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