Monday, September 16, 2019

sermon Sept. 14-15, 2019

Title: Rejoice for you are the Lords!
Text: Luke 15:1-10

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus came for sinners and we can joy in the good news that He has found you and me!

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The charge against Jesus has always been harsh. “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” How might that reflect on you and me? Are you accused of being like those with whom you associate?

Interesting, is it not? Jesus came for sinners and that very fact has the Pharisees and scribes grumbling.

Ill.

Years ago in the distant eons of the 1970's I was playing at a club in Wyandotte and a young Priest came with a friend of mine to hear us play. As we talked during a break he remarked: “I wonder what my parish would think of me hanging out in a bar and listening to a rock band?”

And then he said: “It is probably the place I should be and the place I could do the most good.”

When you think about it … where did Jesus spend most of his time? And who did he spend that time with? For sure He was among the people, but here and in many other places in scripture He was with the Pharisees, rulers, scribes and the Jewish leaders teaching … and rebuking … and calling.

What does that say about sinners? They’re everywhere; in the church and out of the church. Those who are piously leading religious lives … or so the impression seems and those who are far away from God … at a bar … hanging out … or so the impression seems.

For Jesus and in His day the perceptions were the same. Some who seemed religious were not and those who were seen as sinners, as in the stories of tax collectors and adulterers, were those God called to faith and used as witnesses to the working of God - through the word - in their lives by His Spirit.

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

Ill.

As a manager in a music business I had the owner’s trust. Having keys for three stores I would leave my home in Waterford, stop at his store on Dixie Hwy. and pick up the bank deposit and then go to the Bloomfield Hills store dropping off the money and paperwork for Waterford, and the Plymouth Store that I managed. Each day I handled the business and cash for at least two stores.

One day, I helped my co-worker Alan sell a guitar. At times the drivers delivering and picking up pianos picked up the paper work and cash as well returning it to the office. When it came time for commissions to be paid, Alan didn’t have the guitar sale I helped him with on his paperwork. I looked everywhere and called all the stores and my boss. It was nowhere to be found. The guitar was listed in inventory and there was no sale. It was like it vanished.

I felt terrible. I for one had responsibility for my worker at Plymouth – to see that he got paid for what he sold and to my owner to see that he received the money he had coming. It was nowhere to be found.

After much searching though and talks we all decided to move on my boss told me “Russ it is not that I don’t value the guitar sale but we have to get back to doing business.” It was baffling … but we had business to do.

Over a year later, I had some dead time at the store and decided to clean my desk. Also my briefcase was full of old and outdated paperwork and contracts. As I got rid of that I noticed what looked to be a dollar at the bottom back of the briefcase. As I reached for it I was surprised to pull out six one hundred dollar bills and the contract for one guitar sale for Alan.

I called my boss, “Ben, do you remember that deal on the lost guitar over a year ago?” “Yes”, he said. Well, it was in my briefcase and it will be in the bank today! He said thanks and hung up. He didn’t sound real happy while I was ecstatic.

I talked to his son Jim later that day. “Did you hear about the lost guitar?” I asked. “Yes I did great news!” he said, “Your dad didn’t seem too excited.” “Well, he was mad … said you need to be more careful in dealing with these things and not so careless with the companies money.” I told him, “Dad … be thankful, you have an honest employee. That is worth so much more than $600.”

In our lives losing money can be important. For the Lord it is people, you and me, who have great value to him.

Jesus came for you dear friends - the one lost sheep - just as each one of us are lost at birth. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those that were lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Sinners need Jesus and His Word and Spirit in their lives; or everything is hopeless.

5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

The place of strength … the high Priest’s shoulders is where the sheep is carried.

Jesus carries the lost sheep that have been found upon his shoulders as the parable continues.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The joy of the Good Shepherd is you!

The joy for sinners is that you are not so lost that Jesus can’t find you. As He says in the parable of the lost coin:

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?

Jesus Christ by the working of His Holt Spirit will continue to seek you.

9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

Objects are lost because people look where they are not - instead of where they are.

Or, as might be said: People are lost because we preach the gospel where they are not - instead of where they are.

10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Maybe Father Mike was right and being where people need to hear the good news is important.

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus will find the lost because He will never stop seeking you and those who need to hear this blessed joy that:

Christ came for sinners. Rejoice dear friends … he came for you and you are the Lords!

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

Amen

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sermon August 31, 2019


Christ exalts the humble!



Aug. 31 Sept.1, 2019 LSB Setting I with Holy Communion
Title: Christ exalts the humble!
Text: Luke 14:1-14

10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility or prideful arrogance can drive the decisions that we make and can cause us all at times to strive to reach for places of honor for ourselves in this life.

7 Now [Jesus] told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,

Ill.

You’ve been to weddings I’m sure as I have. A few years ago Monica and I attended a wedding for our niece Nora and her husband Justin. There was beautiful weather and the wedding was outside at the Casino on Belle Isle with the reception afterward in the hall, decorated with linen and the finest food that you might expect. It was a beautiful wedding!

As we entered the hall with tables throughout … we noticed all the tables had names for seating. We walked through the hall and found our table, off to the left of the head table in a corner - a table with our names and the names of my brother, sister and their spouses.

And as you might expect, it wasn't the table of honor. That was reserved for the wedding party and the tables closest were reserved for the parents of the bride and groom. Monica and I, though relatives, were not elevated to the level of Nora and Justin’s family.

Had the table seating designations not been clearly visible, you can imagine just how confusing the seating might have been. Possibly even causing someone to come to us to ask us if we could move to the back corner so that the bride’s parents and soon to be in-laws could take the seats of honor closer to the head table.

In our lesson today, Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee.

And as a guest Jesus had noticed just how those who had been invited, Pharisees and lawyers, were looking to have the seats of honor at this dinner. Ordinary, feasts of the Jews were usually attended to in a more casual and informal manner, but with this diner and in the wedding feast of Christ’s illustration, rank and status among the guests was important.

… do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, Jesus says. Luke 14:8

I always found the irony in Jesus’ statement here. He is an invited guest to this diner, and he is the only begotten Son the God … who could be more distinguished?

Yet here, God in the flesh is among them, but as was read earlier in the Gospel, the ruler of the Pharisees and the lawyers who were in attendance had another agenda.

There just so happened to be a man with dropsy in attendance at this diner.

Now, I looked up this medical condition reference and dropsy could be understood as the equivalent of excessive fluid of the soft tissue or similar to congestive heart failure today.

We've all seen this condition in our friends, neighbors and relatives and fellow members here at Peace. Jesus, knowing the Law better than the Pharisees and lawyers, knows that it is quite alright to show acts of mercy on the Sabbath, so He heals the man, saying to those whose intent was to trap Him as a violator of the Law:

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Luke 14:5

6 [And to this question], they could not reply to these things.

So the intent of their deceit at the feast is crushed by Christ’s healing of the man, but Jesus doesn't stop there. He now points out the true arrogant nature of their sitting in the place of honor when one truly more distinguished than they … has been invited … and is now sitting among them.

The arrogant sinner will stand before the throne of grace covered in their own righteousness but: Christ exalts the humble!

You and I also exalt ourselves at times; taking too much credit for things we’ve done in the world or in the church. You do … and I do. The sinner always minimizes sin and exaggerates virtue. It’s what sinners do. We all see the sin of others clearly … in view … with no distractions. But, our own sin remains masked in a veil of acceptance, false piety - which is nothing more than the quality of being overly religious, reverent - or indifferent.

Ill.

Last weekend in Bible Study we were talking about God’s chastening and discipline. The Lord disciplines those he loves. I don’t know about the Lord who is slow to anger, but I do know I have wearied people in my life. My boss of many years had a hard job.

When I began working with him he was 23 and I was 25. We worked side by side for his dad. We were coworkers, piers and friends. This relationship lasted for over 20 years. Eventually he bought the company from his dad and became the boss. At one point he even asked me to be a signer on the company checking account placing his trust in me. But, he was the boss and I the worker. We still had a great relationship and respect for each other.

But … he was the boss.

Each year we had job performance reviews and at one review, my boss was pointing out something I said or did that offended the customer. My perspective and memory of the incident was different than his because it was some time ago and he only had heard the customer’s side of the story.

It was minor and a misunderstanding and wanting to defend myself, I brought up a similar incident that had occurred where he was the offending party and the customer had come to me as the manager of the store to complain.

Here’s the point.

My boss said, “Russ, this is hard enough for me and you need to let me just be the boss and listen.” I did, and I apologized. The Lord humbled me to be mindful of his position as owner of the store and how he needed to run his business.

11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

The truth of sin taking a place of honor in your life is nothing new. Luther called it the Bondage of the Will. That our will is bound to sin and that is all it can do, but thanks be to God that because you have been raised to newness of life by God’s Holy Spirit, there is truly Good News that:

Christ exalts the humble!

So, Jesus goes up to the host, the ruler of the Pharisees, who had invited him and He says:

12 “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Those who Christ came to redeem are the poor sinners like us, crippled from birth and lame, blind to God’s saving work in Christ if not drawn to believe through the invitation and working of the Holy Spirit by faith.

You too, dear friends, have received this blessed invitation to His banquet feast and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb by faith. And you receive a foretaste of this feast when you receive Christ’s true body and blood in the blessed table of the Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar – given and shed for you!

It matters not which seat at the table you occupy because the host of this feast comes to where you are – bodily – in, with and under the bread and wine so that you truly receive Him, who is and was and is to come, in a real and tangible way – for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Even though these sins, sill at times wreak havoc in our lives, they are forgiven as far as east is from the west … not to be remembered by the Father ever again.

Christ humiliated himself so that you might be redeemed. At times we too are humbled so that another can be served, who is our neighbor.

You have a defense and a protection that will never fail because it is God Himself, not you, who will protect you because He came to live, suffer, die and rise for each one of you and as a result you are his, the table is set, and you are invited, in fact you have already received all that is promised … in him … rejoice!

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

Amen







Monday, August 26, 2019

Sermon August 24-25, 2019

Title: In the Kingdom of God his table is yours!
Text: Luke 13:22-30

29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When I was leaving my long time job prior to my ordination my assistant manager and I went over some things to help in the transition. We discussed what being a good manager entailed and decided on two words: Good decisions. As we continued to talk about the importance of good decisions in our work and where they came from we decided on one word: Experience. So how do you get experience we thought? Two words: Bad decisions!

Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.23. Adapted

When you think of the good or bad decisions you’ve made in your life it is comforting to know that our good works don’t get us in and our bad decisions don’t keep us out because Christ has made us alive by his Spirit and:

In the Kingdom of God his table is yours!

22 [Jesus] went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.

As we’ve discussed over the last few months, Jesus was resolute on His way towards Jerusalem. He was not running there but was diligently going on about His business to get there.

Along the way He did what He loved to do … teach!

As was the case with Jesus and His teaching and what happens often when teaching through the Bible, questions come to mind. Such was the case here. As Jesus went about His business someone in the crowd of followers who had been accompanying him says:

23 … “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

Seems like a reasonable question. Who will be saved and how will it be determined? Again, as has been the case before, Jesus uses this question to answer and teach. The question might have been asked differently though, not so much, “will those saved be few”? But, will I be among them?

This is how Jesus answers this important question.

And he said to them,

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

To those who see salvation as a cooperative act, it might seem to them that this work of striving is the work they do to enter in through this narrow door.
Christ is the door of entrance and we can know this from the epistle of St. John the 10th chapter where Jesus says in verse 9:

9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Those who enter in do so by faith in Christ. Those who cannot enter have been trying to make their own way and the key they’ve been trying to use to unlock the door will not open it because the key is faith in God’s only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

So Jesus gives this example in illustration:

25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

What a harsh reality. The door will not open. No pleading, no solution, a bad decision that has no happy ending - though the experience learned is written in the bible for our learning - at the time of judgment some will be excluded for lack of making use of it. The truth is that the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit have been active … but rejected.

Some who call Peace their church home reject God’s gift too. They make little attempt to hear God’s word or receive his gift of faith in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. How sad to think that they too might hear, “I do not know where you come from”

To all who reject the gift of faith might not the cry be:

26 … ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’

The riches of temporal blessing and success, or mere apathy blind the way to the cross for many.

The figure of [Jesus] the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes [and looks at] success [as] its standard.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Don’t you see that whatever you do as a means to find the measure of your worth in the eyes of God - through work, acts of love and caring, success in life, charity – amounts to nothing that can open the door to eternal life.

Ill.

Awhile back I was visiting with Duane and Eleanor brown in their home. Their son Steve was there and he told of a funeral he recently attended. The gentleman who had passed Steve had great respect for. He was a mentor to Steve in his younger day when he had attended the Center for Creative studies, helped him with his art and was active with helping in the community. Steve saw him as a role model and person to emulate. As we visited he turned to me and said, “Pastor I had no idea he was an atheist!”

Steve was heartbroken. The fact of an eternity separated from his friend brought sadness and tears to his eyes.

28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.

Those who hear Jesus hear the words of eternal life. Faith is created and the Kingdom is theirs.

Those who in their sinfulness look to other means to open the door to salvation, or good works apart from God’s means by faith, will find the door locked and they themselves cast out.

It’s sobering to think about? Some come to church … but only go through the motions failing to trust the promises of God. Some have even stopped coming at all, thinking life too short or their lives too busy for making time on Saturday or Sunday to be in worship. Especially, in the summer when the weather is so nice, I too was even tempted to stay take a weekend off. But Monica and I went to Christ Lutheran in Milford for their 7:00 Pm service on Monday night to hear and receive God’s word of forgiveness.

All churches just like here at Peace seem to experience a drop off in attendance during the summer months. Some go to the cottage, some attend elsewhere if out of town, it’s part of summer in Michigan. But, some get drawn away into other joys or just lose interest and don’t come at all.

Sad but true, and some, who’ve been given the gift of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit, will find no faith at all in that day, because it has died to the ways of the world.
But Christ still comforts:

29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
The truth is that some will not enter because of a lack of faith. Jesus tells the people that the door is opened by faith in Christ alone and Jesus is that door. Trust in him is the key and it is the gift of faith which you can not earn but is freely by God’s Spirit so that you and I and all who believe can enter in.

Ill.

Luther says that all of us come to church as poor, miserable sinners with an empty sack. We have nothing to give God. We confess our sins and receive forgiveness – in the blessed absolution, a gift from God, which we put in our sack. Over and over in the service we receive gifts: grace, mercy, love, the Word of God … A multitude of blessings! All of these gifts go in our sacks. We leave the service with a sack over-flowing with good gifts from God. We take our gifts home, and we share all the goodies we received with our neighbor!

Pastor Matt Harrison in a sermon at the national Youth Gathering


God gives His gifts to you. He forgives you. He blesses you and you receive his gifts from his word and through His sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This he freely gives … to you. And He calls you to come, as you are to His house because you are his child and he wishes to bless … you.

God’s grace is nothing you deserve; it is nothing you can earn; and it is only received by faith in the finished work of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. And you have been given that gift of faith in Christ and you receive his forgiveness in Christ and you are his Child in Christ and you will enter through the door that is Christ Jesus … because of his call and work in you.

In the Kingdom of God his table is set and it is yours!

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sermon August 17-18, 2018

Title: By faith you are covered in Christ’s love and forgiveness!
Text: Heb.11:17-31; 12:1-3 Luke 12:49-53


17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents,
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land,
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
3 Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

In our gospel reading Jesus says:

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable, [broken and retched] world -- and might even be more difficult to save.

C.S. Lewis, quoted in Against the Night, Charles Colson, p. 139.

It’s like the story of the school teacher who lost her life savings in a business scheme … by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and her [dreams were] shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. "Why on earth didn't you come to us first?" the official asked. [“Well], she said … I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it."
Jerry Lambert. (modified)

You see … the truth is … we want to believe the lies.

In a way it explains the cross. Not as peace and comfort but as agony and death.

Not as accomplishing anything good … but only something bad that shouldn’t have happened, we think.

What truly lies beyond the cross … the resurrection of Jesus and salvation that he gives is unable to be seen through the eyes of self and can only be received as a gift through the eyes of faith.

By faith Abraham believed that God was able, even to raise Issac from the dead, from which figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Heb. 11:19

Jesus says:

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

What fire is Jesus talking about? Why is he anxious and distressed? And what does baptism have to do with it?

Well, the fire is the wrath of God cast down from heaven on the earth as punishment for sin; and yes Jesus wants it done with and finished. He also has a baptism to be baptized with – not of washing away sin - but of receiving the sins of the whole world upon him so that God’s wrath might be focused in one place, on Jesus, once and for all. That brings Jesus great distress because his baptism is a bloody baptism.

As Christ was baptized by John he was marked for you and me and all as our substitute. As the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the word, Jesus saw the Spirit descend like a dove 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The father was pleased because Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice. Without spot or blemish, he could stand and receive God full wrath and make payment for sin with his sinless life and death in your place. And with that – his death on the cross - God’s wrath would be appeased and paid for.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?

Well yes, we want to believe that.

Jesus said to bring the little children to him and not prohibit them.

He hoped to gather Jerusalem to himself like a hen gathers her chick under her wings.

He told the woman found in adultery to go and sin no more after her accusers left and Jesus said neither do I accuse you.

So yes, we want Jesus to bring peace. But he says:

No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.

The devil delights in division. He delights in apathy. He delights is discord. He delights in death. He delights in whispering in your ear. He delights in us having faith in ourselves.

“You’re a pretty good person. You’ve helped many people in need and done good things. You know right from wrong and there are certainly many others who do much less than you. God will be pleased with you!”

Families are divided. The church is too. The world is broken in sin.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?

Jesus says: No, I tell you, but rather division.

Dear friends, the brokenness of this world will not get better.

I saw this quote online this week:

“This society in which we live is radically changing. What previous generations saw as evil is now embraced as being good. It is a dangerous and slippery slope upon which we stand when we reject what Solomon called the beginning of wisdom – the fear of God.”

— Ray Comfort

But Christ has secured your rescue- by faith – not in a world that will be destroyed but in Jesus who died for you and rose again from the dead.

“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Heb 11:18

In the first chapter of Matthew we receive this genealogy: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Matt 1:2

Our Epistle continues:

22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. Heb 11:22

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. Heb:11:29

The Gospel in Matthew reveals:

5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. Matt 1:5

31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Heb 11:31

King David’s great grandmother was Rahab whom God had used so that:

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

The genealogy concludes: 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matt 1:16

By faith we too have rescue. In Christ who is our hope and our deliverer!

The genealogy continues for you and me as well as we think of our grandparents and our parents on down to ourselves and our children.

As my own would read and you can write your own as well.

And Michael was the father of Albert, and Albert the father of Russell, and Russell the father of Amy and Jonathan, and by faith in this same Christ and his baptism into death a death on a cross we too have the promise that just as he was raised from the dead we too will rise.

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

Amen

Monday, August 5, 2019

Sermon August 3-4, 2018

Title: Christ Be My leader!
Text: Col.3:1-11

3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Jesus says in our gospel reading for today:

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

In a sense Jesus is asking, “What is your focus, hope or trust?”

Paul in our epistle reading for today is asking his Colossian hearers their focus, hope, or trust and to put on the new self, to live in the new hope which is their life in Christ - to set their minds on things above and not on things that are on the earth.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. The further you get away from something the smaller the object appears. The view from above can make the enticements vanish and problems seem not as consuming. But, perspective can also be viewed from below, in the midst of turmoil and through the coveting of the flesh where the joy of Christ can be so far away and hidden from view that you can't see Jesus. The Colossians, were losing their focus on Christ. They were being pulled in different directions.

Some wanted to pull them back to the Law and its requirements. Col 2:4

Some wanted them captive to philosophy, empty deceit, and human tradition, according to the world. Col 2:8

Some wanted to pass judgment with questions of food and drink, a festival, new moon or a Sabbath. Col. 2:16

And some were feeling disqualified for not measuring up by those who were puffed up and self righteous. Col 2:18

You might know how this might feel.

Death though is the universal equalizer.

Satan stamps us at birth as his children, Dead to God, as we discussed last weekend. He is our father and we are his offspring as Jesus reminded the unbelieving Pharisees in John Chapter 8 saying:

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

But for the Colossian believers and you and me we are now marked, Alive in Christ in baptism, by the working of the Holy Spirit for all who believe, as we have died to self and have now been buried in baptism and raised to newness of life by faith in Jesus.

Where is your focus and perspective?

Are you looking at self and the things of this life or are you looking to our hope in Christ? We like the Colossians can all fall victim to our sinful flesh and the working of the devil and have our perspective turned inward.

In this life - that which looks bad [loss of loved ones, jobs and the like] God can use for good and that which looks good [earthly pleasures] the devil can use for bad.

Paul says:

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:

That maybe easier said than done in this world where we live daily.

I’ve shared in the past some of my own failing in sermons – guitars and banjos, bikes – both the pedaled and motorized verities. Even riding mowers once captivated my focus. When you have to cut the grass a riding mower can become an idol too.

For some maybe it’s the cottage, the 401K, the good
life in retirement, sports, reunions, favorite restaurants, music and clubs, life on your terms and your way each and every day. 

For others it’s the phrase: “I’m spiritual not religious.”

“I believe,” they say, “I just don’t go to church.” Or, maybe it’s we who say for them, “They believe, they just don’t come to church.”

Let me put it another way by analogy.

If I said, “I love baseball.”

But, I don’t like watching it. I don’t like going to a game. I don’t like playing it. I don’t like participating in it. I don’t like reading about it. But I say, “I love baseball.” You might question my love for the game.

Can God bring you to faith on your road to Damascus? Absolutely!

Can God open the eyes of the blind like he did with Paul by the sending of an Ananias to restore sight? Certainly!

Can God promise that thief on the cross – being close to death - that today you will be with me in paradise! We know he can!

But God also desires to work through the means he has provided, of word and sacrament, and he has promised to be where they are rightly preached and rightly administered. Where Jesus is, his gifts are delivered to those in attendance and his gifts bring hope, forgiveness and life. That is his church gathered in worship.

Paul calls everything - apart from Christ - idolatry.

Name your poison he says, immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire or coveting. We are victims of it all, you and me, our children and grandchildren, friends and foes alike.

We all look to remove the spec from our brother’s eye while not seeing the log in our own eye. All earthly passions can point us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6 On account of these Paul says, the wrath of God is coming.

If Christ is not your leader certainly another god / idol will fill his place and the wrath of God awaits all not covered in his righteousness.

7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

In the world, but not of the world we might say.

I myself feel like Paul - Chief of sinners though I be - I have been given so much in Christ and yet I stumble and fall daily. Sin covers even my good works so that my own pride can negate the work of God.

Forgive me and all Lord, who in anger speak evil of a fellow believer.

Forgive me and all Lord, and help me pray that your wrath be lifted off those who think wrongfully of your church, so that they may also receive the full blessing of your care.

Forgive me and all Lord, so that the malice of thought and the slander of speech may be buried from our lives, and may you by your Spirit turn our coarse and obscene talk into voices of praise.

Let this life of faith become a new life in Christ daily, as we die to self and live to Christ remembering his work, restored in the image of the creator who desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Remember this, God has many children but no grandchildren. All who come to faith become his child. We therefore must pray, witness, and encourage those in our life to desire and cherish what God has done for them and in them by his Spirit.

11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, [or] free; but Christ is all, and in all.

And I might add for all.

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

Amen

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sermon July 27-28, 2019

Title: Taught by our Lord … we pray!
Text: Luke 11:1-13

11 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Our Gospel lesson today begins with our Lord in prayer … a practice that we know from the scriptures, that He did very often. Most of us know that prayer is – conversation with God – we talk to God about our needs and wants but find it hard at times to know how or for what to pray. This leads to the disciples in our lesson asking Jesus to teach them to pray and His giving of the Lord’s Prayer.

Martin Luther the great reformer was also asked by his barber, Master Peter Beskensdorf, how he prays? Luther, not one for quick or short answers in spite of all that consumed his time gave his barber a reply … a letter of 40 printed pages! Titled “A Simple Way to Pray”, Luther delved into his deep understanding of prayer and all that the world, the flesh and the devil work at to keep you away from prayer and your conversation with God.

Jesus teaches his disciples:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Martin Luther begins his letter to Master Peter by focusing on what he needs to do to be skilled at his vocation as a barber.

Luther says:

“A good clever barber must have his thoughts, mind and eyes concentrated upon the razor and the beard and not forget where he is in his stroke and shave.

If he keeps talking or looking around or thinking of something else, he is likely to cut a man’s mouth or nose – or even his throat.

So anything that is to be done well … ought to occupy the whole man with all his faculties and members. As the saying goes, He who thinks of many things thinks of nothing and accomplishes no good; How much more must prayer possess the heart exclusively and completely if it is to be a good prayer!”

Jesus says:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Prayer is a beautiful thing but one that has many obstacles.
The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

C.S. Lewis

You know you miss the mark when you pray.

Ill.

So do I … and so did our Synod President Matt Harrison. In one of his talks at a convention he told a story of when he first was elected president and of a visit with an old pastor, a bishop, of a partner church in Germany.

He said, “In his room was a kneeler that the old man obviously used very often. There were knee marks in the worn pad where he had spent many hours and the arm rest was indented as well. Also the pages of the Bible were thin with the oil of the hands making them almost transparent.” President Harrison said, “Seeing that I thought to myself – I need to learn how to pray!”

It is one of the things that I resolved to do and to be better at as well. Prayer is something that must be done by you and by me as Jesus tells us to:

… ask … than to seek … and finally to knock.

Luther continues his letter to his barber with this:

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening.

Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught. (Or becomes nothing)

You can’t know your heavenly father without communing with Him.

This is done by prayer as you ask, seek and knock and by hearing his word of reply as you partake of weekly worship, hearing the Lord’s word of Law and Gospel but truly being comforted by his holy absolution given by God through his means of word and sacrament.

I have been involved in ordinations and installations services over the years and many new pastors called from the seminary have been ordained into the office of the Holy Ministry with a beautiful service, wonderful music, the laying on of hand from the local pastor’s in attendance, and with much singing and prayer.

When God calls a pastor to His church He is calling a pastor to be His representative, called through the congregation to bring Christ and His gifts to His people. It was joyful to be involved and to celebrate what God has done and continues to do for his people.

As we think about our Lord’s words again in the Gospel for today regarding prayer:
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Holy Spirit is given in abundance at these ordinations and installations because God wishes to richly bless His people with His gifts and the most blessed gift you can have is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to you … who works in you, faith in Christ’s finished work and keeps you pointed to Him so that on the last day you may stand firm in that faith unto life everlasting.

And by the Holy Spirit’s work in you from our epistle reading today bring the joyful gift of prayer to the Lord’s logical conclusion when it says:

10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

When you were born in sin the devil would have placed a sign upon your forehead that read "Dead to God," which means that you are dead in sin and dead you will stay. But, God in Christ has ripped that sign from your forehead and replaced it with a new sign that reads “Alive in Christ!”

Your sin has been paid through the cross that Christ endured for you, so that in Him you might have an eternity 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Eph. 1:21

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

Amen

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sermon July 20-21, 2019

Title: Work, serve, listen and live!
Text: Luke 10:38-42

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Well VBS is over!

It was a great week with all the children. It was a lot of work for Monica and Elise to put everything together. Adult and teen helpers, children who are brought to our care, and a fun time for all and it is all over way too soon until next year!

Work is part of all our lives even when it is fun. We serve the needs of others is important and can be fun also. We listen to instruction for how things are to be done and the children listen to us as we teach and lead. And to live - according to the great cartoon strip Ziggy many years ago in speaking about the true meaning of life - is doing stuff!

Last week we worked, served, listened and lived as followers of Christ … doing stuff at VBS. We taught, sang songs, listened to God’s word, had snacks that were provided, made crafts and played games that were fun and beneficial for the children in our care.

Thanks to all for your help and support!

Now, in our lesson for today, the wonderful Martha and Mary story that we’ve all heard many times before, it seems that Martha gets a bad rap at times. Poor Martha, doing the work, and all that she could to take care and serve the Lord’s needs, having welcomed him - and those who were traveling with him - into her house while her sister Mary only sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to His teaching.

Jesus and his disciples had been traveling as the sending of the 72 prepared the way. The Lord’s peace obviously rested on this house as Jesus was welcomed in by Martha and Mary.

Now, you know how things can go when you have guests, expected or unexpected. The visit may have been expected but the time of Christ’s arrival may not have been, and even if it was, I have yet to see a hostess who didn’t still fret over the preparation, making sure that all things were in order.

Martha was determined to see that the needs of Jesus and those with Him were met, I’m sure, with exceeding abundance and that Jesus was distinguished as a beloved guest in her house.

Mary on the other hand knew who was now visiting in her home and she was not to be taken away from her Lord - no matter what earthly things needed to be done.

“We have here two forms of service, each done for the Lord, and each with the best of intentions, the one with the work of the hands, the other in listening to the words of eternal wisdom. They need not clash, but have their worth.”

P.E. Kretzmann Popular commentary on the Bible NT Vol. 1 Pg 326
At some point and as I’m sure you can relate - Martha gets frustrated with her sister. Martha is doing all the work by herself so that Jesus can be properly served in her home and she has lost all patience with her sister Mary – who, I’m sure, remains oblivious to Martha’s dilemma.

She finally has had enough of it and in a tone that speaks of her frustration says:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40b

We’ll in years past I know my wife has been there … and maybe you can relate. When the kids were at home and guests were coming over, Monica would have a list of things that needed to be done … and Amy’s would be reading a book, Jon in his room or outside and dare I say … me, sitting in my chair … reading … playing guitar … maybe banjo … whatever it was … it was important stuff here! Though there was a less than enthusiastic response by us all to cleaning up for family … friends … whatever.

“Would somebody please clean the upstairs bathroom!” might be a common command. “Russ, will you take out the garbage … and when you’re done with that, please set the table?” Monica, might be heard calling.

I might think to myself … “But, I’m reading or playing here … in a comfortable … reclined … position.”

Monica’s focus is on our guests, whom ever that may be, and that they get served in the best way possible. The kids and I were a bit less joyful in service … even though we too want our guests served in the best possible way … we just don’t want to DO the work. 

Now, I’m sure that if Jesus was coming to your house, you would all want to sit at His feet and listen to the wisdom that he has to say just like Mary … right?

It can be inconvenient to find time for God as there is always something else in life to do. But, the word of God that we have in our Scriptures today, is the same word of God that sat talking to Mary – the word made flesh - and the same comfort Mary received from Jesus, so that she forgot the cares Martha wrestled with, is the same comfort you too can receive by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Martha and Mary were both focused on Jesus but in different ways and the Good News that we’ve learned in our gospel lessons reminds us all that as followers of Christ, God uses us all as his messengers in the world.

But you can’t lose sight of Jesus. You need to know him - to be able to reflect him to a dying world. And while the cares of the world like those we’ve seen this past week can consume you and me.

During VBS last week we saw Martha and Mary in action. Some were Martha’s at VBS that make ready the space, food, games, set up the church and prepared the lessons. Mary’s only focus was on Jesus and the message of hope and peace to those precious little ones given into their care. Together the setting and message of hope will come together like the arms of a loving parent that these children can be wrapped in today, tomorrow and always because God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12)

As you think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remember He was the one who was willing to give His life for you and me. Not, that Martha’s preparations for Jesus’ visit were not good, but Mary couldn't see what needed to be done - because her eyes were only fixed on her Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Work, serve, listen and live!

Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, came down from heaven for you so that:

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor. 5:21)

Christ is the one thing necessary and He has come for you so that you might live in Him.

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

Amen

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sermon July 13-14, 2019

Title: By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!
Text: Luke 10:25-37

37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

In our text for today we read of a lawyer who stood up to put Jesus to the test. Now, this is not to be a sermon which lifts up or puts down the noble profession of attorneys. But it is the word of the Lord and we can all learn an important lesson.

The question that is asked - “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” - is a bit odd. How do you inherit anything? It might have been more direct if he had asked, “What must I do to earn eternal life?” because that is the question so many what to know.

In my business background we we’re always taught to answer a question with a question so that you could better get to the real objection. So Jesus, being the best at fleshing out the true meaning to the question that is asked of Him replies with a question.

26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Having the ball back in his court the lawyer recites the word giving a summary of the Moral Law correctly, according to Deut. 6: 5; Lev. 19: 18.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And I might add that he probably said it with a bit of boastful pride too!

Well, finally getting to the real objection, Jesus turns the prideful attorney’s answer back on himself when He says:

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The truth is, as Jesus quite rightly points out, no one, not even one who rightly knows the scripture can keep the Law of God perfectly. To know the Law and to keep the Law is two very different things. And, this command to love your neighbor as yourself really pushes us well beyond what we can do. Shoot, for many of us we can’t even love ourselves so how are we going to love others?

But, despite falling short God uses you and me, His children, and:

By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!

You too, as we all do, tend to put Christ to the test. It’s the same word of God today as it was for the Lawyer and the same requirements that God demands and at times many believe they actually love God and their neighbor enough.

239 baptized and 205 confirmed members here at Peace but we worship less than 75 on a weekend. Now granted some have moved away and some attend elsewhere and have not yet asked to be removed from the roles. But, many just don’t come, maybe thinking that they’ve loved God enough and like the lawyer ask: “And who is my neighbor?”

God works through means and for better or worse that’s you and me. We are God’s hands in the world, bringing the love of Christ to a dying world and also to real people. As we learned last week with the sending of the 72 they went proclaiming peace and healing with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Sometimes your neighbor needs a helping hand, when the ways of the world brings grief.

At times it is a prayer of comfort to let them know that you understand and will stand with them.

At times it might require a word of rebuke when they are going the wrong way in this life.

And as the church it might require a word of warning from us that to be away from God’s word and sacrament and the gift of worship and fellowship that He calls to participate in may lead to no communion and fellowship with him at all.

Many of the members of Peace need a call from their neighbor.

If you care about a member that you know that doesn’t attend give them a loving call. If they have needs look for ways to help. Remind them that God will never leave them of forsake them even if they’ve forsaken the assembly here at Peace and have self-excluded themselves from the church and the gifts God so longs to give them.

By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!

Ill.

I went home Monday and was taking Tuesday off to make up for a few days I worked for funerals recently. I looked forward to a day off to finish up a few things I needed to do. At 6:44 in the morning a text came in. It was from my friend Jeff.

I'm sending this to several people this morning.
I unfortunately lost a set of keys up north this weekend.
My wife and son are both out of town and I'm looking for someone willing to drive me (in my vehicle) to Kalkaska to get my stranded car.
I have today off and wouldn't have to miss work.
(It's 3:15 minutes each way).
Please pardon the interruption.

J Bowdell

Now Jeff is an old friend. We met in 1965 and he lived across the street. We played in bands together. He has and would do anything for me if I asked. How could I pass by on the other side … though I really wanted a day off.

I sent this reply:

I have a committal at Crescent Hills Cemetery at 11 am. If you need me after that, I can take you up in my truck. Russ

Then I went about some of the things I needed to do, take bottles back to the store, put a few things away, got gas for my truck so I was ready for the trip and loaded up Monica’s VBS waterfall display and brought it over to the church. When I got here at 9:30 Jeff called …

“Hey thanks for the offer but I’m all set for the ride but I really appreciate your offer to drive me up!”

Sometimes you neighbor is your best friend and other times it may be someone you don’t even know. Would we react the same towards the one we don’t even know bringing care and help? I don’t know … we all would find it easier to help the friend but I’d home we might be willing to help the one in need whether friend or not.

As Jesus said in gospel reading of the Good Samaritan:

36 Which of these three, - the Priest, the Levite or the Samaritan - do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

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

Amen

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sermon July 6-7, 2019

Title: Through the word the harvest is gathered!
Text: Luke 10:1-20

2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

A French writer, after visiting America in 1831, said:

"I [looked] for the greatness of the United States in her [spacious] harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

Alexis de Tocqueville.

The truths of these words are self evident to we who have spent many years enjoying the fruits of a free country and a freedom of religion protected in the constitution. Let us pray that as we’ve celebrated our freedoms this Independence Day we pray that God opens the eyes of those who have fallen away and that they too will repent and turn in faith back to the Lord of life who has given what we could never earn - as a free gift - through those who are sent to proclaim this Gospel!

In the Gospel lesson today our Lord appoints a large number … 72 as our text reads to go in pairs, telling them:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

As we learned last week in the Gospel lesson, Jesus was resolute as He set His face towards Jerusalem. His time on earth was moving towards the cross and his atoning and vicarious death for you. This sending of workers into the mission field would be no easy task as Jesus Himself says when He says, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. This calling and sending, for those 72, would bring the same anger and rebuke that was leveled at Jesus. Many who serve the proclamation of the Gospel today see and feel this as well.

Jesus says:

16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

These messengers were sent to bring peace and healing to a dying world. They were sent with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Kingdom of God was embodied in the incarnate God/man Jesus Christ and some would reject this good news … sending the dust of their town off the sandals of those sent in condemnation for their rejection.
Though at times the comfort and peace of Christ is rejected … service to the Lord remains joyful.

Peace and healing. Two wonderful and good things; but in our day to day not always appreciated or received. At times when we have peace we push others to the brink of anger, instead of taming our own tongue and keeping things peaceable. At times we break friendships and even sever families requiring God, through repentance, to bring forgiveness and healing to, those in need.

Christ’s rebuke though, to those who rejected His messengers in Chorizin and Bethsaida which were, almost side by side, on the shores of Lake, Gennesaret – the sea of Galilee - though great miracles had been done in their midst, the words of eternal life and love out of the mouth of Jesus had made no impression upon them.

Even Capernaum, the Lord’s headquarters during His Galilean ministry, would receive the full measure of His wrath on the last day and be forcefully thrust down to hell.

It’s pretty sobering - and a word of warning here for us all.

Though Christ has called us to faith by word and sacrament and has been in our midst for years, decades, and even generations, in both the written and spoken Word of the Gospel; how often, is He (Jesus) neglected and overlooked in the homes of his children? No Scripture, or family devotion; and no regular church attendance for some; -- how might Christ’s rebuke to these cities reach into your home and mine as the dust of His judgment is kicked off His feet and settles at the feet of those who have turned from His loving call?

Kretzmann Commentary NT Vol. 1 Pg322


If you reject His love you receive his wrath. But even in the Lord’s rebuke there is hope.

Tyre and Sidon, heathen cities whom the Jews despised for their idolatrous practices and beliefs, Jesus said, would long since have repented, covered with sack-cloth, and ashes.

Ill.

Spending time in the hospital, with home visits, and with recent funerals, the truth of God’s abiding peace and comfort becomes evident. Families at these difficult times are brought back to the reality of life and death issues.

Even in dire situations the Lord works on the hearts of those He loves.

I was able to sing the good news at Peace member Steve Collom’s funeral last weekend singing I am but a stranger here heaven is my home to a family that is hurting at his death, so that the peace of our Lord and savior Jesus rests upon them and His healing touch is there to comfort and bind up the brokenhearted.

Steve’s son said to me – as we talked after the committal at the cemetery, that his mom’s funeral was just this past April and her service brought him no comfort at all but he added, “This service brought me great comfort.” He said, “It was nice to hear that dad had made amends.” I told him, “That is how Lutheran’s are, we let God be God. We cast our burdens on him and he comfort’s us with his forgiveness and peace!”

1 John 1:9 says it best:

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

Friends, the good news is really good news as the 72 returned rejoicing!

“Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

But Jesus though he reminds them of the great power that they have in His name also cautions them …

20 … do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Christ’s joy is to bring peace to your house in Him. In Christ you receive the comfort of eternal life because His promise is to never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)

Christ’s call is to:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, as you 7 cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. And we are told to 8 be watchful, because the devil, your adversary, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:6-8

Though the devil prowls … in Christ you have eternal security and Lord’s promise that your name is written in heaven.

Through the word the harvest is gathered!

While it is not important for us to know the names of the 72 or those whom the Lord uses to bring His Gospel message to the lost. It is important to know that Jesus knows you … and that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.

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

Amen


Monday, June 17, 2019

Sermon June 15-16, 2019 - Holy Trinity

Title: His steadfast love endures forever!
Text: Psalm 100

A Psalm for giving thanks.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

On this Trinity Sunday (Weekend) we look to the hope that is our one true God who has revealed himself as one divine essence, but also as three unique and coequal persons … Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!


We all love a joyful noise and a joyful noise is proclaimed to our God through singing, as was just proclaimed in the singing of the sermon hymn, The King of Love My Shepherd Is.

We sing of God’s goodness that never fails and our lacking nothing that we need, because he provides for all of body and soul in this life and in the life to come. The Father’s love is made known to us in his Son who hold’s us in the palm of his hands promising never to lose a single one – I am his and he is mine – forever!

This joy is yours and mine by the work of God’s Spirit. He points, directs and comforts so that we serve those in need joyfully and with glad hearts. A friend’s dad, Bill Wilstermann, once told me after church many years ago:

“When I’m feeling down and things seem to be going wrong I go and do something nice for someone and I feel a whole lot better!”

Come into his presence with singing!


We have a Call to Worship at 10:30. Maybe you know that and maybe you don’t. We sing it together with joyful hearts. Some unfortunately, have got in the habit of coming late - maybe getting here by greeting time or the opening hymn – You may miss a beautiful prelude before service and it’s not uncommon to have 15 people in the pews at the call to worship and 45 or more standing for the Closing hymn. Come for the call to worship, sing joyfully … you’ll be glad you did!

3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;


To know the Lord is to know our Triune God as he has revealed himself to us through his word. God speaks to us through his word. His word read, sung and meditated upon reveals who he is and his love for us. The Spirit shines the light on Christ, the word made flesh, for you and me. We know him by his word and through the word he continues to be made known.

Matthew 11:28 King James Version (KJV)
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

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

Romans 6:23 King James Version (KJV)
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

At times I need to read the old King James for the majesty to conveys. As Judy Harroun has said of the late seminary Professor John Saleska who, having memorized much of the KJV bible, it is what will be spoken in heaven! The beginning and end of Reverend Saleska’s obituary speaks of his hope.

Rev. John Saleska, 87, whom God adopted as his own beloved child at his Baptism, now rests with Jesus, where he is waiting with all of us for the Resurrection that God promised him in Christ.

Revelation 21:4 King James Version (KJV)

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Dear friends, this is our Triune Gods hope for you and me as well!

No tears, no death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain … all gone.

We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
The Psalmist reminds us.

The Lord’s sheep know the shepherd and by the Holy Spirit we are his and know him. But like sheep we wonder from the truth.

Ill.

Dr. Andrew Bonar told how, in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. "Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked. "Ah!" He said, "they are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!" And that is the way with men; they won't [come] back to God till they have lost everything. 

If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will pursue you and bring you back when you have given up trying [go it your own way and let the Spirit turn you back to Christ.]

Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 70-71.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!


John 1:11-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood [not who we are] nor of the will of the flesh [not the things we do] nor of the will of man, [or what others tell us we can do of ourselves] - but of God.

Born from above, born again, born of God!

You and I enter God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise by God’s work revealed in his son and the promise never fails. Hold on to it for dear life and proclaim it to your children and your grandchildren! Give them an example to model. Show your friends your faith and invite them to church. My friend Rob showed me the truth of God’s love in word and example. I in turn shared it with my friend Mark. Mark told me he went to the gas station for a coffee and the lady behind the counter who was African American had a cross around her neck. Mark who is Jewish said to her with his big Mark smile, “Are you my sister in the Lord?” She gave him a big smile and a hug.

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the LORD is good;

We who are broken in sin are made good in Christ. 

From verse 4 of The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill with thee, dear Lord beside me.
Thy rod and staff my comfort sill, thy cross before to guide me. Vs 4

Christ’s cross and work for you and me - guide and lead - in times of sorrow and joy. Father, Son and Holy Spirit united in our life now and for eternity.

The prophet Jeremiah heard this comfort from the Lord directly.

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

We hear it in the word proclaimed.

Our God knows you and he knows me and he has numbered our days and appointed us here for this time and for this work. We proclaim Christ because it is his desire for us to do so. His love for us will never fade and we are his forever.

his steadfast love endures forever, - his love is never ending!
and his faithfulness to all generations. – it is his promise for all!

God is faithful. He will continue dear friends to pursue you all the days of your life. Do not flee like Jonah, do not despair as Judas did taking his own life, but turn back as Peter did and give ear as the apostle Paul did so that the Lord might make himself known in your life to those who need to hear!

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

Amen

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sermon June 8-9, 2019 - Pentecost

Title: The Spirit of truth teaches, leads, and points to Christ!
Text: John 14:23-31


25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Day of Pentecost which we celebrate today begins the work of the church. In a dramatic way the Spirit comes.

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The work of the church begins with the Spirit; the rushing wind, the fire, speaking in foreign tongues, hearing in one’s own language, quite a dramatic scene. The Festival of Weeks – grain harvest – those Jews gathered together in Jerusalem – and the Spirit comes just as Jesus had said 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Christ ascended.

In our gospel reading for today and in answer to the question, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest [make known] yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Love, Word, Father, Peace!

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Last week we learned that by the work of the Spirit we have unity with the Father and the Son but that Christ’s hope and purpose was that through this unity

the world may believe [may know] that you have sent me-and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:21b; 23b

Love

A long marriage – say one of 50 years - does not in and of itself proclaim Christ to a world that needs to hear. But in the case of Pastor and Nancy Merrell, it is a testament to that faith in Christ and by the working of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate with them that reality today.

The blessing of a long marriage can be joy filled but also full of the ups and downs of life lived in the Spirit through the bonds of the flesh. The loss of dear loved ones is part of a long marriage. Parents, grandparents, siblings and dear friends are remembered fondly but with sadness at this time of separation but also this sadness is tempered with new joys we share with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, filling each day with the blessings that a long marriage can provide.

We celebrate with Pastor and Nancy this joy today and the hope for the future God has for them and their family, but also for the thankful joy of their service to our Lord and his mission by the Spirit’s work here at Peace for so many years.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Word!

The Holy Spirit worked in the lives of those first disciples as the day of Pentecost came. Tongues of fire rested on the disciples.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 1:4

6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. Acts 1:6

By this working of the Spirit through the word Christ is made known.

St. Peter’s sermon to those first ears to hear the word of promise in a new way by the working of the Holy Spirit is proclaimed:

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Acts 1:21

By the Spirit through the word many were brought to repentance, they were baptized and the fullness of the Holy Spirit was made new in the lives of these believers.

By that same Spirit those who wrote as they were led, bring the promise of Christ to we who hear today

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

Father!

On Christ’s ascension we now build by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Proceeding from the Father and the Son the Spirit of truth brings to our remembrance all that Christ has said and done for us. By this working we know the unity of the Godhead in Christ and the Father’s love for you and me.

For we who have been blessed to be fathers also know the joys and trials of being sons.

At times punishment needed to be meted out. As my dad would often get home from work he would say to my mom, half jesting.

“Okay, line them up and tell me which one I need to hit.”

It was usually me, as the oldest, who had found some disfavor with my mom probably in relation to my siblings.

My dad would say, “Go to your room and wait for me!”

The word of truth from my father had both command and promise. It commanded me to go to my room with the promise that there would be a resolution in his favor!

After a long and tedious wait dad would come in usually with this question.
“Did you think about what you did?”
[Yes] You just nodded yes. You didn’t speak in his presence.
“Are you going to do it again?”
[No] Shaking head back and forth in the negative.

That’s repentance.

“You’re lucky your mom and I love you!” Dad would say, “Okay you can go play. But don’t do it again”

That’s forgiveness.

At lease it was until the next time I had to go to my room!

The Father’s love for you will never stop forgiving and by the Spirit’s work pointing you to Christ and all he’s done for you. He will continue to pursue you each day of your life through repentance for the purpose of forgiveness.

Peace!

The Father and Son by the working of the Spirit have made their home with you. They dwell with you and in you because you are theirs. You keep the word by the working of the Spirit and when you fall short – and need to go to your room so to speak - the Spirit by the word draws you back to repentance so that God’s blessed forgiveness once again frees you from the burden of your sin and its consequences.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

By God’s Spirit we have confidence in his work in us and his love for us so that though we wrestle and are burdened by sin, death and devil daily we have the hope of God’s victory for us now and always.

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

Amen

Monday, June 3, 2019

Sermon June 1-2, 2019

Title: Christ prayed and prays for you!
Text: John 17:20-26

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

In this the last Sunday in the Easter season we again continue with the Gospel of John as we have for the last few weeks. Let us review what Christ has been telling his disciples.

1. Jesus told them that he would die on the cross and rise on the third day.
2. The sorrow at his death would be replaced with joy at his resurrection.
3. That Jesus would be leaving them again and returning to the Father.
4. But he would send them the Holy Spirit to be their comforter until his promised return.

Unity in love and purpose is God’s desire through the word!

How many of you love family reunions? Seeing relatives you seldom see, going to the place of your youth, reminiscing of dear loved ones, and longing to see each other more often.

How many of you hate family reunions? Having little in common with those you are related to, annoying family habits that won’t go away, desiring to just get done with it and go home never to do this again.

We’ve probably all been caught up in both circumstances.

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter 17 Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples and for all believers and their unity as he prepares to go to the cross.

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life,
that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The unity that Jesus prays for is one not of externals but of internals. It is not the cookie cutter approach that says - this is a successful church because they have lots of people - do what they. Instead, it is Christ’s church in unity of faith, purpose and love through the word by the working of the Spirit.

In our gospel reading today Jesus’ prayer looks beyond those followers who have been with him to those who will believe through their word.

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us,
that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one,

The oneness of faith and life is in Christ and the unity that he shares with the Father. Though one God they are uniquely different and separate yet one in love, will and purpose.

There also is a reason for Christ’s desire for unity.

so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Not that our faith may be a picture of unity but that our faith might proclaim that truth in a world that needs to hear. This is a perfect text against those who might feel that their faith is private and not to be shared or pushed upon others. You find you are fighting against Jesus will and prayer.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Those first disciples were being sent with a message for the world. Just as Peter proclaimed in our first reading:

20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
and
“‘Let another take his office.’

26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The church today continues in a similar way. Pastors are called to serve congregations. If another call is received and the pastor accepts that call the church prays that by the Holy Spirit another would take his place. All of this is for the same purpose to proclaim the word and equip the saints so that the world may believe and know.

There is a third part to Jesus’ prayer.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am

Christ’s desire is for the eternal welfare of his followers.

to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

This glory is pictured in our second reading:

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

This is quite a different scene from the one in Genesis 3 when man was banished and sent out from the Garden of Eden.

Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In a sense it is why those family reunions can at times be both joyful for some and dreaded by others, because in this life the wages of sin continue to affect every part of life. Perfect unity of will and purpose in this life still deals with this reality.

But, the banishment for sin is now overcome by the word of truth in the mouths of his disciples. Jesus has died and has been raised and by the Spirit the word of truth takes seed in the hearts of his hearers.

Our gospel reading concludes.

25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known,

And Jesus finishes with another statement of purpose …

[So] that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

The truth of the word that is in you needs to be heard. By your proclamation those who hear receive the Holy Spirit, believe and are promised the unity in Christ that we have.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Unity in love and purpose is God’s desire through the word!

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

Amen

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sermon May 25-26, 2019

Title: Christ has overcome so that you too overcome!
Text: John 16:23-33

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The narrative from our gospel reading from last week continues today. Jesus is speaking to his disciples of his death and resurrection, sorrow at his death that turns to joy at his resurrection. Jesus also promised the comforter, the Holy Spirit that would speak not on his own authority but in unity with the Father and the Son would speak and remind them all that Jesus had said.

14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14-15

In the world you will have tribulation is one of the many promises of God and certainly one promise none of us wish to claim or experience. But none the less it is what we face in this life.

What do we do and where do we look when the storms of life come?

The loss of a job, death of a loved one, financial hardship or the breakup of a marriage are all part of the the trials of life. You and I know this all too well.

The disciples too, as we learned from last week’s gospel reading, would face sorrow and joy in Jesus’ death and resurrection but that joy would also face the trials of life.

Our Bible Study in the book of Acts that we’ve spent this year studying began with the sending of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ ascension to the Father.

5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:5

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus’ departure was seen and his return promised … but what about the disciples? What about their struggles? Soon, the Holy Spirit would come to be their comforter, pointing them to all Jesus said and did for them and leading them into all truth.

Maybe the words of Christ now too come to their remembrance?

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

How? Where? When and Why? In what way should we ask, the disciples might have thought? Their minds might have returned to the Lord’s teaching on prayer.

9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth – right here - as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

No more need for prophets no need for Jesus to pray to the Father on our behalf. That which had been broken in the fall is now restored in Christ. “It is finished!” Christ exclaimed. We have peace with God!

In the time of my own mother’s suffering with cancer and my tribulation in this life, this prayer motivated by God’s Spirit brought me peace.

27 for the Father himself loves you, [Jesus says] because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

This plainness of speech perked up the disciples ears! “Ah, now you are speaking plainly!” they exclaim … but the trials of life will still come.

St. Luke continued to show these trials through the book of Acts:

Stephen is martyred, Peter imprisoned, and Paul goes to Jerusalem knowing that he will be bound there and taken to Rome to finish the race ; in the world you will have tribulation.

Acts 21 from our Bible Study this week:

22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[d] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

... in the world you will have tribulation.

Ill.

My nephew Spencer a pilot in the Navy is in the Persian Gulf right now with the Abraham Lincoln strike force and U.S. build up in the conflict with Iran. I think to the time in January of 1991 when my brother, Tom also a Navy pilot and Spencer’s dad, was in the first wave of air strikes off the USS Ranger into Iraq. I thank the Lord for my brother’s safe return home from battle and pray for Spencer’s safety as he serves our nation but the thought of war touches us all, especially when we think of those who have not returned serving our nation and making the ultimate sacrifice as we remember them this Memorial Day.

The word of the gospel continues:

30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?

You and I and everyone who follows Christ will see the tribulation promised.

32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.
The disciples deserted Jesus. The trial and tribulation forced them away in hiding.

There has been a time of falling away in the church, when things seem to be well and people experienced a time of prosperity, when they think little about Jesus and his word, but more about the joys of life, a time like now. That is when Satan will sift you like wheat, as he did with St. Peter and the other disciples in Luke 22:31, when St. Peter denied the Lord three times … even saying that “he didn’t even know the man.”

It is a time of falling away, a time of unbelief, a time of trusting the world and the flesh, and a time of doubt now. And like Peter today you may think “Not me Lord!” being ready to go to prison and even death for your faith in Christ. We pray that by the Holy Spirit we may stand firm.

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.” 

Christ has overcome so that you and I overcome!

That is where we find peace and comfort. Not in the things we do but in the things he has done.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen