Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sermon June 10-11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrast Luther to my own experience:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther: “Tell me what to do father!”

Staupitz brings some practical wisdom to Luther’s life.

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

Martin Luther Heretic: DVD quoted

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

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

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

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

Amen

Sermon June 3-4, 2017 Pentecost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The text was John 21:17

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that is why Don finally left.

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sermon May 27-28, 2017 Memorial Day

Title: Christ’s desire is that you remain in him!
Text: John 17:1-11

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

On the church sign out front I put these words last week: “Christ is our cornerstone – Blessed Memorial Day.” For we the church the freedoms we enjoy in this country have come at great expense for so many that have given their lives to protect our freedoms. It is right to remember and to honor those this Memorial Day at these National holidays.

As the church though, we stand on the Rock, who is the cornerstone of our faith Jesus Christ and his work; on him alone do we trust. It is my hope and prayer that all who today and in the future serve to defend the freedoms we enjoy know and receive the comfort that is Christ Jesus as savior and Lord.

Our freedom required cost and sacrifice. As we learned in our voter’s meeting last Sunday our own Skip Bushart’s, Fallen Heroes Memorial Foundation builds memorials around the state to honor those, like his son Damien who gave their life in service to our country - as their motto states: “Lest they be forgotten.”

In his High Priestly Prayer to the Father our Lord Jesus says:

17… “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

The gift of eternal life is given, not earned, and while heroes in this life deserve to be remembered … you don’t have to be a hero to receive the gift.

We receive all sorts of things in this life that we don’t deserve. My parents and many of your parents sacrificed much to make sure that we had the very best they could give. We were fed and clothed, taught what was right and wrong and how to treat others. My parents made sure that I received an education, even though I might have wanted to skip school and play they knew this was important for me and would help me in the future.

At 48 when I went back to school to prepare for seminary I said to my dad when he asked me how my schooling was going, “It’s going well but all the other kids tell me their parents are paying for their schooling.”

My dad said, “Well that’s nice Russ … if you were still a kid I’d be paying too.

As Christians my parents knew something else that was good for me too and Jesus makes it clear in his prayer.

3 that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

It was important for my parents that I knew Christ and that he knew me. Why? Well Jesus says … this is eternal life … that we know the Father and Jesus who the Father has sent. So they brought me to the means that God gave and I was baptized and given new birth in baptism one month after being born. My parents knew this was good for me just as they knew that I needed their physical care around the clock too.

I didn’t know what I needed. But seeing children today that are newborns I understand now that when they’re hungry - they cry, when they need changed - they cry, when they need anything - they cry.

Maybe it is a sign of the death we are born into. If children were born and left to make their own way … without their parents care … they would die, so God in his mercy has given his means to his church and we as loving parents bring God’s mercy and forgiveness to those in need … from the youngest to the oldest.

3 And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
As Jesus said last week in our Gospel, he would not leave us as orphans to care for ourselves but that the Holy Spirit, the comforter who he was sending from the Father would bring true comfort. This gift is given to you and me and all through word and sacrament and it brings real peace.

Peace though in our world is fleeting. The bombing at a pop concert this past week in England once again shows the decay and brokenness of this world. Death too comes to those young and old in this life and we know not the day or hour. We remember this weekend those who have given their lives defending our freedom and we remember the hope that is found only in the one who is the way the truth and the life – Jesus Christ – the only way to the Father.

It is comforting to know that in our text Jesus is praying for you and for me and for all far away born in and struggling with sin, death and devil.

Jesus says:

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

The reality of life and death in war came to me in a real way at the start of the first Gulf War. My brother Tom, an Annapolis Naval Academy Grad had finished flight school, was on the US Ranger in the Persian Gulf, and was in the first flight wave sent in during Desert Storm. I remember praying at work for him and for all who served. Thankfully he survived and following a 30 year career retired as a Captain with distinction. He works today for Northrop Grumman on Long Island. In an interesting twist his EA6B Prowler that he flew for his entire military service is placed on permanent static display at the world headquarters. His company had no idea that the plane coming in was his but on the pilot cockpit it says Captain Tom Tack.

I am thankful for my brother’s service and for all who serve. I also in prayer lift up all who continue to serve that they remain safe but most importantly that they know Christ and receive the gift of eternal life in his name.

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


                              Song - Pray For the Boys - The Earls of Leicester


Sermon May 20-21, 2017

Title: The comforter points to our true comfort, Jesus!
Text: John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The soldier's first article of faith is summed up nowhere more eloquently than in an 1865 letter from William Tecumseh Sherman to U.S. Grant: "I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come … if alive."

Source Unknown.

In the life of the Christian, the good news is that you will not be left alone. The Holy Spirit is with you and will comfort you whenever you are in a tight place … you do not have to hope that He will come to you … for He dwells with you and will be in you!

The comforter points to our true comfort, Jesus!

Jesus, in John 14 is sending the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be our comfort and our hope. He had told the disciples about that hope and not to be troubled, to believe in God and also to believe in Him and that He would be going to prepare a place for them, that where He is they too may be also. To Thomas’ question of how they could know the way Jesus replied that He is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him … and to Philip’s question to show us the Father, Jesus said, whoever has seen me, has seen the Father!

There is a very close connection between Jesus and the Father. To see Christ is to see God and to know Christ is to know the Father; one God in essence, uniqueness of persons. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father but the mystery of the Godhead in there for the first disciples and for us as well.

Today’s reading begins:

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Well that’s comforting. We poor sinners confess unto you that we are by nature sinful and unclean! God’s Law we can’t keep and his law shows us our sin and that we fall short daily needing the comfort and forgiveness only given us by God himself through His comforting absolution pronounced by His called and ordained servants, in the stead and by the command of Christ.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth.

The Disciples are being comforted that when Jesus leaves them and ascends back to the Father, the helper, the Spirit of truth, will be with them [and us] forever.

The Holy Spirit's role is to shine the light on our Lord Jesus Christ.

Seeing the building of our church here at Peace with the new lights lit out front as I turned in the drive, I realized that this was a great illustration for the message today.

When lighting is well done, the lights make visible the building when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness. This illustrates the Spirit's role and work. He is, the hidden light shining on the Savior.

It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace." The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring you and Christ together and ensure that you and Christ Jesus stay together.

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

But you don’t … and I don’t. We don’t love God or our neighbors as ourselves. We fall short, we miss the mark. It’s like having directions to our destination and always getting lost … always making the wrong turn!

Some years ago I had a good example of this as Bob Poe and I drove to the Doxology conference in DeWitt, MI. I’m driving, knowing that I need exit 87. Bob says, “Pastor, isn’t this our exit?” Oh yes it is Bob, thanks for letting me know as I quickly move right to exit the freeway!

On the way home I’m heading north on I-69 towards I-75 when I hear, “Pastor, isn’t this our exit?” Oh, thanks again Bob for pointing that out to me, as I once again move right quickly so as not to miss the, I-75 exit and our way home.

In a similar way the Spirit shows you when you miss the mark, when you are going the wrong way and He, as the Helper who will be in you and with you forever, points you back to Jesus … so that you once again see the error of your sin and where you fall short, but also see the way the truth and the Life … Jesus, who kept the commandments – the Law - perfectly for you and who the Spirit will continue to point you to, Christ Jesus our Lord – the light of the world and the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and His gracious forgiveness and love for you and for all who love God and are called according to His purpose!

The comforter points to our true comfort, Jesus!

Jesus said:

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Ill.

There was a young boy living in Paris at the end of the World War II. He had been orphaned by the atrocities committed within his city by the occupying German forces. He scrounged around the ruined city as best as he could to find food, clothes and shelter. But everyone was living in desperate times and he found that people either ignored him and or could find nothing to give him. Even the soldiers who had freed Paris from the German army seemed to not care about his situation.

He had heard the Priest in the church, long before war had broken out, talk about God and Jesus and living the Christian life. But with the hell on earth that the war had brought he had since lost hope of any sense of Heaven.

One cold morning, he was wandering down the street, staring into the windows of shops and caf├ęs. He stopped outside the window of a small bakery. The smell of the fresh bread made his stomach ache with pain. He was so held by the smell and sights of the bakery, he didn’t notice the American soldier who had stopped in the street and had begun watching him with interest. The boy hardly noticed the G.I. as walked past him and into the store. He did however notice the large bag the baker was filling for the G.I. with rolls, breads, pastries and other foods. And the boy could hardly breathe when the soldier exited the shop, knelt down and handed him the bag.

The boy looked at the G.I. with astonishment and gratefulness. Finally, he looked at the soldier and asked him the question that was running through his mind: “Mister, are you Jesus?”

Kyle Meador

It is Jesus who gives us every good and perfect gift. It is Jesus who will not leave you as orphans. It is Jesus who took your sin upon himself at the cross burying it in the tomb and it is Jesus, who asks the Father to send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, to you, so that you can continue to see Christ, the author and finisher of your faith Jesus.

Christ says:

Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

By the Spirit, Christ will make Himself known to you! Because death could not end Christ it will not be your end. Because of the work of the Spirit in the life of God’s children … you will know Him and His ways and you will be found acceptable because you will be clothed in the robes of the God/man Himself Jesus Christ the Righteous one.

Remember:

In the life of the Christian, the good news is that we will not be left alone. The Holy Spirit is in you and with you and will comfort you in all trials … because you do not have to wonder if He will come to you … for He dwells with you and will be in you!

The comforter points to our true comfort, Jesus!

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

Amen

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sermon May 13-14, 2017

Title: The way of Jesus leads to life eternal!
Text: John 14:1-14

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

It is a joy to celebrate the blessings that come to us through our mothers and a blessed mother’s day to all. Many of you joy in the mother’s you still have and some, I’m sure long for the mother’s they once had. Some were blessed with godly step mothers and others had mothers that missed the mark of what good mothering should be.

As a pastor for the short time of only 4 ½ years I’ve done a number of funerals; some for mothers, and some fathers and uncles and dear friends. Funerals are a place of grief. Death is not something any of us wants to think about or deal with but as was shared in my message from last weekend … it comes unexpectedly, as it did with my own mother.

For us death is who we are. We are born dead in trespass and sin. The wages of sin is death. On Ash Wednesday as the ashes are placed upon our forehead in the sign of the cross we hear these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Death at times pretends to be comforting. You may hear at a funeral, “He’s in a better place.” Or, “Well, she’s not suffering anymore.” I assume it is how we who remain deal with the loss of a loved one. But the reality is that death is not a good thing. It is the consequence for we who are born in sin.

It is what awaits you are me. It is with that in mind that I remember some of our dear Peace loving mother's who have gone to be with the Lord: Hilda Klein, Joan Kitzman, Lucille Schreiner, Betty Gedeon, Betty Buchannan, Carlene Constable, Marge Goit, Dorothy Blackerby, Eleanor Young, Maude Lewis, Frieda Fleaner, and Sandy Krueger.

In our gospel today Jesus said to his disciples:

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

This text is often used at funerals. It is for comfort and hope. Death is real but so is Christ’s rescue.

What also is interesting is the context of the hope that Jesus gives here in the beginning of chapter 14 with the last line of verse that he says in Chapter 13 where he turns to St. Peter and says,

“I tell you the truth, [truly, truly] before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

Not only then but now as well. We disown the savior daily and not just three times. It is daily. It is willful, and it is often, day in and day out until we die.

It is in that context that Christ’s  - Let not your hearts be troubled - is truly good news and why it is so important that it be shared at times of great grief and suffering. Peter was standing tall … thinking he knew all:

When Jesus washed the disciples feet Peter asked:

“Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Then Peter said:

“You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have [no part of] me.”

[He tells them] 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. He tells them to love one another, to serve one another, to care for one another … because where he is going they cannot come.

Not in their own strength at least.

And Peter in his own strength says: Lord, why can’t I follow you? I’ll lay down my life for you. But in reality that’s you and that’s me. We think we can stand. In the midst of trial, in the midst of temptation, in the midst of sin … we fall … denying the Lord and the rooster crows that reality in our own lives.

I thought about this with confirmation last Sunday … right in the middle of the Rite of confirmation as I am going through the Rite with the confirmands I say:

“Do you in tend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?

Do you intend to live according to the word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?

And finally:

Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?

To all of this they answer, “I do.”

In a sense saying like St. Peter: I’ll lay down my life for you!

But, the confirmands add to their “I do.” These words: “By the grace of God.”
That is what Peter missed. His strength and our strength, as it is connected to faith, life, and eternal life … is in God’s hands and by his grace.

As I wrestle with so many who are confirmed and no longer come to church regularly … I remind myself of the old pastor’s proverb:

Jesus is God and I am not!

In chapter 13 Peter is confused and asks Jesus, “Lord where are you going?”

Thomas in chapter 14 asks:

5 … “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

To this Jesus answers:

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

It is really good news to hear that God has washed you and he has washed our confirmation students as well. They like we have been made partakers of eternal life. It is God who through the means he has provided of Word and Sacrament will keep them and us in the one true faith.

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

That is good news for pastors ... for you dear members and for ... mothers!

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

Amen

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sermon May 6-7, 2017 Confirmation

Title: In Christ the good Shepherd is made known to the sheep!
Text: John 10:1-10

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: 

"James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom." 

No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers. 

Bill Morgan.

That is the joy that we celebrate today as we receive new members – Olivia Fisher and Brianna Squanda through First Communion, and Loren Robar and Logan Thompson through Confirmation. They have entered the sheepfold through the door which is Christ and know the voice of the Good Shepherd.

To be in the sheepfold of Christ is to be in his care. This happens by Christ’s work. Through word and sacrament God makes us his. Though dead in sin he makes us alive in Christ and calls us to rise from the death of sin to eternal life. All of these children have been brought from death to life through the water’s of Holy Baptism.

There are many thieves and robbers. They point us away from the door of the sheepfold and direct us in other ways to enter. “Come over here or climb over here!” They call. But sheep know the voice of the shepherd and it is him only that they hear and listen too.

Do sheep ever stumble and get led away?

Ill.

Dr. Andrew Bonar tells ho

In the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. 

"Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked. "Ah!" He said, "they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!" And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have [reached bottom], have no friends, and have lost everything. 

If you are a wanderer - the Good Shepherd will bring you back [by the power of the Holy Spirit. But more importantly God will never leave you nor forsake you but will be with you and by his Spirit point you to Jesus and his cross and salvation in his name.]

Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 70-71.

We all get enticed to go our own way. I’m finished with Confirmation! That may be the start. Then we stop attending worship or come only occasionally. We think that other things are more important. We focus on the sweetness of the tall grass so to speak. 

For me it was guitars. I loved the way they looked. I loved the way they sounded. Life focused on attaining a good one … then another … and another. Rock bands and music became my god. I worshiped at the altar of self. Christ fell into obscurity. Why wouldn’t he … I skipped church to go to breakfast. I fed my belly and not my spirit.

Then death came … unexpectedly. 

My world was broken. My mother got cancer … and she died.

Life didn’t seem as joyful. The wages of sin came crashing down on me too.

My future was changed. A grandmother for my children was taken from me and from them. Where was hope?

As I sat in the quiet of my own ledge – sitting in my chair in the basement - and having fed on all the tall grass of life of music, of guitars and the hope of things being good, successful, and going my way, I was left with the reality of what awaits us all … death, and at some point we all die.

What awaits me, I thought? What awaits you?

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

I’d been listening to thieves and robbers. I’ve been worshiping wood, fashioned into the shape of a guitar that was my hope instead of the wood of the cross where Jesus died for my sin and the sin of the whole world. It is not in the wood but in the one who came to be my hope and to give me hope that I find true peace. My mother died and I lost much but what I found was that Jesus found me. In fact he never left me but was with me when I when away calling me back. By the Holy Spirit he continued to point me to the cross, even when I fought against it thinking I didn’t need church. I can do this myself. But Jesus says:

9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
The door of Holy Baptism has brought you to this place. You cave been buried with Christ and raised to newness of life and now you confirm that

YES, Jesus has rescued me! The door that is Jesus Christ himself has promised me eternal life and I now confirm this, in the presence of these witnesses, that I am … Jesus Little Lamb!

A child’s song; Yes! But it is through child like faith that we believe, receive and have all that God has promised.

Jesus says:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. [But] I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Let us joyfully together sing the Hymn; I am Jesus’ Little Lamb. It is in a bulletin insert with a fourth confirmation verse for us all.

You are all his little lamb, Christ is the door and the sheepfold is his church where he forgives our sins, feeds us his true body and blood and strengthens our faith now and for eternity!

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

Amen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sermon April 29-30, 2017

Title: With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!
Text: Luke 24:13-35

32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

It is interesting to me how life has changed. Years ago, when I was young spending time with cousins and aunts that lived in other states was limited to a week or two vacation with the family and a trip to visit. There was then the longing and wishing that we could see each other more often. I tried writing letters and being a pen pal with a few cousins but it didn’t work for very long.

Today though, I’ve reconnected with cousins, aunts and other relatives that live out of state. We do it through email but more and more frequently through Facebook and messenger. That can be a very wonderful medium. It is nice to have instant connectivity with friends and loved ones. Much of what we do is to share memories, pictures and events in our lives and remember good times and celebrate special events like, graduations, weddings and retirements. Facebook provides a place to connect, reconnect and stay in touch. Important news – like my Suzuki motorcycle and passing my riding test - needs to be celebrated and shared!

In the Gospel today we read of two followers of Jesus on the Emmaus Road.

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself … came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

Remember this:

Now what they were discussing was the very hope they had … that this Jesus … was the promised Messiah. But, He had just been tried, and was crucified, dead and buried, and they heard something about being raised from the dead? They were distraught as they walked away from Jerusalem towards village of Emmaus, all hope seemed lost. If they had facebook you can imaging the their post of a sad death.

But they were kept from recognizing the resurrected Lord.

We all are kept from recognizing our Lord and savior too. It is only by a gift of God’s grace, through faith that we can see … who Jesus is and what he has done. It doesn’t come from our own reason and understanding, so that is why our children are taught from little children to hear God’s word and learn about Jesus and to be in worship … so they, like we, can recognize HIM! 

It is also why the responsibility for their continued involvement in church is so important and is the responsibility of their … parents and grandparents, guardians and friends. So, they too can know Jesus.

John’s gospel tells us so.

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

This Gospel truth gives faith to those who hear by the working of the Holy Spirit. This faith points back to Jesus, and tells us who he is as both God and man and what He came to do – for you and me. So that our eyes are opened and that we see and recognize Christ!

As the disciples continued walking:

25 Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Much like Jesus, those who bring God’s word to those who need to be taught, do the very same thing. They explain in the scriptures the work of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and how through the entire word of God, both Old and New testaments, all that Jesus came to do. Social media too is a way for the message to be shared both individually as Christians and by our church as we share our faith and proclaim God’s blessings in Christ. It is a way for the cloud of unbelief to be lifted by God’s word and working.

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:1-4)

The reality of Jesus as both God and man is not one way of many ways to the Father, but he is THE only way. He is the way the trust and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus scripture teaches.

Social media is one place to shine the light of Christ in your life. When I worked in the piano business I had my Confirmation cross on my wall behind me as a silent witness to who I am and what I believe for all to see and our confirmands, Lauren Robar and Logan Thompson will confess their faith and trust in Jesus … in whom they have been taught next Sunday. They have been found prepared and are ready to confess their faith and for that we thank those who made sure they got to class each week.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Now pay close attention to this:

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

Next week too, we will have Olivia Fisher and Breanna Squanda make their first communion at Peace Lutheran Church and they will be fed in a miraculous way the same body and blood of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ when they receive the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins.

It is comforting to know that by faith their eyes will be opened to Christ and His forgiveness through this same blessed gift. This very same gift that is here for you and me today and always … is for all who have been instructed and who receive, not only the bread and wine but the very body and blood of Jesus, and believing and trusting God’s word … also receive forgiveness, comfort, peace and the strengthening of their faith.

With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!

32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

It is my hope and prayer that God by his means of grace, through word and sacrament, will keep all who receive the Lord’s gifts connected to Jesus and recognizing Him. May we all continue to grow in faith and in service to neighbor as we remain an important part of Christ’s body his church.

We look forward to these new members … as fellow saints … not Junior members, but fully an important part of this body of believers here at Peace and we keep them in prayer and love as they grow into those who will one day lead the church of Christ for many years to come.

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

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

Amen