Monday, March 19, 2018

Sermon March 17-18, 2018

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

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

Power in serving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here too we see where they are focused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sermon March 14, 2018 Lent 5

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

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

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

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

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

Inspirational writer William A. Ward has written:

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

William A. Ward.

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

Martin Luther wrote in the first of his 95 theses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther writes in his Exhortation to confession:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Sermon March 10-11, 2018

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

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

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luther had this to say about the cure:

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

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

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

LW 22, pg. 341

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has promised:

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 12, 2018

Sermon March 7, 2018 Lent 4

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Moment.—Keating, vol. ii. p. 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Luther says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Those baptized as infants receive a valid baptism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 5, 2018

Sermon March 3-4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Jesus tells them,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book: Life together writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Sermon February 28, 2018 Lent 3

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

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

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


Missionary E. Stanley Jones once wrote:

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

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

Our Father who art in heaven

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

As Luther writes:

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

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

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

Hallowed be thy name

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

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

Thy kingdom come

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

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

Thy will be done

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

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

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

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

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

Give us this day our daily bread

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

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

Dr. F. W. Boreham.

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

Forgive us our trespasses

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

I wrote this letter a year ago:

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

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

Lead us not into temptation

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

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

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

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

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

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

But deliver us from evil

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

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