, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit was fully involved in your redemption.

God in John 3:16 bring the fullness of His desire and mission to Nicodemus. That because of God’s great love, he has sent His Son to be united to human flesh … yet without sin … and to stand in the place of all humanity receiving the bloody baptism of God’s wrath at the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, so that all humanity might hear, receive and trust the Good News of the Gospel, and be saved. The “Him” to whom Jesus speaks of in the discourse with Nicodemus and the person to whom we must believe and trust, is the very Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ who became man for our sake so that we might be redeemed by Him and trust in His name.

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 at around 3:00 AM in the morning. His last words and actions were recorded by his dear friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, “Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?” To this Luther responded affirmatively … “Yes!” Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5

In his last prayer he said to God, “Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands.”

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2007/06/30/ten-martin-luther-myths/

This is the same question you and I will ourselves need to give answer to.

“Will you die steadfast in Christ”

And you I can answer as Luther did: “Yes!” Because we too have the same Spirit at work in us and just as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 31:5:

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

You can know for certain that you shall live with Christ eternally and that no one will be able to pluck you out of His hands.

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

Amen

Monday, May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

#913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In

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

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

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

And the diversity of those that hear is large.

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

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

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

The Spirit of truth will tell you about Jesus.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

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

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

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

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

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

Ugly truth or beautiful truth?

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

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


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

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

As Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

And as was confessed today in the Nicene Creed:

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

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

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

To be comforted at times is good,

To be helped at times is also good,

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sermon May 12-13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We’ve heard the unity cries before.

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

Jesus says:

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

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

We lower the bar rather than honor God’s commands

We change the definition rather than honoring the truth. 

Your word – Jesus says - is truth.

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

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

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

Epistle 1 John 5:12

Our epistle reading follows this confirms this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Luther tells us:

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

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9

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

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

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