Monday, July 2, 2018

Sermon June 30-July 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Paul writes:

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

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

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

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

She was healed.

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

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

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

Michelle’s Story: Paul Ruehl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 18, 2018

Sermon June 16-17, 2018

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We read in Isaiah Chapter 55

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Builders and Wreckers (A poem to ponder)

As I watched them tear a building down

A gang of men in a busy town

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

They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,

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

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

Just common labor’s all I need."

"I can easily wreck in a day or two,

What builders take many years to do."

And I thought to myself, as I went my way

What about me, which role do I play?

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my work as best I can

And patiently sharing the Master’s plan?

Or, am I a wrecker who walks to town

… Content with only tearing down?

"O Lord let my life and my labors be

God’s work, built up for eternity!"

Author Unknown

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

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

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


Monday, June 11, 2018

Sermon June 9-10, 2018 Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the same joy Paul addresses the Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

So what do the next 30 years hold?

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

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

As Paul reminds the Corinthians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 4, 2018

Sermon June 2-3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take the Sabbath for instance:

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

From Religion facts about Rabbinic law:

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do with those that break the law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping the law is good.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the first day of the week.

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sermon May 26-27, 2018

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

By God’s own working we know that:

Through Christ your salvation is secure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will you die steadfast in Christ”

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

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

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

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


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!

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

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

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

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!


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

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.


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.
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


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.


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


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.