Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon June27-28, 2015

Title: In death Christ calls you to rise!
Text: Mark 5:21-43

39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness.

But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love … is Hell.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960, p.169.

Because of Christ’s love … he died for you, and because he died … he too was raised on the third day, and because he was raised we can have confidence that:

In death Christ calls you to rise!

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.

Jesus did not stay put he went among the people and they followed him.

22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death.[my heart is wrung and nearly broken] Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

One of the rulers of the synagogue comes to Jesus because his daughter is at the point of death. He knows that if he does nothing she will die and be lost to him forever. He has obviously heard about Jesus … the healings that he has done and is convinced that Jesus can heal her and can make her well, so he seeks him out and falls at his feet to implore him to come, so that she may be made well and live.

Jairus has faith in Jesus and trusts Christ Jesus to give her life.

35 [But] while he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This is truly devastating news? Jairus learns from these people that his daughter has died and he is told “don’t bother [Jesus] any longer.”

Life, death, love and faith all at work and all connected to Jesus.

In death Christ calls you to rise!

I would like to share a story from my friend Paul Ruehl. It is also a story connected to my past as we have been friends for over 50 years.


[Paul had a life] changing encounter that built [his] faith regarding [his] two daughters, Diana and Michelle.

Paul writes:

Diana was born June 8, 1979, nearly 3 months premature.  She was perfectly formed and the most beautiful baby I have yet to ever see.  She was a fighter.  She was a preemie but she had a lot of spunk.  The doctors put gauze around her ankles and wrists and pinned them to the sheet so she wouldn't pull the various monitors off or the tube that breathed air into her lungs.  I was told that the first 48 hours were the most critical.  At almost exactly 48 hours of life on June 10, 1979, Diana had a brain aneurysm and, literally, died in my arms.  I could sense the life leave her as she died.  I was 24 years old and absolutely devastated.

We fast forward one year.  On June 9, 1980, my second daughter, Michelle was born, also nearly 3 months premature, but appearing in much worse shape than Diana had been.  Michelle had absolutely no response to external stimuli.  She did not respond to needle pricks as nurses drew her blood every hour, her eyes did not dilate when light was shined in them, she had no suck reflex and she could not breathe.  A ventilator pumped 100% pure oxygen into her lungs.  Room air is about 21% oxygen.  I was told on June 10, 1980, the doctors did not think Michelle would make it through the night; that she would die on the same day one year after Diana had died. By this time I had been up nearly two days straight and went home to rest.  The nice thing about Children's Hospital in Detroit is parents of the babies in the NICU can come and go at any time.  I intended to sleep a few hours and come back and spend whatever time I could with Michelle.  As I lay down to sleep, I cried out to God like I had never done before.  I prayed a silly prayer asking God to allow her to live past midnight so she wouldn't die on June 10.

Then at 10:13 PM, June 10, 1980, I had a vision.

I had never had a vision before nor have I had one since. It was a vision and not a dream for I was clearly awake.  In my vision, I saw Abraham laying Isaac on the altar, crying as he did so.  I assumed God wanted Michelle's life so I cried out in a loud voice, "take her Lord, she's yours".  I then fell into a deep sleep and slept at least 8 hours.  When I awoke I was quite angry with myself for sleeping so long.  I drove quickly to the hospital and ran up to the NICU.  I scrubbed and put on a gown and literally ran to where I had last seen Michelle; her crib was gone.  I was devastated and began to weep in sorrow.  The nurse who had been taking care of Michelle the previous day asked me what was wrong.  I said, "Where’s my baby".  The nurse said, "We moved her, one of the other children needed her life support".  I asked, "Why did you move her, did you give up on her?"  The nurse spoke the sweetest words I have ever heard.  She said, "Give up on her? She doesn't need it anymore."  She proceeded to explain what the night shift nurse had told her when she reported for duty.  She showed me the medical chart for Michelle from the night before and these charts literally record anything the babies do in NICU.  There was a brief notation at 10:13 PM the night before.  It stated, "baby extubated self".  This means Michelle reached up with her own hand and pulled the tube out of her nose that was breathing for her. When Michelle did this, it set off all sorts of alarms which brought the doctors and nurses to her bedside.  As one of the nurses was about to put the tube back in her nose, the doctor said to wait and see how she does.  They watched in awe when she seemed to come alive and squirm and respond to ALL stimuli.  She was ravenously hungry.
She was healed.

I was told that since Michelle had been on pure oxygen, she was likely brain damaged and blind.  Michelle came home more than a month before she was due to be born.  At about her original due date I took her to see a pediatric ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked.  As the doctor evaluated her, he looked at the hospital report and he looked at Michelle then at me.  He repeated this a couple times then asked me, "Why is she here?" I explained her start to life and what the doctors at the hospital had been concerned about.  He told me, "this child has the eye sight of a one year old … I don't need to see her until she's ready for school."  So much for being blind!  As for being brain damaged, Michelle graduated third in her high school class and graduated from the US Air Force Academy.  [At the time of this writing] She is now a captain and pilot in the Air Force and will be promoted to major within the next year.  Our joke is … if she was brain damaged, the Air Force would have made her a general by now!

The final chapter to this amazing story occurred only a few months after Michelle was born … at home, and doing very well.

In prayer, asked God what the vision meant.  I knew I had seen it and obviously missed the point; I thought Michelle would die.  To this day, I would swear I heard the voice of God chuckle and say "read the story, did Isaac die?"  God wanted me to yield her life to him - he didn't want her to die. God heals today like he did when Jesus was walking the earth, in his way and his timing.  That truth, this experience, has sustained me as much as anything I have experienced in my walk of faith.  God can raise the dead to life, spiritually and physically.  Praise His name forever.

Michelle’s Story: Paul Ruehl

In death Christ calls you to rise!

Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

[And taking] the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

By faith, Jairus trusted his daughter to Jesus and she was raised from death to life. By faith my friend Paul commended his daughter to the Lord and she was removed from life support and given life. It is hard for me to believe that was already 35 years ago … because it seems like yesterday as I too lived with my friend through that experience.

And also by faith parents bring their children to the waters of Holy Baptism so that they too might be brought from death to life. Here they receive God’s mercy as they are buried with Christ and raised to newness of life in Baptism.

The apostle Paul articulates this in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 when he writes:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
And in death Christ calls you to rise!

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


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Funeral Sermon for Lucille Schreiner Monday, June 22, 2015

Title: Through Christ we have true peace!
Text: Luke 2:29-32

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

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Lucille. As we together morn and grieve her passing and our loss, let us comfort and sustain one another with the blessed hope, that in Christ, death is a parting for a time until the joyful reunion that we who believe will share.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lucille for 14 years and being her pastor over these last few years. While it had been difficult for Lucille to deal with her limited mobility, memory loss and health concerns, Lucille was greatly comforted by her love for Jesus, her loving family, and also those care givers who brought help and care for her daily needs. In this she had true peace.


Peace can take on different looks.

It might be a mirror-smooth lake, reflecting green birches under a soft evening sky, or it could be the grassy shore, and flock of sheep grazing undisturbed.

It could also be seen in a raging waterfall crashing over a rocky ledge on a stormy day, where on a spindly tree clinging to the rocks, a little bird had built a nest in a branch. Here, content and undisturbed in her surroundings, she rests on her eggs, with her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones … showing true peace in the midst of all earthly turmoil.

Berit Kjos, A Wardrobe from the King, pp. 45-46.

From the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger … to the man Christ Jesus hanging on a cross crying out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There is both joy and peace in Christ’s life and in his purifying death that allows all who depart this life, trusting in Christ Jesus as both savior and Lord, to receive that comforting peace!

Lucille knew and received that Peace!

In the Gospel of Luke in Chapter 2:

St. Luke tells us that the firstborn had to be redeemed with a sacrifice.
So Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord and to do as the Law required. And while there they run into a man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, which is the comfort and peace of God … and we’re told that the Holy Spirit was upon him.

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

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

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

The joy of seeing this child - this Jesus - brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. The joy in Simeon’s song is and will be once again spoken at Lucille’s committal service at Glen Eden, as we also join together with Simeon in joyful praise with what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.

Lucille, knew that Christ’s purifying death, would allow her to depart in peace!

I had a joyful time visiting Lucille at Wynwood in Grand Blanc where I would try to arrive at 1:00 pm knowing that she would be finishing her lunch and we would sit and talk for a while. She would always greet me with a big smile and ask how the church was doing; then a little while later she would ask me again how the church was doing … and a while later … ask again. Memory loss can be a hard thing but each time Lucille asked, it was for me like the first time I heard it and I always answered her the same way, “Peace is doing just great.”


Lucille and I sat together one day as a birthday party was going on at the other three tables in the room. As we talked a lady came up to us and asked if we would like some cake and ice cream? So as we had cake and ice cream together and then Lucille asked, “Who’s birthday is it?” Well, an old lady next to us turned around and said, “For the tenth time … mine!” Lucille smiled at me and rolled her eyes and I wasn’t quite sure if she couldn’t remember or if it was just a little zinger to get back at the not so nice birthday girl!

At times when I would ask her if she had seen her granddaughter Beth she might respond yes but other times she would look and say … “I can’t remember.”

Though Lucille might not have been able to remember … her savior Jesus would never forget her, having marked her as his own at her baptism way back in 1926 and knowing her from before the foundation of the world. The faith she received would be with her all the days of her life assuring her of Christ’s finished work on her behalf and that she would be with him always.

The Pines of Clarkston is where Lucille lived most recently, it’s where people with these kinds of dementia needs are cared for and I enjoyed bringing communion to her as she couldn’t get to church on a regular basis. When I was serving here as Vicar Beth would bring Lucille to church occasionally and she always came up to me and said “Hello Pastor!” I would say hello and then “You know Lucille, I’m not a pastor yet.” She would answer, “I know, but you’re a pastor to me.”

I visited Lucille on June 2nd and we had a great visit. She was sitting in the lobby with a few others and gave me such a big smile when I arrived and we talked and she received the Lord’s Supper. She always remembered the confession of sins and the Lord’s Prayer and would recite them with me during our visit. Lucille … always did it all from memory. Thee and thy, so I had to be on my toes. I let her lead.

She was blessed with a long life and a loving family. And though we can all see the effects of time on our own faces as we look into the mirror each morning. As much as we might all hope to be blessed with a long life like Lucille, the reality of death is real and we don’t know how much time we will be given and sooner or later death knocks and we will all answer that door.

But like Lucille, we can have comfort and peace because:

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

 "Death is swallowed up in victory."

55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor. 15:54-58)

As we together grieve the loss of Lucille and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

Charles Wesley the great preacher wrote about peace in this way:

I rest beneath the Almighty's shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
You, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
will keep me still in perfect peace.

Charles Wesley.

Comfort and peace is what Lucille knew. That Jesus had come to rescue her and to rescue all who will believe, and it is Christ’s desire that you know this good news too.

Comfort and peace knows the true joy of Christ Jesus in your life by God’s gift of faith through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Comfort and peace is being called to follow Christ and being buried with him in baptism and being raised to newness of life and by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers bringing comfort and peace to the troubled soul.

For Jesus says of himself:

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

Dear friends, you have the same access to the father Lucille did through Jesus Christ our Lord. By his sinless life, by his death in our place, and by his glorious resurrection we receive his righteousness in exchange for our sin and in that … true peace is found and we believe.

It is found in Christ’s saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as he gave up his life for you.

So when the trials of life burden you and the storms of life rage and when even death is near, rest in the peace of Christ Jesus our Lord as Lucille did, in the hands of her loving savior Jesus - who reminds us in John’s gospel the wonderful comfort and peace that Lucille knew:

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

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


Sermon June 20-21, 2015

Title: In the storm Christ brings peace!
Text: Mark 4:35-41

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

There is an old saying ... a very old saying from 42 B.C. that says:

“Any one can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

Publius Syrus (42 B.C.)

How appropriate it is to know that:

It is in the storm that Christ brings true peace!

35 On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

A bit of a caravan of boats began crossing the Sea of Galilee, the one with Jesus and a few others. There was no preparation or additional provisions just Jesus as he was and those with him going to the other side … as evening was upon them. The crowd that had heard Jesus speak the parables he shared were left behind and Jesus was tired – probably from the day and all the speaking but also true man born of woman … sharing our humanity. We know this because as the storm arose and the waves were breaking over the boat …

38 [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

The storm was upon them, it is evening, the boat is filling and Christ is sleeping … were those with him fearful or did they think Jesus just doesn’t care? Or, was it both …

In the storm Christ brings peace!


One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. [We all know how storms can be frightening] She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a [small] trembling voice, "Mommy, will you stay with me all night?" Smiling, the mother gave him a warm and reassuring hug and said tenderly, "I can't dear. I have to sleep in Daddy's room." A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky little voice saying, "The big sissy!"


Why worry … when you can trust. It is like a rocking chair … it gives you something to do but doesn't get you anywhere.

Source Unknown.

We all fall victim to the thought that Jesus doesn’t care about our troubles. And in the storms of life will all fear that God is silent, uninterested and unaware. We worry because we don’t know what God intends and even assume that we are set adrift during the storms of life to fend for ourselves. At times, as a pastor, I am called upon to bring peace and stillness to a raging heart and a life looking for answers … in the midst of the storm … or called to bring comfort as life’s trials rage and the answer is always Jesus.

As we talked about last week, our lives are divided into the temporal and the eternal; the here and now, verses the heavenly home that waits in the future. For some the eternal comes all too soon, for we who are left behind to grieve. But the eternal is as real and it is now and it is yet to come because we walk by faith and not by sight.

Jesus as both true God and true man, while sleeping on the boat, was in control. In the midst of the storm he had all things under control and with you and me … we are held in the palm of his hand, and he promises to never leave us nor forsake us.


I was making shut in visits this past week. One person I visit has a care giver who is a Christian, but always seems to be burdened with the signs of the end times and when Christ will return. She always has some radio show or prophet she is listening to and following that is pointing to when Jesus will return.

I am so thankful that the Lord by his Holy Spirit always gives me a word of calming comfort to those I visit. A scripture or word of peace comes to calm the heart. The lady I was visiting deals with some dementia and though her care giver seems concerned about when Jesus will return, word of comfort and the Lord’s Supper are Christ’s gift to calm the troubled heart.

I told the care giver that God’s word says:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Heb 13:5 and that Jesus says he will go and prepare a place for us, and that he will come back and take us to be where he is. John 14:3

And all the while the lady I’m visiting is saying:

“That’s right pastor, that’s right.” “That’s right pastor, that’s right.”

And I concluded as gently as I could: Who knows, we may be called to our heavenly home even today … so Christ’s return for the Christian is not something to fear but to be joyful in.
Because In the storms of life Christ brings true peace!

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Not just calm … but a great calm! There was instant peace for those on the boats. No wind, no waves no worries. This tired Jesus, true man, sleeping on the pillow stands and as true God rebukes the wind, waves and storm flees and … there is peace.

On Tuesday afternoon I was in Clarkston visiting with Trudy Berousek when I received a call from Beth Schreiner that Her Grandmother Lucille had taken a turn for the worse. I went right over to see Lucille after finishing with Trudy and visited with Lucille as she slept in bed. I had visited with Lucille only two weeks ago and had a nice conversation with her and gave her communion. Even with some dementia and memory issues Lucille remembered the words of confession and always said them from her memory as she did with the Lord’s Prayer as well. The storm of these last few years had taken its toll on her. When I would ask if she had a visit from her family, she might respond … I don’t remember. But in the storm of Lucille’s last day Jesus was there. Lucille had a peace and calm about her as I held her hand and prayed. She wasn’t worried about when Christ would return because she had the comfort of the Holy Spirit in her pointing to all that Jesus did for her and Lucille knew that where Jesus is she too will be with him and all who believe forever.

In the storm Christ brings peace!

40 [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Friends, there is no fear of Jesus or his return for we who know him and have been brought to faith. Christ Jesus has made us his own and has promised to be with us now and forever more. Comfort and peace follow us in the midst of the storm and we know that the peace of God passes all human understanding.

Have no fear.

For in the storm Christ brings peace!

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


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sermon June 13-14, 2015

Title: Christ Jesus is our mighty fortress!
Text: 2 Cor. 5:1-10

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings -- all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, "Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?"

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, "I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it's time to call me Home." Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.

Our Daily Bread.

 We are to go about our daily tasks in whatever vocation God has placed us as faithful servants of the word and to serve our neighbor which is God’s desire for each one of us. God has done all things for us in restoring our relationship with him but he uses us daily to serve the needs of others.

Christ Jesus is our mighty fortress!

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Paul speaks here of the human body with the analogy of a tent. For those of you who enjoy camping - and I’m not one who enjoys camping - you may have experienced the fact that tents … don’t last forever.


Back in 1984 when my wife Monica was pregnant with Amy we went camping with our friends Terry and Julie Stanley. We had camped the summer together and even though Monica was pregnant we went again.  As we got to the campsite we began to set up the tent. About half way through the process the seams started pulling apart and before long the tent literally fell apart at the seams. Those around us were getting a pretty good laugh at our misfortune. As we pulled one side tighter ... the other side would pull apart.

Evidently after camping the previous year, Terry had put away the tent wet instead of setting it up and letting it dry and the thread of the seams had rotted. So to continue to have our camping trip another new tent had to be purchased. Not a great joy but we did finish our camping trip.

The hearers in Paul’s day would have been familiar with the wearing out of fabric of their own tents and here Paul connects it to the fabric of their own mortality.

2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

Our lives are like the vulnerability of being naked and exposed.

This past Tuesday I preached at the funeral of Lori Cheal who at 56 was about the age of my own mother who also suffered the pains of cancer and was called from this life to the life eternal in heaven way too soon. At times the blessing of a long life is given and it seems so many are living into their 90s and for some, like my classmate in Jr. High Sylvia Kalaras who died in a house fire in 1969 at 14 years of age. I still remember the details of her death in the basement ... she couldn't get out. The principal of the High School lived next door and Sylvia  got as close to a foot away from his hand so he could pull her through the basement window and fear caused her to back away into the smoke and he never saw her again. 46 years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—

We all can attest to the trials of this life and times being burdened, worn out and spent - not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, by God’s miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit to clothe us with a building not made by human hands so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Through the Spirit we are pointed to our mighty fortress which is Christ Jesus our Lord!

5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.


There's an Ozark story about a hound sitting in a country store and howling as hounds do. In comes a stranger who says to the storekeeper, "What's the matter with the dog?" Well, the owner lifts up his head and says, "He's sitting on a cocklebur." "Well why doesn't he get off?" says the stranger. Well, says the storekeeper, "He'd rather holler."

Bits and Pieces, May, 1990, p. 20.

There is a guarantee that we will receive the incorruptible when we put off the corruptible as our mortal bodies are clothed with immortality at Christ’s return.

Paul had told the Corinthians this in 1 Cor. 15:52

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

But Paul adds in his second letter to the Corinthians that they are to be found clothed and not naked. That they are to be clothed in this life with Christ – first at their baptism – as the righteousness of Christ is given and marked as their own, and as they partake of the Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament of the altar, for the forgiveness of their sins and to have their faith strengthened.

But like the old dog sitting on the cocklebur ... at times, we’d rather holler than joy in the gift of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Missing out on the faith building God desires to do for us by his free gift.

But God, by his Spirit, won’t let us grumble long. As his church we are fed and receive the blessing that he intends for us, so that we can have courage and be confident.

7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

It is a comfort to know that when we leave this life and this body of death we are to be with the Lord.

It is the confidence that is proclaimed at funerals and as was proclaimed this past week.

That while grace and faith are God’s gifts and we earn nothing by our belief but simply receive. Our neighbor, our children and our friends need us to carry out God’s will for the Christian in this life.

Martin Luther says this in his Large Catechism to parents about the 4th commandment.

Parents should consider that they owe obedience to God, and that, above all, they should earnestly and faithfully discharge the duties of their office, not only to provide for the material support of their children, servants, subjects, etc., but especially to bring them up to the praise and honor of God.

The Book of Concord, LC, Tappert Pg. 388

9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

By Christ’s work we have peace with God. This is a blessed gift and it is true that to depart and to be with Christ is far better but  as Paul also wrote to the church at Philippi:

23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Christ Jesus is our mighty fortress!

We live in the tent and serve until the Lord calls us home whether at 14, 56 or in our 90s. It is not our concern to dwell on death for Christ Jesus has overcome death at the cross for you and by faith in him you have an eternity that awaits all who believe.

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


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Funeral sermon Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Funeral Sermon for Lori Jean Cheal
Title: Loved, Forgiven, Forever!

Romans 8:28-39 (ESV)

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the daylong;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of the much loved Lori,

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac, Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church of Waterford. I'm blessed to be Veretta’s and Debbie and Rick’s pastor and to be asked to share a few words with you today as we together grieve Lori’s passing.

I had the privilege to be able to pray with Lori over the phone while visiting with Veretta a few weeks ago. The comfort of God’s word and forgiveness was a blessing to share on speakerphone so we could all pray together and it brought comfort for us all at this difficult time.

Lori unfortunately, over these last months, had an aggressive cancer causing her to spend time with doctors, hospitals and care facilities for her cancer  rather than doing the things she loved being mom and Nana for Rachael and Regen and add a Trans Am or three into the mix.                                                        
 I’ve been blessed to visit Veretta over these last few years and to bring her prayer, comfort and the Lord’s Supper at her home and to also have Debbie participate on many occasions with her mom. Though I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Lori in person, I’m sure that she, like Debbie and Veretta, was a wonderful person as well … though Debbie assures me that Lori could be a bit more of a wild child – even as a little girl she once packed her bag to run away from home – all the way down the street but really what family doesn’t have one of those children? [I dropped out of college to play in a Rock Band in the 70’s myself and my mom would tempt me with $10 if I would go and get a haircut.]

The Epistle lesson for our reading today speaks of trial and comfort – something very familiar to the Apostle Paul’s hearers. He offers assurance to all, so that no matter what they may endure in this life … whether, tribulation, distress, persecution, and we might add sickness, hospitals and cancer (Rom. 8:35) that we can be certain that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8-28)

This broken world, our own sinful desires and the working of the Devil continues to bring many in our own day as it did in the first century to doubt that there salvation was secure. But Paul comforts them and us with the assurance that no matter the trials of this life whether persecution or even death … that God has redeemed them and bought them with the precious blood of His only begotten Son and that they, you and me … and Lori, cannot be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

Death brings about a separation from our loved ones … for a time. It is a consequence of sin and the brokenness of this perfect creation of our loving God. We all can see the evidence … as we grow older, we look forward to graduating growing up … and starting a career, falling in love getting married … starting a family … and getting up and going to work every day … unless at the spur of the moment you decide to not go to work and just drive to Tennessee like Lori did … just because she felt like going to Tennessee.  But Lori had her loves just like we all do, the beach, art fairs, gardening and her beloved coffee – sounds like Lori and I would have gotten along just fine.

But that’s what happens in life all the while as life goes on we think very little of our own sinful condition, in this broken world … and time that is slipping away.

Before long, the joys experienced in our 20’s and 30’s is a faded memory … trust me … I know. Because in this life, the corruption caused by sin, can throw a wrench into the plans you’ve made and unfortunately all too often this precious life is cut short. Some of the pain of sin is our own fault; some is brought upon us by at times well meaning friends and loved ones; and some, might have been avoided … had we just been a bit more kind.

But death makes us all look at the reality that eventually we all will breathe our last. For some like Lori it is way too soon … and as much as we try, we all will eventually … breathe our last.

God’s purpose and hope for you and me though is not one of despair. In the Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul writes:

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

God foreknew – or knew beforehand – Lori before the foundation of the world. He predestined – determined or decreed – that she would bear the image of His son; that she would be covered by the righteous, royal robes of the God/man Himself, Jesus Christ. God called Lori by name to believe the Good News of the Gospel. He did this in her baptism - by a nun in the hospital the day she was born - as she was washed clean of her sins forgiven in Christ through saving faith given by the Holy Spirit connected to the water and promise of God.

She also confessed her Christian faith in this congregation, though at our former location on M-59, on her confirmation day May 20th 1973. 42 years ago Lori confirmed God’s working in her at her baptism and God, by the power of his Holy Spirit, promises that he would never leave her nor forsake her and that she will spend an eternity with Christ and his love for her forever in heaven.

The joy of family was important for Lori with her devotion to daughter Rachael and granddaughter Regen or beloved sister Debbie and her husband Rick, and her brother Richard and wife Kelly and her mom as well as many nieces and nephews. Lori loved being a mother and grandmother most of all.

Though Lori had a lot of health issues the love of family shows the great blessings of her life. One of those blessings too was the gift of faith and trust in Jesus and the salvation that he won for her at the cross and gave as a free gift by the working of his Holy Spirit. The price of Lori’s salvation was the very life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of, not just Lori’s sins, but the sins of the whole world. It is the price that you and I could never pay, but was given to Lori freely and is also given to each of us who by faith trust in Christ’s finished work.

Today we honor Lori’s life, as we say our goodbyes.  But, the grief and tears that fill us all with loss and sorrow who knew Lori as mother and grandmother, sister, daughter and friend, will one day be replaced with the joyful tears of our blessed reunion in heaven … one day for all who believe.
Our loving God in Christ Jesus will wipe away every tear of sadness that we have today and in that day replace them with tears of joy, as we together rejoice in Heaven with our resurrected Lord who came to conquer sin, death and the power of the Devil not only for Lori but for you and for me as well.

In Christ, death is not the end for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day. But, it is only a time of parting … for a while.

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)

Heaven is now Lori’s home and Jesus has prepared a place for her.

Heaven is a tangible and real place and Lori may also have the blessing of gardening around God’s house – though the flowers are probable all perennials and there are no weeds to deal with.

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 has given you faith to believe in Christ’s saving work. There is a place that has been prepared for Lori that she has now taken possession of – probably by the water and beach - and there is a place waiting for you and me and all who believe by faith the wonderful Good News. In Christ, you are:

Loved, Forgiven, Forever!

May our Lord comfort you at this time of loss with that in Christ we are … loved by God, forgiven in Christ and together will live with Him forever!


Sermon June 6-7, 2015

Title:  In Christ, you are washed and made new!
Text: Mark 3: 20:35

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Years ago new engineers in the Lamp Division of General Electric were assigned, as a joke, the impossible task of frosting bulbs on the inside. Eventually, however, an undaunted newcomer named Marvin Pipkin not only found a way to frost bulbs on the inside but developed an etching acid that gave minutely rounded pits instead of sharp depressions. This materially strengthened each bulb. Fortunately, no one had told him it couldn't be done, so he did it.

Bits & Pieces, December, 1989, p. 20-21.

In Christ, you are washed and made new!

Having spent some weeks in the Gospel of John during the Easter season we now return to the Gospel of Mark as our reading directs. Jesus here is being followed by the crowd to his home – which was probably the house of Simon Peter where Jesus had been staying. You may remember that Jesus was going about healing the sick, casting out demons and feeding the multitudes … and they were following him, not so much for the message he proclaimed, but because they were hungry or had other needs. But even here it seems that the family of Jesus too was concerned even saying:

“He is out of his mind.”

Jesus had been pretty ordinary and for his family seemed like a normal person but now as his ministry begins he is looked upon as a bit crazy or out of his mind by his family. Even we who follow Christ look odd to the world as we profess faith in Jesus and submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in us and walk and live our lives according to God’s teaching.

The scribes go so far as to accuse Jesus of being possessed by the devil, the prince of demons and being Satan himself, saying that his work in casting out demons is a direct result of being demon possessed. They denying Christ’s teaching and reject the revealing of who Jesus is - God in the flesh.
They and we, apart from faith may look at Christ’s claims and think it just too impossible to believe, that God became man and that the infinite can inhabit the finite and by his work we are forgiven and receive a righteous that is not of our own.

In Christ, you are washed and made new!

Confusion and doubt are part of life. Wrestling with the truth of God’s word is something we all do and is something that has been done for 2000 years.  And by the working of God’s Spirit in us we can know the truth. At time we may question God, or forget his commands and fall short. You’ve done it, and I’ve done it, and then by God Spirit we are brought to repentance recognizing our sin … and turning back to him who created us … we ask for forgiveness and are forgiven.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

This is of great comfort. All sins will be forgiven in Christ. So dear Christian you may rest in the peace and joy of the Lord.

29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness,

Never repents. Never has faith. Never is saved. Never is Christ’s child.

… but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

The Scribes had a wanton disregard for the truth. They knew Christ, and like Nicodemus from our Gospel reading of last week who said, “Rabbi, we [even speaking for others of the Pharisees] know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

The scribes deny this truth and call Christ the devil. For this [continual denying Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit] there is no repentance because it is an ongoing and willful denial of the truth of who Christ is.

This is nothing new. In Jesus day his [the Christ’s] truth claims were rejected. The truths proclaimed by the early church witnesses were rejected as well and they were even persecuted. Luther worked to reform the church and to restore Christ and the free gifts of grace and faith that he gives by God’s Spirit to a church that was broken and fallen in works righteousness.

Today we still see God’s truth rejected for the truth norms of mans.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. Gen 1:26a, 27

What God created male and female facebook now has 58 uniquely man centered gender choices to define yourself, if you wish to move beyond the biblical definition or male and female.

The focus on gender identity has been in the news and on magazines this past week. It has been embrace by many and called brave by some. I don’t wish to turn a sermon about Christ into a lament of the falleness of our post-Christian worldview or the merits of being who we feel we should be rather than who God created us to be. There are obviously many factors at play but Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University calls these gender identity issues … mental disorders and  biological impossibilities … when speaking about gender reassignment surgery.

Ultimately it all becomes contrary to God’s word and once again places Christ and the Christian worldview up against man and a worldview broken and fallen in sin.

As Christians we don’t hold those who are being led astray or conflicted by the wages of sin, the world or the devil’s working to a higher standard than God holds each one of us too.

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” Rom. 3:10-12

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom. 5:23

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

In Christ, you, me and all who come to faith are washed and made new!

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

Christ brings to his followers the very good news that all sins in Christ are forgiven.

As the epistle reading for today comfort those first hearers we too receive comfort.

13a Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Daily as you remember as a child of God that he has called you to faith, given you his Spirit and has washed you in the waters of Holy Baptism being buried with Christ unto death and raised to newness of life. Daily live in  the comfort of being a baptized child of God knowing that in Christ you have the forgiveness of sins and God’s favor on account of Christ’s work.

In Christ, you are washed and made new!

Fortunately, no one had told Marvin Pipkin that it was impossible to frost a light bulb on the inside, so he did what some thought impossible.

God’s gift of faith and forgiveness in baptism for some, looks to be impossible as they look for the evidence of faith in the lives of the followers of Christ.

1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1 KJV
Jesus came to save the world!

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sermon May 30-31, 2015

Title: Jesus came to save the world!
Text: John 3:1-17

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The early church father St. Augustine was once accosted by an unbeliever who showed him his idol and said, "Here is my god; where is yours?" Augustine replied, "I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see Him."


In our Old Testament reading for today we read of Isaiah's Vision of the Lord.

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Our God cannot be seen apart from God’s own revealing. This Weekend we celebrate the working of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity for the salvation of the world.

By God’s own working we know that:

Jesus Christ came to save the world!

The story of Nicodemus from the gospel of John in chapter 3 is a foundational and interesting one, in which we hear from the Lord Himself as to what the working from God is, and how He redeems His fallen creation from the sin of Adam and Eve … restoring the relationship between God and man.

Jesus begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with a description of man’s fallen condition, saying in chapter 2:25: “For He (Jesus) knew what was in man.” Meaning the brokenness and sin we all have inherited.

As Jesus begins His talk with Nicodemus who is called … “a man of the Pharisees,” Jesus says: 3 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The ESV translates the Greek word ὰνωθεν (anōthen) as born again, which can also mean born anew or born from above, which conveys maybe a better understanding of this fallen state that you and I are born into and how God working through the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit, points, we who are dead in trespass and sin, to the finished work of Jesus Christ for the restoring of the relationship between God and man.

Being born in sin as stated earlier … man (each one of us) must now be reborn, born again, or born from above – born of God. The flesh, Jesus speaks of in John 3:6:

 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Is speaking of our human condition, which gives birth only to our broken sinful self through the natural means of birth, we can only be conceived in sin but through our rebirth from above, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born anew to a newness of life given by God and called to be His own children, As Saint Peter says, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1Peter1:23) This born again alludes to the Spirit’s work, in you and in me, working through the word.

Jesus explains to Nicodemus that, this rebirth from above comes from being born of water and the Spirit (Vs 5) and comes to us through the waters of Holy Baptism. God through the word connected to the water and by Christ’s command and promise, brings this rebirth to fruition. Through this water and word the Spirit works. Just as our Lord and savior, Jesus “comes from above,” so to the redeemed, His children, must be born “from above.”

Jesus came to save the world!

We live in a broken world and it seems to get more broken all the time.

The news out of Syria is sobering as well. Women and children killed in the ancient city of Palmyra by the self proclaimed Islamic state.

[According to Reuters, opposition activists on social media claimed that hundreds of bodies were in the streets of the city.

"The terrorists have killed more than 400 people and mutilated their bodies, under the pretext that they cooperated with the government and did not follow orders," a Palmyra resident told Syria's state news agency.

State employees were among hundreds killed in the massacre. Among them was the head of nursing department at the hospital and all her family.]

How can you make sense out of this? For many just confessing Christ can bring death and martyrdom to Christians in a world that has become small and all too close for comfort for our own lives. Life surly seems at times as bad as it can get and you like me must feel at a loss … What can I do?
Since the time of Jesus those who followed Christ’s teaching were persecuted, and many were martyred for their faith. We lift up in prayer all those who faithfully are steadfast in their faith clinging to the finished work of Christ.

Jesus came to save the world!

From above the Son came down and dwelt among His people. Though He was united to flesh in His incarnation, it was the sinless flesh of the God/man Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, the revelation of God and the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. (Col 2:9) This one who came down from heaven would be lifted up as well on the Cross … for you. Just as the serpent was lifted up in the desert by Moses as a type of the Christ and in the same way that some of the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent on the pole in the desert and lived, so too those who look to the Son – even in the midst of persecution - lifted high on His cross and trusting in His finished work for the forgiveness of sins, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will live.

Just as God saved His people Israel in the desert by the lifting of the serpent on the pole by Moses, so to God has delivered His people from their sin, death and the power of the Devil by the atoning work of Jesus Christ at the cross.

God in John 3:16 bring the fullness of His desire and mission to Nicodemus. That because of God’s great love, he has sent His Son to be united to human flesh … yet without sin … and to stand in the place of all humanity receiving the bloody baptism of God’s wrath at the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, so that all humanity might hear, receive and trust the Good News of the Gospel, and be saved. The “Him” to whom Jesus speaks of in the discourse with Nicodemus and the person to whom we must believe and trust, is the very Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ who became man for our sake so that we might be redeemed by Him and trust in His name.

Jesus came to save the world!

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 at around 3:00 AM in the morning. His last words and actions were recorded by his dear friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, “Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?” To this Luther responded affirmatively … “Yes!” Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5 which reads:

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

In his last prayer he said to God, “Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands.”

This is the same question you and I will ourselves need to give answer to.
“Will you die steadfast in Christ”

And you I can answer as Luther did: “Yes!” Because we too have the same Spirit at work in us and just as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 31:5:

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

You can know for certain that you shall live with Christ eternally and that no one will be able to pluck you out of His hands.

Jesus came to save the world!

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