Monday, May 15, 2017

Sermon May 13-14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In our gospel today Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Jesus washed the disciples feet Peter asked:

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

Then Peter said:

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

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

Not in their own strength at least.

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

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

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

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

And finally:

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

To all of this they answer, “I do.”

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

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

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

Jesus is God and I am not!

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

Thomas in chapter 14 asks:

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

To this Jesus answers:

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sermon May 6-7, 2017 Confirmation

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Morgan.

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

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

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

Do sheep ever stumble and get led away?

Ill.

Dr. Andrew Bonar tells ho

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

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

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

Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 70-71.

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

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

Then death came … unexpectedly. 

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

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

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

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

What awaits me, I thought? What awaits you?

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sermon April 29-30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember this:

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

But they were kept from recognizing the resurrected Lord.

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

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

John’s gospel tells us so.

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

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

As the disciples continued walking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now pay close attention to this:

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

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

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

With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sermon April 22-23, 2017

Title: Praise, proclaim, and rejoice in the Lord!
Text: Acts 5:29-42

41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

At the Council of Nicea, which was an important church meeting in the 4th century and also the place where the Nicene Creed is named after there were 318 delegates that attended. Of that number fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith.

Vance Havner

Martin Luther writes:

If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: "O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!"

Martin Luther

In our first reading for today in the Book of Acts things are not going well for the apostles. This is a bit further in our timeline than where we are in our gospel reading for today where the disciples are locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews … but as you see not much is different.

Jesus has been killed and raised from the dead but fear and uncertainty abounds. Thomas won’t believe unless he has proof and for this is better be tangible … fingers in the nail holes and hand in the side kind of stuff. 

But in our reading from Acts chapter 5 it is the Apostles who are receiving the wrath of the Jews from the Sanhedrin – the council of the Pharisees and Sadducees – for preaching the name of Jesus and performing miraculous signs wonders and healings in his name. It fills the high Priest and those with him with jealousy so much so that they had the apostles arrested and put in jail … unfortunately a fairly common place for those proclaiming Christ than and even now.

But during the night the angle of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out of the jail, told them to stand in the Temple courts and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and his life, death and glorious resurrection for the sins of the world! 

So they went and did all that the lord commanded them.

Giving Praise, proclaiming the good news, and rejoicing in the Lord!

What a surprise as they send for the apostles and they are not there – even though the doors are still locked and the guards posted. They report their finding and look they are back preaching about Jesus. So they go and get them again and bring them to the High Priest and the whole Council saying in a sense

“We told you to stop teaching in this name … this name of Jesus.”

But Peter says:

“We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Ill.

“This past Palm Sunday was a dark day in Egypt. Suicide bombings at two Coptic Christian churches, one in Alexandria and the other in Tanta left 45 people dead and many more wounded. Although there has been an uptick in violence against Christians in the region, Egypt is hardly alone in a long list of countries -- many in the Middle East -- that are violently hostile towards Christians.

Persecution averaged at 90,000 a year over a 10 year period from 2005-2015.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

Not a good sign … but why so much hatred against Christians?

Gamaliel may be a good source for our understanding. Being a teacher of the Law and held in honor by the people … even being the Apostle Paul’s teacher. He stood up saying:

“Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

The truth that we are sinners in need of a savior causes many to rise up in opposition just as it did in the time of Jesus as the Pharisees met.

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

People rise up in our day too and want to do away with this Good News that is the gospel. God’s word brings one of two responses repentance or anger. Repentance hears the word and turns away from sin and back to God while anger hears the repentance call and says,

“How dare you judge me! Who are you to judge me? What an unloving thing to do!”

But in reality it is the thought of:

“What if it’s true? What if eternity apart from Christ is damnation? What if it is just the lies of the devil that I’m hearing?”

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” NIV

If Christ is God in the flesh than apart from him we are dead in trespass and sin or buy god’s Holy Spirit’s work we repent, turn back to him and our saved. This turning also though turns us away from the sin we are broken by and we desire the things of God; his word, his gifts his forgiveness.

Do you desire to be in his house? Do you know God’s desire for you?

St. Peter in his first epistle reminds us.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

God will guard his children through the work of the devil which at times seems overwhelming. And this is my hope as I felt down following Easter services so hoping to see those who come at Easter … to see them desire to be in God’s house each week to receive his gifts.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

It is God who wills and works in you and in me. May he continue to work to bring joy, peace, and salvation to all of those he gives faith to in his time and in his way.

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

Amen

Sermon April 16, 2017 Easter!

Title: Created, Redeemed and Called!
Text: Colossians 3:1-4

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

A gathering of friends at an English estate nearly turned to tragedy when one of the children strayed into deep water. The gardener heard the cries for help, plunged in, and rescued the drowning child. That youngster's name was Winston Churchill. His grateful parents asked the gardener what they could do to reward him. He hesitated, then said, "I wish my son could go to college someday and become a doctor." "We'll see to it," Churchill's parents promised. 

Years later, while Sir Winston was prime minister of England, he was stricken with pneumonia. The country's best physician was summoned. His name was Dr. Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered and developed penicillin. He was also the son of that gardener who had saved young Winston from drowning. Later Churchill remarked, "Rarely has one man owed his life twice to the same person."

Ron Hutchcraft, Wake Up Calls, Moody, 1990, p. 22.

Today we celebrate the blessed resurrection of our Lord. For in time past the world languished in sin and death reigned supreme. The hope of the Messiah and his coming had been prophesied.

Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God came down for this very purpose. To humiliate Himself, to put on human flesh and become man; to cover or veil his divinity for the purpose of keeping the Law, which we could not keep, and then to stand in your place as the, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For the 30 or so years of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry, the power of His divine nature was there with him all the time, perfectly united with His humanity so that He might accomplish the work that He was appointed to do by putting His power to work in His resurrection from the dead, for you.

This body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which took the scourging, the nails and the spear in his side and who truly died and breathed His last on the cross, was buried in a tomb, given for this purpose by Joseph of Aramathea, and then had the large stone rolled in place to cover and seal the tomb as a testament to the finality of death. Sealed, closed and finished. Jesus, himself used those last words of finality as He exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Death was not a maybe, but was a certainty, (on Good Friday), just three short days ago.

The certainty of the grave and death has now been change forever. As Paul tells the Colossians in our Epistle reading for today.

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)

Created, Redeemed and Called!

What joy! This week, Holy Week has been changed forever for you and me. 

By Jesus and his death and resurrection we too can know that we will rise. Psalm 100 has become one of my favorite Psalms. Last year it was read at Joan Kitzman’s funeral during Holy Week. What joy in the life of a believer!

100 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Know the joy now that was recorded long ago in Psalm 118.

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.

Jesus lives and for we, who believe, the Victory is Won!

Created, Redeemed and Called to be his child!

5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

We live, because Jesus lives! By faith we have eternal life and this eternity begins at the moment we believe. The reality of heaven is a present reality for you and me, trusting by faith in Christ’s finished work. We have all the joys promised now, though we only get a foretaste or the future reality when we too will be given our glorious resurrected bodies.

Christos Aneste Χριστός Ανέστη

Alithos Anesti Αληθώς Ανέστη

Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

May the Love of God, the blessings of Christ and his resurrection this Easter, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.

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

Sermon April 14, 2017 Good Friday!

Title: Stricken smitten by God, and afflicted for you!
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Heb 4:14-16,5 :7-9, John 19:17-30


4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

I just don’t know why it happened to me?

When Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything--property, family, possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life and when he arrived in Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away.

"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me, he thought; I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
He was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes.

"I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber, Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)

"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence” he thought?

Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book Man's search for Meaning:

"There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life . . .'He who has a why to live for … can bear almost any how.'"

Unknown.

Good Friday is an unlikely source for the answer.

When confronted with the whys of our own life we, in many cases turn to despair. So many in our church live with sickness and the knowledge of continued suffering; some lose loving parents and find it hard to go on without them daily in their lives; some just wish to depart this life and to have the suffering they endure … end. It is with Good Friday and the suffering of Christ that we too can call out with persistent cries, “why?” 

Jesus’ life was service and healing not crime. He turned no one away. He gave sight to those who were blind, raised the dead and told the woman caught in adultery; “Neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11

As Isaiah says:

… he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows

… was afflicted, pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

He was oppressed, he opened not his mouth, he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people and they made his grave with the wicked

Though he had done no violence and no deceit was in his mouth.

Through suffering God declares his love.

Isaiah call the Suffering Servant oppressed, and like sheep being led to the slaughter he was silent. Yet, there was a purpose for his suffering. It was for the transgressions of my people. For sin, he would die, be cut off and make his grave for the wicked.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Through suffering God will bring peace to Israel through His servant. God promises good news, peace, happiness and salvation to His people Israel. It is also made known that God chooses to be the God of all people and that the way he will accomplish this is through his servant. The Lord will be the one who brings salvation to all the earth.

Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2 when he says:

… though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus was lifted up though many were appalled at his appearance. He was disfigured almost to the point of not being recognized as human. Sin needed an atoning sacrifice that was acceptable to appease God’s wrath. God provided the sacrifice in His Son who was the spotless Lamb of God. The price of the servant’s sinless life and death brought peace for you and for me.

Through suffering we have peace and healing.
he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
When you suffer you are connected to Christ Jesus the Suffering Servant. By being connected to this when we too suffer we can know God’s true love for us as he endured all for you and for me … even death.

Christ’s model our victory.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 

Because of Christ’s death we know that death has been conquered by him once and for all. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

Because of his sinless life and his substitutionary atonement we have received what he earned … our forgiveness and salvation. He didn’t do it for himself … he did it for you!

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus suffered we can understand suffering as it pertains to sin and brokenness in this world. Not as something from God but as a result of the corrupted world broken by sin.

Christ’s victory is you victory! Christ’s forgiveness is your forgiveness! By his death you receive eternal life in his name!

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

Amen

Sermon April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday

Title: The Lord’s time is at hand and we receive his blessing!
Text: Matt 26:17-30
Readings Exodus 24:3-11, Heb 9:11-22, Matt 26:17-30

18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

There are things in this life that we can teach our children and there are things in this life that we can give to them. 

Some things are left as an inheritance from parent to child and may bring temporal blessings for a time. But the true joy we hope to leave them is faith in Christ, and this can only be given through the proclamation of the gospel and the bestowing of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit. We continue to pray that the Lord in his time and in his way will accomplish this salvation.

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

A few times in the past we’ve hosted Jews for Jesus and their presentation, Christ in the Passover. If you were able to come you saw and heard about a Passover Seder, this Feast of Unleavened Bread which is a seven–day feast that coincides with Passover, during which no leaven is to be eaten.
Now today we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper and begin the culmination of Jesus coming and his work as we walk to the cross with him. At the cross he will finish his work and free the world from sin, death and the power of the devil for you and for me.

It had been the custom for Jesus and the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of the Passover in remembrance of their delivery out of slavery and bondage in Egypt and Jesus gives them specific instructions:

18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

Two of the disciples, Peter and John, were commissioned to attend to this work, Jesus giving them another bit of evidence as to His omniscient (all knowing) power. They were to go to a certain place, which Christ designated very exactly, to a man whom He also described to them, and give him a message. 

The Lord's time was near, even at hand, the time when He would be taken up into glory through suffering and death. With him, in this certain man's house, He would celebrate the Passover with His disciples. It is likely, as has been suggested, that this man was a disciple of Jesus in secret, just as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were. The disciples carried out the wishes of Jesus, acting as his representatives to the householder in making all arrangements for the evening.

18[ Jesus] said, “Go!” The Lord gave instructions and they were followed by the disciples. We though, as Christ’s followers, fall short of what he expects by not doing what God calls us to do because of our sinful flesh. We are not strong in faith, or evangelism, or outreach, or prayer, or devotion or love toward neighbor. It is who we are as sinners … but that is no excuse. We also know what God demands of us and in repentance we turn from sin.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: 

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis.

Far too easily pleased; are you? Do you seek in prayer what are the desires of your heart believing that God too desires to give them to you? And what is the desire of your heart? That in of itself says quite a bit about you and me. 

Do we seek things temporal or things eternal? Is it selfish gain or blessings for those who are truly in need? The Lord knows your true need … and it is this that He desires to give you.

21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

We understand Judas’ betrayal. Jesus says it would be better that he had not been born. That says something about life, death and eternal punishment. But do you and do I betray the Lord? Do we not do what He has called us to do in giving others what has been given to us? Namely, the Good News; is there a time that you remember an opportunity presented that you missed in sharing the gospel? 

I do.

Ill.

As a pastor who does hospital visitation I can think of one time in particular where I missed an opportunity. Leaving a visit at St. Joes, as I waited for the elevator door to open, a lady chaplain walked by, as we looked at each other, she saw my collar and I saw someone of Indian descent. It was quick and very brief, I was thinking of my next call or business to attend to. She said, “How are you?” I answered, “Very well, thank you and how are you?” 

As she answered the door opened and as is habit, I got on the elevator smiling as we parted. As I descended to the lobby I thought to myself … Why didn’t I remember to ask a few questions? Could I have asked how long she had been a Chaplin, what was the hardest part of her job? Does the hospital use volunteer Chaplains? What comfort does she offer patients? Anything … but I didn’t. 

Instantly I fell short and it was brought to my attention by the Holy Spirit. 

Sure I’ve done the opposite many times where I’ve shared my faith … I just don’t remember those as vividly as I do the times I fall short … and that is good. It is the Lord’s work. 

But Jesus’ work was coming to a close - like the Passover - and soon He would go to the cross. Giving us new this gift – the Lord’s Supper - that he left for us until his glorious return that we celebrate tonight because:

The Lord’s time is at hand and we receive his blessing!

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”

Jesus gave His body and blood as a gift for his disciples. He continues to give this same gift for we who as his followers continue to need to have our faith strengthened as we struggle with our own sinfulness in this life.

"We Christians confess and believe that the Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself. 

We cannot understand how Jesus at that time, while standing in visible form before His disciples, could give them His body, His blood to eat and to drink, nor how the risen Christ, though in heaven, can be present everywhere on earth with His body and blood, wherever this meal is celebrated according to His institution. 

But the word of Christ is clear and true, and we also know from the scriptures that the body of Christ, had a higher, form of being, even in the days of His humility, in addition the risen Christ is not locked up in heaven. As Luther said, we take our reason captive to the word of God and thank him for the great blessing of this Blessed Sacrament. From it we gain the knowledge and certainty of our forgiveness of our sins. 

In guaranteeing to us his grace this sacrament points forward, just like the Passover meal, to the end of the journey, to the meal of eternity, when the Lord will drink it with us in His Father's kingdom." 

Kretzmann NT Vol 1 pg146

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

Amen

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sermon April 8-9, 2017 Palm Sunday

Title: In humility Jesus came to be your King!
Text: Phil 2:5-11

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When I first served here at Peace many years ago as President of the congregation, I use to have to lead meetings. Some were congregational council and Voters meeting and some were smaller board meetings. At times we dealt with issues that could be a bit contentious and there would be people on both sides of the issue. When I put the agenda for the meetings together I always added a scripture verse at the bottom of the page. It was there for all to see but it was mostly there for me … as a reminder.

The scripture was Philippians 2 verses 3 and4. It read:

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. NIV 1984

It was there to remind me to be humble in how I served the church and how I need to deal with others who also serve the church. It is what Paul, in writing the church at Philippi, wanted them and us to know.

After the introduction to his letter Paul says as I paraphrase:

2 If you have any encouragement from being brothers and sisters in Christ, if you can bring comfort to those who might be hurting or be a bit more loving, as we share our common faith, be tender and show compassion …

2 then you make my joy complete being like-minded, and having the same love - being of one spirit and of one mind.

We are often anything but … of one mind. We are like the Philippians in need of a reminder from Paul, the apostle and from God’s word of what humility looks like. In servant hood and obedience to Jesus

Humility comes to us in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He took on our humanity and became man humbling himself in the form of a servant to serve you and me.

Ill.

I’m reminded of that TV show that I’ve seen a few times Undercover Boss.

“The show’s format features the experiences of senior executives [or business owners] working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved, as well as to reward hard-working employees.”
So these people don’t know that the new employee or worker working with them is actually … the boss.

He investigates what is going on with the people, the workers. At times he has to tell someone in charge that they are not doing a good job – as Jesus did with the Pharisees who were keeping the letter of the Law and not the Spirit of the Law. He reminded them when they accused him of not keeping the Sabbath – which was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Also, at times an employee on the show needs help and the boss gives that help to one in need.

This analogy only goes so far as we can all fall victim to our own self-righteousness and works-righteousness thinking that if we only do enough good we are acceptable to God. This is not true.

But what we do see in the show is that the people only know the boss’s true identity after it has been revealed. For you and me and for all born in the natural way it is revealed by the Holy Spirit through the word. At time the word points to our failings – which condemn us, and at time it is the comfort of the Gospel that points to Jesus and his work on our behalf.

We and those in Philippi, whom Paul is writing know Christ. They have been brought to faith by the Holy Spirit and now Paul is pointing them and us to the humility of Jesus and how as followers of his … we all need the same attitude.

He says:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Though Jesus is God in the flesh, he made himself nothing – for you.

Though Jesus is God in the flesh, he was humble and obedient – for you.

Though Jesus was God in the flesh, he went to and died on the cross – for you.

His ride into Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday, veiled the agony on what lay ahead – for him.

In the week to come he would be deceived, accused, tried, condemned, denied, mocked and forsaken – crying: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Having completed his course Jesus yielded up his spirit. He died.

The Earth shook and those dead saints who were raised came out of their tombs just like Lazarus from our reading last week. They appeared to many. So much for guarding the tomb of Jesus ... we might think. But still they do because it is Jesus’ resurrection that changes everything.

It is Jesus … who changes everything – for you!

No longer are you dead in sin but now in Christ you are raised to newness of life. No longer are you lost in a broken and corrupted world but because of Christ and his death there is for you, because of the humble Lamb of God, a life eternal.

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

Jesus’ true identity which had been veiled at his coming in the flesh will be revealed by his glorious resurrection and his rising from the grave. And just as he has conquered sin, death and the devil by his active obedience we who receive this gift in a passive way through word and sacrament, have all that he won for us and promised to us.

That where he is - we will be also

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

In humility he came to be your king!

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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

Amen

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sermon April 5, 2017 Lent 5

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Sixth and Seventh Word: "It is finished!" (Jn. 19:30) "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.' “(Lk. 23:46)
Text: John 19:30 and Luke 23:46 
Readings: Psalm 31:1-8, Leviticus 16:29-34, John 19:30; Luke 23:44-47 

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46

As we finish our last midweek Lenten service and the seven words of Christ from the cross we look forward to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Christ’s death on Good Friday, his rest in the tomb, and his glorious resurrection for the life of the world on Easter Sunday.

The priest, the sacrifice and the people

33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.

Every year the high Priest on the tenth day of the seventh month would make sacrifice. Two male goats and a ram would be used. One sacrificed to purify the people as an offering for sin, one sacrificed as a burnt offering and one to carry the sins of the people away. Each year and every year on the tenth day of the seventh month this would occur.

32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments.

Usually the priest was adorned in royal garments but today in humility and in a simple linen garment he would serve on behalf of the people who fasted and prayed. Today, a day like no other, where no work or labor was done … he worked … in service for them. Sacrificing a bull to purify himself first he made ready the sacrifice.

The sacrifice made, the blood flowed, sprinkled and dripped and the work was done. The priest lay both hands on the head of the scapegoat confessing all the sins of the people – their wickedness and rebellion - and the goat was sent away from the people into the wilderness to carry the sins of the people away until next year.

31 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2 Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!

Another priest, another rescue another sacrifice

He wore a simple garment. He was accused, convicted and condemned – stricken, smitten and afflicted he was not sprinkled but scourged. The hands laid on him … nailed, taunted and reviled. 

“He saved others” they would say “Let him save himself!”

He was not here to save himself but to finish what had occurred every year on the tenth day of the seventh month. He would be no scapegoat but would be the rescue. He would be the priest purified for his work; he would be the sacrifice, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world; and he would be rescue conquering sin, death and the devil for the life of the world.

It is finished would come from his lips as the work of redemption was done.

3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Once for all

Not just the sins of God’s chosen Israel, not just the sins of his church who believe in him but the sins of the whole world would be laid upon the man Jesus. He would take your sin and mine and the sins of those who reviled him and the sins of those who accused him and the sins of those who killed him.

It is finished completes his course. It is finished completes his race. Peace with the Father is restored by a perfect Priest and a perfect sacrifice and in him sin is finished. But deception is real, the tempter is real, and he desires to lie and deceive and lead away. But God will never leave you for he knows your pain and he suffered your shame.

6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8 and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

Into the Father’s hand he has committed his spirit and you to in the loving hands of Jesus have been delivered.

Holy is the Lamb.

He came to save all Israel. Holy is the Lamb.
The Father’s favor rested there. Holy is the Lamb
A Prophet or a holy man, who do you say I am?
You are the Christ, the living God. Holy is the Lamb.

The dead are raised, the blind can see. Holy is the Lamb.
While dead to sin, no thought of him. Holy is the Lamb.
The word of God can change the heart, in his eternal plan.
Salvation lies in Jesus Christ. Holy is the Lamb.

The plan was laid to give him up. Holy is the Lamb.
To crucify the Son of Man. Holy is the Lamb.
He paid the price that God commands, the price that sin demands.
He gave his life this Jesus Christ. Holy is the Lamb.

They placed him in an earthen tomb. Holy is the Lamb.
And waited in an upper room. Holy is the Lamb.
The call went out. “He isn’t there!” Where did they take the man?
The Son has risen from the dead. Holy is the Lamb.

The bread of life came down for us. Holy is the Lamb.
The once eternal sacrifice. Holy is the Lamb.
He will not lose a single one. None taken from his hand.
Salvation’s price was Jesus Christ. Holy is the Lamb

Russell Tkac 2017

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

Amen

Sermon April 1-2, 2017 Lent 5

Title: Bound in sin Christ calls you … “Come out!”
Text: John 11:1-45

43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Death is nothing new. It seems all too common. It invades your life and your family. As a pastor it invades my life too … even if at times it is not a loved one.

Last Monday I did a funeral. Not for a friend, a family member, or a church member here at Peace … but for one who died. The call came in Saturday as I prepared for service. “Hi pastor Russ; it’s Michaela at Elton Black. Are you available to do a funeral this Monday at 10 am?” It was for the family of a man who had been sick and had now died.

Michaela is the daughter of my dear friend Brian and works as a funeral director in the area. The man who had died, Glen Rowden and his family were raised Lutheran and connected to the faith and wanted a Lutheran pastor. I told them I was available.

Jesus got a call too.

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

Lazarus, the one Jesus loved was ill. In fact he too like Glen Rowden would die, though Jesus says: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Christ in this life and death will be glorified.

Glen Rowden was a kind man. His niece said, “He was the sweetest and kindest person I ever knew.” Glen’s niece and nephew spoke about their great Uncle and it was evident they loved Uncle Glen, who had never married and had no children of his own. His nephew Chad said, “People say I remind them of him, he never said a bad word in his life about anybody. If I could be half the man he was …” The tears flowed.

11 [Jesus] said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.

Uncle Glen worked for GM from 1958 to 1997. He gave them 40 years of service, Loved cars, boats, the marina and the lake, bringing bagels and donuts every morning and hanging out and though he has no children of his own … he had many friends and a loving family.

Lazarus had a loving family too; Martha and Mary but also Jesus … who was a dear friend and part of his extended family.

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 … and many of [their friends] the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them … Martha heard that Jesus was coming [too, so] she went and met him …

Uncle Glen as he got older couldn’t take care of himself so for the last 8 years the family made their home his home. There was a picture on the board of memories from last Thanksgiving showing the three great nieces and nephew Chad sitting on a couch looking at their smart phones … there was Uncle Glen, sitting there too with a phone someone had given him for a posed picture, pretending to be doing the same thing.

Death is real though … and at the funeral home Uncle Glen is not pretending to sleep. Lazarus wasn’t pretending either.

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

The eulogies from the family were finished it was now my time to bring peace. Peace that only comes from Jesus. I spoke of the joy of a wonderful loving relationship they all shared together in this life and a life well lived for them and Uncle Glen. I also spoke of the Parable of the Good Samaritan which I taught on this past Sunday morning during Bible Study … inadvertently stepping over Jay Squanda … forgetting he had been scheduled to teach last Sunday … and now realizing why.

Speaking about, “loving thy neighbor as thyself” and the question asked by the Lawyer and teacher of the law to Jesus asking … who is my neighbor?”

The care that was given to one in need who was beaten and left for dead on a road, cared for and bound up by a Good Samaritan and the extended family that cared for Uncle Glen over the last 8 years of trial and trying times look very similar.

Love is good but death still came for Lazarus and Uncle Glen.

24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
As the tears flowed for Uncle Glen I too spoke of the resurrection and the life and the blessed comfort for those in Christ who will also rise and be with the Lord forever. But, not only that … we too who believe in Christ Jesus will also spend eternity in heaven with those we love, like Uncle Glen, who also were baptized and marked by Christ as his redeemed child!

Tears are real.

33 When Jesus saw [Martha] weeping, and the [the friends] who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

I never met Uncle Glen but I too felt loss.

Uncle Glen according to those who knew him was a gem of a man, who didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody his entire life. He loved his extended family and showered them and all those he met with that love. He died though, like Lazarus … as a result of sin … because the wages of sin is death.

Jesus wept for Lazarus, but so too for Uncle Glen and for you and me as well as we struggle with sin in our lives - day in and day out.

No matter how good Uncle Glen was or we are we all still need Jesus and his purifying life, death and resurrection. Without Jesus Uncle Glen and all those good memories would be all they have and like Lazarus would remain dead too.

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Uncle Glen’s tomb is in Royal Oak at Oak view Cemetery, on Main Street. His stone is not rolled away but will be placed soon to mark the spot where Uncle Glen and a life well lived rests.

I began my sermon by saying how sad I was to be the only person in the room who didn’t know Uncle Glen but also how thankful I was to be able to be here and to hear about his wonderful life and the love that he shared with so many and I was so blessed to serve at his memorial.

I said, I like to summarize Uncle Glen’s life with these four words:

“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.”

But, I also want to summarize his eternal life with one word … Jesus.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

Lazarus came out and so too will Uncle Glen because Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

You and I and all who trust in Jesus will also rise. 

We have been given this promise. Lazarus was raised but also eventually died and waits like Uncle Glen and all - for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great god and savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13

The grave clothes will give way as we rise as they did for Lazarus.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 1 Cor. 15:53

Bound in sin Christ calls you … Come out!

Death has been swallowed up in victory!

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

Amen

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sermon March 29, 2017 Lent 4

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Fifth Word: "I thirst!"
Text: John 19:28
Readings: Exodus 17:1-7, I Corinthians 10:1-13, John 19:28-29 

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

From an account of the British liberation of Palestine by Major V. Gilbert in The Last Crusade, he writes:

Driving up from Beersheba, a combined force of British, Australians and New Zealanders were pressing on the rear of the Turkish retreat over arid desert.

The attack outdistanced its water carrying camel train. Water bottles were empty. The sun blazed pitilessly out of a sky where the vultures wheeled expectantly. "Our heads ached," writes Gilbert, "and our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare...Our tongues began to swell...Our lips turned a purplish black and burst." Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again, but the desperate force battled on to Sheria. There were wells at Sheria, and had they been unable to take the place by nightfall, thousands were doomed to die of thirst. 

"We fought that day," writes Gilbert, "as men fight for their lives... We entered Sheria station on the heels of the reteating Turks. The first objects which met our view were the great stone cisterns full of cold, clear, drinking water. In the still night air the sound of water running into the tanks could be distinctly heard, maddening in its nearness; yet not a man murmured when orders were given for the battalions to fall in, two deep, facing the cisterns" 

He then describes the stern priorities: the wounded, those on guard duty, then company by company. It took four hours before the last man had his drink of water, and in all that time they had been standing twenty feet from a low stone wall on the other side of which were thousands of gallons of water. 

From an account of the British liberation of Palestine by Major V. Gilbert in The Last Crusade, quoted in Christ's Call To Discipleship, J.M. Boice, Moody, 1986, p. 143.

17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

Water is important and especially important for life. People who have fasted and gone without food have lasted up to three weeks. (Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation) But water is not the same thing. It comprises about 60% of our body, helps to flush waste, it lubricate joints, and regulates our body’s temperature.

Without water we can only live 3-4 days.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-days-can-you-survive-without-water-2014-5

So the importance of water can’t be minimized.

2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

Now the Israelites here had left Egypt. They endured the 10 plagues, including the plague of blood where Moses struck the Nile River with his staff and it turned to blood. The plague of boils where soot from a furnace was thrown into the air turning into a fine dust that went throughout the land that festered into boils on the men and animals it landed on, plague of darkness which lasted three day – called darkness that can be felt … that’s dark! They experienced the Passover, began their Exodus out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and saw Pharaoh’s Army drowned in that same place. They ate Manna and Quail from heaven and still they grumbled.

We don’t grumble from what we have … we grumble from who we are!

As sinners we grumble. No matter our blessings … we grumble. No matter our failings … we grumble. It is the nature of sin and the nature of sinners.

Now, we want water. We’re thirsty and we haven’t had any … for a day or more and it’s hot! 

I don’t know how much time that they went without water but probably less than three days … or they wouldn’t have been asking … they would have been dead.

4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And they would have and the Lord too. 

We want water!

We want water … is the cry! Sinners do that. They complain about what “we” do not have … now! And God is not their God, or so they complain because of all the miracles he has provided they are only concerned right now with the miracle they need now!

This is you and me as well … if we’re honest with ourselves.

Ill.

J. Vernon McGee the radio preacher of Thru the Bible fame tells the story of his first grandchild … a son. 

“He was born … and I must tell you, I doubted my faith. He was such a perfect child, a perfect baby, no crying, no complaining … that … I began to doubt my own faith that we are born sinful and unclean and in need of a savior, he said. It really tested my faith.”

“But then, he says … his brother came along … and you know restored my faith! He must have taken after his grandma.”

Thru the Bible radio from memory

Sin is real and real evident in how sinners act. God’s children wanted water and regardless of all that God had done for them they were like little children, who were thirsty now and wanted water now!

Paul writes in the epistle for today:

10 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.
 
For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.

The physical trials of those in the wilderness were real. Thirst was real both for those following Moses and those with Major Gilbert as he liberated Palestine. Almost to the point of exhaustion and death from thirst they struggled one in grumbling and one in patience.

How do we respond to trial and thirst? In both ways I assume. At times we grumble and at times we endure. As sinners it is our nature. We forget all of god’s benefits to us by and through his son. We look not to all we have but all we want and need … forgetting all that he has done for us and the most important gift of the life giving flood in Holy Baptism that washes us free of sin.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

Christ’s thirst, fulfilled scripture. His thirst was real … just like those in the wilderness. As true man and true God he took your place and mine as he thirsted but did not grumble knowing that all was made new by his life and death for you.

And by His Spirit our spiritual thirst itself is quenched and we receive that living water unto salvation.

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

Amen

Sermon Mar. 25-26, 2017 Lent 4

Title: For in Christ the light of the world has come to you!
Text: John 9:1-41

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so...yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon--and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail and of course, sunrises and sunsets. At night I looked at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. I would never have known how wonderful everything truly is."

Max Lucado, God Came Near, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 13.

To receive sight after being blind is something we can’t really understand but we who have been in the dark … when the lights have come on … know the joy of seeing again.

9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Many see affliction as a result of personal sin … what we did to deserve this and the disciples thought this too. 

But Jesus answers saying:

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
His blindness had a purpose and God will display that purpose in him and in each one of us as he see fit. It is not that he was blind, but through his blindness God will do with him and with each one of us as he sees fit.

Jesus says: 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

What Jesus means here is that while it is still day or light out, it is time for work.

I know that feeling, don’t you? We call it Daylight Savings Time. It stays light long and we can get much done in the light. But, from our Christian perspective we might call it Jesus Saving Time. The time for the work of Christ and the gospel to be made known … like a light going on in the midst of the darkness.

Recently many suffered a loss or power with the wind storms.

Gov. Rick Snyder, in a press briefing with officials from the state’s two biggest utilities, called the windstorm “the largest combined statewide” power outage event in Michigan history. 

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/03/08/90k-without-power-and-winds-sweep-metro-detroit/98899718/

One million lost power and were in the dark. Everyone suffered a little while some suffered a lot. The lack of power can make you feel helpless.

Generators can help … but unless it is a whole house generator … you remain painfully aware of your need for power and light from the outside … and may be heat as well as the cold nights got colder.

So it is also with our spiritual condition. We are born blind in sin and dead to Christ and the truth cannot be made known to us by our own reason, understanding, or efforts.

In the gospel for today, the man born blind could not see and intervention came from outside in the person of Jesus.

6 Having said these things, [Jesus] spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The connection between Jesus, the word of God, and the water brings the blind man sight. Water and word might bring to mind baptism … though this text is not a given pretext for baptism … there is much that can be brought to light by Jesus as the light of the world.

By Christ we receive access to the Father, by the word and water through the working of the Holy Spirit we have our spiritual blindness healed and receive sight to see Christ Jesus for who he is … the light of the world.

There are three responses from the world.

The neighbors

“Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

The Pharisees

15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews (Unbelievers)

“Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

How do you and I respond?

We too receive sight but for us it is the gift of spiritual sight. Question may come from our friends, religious leaders, and those of the world or of unbelief who ask … “How do you see? How did you get your sight?”

The Pharisees denounce Jesus for his performing a miracle on the Sabbath. They look for the man to denounce him too setting Jesus up as a sinner.

His answer to those who try to entrap him is: “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

This template for you and me calls us to testify of the truth to those who ask so that God might by his word give faith and sight to the blind.

The truth at times will be rejected and like the blind man we too may be cast out. (The Christian witness in the world and the persecution that comes.)

Those who reject the word remain blind and dead in sin. Those who receive sight by the working of the Holy Spirit receive eternal life.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Lord, I believe,”

Paul brings comfort to we who believe with these words of one who is Justified and made a child of God by the working of the Spirit.

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. Rom. 10:9-10

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

Amen

Sermon March 22, 2017 Lent 3

Title: The Seven Words of Christ! The Fourth Word: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (cf. Mk. 15:34)
Text: Matthew. 27:46
Readings: Psalm 22:1-2, 11-24, Corinthians 4:5-10, Matthew 27:45-49
 
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Sermon Hymn: #420 Christ, the Life of All the Living Vs1, 5,6,7

“If I had my whole life to live over again, I don't think I'd have the strength.” 

Flip Wilson.

Those words were spoken by the late comedian Flip Wilson. As we think about life and specifically our own life … would we ourselves have the strength to endure again if we were given the opportunity to relive our own lives?

Abraham, who was told that he would become a great and powerful nation, had much to endure.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Gen12:1b-2

So Abram who was 75 at the time left with his nephew Lot and the land of Haran to Bethel, the Negev and finally to Egypt because of a famine.

In Egypt Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s household because Abram told her to say that she was his sister so he might be better treated but finding out his lie Pharaoh casts him out. Abram separates from his nephew Lot and then has to rescue him and finds himself being blessed by Melchizedek the King of Salam saying:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Abram has two sons, one born of the slave girl Hagar who bore Ishmael, and one from Sarah who is the son of promise Issac promised to Abram from the three heavenly visitors including the preincarnate Christ at his tent. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah followed, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away and Issac is older now … he is a young man. 

Much has happened to Abram who is now called Abraham and much more is to come.

God calls.

22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

The promise is to be the sacrifice.

Ill.

At lunch one day in a hotel with her son Reggie and his new wife, Gloria, Alice Vanderbilt asked whether Gloria had received her pearls. Reggie replied that he had not yet bought any because the only pearls worthy of his bride were beyond his price. His mother then calmly ordered that a pair of scissors be brought to her. When the scissors arrived, Mrs. Vanderbilt promptly cut off about one-third of her own $70,000 pearl necklace and handed them to her new daughter-in-law. "There you are, Gloria," she said. "All Vanderbilt women have pearls."

Today in the Word, September 18, 1993.

While $23,000 in 1923 was a lot of money and comparably speaking today would be valued at around $325,000 it is a still small portion of the great wealth, and pearls she had, and much of that wealth she still retained. What Abraham would face and was asked to do … was of significantly greater value and price.

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham goes, and all the while the knowledge of what he was about to do goes with him. He takes the boy and two others, he cuts the wood and on the third day – a significant number of days and time in the Bible – they arrive for the sacrifice.

“Stay here with the donkey; [Abraham says] I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

The forsaking of what God had promised was not lost on Abraham. He believed and trusted what God had promised. Death would come … but the son would live. Abraham knew that when he said:
 
“I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
 
God sends.

At another time and in another way a son is given. The promise from an angel was given to another mother Mary who is called, “you who are highly favored – and told that she will be with child and that this child conceived in her will be called the son of God.” Luke 1:28-35

It is hard to imagine how Abraham felt.
 
God had kept his promise and given him a son; God had said that he would be a great nation and this son was the beginning of that Nation; Abraham knew that God can fulfill and keep his promise even if Issac … his son would die ... because God in his omnipotence (all powerful) can raise the dead.
Abraham knew … but he had to feel loss none the less … I know those who have lost a son or a daughter and they feel great loss and even at times feel forsaken, and the pain remains. 

But, what about Issac; how did he feel? Certainly he must he have felt abandoned by his father as he was bound to be the sacrifice? Certainly he felt forsaken by God as his own father prepared the knife to kill him … the sacrifice that his father Abraham said God would provide.

Mary … too knew what Simeon had said:

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

As she beheld her son on the cross she felt the sword piercing through her own soul thinking maybe to herself, “How can this be? Or why must this be?” At times in our own lives we too feel loss and abandoned. May be too that God has forsaken us as we struggle with, sickness, sin and even death.
Why me, may be the thought?

Why not me?

Ill.

As I mentioned from this past weekend in 1988 my mother was fighting cancer. She was at the University of Michigan hospital and as I visited her and we talked and she said those very words.
Her words were not lost on me as she wrestled with her own dying from cancer. In her grief and suffering I’m sure she had her own private time of reflecting and feeling forsaken by God and afflicted but so too did Jesus. His suffering was real, his pain was real, his purpose was real and his death would be real. The forsaking by the Father was real as well as God the Father turned away from his only begotten son who had become the image of sin … having the sins of the world placed upon him. This was a sin that consumed his son. It was a death he would die alone.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What Christ endured brought rescue. What Christ endured brought peace. You have been not forsaken because of one who was forsaken for you. 

By his stripes you are healed!

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

Amen

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sermon Mar. 18-19, 2017 Lent 3

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

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

Unknown.

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

“Are you in the book?” 

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

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

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

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

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

… “Are you in the book?”

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

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

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

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

“One moment”, he says.

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

“Hey, you’re in the book.”

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

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

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

Ill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen