Monday, May 21, 2018

Sermon May 19-20, 2018 – The Day of Pentecost

Title: The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Second Stanza of our opening hymn for today really speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

#913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In

Give to Your Word impressive power
That in our hearts from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing,
That in true Christian unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Your glory ever showing.
Hear us, cheer us
By Your teaching;
Let our preaching
And our labor
Praise You, Lord, and serve our neighbor.

Today we celebrate the sending of the Spirit which in the Book of Acts speaks of the Spirit coming as a mighty rushing wind and as tongues of fire, resting on the disciples and giving them utterance. This powerful speaking in other tongues gives the disciples the ability to be heard as Luke writes in the book of Acts:

“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7b-8)

And the diversity of those that hear is large.

9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:9-11)

The Spirit can certainly do marvelous things to reach all people! And that is what Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel reading for today.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Spirit of truth will tell you about Jesus.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

Ill.
Christ met unbelievers where they were. He realized what many Christians today still don't seem to understand. Cultivators have to get out in the field. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life.

J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.

God can use us all. God will use us all.

My friend Rob makes his living teaching guitar and banjo. He is very talented and those he teaches learn well. But his mission is to tell the world about Christ and through his gift of music he gets an opportunity to tell the world about Jesus and Christ himself says that it is to your advantage that he goes away:

But if I go, I will send him [the Spirit] to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
John 16:7b-11

Ugly truth or beautiful truth?

The ugly truth is that we are born sinful and unclean and are God's enemies and rightly deserve to be cast into Hell and separated from God for ever. But the beautiful truth is that God came to stand in your place and to suffer death for you so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you might know this and by faith trust all that Jesus did for you and receive the promise of an eternity in heaven with him.

Satan has been judged at the cross. He has been defeated and it is now through the working of the Spirit that Christ’s work is made known to the world so that sin might be repented of and people come to faith in Christ.


We know that we ourselves need repentance and forgiveness, so also those who will come to faith by the Spirit’s work through the word. God’s means of word and sacrament are found here in God’s house but the word is active and goes with each one of us as we in our vocations take Christ with us in our daily lives as father’s mothers, brothers, sisters, and workers and too.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

As Jesus says:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
God’s Spirit leads you into all truth! John16:13-15

Christ and his work is who the Helper, the Holy Spirit points to and it defines what is His work and what He works to accomplish.

Jesus sends the Helper and by His work you are His!

We have peace to with God too because of the Holy Spirit. He brings us to life from our spiritual death and give us the faith that points and holds to Christ.

And as was confessed today in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spoke through the prophets …

The Holy Spirit is God the sanctifier or the one who makes us Holy…

Jesus sends the Helper the Holy Spirit and by His work you are His!

To be comforted at times is good,

To be helped at times is also good,

But to be forgiven and to receive the gift of faith in Christ and His work - for you - is the work of the Holy Spirit who was sent to draw people not to himself but to Christ. This is truly Good News!

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sermon May 12-13, 2018

Title: By his word the truth of God is yours!
Text: John 17:11b-19 Acts 1:1-11

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

There is a lot to consider this weekend. The ascension of our lord 40 days after Easter, the 7th Sunday/ weekend of Easter and Mothers Day; It should make for an interesting sermon.

In Acts Chapter 1:4-11 St. Luke describes the ascension of Jesus in this way:

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus desires unity around the truth. Jesus’ desire was in accord with the will of his Father.


Saying: I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost. Vs 12

Jesus’ desire is to keep and protect those whom he will leave as he returns to the Father. His desire is that they (his disciples) may be one in unity with each other just as Jesus and the Father are one … though distinct in person. Christ says that he has guarded them and that not one has been lost except for Judas - the one who went the way of destruction – so that the scriptures may be filled.

And as Christ prepared to leave them, he prays for them, that the Father would keep them in your name, in the name of the one true God, so that they would be guarded and not lost.

Christ knows that his disciples will remain in the world - just as you and I also remain in the world - and though are not of the world. We remain but also we represent the work of God in us to abide in Jesus to remain in him, to be his and to show forth his will against the power of the evil one who looks only to steal, kill and destroy.

We see division, brokenness, tension and the work of the devil in our day as well. We hear the cries for unity and truth distorted. We see death celebrated and life denied both for those just conceived and those ready to depart this life for their eternal rest.

We’ve heard the unity cries before.

All of us have differences. We all have conflicts. We have families and this too can pull us apart as we wrestle with the changes in society and civic life. Marriage has been redefined and gender has creatively been reinterpreted not for the true goal of tolerance but for a breakdown of the family as has been known and proclaimed through Biblical principles and God’s word.

Jesus says:

17 Sanctify them [or make them holy which also is to be set apart] in the truth; [he then tells us that] your word is truth.

Apart from God’s word we live in a world where God is re-made in man’s image and that is how the devil wants it. To turn what God has said upside down into that first deceptive question: “Did God really say?” It gives us all, like Adam and Eve, a high view of self and a low view of sin … which is simply, missing the mark and coming up short, on what God expects and so what do we do?

We lower the bar rather than honor God’s commands

We change the definition rather than honoring the truth. 

Your word – Jesus says - is truth.

Jesus’ desire for you and me … in this world … is that we may be sanctified [made holy and set apart] by the truth.

As Jesus returns to the Father he leaves his disciples with a promise.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Epistle 1 John 5:12

Our epistle reading follows this confirms this.

12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Unity needs to be … around the truth that Jesus Christ is the son of God.

How do we know this? How can we know this?

The word of God, it needs to be our highest authority.

At Baptism we are made God’s own child, one redeemed by Christ, who was crucified for you and me. This Jesus upon his ascension gave the promise that we would not be left alone and that the comforter, who would come at Pentecost, and would be with us to point us to the unity found in Jesus the word of God made flesh.

Dr. Scott Murray in his wonderful Memorial moment devotion reminds us that:

When the Word is lost everything is lost. Over the past twenty years, churches have begun to jettison the confession of faith in the Creeds of the church. They are no longer recited as part of church services. When this trend began the clergy, who were so eager to get rid of the public confession of the faith by the faithful, were quick to reassure the skeptical that even though they no longer said the words that they certainly still affirmed the content of the Creeds. More recently the clergy who jettisoned the recitation of the Creed are now quite aggressively rejecting the content of the Creed, including its Christological [focus on Christ] content. Once we stop saying the words, it isn't very long until we stop believing the content of them.

Dr. Scott Murray: Unloving Love Wednesday of Easter 6 13 May 2015


The truth comes to us in the word of God and is made know through the work of the Spirit who points us to the truth of Christ’s work.

Luther tells us:

"In the issue of salvation, on the other hand, when fanatics teach lies and errors under the guise of truth and make an impression on many, there love must not be exercised and error must not be approved. For what is lost here is not merely a good deed done for someone who is ungrateful, but the Word, faith, Christ, and eternal life, etc. are lost. Therefore, if you deny God in one article of faith, you have denied Him in all; for God is not divided into many articles, but He is everything in each article and He is one in all the articles of the faith."

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Christ has made you his own and will keep you by his Spirit connected to him and his truth. This is his promise.

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

Sermon May 5-6, 2018 Confirmation / First Holy Communion

Title: God’s own child I gladly say it!
Text: 1 John 5:1-8

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Processional Hymn: #590 Baptized into Your Name Most Holy
Opening Hymn: # 864 Shepherd of Thy Tender Youth
Sermon Hymn: #594 God’s own Child, I Gladly Say It
Communion Hymn: # 602 The Gifts Christ Freely Gives
Recessional Hymn # 689 Let me be Thine Forever

Stanza 1

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!


God’s blessing to you as we together celebrate the Confirmation of Olivia Fisher and Brianna Squanda here at Peace. We also, as was begun last year, will celebrate the First Communion of Emma Carlson, Theo Fisher, Scott Dobson Jr., Sam Powell and Jaystin Slavic. It has been a joy to work with, teach, and mentor these children over the last year together and over the last two years for Olivia and Brianna.

Our epistle in 1 John begins:

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,
For all of these children this work of God began when they were baptized. They were marked by Christ as his own, having been born again and having their sins were washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The work of God in them as infants was certainly greater than their ability to speak this truth for our ears to hear at their baptism - and so as they’ve grown and have been taught what this work of God is – and they now in our presence will confirm what God did then - and continues to do in them.

Stanza 2

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?


4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Though we all are born sinful and unclean, at our baptism we received the gift of Eternal Life. That gift also came by means of another gift – the gift of faith. Through the means of grace [word and sacrament] we have received the Holy Spirit, and have overcome the world, conquering sin, death and the power of the devil through this baptismal washing uniting water and the word and Spirit. Today [Olivia, Scott, Emma and Theo] and Sunday [Brianna, Sam and Jaystin] will make this proclamation clear.

Stanza 3

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

God has united these children to himself in a special way and now they make this clear in a public way. Confessing with their mouths that Jesus is lord and believing the God has raised him from the dead … they are saved, have been saved and will be saved!

Salvation is God’s promise and is delivered through his means. The word of terror that the devil brings has been defeated at the cross and Jesus has declared his victory to the gates of hell that sin, death and devil have been overcome by him and we who confess this faith receive all that Jesus won. This is most certainly true.

Stanza 4

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.


6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

The wages of sin is death but the gift of god is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

That is how the Apostle Paul comforts his first readers of this epistle. And for we who many years later hear his same voice proclaimed through the Gospel promise by the Holy Spirit believe and have the same gift of comfort and peace now and always through the assurance of simple water and word connected, received and revealed. What a blessed comfort!

Stanza 5

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Martin Luther writes in his Lecturing on the First Epistle of St. John:

Thus the water cannot be proclaimed without the blood. Nor is the blood of Christ given without the water of Baptism. Besides, the blood and the water do not come to us except at the insistence of the Holy Spirit, who is in the Word. Therefore those three cannot be separated, but the three do one thing …
For these three constantly accompany one another, and through the word a daily immersion and a perpetual baptism takes place, a perpetual shedding of the blood of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, a continual cleansing of sins.

AE 30 pg 316 Lutheran Study Bible pg. 2180

These children and all God’s children who have been baptized have and receive God’s forgiveness and have salvation in his name. The blood of Christ paid the price overcame sin death and the devil and opened the gates of heaven for we who believe. The waters of Holy Baptism united with the word of God washes away are sin and by the Holy Spirit we believe and have the assurance of the promise now and into eternity.

As these Confirmands and those receiving their First Communion demonstrate today and for we who look back many years on what God has done in us we can all proclaim:

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!

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

Funeral Sermon for Veretta Cheal May 5, 2018

Title: At home with Jesus forever!
Text: John 14:3 (English Standard Version)

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

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Veretta.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac, Pastor of Peace and I've been blessed to be Veretta’s pastor for the last 5 years and joyfully be able to celebrate her life with you, her dear family and friends.

Prior to becoming her pastor I had only heard about her.

In the Gospel text for today we read: (Jesus says)

1 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

So what had I heard? Well she was a charter member of this church and had a long history here. She was a shut in and not regularly able to come to church. she was a name and a story. After ordination and installation here at Peace I received this folder. It was the shut-in and home visitation list folder. This is my latest and updated list.

Number 1 on the list is Veretta Cheal. This hand written list was Pastor Merrell’s. He was here before computers … maybe before electricity! He was here and served so long and especially the home bound members of Peace like Veretta. On his list Veretta is number 5, not because she was of less important but numbers 1-4 have gone to be with the Lord and Veretta has now joined them.

When it was my turn to make the visits from Peace I was a little concerned. Veretta had been burdened with depression for many years.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 come to mind: 

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
I couldn’t think of anyone more heavy laden than Veretta. How could I help? What could I do? On bad days it was heard. My typical call:

Pastor: Hello Veretta
Veretta: Oahhhh…
Pastor: I was hoping to stop by and see you.
Veretta: Oahhh….
Pastor: Would Tuesday work for you?
Veretta: No …. I have … an appointment.
Pastor: Great! I’m seeing Kathy on Wednesday and I’ll stop by and see you at the same time. That would be alright wouldn’t it?
Veretta: Oahhh … I guess so.
Pastor: When I get there, if you don’t feel up to a visit you can let me know and I’ll leave. I never left.

It took all of my 32 years of sales skills to out maneuver her. She was good. But as a salesman I knew how to answer objections … and once I earn her trust … this burdened, depressed, shut-in, charter member of Peace became a joy and a blessing in my life.

In John’s gospel:

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:5-6)

Veretta knew the way and she knew Jesus as her Lord.

When the depression came she closed up like a shell but when she had relief from her illness she had joy to spare.

One of my last visits with her she had been burdened and as I thought about what to do I said to myself, I wonder when Veretta last sang some hymns? So I took my guitar and some song sheets and in Veretta’s apartment we sang I am Jesus little Lamb, Amazing Grace, Christ is our Cornerstone, I know that my Redeemer lives and a few others. We had communion and our prayers and went I was leaving I say, “Now Veretta you call me when you’re feeling better.”

Well a day or two later as I was sitting at home and thinking I should call her my phone rang. I looked at it and it was from Veretta. She had a wonderful way on the phone. 

I answered: “Hello Veretta its pastor.”

She answered: “Hi! … It’s Veretta. I’m feeling better. Debbie said I should call you.”

We had many calls. Sometimes it was for prayer and other times to rejoice. At times to simply ask for comfort and peace or to return thanks for his great blessings in our lives.

Veretta enjoyed growing up on a farm and always desired to get back up north whenever she could. She had a deep love for her husband Jim meeting at the bowling alley after moving down here for work at Consumers Power. Her apartment was … pretty … with quality furniture that showed Veretta’s joy for order and care. Each piece had special meaning to her and was decorated with family mementoes and joyful history.

Veretta was a focus in my sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday a few weeks ago as I shared her introducing me to her neighbor John Stade. Veretta wanted to make sure that John received the Lord’s care just like she did. It is that caring love that Veretta had for you her dear family and friends and also for her savior Jesus and all that he did for her in this life.

On one of my last visits before she entered the Lord’s presence I read her these psalm verses.

They can bring comfort and peace for you and me as we all grieve.

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Veretta prayed the Lord’s Prayer - which were her last words – and though is was hard and a bit labored, she did it as well as best she could. Debbie told me it was the last words she spoke.
Heaven is now Veretta’s home.

You too have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust.

Jesus has forgiven your sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, has given you the faith to believe in His saving work and a place prepared for you, forgiven in Christ and forever with our Lord and savior Jesus, and that’s a Heaven and an eternity you can trust.

The Lord kept Veretta to himself and to Peace. He connected her to our physical congregation through my visits and through his gifts of word and sacrament. But more importantly he connected her to an eternal peace and an eternal life with Christ forever. Though Veretta is no longer here for me to visit we are forever united in Christ and one day we will be reunited with glorified bodies in heaven where no, doctor’s visits, hospital beds or wheel chairs will be needed. This is the Lord’s promise! 

Veretta was prepared, she was forgiven in Christ, and she will be … at home with Jesus forever because Christ has promised:

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

May the Lord comfort you with this blessed good news now and forever!

Amen

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sermon April 28-29, 2018

Title: God works in you to bear fruit!
Text: John 15:1-8


4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

My son got a new tree pruner. You may be familiar with them. It is a long pole with a saw blade on one end and a pruner that can lop off branches with the pull of the cord. It is pretty slick and I watched as he tested it out reaching up about 10 feet into a tree looping off a small branch with a quick pull. The branch was quickly tossed into the debris pile for later disposal or burning.

Pruning and branches are very familiar to we who live in Michigan. We clean them up in the spring and prune trees, bushes and vines in the fall or throughout the year. My privacy hedge along the road was planted many years ago as a protection for my children but Jon and Amy are now grown and long gone with homes of their own and that hedge is still there … all 200 feet of it … and still requires work and regular pruning to keep its shape and its height in check.

Our gospel text today consists of only 8 verses that follow the discourse in John chapter 14 where Jesus promises that many rooms are prepared in his father’s house for his disciples and that he will come again to take them to where he is. The comfort of the Holy Spirit will be the one to remain after Jesus has ascended to the Father to continue to work and point all in Christ to that true comfort and finished hope that is Jesus.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

Christ’s love for us and his death on our behalf was on our minds last weekend with the Good Shepherd gospel. The image of the Good Shepherd and the caring of the flock was the focus of Jesus’ care for those that are his and how he brings that about through his word and gifts through his church.

In our reading today Jesus speaks in image as a vine. But not just any vine but as the true vine the … “I am” the vine. The divine name that begins our reading is no mistake but is made to ring clear in the disciples ears as the name of God and Jesus as the rightful possessor of that name. He then connects his name to the Father as the vine dresser.

I chapter 14 in a more direct way when Phillip asks:

“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

And Jesus replies:

Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

So Jesus is making clear in the previous chapter and in this first verse - this connectivity:

Father, Son, Vine, Vine dresser, the great “I am”, and Jesus - united in unity and unity in truth.

2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

To be a disciple means two things; to be connected to Christ and to bear fruit. This work God does through the Holy Spirit. The branches removed here are not the unbelieving world but those who once connected to Christ have lost faith and do not bear fruit and have become useless to the vine. Because of unbelief … they are removed and cast away.

The fear in the text of being cut off and cast way for you and me is not the point of the text but for we who remain connected to Christ - it is the pruning and the bearing of fruit – which too can have its own pain and discomfort.

Those of you who have dealt with surgery know the pain of surgery and the blessing of looking at that it in the rear view mirror. It is the desire of Jesus that we are fruit bearers that the fruit of being connected to him shines forth in our lives … at church, at home, and in the world where we live and work.

A former pastor once said when faced with the “Judge not, that you be not judged.” scripture of Matthew Chapter 7 from a well intended person, replied:

“I’m not judging … but I am a fruit inspector!”

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

The work of God’s justifying grace has already brought us into his family as his adopted children. Through baptism we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and have partaken of the divine blessing that is Jesus … being marked in him as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

So this fruit inspection is not to see whether we are truly Christian … but whether the gift of God in Christ as his children is bearing fruit in our lives … or dying on the vine.

Death will come. But do we die removed from the vine or in Christ?

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

A good death, a death in Christ, a death that leads to eternal life is what God desires- it is our hope as well - and it only happen in Christ, the true and living vine with branches grafted in.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

To do the work of Christ and to bear fruit we have to be in Christ. We have to grow spiritually bearing the fruit that Christ desires. You might wonder what God requires. Are we being judged on our works and the things we do?

Certainly as Christians and especially as Lutheran Christians we know that Ephesians 2:8-9 makes clear how we are saved: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph 2:8-9

But fruit is evidence of a life in Christ for the Christian. It’s not a pious life or an outward righteousness but an inward change. It is God’s work and God’s continued working through his means of word and sacrament.

If I see my apple tree with a dead branch I cut it off and then prune those branches around it that bear fruit … so that they might receive more nourishment and bear even greater fruit.

We just finished going through a bible study during our midweek study called:

Unjustifiable Faiths: Four common - and wrong beliefs about justification. In these studies we learn where we at times put our hope.

1. Trust in your heart and what it is saying.
2. Prosperity as a sign that shows God’s approval and favor in our lives.
3. To trust that God only expects you to do your best.
4. Or trusting that I believe what my church teaches. (Can I pass the Confirmation exam?)

Jesus makes it clear as he continues:

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The fruit bearing is in Christ.

Our good deeds apart from Christ are quite literally nothing. They show no fruit and in fact if done with the intention of being a good deed, bring no fruit and can take us farther away from God trusting in a false god of our own making. Our works apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us … can do nothing, Jesus says.

1. Trusting you heart as opposed to trusting Jesus - leads to death.
2. Trusting your wealth as opposed to trusting Jesus – leads to death.
3. Doing your best as opposed to belief in Christ’s work – leads to death.
4. Faith in the church as opposed to faith in Christ – leads to death.

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

The abiding hope is a hope and work in God and of God.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

To have Jesus Christ abide in you is to be in the word.
To be in the word is to be in Christ the very word of God made flesh.
To do what God requires is to believe on him whom he has sent.

This work by the working of the Holy Spirit comes to you and me through the means of grace and points us to Christ so that we abide in him and he abides in us.

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

The gift of God makes us his and through this
the Father is glorified in his son and in we his adopted children are glorified in him and bear much fruit.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sermon April 21-22, 2018

Title: Love and death!
Text: John 10:11-18

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Call to worship: #473 Our Paschal Lamb That Sets Us Free
Sermon Hymn: # 490 Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won

Love and Death is kind of a strange phrase.

We might think life and death but love and death seems odd to me and may be to you as well? Going back in my past I remember a movie of Woody Allen’s from 1975 with that same title, Love and Death. It was a period piece set in Czarist Russia, and the story was about a neurotic soldier [what else would Woody play but one who is neurotic] who is in love with his distant cousin on the one side and his formulation of a plot to assassinate Napoleon on the other – so the title Love and Death.

In our readings for today we see another love and death. Jesus says in an analogy of a shepherd to his sheep that he is the good shepherd and that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In our epistle in 1 John also we hear in contrast that 16 By this [the death of Jesus] we know love, that he laid down his life for us.

So, the good shepherd is Jesus and we, and all who believe are his sheep and because of his love for us … he dies for us. And so again we have this odd phrase of … Love and Death.

Now we also know death. From the time of Adam and Eve and the fall into sin, death has been part the world. We see death all around us.

So our death, apart from Christ’s atoning death, is a death without hope. But in Jesus and by faith in his sinless life, vicarious death and glorious resurrection his death … is a death that gives life.

Jesus also says that apart from him - those that might shepherd the sheep in ways opposed to Christ and his teaching - are liars leading the sheep away from him and who in the time of need flee, leaving the sheep to care for themselves so that the wolves scatters them.

But in our reading Jesus – the Good shepherd- says:

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

So who are the other sheep and how does Christ bring them into this one flock?

Well, outside of the children of Israel – those believing Jews - it is you and me … and it is also those who will believe as the gospel goes forth throughout the world from now on until Christ returns.

Ill.

Last Sunday one of our members went to be with the Lord. John Stade was a neighbor of Veretta Cheals at Elmhaven Manor where they both lived. I met and visited with John there at Veretta’s request. When John was moved to Clarkston Specialty for more assisted care I continued to visit him.
 
John was confirmed at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Rochester at 13 years of age in 1953. From his early adult life he had been away from regular attendance and this continued for many years. But through Veretta Cheal and her shut in visits the Lord used this time and this way to reconnect John to himself and our church to a lost sheep in need.
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Each month I was privileged to bring John the news that was going on at church and the gifts of the Lord’s forgiveness in word and sacrament where he was - in his bed or wheelchair. 

I saw him last Sunday after church though he was unresponsive. I went back to see him last Tuesday afternoon only to find his room empty. 

Loss brings emotion and tears. It did for me on Tuesday. Even when I got home and told Monica she could see how John Stade’s death affected me asking me if I was alright.

As an under shepherd of Christ flock here at Peace I am given to the care of souls as a representative of the Good Shepherd. The good Shepherd is Jesus and he is our model and our hope. In him we find comfort and peace and bring that same hope and peace to others in need. 

The hope that is Christ was my hope and privilege to bring to John in his place and to all who are given to my care shut in or at hospital, or gathered here … to hear this blessed comfort and good news that is Christ Jesus and his forgiveness.

Like Jesus upon hearing of the death of Lazarus - I too wept at John’s death as well. Not being connected to his family the arrangements were made without me and my involvement was now completed I felt the loss and in a sense no closure. As Pastor Merrell once told me we only care for them while they are with us. Once they go to be with the Lord our work here is finished.

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

The Lord connected John to Peace. He connected him to our physical congregation through my visits and his gifts. But more importantly he connected John to an eternal peace and an eternal life with Christ forever. Though John is no longer there for me to visit we are forever united in Christ and one day will be reunited with glorified bodies in heaven where no hospital beds or wheel chairs will be needed. This is the Lord’s promise! 

The work of the Good Shepherd is clear and proclaimed to us by Jesus in his great commission:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20

This living Jesus is with us now and always. For we who remain in the flesh and for all who have died in Christ - like our dear loved ones - he is the blessed hope on whom we wait. This hope though, is not a vain hope but a joyful hope of anticipation - one where the tears of loss are replaced by the tears of joy and a life eternal that we are all promised by Christ himself.

God uses each one of us in our vocations as husbands, sons, mothers, daughters, friends, and workers in public or private service to be salt and light in a dark world. He gives each to his place and calls to life, that which is dead by his love for us and his death on our behalf.

As Martin Luther said regarding God’s work throughout the world:

He is the Lord over all places. Wherever that word is heard, where Baptism, the sacrament of the Altar, and absolution are administered, there you must determine and conclude with certainty; “This is surly God’s house; here heaven has been opened.” But just as the word is not bound to any place, so the church is not bound to any place. One should not say: “The chief pontiff is in Rome. Therefore the church is there.” But where God speaks, where Jacob’s ladder is, where the angels ascend and descend, there the church is, there the kingdom of heaven is opened.

LW American Edition Vol. 5 pg. 244

In our sanctuary and in hospital and home visits, or in the conversations of family and friends where Christ’s Love and Death is proclaimed the Good Shepherd speaks comfort and peace to those lost is trespass and sin!

His forgiveness makes everlasting life with him a reality for us and by power of the Holy Spirit we know his love for us and his death on our behalf to accomplish just that.

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

Amen

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sermon April 14-15, 2018

Title: Christ has sent the promise of the Father upon you!
Text: Luke 24:36-49

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

As you joy in the Easter season may you be reminded that the Lord Christ has made peace with the Father for you and has sent the promise of the Father upon you!

In our gospel today we see a scene unfold as the scene from last weekends gospel in John, where Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples in the locked room. In Luke’s gospel though - it follows Jesus after he walked with the two men on the Emmaus road.

As these two men walk towards Emmaus which is about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem, Jesus joins them and remains unrecognized by them. He asks them what they are discussing and they can’t believe that he is unaware of what just happened in Jerusalem to Jesus of Nazareth. They recount that the Chief Priests had turned Jesus over to be sentenced to death and that he had been crucified and now it is the third day … and the women … who went to the tomb to anoint his body say his body is not there. There are some who even say they saw a vision of angels that say that Jesus is alive and has been raised from the dead!

As they continue on, Jesus open the scriptures to them – showing that the Christ would have to suffer, die, and rise again.

And finally:

30 When [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

This is where we pick up the story in the Gospel reading for today as these two Emmaus road disciples go back to Jerusalem to confirm to the disciples that they had seen the Lord.

Jesus is present with those gathered saying, “Peace to you!”

He confirms to them that it is him. “Touch me, and see!” For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And we are told that they disbelieved for joy … that this Christ … present here … was in a sense, too good to be true!

That can also seem too good to be true for you and me as well. Consumed at times by life’s activities, we are overwhelmed by so much that is given to us daily, that we can forget the one gift that is truly needed … peace with God.

Ill.

Disbelieved for joy can be only unbelief for some.

A few years ago I received a call from my good friend Paul. He told me about his wife’s cousin Jolie, who was dying from cancer and had very little time to live. He also said that his wife Rebecca wanted to talk to me.

As he gave me some of the details, I found that not only was the cousin dying but she was an unbeliever and not receptive to hearing about Christ at all … even as she neared death.

Paul told me, his wife Rebecca would be driving up north to be with her cousin, who had been sent home die, as there was according to the doctors, “No hope and nothing left to do!”

But for we who name the name of Christ there is always hope and there is always … plenty left to do.

Rebecca wanted to know what to do, and what she could say to a cousin who said to her, “I don’t share your beliefs or faith.” This happened right after Rebecca called her cousin and wished her “Happy Easter,” on Easter Sunday.

What would you say … what could you say … what should I say?

As the time of a death nears for a loved one we often feel lost. We want to comfort them, we want to give them hope, and we also need to be comforted ourselves.
Jesus says to the disciples and to us,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44

The word of God written for us is Christ’s word and it is he – the word made flesh - who Paul tells us in first Timothy:

… desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Tim 2:4

I spoke with Rebecca about reading scripture to her cousin if at all possible, sharing her faith, and even singing some hymns. I told her a few stories of people that I had witnessed to but also told her … that she might not hear the words she so hopes to hear from her cousin … “I believe.”

But I also reminded her to, “not be discouraged, because it is God himself who opens the eyes of the blind and works in the lives of all who are brought to faith.”

It is his work, it is his grace, and it is his salvation … that we witness to and share with others - just as Jesus did on the Emmaus road.

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, as he did with his own disciples.

Even if we don’t hear the words of faith we long to hear from those we love, God can still do and accomplish all that he intends to do to draw and bring those he desires to a believing faith.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

That repentance … and forgiveness of sins … should be proclaimed in his name to all nations …

… even to one … on her death bed … up north … in Michigan.

48 You are witnesses of these things.

Rebecca was a faithful witness testifying to the things she has not seen - yet believes.

She read and shared God’s word with her cousin and as a believer she came to her cousin at a time of need and then came back many times with God’s word of comfort.

Jolie passed away this past summer – not immediately as the doctors had expected – and Rebecca never heard the words she longed to hear.

But in life and in death - we are left at times with simple hope and trust.

Hope in a savior who saves … and trust in the promise of God.
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The promise of the Father is upon you too, as the Holy Spirit dwells in you richly and points you outside yourself to a living hope, and a living savior – and a living Jesus who is Christ our Lord.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed Alleluia!

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

Amen

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sermon April 7-8, 2018

Title: The Peace of the Lord is yours!
Text: John 20: 19-31

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

An elderly man said to [his pastor], "I [need the assurance that] I'm saved, or else [I need to] know it's hopeless to seek to be sure of it. I want a definite witness, something I can't be mistaken about!"

[Well, the pastor] replied, "Suppose you had a vision of an angel who told you your sins were forgiven. Would that be enough to rest on?" "Yes, I think it would. An angel should be right."

[The pastor] continued, "But suppose on your deathbed [the devil] came and said, 'I was that angel, transformed to deceive you.' What would you say then?" The man was speechless.

[Dear friends,] God has given us something more dependable than the voice of an angel. He has given us His Son, who died for our sins, and He has testified in His own Word that [those who believe and are baptized will be saved.] Mark 16:16

H. A. Ironside. (modified)

In our epistle for today in 1 John we read:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

And John also concludes his epistle letter with this affirmation:

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God … so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus had been crucified and buried. There had been despair among the disciples. Word had come that his body had been stolen; some reports say he has been raised from the dead. Confusion and uncertainty was rampant.

You should remember that these disciples had not stood firm with Jesus during his hour of need. Some had fallen asleep when he went to pray, some had abandoned him for fear and even Peter had denied knowing him. Now on Sunday evening, the evening of the day of his resurrection, these same disciples came together in an upper room. The door is locked because they too fear the Jewish authorities, and who knows … maybe these same Jews are looking for them as well?

So, they abandoned Jesus … they hid during his trail … they left him to suffer alone and in this locked room … Jesus now is standing before them. Not off in the distance where you can’t quite make him out, not appearing to be the gardener as Mary Magdalene had thought but in their midst, right there with them.

They might have thought, “What will he say to us who have deserted him?” His zeal for his father’s house was known to them as they were there as he sent the money changers fleeing and scattered the wears of those selling in the courts of the Temple. What kind of fire would he call down from heaven upon them who had left him ... to die alone? Certainly the sons of thunder were not now making any requests to sit on his left or right in his Kingdom.

And then Jesus speaks his first words to them. “Peace be with you.” Not just the traditional greeting of Shalom as Jews were known to great one another but the Peace that passes all human understanding, the words of absolution from Jesus himself – your sins are forgiven. Peace between God and man, Christ and his disciples, God’s peace also for you and me who all now by faith have access to this same peace, because:

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

This peace is real. God has made what we could never make possible a reality. Now he brings this reality to you and me through his means.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the reality of his death was there, the holes in his hands and feet, the mark in his side from the spear, all those remaining marks of his finished work for you and me were there, and he says and again brings the words of comfort.

“Peace be with you.” But now gives the means of this gift for the world’s salvation. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Christ Jesus here gives the work of the ministry to these disciples, these 10 men in this upper room - Judas having fled and taken his life in despair and Thomas not yet here among them.

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.”

The work of the ministry, given by Jesus, to those who stand in the stead and by the command of Christ brings true peace … because it is Christ’s peace spoken as if he spoke it himself to you.


It is a true absolution, not because the men who stand in the place and by the command of Christ, stand of their own accord, but because they stand as called and ordained servants of the word, they do what Christ does and commands.

It is his words of peace, it is his words of forgiveness, and it is his words of comfort spoken by those called to stand as under shepherds of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ himself.

Peace is a, gift but it also has a cost.

Jesus is both the gift and the price that was paid to procure your peace and your salvation. In Baptism, we too who are brought to the font at baptism receive that same gift. It is Christ who baptizes through the hands of those same called and ordained servants. It is not my baptism but Christ’s done through the hands of those he has called.

We who have been baptized have all received that same gift.


In Baptism we are once again given that pristine state and standing with God that Adam and Eve had before the fall. But God’s creation, as we know is still covered by the wages of sin which bring death. At times the word of God’s Law must be spoken, to point us all to our sinful state, so that we might be brought to repentance. But God’s absolution and forgiveness is certain for those who repent, so that we might live redeemed, in the midst of a world broken by the fall.

Do not remain in doubt like Thomas, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

But even for Thomas only eight short days later Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

The same forgiveness that the others received, Thomas too received.

We all as baptized children of God have that same Peace with God through Christ’s merit. We can remember our baptisms daily knowing for certain that it is Christ himself who baptizes and give the Holy Spirit so that we all can believe and trust in his finished work. No matter the trials of this life whether work loss, addiction or doubt - Christ is here each week … at Peace … to greet you with the comforting absolution of his forgiveness.

And like Thomas we too can say in response, “My Lord and my God!” Knowing for certain just as Jesus said, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

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

Amen

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday

Title: Dead, buried, and raised!
Text: Mark 16:1-8

5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.

Blessed Easter to you all as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord!

But that is not how the day began … that first Easter.

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

For the woman here the day begins early. It is past the Sabbath.

2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

The Apostle Luke writes: at early dawn, they went to the tomb,

St Matthew tells us: toward the dawn of the first day of the week,
And John writes in his Gospel: 20 Now, on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark,

Four gospels, four accounts … all four evangelists tell of an early visit to the tomb.

The number of women named varies. Mary Magdalene, James’ mother Mary, and Salome are named in Mark’s gospel while St. Luke adds Joanna and the other women, leaving the possibility of other women who are not named that may have also gone to help at the tomb.

There are two truths here. They were going to deal with the body of a dead man. One who had been crucified on Friday and left in a hot desert tomb over the Sabbath, to finish preparing the body of Jesus for burial.

The other truth - no men were there.

Why? Well Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had already wrapped the body of Jesus in linen cloths and placed it in a hand cut tomb. John’s account adds that the body had been anointed with 75-100 pounds of spices.

For the men - maybe the job of anointing the body and burial was done.

For the women, because of the crucifixion and quick burial, much had happened. From 3 pm on Good Friday when Jesus said “It is finished,” bowed his head and gave up his spirit to the beginning of the Sabbath rest at 6 pm, there are only three hours. That doesn’t leave much time to request the body of Jesus from Pilate, take it down from the cross, prepare it for burial, and then bury it and roll the stone in place.

There was much to do in the little time available. Maybe the women felt they needed more time for a proper buriel?

But one truth does come to mind in the reading of all four accounts.

Jesus was dead.

3 [As the women approached the tomb,] they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

For you and me dear friends there is a stone, a very large stone, a spiritual stone – you see, you and I were dead too.

The physical stone that the women were concerned about could be moved – maybe not by them but with a few others it could be moved and they could anoint the dead. That is why they went.

But not the spiritual stone and not a heart of stone dead in trespass and sin they couldn’t help with that, because that is you and that is me and we need anointing too because we are dead. Not with spices and not with oils but with the anointing of one who changes hearts and lives from death to life.

To anoint a dead body you have to roll away the stone and enter the tomb.

The women were prepared to do that for Jesus to honor him with the best they could buy, even though a large quantity of spices had been used already and the stone rolled in place, they went - to where death lay - and with the best anointing oils they could buy.

Jesus had been anointed before. You might remember the story from Mark Chapter 14 where Jesus was reclining at the home of Simon the Leper, and a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and pure nard and broke it and poured it over his head. Those present were indignant at the waste because why anoint a living person when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor?

6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.

We too were in a sense anointed beforehand.

Before we were born we were anointed with the sin of Adam and Eve, marked for death, conceived and brought forth in sin.

What God had created perfect was broken and we were born dead in trespass and sin. Eph 2:1

But thankfully God didn’t leave us for dead.

5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them,

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

The spices and oils to anoint the body of Jesus were no longer needed. He was not there. He had risen from death to life.

In the same way also you have left death behind.

The Holy Spirit, which you were anointed with at your baptism, has washed you clean and by his power, connected to the word, has rolled away the stone of spiritual death from your heart so that being dead in trespass and sin, and dead to God, you now have been made alive in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Because of the Holy Spirit in you, you see not through the eyes of death … but through the eyes of faith fixed on the one who has conquered sin, death and the devil in your place.

7 But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

By faith you also see. You see a resurrected Christ, you see life eternal, and you see Jesus … He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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

Amen

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sermon March 30, 2018 Good Friday

Title: Christ has been lifted up!
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

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

When confronted with the whys of our own life, we in many cases turn to despair. So many in our church live with sickness and the knowledge of continued suffering; some lose loving parents and find it hard to go on without them daily in their lives; some just wish to depart this life and to have the suffering they endure … end. 

It is with Good Friday and the suffering of Jesus that we too can call out with persistent cries, “why?” 

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

As Isaiah says:

… he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows
… was afflicted, pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
He was oppressed, he opened not his mouth, he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people and they made his grave with the wicked
Though he had done no violence and no deceit was in his mouth.

Through suffering God declares his love.

Isaiah called the Suffering Servant oppressed, and like a sheep being led to the slaughter he was silent. 

Yet, there was a purpose for his suffering. It was for the transgressions the sins of the people. For sin, he would die, he would be cut off and make his grave with the wicked.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. [sins]
Through suffering God will bring peace to Israel through His servant. God promises good news, peace, happiness and salvation to His people Israel.

It is also made known that God chooses to be the God of all people and that the way he will accomplish this is through his servant. The Lord will be the one who brings salvation to all the earth.

Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2 when he says:

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

Jesus was lifted up though many were appalled at his appearance. He was disfigured almost to the point of not being recognized as human. Sin needed an atoning sacrifice that was without blemish and acceptable to appease God’s wrath. God provided the sacrifice himself in His Son – God in the flesh - who was the spotless Lamb of God. The price of the servant’s sinless life and death brought peace for you and for me.

Through suffering we have peace and healing.

he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

When you suffer you are connected to Christ Jesus the Suffering Servant. By being connected to him, when we too suffer, we can know God’s true love for us as he endured all for you and for me … even death.

Christ’s model is our victory.

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

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

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
 
Because of his sinless life and his substitutionary atonement [Christ’s death in our place] we have received what he earned by faith in him … our forgiveness and salvation. He didn’t do it for himself … he did it for you!

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

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

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

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

Sermon March 29, 2018 Maundy Thursday

Title: The fruit of forgiveness for you!
Text: Mark 14:12-26 Ex 24:3-11; 1 Cor. 10:16-17

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Cor. 10:16-17

There is something mysterious and wonderful about celebrating the Lord’s Supper on the night when it was first given. What a joy and privilege to re-live that first Maundy Thursday and to share the very same gift Jesus gave his disciples centuries ago.

Last week we finished our midweek series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism with the Lord’s Supper.

We heard of the Real Presence as taught in the Luther’s Small Catechism - as a true exposition of what the Bible teaches - and that, Christ’s true body and blood is in, with, and under the bread and wine instituted by Christ himself as our Gospel reading from St. Mark makes clear.

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Mark 14:22-24

Doing Real Love

The gift of Christ’s love for us is made known to us in his sinless life, death in our place, and glorious resurrection, and as we’ve walked during Lent with Jesus on his journey to the cross the time of fulfillment is coming near, and Christ gives us all - one more blessing – the gift of the supper.
In teaching on the Lord’s Supper we talked of the vertical and horizontal relationship that occurs at the table of the Lord. God and you, connected in the this gift receiving from Christ himself his very body and blood connecting you to his death for you and the forgiveness he won and also … the Koinonía or life together that we share – horizontally - as we gather to receive this participation in the body and blood of the Lord. 

St. Paul is looking to connect the blessings of Christ to you, and you and me to each other.
Our collect for today makes this clear:

O Lord in this wondrous Sacrament you have left us a remembrance of your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of your body and blood that the fruits of your redemption may continually be manifest – [or made known] – in us. That together we may make the love of Christ known in our lives … one with another and in our world.

What had been celebrated then is celebrated today as we receive the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

This unfortunately, for many of Christ’s followers today, becomes a place of conflict, confusion, and tension.

What is the Lord’s Supper and who should partake?

For some of our Christian friends and those of other denominations the bread is just bread, and the wine is just wine. We remember what Christ did at the cross and we don’t give too much thought beyond that. Because, they would say: “Jesus is in Heaven and not able to be here and in the sacrament.”

The Roman Catholic Church, of which grew up would go further than Jesus by defining the moment that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ and the bread and wine no longer exist but are simply accidents.

We see bread and wine but they have been transubstantiated and changed and now are only the body and blood of Christ.

As Lutherans we take Jesus simply at his words for what they are - not reading more into them than what He said or believing less than what he meant.

In a real sense the Real Presence and our understanding of Jesus and the sacrament are truly profound but also very simple or, maybe it is just as Lutherans we like to - let Scripture interpret Scripture.

As St Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:16-17

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

In this blessed gift we hear the words of institution as the elements are consecrated, and we receive the bread and the wine by our mouth, but in a mysterious way that we can’t fully comprehend in the sacramental union, we also receive the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in and with the bread and the wine, not because we fully understand it but because Jesus and his word says so.

What does this have to do with the Lord’s Supper for you and me?

For we are one body and partake of the one loaf - 1 Cor. 10:17

Participation in the sacrament puts us on the side of Christ uniting us with Christ and you and me with each other. 

We gather together at the table of the Lord and are identified as members of the body of believers – this one loaf - and we are also connected to what is believed, taught, and confessed here at this altar and in this church. 

That Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper and that we receive his true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins in this blessed gift - here.

Not all Christian churches agree. 

So should we partake at other alters?

Some will claim Christian Freedom. “It’s between me and Jesus they say. As long as I know what I believe I’m free to partake wherever and whenever the Lord’s Supper is offered!”

But remember we are in fellowship – one with another - at the rail. 

If the church you visit believes that Christ is not really present does our participation say something different by our actions about what we believe?

I’ll use a political analogy to make my point.

You believe one party serves your interests better than the other. You vote only for party because it is how you believe. 

Now a friend invites you to a fund raiser for the other party. You go, not because you believe what they do, but because your friend invited you and … you like the food. They always have such great food! So you go.

Someone there sees you … and knows you. They get the impression that either you believe how they do … or don’t really believe what you say you believe.

Actions have consequences even if you’re only there for the food.

There is a more excellent way.

The unity we receive from our Lord in the supper connects us to him. His love for you is given and shed at the cross and given into you mouths for the forgiveness of all our sins. We can’t explain how this IS … but simply trust the words of Christ. 

“Take; this IS my body.” 23 And he took a cup …24 And he said to them, “This IS my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

As the body of believers we too, in love should bring this love of Christ to a world hurting and broken by sin.
Unity in the body is important but truth more so. We cannot compromise truth for unity. None the less we can agree on many essentials together as believers and speak the truth in Love.

A. W. Tozer writes:

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. 

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

Christ gives the power

It is the word of God made flesh and his sinless life, suffering death and glorious resurrection that makes peace with God. The Lord’s Supper brings to our lips this reality connecting us to the very death of Christ for our benefit. It is a meal of forgiveness - God’s favor on account of Christ for you … now and always.

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

Amen

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sermon March 24-25, 2018 Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion

Title: Are you the Christ?
Text: Mark 11: 1-11; 14:1-15:47

61 … Again the high priest asked [Jesus], “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

A bishop [in the United Brethren Church] a century ago pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited, that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Well, Bishop Milton Wright also had two sons, Orville and Wilbur! Bishop Wright was wrong. Sure of himself … but wrong.

Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Winning the New Civil War, Page 38.

Are you the Christ? That is the question the High Priest asked Jesus? And on Palm Sunday or the Sunday of the Passion, we might ask ourselves this question. Is this - Palm or Passion Sunday - a day to remember the triumphant ride of Jesus into Jerusalem, or is this a day to reflect on what lies ahead in Holy Week for this same humble servant Jesus?

I assume the answer is yes to both. Both the Kingly entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, humble and riding on the foal of a donkey, and the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world are needed. To the mind of sinful man both seem impossible and contrary to the will of God.
To reign as a King requires power and might not the humility of a servant, and we might think of the death of Jesus as the end of all hope - not the glory of God and the power of God in the man who is the Christ of God.

Power hates humility

This humble Jesus who rode into Jerusalem was hated by those in power.

The Chief priests and Scribes saw the joy of the people as they welcomed Jesus riding on the colt the foal of a donkey with palm branches and their cloaks placed before him. They saw and heard him preach, teach, and heal those afflicted with demons and disease. The anger of the Chief priests and Scribes conspired against Jesus accusing him of blaspheme, bringing him to the attention of the Roman leaders as a radical bent on disrupting the peace, and turning the people’s joy from,

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matt. 21:9

To,

“Crucify him!” “Crucify him!”  Mark 15:14

The power of sin corrupted the will of love.

The perfection of creation was destroyed by the will of disobedience.

The gift of life became a life of death.

We too enter into this world in humility as a babe marked for death. Helpless and hopeless we ride into this life with the promise. “You can’t take it with you!” Death is the one destination for we who are born sinful and unclean from the time of our conception. Psalm 51:5

The world gives hope, Think positive! Have faith in yourself! Trust your heart! But the object of your thinking, your faith, and your trust is you - and in you - there is no hope eternal. No everlasting peace.

Strength hates weakness.

The Jewish leaders hated Jesus. As a loving servant he challenged their power and their might. Paul makes this clear in our epistle reading for today as Jesus:

7 made himself nothing by taking the form of a servant, and being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The cross to the sinful man looks like weakness, and death looks like the end, but with God we see the great reversal.

God takes the weakness of the cross and confounds the strong, wise and powerful; he takes loss and turns it to gain, and he makes Jesus’ death a life giving death for you and me and for all who look to him by faith.

The tables have been turned!

Even for those mired in the unbelief of this world there is hope in the impossible. Not only hope but assurance …

March Madness always begins with the hope of an upset ... a Cinderella story … and the unexpected victory.

[Yet despite the event’s well-deserved reputation for giant-killing, it had never delivered the ultimate shock—a top-seeded team losing in the first round—until last [Saturday] night [March 17th.]

In a game that was supposed to be little more than a tune-up before facing more formidable opponents later in the tournament, the top-ranked University of Virginia was stomped by the humble, 16th-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) in a 74-54 blowout.]

https://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2018/03/upsets-college-basketball

Joy and euphoria for some, anger and a bracket demolished for others. Life is full of truth and consequences.

The truth of life and death; the truth of winners and losers; the truth of sin and grace; and the truth of faith and unbelief all come to play in Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. The consequence for we who are born sinful and unclean is clear.

Apart from faith … all that remains is death.

Faith, in weakness though, is the true power of God.

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County had a big win, a sixteen seed beating a 1 seed but they lost to the next team they faced. No 9 seeded Kansas State. In basketball the impossible has limits that go along with earthly disappointments.

But faith is not dependent of self and hope does not disappoint when the object of your faith is Jesus.

You see Palm Sunday needs Holy Week and the Passion of the Christ.

Without Jesus’ death on Good Friday his ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday means nothing for you and me.

Without his death at the hands of sinful men we too remain in our sinful condition dead to God and without hope.

Without his death there is no resurrection joy and God’s peace is lost to history on a day of palm waving, by a people who thought this Jesus was the promised Messiah – the redeemer of Israel – the Christ of God.

Without his passion there is no hope for you and me.

61 … Again the high priest asked [Jesus], “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you [and I] will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

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

Amen

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sermon March 21, 2018 Lent 6

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 6. The Lord’s Supper
Text: Hebrews 5:1-10

8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The final part in our Six Chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism is The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. 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.

We then follow this with Baptism and the means that God uses to bring us into his family, and how we repent and confess our sin and receive the comfort of the Lord’s forgiveness from the mouth of his under shepherds.

For Luther the sacraments were a unique gift of God. It was both commanded by Christ, conveyed the forgiveness of sins, and had a visible element attached to it.

In baptism Christ commands us to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The water and word united and by the working of the Holy Spirit faith brings we who are born in sin to faith in Christ washes away our sin and marks us as one redeemed by Christ.

In the Lord’s Supper Jesus takes bread and wine saying,

26 … “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt 26:26-28

The supper is a real meal and real nourishment for the soul. It feeds us, it reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice for us, it comforts us with the forgiveness that he won at the cross and it strengthens our faith as we depart in the Lord’s peace.

Luther’s teaching was always very practical. Take God at his word. Don’t say more than God has said – or speculate how this can be and don’t understand less than the clear meaning the words indicate.

Some Christian denominations do just that. They believe less than what the teachings of Christ indicate or the say more in explanation than what the word of God allows. Lutheran’s allow for tension in the word of God.

How can God be one and yet distinct in three persons?

How can Christ be fully God and fully man?

How can God be eternal and born of a virgin?

How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ?

Lutheran’s believe that the bread and wine are and truly remain bread and wine. The words of our Lord also say, “This is my body and this is my blood” indicating the real presence of Jesus body and blood – in with and under the bread and wine.

Real Presence and in with and under are words Lutheran’s use to say that in the sacramental action we receive bread and wine in our eating and drinking but also in a mysterious way receive also the body and blood of the Lord by our mouths. It is not a Spiritual reception only. It is not only bread and wine. It is not only body and blood appearing as bread and wine. It IS truly bread and wine and body and blood – for you - and it is a mystery.

We remember daily all that the Lord has done for us. We can remember all that the Lord has done for us without ever receiving the Lord’s Supper. So why has God instituted this gift? There must be a reason that the Lord commands us to do this in remembrance of me?

Pastor Ron Moritz in my class on the Lord’s Supper some 20 years ago talked about a vacuum cleaner. He drew a picture of the vacuum on the black board and asked what else do we need to get power to the vacuum? A cord! He then drew a cross at the other end of the black board and connected the cord from the vacuum to the cross saying - when we receive the Lord’s Supper we are connected to the work of Jesus at the cross. It is not a re-sacrifice and it is not only a remembrance. We are connected to the once and for all sacrifice for sins and receive that same body and blood given and shed for you each time you do this in remembrance of me.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

The message of forgiveness in the wonderful proclamation of John’s gospel in John 3:16 is the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ. This gospel proclamation is also the Good News that you receive in the sacrament of the altar. That same forgiveness won at the cross by Jesus is the same Good News received by you.

As Luther explains in the Small Catechism:

What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

In the Lord’s Supper or Lord’s Table it is also called Holy Communion or just Communion.

By Definition of Communion Webster says: It is an act or instance of sharing.

There is both a connection between God and neighbor. As we gather in communion to receive the Lord’s Supper we receive from the Lord his gift of bread and wine, and body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin. We also gather with others showing a communion one with another that we believe, teach and confess these truths one with another. This communion, or fellowship, or Koinonía - meaning life together, is seen most beautifully as we together gather in common fellowship to receive the Lord’s forgiveness together.

As Luther says in the Catechism’s explanation:

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

It is not the eating and drinking indeed that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Faith receives the blessing and benefit given in the Lord’s Supper but it does not require faith to make Christ’s body and blood present with the bread and wine – it is God’s word, this is my body and this is my blood that does that - and is why those who are not baptized and part of the Communion of Saints or believe differently are asked to not communion.

As Luther also says:

But he that does not believe these words or doubts is unworthy and unfit; for the words for you require altogether believing hearts.

One of my classes at the seminary was Heaven and Earth the gifts of Christ in the divine service and as part of this the Lord’s Supper was of great importance. It is where Heaven and Earth meet. It is where we gather to receive the Lord’s gifts and where God feeds and sustains us in Christ. It is a foretaste of Heaven on Earth until the Lord returns to gather us all unto himself and why we should received the Lord’s Supper often.

Do this often … in remembrance of me.

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

Amen

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,

Ill.

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,

Amen