Monday, September 18, 2017

September 16-17, 2017

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

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

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

Michael Williams.

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

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

Martin Luther understood that:

Forgiveness is …for you!

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

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

“As many as seven times?”

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

To this Jesus replies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

It has been said:

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

To this the respondents replied:

“Gee that’s harsh!”

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

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

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

The radio went silent. “Oh … ?”

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

Luther – Kretzmann NT pg. 103

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sermon September 9-10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.livescience.com/474-controversy-evolution-works.html

God’s word again says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)

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

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

Lutheran Hour Ministries Study Guide Session 4 pg2

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

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

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

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms
April 18, 1521


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

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

In our our gospel reading for today we read:

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sermon September 2-3, 2017

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

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

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

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

At times death is met by denial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From burial - to cremation

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

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

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

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

But Jesus says in our gospel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Luther writes in his preface to the Burial Hymns:

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

LW 53:325-326

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

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

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

Lord Thee I Love With All My Heart.

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

Amen

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon August 26-27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 1:17 tells us:

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

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

“But who do you say that I am?”

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

Ill.

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

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

"You’re our pastor.”

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

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

By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.onthewing.org/user/Luther%20-%20Babylonian%20Captivity.pdf Pg 41, Paragraph 2


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

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

Jesus commends Peter!

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!

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

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

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

Finally Jesus is speaking to the disciples says:

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

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sermon August 19-20, 2017

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

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

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

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

2017 Concordia Publishing House Matthew 15:27 CPH

But are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

What’s the Christian response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, August 14, 2017

Aug. 12-13, 2017 sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today also we see some pretty established facts being challenged.

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

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

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

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

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

“How can I be right with God?” 

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

But what does God again say in our epistle?

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

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

But Luther is not there … yet.

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

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

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

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

It is finished!

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sermon July 29-30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus then says:

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

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

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

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

Ill,

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

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

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

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

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

https://themoth.org/stories/god-death-and-francis-crick

To that Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

4.
But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world's foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me, A father's heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave His dearest Treasure.

5.
God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with you forever.

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



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

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

Amen

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sermon July 22-23, 2017

Title: Christ, the Good Shepherd’s seed is sewn in you!
Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

As a young boy I was sent out to do weeding around the house and also went with my dad to a farm that he leased a few acres to have a vegetable garden where we went to … you guessed it … pull weeds! Now, sometimes when I pulled the weed, I also pulled out the plant I was weeding around. Dad was none too pleased with that. That can be very frustrating and at times you might think that you are doing more harm than good.

Last week we discussed the parable of the Sower who sowed seed, throwing it everywhere, on the path, the rocky ground and even in good soil. The parable was explained by Jesus that the seed was the word of God and the Gospel proclamation that went forth transforming hearts of stone to good soil where the word takes root and brings to faith those called by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today’s parable builds on that by saying:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

So in explanation to this parable, Jesus says that He is the one who sows the good seed and that the world is the field and the wheat that grows, which sprouts from the good seed, are those who are the children of the Kingdom by faith. The weeds, we are told, are those who are sons of the evil one which is the devil himself who sows the lies that Jesus is not who he claims to be, the way the truth and the life.

So as is made clear in our text, the world will consist of both those who believe and those who don’t believe. The church also being in the world, we will have its share of believers and unbelievers … or weeds among the wheat. (believers)

So as the church, shouldn’t we look to pull out those weeds among us?

Who’ll be first? What should we use to judge each other?

At Vacation Bible School this past week the children learned in a visit with St. Paul that:

Day 1

Theme: God’s Love Is A Gift
Text: Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Song: Jesus Loves Me

Day 2

Theme: God’s Love Changes Us
Text: Romans 12:2
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Song: This Little Light of Mine

Day 3

Theme: God’s Love Is Always With Us
Text: Romans 8:38
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
Song: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Day 4

Theme: God’s Love Saves Us
Text: Romans 5:8
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Song: Father Welcomes

Day 5

Theme: God’s Love Is Worth Sharing
Text: Romans 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Song: I Want To Walk As A Child Of the Light

We talked about being made good soil by God’s Holy Spirit … washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism … we are clean. We are wheat. Aren’t we?

But what if we are acting like weeds? What if we avoid God’s word and teaching? What if belief gives way to unbelief?

Paul tells us in Romans 10 how we can know our own belief in Christ.

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

And then he continues:

11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

So belief in the heart is what justifies or makes righteous and those who believe will not be put to shame but will be saved. So, as Jesus says to the question of, 28”do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 He says, ‘No, because in gathering the weeds you may pull up the wheat as well. 30 Let both grow together … until the harvest, and then I will tell the reapers to Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

In other words … the wheat is left behind after the weeds are gathered to be burned and then gathered into the Lord’s barn.

Well it is Christ’s desire that all would be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim 2:4 even those whom we believe are far from the Lord and his reach. This is accomplished by the proclamation of the Gospel in word and sacrament which will bring to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit those who will believe, and by God’s grace, those children at VBS who believed God’s word and were brought to faith by God so that the promised forgiveness by faith in Christ’s finished work was theirs.

We also know from the parable today, that some, those who are called the weeds in the parable are those who are the sons of the evil one, the devil, and that they will reject the saviors blessed call through the gospel message and through this unbelief be destined for destruction – thrown into the fiery furnace … and in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This will be of their own choosing as they reject the work of the Holy Spirit choosing to remain dead in trespass and sin.

43 But you who believe, the righteous … will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear!

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

Amen

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sermon July 15-16, 2017

Title: Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23


23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

A man, after 25 years with one company, was still doing the same old job and drawing the same salary. Finally he went to his boss and told him he felt he had been neglected. "After all," he said, "I've had a quarter of a century of experience." "My dear fellow," sighed the boss, "you haven't had a quarter of a century of experience you've had one experience for a quarter of a century."

Unknown.

Ill.

When I worked in sales in the piano business and began waiting on customers there’s a principal we all learned: It is called the “KISS Principle,” as in, K-I-S-S: And it means, Keep It Simple, Stupid! In other words, if you want people to understand what you’re saying, and in my case showing them the benefits of owning a piano, I was reminded by the KISS Principal … to keep it simple. Don’t talk to technical or in ways that people can’t understand what you are really trying to say.

It seems a bit strange then that Jesus would use parables or stories that were something like a riddle at times to teach the crowd. How will they learn from these parables? Wouldn’t this complicate understanding? The disciples even asked about this: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v 10).

Actually, hearing God’s Word with understanding isn’t just a matter of “getting” the parables. Understanding God’s Word is hard anytime, and there are good reasons for this, but particularly when Jesus speaks in parables.

Jesus knows his audience well. There are things He knows that are keeping them from hearing and understanding what He is saying. Jesus teaches his disciples that even though 12 the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, Heb 4:12, the hearer – which is you and me - in our sinful state has the ability to resist and misunderstand God’s word.

As Luther says in the explanation of the Third Article of The apostles Creed:

I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

We understand that faith is a gift of our loving God. So what is it that keeps us from hearing … understanding and bearing fruit?

First, Jesus says, it’s the devil. He is like the birds that come and snatch the seed off the path. Certainly, we all can attest that the devil exists … because we notice the sinfulness of our thoughts even, at times as we wonder off while listening to a sermon. No that would never happen.

What are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking about what you did last night or what you might do after church? Whatever it is … you can be sure that the devil will shorten your attention span and even introduce thoughts into your mind … that have no business being there at this time!

[Edited: Story of attending a funeral for a classmate and how though the funeral had many good points and opened the ears of those who needed to hear there was one speaker who closed the ears of all by talking too long, being unfocused, and turning the funeral into a Bible Study so that the loved ones having ears closed had to lead him back to his seat. We need to know when to speak and when to hold back and just love those who are hurting before they close their ears to the message.]

The second thing Jesus says is that it’s your flesh. The sinful flesh, yours and mine, looks for the next spiritual high. As long as everything is going well, we’re all for the Word. But when problems arise, or when tribulation and persecution come, we’re quick to abandon the word and leave it far behind. This is like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more palatable and to our liking.

[Edited: Contrasting a funeral I officiated at on the previous Tuesday evening that had many ears opened and the evangelizing work of Robert Fisher who was a member of Peace and had passed away and how he brought Jesus to many through his mentoring in AA. One man said Bob was his sponsor and mentor for 17 years ... "He literally saved my life!" The value of word and dead to keep the ears open and the message received.]

Third, Jesus says it’s the world. We have many cares, some that even steal away the joy of listening to the Word. Yes, at times the word of God is joyful but we have work to do, whether from our employer or a teacher at school or even well intention friends. We may be concerned about our income, our children, the rising expenses of health care, and other essentials to our life – as our costs go up … sometime our income goes down. What to do?

When you deprive yourself of preaching and the word you steal the Good News God wants you to hear.

The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh make up the unholy trinity that keeps us from hearing and bearing fruit – they block the word if you will. The meaning of the Third Commandment, thou shall keep Holy the Sabbath day, calls on hearers not to despise preaching and God’s Word. It needs to be “set apart” which is what holy means, yet when you are listening problems and a lack of understanding happen and then this is precisely what occurs. The Preaching … and God’s Word are both despised.

But God’s Word is heard, and when it is - understood - what blessings! 

Jesus said to the Twelve,

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (vv 16–17).

How does that happen? Jesus answered the disciples’ question this way:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (vv 11–13).

Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word is given; it’s a gift.

You have just been gifted … Just now. Again … you have been given the Spirit of God in Christ. For many of you, that first happened at your Baptism. Your eyes have been opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. And you continue to hear God’s Word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life … just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.

With his death on the cross, Jesus has conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. This gives us the authority and the comfort to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This evil is not just some impotent, inanimate, impersonal substance. It is the evil one, who steals the Word from our hearts, who tempts us with suffering, and coaxes the world to follow him.

But our Lord has overcome the evil one, and in faith in his victory we may pray confidently and resist the snares and traps he sets. Our Lord has chosen you – dear friend - to receive this gift of faith so that you may hear and understand. This is grace and grace alone. No merit on your part has caused this, but our Lord and his love for you give it freely.

Jesus teaches the disciples to sow the Word of God liberally. There are no places, regardless of their potential to grow, where the Word of God may not or should not be preached. The Sower, in the parable is spreading seed everywhere … over the path, the rocks, and the weedy areas. That’s because God’s grace is for everyone. Everybody who hears the words you have heard today may be certain that Jesus really has died and has risen for them, has forgiven them, has given them eternal salvation.

Bearing fruit is the work of the Spirit!

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

Amen


Monday, July 10, 2017

Sermon July 8-9, 2017

Martin: The man! Video series 2nd Installment
Title: Monastic life, God, and Love in the Spirit!
Text: Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the daylong;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Peace in the monastery for Luther was doing things. The schedule was certainly difficult. Prayer, fasting and daily work was the life Luther entered. His focus was on God and how to make peace with an angry God who was ready to condemn … him.

Monastic life was hard, regimented and scheduled. Some of you may have experienced this type of life in your families growing up or it may sound familiar to those of you who have served in the military - When to wake, when to sleep, when to work and when to eat were daily scheduled. The attitude of the time for Luther, the people, and the church was that God was watching you … every moment of your life … and what must I do to be acceptable to him.

It’s also how we feel as kids, don’t we? Under the watchful eyes of our parents we feel less than free. It is only after we are out of the house and school that we really know how truly free we were … in our parents house … no bills, didn’t pay for food, and everything we needed was provided for us.

Throughout scriptures God is present among his people:

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Gen 28:16

1God is our refuge and strength, very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
[Jesus said] “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matt. 28:20b


God is always with us.

In Luther’s day vs. our own people believed God existed. They worried about his attitude towards them and were convinced that he was angry with them.

Today … people have crafted God in their own image … and are only angry with people and policies that go against their lifestyle, feelings and belief … going so far as to want to change God and his word to fit their own desires.

Some of the attitude in Luther’s day was brought about but a misunderstanding of repentance. Turning from sin or being sorry for sin is much different from “Doing Penance.” Do you ever feel that way as well?

When my own father told me to “Go to your room and think about what you had done.” It wasn’t the time in my room that my father was looking for and wished me to have … but he was looking for a change of attitude in me.

The misunderstand of repentance still has many trying to appease God by what they do rather than turning from sin to the one who restored peace between God and man – our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Luther, as a priest, even forgiveness found in the Lord’s Supper brought terror.

“How can a sinful man hold the body and blood of Christ in his hands without being damned?” he thought.

1 Cor. 10:16 would eventually bring him peace:

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

The body and blood of Christ are present along with the bread and wine. In the supper the bread and wine remain and we truly eat bread and drink wine but also in a sacramental union we also receive the real body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

Some still today see the Lord’s Supper … as a burden rather than gift. It makes the service longer they might say. It takes too much time. Why do we need it so often … even three times a month?

But God’s word tells us:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Cor. 11:26

The supper is gift not burden! It brings peace and forgiveness! Luther would come to find this out. It is not for all though … but only for those who believe Christ’s words “This is my body” … “This is my blood” … “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Even those with the tiniest of mustard seed like faith receive all that Christ has promised … forgiveness and peace in and through this blessed gift.

Even if it is mocked by the one presiding … “Bread thou art and bread thou shall remain and wine thou art and wine thou shall remain as Luther found in his pilgrimage to Holy Rome does not change what Christ said it is … his very body and blood … for you.

Ultimately we all, like Luther, take time to come to a full knowledge of the truth. We struggle with things of God because we are still in the tent of sin and in a corrupted world.

But like the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther we can rejoice.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgVFlbvjNwQ&t=5s

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sermon July 1-2, 2017

Title: Being lost in Christ is life eternal!
Text: Matt 10:34-42

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Yam Sing came from China to California and was brought to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [through the proclaimed word of truth]. When asked before baptism concerning his own faith, how he found Jesus. "I no find Jesus at all; He find me," was the answer from the converted man, an answer which showed the work of God’s Holy Spirit in him, and which showed that he had learned something of the love of Him who came to "seek and to save that which was lost."

S. S. Advocate.

Being lost in Christ is life eternal!

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

We as a people certainly know the difference between peace and war. The sword of war was brought to our shores after the Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4, 1776.

It read in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To achieve these self-evident truths peace fell into war for a time. Thankfully those who fought for our freedom and the life, liberty and happiness we all pursue were victorious. The war continues to rage in our life and work, on college campuses, and in the politically charged debate and talk that stretches across this great but troubled nation.

But peace … true peace came to the Earth at the promised birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to restore the peace that was lost through the fall into sin and the separation between God and man. Peace was earned, not by we who broke the peace but at the cross by Jesus Christ, where the price of sin was paid in full and satisfaction was finished.

God and man are now at peace but war still rages.

There is also another effect of God’s peace and the Gospel being proclaimed.

Maybe you’ve experienced it? Jesus tells his disciples:

36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.
Man against father and daughter against mother, daughter-n-law and mother-n-law will be at odds. Even during the Revolutionary War the colonists were divided between British Loyalists and American Patriots dividing families and loyalties within homes and families.

Christ says also that there is only one truth and one way, only one way for true peace. This sounds very similar to last week’s reading and Jesus’ warning as well.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life in this life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Where Jesus says that he came not to bring peace but a sword we need to understand this a bit more. What is the sword that Jesus Christ brings that his disciples should be aware of?

Paul gives us a glimpse in Ephesians chapter six when he uses the metaphor of putting on the whole armor of God and he here also gives us a better picture of who the fight is truly against

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood … but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The fight is real but many times the true foe is hidden. It may appear that the fight is against father and son or mother and daughter and these fights will have real battle scars of a true fight, but the truth is first that those who are opposed to the word of truth proclaimed and received by the work of the Holy Spirit are lead by a different spirit … the spirit of darkness whose fight is against the sword that Christ has – the word of God. Paul gives us the armor:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The armor that is put on has different functions:

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

All of the armor that is given for the use of the disciples and us is defensive.

All that we put on gives protection from the darts of the evil one though one … is given for our use as a weapon. The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God!

Being received into Christ is your great reward!

Ill.

I had a conversation a number of years ago with a friend who I had been witnessing to. I had invited him to church and he said, “Sunday mornings are the time that my wife and I do things and go places.”

His wife was not a believer or interested in hearing about Christ at all.

I asked, “Do you get up early Sunday and do things?” He said, “No, we don’t really get up until about 10:00 am.” So, I said, “Why don’t you go to an 8:00 am service and you can be back home before your wife gets up and 10:00, then you have the whole day to spend together? I’ll even help you find one.” “No, that won’t work.” “Why not, I asked? Because she’ll be mad that I went to church … she thinks it’s stupid.”

Ultimately, they got a divorce. Both were at fault in the relationship. Unfortunately, their marriage was not built on the hope and comfort that Christ gives.

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life in this life will lose it, even if it appears that the love of wife, brother, sister, father, son-n-law, daughter-n-law or whomever, is a reason to forsake Christ and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Being lost in Christ is life eternal!

Jesus comforts us all:

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.

Your reward is in Christ. He has given you the most blessed reward of eternal life which is the prophet’s reward and the reward of a righteous person … Jesus Christ! It is yours because you are His!

This gift is not only for you but for all who have been brought to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit.

42 Whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Your reward is held fast in Christ by God Himself and you are His now and for eternity!

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sermon June 24-25, 2017

Title: Fear not for God knows you, loves you and is with you!
Text: Matthew 10:5, 21-33

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

The Bohemian reformer John Hus, who lived about a 100 years before Martin Luther, was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters of faith. He died, burned at the stake, for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus's last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood."

Source Unknown.


Fear not for God knows you, loves you and is with you!

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These are the twelve that Jesus sent out, instructing them. But the bulk of our text today points to what await those who profess faith in Christ.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The work of those who were sent would not be fun or easy. Persecution would be part of the lot of those sent. Not only would the world hate them but so too their family, brother, father children and so on. Christ says,

Have no fear of them … proclaim the truth! 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

This past week was to be my vacation … and it was … to an extent.

The Monday before my vacation began I got a call at church. It was from Carol Cutcher daughter of Glenn Blackerby one of my shut-ins.

Pastor: “Hi Carol, How are you and how is your dad?”
Carol: “Hi Pastor, I’m doing well and my dad has never been better. He went to be with Jesus today.”

Well, I was sad to hear of Glenn’s passing and Carol was going to meet with the people at Coats Funeral Home so I said, “I want to do your dad’s service so let me know when it is and I’ll be available.”

Glenn Blackerby was a dear man. Married to Dorothy for 63 years he was changed after her passing about 8 months ago. Not that he lost faith … but that he lost patience. He wanted to go and be with Jesus and with Dorothy whom he missed greatly.

I was blessed to do Dorothy’s service about 8 months ago and knew Glenn would get there soon enough. As we visited at his home he would say, pastor I want to go be with Jesus and Dorothy … I’m ready. I would say, “I know you are Glenn and Jesus will call you to be with him in his time and way but not just yet. It may be because I just need someone to visit.

Glenn and Dorothy … were a lovely couple and demonstrated a faith lived out in love and service to others. I remember so fondly Dorothy exiting the service and shaking hands with a pleasant thought and Glenn, grabbing my hand and saying:

A mother goes into her son’s room to wake him for church Sunday morning. When she told him it was time to get up he said, “I’m not going!” Why not his mother asked? “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One they don’t like me and two I don’t like them” “Well,” … his mother replied. “I’ll give you two good reasons why you’re going.” One, you’re 47 years old and two, you’re the pastor!”

Life and faith and … jokes we’re the lifeblood of Glenn Blackerby and his life’s joy left him when Dorothy passed on to heaven.

That is part of our lot as well. To endure sin, death and the devil and we wait for that call that will come for each one of us to go and be with the Lord. At times in this life evil invades our life as that police officer at Flint Bishop international airport found when he was attacked with a knife. Other times death comes and wakes us all to that reality that death is real.

I’ve done 8 funerals this year and only Glenn’s was for a regular attending member. All others were either for those who requested a Lutheran Pastor because there had been a Lutheran background or lapsed attendance. I always am willing to serve as it is an opportunity to bring the word’s of Christ to those who need to hear … and at a time that they will listen.

I spoke with pastor Merrell as there was a call to do a funeral in Ortonville this coming Monday and though I really could use a break I called and offered to do the service for a lady who had a Lutheran background. Thankfully another pastor called earlier so I don’t have one this Monday but I remarked to Pastor Merrell, “I know how we can grow the church! Get people to need a Lutheran pastor … before they die.”

As Glenn Blackerby was known to say:

Life is like a roll of toilet paper …
… you never know when the end will come.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Christ has promised that he has a room prepared and where He is you too will be also. And He gives you and me the work to do with this promise:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, John 14:12a

The work of God is this, to believe on him whom he has sent.

God calls some to proclaim that truth publicly but he calls us all to speak these truths to those who need to hear, in good time and bad and at time of joy and at time of sorrow.

As our epistle reading for this day reminds us:

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

“To them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1: 12).

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

Funeral Sermon for Glenn C. Blackerby June 20, 2017

Title: At home with Jesus forever!
Text: John 14:3 (English Standard Version)

3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

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

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac of Peace Lutheran Church of Waterford and I have had the blessing of being Glenn’s pastor for the last 4-1/2 years though I’ve know him for many more years.

Glenn and Dorothy … were a lovely couple and demonstrated a faith lived out in love and service to others. I remember so fondly Dorothy exiting the service and shaking hands with a pleasant thought and Glenn, grabbing my hand and saying:

A mother goes into her son’s room to wake him for church Sunday morning. When she told him it was time to get up he said, “I’m not going!” Why not his mother asked? “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One they don’t like me and two I don’t like them” “Well,” … his mother replied. “I’ll give you two good reasons why you’re going.” One, you’re 47 years old and two, you’re the pastor!”

That was Glenn Blackerby! A man who loved life, Jesus, his wife Dorothy and jokes.

As the reading from Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

For Glenn that time to be born was January 14, 1930 and his time to depart this life for his eternal home was 87 years later on Monday June 12th.

Though we all hope to hold our dear loved ones close and save them from this fate … it is appointed for each one of us … and it is a goal we all will achieve.

But in the Gospel text for today Jesus says:

1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

So though we grieve and are sad at Glenn’s passing we can also have comfort as well. Jesus tells us that He has a place for us, and that included Glenn Blackerby, and it has been prepared for him and he has now taken possession of it.



Glenn knew Jesus and trusted Christ, and seeing Glenn and Dorothy in church over the years I got to know him and his faith in Christ. Of course I also got to hear his jokes – some tame, and some a bit rough, and some a bit long – especially when members of the church were trying to exit and he was holding up the line - but always jokes that if nothing else … made Glenn laugh.

I had a joyful time visiting with Glenn his home and over the last few years and in the hospital and bringing communion to him as it was difficult for Carol to get him to church on a regular basis. Carol would always tell me how they would stay up too late watching the old westerns on TV and sleep through the service time in the morning. I half expected one of his songs today to be the theme from Bonanza or Gun Smoke! But Glenn always really enjoyed receiving the Lord’s Supper at his home to strengthen his faith even though attending church was hard.

I visited Glenn and Carol monthly and we always had a nice visit. He would be sitting in his chair but was able to talk and communicate as he always did though a bit quieter and slower … Glenn confided to me that he missed Dorothy terribly, as we all do. He told me that he told the Lord that he was ready to go and be with him and Dorothy again. He so looked forward to going home and being with Dorothy and a heaven prepared for him.

We can all see the effects of time on our faces as we look into the mirror each morning and in my case an old man looks back where a young man once stood. It is the effect of sin and a broken world and as much as we might all hope to have the blessings of a long life like Glenn’s, the reality of death is real and sooner or later we will all answer the door when death knocks. But too, like Glenn, we can have comfort and peace because:

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work, and this blessed Good News.

As we together grieve the loss of our beloved Glenn and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

I rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Will keep me still in perfect peace.

Charles Wesley.

The Psalms can bring comfort at times like these.

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Comfort and peace, is what Glenn knew. That Christ had come to rescue him and you can know that as well. Comfort and peace, knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life by God grace and mercy.

Comfort and peace, is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter even by Jesus himself.

For Jesus Himself says that:

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

Dear friends, you too have access to the father as Glenn did through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you and who will give to all true peace found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave up His life for you.

Because of Christ’s purifying death he allows you too, like Glenn, to depart in peace where all who trust in Christ will be with him forever!

So when the trials of life burden you and the storms of life rage and when even death is near, rest in the peace of Christ no matter the storms of life, but rests in the loving hands of Jesus the savior who reminds us in John’s gospel the wonderful comfort that Glenn knew:

7 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Glenn was prepared, he was forgiven, and he will be … at home with Jesus forever because Christ has promised:

3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

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

Amen

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sermon June 10-11, 2017

Martin: The man! Video series 1st Installment
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.