Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sermon July 11-12, 2020

Title: The seed of the word produces a great harvest!
Text: Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23

Facebook live:

23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

When I worked in sales in the piano business and began waiting on customers there’s a principal we all learned: It is called the “KISS Principle,” as in, K-I-S-S: And it means, Keep It Simple, Stupid! In other words, if you want people to understand what you’re saying, and in my case showing them the benefits of owning a piano, I was reminded by the KISS Principal … to keep it simple. Don’t talk to technical or in ways that people can’t understand what you are really trying to say.

It seems a bit strange then that Jesus would use parables or stories that were something like a riddle at times to teach the crowd. How will they learn from these parables? Wouldn’t this complicate understanding? The disciples even asked about this: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (v 10).

Actually, hearing God’s Word with understanding isn’t just a matter of “getting” the parables. Understanding God’s Word is hard anytime, and there are good reasons for this, but particularly when Jesus speaks in parables.

Jesus knows his audience well. There are things He knows that are keeping them from hearing and understanding what He is saying. Jesus teaches his disciples that even though 12 the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, Heb 4:12, the hearer – which is you and me - in our sinful state has the ability to resist and misunderstand God’s word.

As Luther says in the explanation of the Third Article of The apostles Creed:

I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

We understand that faith is a gift of our loving God. So what is it that keeps us from hearing … understanding and bearing fruit?

First, Jesus says, it’s the devil. He is like the birds that come and snatch the seed off the path. Certainly, we all can attest that the devil exists … because we notice the sinfulness of our thoughts even, at times as we wonder off while listening to a sermon. No that would never happen.

What are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking about what you did last night or what you might do after church? Whatever it is … you can be sure that the devil will shorten your attention span and even introduce thoughts into your mind … that have no business being there at this time!

The second thing Jesus says is that it’s your flesh. The sinful flesh, yours and mine, looks for the next spiritual high. As long as everything is going well, we’re all for the Word. But when problems arise, or when tribulation and persecution come, we’re quick to abandon the word and leave it far behind. This is like the seed that falls on the rocky soil. We avoid suffering and substitute something more palatable and to our liking.

Third, Jesus says it’s the world. We have many cares, some that even steal away the joy of listening to the Word. Yes, at times the word of God is joyful but we have work to do, whether from our employer or a teacher at school or even well intention friends. We may be concerned about our income, our children, the rising expenses of health care, and other essentials to our life – as our costs go up … sometime our income goes down. Is it the Panmdemic and Covid 19? Some places cases have gone up but over the last 10 weeks deaths have dropped 94%. What to believe, what to do?

When you deprive yourself of preaching and the word you steal the Good News God wants you to hear.

The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh make up the unholy trinity that keeps us from hearing and bearing fruit – they block the word if you will. The meaning of the Third Commandment, thou shall keep Holy the Sabbath day, calls on hearers not to despise preaching and God’s Word. It needs to be “set apart” which is what holy means, yet when you are listening problems and a lack of understanding happen and then this is precisely what occurs. The Preaching … and God’s Word are both despised.

But when God’s Word is heard, and when it is - understood - what a blessing it is!

Jesus said to the Twelve,

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (vv 16–17).

How does that happen? Jesus answered the disciples’ question this way:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (vv 11–13).

Did you hear that? Hearing and understanding God’s Word … is given; and it’s a gift.

You have just been gifted … Just now. Again … you have been given the Spirit of God in Christ. For many of you, that first happened at your Baptism. Your eyes have been opened to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world by dying for you on the cross. And you continue to hear God’s Word that kills the sinner inside and raises the new man to life … just like the seed that dies in the ground and then sprouts and grows and eventually bears fruit. It is the listening to God’s Word and his preaching that does this.

With his death on the cross, Jesus has conquered the devil, the world, and our flesh. This gives us the authority and the comfort to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This evil is not just some impotent, inanimate, impersonal substance. It is the evil one, who steals the Word from our hearts, who tempts us with suffering, and coaxes the world to follow him.

But our Lord has overcome the evil one, and in faith in his victory we may pray confidently and resist the snares and traps he sets. Our Lord has chosen you – dear friend - to receive this gift of faith so that you may hear and understand. This is grace and grace alone. No merit on your part has caused this, but our Lord and his love for you give it freely.

Jesus teaches the disciples to sow the Word of God liberally. There are no places, regardless of their potential to grow, where the Word of God may not or should not be preached. The Sower, in the parable is spreading seed everywhere … over the path, the rocks, and the weedy areas. That’s because God’s grace is for everyone. Everybody who hears the words you have heard today may be certain that Jesus really has died and has risen for them, has forgiven them, has given them eternal salvation.

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

Amen


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sermon July 4-5, 2020

Title: Rest in the love of Jesus!
Matt. 11:25-30

Facebook live: Rest in the love of Jesus!

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

How many of  you have ever been stuck on  a movie line or at the grocery story and there is someone behind you talking loud enough that everyone in the area knows what he is telling his friend?

There is a scene in the movie “Annie Hall” where Woody Allen’s character is standing in line to at a movie theater and the man behind him is talking to a lady about the influence of TV and media on society. He’s speaking about Marshall McLuhan – an English professor who wrote an important book on the subject called, “On the Media.”

Woody Allen continues to look and speak to the camera when he says: “What can you do when you get stuck on a movie line with a guy like this behind you?”

He turns and speaks to the man directly: “You don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work”— to which the man replies: “Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity.”

Woody then does a really funny and insightful thing. He says, “I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. Come over here for a second?” He brings the man out of the movie line where Mr. McLuhan is standing and says to him: “Tell him.” So Marshall McLuhan looks at the man and says: “I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.”

The scene ends with Woody Allen looking straight at the camera and us and saying: “Boy, if life were only like this.”

Sometimes man’s wisdom can cause him to trust in his own reason and understanding, leaving little room for anything but an idol made out of his own self-serving image.

The people needed to be compelled. Jesus calls - “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt: 11:28)

There were some who, through their own wisdom, reason and efforts thought that they could find their way and make peace with God. They would be confounded in their efforts. God keeps Himself hidden.

He conceals himself from them. No amount of human effort, by the wise and learned of their day, can find Him and that is why God is so confounding to them. To confound is an interesting verb. It causes one to become confused or perplexed, to fail to distinguish and to mix up, to make something bad … worse, to frustrate or even to damn.

The scribes and the Pharisees of Israel saw themselves as the caretakers of the wisdom and understanding of God’s Law. The Law showed them all God demanded and what He required. The Gospel remained hidden from them because it is only found in the finished work of the God/man Jesus Christ.

27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matt. 11:27

Those who were seeking the Father on their terms didn’t find him. The Father and Son know each other intimately. To know the Father they must know the Son and the Father can only be accessed through the Son by His revealing.

We too can find ourselves looking for God apart from His revealing. We too need to be compelled to cast all our cares on Him. But we too can fall short as we, through our own reason and understanding, seek to make peace with God and know the father on our terms.

You must accept the Son just as a little child does. Through the waters of Baptism the fullness of the Father is known through His revelation in Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord.

Belief is not attained through reason or effort but only through faith by God’s gracious will. Many today still fight against this.

We who celebrate our independence this weekend can attest to the blessings of freedom won through the reason, effort, lives, and death of many men and women - who sacrificed so much, so that you and I can live in a free society and have a voice in determining our future and the future of our country.

Many unfortunately though hope to direct God through their own wisdom in choosing what part of His word applies to them today. Many question the working of God even in the baptizing of an infant because it doesn’t fit their understanding of:

Freedom won (a decision or work we do) as opposed to,
Freedom given (a gift received).

Many still want their vote to count and to find God on their terms!

Those who do, through their own wisdom, might hear God say something similar to Mr. McLuhan: “I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. Why you ever thought you could reach me through your own reason and efforts is totally amazing.”

Jesus thanks the Father for drawing those by childlike faith, through no wisdom or effort of their own, to find rest in Him and his Cross. (Matt. 11:25) 

His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30) because He has carried all of the world’s sins upon Himself to the cross of Calvary and left them there. 

Eternal rest for the souls of those who labor and are heavy laden (Matt. 11:28) is found only in Christ, where by the call of the Gospel those with the faith of a little child believe, casting all their cares upon Him who is the one who truly brings real peace.

God gives faith to those who being in need rely on Him who was and is and will forever be God’s Son, the man Christ Jesus. No mere man could have offered words so full of heavenly majesty and divine comfort. He is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form the image of the invisible God. Col.2:9-12

Christ gives divine comfort to all who by faith believe this good news that peace with God is found only in Jesus Christ and that spiritual rest can truly be realized only through him and His cross alone.

Jesus comforts you and me too. His peace is your peace when by the power of the Holy Spirit you believe the Good News. Christ, through your baptism has washed you clean and you can remember this Good News daily by faith.

God has promised that your comfort and spiritual rest is ongoing because through faith in Him you have received the blessing revealed to the little children in our Gospel reading today and like them, you to believe.

Christ’s yoke is easy because He has carried it for you. He brings Peace because He is the very Prince of Peace. Because Christ has cast his vote for you – you can rest from your worry, wisdom, reason and efforts knowing that He has secured God’s peace for you and gives it to you freely by faith in Him.

The Father is revealed through the Son and the Son has, by grace through faith, revealed the Father to you. This is the comfort that little children and we receive and the same revelation that confounds and perplexes the wise of this world.

As we consider the peace we enjoy in the United States this Independence Day, consider also what Martin Luther said about temporal peace and where it comes from when he writes:

How many citizens or people do you suppose have ever once in their lifetime thought that their protection and safety in the city are a gift of God? …Ah, what a great gift of God it is that a man may eat his bit of bread and drink his draught of water in security and peace!

May you be blessed as you remember on this Independence Day the freedom you enjoy; that God has come to you by the working of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ Jesus and the Father through Him to you giving you true freedom from the world, the flesh and the Devil.

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

Amen

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Sermon June 27-28, 2020

Title: In Christ your reward is secure!
Text: Matt. 10:34-42

Facebook live: In Christ your reward is secure!

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus makes some hard statements to his disciples. Jesus has been called and is the very “Prince of Peace” and yet He says, in the beginning of our text today, that …

He did not come to bring peace. He came to bring a sword.
He came to divide the disciple’s families and those that they will be bringing Good News to.
If they find their life they will lose it and lose their life they’ll find it.

What on Earth is Jesus getting at?

Earlier in the Tenth chapter of Matthew Jesus commissioned the twelve to go out. He gave them power and authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal disease. He sent them not to the Gentiles or Samaritans but only to the lost sheep of Israel. He warns them in Vs 16 and 17:

16 "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

There is the great truth that Jesus came to fulfill the requirements of the Law, appease the wrath of God and to reconcile the relationship between God and man and He has done that, but also this work that Christ accomplished will have two different and distinct effects in the world.

The word of Christ will also divide the world as it will bring many by the gospel, to faith, while others who hear this message will reject it remaining in their sin.

It gets very personal for the disciples too as they go forth, pitting father against son, mother against daughter and mother-n-law against daughter-n-law. I can imagine one of the twelve speaking to a family the Good News about Jesus and seeing joy on the face of a father as he receives the Gospel by faith while his grown son walks away dismayed.

Or, a family that has the son and daughter joy in the blessings of Christ as father and mother complain that the old religion and customs were good enough for them. But then Jesus will bring his message extremely close to home for these twelve as well:

36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

To be a follower of Christ will require much sacrifice on the part of the disciples. These first pastors must take up their cross to follow him as Jesus will also, as Jesus prepares them for the ultimate sacrifice that he would make, when he picks up his cross and goes to the Mount of Calvary to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

These disciples and ultimately all who come to faith will be asked to bear our cross.

We too can feel for the disciples as they go forth. Many of you today see the same divisions in your families.

Father and son can see eye to eye when rooting for the home team or discussing where to take the family on vacation but when it comes to Jesus and discipleship … well we might see things differently.

Moms and daughters can talk like sisters about, life, love and fashion but as one gets ready to go to service on Sunday, the other might think it foolish to get up for church, when it would be better to sleep in after a late night out.

The truth of what it means to follow Christ will require each one of us to take up our cross, placing all our trust in Him who calls us to be His followers over the call of the world, the flesh and the Devil.

But what cross and what cost is Jesus speaking about? Christ is talking to you and me when He says:

34 I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

But the peace that the world wants and the peace that many of us give in to is to compromise God’s truth for the sake of peace, our peace. To water down God’s word or to turn our backs to sin, for the sake of the world, so as to be looked upon as loving in the eyes of those opposed to Christ, is the compromise the world desires.

To stand firm on the side of Christ demands the utmost fearlessness.

But who among us is fearless and what is this fearlessness? The disciples were given the answer from Jesus in verse 39.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Christ is the peace that truly passes all understanding. He is the strength and fearlessness that goes out into the world proclaiming the Good News. In the face of rejection and fear He will keep these twelve strong so that while they stand against adversity it will be in him that they stand. Jesus has guaranteed that they will have life forever with Him because He will keep them in Him even in the face of persecution and death.

Jesus comforts them:

40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Jesus Christ will go to the ends of the Earth bringing Good News to those dead in sin and in need of forgiveness through these twelve ambassadors. Because Christ came to live, suffer, die and rise again for the sins of the world many, who hear this Good News proclaimed, will come to faith in Him. They will receive Christ by receiving those who stand in the place and by the command of Jesus and in so doing receive the Father who sent him. 

Jesus Christ will continue to stand for these little ones who bring His saving message to the lost and all who receive them receive him who sent them and the blessing of life in him for all who by faith receive this Good News.

We too are promised the same reward as those who first heard the Good News proclaimed from the mouths of the twelve that went out. The Holy Spirit confirms your place in the household of God when you, through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith, reject the compromises that the world demands but cling instead to Christ and His precious word for your eternal well being and true peace.

Martin Luther put it this way in speaking of true spiritual peace:

Therefore if sin presses you, if death or hell or danger of any sort or a temptation of the devil distresses you, you must turn your eyes away from the evil that is afflicting you and direct yourself with all your might to the promise of God. For in them you find rest and peace and joy of soul which all hell is unable to take away from you.

Dear friends, true peace comes from God and it has been given you who believe and cling to Jesus and His cross by faith.

Rejoice that in Him you to will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, endure the trials of this world confident in the promise of Christ.
Proclaim this Good News to friends and family alike, knowing that it is the will of God that all would come to a knowledge of the truth by the working of the Spirit.

Let the word of God comfort you in the difficulties you face in this life, because they are only temporary because the blessing and promise of being with Christ in Heaven is eternal.

Rejoice in the truth that your home awaits you in Heaven where Jesus has prepared a place for you and for all who by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit believe.

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

Amen 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sermon June 20-21, 2020

Title: Fear not! God loves you!
Text: Matt. 10: 5a, 21-33

Facebook live: Fear not! God loves you!

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Today we acknowledge fathers.

Father’s Day 2020 is a bit different than ones I remember but 2020 is going to be that way for a number of things I suspect. Thinking of my dad and dads in general brings a smile to my face. I loved my dad and all he brought to my life. Dads are given a responsibility to serve and lead their families and in society as well but not all measure up to the calling they are given so you may or may not have the same joyful memories I do. It is for us to remember fathers this day, and maybe this is my own disclaimer:

Fathers are human and fathers are sinners and fathers fall short, but in Christ fathers are forgiven and on this Father’s Day may we all have the blessings of forgiveness given and received!

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These are the twelve that Jesus sent out, instructing them. But the bulk of our text today points to what await those who profess faith in Christ.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Sounds like 2020 doesn’t it? Unrest, trials, and difficult times, not the peaceful days we expect or want.

The work of those who were sent would not be fun or easy. Persecution would be part of the lot of those sent. Not only would the world hate them but so too their family, brother, father, children and so on. Christ says,

Have no fear of them … proclaim the truth!

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Dot not … if you will, reject the working of the Holy Spirit, God’s work.

It is the only unpardonable sin. To deny the gift of faith and to whom that faith points … to Jesus Christ our Lord, is the sin to which there is no repentance; for to repent one must recognize our sin and the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

As fathers the responsibility is ours. Mother’s too have that responsibility but the family has been under attack for many years. Since the sexual revolution the focus of husband and wife, moms and dads, children brought up and nurtured in a loving family has been under attack.

Of course we as God’s people let temptation and sin draw us away from our spouse.

Unfaithfulness can lead to divorce, a broken family, a unrepentant heart and a falling away from God and faith in Christ. In years past the brokenness was covered by suits, forced smiles and church for many broken by sin.

Today, the brokenness is laid bare for all to see and at times embraced, at least by the world and the worldview of many. No more is Christ the way the truth and the life for those whose peace is found only in:

My way! My truth! And my life!

The persecution of those who proclaim the name of Christ is growing. It is and has been dangerous to those around the world. Most recently this month Pastor Emmanuel Bileya and his wife Juliana were shot and killed on their farm in Nigeria, she was pregnant and their eight other children are now orphans and without the care of their loving parents. The other children were staying with friends as it had been increasingly dangerous for the family.

Proclaiming Christ in our country too is being met with anger and only time will tell the extent of the persecution we all might feel.

So what do we who are Christians do in light of this hatred in the world? Well certainly we pray but we also need to be in the world though not of the world.

Ill.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a very poignant way as he was confronted with all that Hitler and the Third Reich were doing leading up to and including World War II.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He continues in his book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

It is costly because it condemns sin, and [it is] grace because it justifies the sinner – [which is to make one righteous]. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

[God taking of our humanity so that by his work we might be reconciled to God]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


It is the mission of the church as we learned to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” It is a mission of the Church at large, our own LC-MS, and we here at Peace Lutheran Church as well.

To make disciples, to proclaim Christ, to baptize and to teach;

It is a rough road, and a dangerous road. Many die along the way in doing the work of proclaiming the gospel. But Christ says,

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Christ has promised that where he is you too will be also. He has a room prepared and the assurance of eternity for those who believe. He gives you and me the work to do with this promise:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, John 14:12a

This should be comforting for brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and all the children of God who have been called to faith.

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

Amen

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sermon June 13-14, 2020

Title: The Lord sends and we reap the rewards!
Text: Matt. 9:35-10:8

Facebook live: The Lord sends and we reap the rewards!

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Today we gather in a way that seems a bit different and foreign to how we gathered just a few short months ago. Taped off pews, seats in the narthex, socially distanced seating and masks; No longer, am I singing hymns alone or preaching to a virtual congregation who sit in the comfort of their own homes while I bring church to them. I thank the Lord for the hymns and the services that were able to keep us connected through the time of our separation.

Today, we begin again our services in person, and though this looks different for you and me, from my perspective – this looks so good!

In our gospel today:

35 … Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

In the proceeding part of chapter 9:

Jesus healed a paralytic brought to him lying on a mat.
He called the apostle Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him.
He raised a daughter from death to life.
He healed a woman from bleeding who touched the hem of his garment.
He restored the sight of two blind men who asked him for mercy.
And cast out a demon from a man unable to speak who then spoke.

Our compassionate Lord went to those in need or they came to him.
He brought life where only death reigned.
He healed those who had been unable to be healed.
He restored sight and cast the demons away.

[Jesus] had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

March 10 of this year changed our lives in a profound way as a state of emergency was declared here in Michigan. What to do? We held services the weekend of the March 15th but our upcoming midweek was canceled. I scrambled to see how to keep our church connected.

Cell phone,
Internet,
Concordia organist
Facebook webpage

As pastor, I wonder how I could I bring this church into your homes?
Will this shutdown last a week – a month – or longer?
Who’s essential, and what’s essential?
I decided on a Hymn sing on Saturday and service on Sunday at our regular service times.
I began two devotions, Five minutes daily with Luther and Reading the Psalms with Luther during the week.

We missed Easter together. We had 331 views on line.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

Each church in our circuit approached it differently. Some used Zoom and others used Facebook.
Some recorded services on You Tube while others broadcast live.
Some did devotions and others continued Bible studies.
Some had professional equipment and others did not.

We all, in compassion for the Lord’s sheep, tried as best we could to serve God’s people as his under shepherds. I am thankful for all my brother pastors and their efforts.

No one size fits all here.

Over the last month a lot has changed.

Some of our churches have opened.
Others are opening.
Some are still trying to get opened.

Virus, pandemic, protest, riot, whatever the world deals with the root cause, result and solution are the same.

Sin, death and Jesus

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

Whether like Peace member Elaine Mitchell, who died from complication of Covid 19 in her nursing home or George Floyd in Minneapolis who died at the hands of police in a cruel and heartless way, death is the result.

Whether like Kathy Zolbe who died of a heart attack - a side effect of the medication she was taking for her cancer or David Dorn, the retired police Captain and grandfather who was murdered trying to protect his friends business from looters.

Death’s sting is great. It’s personal, it’s troubling, and it’s no respecter of age, race, gender, status or political affiliation. So the mandate from Jesus to his disciples should ring in our ears as well.

38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Our prayers are for both the Lord to send laborers knowing that we might be called upon to be one of those to bring Christ to those in need.
While death is the result of sin, Jesus is the solution for sin.

Christ needs to be proclaimed in the pandemic and the protest not to diminish the concerns in this life but to illuminate the greater reality. All roads lead to death in this life but only one way leads to peace and life eternal and that’s Jesus.

Our pre-service music for today was Christ Be My Leader from our hymnal LSB #861

It brings all of our concerns and in a wonderful way points to the Blessed Hope that Jesus is. Your hope, trust and security in this life is only for a while.

Let us rest in Jesus as the lyrics make clear.

Christ be my leader by night as by day;
Safe through the darkness, for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future His care,
Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.

Christ be my teacher in age and in youth
Drifting or doubting for he is the truth
Grant me to trust him; though shifting as sand
Doubt cannot daunt me, in Jesus I stand

Christ be my savior in calm as in strife
Death cannot hold me for he is the life
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
Can touch my salvation; with Jesus I reign
God’s peace be yours now and always!

Copyright Timothy Dudley Smith 1964 Renewed 1992 Hope Publishing Co. LSB

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

Amen

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sermon June 7, 2020

Title: Go and make disciples!
Text: Matt. 28:16-20

Facebook live: Go and make disciples!

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Today we celebrate the work of our loving God - Father, Son + and Holy Spirit, the diversity of the Godhead and the unity of the Godhead.

One God made known in three persons for the redemption of the world through the working of the Spirit until Christ Jesus returns.

Jesus had named a certain mountain in Galilee to His disciples, where He would meet them after His resurrection, but neither the time of this meeting nor the location of the mountain is known.

It had been the Lord’s express command that they assemble there, and after they had received the confirmation of this word by the message of the women on Easter morning, they went to keep the appointment.

When He appeared before them, some of them fell down before Him in glad adoration, but others still were in doubt. They could neither believe the fact of His resurrection nor that it was actually their Lord who here appeared before them. Jesus therefore drew nearer that they might recognize Him. But He depended for the effect of His presence upon His words. The speech of Jesus was friendly and intended to take away all apprehension of whatever kind among them all.

His final commission is a wonderful bit of solemn oratory – marching orders if you will. As He stands before them, in His spiritual body, true man as ever during His earthly life, but no longer in humility and weakness:

All power in heaven above and on earth beneath is given to Him. He is the almighty God, with unlimited authority. And since this is true, therefore they, in going forth, in doing the work of their apostolic mission, should make disciples of all nations. The whole earth should be their sphere of activity. And this discipling should be done by two means of grace.

First there is the means of making disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; into God’s name, as confessing the name which summarizes the entire Christian creed.

The second means of making disciples is that of teaching them to observe closely all things which Jesus has committed to His disciples, to expound or to preach forth to them the counsel of God to their salvation.

Not human notions - but the Word of the Gospel - the inspired Word of God shall be the content of all preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ, no more, no less.

And if His commission is carried out in this manner, then His promise also will stand secure, that He will be with us all the days until the end of time. When this age comes to its close, when He Himself will usher in the new age by the dawn of His Judgment Day, then only will the work of the Church have come to an end.

Kretzmann Popular Commentary of the Bible NT vol. 1 Pg 162

Just a bit of observation that I would like to relate to our congregation here at Peace and its 57 years of mission and ministry in Waterford;

We baptize very few and Bible Study is lightly attended. As our church has aged many of our congregations children stopped attending some are not having children or if they are they are not having them baptized. If they are baptized, they are not in active worship and many are not hearing God’s word or being taught the faith – unless a grandparent brings them.

It is not just our church but is a problem throughout our LCMS and Christian churches everywhere. Apathy or unbelief we see presented in vivid color online and in person. Love of neighbor has turned to hate and the results are deadly. We all bear responsibility - but it is the word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit that brings results.

Jesus’ Great Commission to 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is through the sending of the Holy Spirit that the Christian church was founded and begun on the day of Pentecost, that we celebrated last Sunday, and it is through His working that it will continue to grow and fulfill our calling as Christ’ disciples.

Martin Luther had this to say about the working of the Holy Spirit:

Such great things have the Apostles declared to us, through the Holy Spirit, who descended upon them from heaven, as even the angels would gladly look into. When this Spirit opens our eyes and makes us see what the Gospel is, we shall have an appetite for it and a joy in it, although we cannot behold it with bodily eyes, but must believe that we are partakers and fellow-heirs of the righteousness, truth, salvation, and all the blessings which God has to bestow. For since He has given us His only Son, that highest good, He will also, through Him, give us all good things, riches and treasures, whereof the angels in heaven have all their joy, and of which they are most desirous. All of this is offered to us through the Gospel, and if we believe we shall also have a similar desire for them.

Luther’s exposition of 1 Peter 1:12

God has called us as His body of believers here at Peace and through His work to make disciples, to proclaim Christ and his gospel, to baptize and to teach.

We can’t force children or adults to come to church or watch online but we can encourage and share the word and our faith with them. And I know many of you do. But we can continue to tell them about Jesus so in his time and in his way God, by the working oif the Holy Spirit will draw them back to his fold so that they too once again can know the voice of their shepherd.

In one of my teaching opportunities some years ago at Lakeland place in Waterford a man came up to me after the service and said, “Brother Russ, you’re not a typical Lutheran, are you?”

To which I replied, “Well, I believe I am, what do you mean?”

“Well, he said, Lutheran’s that I know seem more interested in keeping their faith to themselves but you seem pretty bold in proclaiming Christ.”

After a minute of thought I said, “The Lutherans I know proclaim Christ and Him crucified and risen from the daed! That is what I preach and teach at my church and that is the joy that those whom I serve cling to as well.”

It did give me pause though …

Have we kept the good news to ourselves?
Do we have a zeal for the lost?
Do we take the gospel to those outside our walls or do we spend our lives content to just resume our day to day existence until the next Sunday comes … whether on facebook live or in person - next week, next month or next year?

Jesus Christ is our righteousness. It is He to whom the Spirit points and gathers those who will believe. Even when we think we fall short in our words and actions the Spirit uses the gospel to achieve His goals.

Our God, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit has seen to your redemption.
God has called you by the gospel, and given you faith to believe.
By the Holy Spirit he will keep you in the faith to your heavenly reward that awaits all who trust in Christ.

As we have been blessed may we share our blessing with others I word and action so that all may know our loving God- three in one and one in three the Holy Trinity and undivided unity!

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

Amen

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Sermon May 31, 2020 Pentecost

Title: You have received the water for life by the Spirit!
Text: John 7:37-39

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

As we celebrate the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit, we begin with a short reading in the book of the Prophet Joel:

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28

The Spirit has now been revealed as He that is sent to glorify Christ or to make Him known. We have a greater measure of His manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our day than the believers of the Old Testament had.

"At the time when Jesus preached, He promised the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit was not yet there - not that He was not in existence in His person, but that He was not fully made known - in His revelation and in His work.

For that is the special work and office of the Holy Spirit that He reveals and glorifies Christ, that He preaches and give testimony concerning Him. That this office of the Holy Spirit was then not yet in active working and the office of glorifying Christ the Lord was not yet fully in use … that is, the preaching of the forgiveness of sins, and how one may be delivered from the power of sin, death, and the devil, and have comfort and joy in Christ.

All this was at the time of Christ, unheard of and not mentioned; that deliverance, salvation, righteousness, joy, and life should be given us through that man, Christ, whom people did not know."

Popular Commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 Pg 452


Not so in the giving of the Holy Spirit.

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

It was on the last day of the feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, (booths) the "day of the great Hosanna,” which was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in their current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years of exodus they endured in the wilderness.

The leaves of the willows and the other branches that had been used for the building of the booths – or tabernacles - were shaken off and the palm branches were waved against the altar, when the priests went around the altar seven times in a procession of thankfulness, and when a priest was commissioned to get a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and then pour it out at the side of the altar. All these ceremonies had been introduced over time, and the Jewish teachers had explained some of them, especially the last, as a symbol which would find its fulfillment in the days of the Messiah.

The water of the pool of Siloam was considered living water, since it was replenished from time to time by means of a natural siphon from a spring in the rock. But, after all, it was only earthly water, which could quench the thirst for only a short while.

Here Jesus points to the work of the Holy Spirit and the revealing of the work of the Christ himself when He says:

38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

In a sense saying: “Out of the rock of stone that is the human heart born in sin and dead to God will flow the living water of life by God’s holy Spirit!”

Not only with the Spirit bringing those to faith in Christ by His own working, but also by those who are brought to Christ and are used by God through the Spirit to bring Christ to others.

As it feels to me and I’m sure to you, we feel separated from each other right now and we are. We have not seen each other in person at church for many weeks and we might even begin to forget about each other. Over time if this were to continue it might be a real possibility.

It can be that way with the work of the Spirit too.

It can at times be forgotten … as though He were afar off and not part of our daily lives. At the best of times, when things are going well, we have little need for Him. We can get consumed with things of this life that are going well and the abundance that we have that God provides.

But, there are other times, as we all know, where our world can come crashing down upon us. You can lose focus of Jesus, the one who redeemed you - who were lost. The Spirit’s work can be resisted, while things of the world draw you away demanding your attention, and just when all seems well and good, life can call your attention to all its frailties and trials …

Loss of life, loss of job, loss of security …

We can’t know what God has in store for us as he calls each one of us to faith and in service for Him through the Spirit’s work … but we can know, as Jesus said:

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 Jesus said this, about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.

I think of so many, who still need to hear the good news of the gospel and the joy of salvation found only in the name of Jesus. Yes, and I feel, as my friend Paul Ruehl and I discussed many times, the urgency to allow God to work through us to reach the lost in service to Him, now!
Christ Jesus has given you and me, by His Spirit, an appeal to His work to reach those who are lost with the word of the gospel. That appeal comes to you through the Spirit and through His working in you, so that you feed on the word of God and by faith cling to that blessed hope.

When we were in discussions with our friend’s at St Mark’s about a possible merger last year the idea of a new name was on all our minds. I thought that Blessed Hope Lutheran Church would be a wonderful name. My thought came from Titus 2:13 which reads,

13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

The blessed Hope is Jesus!
We know him by the working of the Spirit!
God in his mercy has had mercy on you!

You have been washed clean of your sin and by faith in Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism have peace with God.

The working of the Holy Spirit causes faith in you to believe the gospel message that, in Christ forgiveness of sins is offered and by faith received.

May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you all now and forever!

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

Amen

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Sermon May 24, 2020

Title: Christ desires that you be his!
Text: John 17-1-11

Facebook live: Christ desires that you be his!

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.

I had planned to change the church sign out front to read:

“Christ is our cornerstone – Blessed Memorial Day.” But as I started to get ready to do the work a mother duck flew out and I saw her nest under the sign with the eggs she had been sitting on and decided not to disturb her home at this time.

Many in our community and country though have had their homes and lives disturbed. For we the church, the freedoms we enjoy in this country have come at great expense for so many that have given their lives to protect our freedoms. It is right to remember and to honor those this Memorial Day and on these National holidays.

As the church though, we stand on the Rock, who is the cornerstone of our faith Jesus Christ and his work; on him alone do we trust. It is my hope and prayer that all who today and in the future serve, to defend the freedoms we enjoy, know and receive the comfort that is Christ Jesus as savior and Lord.
Our freedom required cost and sacrifice. Some years back we had a fundraiser for our own Skip Bushart’s, Fallen Heroes Memorial Foundation which builds memorials around the state to honor those, like his son Damien who gave their life in service to our country - as their motto states: “Lest they be forgotten.”

The new memorial at the Oakland County Courthouse is finished and a testament to all who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

In his High Priestly Prayer to the Father our Lord Jesus says:

17… “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.

The gift of eternal life is given, not earned, and while heroes in this life deserve to be remembered, you don’t have to be a hero to receive the gift.

We receive all sorts of things in this life that we don’t deserve.

My parents and many of your parents sacrificed much to make sure that we had the very best they could give.

We were fed and clothed, taught what was right and wrong and how to treat others. My parents made sure that I received an education, even though I might have wanted to skip school and play, they knew this was important for me and would help me in the future.

At 48 when I went back to school to prepare for seminary I said to my dad when he asked me how my schooling was going, “It’s going well but all the other kids tell me their parents are paying for their schooling.”

My dad said,

“Well that’s nice Russ, if you were still a kid I’d be paying too.”

As Christians my parents knew something else that was good for me as well and Jesus makes it clear in his prayer.

3 that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

It was important for my parents that I knew Christ and that he knew me.

Why? Well Jesus says … this is eternal life … that we know the Father and Jesus who the Father has sent.

So they brought me to the means that God gave and I was baptized and given new birth in baptism one month after being born. My parents knew this was good for me just as they knew that I needed their physical care around the clock too.

I didn’t know what I needed.

But seeing children today that are newborns I understand now that:

When they’re hungry - they cry,
When they need changed - they cry,
When they need anything - they cry.

Maybe it is a sign of the death we are born into.

If children were born and left to make their own way … without their parents care … they would die, so God in his mercy has given his means to his church and we, as loving parents, bring God’s mercy and forgiveness to those in need … from the youngest to the oldest.

3 And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

As Jesus said last week in our Gospel, he would not leave us as orphans to care for ourselves but that the Holy Spirit, the comforter who he was sending from the Father would bring true comfort. This gift is given to you and me and all through the Lord’s gifts and it brings real peace.

Peace though, in our world is fleeting. Covid-19, flu deaths, old age, heart attacks, and now the flooding devastation in Midland, and for LCMS Pastor Larry Bean and his wife Grace in Louisiana they are dealing with the death of their only son Leo who is 15 from suicide.

Death comes to those young and old in this life and we know not the day or hour. We remember this weekend those who have given their lives defending our freedom and we remember the hope that is found only in the one who is the way the truth and the life – Jesus Christ – the only way to the Father.

It is comforting to know that in our text Jesus is praying for you and for me and for all far away- born in and struggling with sin, death and devil.

Jesus says:

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

The reality of life and death in war came to me in a real way at the start of the first Gulf War.

My brother Tom, an Annapolis Naval Academy Grad had finished flight school, was on the US Ranger in the Persian Gulf, and was in the first flight wave sent in during Desert Storm. I remember praying at work for him and for all who served. Thankfully he survived and following a 30 year career retired as a Captain with distinction. He works today for Northrop Grumman on Long Island.

He just recovered from his struggle with Covid-19 and is feeling well and healthy and back to work.

I am thankful for my brother’s service and for all who serve. I also in prayer lift up all who continue to serve that they remain safe but most importantly that they know Christ and receive the gift of eternal life in his name.

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

Amen

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sermon May 17, 2020

Title: By God’s Spirit we look to Christ!
Text: John 14:15-21

Facebook live: By God’s Spirit we look to Christ!

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

When I was a little boy growing up, I attended kindergarten in Glassport Pennsylvania. We, had fire drills to prepare ourselves in case of an emergency. When the fire bell rang we were directed to exit the room orderly and row by row and as we entered the hall walking towards the door one of the older children from the upper grades would hold the hand of a kindergartener and walk with them out the door to the designated place of safety. They became our guide and helper and would not leave us until the drill was over.

In the life of the Christian, the good news is that you will not be left alone either. The Holy Spirit is your helper and guide and will remain with you and will comfort you no matter the circumstance. You do not have to hope that He will come and lead you to safety … for He dwells with you and is in you!

By God’s Spirit we look to Christ!

Jesus, in John 14 speaks of sending the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be our comfort and our hope.
He had told the disciples about that hope and not to be troubled, to believe in God and also to believe in Him and that He would be going to prepare a place for them, that where He is they too may be also.

To Thomas’ question of how they could know the way Jesus replied that He is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him … and to Philip’s question to show us the Father, Jesus said, whoever has seen me, has seen the Father!

There is a very close connection between Jesus and the Father.

To see Christ is to see God and to know Christ is to know the Father; one God in essence, uniqueness of persons. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father but the mystery of the Godhead in there for the first disciples and for us as well.

Today’s reading begins:

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Well that’s comforting. We poor sinners confess unto you that we are by nature sinful and unclean!

God’s Law we can’t keep and his law shows us our sin and that we fall short daily needing the comfort and forgiveness only given us by God himself through His comforting absolution pronounced by His called and ordained servants, in the stead and by the command of Christ.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth.

The Disciples are being comforted that when Jesus leaves them and ascends back to the Father, the helper, the Spirit of truth, will be with them [and us] forever.

The Holy Spirit's role is to shine the light on our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some years ago we upgraded the building of our church here at Peace with new lights on the building. When lighting is done well, the lights make visible the building when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness. This illustrates also the Spirit's role and work. He is, the hidden light shining on the Savior.


It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never,

"Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace."

The Spirit, role it is to bring you and Christ together and ensure that you and Christ Jesus stay together.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

But you don’t … and I don’t. We fall short, we miss the mark. It’s like having directions to our destination and always getting lost … always making the wrong turn!

Some years ago I had a good example of this as Bob Poe and I drove to the Doxology conference in DeWitt, MI. I’m driving, knowing that I need exit 87. Bob says, “Pastor, isn’t this our exit?” Oh yes it is Bob, thanks for letting me know as I quickly move right to exit the freeway!

On the way home I’m heading north on I-69 towards I-75 when I hear, “Pastor, isn’t this our exit?” Oh, thanks again Bob for pointing that out to me, as I once again move right quickly so as not to miss the, I-75 exit and our way home.

In a similar way the Spirit shows you when you miss the mark, when you are going the wrong way and He, as the Helper who will be in you and with you forever, points you back to Jesus … so that you once again see the error of your sin and where you fall short, but also see the way the truth and the Life … Jesus, who kept the commandments – the Law - perfectly for you and who the Spirit will continue to point you to, Christ Jesus our Lord – the light of the world and the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and His gracious forgiveness and love for you and for all who love God and are called according to His purpose!

Jesus said:

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

It is Jesus who gives us every good and perfect gift from above.
It is Jesus who will not leave you as orphans.
It is Jesus who took your sin upon himself at the cross burying it in the tomb and
It is Jesus, who asks the Father to send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, to you, so that you can continue to see Christ, the author and finisher of your faith Jesus.

Christ says:

Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

By the Spirit, Christ will make Himself known to you!
Because death could not end Christ it will not be your end!

Because of the work of the Spirit in the life of God’s children … you will know Him and His ways and you will be found acceptable because you will be clothed in the robes of the God/man Himself Jesus Christ the Righteous one.

Remember:

In the life of the Christian, the good news is that we will not be left alone. The Holy Spirit is in you and with you and will comfort you in all trials … because you do not have to wonder if He will come to you … for He dwells with you and will be in you!

By God’s Spirit we look to Christ!

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sermon May 10, 2020

Title: The way of Jesus leads to eternal life!
Text: John 14:1-14
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

It is a joy to celebrate the blessings that come to us through our mothers and a blessed mother’s day to all. Many of you joy in the mother’s you still have and some, I’m sure long for the mother’s they once had. Some were blessed with godly step mothers and others had mothers that missed the mark of what good mothering should be.

As a pastor, I’ve done a number of funerals; some for mothers, and some fathers and uncles and dear friends. Funerals are a place of grief. Death is not something any of us wants to think about or deal with but it can come unexpectedly, as it did with my own mother.

For us death is who we are. We are born dead in trespass and sin. The wages of sin is death. On Ash Wednesday as the ashes are placed upon our forehead in the sign of the cross we hear these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Death at times pretends to be comforting. You may hear at a funeral, “He’s in a better place.” Or, “Well, she’s not suffering anymore.”

I assume it is how we who remain deal with the loss of a loved one. But the reality is that death is not a good thing. It is the consequence for we who are born in sin.

It is what awaits you are me. It is with that in mind that I remember some of our dear Peace loving mother's who have gone to be with the Lord: Hilda Klein, Joan Kitzman, Lucille Schreiner, Betty Gedeon, Betty Buchannan, Carlene Constable, Marge Goit, Dorothy Blackerby, Eleanor Young, Maude Lewis, Frieda Fleaner, and Sandy Krueger.

In our gospel today Jesus said to his disciples:

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

This text is often used at funerals. It is for comfort and hope. Death is real but so is Christ’s rescue.

What also is interesting is the context of the hope that Jesus gives here in the beginning of chapter 14 with the last line of verse that he says in Chapter 13 where he turns to St. Peter and says,

“I tell you the truth, [truly, truly] before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

Not only then but now as well. We disown the savior daily and not just three times.

It is daily, it is willful, and it is often, day in and day out until we die.

It is in that context that Christ’s - Let not your hearts be troubled - is truly good news and why it is so important that it be shared at times of great grief and suffering. Peter was standing tall … thinking he knew all:

When Jesus washed the disciples feet Peter asked:

“Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Then Peter said:

“You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have [no part of] me.”

[He tells them] 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. He tells them to love one another, to serve one another, to care for one another … because where he is going they cannot come.

Not in their own strength at least.

And Peter in his own strength says: Lord, why can’t I follow you? I’ll lay down my life for you. But in reality that’s you and that’s me. We think we can stand. In the midst of trial, in the midst of temptation, in the midst of sin … we fall … denying the Lord and the rooster crows that reality in our own lives.

In our Confirmation rite, this is made clear when the confirmands are asked:

“Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?”

“Do you intend to live according to the word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?”

And finally:

“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”

To all of this they answer, “I do.”

In a sense saying like St. Peter: I’ll lay down my life for you!

But, the confirmands add to their “I do.” These words: “By the grace of God.”

That is what Peter missed. His strength and our strength, as it is connected to faith, life, and eternal life … is in God’s hands and by his grace.

As I wrestle with so many who no longer connected to church or regularly hear God’s word I’m remind myself of the old pastor’s proverb:
Jesus is God and I am not!

In chapter 13 Peter is confused and asks Jesus, “Lord where are you going?”

Thomas in chapter 14 asks:

5 … “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

To this Jesus answers:

6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is really good news to hear that God has washed you and me and we have been made partakers of eternal life. It is God who through the means he has provided of Word and Sacrament will keep them and us in the one true faith.

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

That is good news for pastors ... for you dear members and for ... our mothers as well! Blessed Mother’s Day to all!

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

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Sermon May 3, 2020

Title: God gives life through his word and gifts!
Text: Acts 2:42-47

Facebook live: God gives life through his word and gifts!

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Life is a matter of building. Each of us has the opportunity to build something -- a secure family, a good reputation, a career, a relationship to God. But some of those things can disappear almost overnight due to financial losses, natural disasters and other unforeseen difficulties.

What are we to do? Daniel Webster offered excellent advice, saying,

“If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we impress on them high principles, the just fear of God, and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.”

DANIEL WEBSTER, secretary of state, speech to the City Council, Boston, Massachusetts, May 22, 1852.—The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 13, pp. 518–19 (1903).
Morning Glory, July 3, 1993.


That is the joy and that is the goal with which we are brought to faith by our loving God that through His gifts and by communion and fellowship with Him we have a life, in Christ, by Christ and through Christ.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

St. Luke in his book of the Acts of the Apostles gives an account of the early church. Last week in our first reading we heard of Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2 that cut to the heart of those who heard the Law of God’s condemnation bringing them to the point of asking, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37b

To which Peter replies:

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

Now coming to faith through the Gospel brought some 3000 souls into the church through Peter’s sermon but now we hear what the church did with and for those who repented and were baptized.

They heard the word of God proclaimed which is the Apostles teaching. They had fellowship one with another both in community and in communion with that same doctrine of the word.
They celebrated the breaking of bread in fellowship meals as well as with the Lord’s Supper that, as we heard last week, opened the eyes of their understanding so that they could see who Christ Jesus truly is and what he had done and finally,
 
They prayed, which is conversation and communion with that one and same word of God – Jesus Christ.

Our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has a mission statement called Witness, Mercy and Life together that fits this focus of the early church and our life together here at Peace as well.

The Apostle’s teaching, which is the word of God and what that word means, is the witness of who God is and what we have become in Christ.

As His children we are called by Christ to be in worship, to hear His word to know that, as sinners, we all fall short of God’s requirements, but we also know that God has made a way in the person and work of Jesus Christ to bring us back into fellowship with him. This fellowship we now have with each other as His children, celebrating our life together in communion one with another, as we together confess our sins and receive God’s holy absolution as we look forward to a time of gathering together once again.

Apart from faith it is impossible to please God or to come to him because we all are judged as sinful and unclean and separated from the love of God found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.

At times we find ourselves in tough situations. We might even think that what we are going through right now is pretty tough as we stay at home and are prohibited from gathering together for a time.

We have though been blessed to continue to hear the word of God as we have continued to meet in this virtual way to sing hymns together on Saturday night and to gather for worship on Sunday. But it has been different and we have missed the partaking of the Lord’s Supper together. Thankfully this may be soon remedied as it is my hope that we may be allowed to once again meet in person for worship and receiving the Lord’s Supper.

Thankfully we remain connected to the Lord’s word to us and our prayers and petitions to him.

Prayers … we pray them every week in our services and daily for many of us in the church. This conversation with God brings our prayers and petitions to the one who holds our life in His hands through the mediation of his son.

Prayer can be a powerful blessing and we all need to avail ourselves of this powerful blessing daily. And we can’t forget prayer, especially the faithful prayers of those, who keep and have kept us in constant prayer. I thank the Lord for all of you who have lifted me in prayer through these trying days of recent past and the joyful days looking forward.

Ill.

My friend Paul and I will often talk and remember our past and ask where the last 40 years have gone? We’ve come a long way since the days of playing 6 nights a week in our band at Captain Ahab’s bar in Wyandotte, Michigan.

Paul’s said about his mother Marian, “She was in constant prayer for us all.” You see she had two boys Paul and David. She also had surrogate sons Russ and John who played in places that I’m sure she didn’t think we should be. But like all good mothers, she couldn’t stop us from playing and gigging, but she could pray to the Lord that He would protect us and get us to where He wanted us to be.

None of us really liked the bars and the fights that might go on as well and we sure didn’t want to be there but Marian’s prayers, my mom’s prayers too mediated by Christ kept us out of trouble.

David, Paul and John all have had wonderful careers as teacher, Chemist and Lawyer.

And then there is me. God knew that if He could turn Russ Tkac into a pastor. Never in a million years would I have thought so, but God … well he is truly able to use all things for the good according to His purpose, even calling me to serve him in this wonderful way.

But he has done so many wonderful things, connecting himself to human flesh, turning water into wine, raising Himself on the third day and bringing people who are dead in sin to life and faith in Jesus Christ through the washing of regeneration with the word.

Forgive me for paraphrasing Daniel Webster but:

“If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work on brass, time will efface it. If we build temples, they will crumble to dust. But if GOD works on men’s immortal hearts and minds, through the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers the just fear of God, and love for their fellow-men, will be engraved on their hearts and minds as tablets of stone which no time can efface, brightening their lives and the lives of all who are called by faith to believe in Jesus Christ unto all eternity.”

God gives life through communion and the Apostle’s teaching!

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

Amen

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sermon April 26, 2020

Title: With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!
Text: Luke 24:13-35

Facebook live: With burning hearts we tell others the Lord has risen!

32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

It is interesting to me how life has changed. Years ago, when I was young spending time with cousins and aunts that lived in other states was limited to a week or two vacation with the family and a trip to visit. There was then the longing and wishing that we could see each other more often. I tried writing letters and being a pen pal with a few cousins but it didn’t work for very long.

Today though, I’ve reconnected with cousins, and other relatives that live out of state. We do it through email but more and more frequently now through text, Facebook and messenger. That can be a very wonderful medium. It is nice to have instant connectivity with friends and loved ones. Much of what we do is to share memories, pictures and events in our lives and remember good times and celebrate special events like, graduations, weddings and retirements. Facebook provides a place to connect, reconnect and stay in touch. We even use this technology now to connect ourselves and services so we can stay in touch.

In the Gospel today we read of two followers of Jesus on the Emmaus Road.

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself … came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

Remember this:

Now what they were discussing was the very hope they had … that this Jesus … was the promised Messiah. But, He had just been tried, and was crucified, dead and buried, and they heard something about being raised from the dead? They were distraught as they walked away from Jerusalem towards village of Emmaus, all hope seemed lost. If they had facebook you can imaging the their post of a sad death.

But they were kept from recognizing the resurrected Lord.

We all are kept from recognizing our Lord and savior too. It is only by a gift of God’s grace, through faith that we can see … who Jesus is and what he has done. It doesn’t come from our own reason and understanding, so that is why our children are taught from little children to hear God’s word and learn about Jesus and to be in worship … so they, like we, can recognize HIM!

It is also why the responsibility for their continued involvement in church is so important and is the responsibility of their … parents and grandparents, guardians and friends. So, they too can know Jesus.

John’s gospel tells us so.

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

This Gospel truth gives faith to those who hear by the working of the Holy Spirit. This faith points back to Jesus, and tells us who he is as both God and man and what He came to do – for you and me. So that our eyes are opened and that we see and recognize Christ!

As the disciples continued walking:

25 Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Much like Jesus, those who bring God’s word to those who need to be taught, do the very same thing. They explain in the scriptures the work of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and how through the entire word of God, both Old and New Testaments, all that Jesus came to do.

Social media too is a way for the message to be shared both individually as Christians and by our church as we share our faith and proclaim God’s blessings in Christ. It is a way for the cloud of unbelief to be lifted by God’s word and working.

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:1-4)

The reality of Jesus as both God and man is not one way of many ways to the Father, but he is THE only way. He is the way the trust and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus scripture teaches.

Social media is one place to shine the light of Christ in your life. When I worked in the piano business I had my Confirmation cross on my wall behind me as a silent witness to who I am and what I believe for all to see. It is important that we don’t hide who we are in Christ but share that truth in the way the Lord has given us. These live services give us also a way to proclaim who we are in Christ.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Now pay close attention to this:

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

In communion we are fed in a miraculous way the same body and blood of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ when we receive the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus and his forgiveness come to each of us through this same blessed gift and though we are confined at this time, we look to the joy of gathering and receiving - once again - this bread and wine along with the very body and blood of Jesus, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the strengthening of their faith.

32 They asked each other; “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

It is my hope and prayer that God by his grace will restore this sacrament to us all soon. But until that time may we all continue to grow in faith by the word proclaimed and the knowledge of being marked as his child in the waters of Holy Baptism, one faith, one hope, one Lord, one God and father of all. Eph 4:4-6

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sermon April 19, 2020

Title: In Christ’s wounds, peace is revealed!
Text: John 20:19-31

Facebook live: In Christ’s wounds, peace is revealed!

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

People refuse to believe that which they don't want to believe, in spite of evidence. When explorers first went to Australia they found a mammal which laid eggs; spent some time in water, some on land; had a broad, flat tail, webbed feet, and a bill similar to a duck. Upon their return to England, they told the populace of this, and all felt it was a hoax. They returned to Australia and found a pelt from this animal and took it back to England, but the people still felt it was a hoax. In spite of the evidence, they disbelieved because they didn't want to believe.

cf. J. McDowell, Answers to tough questions, under "miracles"

Apologetics, is the work of a Christian to defend what seems to some - especially those who don’t believe - as silly and not something one can prove in a reasonable way …
… that the evidence of a God who took on human form, died for the sins of the world by crucifixion and then rose from the dead three days later is just not believable.

Apologetics cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead but it can help to show that what we as Christians believe as truth - is reasonable and trustworthy - and that a God who created a wonderful world and a humanity in his image … can also in love redeem those who have fallen into sin and have broken what God created perfect.

Richard Dawkins, an atheist, in a letter to his 10 year old daughter writes:

"And, how do we know that Earth is a small ball whirling round one of those stars, the sun?

The answer to these questions is "evidence." Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling, smelling ....) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough from earth to see with their own eyes that it is round."

What I find interesting with this is that scripture knew and had made known what Dawkins needed astronauts to tell him.

In Isaiah 40:22 the prophet writes speaking of God:

22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; Isa 40:22

The word here proclaims what astronauts later confirmed by seeing. What I think Dawkins misses is that science has made wrong observations over the years that have had to be changed as new evidence became available.

Thomas in the Gospel reading too needed proof. He demanded evidence.

Many times doubt conflicts us all. We hear the word but find our own reason at war with God’s word. We hear about Easter and the resurrection and unbelief clouds our own understanding.

How can a dead man rise?
How does God take on flesh and become man … and why?
Some believe the flesh is bad and is the cause of all our problems?

Even Luther thought that if he beat into submission his own sinful flesh … hiding as it were in a monastery, that his sinful thoughts and actions could be controlled but he quickly found that his own sin went in to the monastery with him.

Many of those who come to church occasionally or only on the High Holy Days of Christmas and Easter … wrestle with unbelief.

They may say that their lack of attendance is not unbelief really, but only other pressing things in life that get in the way.

Some never come at all and are absent altogether … choosing to do something else or nothing rather than to get up and be fed on God’s word which is to give full acknowledgment that they really don’t believe or feel a need to hear God’s word.

How about you? Have you doubted God and His word? That question needs to be answered by us all … me included.

Our Gospel today gives one account:

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

The Bible is silent on why Thomas wasn’t with them and if you remember the words of the angel that rolled the stone away from the tomb Easter morning when he said:

7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, (I’m assuming that this included Thomas too?) that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

So, it might have been just old fashioned unbelief and distress in this Jesus who Thomas had placed his trust and hope … who was given over to Pilate, crucified and killed … dead and buried that now when the other:

25 … disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Full unbelief there; No wavering on his part; this disciple of Jesus’ now cries out:

SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE!

That is what Thomas wants, nothing more nothing less. So many in our day too just want the evidence, unless Jesus comes down to me and I can see, feel and taste … I won’t believe.

We all at times want to see the evidence. Those we love want to see it too. We want to touch the holes in His hands and put our hand in his side or we won’t believe. Some unfortunately die in their sin never coming to faith in the one who died in their place and then rose from the dead so that they too would rise.

But in spite and because of our sins:
In Christ’s wounds, peace is revealed!

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Now, the irony here is amazing. Thomas, the one with unbelief, is now with those who have seen the risen Lord. They are all together and the doors are still locked! The other disciples have seen Jesus resurrected yet they also remember, very vividly the crucifixion, and all that may still come upon them. But in spite of the fear and unbelief, Jesus comes to them … in to this locked room of unbelief … and brings … peace.

Our Lord, through His word and sacraments, also comes to those who still live locked in unbelief.

By His Holy Spirit the lock of unbelief is opened and faith is given.

27 Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

The evidence is there and:

28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Christ, promises that His word will achieve all that he intends, as also was proclaimed by Peter in the book of Acts in chapter 2 verse 39:

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.”

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

Amen

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sermon April 12, 2020 Easter

Title: Christ is raised … so you too will rise!
Text: Matt. 28:1-10

Facebook live: Christ is raised … so you too will rise!

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Today we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ and His one life laid down for the many and raised up to the glory of the Father so that just as:

Christ is raised … so you too will rise!

2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

God’s word here gives a very wonderful description of what happened very early on that first day of the week, Sunday morning, as an angel of the Lord rolls away the stone … not as an aid to the resurrection but as a sign to the empty tomb and that Jesus had risen.

This angel rolled the stone away and used it for his own seat and such was his appearance that he appeared like lightening and as white as snow.

You can imagine the look on the guard’s faces that were placed there to make sure that the disciples didn’t come to steal the body of the Lord. At the sight of this angel they trembled and became as dead men out of fear. The evidence of who had been crucified, dead and buried and now raised from the dead was no longer in doubt and no more concern for those who were placed on guard.

As for the women … those faithful who came to contend with the Lord’s body the angle says:

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

For this is now a place where He, Jesus, had been laid in death and He is not there; No longer in the tomb … no longer dead … but alive!

Death … a part of life that we all have had some experience with … connects us too with the death of Christ. Even as little children we know death as a sign of fallen humanity. Whether it is the seasonal change and death in nature or family pets, the reality is there even if not realized with the loss of beloved relatives, siblings or parents and that reality becomes clearer as we get older.

Our own families become the evidence of this as we see those who sustained us through life, leave us, showing the reality of sin in their life and ours as they fall victim to the wages of sin. And these wages bring death, a death that is assured just as our crucified Lord who breathed His last was dead as He gave up the Spirit, commending his Spirit into the Father’s hands.

I have seen this reality with fellow believers and members of Christ’s body the church this Lenten season as well as they too breathed their last and gave up their spirit in this life.

The Rich’s the Tilley’s the Berlinger’s and the Deckard’s, all morning loved ones called away from the joys of this life and the ones that they loved.

How quickly it is that even one day can change our whole lives.

Those first disciples, those first followers of Jesus too felt loss. The one in whom they had placed their hope as the Messiah had been taken from them … and this loss brought confusion.

Was he too just a man?

Did he deceive all those who had placed their trust in him?
Did their hope too … die with him?
And what about our own hope?

As a pastor I get to preach at funerals and it is always a joy to remind those who are grieving and suffering loss that in Christ, death is not the end for we who cling to the blessed hope of Christ’s resurrection.

But, it is only a time of parting … for a while.

St Paul gives us the joyful hope in his epistle to the Romans in chapter 8 where he says:

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

7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Last Sunday Elizabeth and I were here at the church for Palm Sunday worship. As we prepared for the service, Elizabeth said to me, “This feels strange?” And so it did. We here – and you at your homes - Palm Sunday, was quite a bit different. But I saw Peace members online, and some or their relatives and friends …

I even saw my dear friend Mark and his friend Katie watching with us all the way from Green Bay, Wisconsin! What a joy.
Later that Sunday Mark called and we talked about the joy of worshiping together - even online - and the greater joy of being brothers and sisters in Christ together through the blessed gift of faith.

Earlier I said,

“How quickly it is that even one day can change our whole lives.”

St Luke tells us in a parallel account:

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24: 1-3)

… one day can change our whole lives …

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen!” (Luke 24:5b)

Those blessed loved ones who just a few short weeks ago were here and struggling with their illnesses and consequences of sin are now resting in the arms of Jesus and the promise of an eternity with him.

You too, who trust in Christ, have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins - is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust. He has forgiven your sin and has called you to faith by the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and has given you faith to believe in Christ’s saving work.

9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Because:

Christ is raised … so you too will rise!

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

Amen