Monday, April 23, 2018

Sermon April 21-22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Love and Death is kind of a strange phrase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So who are the other sheep and how does Christ bring them into this one flock?
Well, outside of the children of Israel – those believing Jews - it is you and me … and it is also those who will believe as the gospel goes forth throughout the world from now on until Christ returns.

Ill.

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

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

Loss brings emotion and case 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 are 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.

Twenty plus years ago my friend and I would drive to Nashville to the Chet Atkins guitar festival to play guitar and to listen to great players, but all the while as we drove down there he would share his faith with me, why he became Lutheran, and the simple truth of being saved 8 … by grace … through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

That witness from my friend Rob, God used to draw me closer to himself. He uses each one of us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world so that by God’s word all may be brought into the sheepfold. It is Christ’s Love and Death that accomplishes all of this and he uses his Church as the means for proclamation and the sacramental gifts he gives to achieve this.

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

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

LW American Edition Vol. 5 pg. 244

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

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

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

Amen

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sermon April 14-15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ill.

Disbelieved for joy can be only unbelief for some.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48 You are witnesses of these things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed Alleluia!

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

Amen

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sermon April 7-8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

H. A. Ironside. (modified)

In our epistle for today in 1 John we read:

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

And John also concludes his epistle letter with this affirmation:

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

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

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

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

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

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

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

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

Amen

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other truth - no men were there.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus was dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We too were in a sense anointed beforehand.

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

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

But thankfully God didn’t leave us for dead.

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

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

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

In the same way also you have left death behind.

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

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

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

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

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

Amen