Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon August 26-27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 1:17 tells us:

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

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

“But who do you say that I am?”

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


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

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

"You’re our pastor.”

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

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

By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For the Word of God is powerful enough, when uttered, to change even a godless heart, which is no less unresponsive and helpless than any infant” Pg 41, Paragraph 2

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

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

Jesus commends Peter!

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!

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

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

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

Finally Jesus is speaking to the disciples says:

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

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

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

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


Monday, August 21, 2017

Sermon August 19-20, 2017

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

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

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

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

2017 Concordia Publishing House Matthew 15:27 CPH

But are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What’s the Christian response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, August 14, 2017

Aug. 12-13, 2017 sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today also we see some pretty established facts being challenged.

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

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

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

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

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

“How can I be right with God?” 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

But what does God again say in our epistle?

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

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

But Luther is not there … yet.

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

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

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

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

It is finished!

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