Monday, March 19, 2018

Sermon March 17-18, 2018

Title: Christ came to serve … you!
Text: Mark 10:35-45

43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Power in serving

My friend Jim is a man of means. He came up through a family dedicated to hard work. He was skilled, he had a plan, and he worked very hard every day to make his plan a reality. It has paid off in many ways for him. Many successes in his business and personal life followed. I can’t remember anyone so completely skilled and focused on the task needed to succeed, and succeeding at what he put his mind on. 

I also remember someone so completely generous with his time, talents and treasures. He was always willing to share and help. At times he worked more for the benefit of others then they did or would do for themselves. He served their needs but it also served the greater good of the company and his family a well … a real win-win situation … strength, power and service all in one package.

Our reading for today deals with power and service but with different people and with different intentions. 

James and John, the so called “Son’s of Thunder” by Jesus in Mark 3:17 show here why Jesus had given them that name designation.

Seemingly as a spoiled child might ask for that which they know they don’t deserve or shouldn't expect to get we hear 35 …“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

This same James and John in another memorable gospel moment in Luke Chapter 9 had inquired of Jesus:

“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Luke 9:54

This they did after the Samaritan village had not received Jesus and seeing that he was steadfast set to go to Jerusalem.

The Lord’s, all knowing mind, seems to have given James and John a proper title – for they were these young followers and disciples of Jesus who had left their fathers boat and work to go and follow him.

But here too we see where they are focused.

37 … “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Or, in Matthew’s gospel in your Glory is translated as in your Kingdom, spoken by their mother, Salome the wife of Zebedee who intercedes for her two boys who quickly seconded her request.

The disciples here didn't understand Christ’s mission, work or glory but were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom and an earthy ruler and a place of honor for themselves.

But our good news is that Christ came to serve … you!

Humility and servant hood is hard for you and me as well. We too look for the choice seats, to be recognized and to be rewarded. But to be a true servant is to model Christ.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 2:1-2

But can we run the race, can we remain faithful until the end, can we endure the trials in this life? For we too like James and John don’t know what we are asking.

38 … “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus said.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians brings peace when he writes:

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phil 2:1-3

As children who have been brought to the Lord by loving parents and as parents who love our children we bring those who are unable to bring themselves to the Lord.

In humility we consider them more significant than ourselves, and with life given into our care, we look to their well being more than our own - giving them to the Lord - and promising to be the ones who raise them in the faith and instruction of the Lord.

We all fall short to be sure, but just as we wouldn't feed a child once and leave them to fend for themselves; faith also requires an active parental role to keep these precious gifts of God in their baptismal grace, so that they too might grow to know him, Jesus Christ both as Lord and Savior who

“came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

James and John were looking for the earthly glory that a Kingdom of this world provides. They received much more then they or their mother had asked for.

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus asks. 39 And they said to him, “We are able.”

Herod had James put to death by the sword as the early church was persecuted. Acts 2:2

His brother John would remain and live to an old age leaving his thunderous youth behind to become the apostle of love, writing his Gospel and letters in exile on the island of Patmos, and giving a glimpse of the end of the age from visions given in the book of Revelation. Heeding Christ's command:

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,


My friend Jim had another side as well. When we were younger and working together he took on another task. Through a contact with an acquaintance he began visiting a disabled man. Wheel Chair bound and in declining health he would go once a month and take him out to lunch. 

It wasn’t easy but each month Jim would say I’ll be back in a while and go. I only found out the particulars down the road. He never talked much about it at the time. After a few years of this, the man couldn’t go out anymore and eventually passed away. Jim never talked about it but years later I asked him about it. I remember him saying, “I’ve been blessed so much it was just a way to give back … though it was hard.”

Thank the Lord that God has not left us alone but has done everything needed for us and has given us – his word and sacraments - for us so that we might be brought to faith and given life in his name and in humility serve the needs of others.

It is not always easy to give up ones seat at the table, or to allow another a place in line ahead of you.

It is not always easy to see to it that the light of Christ shines forth into a dark world that gets darker every day.

It is not always easy to stand firm when even the fabric of our own faith seems weak and unable to endure.

But Christ, who is the one who will never leave you nor forsake you, has stood in your place and he has completed the course for you. In him you have everything that you could not earn because he humbled himself for you.

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

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


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sermon March 14, 2018 Lent 5

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 5. Confession/Absolution
Text: Eph. 2:1-10

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The 5th part in our Six Chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism is Confession and Absolution or the Office of the Keys as it is known. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law – how God desires us to live, the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and continues to do in us, and the Lord’s Prayer which leads us in to prayer and communication with God and how he sustains us.

These are the key teaching that Luther wanted all Christian’s to know but then he followed them up with more Gospel and God’s work as we learned last week in Baptism and how God makes us his child and marks us redeemed by Christ the crucified.

The 5th part, Confession and Absolution are also God’s work.

Inspirational writer William A. Ward has written:

We should be thankful for our tears: They prepare us for a clearer vision of God.

William A. Ward.

Repentance can certainly bring us all to tears at times because it is a daily struggle.

Martin Luther wrote in the first of his 95 theses:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther, the first of the 95 Theses

Apart from God’s work in us to bring us to the knowledge of the truth in his son Jesus Christ our Lord, true repentance is not possible. The thief may be sorry he got caught stealing or may even be forced through circumstances to confess that he is the one that stole the wrist watch, but true repentance is not worked in us simply over anxiety over sin.

The Law convicts us - and if left there like Judas we might see our brokenness and despair as overwhelming. It could lead - as it has for many - to see the only solution and escape left for them is to run away from God.

The level of terror for each of us is different. So God through the word convicts us in such a way that we look not to a hopeless end but confess our sins to God recognizing that hope must come not from within us but from outside us.

Once God convicts us he is quick to give comfort to the penitent so that despair is comforted and hope restored. By the Holy Spirit we look outside ourselves to Jesus Christ who saves and is able to restore us bringing comfort and peace.

For many though receiving forgiveness is hard. They see their sin; the Law convicts them, but forgiveness they can’t receive. Sometimes it is doubt or pride that gets in the way or it may be the feeling that God can’t forgive me because I can’t forgive myself. You and I can understand this type of guilt.

It is not about how good of a confession we give that counts but that God, seeing us through the veil of Christ, hears us confess our sins and forgives us on account of Jesus who took our sins upon himself.

Luther writes in his Exhortation to confession:

15] So notice then, that Confession, as I have often said, consists of two parts. The first is my own work and action, when I lament my sins and desire comfort and refreshment for my soul. The other part is a work that God does when He declares me free of my sin through His Word placed in the mouth of a man. It is this splendid, noble, thing that makes Confession so lovely, so comforting.

While God’s Law brings us to repentance it is the work of the Gospel that God uses to comfort and forgive us. No less powerful than the work of God in Baptism - we hear the comfort of forgiveness that the gospel works from the mouth of God’s called and ordained servants and receive the same forgiveness as from the Lord himself.

It is also in the preached word from the pulpit when God’s Law and Gospel comes forth to our ears convicting and forgiving in each one of us as the Holy Spirit sees fit. Where ever the word of God is spoken the Holy Spirit can work for our good and the good of the whole church corporately or privately.

Luther also believed that confession and absolution should be voluntary and not an obligation. It is God’s work and there is no lack of sins in each of us and our world for the Holy Spirit to work. Private Confession and absolution is still available and used in our church for those who feel the need to confess specific sins that burden them as well as the form of Corporate Confession and Individual Absolution we’ve used these last number of years during Ash Wednesday services to bring the Lord’s forgiveness individually to all who confess their sins and come forward.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

God gave the binding and loosing keys to his church and the church uses the keys in a public way to bring repentance and offer forgiveness to those burdened. We can also ask for forgiveness directly to those we’ve offended and receive forgiveness between brothers and sisters and share that comfort of forgiveness one with another.


Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists [of the time], said, "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me."
John Stott in The Contemporary Christian.

In many situations in my own life as a disciple of Christ I’ve had the opportunity to offer the comfort of the gospel to those burdened by their sin. It might have been a coworker who shared his trial with me and by god’s word the comfort of forgiveness was received.

What a great blessing we all have in those time to share the good news where God has placed us for those in need. The gospel is always the gospel and the good news of Jesus work proclaimed brings comfort to those broken by sin.

It is also great comfort to know that when we corporately confess God hears and forgives through his called servants. The broken and repentant heart is comforted.

It is important that we share the Good News of forgiveness in Christ with those we encounter. It is also true that we need to forgive for our own benefit. As we continue with Jesus on the way this Lenten season as he goes to the cross let us all cast our burdens upon him. He came to stand in your place, to be your substitute and to take you sin upon himself. Know that what he accomplished at the cross he did for you. Forgiveness is not yours because of what you have done, but it is yours because of what Christ has done for you. Receive it and believe it!

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


Sermon March 10-11, 2018

Title: Jesus has been lifted up so that you too are raised!
Text: Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14;

8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Dear friends,

A number of years ago I was interviewing a gentleman for a job with the store I worked at and managed. He had been in the appliance business for about fifteen years in the Brighton area, working for a family run business, much like the family run business I worked at.

Well, as he considered his situation, he looked at what he had and the prospect for advancement and decided to leave his company for greener pastures at another company across town. As we talked, and I told him of all the opportunities and benefits my company provided I saw a look of real sadness come over his face.

“Boy, he said, I really didn't know how good I had it. All the benefits you mentioned, I already had with my previous job and I was skilled and good at what I did. Now, I’m out of work and hoping I can find a job as good as the one I left.”

The blessings we have often seem ordinary and mundane and we take them for granted or complain about them. God’s people, in our Old Testament lesson for today, saw their blessings as a curse and murmured against the one who was their provider, protector and sustainer of Israel. In their affliction and also in our sinful condition we can have joy that:

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

God had been the protector of Israel for 40 years. He had guarded them throughout all their trials and provided for them in the wilderness as they made their way to the Promised Land. He brought them through the waters of the Red sea on to dry ground and also provided manna from heaven for their sustenance … and still they grumbled.

5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

It was noted that this manna was rich in nutrients by one scholar as they were able to march through this wilderness and not have their feet swell so that they were not lacking anything. God’s provisions were complete, full and rich.

Yet, they murmured eight times against God over these forty years. This, the final murmuring against the Lord had happened just after God had provided water from a rock and now he brought fiery serpents that up to this time had been plentiful in the area, but for some reason had left them alone.

6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

These serpents, which it is believed received their name because of their color and the fact that their bite produced venom that caused great swelling and burning bit the Israelites causing death to many. In their distress they once again turn to Moses in repentance to intercede for them and pray to the Lord to take the serpents away.

So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

We too find our blessings at time mundane and boring and grumble about what we don’t have instead of looking to all we do have. Something as simple to you and me as water … running water … hot and cold … in our house …

We all can imagine how different our life would be without this blessing but still we grumble … so too with our faith and our God. At times when we need to trust in Him for whatever our condition in life is, we fall back to our sinful ways. When the promotion at work goes to another or we lose our job in a bad economy many times God gets blamed. “Why Lord, did you let that idiot get that promotion instead of me!” we all might cry not knowing the mind of God and his plan for our life. Instead, he just might be taking us on our way around one battle toward a greater battle with better reward. Or, it might be his protection against certain doom.

One gentleman I know, who had been a loyal member of a particular company for 20 plus years had a job offer from a competitive company. He really didn’t want to take it. He would have preferred to stay in his comfort zone where he was. As it happened to turned out, the company he was at closed a little over a year after he left. In our day to day existence we have no guarantee of continued blessings in fact one of God’s promises tell us:

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)

God's healing cure for the bite of the fiery serpents was faith in His word of promise. He directed Moses to make a serpent in the likeness of the ones that caused death. To make it out of bronze and to place it on a pole and when anyone looks at it they will be healed. Our text concludes with:

9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

A simple act of faith in God’s word brings the cure.

Luther had this to say about the cure:

It might have been expected that the Jews who had been bitten by the serpents would shun this cure, for it is only natural for us to shy away from anything that has harmed us. Even to see a picture of it fills us with sadness and abhorrence.

But Moses calmly proceeded, molded a serpent with the form and figure of the live fiery ones, and suspended it before their eyes.

Thus those who are bitten by fiery serpents – that is to say, those who are cast into sin, death and eternal damnation by the devil – must look at this bronze serpent, that is believe in Christ; and they will be guaranteed righteousness, life, and salvation. Faith in Christ, the Son of God and true man, will do this.

LW 22, pg. 341

In our gospel: Jesus pointed to His being lifted up just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness. Just as the serpent Moses lifted up in the desert was not the one biting and causing death, so to our Lord Jesus Christ was not the sinner or cause of sin but became the sin-bearer that took the sins of the whole world upon Himself that He crucified sin in His body on the cross for you.

This lifting of the serpent and trusting in God’s word of promise did bring about their healing. Just so all who trust in Christ also trust in God’s word and His promise that by faith in Christ’s sacrifice we too are freed from sin, death and the power of the Devil.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

God’s word of promise is for you and for all who will be brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is said that the brazen image of the serpent was taken by the Israelites to Canaan, and preserved till the time of Hezekiah, who had it broken in pieces, because the idolatrous people had presented incense-offerings to this holy relic. (2 Kings 18:4).

God has given us His word of promise and the means of grace that in Baptism He creates faith by the power of the Holy Spirit connected to the water so that we believe. He has promised that in the bread and wine He is present and that by our eating and drinking we receive Him and our faith is strengthened. He has promised that when two or more are gathered in His name that He is there too.

He has promised:

38 … that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans (8:38-39)

Jesus has been lifted up so that you too will be raised!

Whatever your place in life is, whatever you are or hope to become, whatever your successes or failures are, know that God is with you. He will be there through the good and the bad with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has suffered the scorn of the cross - for you - and has taken your sin upon Himself and has exchanged it with the royal robes of His righteousness – for you.

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


Monday, March 12, 2018

Sermon March 7, 2018 Lent 4

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 4. Baptism
Text: 1 Cor.1:18-31

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Baptism is the fourth in our Lenten Series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law, the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and continues to do in us, and the Lord’s Prayer which leads us in to prayer and communication with God and Baptism how God marks us as his own.


A story is told about the baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick. 

About the year 445, Saint Patrick, after converting a great number of people, entered the kingdom of Munster. His destination was Cashel, from [where] King Aengus, came [forward] to meet him with the utmost reverence. 

This prince had already obtained some knowledge of Christianity, and demanded the grace of Holy Baptism. The saint willingly complied with his request. His courtiers assembled with royal state to assist at the ceremony. 

St. Patrick carried in his hand, as usual, the Bachall Isu; [the staff of Jesus] at the end of was a sharp iron spike, by which he could plant it firmly in the ground beside him while preaching, or exercising his Episcopal functions.

On this occasion, however, he stuck it down into the king's foot, and did not perceive his mistake until— "The royal foot transfixed, the gushing blood enrich'd the pavement with a noble flood."
The ceremony had concluded, and the prince had neither moved nor complained of the severe suffering he had endured. When the saint expressed his deep regret for such an occurrence, The King merely replied that he believed it to be a part of the ceremony, and did not appear to consider any suffering of consequence at such a moment. 

Moment.—Keating, vol. ii. p. 15

Over the centuries Christians have debated what baptism is, [what it accomplishes], and to whom it should be administered, and how much water should be used.
Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 158.

Baptism is God Act. Martin Luther makes it clear in the catechism’s question: What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

For we who are born sinful and unclean always see ourselves as the active agent – the one who is doing something. It must be my action we believe, or as the common belief is held and sometimes expressed – an outward sign of an inward decision. The sign being we think our work.

The opposite thought though might be - that it is what the clergy does or in Luther’s day what the priest did that made ones baptism valid.
And while we agree that baptism is God’s gift and means of bringing forgiveness to his church in a tangible way, it is not the priest or pastor that makes baptism valid but the word of God – both command and promise.

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

The nature of the words used in Holy Baptism is in following the words and form of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28. Though Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and not English the order of words are used in conformity to Jesus’ command in whatever language is spoken. Uniting the command and word’s of God with water - baptism does what God intends by uniting us with him and making us his disciples.

Along with what God commands he also promises … forgiveness … for you and me and all who receive this blesses gift.

Saint Peter in his sermon in Acts chapter 2 after his words of Law brought condemnation and caused his hearers to ask - “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 … said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

To be baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit is to be baptized into Jesus Christ so we follow the formula that Jesus gave but we see here too that repentance brings forgiveness and the promise for all. Baptism does what God intends.

By the working of Holy Spirit connecting the water and the word, forgiveness is given. For the one being baptized it is a “pure passive” meaning we simply receive the gift God gives. More importantly it achieves what God desires – making disciples of all nations.

10 And when [Jesus himself at his own baptism] came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

It is that same comfort for we who are baptized in God’s name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - knowing that just as the Father is well please with Christ Jesus his Son he is also well please with you and me. Not because we merit anything from God but only because we are found marked as his children through this blessed gift given for our benefit.

God has not given baptism for his benefit but ours. His gift in and through baptism reminds us that we can do nothing to appease God’s wrath and we deserve only eternal damnation. But because of the Father’s great love for us he has sent his only son our Lord to be our substitute. Through Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased by his once for all sacrifice for sin, at the cross and through baptism we are united by faith with all the blessing that Christ has won for us.

As Luther says:

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Some might put the significance of baptism on the believer and our efforts or - what we do - that makes baptism valid.

Some might put the significance on the water and mode of baptism. How much water and how it must be applied for some is the important part of baptism.

Whether immersed, poured, or sprinkled God’s word united with the water and the formula Christ gave makes a baptism. 

That brings to the one baptized all God promises; and because it is God’s gift we can always remember and be thankful for what God has in fact done in us and for us in Christ.

It is comforting to note that no matter how much the devil works to taunt us daily reminding us that we don’t measure up, the comforting knowledge of our baptism brings peace that we are God’s child whom he loves like his own beloved son.

The devils desire is to pull you away from Christ. Luther saw the whole of his reformation theology through Jacob’s dream and ladder saying: 

“The ladder connecting Heaven and Earth is the incarnation of God; it is what the devil hates most and is perpetually fighting against. The devil wants to tear the faithful away from Christ, their ladder to heaven.”

“Luther Man between God and the Devil” Heiko Oberman Pg.167
The devil wants to tear you from Christ and to do that he tries to tear you from you baptism - to give you doubt in God’s work and in God’s means of word and sacrament.


I remember my own questioning when my pastor at a nondenominational church I attended said. “If you’ve been baptized as an infant come and see me and I’ll tell you why you need to be baptized as an adult.” I’m sure in reflection it was intended for me and my family as he knew of my own baptism as an infant, though he never approached me and I never asked him about it. I did though consult the word.

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (I have the Baptismal certificate and my parents reflections of the day)

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:39

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14

Those baptized as infants receive a valid baptism.

Much of the Christian church around the world misuse baptism. They don’t see it doing anything and as a result many fail to baptized child and adult alike. It is also true for we who rightly understand baptism as God’s gift failing to have our children baptized until the child is older - placing the ceremony of baptism and family above the child and God’s gift.

We also misuse baptism when we fail to remember what God has done for us in and through baptism. The baptismal font’s placement at the back of the nave serves as a reminder that God himself has brought us into his family through this precious gift.

In the 1970s during the Jesus movement that happened for many youth, I attended a Christian concert with a friend. A girl that was there was talking about the date of her accepting Jesus and becoming a Christian. It was June 22, 1967, that she accepted Jesus as her Lord and savior.

I felt a bit out of place because I didn’t have a date that I could announce because as far back as I could remember I’ve always been a Christian.

Then I remembered … I was baptized on May 17, 1955.

God claimed me in baptism and he has claimed you too. God be praised!

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


Monday, March 5, 2018

Sermon March 3-4, 2018

Title: The Father’s zeal for you is given in Christ!
Text: John 2:13-22; 1 Cor. 1:18-31

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

When President Donald Trump called for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem there was much joy for Jews and condemnation from those opposed to the move. Jerusalem is a hot bed for so much of the world’s religious as well as political turmoil but so is the Temple Mount.

The second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. For Jews today their activity is restricted on the Temple mount. The Dome on the Rock is there and is holy to Muslims and Jews are not allowed to pray there, though some do pray under their breath. For Jews in Jerusalem there is a growing need to rebuild the Temple, to resume the temple sacrifices and to wait for the coming of the messiah.

In our gospel reading for today we move to the book of John. As we looked at our gospel lesson in Mark last week, Jesus explained that he must suffer, be rejected by the Elders, Chief priests and the scribes, be killed and after three day, rise from the dead. Mark 8:31

Jesus was zealous both for his Father’s House in driving out those who had made it a house of trade selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, [along with] the money-changers [who were] sitting there, just as he was with Peter last week, rebuking him for “not setting his mind on the things of God.”

The Jewish leaders now ask Jesus – what is the evidence that you can give us as to your authority for doing such things, by casting those out of the temple?

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, Paul tells the Corinthians in our epistle lesson for today. 1 Cor. 1:22

So Jesus tells them,

19 … “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

As you can imagine, the Jews that Jesus is talking to believe he is talking about “The Temple” the building of the second Temple that had taken 46 years to build, where all the daily sacrifices had taken place.

This is the place where God dwells … where sin is atoned for.

You can see that not much has changed in the nearly 2000 years since the cross of our Lord. The Jews today are still rebuilding the Temple … and the cross as Paul says in our epistle is:

23 … a stumbling block to Jews and folly [or foolishness] to Gentiles,

But we who have been blessed to be brought to the foot of the cross see Jesus as our savior and trust in his work; where true temple worship is in the once and for all sacrifice for sin.

Jews look to rebuild the Temple and resume the sacrifices while Gentiles see foolishness in belief of a saving God. Their wisdom tells them to trust in self.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

But many fall short. For some the stumbling … or the foolishness is just plain stubbornness.


Pastor Terry Klaus told a story once at one of our circuit meetings about a member of his church who during the summer asked him this question.

“Pastor, is it better for me to be sitting in church thinking about fishing or sitting on the lake fishing and thinking about God?”

Well, Pastor Klaus said, he thought about this for a moment when he replied: “Well, it would be better for you to be in church hearing God’s word than sitting in a boat and having the Devil send all those fish your way … where you won’t be thinking about God at all!”

A stumbling block or foolishness, Christ body is the Temple that has been destroyed and has also, after three days, been raised.

It remains a problem for many still today. For the Jews the Temple remains something to be rebuilt and stumble while many who are [non Jews] the Cross of Christ remains [foolishness], something to be seen as weakness and not the power of God.

The cross is an offence, so much so that at times we shy away from it, especially in the midst of the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book: Life together writes,

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.

So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered [or monastic] life but in the thick of foes [and enemies].

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

In the turmoil of the world the cross of Christ will be a stumbling block or foolishness.

My Co-worker Paul in the music business was both Jewish by birth and atheist in belief. So with the cross he had both a stumbling block and saw it also as foolish. We had a number of talks about Jesus. Paul listened and asked questions but most every time he would end our discussions by throwing up his hands and saying, “That’s enough!” 

One day when I came was walking by his office he called me over and said, “Russ, last night I had a dream that terrified me. In the dream I thought I say the face of pure evil!” I said, “Well Paul may be God has given you a glimpse of what awaits apart from being covered by the blood of Christ?”

The stumbling and foolishness of “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” was just too much for him.

21 But [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

In spite of our weakness and in spite of our failings God in Christ was focused on the cross for you. The Temple of his body that was destroyed for you is victory! It is victory because the full wrath of God was poured out on Jesus and as a result you have no fear of standing before our holy God.


Dear member Dorenne Ridge is in hospice care as she at 93 prepares to depart and be with the Lord. Pastor Merrell and I took a ride to see her in Mayville about 55 miles north of here. She was alert and recognized me and saying when I told her Pastor Merrell was here, “I know that name!”

The comfort is that God knows Dorenne’s name too. He has died and for her and though she like we will one day die, she too by God’s working in her by faith rise too!

God in Christ has taken your sin and my sin upon himself and has given you and all who believe his righteousness in exchange for it – what wonderful good news – and as a result we are free of the bonds of sin, death, and the devil and are covered by Christ’s righteousness and made his child through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Christ is consumed with his zeal for you and just as he has been raised … you too will rise!

May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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


Sermon February 28, 2018 Lent 3

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 3. Lord’s Prayer
Text: Romans 5:1-11

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Lord’s Prayer is the third in our Lenten Series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law and the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and leads us in prayer and communication with God.


Missionary E. Stanley Jones once wrote:

Prayer is surrender--surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

E. Stanley Jones, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 73.

Our Father who art in heaven

The Lord’s Prayer begins with those simple words. By faith we know God and acknowledge him by calling him Our Father. As our father we have a relationship with him and as a result we can call on him and dialogue with him. It is first interesting to note who initiates prayer.

As Luther writes:

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask a dear father.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise. Psalm 51:15

In prayer by faith we acknowledge who God is, not dragging him down to where we are but drawing ourselves and our needs to him; conforming our desires to his will. Not my will … but thy will be done.

Hallowed be thy name

We might remember that in the Second Commandment we learned not to misuse the name of the Lord your God. Here again we recognize God’s name and that it is holy. Not as Luther says because we make it holy because it is holy (set apart) in of itself because it is God’s name; but that we pray that it might be holy among us also.

So how do we keep holy God’s name among us? We keep it holy by not using it in a cavalier way either crassly using God’s name (cursing and swearing) or using it with little or no respect. We rightly use it by calling upon him in, prayer, giving praise and thanksgiving for all he has done for us. We honor his name when his gospel is preached and we believe and trust him to meet are every need and live daily in the blessed hope and trust in this revealed God whom we call Our Father.

Thy kingdom come

The kingdom as Luther says comes without our prayer but we pray in this petition that it come among us also. It comes to us when we daily are reminded by God’s indwelling Spirit that we are indeed his children. As such we joy in the blessing God has given us – knowing that everything that we need God has and will provide.

The kingdom comes as we stay in communion with our loving father. Here he calls us to hear his word, giving us his wisdom, mercy, and blessing out of divine fatherly goodness - and we pray that in this relationship we too might live daily in his grace that his kingdom comes to us in the place we are in this world for our well being.

Thy will be done

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

As Jesus pondered the cross and his crucifixion and impending death he called upon the father in prayer to remove what he had come to do. In his humanity death was real and the prospect of it brought him in prayer to ask the Father to remove it. But … he concluded his prayer in this way - not my will but yours be done. It is in this conforming our will to God’s that we truly rely on him.

It is not that God’s will relies on us to get it done because God’s will is always done because his judgments are always just and right.

It is like the little girl preparing to jump into her dad’s arm as he stands in the pool ready to catch her saying, “Don’t drop me dad!” To which dad replies, “I won’t!”

Or the little boy riding the bike while dad run along holding on to the seat saying, “Don’t let go dad!” Only to realize that dad had let go awhile ago and he had been riding on his own. At times God catches us and at time he lets us go but it is always in conformity to his will so that we might make his will ours.

Give us this day our daily bread

Dr. F.W. Boreham tells about his stay in a quaint old cottage in England occupied by a minister's widow. 

She had given him her bedroom to use and in the morning when he pulled up the blind, he saw that into the glass of the windowpane had been cut the words: "This is the day!" He asked the elderly lady about it at breakfast. She explained that she had had a lot of trouble in her time and was always afraid of what was going to happen tomorrow. One day she read the words of the above text. It occurred to her that it meant any day, this day. "Why should I be afraid of the days if He makes them all?" She said. So the widow scratched the words in the windowpane, so that every time she drew her blind in the morning she was reminded that "This is the day!" Realizing the Lord made it, she was no longer afraid.

Dr. F. W. Boreham.

It is our heavenly Father that provides for our daily needs and for even the needs of those that don’t know him or trust him but Luther reminds us that we might lead a thankful life in remembrance of all that God gives and provides so that we might thank and praise him for his goodness.

Forgive us our trespasses

Being people born in sin and bound to sin we daily need the comforting balm of God’s forgiveness. Yes, as God’s forgiven children we need to have a life of faith connected to God and be in relationship with him. And we need to remember, as dear children ask their dear father … that we need to ask as we would a loving parent for forgiveness. I’m sorry father … please forgive me is real repentance and we know that in Christ God our loving Father forgives us. But it is much more. In this petition we are too reminded that as God has forgiven us so we too need to forgive one another.

I wrote this letter a year ago:

I wanted to send you a letter to see if all is well with you? You haven’t been in worship since before Christmas and I’m a bit concerned as you’ve always been regular in attendance. After calling you, another three Sunday’s have passed without seeing you in worship. If something is troubling you I would hope to help if I could, if you are attending another church, please let me know, if I have offended you in some way I apologize. Whatever the circumstance, it is my hope that our Lord continue to bless and keep you in his arms and faith. Feel free to call if you need to talk. 

Asking forgiveness and being willing to forgive is a two way street. Our forgiveness is base on our willingness to forgive. Don’t let pride keep you from that.

Lead us not into temptation

This was big news recently when Pope Francis said we need to change the prayer saying,
"lead us not into temptation" is not a good translation because God does not lead humans to sin,” saying a better translation would be, "Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell,"

Of course had the Pope read Luther’s Small Catechism he would see in the explanation where Luther makes clear, 

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Bear in mind that God allows us to remain in this broken world where evil and temptation is part of our everyday lives, but he also promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Even our Lord Jesus after his baptism by John in Mark chapter 1 it reads:

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Who drove him out into the wilderness? God the Holy Spirit did. He did not temp him and Christ by the power of the Spirit prevailed. God can and does use all things for his good purpose.

But deliver us from evil

In Christ God does deliver us all from every evil and bring us to our eternal home by faith. He tells us in the commandments what he expects, he tells us in the creed who he is, and he tells us in the Lord’s Prayer how we can commune with him and rely on him. In prayer he lets us call on him for every need promising to be our God and to answer our prayers in his time and in his way. May your prayer life be bless by god as you call on him in time of need knowing that he is your heavenly Father who loves you.

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


Monday, February 26, 2018

Sermon February 24-25, 2018

Title: Who do you say that I am?
Text: Mark 8:27-38

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Jesus asks the disciples:

“Who do people say that I am?” And then wants to know, “but who do you say that I am?”

And we know that the disciples say that the people think that Jesus is “John the Baptist; [some] say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

And this all climaxes with Peter speaking for the disciples when he says,

“You are the Christ.”

Following this confession by Peter of who Jesus is we see Jesus begin to teach them everything he is now prepared to do.

Jesus says that the Son of Man:

Must suffer
Must be rejected – by the elders, chief priests and scribes
Must be killed
And after three days must rise from the dead

As the one who made confession for the disciples, Peter, didn't really understand Jesus and his work for the salvation of the world at this time as his rebuke of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:22, makes clear:

“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is met by Jesus’ full rebuke, which is focused not on Peter the man – just as his confession of faith was not revealed by flesh and blood but revealed by the Father in Heaven so too Jesus’ rebuke is not focused on Peter the man - but on Satan - the deceiver and the father of lies.

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

To be opposed to Christ … is to be in harmony with the devil.

To lose your life in Christ … is to save it!

Jesus says …

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.


When Pastor William Sangster was told he was dying of progressive muscular atrophy, he made four resolutions and faithfully kept them:

1. I will never complain;
2. I will keep the home bright;
3. I will count my blessings;
4. I will try to turn it to gain.

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 215.

If we compare what Christ faced to these four resolutions we see that:

1. The Christ must suffer – but he never complained.
2. He was rejected by the many, but remained the light of the world.
3. He gave his life in death and for that we are all blessed.
4. He was raised from the dead, so that his sacrifice is our gain.

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!


Many of you have probable been watching the Olympics. The Winter Games from South Korea- Skiing, Hockey, Snowboarding and figure skating. You might know of Scott Hamilton as he was the 1984 Gold Medalist is in the Olympics and World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and has been announcing the skating competition for the last 25 years. This year he was demoted as happens to TV personalities. He said he was disappointed and felt sorry for himself … for about 10 minutes.

What you might not know is that Scott is a cancer survivor and a Christian.
He has survived, testicular cancer and brain cancer. His mother died of brain cancer so he is and has been connected to the disease for many years. As a child he was sickly and had a problem that stunted his growth that couldn’t be diagnosed. He was in and out of hospitals and stumbled on skating as a fluke.


[In 1997, at a career high, Hamilton was forced to leave the ice to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer."What was about to happen really changed my life forever," he shares. He survived cancer. “What's my purpose now? What do I need to do?"

It was at that moment in his life that he met his wife, Tracie, who brought him to church. "She took me to a minister, a man named Ken Durham. And the first thing he said to me, which was extraordinary was, he goes, 'You have to understand that Christianity is a faith of history. These things actually happened.' And I go, 'OK, that's a good starting-off point.'"

Hamilton and Tracie married and had a son. But another hardship came his way when he discovered he had a brain tumor. [He struggled with telling his wife but when he did,] she took his hands and started to pray. "And it was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything... my trust, my faith, everything." Hamilton called it the most powerful moment in his life.

Hamilton learned that he was born with the brain tumor, which inhibited his growth as a young child. "That was the mysterious illness I had that they never diagnosed, that got me into skating. I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could've gotten because it made everything else possible."

Looking back, he adds, "I understand that through a strong relationship with Jesus you can endure anything. I just learned that the only true disability in life is a bad attitude."

"God is there to guide you through the tough spots. God was there every single time, every single time."]

For many, though, this is not a cross they wish to bear. We hope to avoid trial and conflict. Following Jesus as example is good but suffering or being hated and despised on account of Christ … we all would like to take a pass.

It is a common battle that pastors have to face too by remaining faithful to their call ... and this can be unpopular at times.

Jesus had given the disciples a summary of His work and he now gives a summary of the demands of true discipleship. He does not show here how one becomes a disciple - through the working of the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ and by the washing of regeneration in the word through baptism; but, here Jesus tells us how we show the evidence of this gift of faith in Christ by denying self; taking up the cross we must bear; and by following him.

It can be summarized as this.

“If anyone wants to save his life, have the full enjoyment of this life and all that it may offer in this world, he will lose the true life in Christ the Savior. But if anyone will regard this life, the world and all it has to offer, as nothing, give it all up for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel, he will find the true life, the true joy and [true] happiness in Him.”

Popular commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 pg. 209

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!


Most recently Scott Hamilton’s brain tumor returned.

[Hamilton said he would never forget what his wife, Tracie, said to him during a pep talk: “Joy is not the lack of suffering or fear, it’s how you choose to handle the suffering and fear.” It finally hit him that it was true.

So when the tumor returned for an encore in 2016, Hamilton decided to react differently. There was no “why me?” anymore.

“I figured I needed to go through this with joy,” he said. “It was just a muscle I needed to build, like the muscles I built skating.”

The tumor was still relatively small, so Hamilton didn’t need to rush into surgery. He tried to tackle the problem differently: He stopped eating sugar, red meat and other things he considered bad for his body. He started eating organic food and drinking only coffee or water with high pH. He hit the treadmill and the weight room.

When Hamilton went back to the doctor several months later, he learned that his tumor hadn’t grown. During his next checkup, he heard even better news.

The tumor had shrunk, by about half. Hamilton choked up when describing what happened next.
“Have you ever had one shrink without treatment before?” he said he asked the doctor. “And the doctor said, ‘Nope, never.’”

Hamilton asked, “So how can you explain this?”

The doctor said, “God.”]

As we faithfully serve as God has called us and shine the light of Christ in our vocations we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel and ultimately save our lives for eternity.

May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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


Sermon February 21, 2018 Lent 2

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 2. Apostles Creed
Text: Mark 1:9-15

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Missionary A.B. Simpson is reported to have said that the gospel or the good News

Tells rebellious men that God is reconciled,
that justice is satisfied,
that sin has been atoned for,
that the judgment of the guilty may be revoked,
the condemnation of the sinner cancelled,
the curse of the Law blotted out,
the gates of hell closed,
the portals of heaven opened wide,
the power of sin subdued,
the guilty conscience healed,
the broken heart comforted,
[and] the sorrow and misery of the Fall undone.

M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 29.

Last week we began our sermon series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism with the Ten Commandments. Here we learned what God expects and how we all miss the mark … both in who we are, and what we do.

Today we will move on to the Creed.

In the Ten Commandments we heard the Law, and today in the Apostles Creed we will hear the Gospel. For Luther the arrangement of the Catechism’s six chief parts is important.

The Ten Commandments show our brokenness and need.

The Creed reveals who God is and his work.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and to commune with God.

Holy Baptism shows how God works through his gifts to mark us and make us his own.

In the Office of the Keys [confession and absolution] we learn of our life in Christ as we confess our sins and hear the good of that we are forgiven in Christ.

And finally in the Lord’s Supper we receive the true body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness he won at the cross for us while we receive comfort and have our faith strengthened in this blessed gift.

The Catechisms order is important. The distinction between Law and Gospel is important too.

In Luther’s day the Creed was divided into 12 articles and for the Roman Catholic Church it still is.

Luther writes:

In former times you heard preaching on twelve articles of the Creed. If anybody wants to divide it up, he could find even more. You, however, should divide the Creed into the main parts indicated by the fact that there are three persons: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

LW Vol.51 Pg. 162

For Luther, God is one and this was most important. It was important in his teaching on the Creed to show the oneness of God and the uniqueness and distinction of persons. So there is a trinity and a unity that he taught in the Creed revealing the Father, Son + and Holy Spirit and their work.

In the Creed we lean of this triune God and his connection to Creation, Redemption and Sanctification. So in the gospel the whole Godhead is active. In the Creed we learn who God is, what has he done, and more importantly, we learn what he has done for me.

The revelation to who God is begins in the first Article.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

We as Christians confess in the Creed I believe. Our belief is all gift revealed in the one God who has created all things - this Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth.

This faith and statement is only something we can confess - because of the full work of the triune God who has reconciled us and brought us to faith in him so that we can see who he is, what he has done, worship him in spirit and truth … and call him Father.

It is certainly true that all of these good created gifts came from God and that all people benefit from them but it is not possible to know this God, thank him, or to call him Father apart from his work in revealing himself to us.

It is the fullness of God’s love and grace that he has created us in his image and that he desires to have fellowship with us as creator and creation that in spite of sin and the fall God desired to save us from and eternity separated from him.

In the second article we learn of God’s Son his work to rescue you and me requiring his full engagement on our behalf.

We also believe not only in God the Father Almighty creator of Heaven and Earth, but also in Jesus Christ his only Son [who is] our Lord.

This Jesus Christ is God’s Son and our Lord because he is God not only of our creation but of our recreation also.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified died and was buried. Placed in history Jesus is human in a real sense and truly lived, died and rose from the dead. He is both God and man and did what he intended to do for the salvation of the world.

In this article we see Jesus’ work in redemption. We see the Christmas message – the incarnation of God becoming man and his life, death and suffering in our place.

In his humiliation God units himself with us in our humanity in the person and work of his son and restores the bridge between God and man that had been broken with the fall into sin.

The second article doesn’t end there though because Jesus descends into hell to proclaim victory, on the third day he rises from the dead ascends to heaven and is seated at God’s right hand – the seat of power – and will come again to judge the living and the dead. All will see him and all will be judged. Death is no escape, unbelief does not negate this reality of God in the flesh descending, dying, rising, and coming again for all.

The sheep and the goats – some to eternal glory and some to eternal damnation; so how is this reality made known and who is the active agent?

Well, in the third article we learn of the Holy Spirit called the comforter by Jesus is John chapter 14 in the King James Version.
The word used – παρακλέτοσ parakletos - is translated in some bibles as advocate, intercessor, consoler, comforter, and helper. Our ESV translates it as helper. I’m not sure that I like that as much as the KJV and that is why I believe that you need to read a few translations. The word helper could give the impression that God and we work together in our salvation - that God does his part and that we do our part rather than God being the active agent and we who are the ones that receive the gift.

In the third we see God at work by the Holy Spirit, through the Christian Church or as the Creed would say the – catholic Church (small c –catholic meaning universal church), the communion of saints the body of believers who will have forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body – real flesh and blood like our resurrected Lord and a life everlasting and eternal with him.

This is the good news the Gospel of our salvation made known to us by the Holy Spirit … God’s work, Father, Son+ and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins for you and for me and for all whom the Lord our God will call to belief, life and salvation in him.

God shows his requirements in the Ten Commandments

God reveals his restoration in the Creed

In Luther’s own explanation of the Third Article he writes:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

Our own reason and strength would lead us astray. Our own understanding would cause us to make idols of ourselves, our lives, and our loves. In God’s work and in him alone do we know the work of a loving God that has created us, redeemed us in Jesus Christ our Lord, and restores us by his Spirit of Truth working and pointing us outside of ourselves to this reality that in Christ Jesus salvation is ours - this is most certainly true!

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


Monday, February 19, 2018

Sermon February 17-18, 2018

Title: You are made new in Christ!
Text: James 1:12-18

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted,
"This fight ain't got any rear!" 

Daily Walk, July 10, 1993.

That is what it is like with trial and temptation. It feels like there is no end. Day in and day out we daily are confronted with trials. How is your health; or finances? Does your car or home need repair? Are your children having issues and you’re faced with how to help, can you help - or will they let you help?

Is life one trial after another?

We are so blessed.

James begins his epistle with these words.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, James 1:2 NIV 1984

Joy really? Trials are not fun. We all know the struggle that it can entail. Up, down, joy, sorrow, struggle, anger - sin most often is the result - but hopefully so is repentance.

But here, in our epistle for today, James speaks of being blessed.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ESV

Blessed and steadfast - the riches of God come by standing firm and through these trials God promises the crown of life.

James here is echoing the words of Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

We talked last week about the light of Christ in each one of us. The good deposit of faith that began at our baptism as God himself washed away our sins and marked us as his child. That child, you and me, needs to be fed. We need Spiritual food so that we can remain healthy, vibrant and grow in our lives so that we can stand firm and not sway during the tempting and testing that comes and will come.

God is not the source of temptation.

Though God temps no one he does allow temptation. Why? What possible good can come from temptation?


In October of 2015 trial and temptation came for Monica and me. I had just finished the LWML rally at Holy Cross in Oxford and was getting ready for service that evening at Peace when I got a call that Monica had to go into the emergence room for a procedure. Ultimately that turned out to be cancer and that turned into two surgeries, a long healings process, doubts, concerns, worries, and you name it. Thankfully, this week her CT scan and report came back good – no cancer - so we’re good for another 4 months!

And then in November of 2015 Thanksgiving evening to be sure I get a call from fellow member Sue Vogt that she is in the hospital having just been diagnosed with Leukemia. Chemo, blood draws and the like have gone on for her since. A broken foot and hip along the way and now she is home from rehab looking optimistically at the future and continued healing.

And there are so many others, health, finances, marriage issues, jobs and the tempting and trials never seem to end.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1: 13

It is easy to look and ask - why me? But that is not what I heard from Monica or Sue and so many others. They were resigned to fight these illnesses and setbacks and though I’m sure concern and uncertainty came into play, the temptation is mediated by faith in Christ and this faith produces a steadfast resolve pointing outward to the hope that doesn’t fade and will not leave you nor forsake you.

We take our eyes off of Christ.

In life we lose sight of Jesus. It happens when things get bad or when things get good or too good. At times we run from those that most love and want to help us to those who lead away from Jesus and destroy lives. The devil is the source and tempter who points to joys and blessings that are temporal, and because of sin we can all fall victim to this enticing.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14

As my friend Dan a musician in Nashville once told me when I asked him about the faith of another musician, “Well, he’s not interested in God right now things are going too well for him.”

If it is not trial and illness that point you to the brokenness of this world and a need for Christ, then it is in the sinful desires of a heart, content in the ways of the world who goes it alone or in a direction opposed to Christ.

How far off course can we go before we are truly lost we might ask?
How much sin is too much?
What does true repentance consist of?
Can we squander the gift of salvation?

Unrepentance dear friends brings death.

I was talking to a young man who was wrestling with the word of God as it is revealed as Law and Gospel in scripture. He said to me:

“Pastor, I don’t know if I buy this Law and Gospel stuff. I mean when we sin we can just go to God and say I’m sorry? I know that we’re forgiven but it sounds so cheap. Oh yeah – I’m sorry God forgive me - and then we go right back to doing the same sin!”

My response to his concern was do you think that God is fooled? I mean, do you really think God is fooled by false repentance? Maybe at times we think that? We’ve all probably said we were sorry for something we weren’t really sorry for but being sorry is only part of repentance.

Repentance requires being sorry for sin and then it requires a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. It doesn’t mean that we will be successful in walking in the right way before God - but only that we desire to walk with God and away from sin.


Louis Berkhoff writes: Moreover, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while on the other hand, wherever there is true faith, there is also real repentance. The two are but different aspects of the same turning - a turning away from sin in the direction of God. The two cannot be separated; they are simply complementary parts of the same process. 

L Berkhoff, Systematic Theology, p. 487.

So, repentance requires faith.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:16-17

When thoughts words and deeds lead to sin, God by his Spirit comforts us with forgiveness. Through his gift of faith he turns you and me in repentance and comforts us with his forgiveness.

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

All things work together for good.

By God’s work he keeps us connected to him by faith.

By his work he turns us to see our failings and also to see our savior. 

By his work we keep our eyes upon Jesus so that no matter the trial and temptation we can turn in faith to repent of our sins and receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord!

By his work we are forgiven and made new in Christ!

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


Sermon February 14, 2018 Corporate Confession and Absolution - Ash Wednesday

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 1. The Ten Commandments
Text: Mark 9:2-9

7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

According to a 3rd century rabbi, Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to 11 in Psalm 15. Isaiah made them 6 (Isaiah 33:14, 15). Micah 6:8 binds them into 3 commands. Habbakuk reduces them all to one great statement: The just shall live by faith.

Source Unknown.

Today for Ash Wednesday and throughout our Midweek Lenten Services we will look at the Six Chief Parts of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. We’ve spent a bit of time over the last few years with the Catechism. First as a bulletin insert with a devotional reading that we began on Rally Day 2016 and ended in May of 2017. Then we had A Simple Explanation of Christianity booklet from CPH which we were to read and pray about and give to someone that we thought might be blessed with this outreach. And finally as we came to the end of last year a new Small Catechism with Explanations came out. It is the first revision in the explanations since the 1991 edition.

So why the Catechism, why now and why so much?

Well … we need it. Just as in Luther’s day the basic teachings of Christianity are important. For me as one not brought up in the Lutheran faith and without the Catechism I see the real value of its use daily and hopefully throughout Lent we will all come to understand its real blessing.

Luther based his Small and Large Catechisms on a series of sermons that he preached in 1528. After visiting the churches Luther found that the basic truths of the Christian faith were not understood by the laity and pastor’s alike.

In announcing these sermons Luther writes:

Because these matters are highly necessary, I faithfully admonish you to assemble at the designated time with your families. Do not allow yourself to be kept away by your work or trade and do not complain that you will suffer loss if for once you interrupt your work for an hour.

And besides, how much time do you spend drinking and swilling! You don’t count that, but when you are asked to spend time on God’s word you are disgusted.

LW Vol. 51 Pg. 135

So that we all don’t continue to reap the fire of Luther’s admonition let us now begin diligently with the Ten Commandments.

You shall have no other gods.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Luther begins the Catechism with the law. What God demands and how we measure up. He divides the commandments into the two tables with the first three pertaining to how we should see God and the last seven with how we should deal with each other. The commandments tell us what perfection is and that God expects perfection – no spot, no blemish.

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

In the commandments God shows us who we are. That though his requirements are just we all fall short daily in measuring up. God requires that we both fear and trust him. We are to fear him as in a reverent fear that honors who he is and his right to demand what he demands and in trust that if we keep all these commands … we will live.

25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28

To love God and neighbor is what the Law requires and we can’t. It also gives us a way to measure what the world says about what is good, what is right, and what is beneficial. Being legal in the eyes of the law doesn’t make it right in the eyes of God.

The law never rests. It doesn’t take a day off. Close is not good enough. The law is to curb who we are as sinners. It says … this far and no more. It functions as a mirror so that we might see who we truly are – dead in trespass and sin - and get our eyes off ourselves and look outward to one who has made a way where there was no way.

The Law also works when we as Christians know our failings. As we have been brought to faith God, through the Law, guides our behavior. Through the Law we understand who we are as sinners but also as Christians we understand that God desires us to daily die and rise with him in Christ remembering our Baptisms and living and conforming ourselves to his will. As we fail … we are brought by the Spirit to repentance, confessing our sins and turning outside ourselves to our God who forgives, redeems and makes us holy – set apart and sanctified.

As we daily are conformed into who God wants us to be, we gain no forgiveness for our sins by keeping the Law – for forgiveness is truly freely given us only by faith in Christ.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Eph. 2:8-9

While God tells us in the first table of the Law who he is, how we are to use his name, and that by keeping holy his day of rest we will remain connected to him and his word and through that word God, preached and proclaimed and he will bless and keep us connected to him in Christ.
We also find that in the second table of the Law that as we live our lives and keep his commands … we benefit our neighbor which is good and well pleasing to God.

The Law makes itself clear in what it demands and that we can find no peace and salvation in it.

For Luther it was important for the people to know that the keeping of God’s requirements will never save us. It is not what we do or must do … but always what Christ has done for us and is doing in us.

All of the commandments but two begin with Thou shall not! The Law primarily tells us what we shouldn’t do. When it tells us what we should do it falls to only two commandments: Keep Holy the Sabbath day - which Luther says refers to hearing God’s word and not despising the preaching of God’s word and the hearing of it because 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. and to Honor your father and mother which points to our headship and the true authority of those placed with responsibility over us that leads to and is only found in Christ.


The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is, not the broom that sweeps it clean. 

Dr. Phil Williams, DTS, 1976.

In the Seventh Commandment Luther writes:

You shall not steal.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

For Luther the distinction of law and Gospel was vitally important. He even noted with regards to the seventh commandment about - Ill-gotten gains -Saying: 

“You farmers and townsmen are, almost all of you, thieves and skinflints! The same applies to tailors, brewers, and others. Don’t think that God established the market to be a den of thieves.” 

LW Vol. 51 Pg. 156

For Luther it was not just about the petty thief but every form of stealing that defrauds our neighbor. We are always to do what is best to help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

No matter how good we keep the law we fall short. In the law and its keeping is death because in it we see no savior. It is this distinction of Law and Gospel that Luther wanted the people and you and me to know. In teaching the Ten Commandments first Luther shows what God requires and our inability to keep it. As we begin Lent with this Ash Wednesday service may we all see in the Law God’s perfect requirements and the good that they teach, but as Christians may we also know that by the Law we come to the knowledge of sin which brings us to repentance by the work of the Holy Spirit so that we might look outside ourselves to the one who is the fulfillment of the Law - Jesus Christ our Lord.

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


Monday, February 12, 2018

Sermon February 10-11, 2018 - Transfiguration

Title: Jesus transfigures you!
Text: 2 Cor. 3:12-13; 4:1-6

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you remember the old joke:

How many Lutheran’s does it take to change a light bulb?

CHANGE! We don’t like change!

The truth is Lutheran’s love change but it has to be the right change. Change for change sake is not good. Change for the wrong reasons is not. Change in compromising the truth is not good. Change just to be different or new is not good. Change because of the world, opposed to the word, is not good.

Last weekend we saw change in a good way. Gregory Michael Goddard went from being God’s enemy to God’s child. He went from darkness to light. He went from death to life … from separation from God to an eternity with God.

Gregory was changed, he was transfigured.

Paul too as he writes to the Corinthian church:


12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 2 Cor. 3:12-13

Paul comes to the Corinthians in this letter with the Good News that change has come. Grace has fulfilled the Law in Christ. Moses veiling of the glory of God reflected in his face, is now shining forth in the faces and lives of the children of God, and that was made known in the Jesus, the word made flesh for you.

3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Cor. 3:3

What an image of God working through word and Spirit! You are a testimony of God’s work through his bringing you to life by the Gospel. You are his work just as by the finger of God he wrote on the tablets of stone he has written the word of life upon you.

Paul contrasts the ministry of death to the ministry of life. The Law kills but the Spirit gives life.
In his previous letter Paul had to deal with the false Apostles that had infiltrated the church at Corinth, causing division and puffing up some within the church, calling those at Corinth Rich, and Kings while contrasting himself and the other Apostles as poor and fools for Christ sake. But Paul here points to the change that has come as a result of the gospel of God in Christ Jesus. This ministry is through the mercy of God and because of that – he and the other apostles don’t lose heart.


Last weekend was a joyful time for me but sad also. The weather didn’t cooperate much and many that I contacted didn’t come to worship because of the weather or other circumstances. But the sadness for me was the ones who didn’t even respond. Now certainly an anniversary isn’t the end all and be all of the work of the church but it is a symptom of what the word of the lord gets at here through Paul and his letter.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The god of this world that Paul is speaking of is not Jesus but Satan. The devil is also called the prince of the air. In our Men’s Breakfast Bible study last weekend and the Martin Luther DVD series that we just finished, John Nunes who is President of Concordia University New York, spoke of the difference between Lutheranism and a Calvinistic understanding of the scriptures. A key point in the understanding of salvation would include – the perseverance of the saints. Can you squander the gift of grace and lose your salvation? Lutheran’s would say yes.

The devil will do everything in his power to point you away from Christ and our loved ones, and fellow members who self exclude themselves are in danger as the text from Pastor Merrell’s message last week makes clear:

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The word of God and work of the Holy Spirit are the only means to come to faith and to remain in the faith. It is all of God and for some reason we in our sinfulness can and do reject the work of the Holy Spirit. It is you and it is me that need to be that encouragement to stir up one another.

5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

For 55 years Peace has had six pastors. Under shepherds and servants of the word but we all who serve in so many ways are servants. Some serve the body of Christ here at Peace in clear view in defined roles. Some serve in the corners and out of view. 

Some serve as the body of Christ in the world like the clip of David Sams from the message last weekend pointing out an obvious bias in the Google Home devise to not understand the question - who is Jesus - but knowing the answer to who is Buddha, or who is Mohammad or even who is David Sams. 

Darkness will cover or make every attempt to cover the light of the gospel. So it is up to you and it is up to me as Christians to make every attempt to shine that light of Christ in a very dark world.

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


The Super Bowl is probably not a place that you might expect the light of Christ to shine but it did and in a big way. The Eagles coach Doug Pederson did when asked by NBC’s Dan Patrick:

“How do you explain this, that nine years ago you’re coaching in high school and here you are with this trophy?”

To which Pederson responded:

“I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity,”

And MVP quarterback Nick Foles told

"I want to be a pastor in a high school. It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It's a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people's hearts."

New England Patriots [player] Matthew Slater, himself a devout Christian, didn't just talk about his respect for the other team's playing ability. He spoke about how he admired their faith.

"I really appreciate Carson's boldness for the Gospel, how he represents Christ day in and day out," the 10-year NFL veteran responded. "And it's not only him. You know, Nick does that as well. Chris Maragos. Brother Burton. I mean, there are a lot of brothers over there that stand firm for what they believe in, they represent the Gospel in a tremendous fashion."

"Ultimately, I know, to them and myself, that's what's going to matter for eternity beyond the game of football," Slater said. "They'll be my brothers in the Lord for a long time to come," he continued. "But on Sunday, obviously we'll be competing."

Dear friends, I don’t give a rip about football but this could just get me a bit excited!

In the Transfiguration the light of Christ Jesus shines out of darkness.

And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

The Law and the Prophets all point to Jesus and are fulfilled in him.

Jesus Christ, has to remove the cover of His humanity to reveal the true glory that is His and his alone … and has now been veiled for a time from the eyes of the world. Though Jesus is fully God and fully man he reveals this truth through means to you and me his disciples.

We all fail to recognize the true glory of Jesus, at times seeing only a good man who can be an example for us to follow. But many play the fool, trusting in themselves, or listening to the ways of the world that lead away from the glory of Jesus and his gift of faith and life in him which is promised for all by faith.

7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

“It is good that we are here.” It is truly good, that through Jesus only and his suffering and death at the Cross and glorious resurrection on the third day that we can be made sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by faith in him.

The light of Christ shines in you and me as we shine that light of Christ in a dark world. Share and shine that light of forgiveness and peace and the eternal hope in the Son who takes away the sin of the world.

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


Monday, February 5, 2018

Sermon January 27-28, 2018

Title: The word of God has authority unto salvation!
Text: Mark 1:21-28

22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Many of you might remember when President Ronald Reagan was shot. It was a time of uncertainty and trial. The question of who was in charge while the president was in the hospital came up at one of the press briefings. You also might remember Alexander Haig who was Reagan's Secretary of State getting up and saying, "I'm in charge!" The problem was - he wasn't. He didn't have the authority.

When I worked in the music business my boss had said he would make arrangements for a delivery for me. The day of the delivery the customer called me asking when the piano would be delivered. I called my boss. He told me he had forgotten to schedule it and apologized. I must have sounded hot and a bit unforgiving when he said, "Russ, don't say anything you're going to regret." I cooled down and thanked him. My boss was speaking from the seat of authority!

Jesus called his disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately followed him and now in Capernaum Jesus immediately begins to teach in the synagogue.

22 And they were astonished [which literally means blown away] at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 

Authority means in the basic sense: The power to enforce laws, to exact obedience, to command, determine and to judge. 

Jesus and his teaching did that, and in such a way as to make him recognizable to his hearers over the scribes and those teachers of the law that the people were familiar with. Jesus, for them, was really different.

Those scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had the place of authority in Jewish religious life but Jesus brings with him a teaching, and he teaches so that he is seen - as the true authority - and with his teaching the people are amazed or astonished.

Writer, William A. Ward in speaking about teachers and teaching has said, "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Progress Magazine, December 23, 1992.

Jesus is the good teacher, the superior teacher and the great teacher who by his word, his parables and his sacrificial life, death and resurrection brings those in darkness into his marvelous light and by this light - convicts and releases … condemns and forgives.

The gospel of Christ makes disciples throughout the world because Jesus’ words have authority!

23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

The words of the unclean spirit also recognize the authority of Jesus and speak through the man possessed. The demon’s words also speak the truth that the light of life – the Holy One of God - will destroy all darkness.

“It was the evil spirit that cried out at the sight of Jesus, affirming that he and Jesus of Nazareth had nothing in common, that he and all the demons belonged to a company which are and always will [be in opposition] with the Son of God. His cry is a cry of fear, lest Christ should see [fit] to condemn them, to destroy them by chaining them forever in hell.” 

Popular commentary of the Bible Paul Kretzmann NT Vol.1 p.168

The demon knows who Jesus is. But do we? Do we, through our own sinfulness and uncleanness, see this Holy One of God – this God in the flesh, as God, holy and set apart? Do we listen to his word? Or, do we listen to the world?

We all fall victim to our own sinful desires and the temptation that the world, the devil and our flesh lead us. We hear the word of God on Sunday, but just as easily hear the devils call and tempting. At times we give in, whether it’s a little white lie, sinful lust, or blatant disobedience. 

To be Holy is in opposition to sin and though you and I try we always fall short.

It is true with you and with me. It is true in church or out of church. 

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said:

. . . when Satan cannot catch us with a big sin, he will try a little one. It does not matter to him as long as he catches his fish, what bait he uses. Beware of the beginning of evil, for many, who [looked] to go right, have turned aside and perished amongst the dark mountains in the wide field of sin.

C.H. Spurgeon.

So how can you be protected? Be in the word. Hear the word proclaimed in service. Read the word in devotions, and study the word as taught rightly in Bible Study. 

Our Thursday mid-week study, is studying Elijah in 1 Kings, our Sunday study is using one of the readings for the weekly Lectionary and our men’s breakfast Bible study is finishing the Luther DVD study series. 

When I visited Dick Rutz in rehab a few weeks ago he made a point of telling me how much he enjoyed the videos and what he learned. I guess at 95 you’re still not too old to learn something new!
Don’t ignore it. Open the Bible, study the word, and talk to those who are in the word. There are different ways that Christian churches understand God’s word and teach it and you need to know what you believe, why you believe it and what the difference means.

Is Baptism God’s work or mans? Our Lutheran understanding teaches that it is God’s work.
In baptism we die to the sinful uncleanness that we are born into and are raised with Christ to newness of life - washed and marked by Christ as his redeemed. And just as Jesus, the word of God made flesh, cast out that demon saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.

So too the word of God, connected with the water, in the Name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit also conquers sin, death and the power of the devil and marks you and me as God’s child.

It is this Jesus – the word of God made flesh – who is teaching in the synagogue and who has and teaches with authority.

It is this Jesus - who by his word - cast out the unclean spirit and freed the possessed man from the power of the devil.

It is this Jesus – who is the holy one of God – who came in the flesh to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin - in your place.

It is this Jesus who they, saw and heard, and were blown away with his teaching in amazement … and then went and spread his fame and his name everywhere.

It is this Jesus that during the season of Epiphany we recognize as the savior of the world who came down from heaven to set you and me and all captives of sin free. 

It is this Jesus, who is the living word of God, that by the Holy Spirit and his work brings to faith all born dead to sin and are unclean and by his word, connected with the water in Holy Baptism raises those – you and me – from death to life in him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

For Galileo, who summoned the learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the power of belief was so strong, that they denied their eyesight and did not believe the truth.
God, by his Spirit, will bring you and all to the light of his truth and will keep you in this truth by his word and sacraments unto life eternal.

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