Monday, January 22, 2018

Sermon January 20-21, 2018

Title: Arise and go!
Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10

3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Last weekend we heard the call of Jesus to “follow me.” In today’s gospel reading the call is to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” As we learned last week as well, God calls us to faith in Christ by the gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit through word and sacrament, the means of grace, and then we are called to action.

The call to action is not always where and when we expect. It is not always how we imagine God might use us and at times it can be uncomfortable. Also, at times the will of those called is not in accord with the will of the Lord. Take Jonah for example.

3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.

Jonah is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament and a few years ago our midweek study group did an extensive study on the book of Jonah. We also used the book of Jonah for our first few prayer meetings last year.


You might be familiar with the story and of the great fish that swallowed Jonah. As the reading in Jonah chapter three begins, 3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time. We need to take a step back to Jonah chapter 1 to where the Lord first called Jonah. The call of God and Jonah’s reaction were a bit different.

1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah …, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

The work of a prophet was to speak forth the word of God to those that the Lord directed the prophet to, to bring the word God to them as he has directed. The Apostles also spoke as they were directed by the Holy Spirit and the entire word of God is given for our benefit.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 10:17 tells us: 17 consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. NIV

So, even God’s word proclaimed here, during the sermon is speaking prophetically, speaking forth the word of the Lord … and the will of the Lord.

3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

By this we can see that God’s word though is not always heeded and listened to.

At times the word of God is listened too, as we read in the gospel with Simon and Andrew.
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.


For others it may take longer and require a bit of coaxing. Even the gathering together regularly for worship, as the writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us can be hard for some:

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,

We may hear the call but may not always heed the call.

Jonah went the other way, down in the belly of the ship to sleep and headed in the opposite direction of where the Lord wanted him to go. You and I might have felt this way too. What was your Nineveh? What is your Nineveh? Where had God directed you that you didn't want to go and what did God desire you to do that you didn't want to do?

This weekend we celebrate the sanctity of human life. Whether it is the preborn and abortion or the aged and assisted suicide all life has value. Can we all sit silently while the murders of so many are done in the Nineveh of our own world? Do we speak to a world so anti life and anti God or do we climb into the “boat” of our own lives and comfort zones to hide from the reality of what has taken on a “life” of its own.

My seminary professor Peter Scaer a pro-life voice for the unborn writes:

If the problem is that we as Christians are too involved in politics, why are there so few people at pro-life rallies? Why did so few Christians rally around natural marriage? Why are our own people so unaware of the assault on religious liberty? Including threats to our social service agencies and schools? Why do my legislator friends tell me they hardly ever hear from Christians but are flooded with calls, letters, and visits from the secular left?

[The name Tarshish is a Biblical baby name. The Biblical meaning of the name Tarshish is: Contemplation, examination.]

http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/tarshish


Ill.

A story is told of a Christian woman who was at a hospital to have a pregnancy checkup and while there met another woman there as she contemplated an abortion. The one lady spoke of the joys of her pregnancy and upcoming birth while the other said it was a convenient time to have a baby. As they talked the mom to be took the other ladies hand and placed it on her belly just as the baby kicked. As they departed for their separate appointments the lady expecting a child said … you’re not having an abortion your having a little girl!

A few years passed and on another trip to the hospital with her daughter in toe she saw the other lady again who was this time pushing a stroller … with twin girls! Speak the truth of life where and when you can don’t hide from it as God can use us all in whatever way he has gifted us.

Story I heard while watching a nun speaking at the walk for life 2018 in Washington.

Jonah ran away from proclaiming God’s truth to those who needed to hear but God pursued him. God sent a tempest, a storm of great proportions upon the sea, so that the way of escape was hindered.

You too have the way of peace with God broken by sin. Just as Adam and Eve hid from the Lord after the fall we too hide in darkness of sin and flee the light of forgiveness for fear of condemnation that our sins would be made known. Jonah too hid from our all knowing God.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

And God sent a great fish to swallowed Jonah.

And God has sent Jesus to rescue you.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.

Arise and Go! How will you respond?

The second call of the Lord upon Jonah was much different.

3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.

He didn't want to … but he knew he couldn’t hide from God. He hated the people of Nineveh … for they were wicked and despicable. He also knew that when he called out for their repentance … that they would repent and God would forgive and Jonah couldn't stomach that; that these worthless sinners would be forgiven. He knew it. He hated it. He complained about it and … he was right.

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The city is big, three days to just go through it. It is probable the worst Godless place Jonah could think about and the people … the worst sinners imaginable. And Jonah does what God commands he calls them to repentance. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And what happens?

5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

They repented.

10 [And] when God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

He forgave them. He forgives you, even when at times you can’t forgive yourself [abortion is forgivable and those who’ve supported it redeemable.]

When you forget God and hide from him, God pursues you, because he loves you, he has redeemed you, so that you to might be forgiven.

“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

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

Amen

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sermon January 13-14, 2018

Title: Jesus calls you to follow him!
Text: John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

This past Sunday I preached at the funeral service of Patti Dennis in Keego Harbor. I had never met Patti but knew her sister Marlene Wanke a member here at Peace so there was a connection with Marlene and her Son Brian. I learned a bit about Patti, her life and illness, met her husband and heard from family and friends how wonderful a wife, sister, aunt and friend she was. It is funny in death how much we learn about someone’s life.

Serving and preaching at a funeral has connected me to the work of a pastor better than almost anything I’ve learned in my studies. Hospital visitation too has brought the brokenness of life and the need for Christ into sharp focus.

Indeed, it is a privilege to serve as an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, service guild member or a pastor. But it is also an awesome responsibility.

It is therefore important always as we serve that we make sure we share the love of Christ with people so that God by the Holy Spirit can draw people to the Savior rather than by our words and actions drive them away.

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Finding the savior is not our work but Gods. He finds us even though we at times don’t know we are lost. Jesus found Philip and called him to “Follow me.” To this Philip responded in faith and called to Nathanael, “We have found him!” and “Come and see.”

30 years ago at another death and at another time God called me in a special way to a greater relationship with him. As my mom struggled with cancer and an upcoming death, I too wrestled with death in a profound way. Would she suffer long? How should I pray? What should I pray for?

My own prayer life was limited as it probably is for many. I didn’t spend much time in prayer … except at church … and even my attendance had been falling away. So as I wrestled with her illness and death I simply sat in my chair in my basement and asked the Lord to do what was best for me and my mom and that I wanted to know him better. As I sat I prayed the Lord’s Prayer – the one prayer that I knew – the Lord comforted my hurt and I was able then to go about my business.

God did the rest. He called my mom to his loving arms six weeks later, and he gave me comfort and peace in her reward and then … he drew me to himself through his word.

God calls us to faith and then to action. He called me to a renewed relationship in Christ and then as he continued to work in me through his word – as I attended services and read the bible - he gave me a desire to to serve him. I didn’t know what or how but God’s call – “follow me!” - was clear!

My friend Rob Bourassa is hearing that call right now. He was the one who God used to be a mentor to me early in my faith renewal. Rob was always in the word and sharing the Gospel. When we went to guitar festivals together he would get people’s attention with his guitar playing and then when the opportunity arose would tell them about Jesus. His understanding of scripture and zeal for God brought me to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and God called me to further service at our church through the SMP program at the Seminary. God is now doing the same thing for my friend Rob. His church leadership has asked him to consider the SMP program and service as Pastor of his church. What a responsibility, what a privilege!

God doesn’t always call us to ministry or even to service as church workers, though that is a blessed call. He calls us all first to faith, he opens heaven to us through Baptism, and with we who are his in Christ, he is well pleased. It is then that he uses us as his people to serve others. For some, it is in service here at Peace and Lord knows we have many places to serve. For others he calls us to be a witness to our friends and neighbors just as Rob was to me and Philip was to Nathanael calling him to “come and see!”

I've had the joy of doing both. Where and when will the Lord call you?

Jesus calls you and me though to follow him!

At times it is when you least expect it. Take Samuel in our Old Testament reading for today:
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

I felt the Lord’s calling me to service for the last 30 years but it took quite a while for me to discern his call, and to hear just how the Lord wished to use me and where.

These past 5 years we lost some blessed servants here at Peace who heard God’s call and served. But every time we lose someone who dies in Christ, or is called to move where the Lord needs them, we see the Lord work in the hearts of others to serve. Over the last few years we've had needs of a few Elders. Jim Rich, Bob Poe and Bill Krueger all answered the call. While others continued to faithfully serve. There is always a time to prayerfully consider what the Lord needs and how it might be best for you to serve.

Becoming an Elder Jim Rich told me upon his deliberation: “Pastor, I didn't want to accept the position unless I was willing to meet the obligations of the position but … God kept pursuing me.”

There are so many names and so many stories like this to tell. Ladies guild, Altar guild, Sunday school, worship committee … trustees and the list goes on and on. As we prepare for a Pancake Breakfast outreach to raise money for the Fallen Heroes Memorial Foundation - volunteers are needed and some have signed up. Women, men, boys, girls can all hear the Lord’s call to service. Set up, clean up, or serving others … it all is needed and for those that help we are be truly thankful.

But even though Jesus calls … we sometimes only hear the sinful call of our own selfish desires.

Whether it is our own sinfulness, 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” or the work of the devil to put the football game at the same time that the Lord needs you at church!

No kidding, some years back as I was getting ready for an ordination of a friend on a Sunday afternoon a pastor told him, “I hope you appreciate me giving up the second half of the football game with my beloved Packers to be here!” And, I believe that he was only partially kidding.

Service is hard. It requires sacrifice. Jesus knows you and he knows me. Truth be told, we all would take the easy way out … at first.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” or it might be interpreted:

“Behold one who is true to the name of Israel, and in whom there is nothing of the Jacob” or as God says of the Israelites: they are a stiffed neck people.

In some ways we too might be in Christ but not of Christ, following the way of deceit and missing the opportunity to serve, missing the mark which is sin.
You might ask, “How do you know me?” as Nathanael did. Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Christ sees you and me. He knows what we've done. He knows all our sins because they became his sins too. He took the sins you and I've committed and he has taken the ones that we have yet to commit to the cross. There he crucified your sins and mine. And no matter our guilt he has taken that away too.

Jesus calls us to follow him! How will you respond?

49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

It is indeed, a privilege to serve God and you here at Peace but God can use us all in so many ways. Desire it, enjoys it and thank those who serve. It is a privilege and a responsibility. May you always be blessed, as you hear and serve wherever the Lord Our God has called you.

Jesus calls you to follow him!

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

Amen

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018 Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Dennis

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 dear Patti.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac of Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church of Waterford and I am blessed to be here and to be asked to celebrate Patti’s life with you today her dear family and friends.
As Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us:

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

For Patti that time to be born was August 18, 1961 and her time to depart this life for her eternal home has now come. Though we all hope to hold our dear loved ones close and save them from this fate … it is appointed for each one of us to die and it is that one thing … that we will all achieve.

But in the Gospel text for today 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 though we grieve and are sad at Patti’s passing we can also have comfort as well. Jesus tells us that He has a place for us, and that included Patricia Ann Dennis, and that place with the Lord has been prepared for her and she has now taken possession of it.

Patti knew Jesus and trusted Christ.

Faith can take on many different looks. For some it is a pious life of service and attendance in church and for others it may be simple faith as small as a mustard seed that brings us to the Lord.

As Patti knew from her Christian upbringing at Peace Lutheran Church it is not - the things we do that make us acceptable in God’s eyes - our works do not save us - but it is our faith expressed in love of others that is a visible sign of what God has done in us and through us.

In John’s gospel:

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus 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)

Patti learned this in her Lutheran upbringing at Peace and she held to it throughout her life. Many years ago as I served as an Elder at the church and was calling those who were still on the membership rolls at Peace I talked with Patti on the phone where she lived in Virginia. I asked if she would like to transfer to a church in the area where she lived and she said no because she would be moving back to the area someday and wanted to stay connected to Peace.

Sadly I never got to meet her in this life but there is an eternal home that she has now possessed that we can all receive as a gift by grace through faith where we all can spend an eternity together.

As we grieve now though we can find comfort in God’s Hymn book the book of Psalms.

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.

Last Sunday the Gospel message was the story of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a old man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus, brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ – the salvation of the world.

Sin and its brokenness, brings death.
That is what sin does.
We who are born in sin … will die.

Simeon had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this Christ child - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel. But this child would be not only Simeon’s peace but he is your peace and he is my peace and he was Patti’s peace too. We all can joy in the child that Simeon held because he has brought peace between God and man.

Patti received that peace of God when she was baptized and marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

It is God alone who moves and brings to faith. It is through the means of grace of word and sacrament that God turns us from God’s enemies born in sin and makes us His children by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Whether we have been blessed to be his child our whole lives like Patti or come to faith as we prepare to depart this life for the life eternal, the Lord of life has promised to give us all - the forgiveness and gift of eternal life - that Christ Jesus has earned. That is the blessed exchange. Christ takes your sin and gives you his righteousness.

The Holy Spirit continues to point you and me outside ourselves and death that await us all - to the open arms of the savior - Jesus Christ who is the way the truth and life not only for Patti but for all who believe.

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.

Because of his peace by faith we too, like Patti, have peace:

Remember the words of Jesus:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

That child, that babe, that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.

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

Amen

Sermon January 6-7, 2018

Title: In Christ … the Father is well pleased with you!
Text: Mark 1:4-11

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Being well pleased is something I think we all would enjoy. At times we are pleased to be recognized for things we do. It might be at church, work, or school where the work we do is seen by others, or it just might be a self awareness of things we have done that we are pleased about.

This weekend we begin the Epiphany Season. Christmas is over and this is the time when Christ is revealed to the world, made known in the visit of the Magi bearing gifts – the wise men journey to visit this King of the Jews. But our Gospel reading for today is of Jesus – fully grown - and beginning his ministry.

In last weekend’s sermon, Jesus was brought into the temple to do what the Law required and Simeon lifted up this baby Jesus proclaiming that he could depart in peace now that he had seen the Lord’s Christ!

Today we read about the man Jesus - not the 12 year old boy sitting in the Temple and teaching with the teachers with authority - but Jesus who is 30, beginning his ministry, and the one recognized by John as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Here, Jesus goes out to where John is Baptizing. We know very little about what went on over the last 18 years of Jesus’ life from his sitting in the Temple questioning the teachers of the Law to this time now and the beginning of his earthly ministry. But Mark’s gospel begins with a quote from the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way. He calls the people to repentance – to recognize their fallen state as sinners – and to repent.

To this water, and to this repentance, Jesus comes to John as one, mightier than John and even one whom the sandals of Jesus - John is not worthy to untie.

So why baptism, why Jesus and why by John?

Well, John was sent to prepare the way. He was sent to fulfill what the prophet had foretold. He was to be the voice and herald to the one who would come and is now here.
Mark believes that his gospel and Jesus’ baptism is a fitting place to start.

John had had great success and the people were going out to John, to repent of their sin and to receive this Baptism of Repentance from John.

Jesus came to this baptism to replace John (his work was done), and to replace you.

When Jesus was baptized he fulfilled what was promised, marked as a sinner in your place, he came to take away the sins of the world.

Jesus had no sin, he needed no repentance, but he came for you and for all who are born in the natural way, conceived in trespass and sin. His baptism was a baptism of death, in that Christ Jesus was marked to be the Lamb of God the once for all sacrifice who takes away your sin, and the sins of the whole world, so that you can be marked not for death … but for life.

In Christ, the Father is well pleased with you!

We daily fall short and are not well pleasing to the father and others most of the time.

Ill.

Years ago at St. John in Rochester where I attended Dr. James Bolt, who was principle of the school, told a story about his son who was learning to drive. He had his learners permit and while dad was at work was practicing backing the car out of the garage and pulling it back in. As Dr. Bolt was getting home he said, “I noticed my wife and son waiting for me by the garage. As I walked up I could see the look of fear and sadness on my son’s face. As I got closer I could see that my wife wasn’t too happy either. Upon further investigation what I found out was that as my son practiced pulling the car in and out of the garage … on one of the times he was pulling the car in … he stepped on the gas instead of the break and pushed my table saw into the family room!”

“It was at that time that I had a really good lesson of Law and Gospel. As I looked at my son I saw that he knew quite well what he had done wrong and I didn’t need to remind him of that. So I gave him the gospel saying, you’re lucky your mom and I love you!”

And you [and I] are dead in trespass and sins. Eph 2:1

Because of sin and its consequence we live with the reality of being separated from God and of being God’s enemies. We live with this disaster and we die with this disaster apart from Christ because the wages of sin is death. Rom 6:21

We are born dead. Sounds funny? But spiritually we are dead. We are separated from God and it will take an act of God to restore us, to make us right with God and this is done only by Christ and only in Christ. With you and with me God is not pleased as we stand in our sinfulness and covered by our own righteousness in a sense having pushed his table saw into the family room.

But, Jesus came to be your substitute; to stand in your place; to be marked as a sinner, in your place and for you.

9 … Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Here Jesus takes your place as the repentant one, he is without sin and acceptable by the father to be the once for all sacrifice.

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

The Father is well pleased with Christ and in Christ the Father is well pleased with you!

The Baptism of Christ leads from the waters of repentance by John to Jerusalem, to Jesus and ultimately to the cross for you.

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus Christ has gone into the water of repentance for you. He then goes to finish the work for which he came and to give you what you need and could never attain on your own merit. He gives you life and salvation by his death and resurrection and he give you the kingdom of God by his saving act for you.

Sound improbable?

Though it may seem improbable for man - it is not with God who makes all things new in Christ.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Dear friends you are united and made new by Christ in Baptism you are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord and:

In Christ, the Father is well pleased with you!

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

Amen

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sermon Dec. 30- 31, 2017

Title: Christ has given you life eternal!
Text: Luke 2-22-40

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”


“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how? I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are excerpted from the book, Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, which was edited by my friend and fellow classmate Rev. Bob Scott.

While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 174 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing.

His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live.

Mary and Joseph had their own uncertainty.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

So Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

You may get a feel for this as we here at Peace do when a baby is brought into the Lord’s house and all the people come and gather around wanting to hold the baby with smiles of joy on their faces. But this brings a bit of a different reaction:
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus, brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.

The joy in Simeon’s song is, and will be once again sung by this congregation following the reception of the Lord’s Supper, as we too will sing in joy with Simeon what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. The forgiveness we receive is the forgiveness Simeon held!

New Year’s Eve is a day of both joy and dread for most of us. You know we joy in the celebrating of the end of the old year and all its failings with the hope for the New Year to come, and with it, a better outcome for our lives in all that we say and do.

I look to this New Year, like you, with the added hope of continuing my new life’s work and all that the Lord has called me to do, here at Peace as I celebrate 5 years as Pastor here on January 6th and the joys and trials that await me in this New Year.
In Forgotten Valor, General Willcox continues:

“Oh how can I but feel that God has been with me! How can I but determine again & again that I will begin the New Year with a renewed heart, and lead a new and better life. But how weak am I, how incapable of carrying out such plans! Help, oh Thou who hast hitherto sustained me, that I may make a good improvement of the New Year. Not by living entirely to myself, but by preparing both mind & body for serving Thee as circumstances require.”

The truth is resolutions we make are resolutions we break. It seems that no matter how many or how few we always fall short. So also with our spiritual life as the Law is concerned; our ability is unable to keep the Law and it continues to point to that reality. And too, just like you, I will fall short of the mark I set for myself with this year, this ministry, and this church. But, I am blessed to serve and rejoice in the Lord’s calling.

Our Old Testament lesson sings the same praise:

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Sin and its brokenness, brings death.
That is what sin does.
We who are born in sin will die.

It is at that time when many of us get older that we contemplate our life. Things we’ve done and things we wish we would have done; and we look at our finite lives and the eternity that continues after death wondering what will be.

If you think about measuring up and being good enough, how good will you need to be?

But, it’s bigger than that. It’s who we are. As those born in sin we come to this life separated from God. Hard as it may seem to us we are born God’s enemies and apart from God’s work we are condemned.

Simeon had, 26 [it] revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

He had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this baby - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel. But this child would be Simeon’s peace and het is your peace and my peace too. We too can joy in the child that Simeon held because he has brought peace between God and man.

Christ has given you peace and life eternal!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News. As we lose loved ones and think about this frail broken existence we inhabit here in this world - we can have peace. Not on our feelings … but on God’s word of promise.
Luther in his poem, The Unchanging word says:

“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”

― Martin Luther

Comfort and peace is in Christ, the Word of God, who has come to rescue you. Comfort and peace knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life. Comfort and peace is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter by Jesus himself,

“[Who is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him].

Dear friends, you have access to the father through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for each one of you and will give you true peace - perfect peace - found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave His life for you.

That child, that babe that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.

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

Amen