Monday, September 17, 2018

Sermon Sept 15-16, 2018

Title:Sept 15-16, 2018 Setting III with Holy Communion
Title: The word of God casts out and restores!
Text: Mark 9:14-29

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Life and death and love and caring are human emotions that have been seen and felt in our own lives many times over the years. It may be a dear family friend who passes away, the sickness of an elderly parent or child, or dear friends and their children who you’ve seen grow up and felt their celebration and joy as well as sorrow and pain.

At time we are brought into the lives of perfect strangers who we comfort or see their grief from afar. The loss of a child is especially hard to deal with and understand. We at times can feel the pain as if it is our own loss.

Last week our text showed us the compassionate Christ as he opened the ears and mouth of a deaf mute who then “spoke plainly.” Not only having his ears and mouth healed but being given the gift of speech, immediately, as Mark so often says in his gospel account.

In today’s reading:

14 And when they [those that had been following Jesus] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Jesus is known to the people as the one who brings peace, comfort, healing and the things that you and I also find of great value when things in our life need help. And here a voice from the crown answers Jesus’ question.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

A father’s pleading for his son. “I brought him to you … but your disciples were not able.”

The disciples fell short! They missed the mark! What was needed … wasn’t given … to a man in distress.

I can relate, how about you? Have you missed the mark? I think we can all agree with St. Paul.

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:18-24

At times we miss the mark by things we do and at times by things we don’t do.

Ill.

Last weekend Rally Day was lightly attended. In the past it has been a great even with many beginning the regular schedule with a pot luck and return to Sunday school and Bible Study. I must admit to feeling a bit dejected at the 43 who did come. As I reflected on the weekend on Monday and the sermon for this week … “Oh faithless generation” spoke to me. I felt the weight of burden lifted from me as I looked to the Lord’s good work from last weekend. We welcomed six men members – two couples through transfer, a shut in transfer and an adult instruction and profession of faith and we have has the blessing of visitors in our midst.

Our faith is weak when we look to self and inward. Our focus need to be outward to Jesus and his cross for there is where true salvation and hope is found.

Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring [the boy] to me.”

What I didn’t want to hear from my boss, the disciples now hear from Jesus … pain and disappointment from the Lord of Glory at their falling short.

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

The solutions for the problems we face are always best helped when the focus is on Christ. Because the evil foe is Satan and the forces of demonic activity that perplex and attack us and those who remain lost in the world.

This father is grieving for his son as he has been plagued with this demon “From childhood.” We might reasonably look at our own sinful condition and malady as those brought forth in iniquity … conceived and born in sin. Psalm 51:5

But though we have been freed by Christ Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, we still remain in our sinful flesh … both Saint and Sinner.

On the one hand we are freed by the grace of God in Christ and have received all things being made new, but at the same time, we are bound to our sinful flesh and wrestle with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief!

The call … “I believe; help my unbelief!” is the call of a believing soul tormented by a demonic foe. We too call daily to God to lift the burden of sin we carry and to comfort us, and bring us peace … the peace … that passes all human understanding.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

We too are born into this world dead to God, and it is by God’s command:

“19 Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” that we receive life eternal promised from the lips of our Lord.

Having done a number of baptisms of little children, it always reminds me of this passage when they are baptized because when baptized there is crying out and convulsing. The devil cannot remain but must flee. Where light is, darkness flees.

“He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Death, raised to life and caring, through the sacrificial love of the God man Jesus Christ are what God has given you.

The picture in the today’s lesson shows the condition we too are born and wrestle with. But it also shows god love and power to bring us both from death to life through the means he has provided of word and sacrament but also show the picture of the final gift of God when:

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Dear friends,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52,56

God brings peace, comfort, victory and belief through his means!

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

Amen

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sermon Sept 8-9, 2018

Title: Hearing, we proclaim the Good News!
Text: Mark 7:31-37

36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus was traveling through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from a few weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking to them on the water.

The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed them, healed them from illness, and he cast out demons and they are now in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.

Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.

In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.

… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. Those who brought him to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again.

Jesus sees the problem … here is a man who is deaf and mute.

Ill.

If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Those who use sign language know that communication with the deaf is highly visual. Our own Michigan District has an active ministry to the deaf and many churches work to accommodate the hearing impaired.

At Rev. Dr. Jacob Heckert’s funeral this year, while the service went on there was the traditional speaking of the liturgy as to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t.

Pastor Tom Dunseth who’s family is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hartland provided the signing for those members and friends who came to the service so that they could more fully participate.

Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.

Jesus understood that.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking to the deaf man in a way that he could understand.

Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of the crowd doesn’t distract us?

Jesus gets his attention.

The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”

And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue.

Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.

Your maladies and mine are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak. You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give. It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear … so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.

and said to him, “Ephphatha,” The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”

Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.” And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?

You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!

There is even better news than the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.
He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!

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

Amen

Sermon Sept 1-2, 2018

Title: Your protection is in Christ!
Text: Eph 6:10-20

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Songwriter: STILLS, STEPHEN, Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. http://www.metrolyrics.com/for-what-its-worth-lyrics-buffalo-springfield.html

For What it’s Worth - the anthem of the unrest of the late 1960s, 1967 in fact … from the pen of Stephen Stills and the band Buffalo Springfield. The Vietnam War raged on, along with the draft and the draft dodgers who went to Canada; Kent State, and the students who died protesting at an Ohio University, an institution of higher learning. Richard Nixon and Watergate; the White House tapes and on and on … this was a hard and turbulent time in our nation’s history.

Today seems headed in a similar direction. Social unrest in the streets fill the headlines. Confederate statues come tumbling down, pro choice or pro life, politicians vying for mid-term election wins, and protests going on around the country. Battle lines are certainly being drawn, politically … socially … and morally.

Christianity and the church are being attacked from within and without. Young people are speaking their minds ... by their very absence from church – parents, grandparents and we the church are concerned.

In 1966 Time Magazine, on its cover asked the question: “Is God Dead?”
23 years ago Joan Osborn asked the question, in her hit song from 1995,
“What if God was one of us” you might remember the chorus:

What if God was one of us / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make His way home?

Today many may wonder and ask this same question as they struggle with the brokenness of their lives, in a world that is spiraling out of control, with ... it seems like … little ... or no hope.

Paul tells the Ephesian church to,

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Many Christians today take this as their marching orders from God to get in the world being ready to do battle and to fight the righteous fight for truth, justice and moral purity. And while we are told always [to] be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (1 Peter 3:15) we are also told to do this, with gentleness and respect.

For Paul reminds us who the enemy really is.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, - not against those who appear to be the enemies we face - but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The darkness of the devil and his demons are the ones railing against Christ and the victory won at the cross.

The target is on you too. To cause you to fall back into the darkness that you have been rescued once and for all from.

God’s armor is for your protection.

Paul tells the Ephesian church and us to:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand [or stand firm] in the evil day, days just like today … not to battle but, to stand firm … not to fall again into darkness and the temptations of the devil … but to rise, being clothed with Christ daily!

With the image of battle lines being drawn and battle armor being put on … belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword Paul says that we are really armed and fitted with truth, with righteousness, with peace, and with faith through the Gospel, the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

You dear friends are clothed in Christ with the armor of God and his saving gospel!

In the Joan Osborn song, the writer Eric Bazilian asks:

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Songwriter Eric Bazilian, Published by HUMAN BOY MUSIC http://www.metrolyrics.com/what-if-god-was-one-of-us-lyrics-alanis-morissette.html

When the Joan Osborn song was climbing up the charts and I was still pretty active playing music with a few bands back in the mid 90s I wrote a song in answer to “What if God was one of us?” It was simply called, “God was one of us.”

As a Christian rescued by Christ and shown mercy in the face of my own depravity I could only sing God’s praise for what he had done for me. We are not called to faith to escape the trials of this world, for from the words of Jesus himself he says:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

But, in spite of these trials we are to sing the truth of God’s rescue in Christ. To call, by the power of the saving gospel, those to faith by the word of God through the working of the Holy Spirit, that in spite of the devils lies that question “did God really say” from the Garden of Eden, to the lie’s of our own day which questions the existence of the historical Jesus, our own sinfulness, or the working of the devil in the world, 

God was one of us!

He came to live suffer die and rise again just for you and me.

You are God’s child not because of your efforts, but because God desires you.

You are God’s child because he died for you and freed you from the curse of the law that you and I could never keep … with even 99% being a failing grade.

You are God’s child because by his Spirit he called you to believe the word of the gospel giving you faith and raising you from being dead in trespass and sin to newness of life in him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The song asks the question:

If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

Jesus gives answer to questions in Matthew to the sheep and the goats when he says in Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Matt 25:31


34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matt 25:34

But the questions the righteous will ask:

37 … ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King [Jesus in glory] will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt 25:37-40


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

Amen

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sermon August 25-26, 2018

Title: Love, Submission and Jesus!
Text: Eph. 5:22-33

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Stephen Beck writes:

Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD." Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction. To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, "I'm sure there was one posted on the other side." When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision. When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions.
Stephen P. Beck.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands
… as to the Lord.

25 Husbands, love your wives
… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Which one is harder? To submit to ones husband as you would to the Lord … or to love ones wife as Christ loved the church? 

I would submit that they both are pretty difficult or darn near impossible for we who wrestle with sin in our daily lives to do. Sin taints all of who we are, and everything we do so that even the good we do is covered and infected with sin.

Paul continues:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

That sounds reasonable to me as a husband. It’s nice to know that my wife needs to hear, and listen, and submit to me as the church does to Christ.

But … there is more:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 

Now … that, is a bit harder

Husbands are to love their wives as he loves himself, and cherish he, just as Christ does the church.
Well … what if the husband doesn’t know Christ? 

Or, what if he is not a follower of Jesus? How does this impact married life?

Quite a bit I would maintain.

… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her [make her holy or set apart], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [just as you were washed and marked as Christ’s child] 27 so that [Christ] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Husbands are to present themselves to Christ in submission … and their wives should be sanctified or set apart unto Christ as the husband is the head of the wife … and … the head of the family in all things.

This, dear friends is not power … but servant hood.

Ill.

I remember the first time I came to realize that it was my duty to be the spiritual head of the family. I didn’t want to do it.

What! I thought. Wait a minute. Monica would be way better at being the spiritual head of the family. She could do the table prayers, and she could teach the children the bible stories … and she could ... and she could …

But, everywhere I went in the Bible (by this time the Lord had, by his Spirit, drawn me into the word) - as I kept reading and trying to find a way where I could pass off this responsibility - the word kept telling me:

“Russ! It’s your job! You are to be the head! You need to do it!”

So what does this say to the Christian who has fallen in love with an unbeliever?

Be careful! Marriage is hard enough when you have the uniting focus of faith in Christ as your guide.

But without Christ … it can be a devastating proposition.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ill.

My friend Aaron Neilson on Facebook just had his 4th child a little boy they named Boaz Michael Neilson.

Boaz is an Old Testament name from the Book of Ruth. In the story, Naomi’s daughter-n-law Ruth will not leave her mother-n-law but follows her back to Bethlehem, Judah. While there she gleans in the field of a near relative named Boaz. The story concludes with Boaz redeeming his relative Elimelech, Naomi deceased husband’s field and property and also Ruth as his wife. Ultimately, Ruth has a child Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David, a King after God’s own heart.

Ruth from the country of Moab is redeemed by Boaz and we see her again mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.

Boaz is a Kinsmen Redeemer a type of Christ we see as the two become one flesh the linage lead to King David and ultimately to Jesus Christ himself. In marriage the husband is a type of Kinsmen redeemer, the two have become one. It is no longer we who live separate but we live as one in Christ. Can you see the dilemma of those who are unequally yoked to an unbeliever and the difficulty that may result?

United as one and united in Christ brings not always peace as we all struggle with sin in life and marriage but it also brings a greater union outside oneself in Christ. In submission and in love towards him we live as one husband and wife, united as one flesh, one couple, one purpose and one hope.

As Paul concludes:

33 … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Love, Submission and Jesus!

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

Amen

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sermon August 18-19, 2018

Title: Let the light of Christ shine in you as one alive!
Text: Eph. 5:6-21

8b Walk as children of light
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Empty words, we’ve all heard them … are words meant to deceive, to put off, or to fill one’s own agenda. The sons of disobedience hear and follow. Those opposed to Christ and his gospel continue to go the way of destruction, but we too who have been brought to faith by God’s gifts give way to the call of darkness and fall in sin.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

Don’t get sucked in, Paul tells the Ephesians. But what were the Ephesians getting sucked into … and does it apply to you and me?

Paul says in verse three and four that preceded our text:

3 [That] sexual immorality and all impurity or [coveting] must not even be named among you, and he concludes: 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking … but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who [covets], [which is to desire that which is not yours] … has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Harsh words indeed and the Ephesians were falling short then, and Christians today fall short too. When desires, feelings and societal norms go against God’s word and truth … the result is that darkness [the realm of Satan] reigns.

You and I feel it too. Sin is a powerful force that in thought, word, and deed we can all give in to … and its desires can lead us away from the truth that God intends.

When Paul speaks of sexual immorality and all impurity he is not just speaking of same sex attraction, (though homosexuality would be included in his rebuke) but of all sexual sins outside of God’s design of marriage or in the context of marriage that defiles that union.

Whether perpetrator or victim there are no winners when sexual sin rears its ugly head.

There has been so much in the news over the last year or so. Powerful men who took advantage or their positions in the Hollywood entertainment machine to prey on young women; TV celebrities; people of prominence, and the church is not immune either.

(Reuters) - A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania released the names on Wednesday of 71 clergy members and seminarians accused of sexually abusing children since the 1940s, acting in advance of a release of grand jury findings on clergy abuse in the state.

“I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children,” Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg said in the statement.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pennsylvania-romancatholic-abuse/catholic-diocese-names-dozens-accused-of-sexual-abuse-in-pennsylvania-idUSKBN1KM686

Paul cautions the Ephesians:

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

And here’s the key …

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

The light that exposes darkness is Jesus Christ and his word of truth. And it is not to use God as a means – claiming “I believe” - while denying him and living in sin using Christ as a cover. But through repentance it is God’s desire that you be restored freely by faith in Christ through his saving Gospel and working of the Holy Spirit. And also by the light of the gospel that your light shines in the midst of those in darkness so that they too might come to faith and believe.

Paul speaks of coveting as well, or desiring that which you don’t have … and this can also be things we desire or people.

As Luther says in his explanation for the 9th and 10th commandments:

We should fear and love God that we may not [find] seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it … (9th commandment)

… [nor covet], force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty. (10th commandment)

http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php

Darkness and light … lies and truth … you can’t ride the fence.

The primary election in behind us but the general election looms large for November and I’m sure that the ads will reflect this in word and deed.

Everything you do untimely says something about who you are. So:

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, Paul says, don’t let the world, your sinful flesh or the devil be your guide. And all too often we can fall silent in the face of evil.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Joel Fritsche a career missionary suggests that this might be a stanza from an early Christian hymn. It certainly could be with this image of dying and rising and awaking from death that you and I who have been brought to faith understand.

[Aretha Franklin is another high profile person that just passed away ... In my previous life in the retail music world the company I worked for rented pianos for concerts, repaired her piano from smoke damage from a fire at her home and sold her a Bosendorfer grand piano for her new residence ... relate some personal stories.]

Death is the great equalizer for us all. Whether you are the Queen of Soul or just one of us we all need to have Christ and be brought to faith to have a eternity with him. That changes who we are and how we live.

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here in the Divine Service God calls us to come. To be fed on word and sacrament. To receive God’s favor on account of Christ, and to go fourth, in a world of darkness, with the light of the gospel of peace – the very word of God – and it is this word that brings those who are dead in sin and darkness to God’s marvelous light of forgiveness.

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

Amen

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sermon August 4-5, 2018

Title: Walking with Jesus in gentleness and humility!
Text: Eph 4:1-16

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Humility, gentleness, and patience or - bearing with one another in love - sure don’t sound like the world I live in. At least if you watch the news, spend time on your computer, or check the timeline feeds on your phone or social media account.

You members who are not online or active with facebook or twitter accounts are not immune either. You’ve either heard about it on the radio, read about it in the paper, or have firsthand experience with it while you drive, shop, or go about you daily lives.

Rude and aggressive people who also happen to be impatient are all around us. The world is full of them. Guess what … so is the church.

As the body of believers we live in the world too. At times the world breaks into our lives with rude, violent, and unkind people and attitudes that can shake the foundation of who we are, causing in us a response that is no more humble, gentle, or patient than what we’ve experienced.

It is easy to take our eyes off Jesus; and Paul here is calling the church in Ephesus to refocus. Not only to see Jesus and all he has done for them but to reflect him in words, actions, and attitudes living as his followers wherever God has placed them in home, work, or church.

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. NIV 1984

From Confirmation class we learn how the Law works as curb, mirror, and guide. It stops bad behavior, reflects our sinfulness to us, and directs us in a better way to go. Feeble attempts to keep the Law miss the mark as we actually at times think we measure up. It can cause a condescending spirit in us to see ourselves as better than others – especially as brothers and sisters in Christ - as pride grows and replaces humility.

Ill.

This past Sunday Alan Trammel and Jack Morris were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I remembered briefly seeing both men at my previous work as they came in to look at pianos. I didn’t wait on either of them as it was another salesman that got the opportunity. Both of them were polite and nice, though neither bought a piano from my place of business. As I remember, both bought a competitive brand and I believe it was Jack who commented to his wife, “We’ll always have a house big enough for the concert grand,” or something along those lines. It may have been a true statement, but confidently cocky is a phrase my boss use to describe successful people at times.

Moving ahead 30 + years or so, their Hall of Fame speeches showed men humble and gentile with their words and patient in their delivery looking to soak up the moment while they considered their accomplishments and the important people in their lives.

While thanking his mother Alan Trammel said,

“She would tell me, If you ever make it to the Major Leagues, I want you to be humble like my favorite player, Stan Musial.”

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-alan-trammell-hall-fame-speech/860198002/

But Jack Morris – the harder edged, confidently cocky, we’ll always have the big house for a concert grand guy, began his speech with these words of thanks:

“I am humbled and honored to be with all of you today. Above all, I give thanks to God for His many blessings.”

And he ended with:

“God blessed me with a gift and it was meant to be shared with others. My life in baseball has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for everything.

I want to thank you again for sharing this wonderful day with me. Praise be to God. Thank you.

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2018/07/29/detroit-tigers-jack-morris-hall-fame-speech/860426002/

Confident … yes, but not so much cocky.

Paul in his letter wants the church then and now to know that there is one church, one body of believers, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all … and you, like the church in Ephesus, have been bought with a price.

The death of Jesus is the gift and the price. Because he has risen from the dead and has ascended on high, we too who trust in him will rise and ascend. But only because he died in our place and descended, proclaiming victory over sin, death and the power of the devil can we ever understand the height that he has ascended too.

Humility is hard … success builds pride. Pride can see not the gift or the giver but only the reflection in the mirror. The mirror of the Law - shows us our sin – SOS. But it requires an act of God through his Holy Spirit to SOS – see our savior.

Hall of Fame honors, World Series wins, money, success and fame can cause a cloud of selfish pride to obscure the mirror that reflects who we truly are apart from Christ – lost and condemned creatures that we are.

But thanks be to God, he has made a way for the mirror to clearly reflect our true condition and to provide the means of comfort for a burdened soul … the word of God.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, NIV 1984

God’s gift comes to us through humble means.

Apostles – called by God in Christ to proclaim the way the truth and the life in Jesus and to write by inspiration of the Holy Spirit all that God had given them to do.

Prophets - Those who in many and various ways God spoke through in the past pointing forward to the coming hope that is Jesus.

Evangelists – Those sent to take the good news to the far reaches of the world to bring the lost into the fold.

Pastor’s and teachers – Shepherds that care for God’s flock, called to proclaim the full council of God, feeding God’s sheep, giving his gifts and teaching his children the truth of the word and their standing as his redeemed children. I am blessed to be here and called to serve you.

12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

God’s word is truth.

Paul’s desire is that the church knows the word of God …

knows the gift of faith …

knows the reliance on one Lord, one Faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all.

Only then is it possible to reflect humility, gentleness, and patient as we live as Christ’s body of believers in this broken world. No longer, children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Not being deceived by the ways of the world and the cunning of the devil or being drawn away through men who twist the word of God, deceive the flock, and build their kingdom on the backs of the faithful.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Reactions to the truth can cause differing responses. It can cause rebellion, anger, pride and arrogance by those in opposition to the word and the truth it proclaims or by the working of the Holy Spirit it can cause humility, gentleness, and patience in your life and mine as we live out or vocations as Christians.

Jack Morris sounds like a man changed by the word of God.

You too have been changed. May the joy of that change be a reflection in all you say and do waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13 ESV

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

Amen

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sermon July 28-29, 2018

Title: Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!
Text: Mark 6:45-56

50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock.”

These are the words of St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, from a sermon preached around 400 AD. He was sent into exile for his faith … which led ultimately to his death.

He continues:

“Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise; they cannot sink the boat … of Jesus. What are we to fear … Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile … ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods … We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats; I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death or do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.”

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/233/whom_shall_i_fear___john_chrysostom.html

Fear can consume us all whether it is financial, personal, or medical. The Rock upon which our faith is built is Christ.

He is the rock of refuge.
He is the place of comfort.
He is the pavilion of rest.
He is the gift of mercy.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18

That rock … is Christ Jesus our Lord!

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat [Luther sees the boat as a metaphor for the church] and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.

Jesus compels the disciples to leave. Maybe there was unwillingness on their part but Jesus made them get into the boat. He dismisses the crowds and then as is consistent with Jesus, no matter the crowds or the work or the distractions … Jesus prays.

47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, [also seen as a metaphor for the chaos of the world broken in sin, death and the devil]

and [Jesus] was alone on the land.

By this time … the boat was a far way off.

The wind and waves were against the boat and the disciples … as life at times can be.

Ill.

The storms can come, and at times it is with wind, rain, and hail. Tree limbs can break, homes and cars can be damaged, and power for some … can be lost.

You have experienced storms and so have I. Storms can come without warning and fear can be greatest … when we least expect it.

Jesus spent almost the entire night, after the disciples departed, in prayer.

The fourth watch would be late, between 3 AM and 6 AM. It can be the darkest part of the night or just before the grayness of dawn gives way to morning, and the disciples were fighting against the waves of the sea and the wind which were against them.

[Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. Mark 6:48b

If you’ve ever been up most of the night you might understand the disciple’s distress. The wind, the waves … 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified.

Christ calms the storms of life!

Ill.

As a pastor, I get to visit quite a few people at the hospitals, care facilities and in their homes. Some are dealing with minor procedures while others have grave and serious concerns. Some just deal with the problems of age and the uncertainty of life. It is always a joy though to be asked to pray for those who need a comforting word at a time of great worry and fear.

Christ brings that type of peace.

This past Monday all seemed normal for the beginning of the work week. I went in to church, started my sermon preparation and work on things for my Elders meeting and confirmation this fall. I went hope at to feed my dogs and have lunch. While I was putting my plate in the dishwasher I thought I should call Trudy and see if I could make a visit. Her phone didn’t pick up it just beeped. It seemed odd to me. I thought I’d go back to church but something caused me to think … I’ll just drive to her apartment. If she is not there I’ll call her daughter and see what’s up.

Trudy is about 4 miles from me si it didn’t take long to get there. As I walked to her home her window blinds were drawn which is not normal. I peeked in the crack in the blind and could see the TV on. I banged a bit harder on the door and then heard a voice … “Help me.”

The door was locked so I called 911. I gave them the apartment number but couldn’t remember the street and wrestled with the dispatcher who was asking many questions for clarification and it was becoming frustrating to me. Fear was coming upon me as I only wanted to get the door open so I could check on Trudy.

I told the lady on the phone, “Look, I’m getting a bit frustrated and I’m about ready to bust this door down.” To which she calmly said, “You can do that and we even encourage it but just make sure she isn’t behind the door.”

Just then a young man from another apartment came out side. I asked him if he could call and get a security person to open the door. He did, but there was no answer and he asked … did you try the back door? I forgot about the door wall and ran around the back of the complex. When I reached Trudy’s door I pulled. It opened! There was Trudy on the floor. She was sitting and in some pain but looked clear headed and stable.

She said to me “I have been sitting and praying. Thank you so much for coming. I heard you on the phone but I couldn’t get up.”

For it is Jesus who says: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

I’ve told many of you that it is such a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I get to bring the Lord’s word and gifts to those in need who can’t get to church. Last Monday God brought Trudy’s prayers directly to me in a special way so that her need and her prayers could be answered immediately.

Apart from God’s word of forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit we all would be consumed with fear at the despair and trials of life and weight of our sins.

Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!

The trials of life and the storms that attack us can’t diminish the Love of God for you his beloved redeemed children.

51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,

Jesus is the peace beyond all understanding.

54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard [Jesus] was.

The needs of body and soul are always at peace in Christ because he loves you and has given his life so that you might live.

56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Take heart, in Christ your sickness is healed!

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

Amen

Sermon July 21-22, 2018

Title: Our Lord Christ feeds you life in his name!
Text: Mark 6:30-44

37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.

Missionary statesman Hudson Taylor had complete trust in God's faithfulness. In his journal he wrote:

Our heavenly Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning... He sustained 3 million Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. We do not expect He will send 3 million missionaries to China; but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all... Depend on it; God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply.

Our Daily Bread, May 16, 1992.

31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31

The news that His disciples brought to Jesus in the verses preceding this text was the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod. Hard news for anyone to hear especially if the news involves someone we know or are close to as John was to Jesus who had lost their life.

Jesus needed to get away and be away from the people. So He gets into a boat with his disciples and goes across the lake to a place that is quite – to a place that is desolate.

32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Mark 6:32

When you think of desolate you might think of a place devoid of inhabitants and deserted. A place that is joyless and sorrowful - as if separated from a loved one. A place showing signs of abandonment, dilapidated, devoid of warmth, comfort or hope.

But what does Jesus find?

33 Now many saw them going and recognized them and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, Mark 6:33-34a

He went to get away; to be by Himself; to collect His thoughts; to pray and here he finds not a desolate place at all, but one filled with a very large crowd of followers. I believe that even this crowd would have given Jesus a pass had he became agitated and told them to go away. But what does Jesus do?

… and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34b

Our Lord Christ feeds you life in his name!

We all fail to see and reflect God’s compassion in our daily lives. Many times agitation - seen through the eyes of sin - become the first reaction we have before – by the power of the Holy Spirit – we see through the compassionate eyes of faith given to us by our loving savior Jesus.

Compassion would show for a Christian the wonderful evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. To think of someone else and their needs first and foremost – this is a Christ-like virtue.

Ill.

Compassion for children draws many to help at Vacation Bible School.

Compassion for those who are sick causes some to visit, send cards, or help with their needs.

Compassion is a response to God’s compassion for us.

Jesus’ showed compassion to the crowd of people gathered at this place and His compassion extended to their physical need as well. These five thousand men, women and children hungered and were fed in a miraculous way by Jesus, but the miracle was probably not even something they were aware of. 

God’s great blessing filled their hunger, showed the disciples the compassion and power with which Jesus was sending them out. Each had a basketful of leftovers [12] to testify to what Jesus has done and will continue to do through them.

God would be with them as they went forth. His miraculous work would be worked through them.

They would speak … but Jesus’ words would be heard.

All that Jesus is and does would be with them as they walked in His place with His word, bringing freedom to those in need of the saving knowledge of Christ in a fallen world. The compassion that Jesus has would be the compassion they share with sinners so that they are healed of their sin, fed by our precious Lord’s word and satisfied of all their wants and needs.

Jesus has compassion. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)

Jesus has compassion. 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)

Jesus has compassion. 8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Jesus has compassion. 9 Because, by the power of the Holy Spirit in you, 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)

Jesus has compassion. 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom. 10:13)

Jesus has compassion … on you!

Because, He heals your sin and covers you with His righteousness so that you are by faith, free of your bondage to sin, fed by his holy word as well as His very Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper that is given and shed for you! And all who are satisfied and found in Him … Christ gives you simply out of His compassionate grace, mercy and love for you.

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

Amen

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sermon June 30-July 1, 2018

Title: Your faith has made you well!
Text: Mark 5:21-43

41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. (And many of us love our pets.)

Wrap love carefully around your hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock love up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness.

But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable ... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love … is Hell.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960, p.169.

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.

Jesus did not stay put he went among the people and they followed him.

22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death.[my heart is wrung and nearly broken] Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

One of the rulers of the synagogue comes to Jesus because his daughter is at the point of death. He knows that if he does nothing she will die and be lost to him forever. He has obviously heard about Jesus … the healings that he has done and is convinced that Jesus can heal her and can make her well, so he seeks him out and falls at his feet to implore him to come, so that she may be made well and live.
Jairus has faith in Jesus and trusts Christ Jesus to give his daughter life.

35 [But] while he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This is truly devastating news? Jairus learns from these people that his daughter has died and he is told “don’t bother [Jesus] any longer.”

Life, death, love, and faith all at work and all connected to Jesus.

Your faith has made you well!
I would like to share a story from my friend Paul Ruehl. It is also a story connected to my past as we have been friends for over 50 years.

Ill.

My friend Paul Ruehl had a life changing encounter that built his faith regarding his two daughters, Diana and Michelle.

Paul writes:

Diana was born June 8, 1979, nearly 3 months premature. She was perfectly formed and the most beautiful baby I have yet to ever see. She was a fighter. She was a preemie but she had a lot of spunk. The doctors put gauze around her ankles and wrists and pinned them to the sheet so she wouldn't pull the various monitors off or the tube that breathed air into her lungs. I was told that the first 48 hours were the most critical. At almost exactly 48 hours of life on June 10, 1979, Diana had a brain aneurysm and, literally, died in my arms. I could sense the life leave her as she died. I was 24 years old and absolutely devastated.

We fast forward one year. On June 9, 1980, my second daughter, Michelle was born, also nearly 3 months premature, but appearing in much worse shape than Diana had been. Michelle had absolutely no response to external stimuli. She did not respond to needle pricks as nurses drew her blood every hour, her eyes did not dilate when light was shined in them, she had no suck reflex and she could not breathe. A ventilator pumped 100% pure oxygen into her lungs. Room air is about 21% oxygen. I was told on June 10, 1980, the doctors did not think Michelle would make it through the night; that she would die on the same day one year after Diana had died. By this time I had been up nearly two days straight and went home to rest. The nice thing about Children's Hospital in Detroit is parents of the babies in the NICU can come and go at any time. I intended to sleep a few hours and come back and spend whatever time I could with Michelle. As I lay down to sleep, I cried out to God like I had never done before. I prayed a silly prayer asking God to allow her to live past midnight so she wouldn't die on June 10.

Then at 10:13 PM, June 10, 1980, I had a vision.

I had never had a vision before nor have I had one since. It was a vision and not a dream for I was clearly awake. In my vision, I saw Abraham laying Isaac on the altar, crying as he did so. I assumed God wanted Michelle's life so I cried out in a loud voice, "take her Lord, she's yours". I then fell into a deep sleep and slept at least 8 hours. When I awoke I was quite angry with myself for sleeping so long. I drove quickly to the hospital and ran up to the NICU. I scrubbed and put on a gown and literally ran to where I had last seen Michelle; her crib was gone. I was devastated and began to weep in sorrow. The nurse who had been taking care of Michelle the previous day asked me what was wrong. I said, "Where’s my baby". The nurse said, "We moved her, one of the other children needed her life support". I asked, "Why did you move her, did you give up on her?" The nurse spoke the sweetest words I have ever heard. She said, "Give up on her? She doesn't need it anymore." She proceeded to explain what the night shift nurse had told her when she reported for duty. She showed me the medical chart for Michelle from the night before and these charts literally record anything the babies do in NICU. There was a brief notation at 10:13 PM the night before. It stated, "baby extubated self". This means Michelle reached up with her own hand and pulled the tube out of her nose that was breathing for her. When Michelle did this, it set off all sorts of alarms which brought the doctors and nurses to her bedside. As one of the nurses was about to put the tube back in her nose, the doctor said to wait and see how she does. They watched in awe when she seemed to come alive and squirm and respond to ALL stimuli. She was ravenously hungry.

She was healed.

I was told that since Michelle had been on pure oxygen, she was likely brain damaged and blind. Michelle came home more than a month before she was due to be born. At about her original due date I took her to see a pediatric ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked. As the doctor evaluated her, he looked at the hospital report and he looked at Michelle then at me. He repeated this a couple times then asked me, "Why is she here?" I explained her start to life and what the doctors at the hospital had been concerned about. He told me, "this child has the eye sight of a one year old … I don't need to see her until she's ready for school." So much for being blind! As for being brain damaged, Michelle graduated third in her high school class and graduated from the US Air Force Academy. [At the time of this writing] Michelle is now a retired Major and pilot in the Air Force having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our joke is … if she was brain damaged, the Air Force would have made her a general!

The final chapter to this amazing story occurred only a few months after Michelle was born … at home, and doing very well.

In prayer, asked God what the vision meant. I knew I had seen it and obviously missed the point; I thought Michelle would die. To this day, I would swear I heard the voice of God chuckle and say "read the story, did Isaac die?" God wanted me to yield her life to him - he didn't want her to die. God heals today like he did when Jesus was walking the earth, in his way and his timing. That truth, this experience, has sustained me as much as anything I have experienced in my walk of faith. God can raise the dead to life, spiritually and physically. Praise His name forever.

Michelle’s Story: Paul Ruehl

Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

[And taking] the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

By faith, Jairus trusted his daughter to Jesus and she was raised from death to life. By faith my friend Paul commended his daughter to the Lord and she was removed from life support and given life. It is hard for me to believe that was already 38 years ago … because it seems like yesterday as I too lived with my friend through that experience.

And also by faith parents bring their children to the waters of Holy Baptism so that they too might be brought from death to life. Here they receive God’s mercy as they are buried with Christ and raised to newness of life in Baptism.

The apostle Paul articulates this in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 when he writes:

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

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

Amen

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sermon June 16-17, 2018

Title: The Lord produces fruit in you!
Text: Mark 4:26-34

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Dear friends,

There is a scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where nearing the end of his quest, Indiana, reaches an opening in a cliff but for him to continue on he must take a leap of faith to reach the other side.

As he looks out at what is before him he sees a chasm below that is seriously deep and way too far for him to reach or jump to on the other side. He has followed the directions in a book his father has given him. He faces a dilemma. What to do?

Finally as the scene climaxes and sweat pours off his face, he raises his leg, and stepping out in faith, walks off the face of the cliff. His foot lands on a solid bridge that was invisible to his sight. From his viewpoint there was no way to the other side. What we are shown as he continues across is that the perspective of the cliff face, on the other side, concealed the bridge that was right in front of him. In his leap of faith … perspective is everything.

So too in our lesson for today … Jesus had been sharing with His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God and using parables to explain their meaning. Jesus talked about seed and the sewing of the seed and how it took root and grew or didn’t depending on the soil where it landed.

And we read in Mark Chapter 4 starting at the 4th verse:

4 Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

The good soil produces an increase … growing … 30 … 60 and even 100 times the amount of seed that was planted!

The Gospel message, the good seed of the word, proclaimed and by the working of the Holy Spirit … produces fruit in you!

Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in our text today, as if a man should scatter seed. The image is vivid in our minds … at this time of year as we plant gardens or take vacations seeing the many farms and farmers planting seed in the ground. They all hope and expect a yield come harvest time.

At the time of our Lord’s lesson in the Gospel reading for today, the blessing that we know of running water, at the turn of the tap, and hoses that get the water to the plant was far off in the distant future.

And so the man who had sown seed, sleeps and rises … night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

29 … But, when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus continues to speak in our Gospel lesson today about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the mustard seed … a seed so small that when it is sown, into the ground, is tiny … 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The leap of faith that was taken in the fictitious character in the movie Indiana Jones was staged and it was achieved by sleight of hand and movie magic … but the reality of the powerful tool of the Gospel given in word and sacrament to you by faith is still for some … no big deal.

Even here in church the seed of the word is scattered and falls upon different soil. Some falls on the path … being left where it fell for the birds to find, some on the rocky soil and it sprouts quickly in the service but upon leaving church is scorched by the sun and the cares of the day. Other seed falls among the thorns, which can be those of you who really don’t want to be here and grudgingly come, but the word gets choked and yields no grain. But, some seed falls on good soil and with you the seed of the word takes root; it sprouts and grows – very slowly at times. But, with joy you leave here, sharing the word and the love of Christ producing a yield of 30, 60 or even 100 times!

For others … You might come to church reluctantly. You might have opportunities to tell someone outside church about Jesus … and forget to. You might even at times feel like you are … well … small and insignificant.

You might feel that what you say won’t matter, or that what you say won’t have the eloquence of speech of others, or that what you say concerning Christ … won’t work to expand God’s kingdom.

The doubts you feel … many feel. But Jesus tells you in this parable that God will take your imperfect speech, He will take even the slightest and smallest witness … through your failed stuttering and muttering about Christ and His saving work and grow His kingdom 30, 60 and even 100 times. The word which has been sown will not return void!

We read in Isaiah Chapter 55

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Just like the tiny mustard seed … which seems at the beginning …so insignificant … God grows to unbelievable dimensions over time so that the riches of Christ reach so far out that even those that don’t want to come to church and those that don’t want to hear the message of salvation will be transformed through the word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word of God is power. We’re told in Romans 1, by the apostle Paul:

…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16)

I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate my point:

(Silence)

You see … the story about Christ and His saving work can’t be heard … if no one tells the story. If you think that someone else, better than you, will come along to tell the story later … all that may be heard by your friend, neighbor or relative is silence. The word of God is the power and the seed that is sewn unto salvation for those that need to hear the Gospel, and by this power – God - will transform hearts and grow his kingdom now and for eternity. Sometimes it is a very slow growth but understand God is working and His church is growing.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but we have plenty of room here at church in this service and have been on a downward trend these last 15 years. It’s time to sew the seed of the word and trust that God will use the smallest, slightest and weakest witness about Himself to grow His kingdom.

He will bring the truth about Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit and plant, in the lives of others, the seed of the word and grow the church to unbelievable yields.
He gives you the power to change lives … by His word, through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There is a poem that poses a question we all need to ask ourselves. It’s called Builders and Wreckers.

As you listen to this poem consider the work of God and the tiny mustard seed and what can be done by the power of the God’s Spirit in the lives of those who build the kingdom through our failed abilities and efforts … by God’s word and Spirit.

Builders and Wreckers (A poem to ponder)

As I watched them tear a building down

A gang of men in a busy town

With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell

They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,

And the men you'd hire if you’d want to build?"

He gave a laugh and said, "No, indeed,

Just common labor’s all I need."

"I can easily wreck in a day or two,

What builders take many years to do."

And I thought to myself, as I went my way

What about me, which role do I play?

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my work as best I can

And patiently sharing the Master’s plan?

Or, am I a wrecker who walks to town

… Content with only tearing down?

"O Lord let my life and my labors be

God’s work, built up for eternity!"

Author Unknown


Friend’s, the power of the gospel will build the kingdom of God. Through the weakest of speech and the slightest of skill, the power of God will use even your smallest of efforts, in proclaiming Christ to a dying world, to do His will and bring His people to faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Those that are bound in this life to sin, death and the devil are set free by the power of the Gospel message and believe. The kingdom of God is found only in Christ and His saving Gospel which is the Good News and the message of salvation for everyone who believes.

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom comforting you with this truth

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

Amen

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sermon June 9-10, 2018 Anniversary

Title: Your sins are forgiven in Christ!
Text: 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

What a joyful time for our congregation! We celebrate today the many blessings of God given here at Peace over the last 55 years as we honor this place of worship now well into our 30th year!

Our first worship service was held here in this building on September 13, 1987 and our Festival of Dedication service was held on October 25, 1987 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with Pastor Merrell officiating as the liturgist and the Festival Sermon being delivered by the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Schlecht – now called to glory and at home with the Lord.

Pastor Merrell, who has served Peace as pastor for over 32 years and additionally 5 years as pastor emeritus, is once again fulfilling that great blessing of conducting the church’s liturgy for us here at Peace today, and I get to stand in for Dr. Schlecht - a man I knew and heard preach many times during my time at St. John in Rochester in the late 90s.

What a wonderful blessing and humbling experience to say the least.

Surely the Lord is in this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Alleluia! Gen. 28:16-17

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he has girded himself. Psalm 93:1

So began the introit for the dedication of this wonderful building some 30 years ago quoting Gen 28 and Psalm 93.

In the same joy Paul addresses the Corinthians:

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The glorious word of God who spoke in time past – was written for our learning - and also we have spoken and continue to speak God’s word, here and in this place, as a confident hope of a savior who saves – Jesus Christ our Lord.

The confidence of those Peace members, of time past, who undertook this big project of building a new church and a new home by a step of faith did so, not in their own confidence or power, but in hope and in the power of God.

“No phase two!” Judy Harroun once told me about the planning of this place. “You never get to phase two or three so we decided to build what we needed from the start.” And so it was here at Peace. A big church was built, for a growing congregation, with a fellowship hall, on a large piece of land (17 some acres), with room for expansion.

Dr. Schlecht’s sermon was titled “Time for Praise and Commitment” a fitting title for then and a fitting thought for today as we rededicate and recommit ourselves to the Lord’s work here at Peace in this beautiful sanctuary now 30 years old.

So what do the next 30 years hold?

When this building was dedicated this congregation had been around for almost 25 years. Much had changed and Pastor Merrell was the fifth pastor to serve Peace. An average of 5 years of service for each pastor - though some had only served three years here. Pastor Merrell was already changing the culture here at Peace and pushing the average up. By the time he retired those same 5 pastors had served the church for 50 years of its existence thanks to 32 years of Pastor Merrell’s service.

God blessed Peace much during his service. As he once told me when they closed the old building and dedicated the land here for it future use it gave the congregation a real picture of whom and what the church is – the people. Not any people but the people here that God has called and gathered to hear his word and receive his gifts now 55 years into existence.

As Paul reminds the Corinthians:

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

We are here today to give thanks for the grace of God that has been extended to the people of Peace in our previous building and in this place today. We celebrate with joy and thanksgiving all that God has done and this time of praise and recommitment for God’s people here.

How do we go forward? What does the future hold? Who is going to do the work tomorrow and in the years to come?

I don’t know – but the Lord does. It is in fact his house, his people, and his kingdom.

On Transfiguration Sunday in February of 1963 when this church began I was a 7 year old Slovak, Roman Catholic boy living in Allen Park Michigan with no connection to Waterford, Peace, Lutheranism or what the future held – but the Lord did.

In 1987 at the Feast of Dedication service here at Peace I was a 32 year old married father of two still with no connection to Peace or Lutheranism – but the Lord had moved me to Waterford!

In February of 2013 as we prepared to celebrate our 50th anniversary of this congregation I was preparing to officiate as the newly ordained and installed 6th Pastor here at Peace. Much had changed in my life and change had come upon Peace as well. But it was all in accord with the Lord’s will, plan and desire.

What was once a new congregation and what was once a new building have now been in mission and ministry for 55 years together. 

Much has changed and many who have served here are resting in Jesus. We think of them, we miss them, and we thank them for all that the Lord has given us through them.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

It is the Lord’s work though he uses sinful people in service to him and in service to one another.

Though we age and change through the years his plan and work continues.

Though we as a congregation are not a new mission start as we were in 1963 we can still be renewed as we focus on our mission and ministry together.

Our Mission Statement makes clear what we as Christ’s followers and children here at peace are to do – "To witness and live as followers of Christ; serving one another in Christian love, so that God’s Holy Spirit may save the lost and strengthen the saved”

We live our lives together as followers of Jesus so that the love of Christ might dwell in us through the forgiveness of sins found in the gospel of Jesus and that by God’s continued work through the Holy Spirit those who are lost might be saved and we who are saved might be strengthened.

The work of the church hasn’t changed but the times that we live and the people have. Our work as the church requires new people, new thoughts, and a new vision as to how we might best fulfill God’s mission here at Peace.

It might require new people and a new thinking as how best to do the work God has given us to do here. Obviously the internet, email, and social media were not part of the fabric of society in 1963 and social norms, same sex marriage and gender identity were not embraced by our society - as they are today - when this building was completed and dedicated in 1987. So how we share the love of Christ and the gospel message going forward will require new ideas, new methods and new opportunities.

7 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The things that are seen are transient – lasting only for a short time; impermanent – even this building and its use as a place of worship may someday come to an end.

As we ourselves will leave this tent that is our earthly home for the life eternal one day - knowing that we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

This is the hope that all followers of Christ have and will continue to share - that all our sins will be forgiven and that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

I pray that this joy and this hope will be our focus and mission as we together make know the love of Christ to a broken world here at Peace and here in Waterford.

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

Amen

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sermon June 2-3, 2018

Title: Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest!
Text: Mark 2:23-28


27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Well, I’d say that summer has arrived. Not that we had a spring mind you but last weekend was beautiful and hot! On my day off which was Friday I was planning to take a long motorcycle ride and enjoying the weather. But, as happens … I noticed some things that needed to be done in the yard so I dug out the area around my bird feeder and cleaned out the landscape rocks, replaced the area with some new sod and did a few other landscape projects in my yard. By the time the day came to a close I was tired and needed rest.

I’m sure you’ve felt those times as well? Tired, burdened and wearied … and you just need to rest.

In our gospel reading for today Jesus and his disciples are walking on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. Now God’s work of creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day God rested from all his work.

2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:1-3

God made the Sabbath – holy - or set apart as a day of rest.

The religious leaders made rules to expand and explain what God intended. The Ten Commandments became more than 613 Jewish rabbinical laws and rules to explain and define them.

Take the Sabbath for instance:

Instead of a day of rest it became a day of Mitvah and Gezeirah – laws and rules. Each with varying degrees of punishment.

From Religion facts about Rabbinic law:

“A gezeirah is a rule instituted by the rabbis to prevent inadvertent violation of a mitzvah. For instance, it is a mitvah to refrain from work on the Sabbath, but a gezeirah to avoid even the handling of any work instruments on the Sabbath.”

http://www.religionfacts.com/rabbinic-law

So it’s bad and against religious law to clean the ground around the bird feeder and move the rocks on the Sabbath, but to even take up the shovel which might lead to work breaks the law as well.

General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colon Powell besides being generals both worked as Shabbes goys. A Shabbes goy was a non Jew who was hired to do work on the Sabbath that was not permitted for the Jew himself to do. So even though the Rabbinic laws were being broken, and even though the intent of the Jewish homeowner was to break the law, because it was a Gentile worker that did the work and broke the law the Jewish homeowner might believe – no harm, no flow – I’m good!

The intent of the law was broken and the spirit of the law was broken. So I guess that there is no rest for the weary on the Sabbath.

24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they [your disciples Jesus] doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Even though it is not you Jesus that’s plucking the grain – they are your followers – what are you going to do about it!

What do you do with those that break the law?

You charge them! You find them guilty! You sentence them! And you punish them!

3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:3

As one commentator put it: “Jesus lays his finger on the real trouble with these Pharisees: too much reading of rabbinical law and not enough of divine law.”

The interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel R.C.H. Lenski Pg 126

Or: too much trying to become righteous and not enough of being made righteous.

Too much Work and not enough rest. Or, as Lutherans we might say a confusion of Law and Gospel.

Keeping the law is good.

1. You shall have no other gods
2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
3. You shall remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy

The first table of the Law – the first three commandments - pertains to our relationship to God.

Have no other gods, do not misuse god’s name and keep his day holy – or set apart.

Luther in his explanation to the Small Catechism and keeping the Sabbath day holy tells us that we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

To hold it sacred - is to keep it holy or set apart. To gather together as the community of faith, to hear the word of the Lord, to learn all that god would have us know and to rest … in the mercy and work of God.

Ill.

As a child growing up during in a Roman Catholic household during Lent eating no meat on Friday was a given. It was a Law it was a rule in my house. Friday … no meat! The purpose of this was to give up meat and to fast and focus on Christ and his walk to the cross to sacrifice his life for me. But, all it did was to get me to focus on meat! I wanted it and would do whatever I could to figure out what I needed to do to get it - without my mom knowing. Maybe there was a good intent to meatless Friday’s but it brought a wrong outcome for me.

25 And [Jesus] said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

I don’t believe that it was Jesus’ intent here to point out a loophole. He is not saying “See, what David did! My disciples are not doing nearly as bad as they did.” If his intent was to make a point, Jesus, could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25 which reads:

25 If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Jesus would have surly known this miscellaneous law from Deuteronomy 23 as I’m sure the Pharisees did as well. But the greater point that Jesus I contend is making - is with his conclusion:

7 ...“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The day of rest is for us (you and me) - not we for the day. Our feeble attempt to keep the Law of God shows that we trust ourselves and our work as opposed to Christ and his finished work on our behalf. 

We keep the Law when we rest in Christ and his word. As we hear God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit we are either turned in repentance or comforted by God’s forgiveness.

In fact thinking that we are keeping the Law by our effort is a pretty sure sign that we have another god and another gospel made in our own image.

Not that the Law is bad mind you, but apart from Christ it is another idol made in our own self-serving image. The Pharisees did not love God, with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and they did not love their neighbor as their self. They were in fact loving themselves and justifying their own works of Law keeping while the very Lord of life who rested and instituted the day of rest for you and me walked with his disciples through the grain field.

The Sabbath rest is in Christ. Our Sabbath rest is Christ!

It is no longer a specific day or time though Sunday – the first day of the week – is marked as the day Christians gather together to hear the word of the Lord. The Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest in him. The day, the time, and the Law are all fulfilled in Jesus and we rest in him whether we work on the weekends and worship during the week - or come together:

On the first day of the week.

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!” Mark 16:1-1-2;4b-6

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

Amen

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sermon May 26-27, 2018

Title: Through Christ your salvation is secure!
Text: John 3:1-17

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The early church father St. Augustine was once accosted by an unbeliever who showed him his idol and said, "Here is my god; where is yours?" Augustine replied, "I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see Him."

Unknown.

In our Old Testament reading for today we read of Isaiah's Vision of the Lord.

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Our God cannot be seen apart from God’s own revealing. This Weekend we celebrate the working of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity for the salvation of the world.

By God’s own working we know that:

Through Christ your salvation is secure!

The story of Nicodemus from the gospel of John in chapter 3 is a foundational and interesting one, in which we hear from the Lord Himself as to what the working from God is, and how He redeems His fallen creation from the sin of Adam and Eve … restoring the relationship between God and man.

Jesus begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with a description of man’s fallen condition, saying in chapter 2:25: “For He (Jesus) knew what was in man.” Meaning the brokenness and sin we all have inherited.

As Jesus begins His talk with Nicodemus who is called … “a man of the Pharisees,” Jesus says: 3 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The ESV translates the Greek word ὰνωθεν (anōthen) as born again, which can also mean born anew or born from above, which conveys maybe a better understanding of this fallen state that you and I are born into and how God working through the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit, points, we who are dead in trespass and sin, to the finished work of Jesus Christ for the restoring of the relationship between God and man.

Being born in sin as stated earlier … man (each one of us) must now be reborn, born again, or born from above – born of God. The flesh, Jesus speaks of in John 3:6:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Is speaking of our human condition, which gives birth only to our broken sinful self through the natural means of birth, we can only be conceived in sin but through our rebirth from above, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born anew to a newness of life given by God and called to be His own children, As Saint Peter says, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23) This born again alludes to the Spirit’s work, in you and in me, working through the word.

Jesus explains to Nicodemus that, this rebirth from above comes from being born of water and the Spirit (Vs 5) and comes to us through the waters of Holy Baptism. God through the word connected to the water and by Christ’s command and promise, brings this rebirth to fruition. Through this water and word the Spirit works. Just as our Lord and savior, Jesus “comes from above,” so to the redeemed, His children, must be born “from above.”

We live in a broken world and it seems to get more broken all the time.

The recent shootings at schools in Florida and Texas bring into clear focus just how broken in trespass and sins we are.
How can you make sense out of this?

Well for one, a breakdown in the family leads to a breakdown in society.

We’ve been going down that road for quite a long time. No connection to the faith for many - and that is also evident in the children of believers as well -who have left the faith and active attendance in worship to find hope in society that promises no real hope.

For many around the world - just confessing Christ can bring death and martyrdom in a world that has become so very small and all too close for comfort for our own lives. Life surly seems at times as bad as it can get and you like me must feel at a loss … What can I do?

From above the Son came down and dwelt among His people. Though He was united to flesh in His incarnation, it was the sinless flesh of the God/man Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, the revelation of God and the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. (Col 2:9)

This one who came down from heaven would be lifted up as well on the Cross … for you. Just as the serpent was lifted up in the desert by Moses as a type of the Christ and in the same way that some of the Israelite's looked to the bronze serpent on the pole in the desert and lived, so too those who look to the Son – even in the midst of persecution - lifted high on His cross and trusting in His finished work for the forgiveness of sins, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will live.

Just as God saved His people Israel in the desert by the lifting of the serpent on the pole by Moses, so to God has delivered His people from their sin, death and the power of the Devil by the atoning work of Jesus Christ at the cross.

The fullness of God, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit was fully involved in your redemption.

God in John 3:16 bring the fullness of His desire and mission to Nicodemus. That because of God’s great love, he has sent His Son to be united to human flesh … yet without sin … and to stand in the place of all humanity receiving the bloody baptism of God’s wrath at the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, so that all humanity might hear, receive and trust the Good News of the Gospel, and be saved. The “Him” to whom Jesus speaks of in the discourse with Nicodemus and the person to whom we must believe and trust, is the very Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ who became man for our sake so that we might be redeemed by Him and trust in His name.

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 at around 3:00 AM in the morning. His last words and actions were recorded by his dear friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, “Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?” To this Luther responded affirmatively … “Yes!” Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5

In his last prayer he said to God, “Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands.”

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2007/06/30/ten-martin-luther-myths/

This is the same question you and I will ourselves need to give answer to.

“Will you die steadfast in Christ”

And you I can answer as Luther did: “Yes!” Because we too have the same Spirit at work in us and just as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 31:5:

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

You can know for certain that you shall live with Christ eternally and that no one will be able to pluck you out of His hands.

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

Amen