Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sermon Jan 23-24, 2016

Title: Everything is fulfilled in Jesus for you!
Text: Luke 4:16-30

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

G.K. Chesterton once said, “It is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. [But], it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.” Without God the only standard of TRUST - of right and wrong - is what appeals to you. And that’s a shifting standard. It all depends on what I want, what I like, what I accept, what pleases me. But scripture says: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

My standards are all warped. My morality is riddled with impurity. And if I base what I TRUST on that warped and impure life, then I’m going to embrace whatever gods allow me to do what I want to do. When I stop trusting in the God of Scripture [and his word] and believe anything, and eventually that will lead me to destruction. But now, by contrast, if I trust in the God of Scripture I’m no longer led by MY righteousness and holiness. Instead I trust a God who is so holy and so righteous that my tendency will be to build my life around Him - rather than Him around me.

Jeff Strite - Sermon Central

It is comforting to know that:

Everything is fulfilled in Jesus for you!

20 And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?”

You can almost see the surprised look on the faces in the synagogue.  Was that the carpenter’s son - Jesus? The one who made the table for the house? Is that Jesus? The man who fixed the door and helped with the roof?  Gracious words they thought, but from the carpenter’s son? What’s up with that?

We’ve been there and done that too. Familiarity at time breeds commonness. But here, Jesus the word of God in human form is proclaiming the word of God fulfilled in him. Though they know him … the word of God is no less real. So too we who speak or hear God’s word; it is no less real because it is said by a friend or relative or through God’s call and ordained servants.

My dad may have felt some of that too. He came to my ordination three years ago and sat through the service. He saw his son take on a new role as servant of Christ call and ordained to serve the people here at Peace Lutheran Church. My brother told me after my dad’s passing that my dad was surprised and pleased … and maybe a bit taken back. My brother told me what my dad said after seeing me ordained, “You know, I don’t think I give Russell enough credit. He’s married over 30 years, worked in the piano business for over 30 years and now he’s a pastor and starting something new.”

What I think my dad was saying is much like those in our reading today who hear the word of God and say, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, isn’t this Jesus … or in my dad’s case isn’t this my son Russ, the one who couldn’t play baseball well enough to make the team, the one I had to show how to fix a car, and the one I had to … on occasion … take my belt off and bend him over to teach him a lesson.”

It’s all true … except for the belt stuff! But I think my dad was taken back a bit. You see … God’s word is true whether Jesus proclaims it, or whether I proclaim it ... or you. It’s true no matter if a pastor says it, or if you, in talking to your friend … say it. God’s word is always true.

24 And [Jesus] said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

It’s not just the hometown but there is a tendency to not see those who are given to rightly divide the word of truth and administer the sacraments at times with the respect they deserve. I’m as guilty as the next guy.

 When I was at St. John our senior pastor, whom I had great respect for, received and accepted a call to a church in Illinois. I, as a new Lutheran, was devastated. Our associate pastor was called to be the Administrative pastor after a long call process that was unfruitful. I was having lunch with a few friends and this also included my friend Pastor Paul Monson – the same pastor that would end up preaching at my ordination some 15 years later. I made a comment as we discussed some of the things that were going on at church and referred to Pastor Heuser as … Pastor Loser. Well, Paul was none too happy with me and told me so. “Russ – watch your mouth! He is your pastor and you need to show him respect as the one whom God has placed over you.”

He was right. And though there was plenty of blame that could have gone around to both Pastor Heuser and the church leadership, respecting the office of under shepherd was one I had forgotten. Ultimately God moved Pastor Heuser on with a call to a smaller church on the west coast, and we as a church remained without a shepherd for some time. I and a number of others left the church and some went into ministry. What still amazes me is that during a time of brokenness and dysfunction, God remained faithful. Even while things seemed at times out of control, God was in control leading seven men, sooner or later, on their way to eventual ordination and ministry serving God’s church.

At times we only see the dysfunction and brokenness. There was much anger in God’s church then and as our reading says today. They wanted what had been done in Capernaum.

25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

We want God to be who we want him to be and to do for us what we want him to do.

27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.

God’s son and God’s words get rejected. Jesus gets the ultimate rejection when the people cry … “crucify him!” God’s servants are sent just as the 12 disciples were sent and just as the 70 were sent and they too and our pastors today are sent and will face rejection and suffering too.

What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well. The people want what they want and we do too. We want God’s miracles not persecution. We want healing not sickness and why would one be healed and another suffer and die. More importantly we want answers that we want to hear. Bear in mind that God’s pastors are sinful too and also fall victim to temptation and say and do things that cause problems. But we can only control how we ourselves react to the sin against us.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Good News … Jesus is God and as such he has done it all … for you.

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

Though rejected by the people, Jesus still went to the cross … for them and … for you. He also gave them a miracle but not the one they were asking for or expecting:

30 But passing through their midst, he went away …

… only to finish his work and make peace with God … for you.

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


Monday, January 18, 2016

Sermon Jan. 16-17, 2016 Lutheran’s for Life Sunday (Weekend)

Title: Created, Redeemed and Called!
Text: Eph. 2:1-10

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—

Dorothy L.; longtime resident of Milford; passed away peacefully on January 7, 2016. She was 94 years old.

Gary E.; age 61; of Asheville, NC, formerly of Waterford Township, MI; passed away after a long illness, Friday, January 8, 2016. In Michigan, Gary was a 1972 graduate of Waterford Mott High School and a former employee of the Chatham Supermarkets and Pontiac Motors.

David H.; age 64 was the founder and CEO of MCM Management Company Industrial Services, who peacefully passed away at home January 9, 2016. He was a beloved husband and dear father and is also survived by his dogs, Muffin and Mazie.

January 10 2016 - David Bowie age 69 died peacefully surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.

This is just a small sample of life and death from last weekend. Some were known more than others for sure, but all certainly were impactful in the lives of their loved ones and friends.


Death can cause us all to reflect for a moment …

The loss of a loved one brings life into focus. What they did, and how they did it, or maybe it’s what they didn’t do, or should have done that is remembered. Certainly for these people who lived anywhere from 61 to 94 years there is a time and a history to be remembered and looked at. For David Bowie – the famous one in this group - his life has impacted more people because of his public life and work, though for me it was not a music and life that I followed or paid much attention to. Still I was aware of him and had interest in what he was involved with.

But the reality of all of these lives has also a common thread.

2 And you … were dead in the trespasses and sins

Sin brings death and all who die are born in sin – not just covered in sin but being sinful throughout - though we would find it hard through our own sinful eyes to see the sin in a beautiful newborn child. But rest assured sinful they are and we also know that babies die, both in the womb and outside the womb, so life from conception to physical death is contaminated by sin.

This weekend we celebrate life with Lutherans for Life. We celebrate that life is God’s gift and that life should be honored from conception throughout the life of the person no matter how long that lasts, or how successful and famous they may or may not become … I might add.

God is the author of life, the creator of life, and it is through him that life comes forth. You and I have been created but also we have been recreated in baptism to restore the original righteousness that God created us to be but that image was broken by sin.

To this the Apostle Paul gives a clear picture:

2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Death in birth leads to death in life. We are born spiritually dead and all succumb to the sinful nature and are dead in trespass and sin, but 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— because of God’s rich mercy.


Robert Robinson had been saved out of a life of sin through George Whitfield’s ministry in England. Shortly after that, at the age of twenty-three, Robinson wrote our sermon hymn “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing” Sadly, Robinson wandered far from those streams of mercy never ceasing and, like the Prodigal Son, journeyed into a life of carnality.

One day he was traveling by stagecoach and sitting beside a young woman engrossed in her book. She ran across a verse she thought was beautiful and asked him what he thought of it. “Prone to wander Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love.” Bursting into tears, Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I could enjoy the feelings I had then.”

Although greatly surprised, she reassured him that the “streams of mercy” mentioned in his song still flowed. Mr. Robinson was deeply touched. Turning his “wandering heart” to the Lord, he was restored to full fellowship.

Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, p. 52.

Do you wander daily sinful and unclean? Do you follow the inclination of the heart which is described by Jeremiah in chapter 17 as deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked? Jer. 17:9 Does temptation reel you in at times where sin results? It does for me and I’m sure for you as well.

But God’s mercy never wanders from you … or me. He has made us his own and will continue to keep us in his loving care. But we too must stand up for those who have no voice and can’t stand for themselves. 3000 lives aborted daily is hard to imagine and quite frankly … hard to stomach. What we do to help those who can’t help themselves says quite a bit about Christ in us and his working. Because we have been 6 raised and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

That is life and forgiveness in his name for you and me and for all whom the Lord our God will call.

[The reality of death by abortion is hard to face. We all want to look away, but we must not. God has exposed this evil of abortion for us in mercy. He would not have us be deluded into thinking that these are victimless crimes or that there is no cost to those involved or that it is simply a matter of political opinion. He would not have us become complacent or lackadaisical while babies die, and souls are deeply harmed. God is calling us to action, to mercy, and to compassion for the lost sheep whom He deeply loves and whom we have been called to love as well.
Not only does evil change a person, but so does grace. We have been saved by the grace of Christ, baptized into His Name, and His redeeming Blood is poured upon us in the Lord’s Supper. We have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of heaven. We cannot despair. We cannot give ourselves over to hatred and rage. We, who have gained so much by grace, who have been changed into God’s own beloved, cannot hold those who are suffering from abortion or other sins in contempt.
If we love God, we must love our neighbors, because He loves them.]


May God give peace to all who have been victims in the fight for life and may he comfort all who morn directing them to the author of life himself our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

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


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sermon Jan 2-3, 2016

Title: Jesus is the wisdom and power of God!
Text: Luke 2:40-52

40 And the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Today's message may sound a bit foolish to some, or it may sound like God’s powerful truth to others – and we’ll see if wisdom will be the byproduct for any of us in my foolish preaching!

When we speak of God's power, we may understand it by his Omnipotence, as the all powerful God speaks His creation into existence or even the parting of the Red Sea, or the raising of one from death to life. We in our day certainly look for God's power don’t we, in His ability to do things for us …  in our need - such as healing our sicknesses today – right now - even as He healed those who were blind, lame, and afflicted in the stories we’ve heard from His Holy Word.

You can also understand foolishness in this life as you turn on your computers, smart phones or TV’s and see some of what graces the news stories, or even think of the foolish and stupid things in your own past that you've thought or done. I have plenty to remind me.

There is also great confidence that God will not hold our sins against us, because Christ has covered you and me with His righteousness … and I'm sure that my wife Monica could remember a few of my foolish things to share with you if you asked her!

The point is that we see in this world, foolish and powerful things every day. YouTube, facebook or reality TV is filled with the folly of this world in the acts of some, but also shows the beauty and power in the God given talent of others. There are even videos of guys on mountain bikes riding over roofs of houses and down every imaginable slope and precipice … foolish and powerful talent rolled into one!

I am thankful that I didn't have YouTube and video cameras growing up but there are still a few videos and pictures that I … wish didn’t exist.

Today’s gospel shows the power and wisdom in a 12 year old youth in the fully human Jesus who:

40 … grew and became strong, [and was] filled with wisdom. And [God’s] favor [rested] upon him.

And as was the custom of the family at this time, Mary, Joseph and Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. On this occasion of their visit, unlike last week with the redeeming of the firstborn with a sacrifice,  Jesus here is twelve years of age and 43 … as they were returning [home], the [12 year old] Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

For any of you who have been on a trip and misplaced a child … well … it can be very difficult and tenuous time to say the least. Missing sight of my own children for even a few second in a store brought concern and slight panic.

Mary and Joseph didn’t know [Jesus was missing], 44 [they thought he was] in the group, so they [went on their way home for a day], but then [looked] for him among their relatives and acquaintances, [and] 45 … they did not find him, [so they] returned to Jerusalem, [to look] for him.

You can understand as a parent Mary’s frustration at Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem. I can think of how I might have reacted if my son or daughter had done this to me … I would have been not too happy to say the least, and here is Jesus in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And we’re told:

47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Of course they were amazed … Jesus was not your ordinary 12 year old. Twelve years on from the birth of the Christ child and Mary didn’t remember who she had carried or who she had given birth to.

She was a mother concerned only for her lost son.


Back in the early 90’s I use to go to the Chet Atkins guitar festival in Nashville with my friend Rob. We would take our guitars and meet old and new friends who had great appreciation for Chet’s music and ability. It never ceased to amaze me how many young boys and girls who were in their early teens who could play circles around me! They had learned many of Chet’s songs and committed them to memory. They were a good imitation of the guitar style Chet had pioneered. But on closes inspection many of these child prodigies lacked a wisdom and maturity in their playing. Over time some would grow to become mature adult musicians while others would slip into obscurity or fall victim to their early success never able to attain that level of accomplishment again. Some of these polished 12 year olds even signed up to take lessons from my friend Rob where his years of wisdom and musical maturity could bring out the best in them.

This Jesus was different!  This Jesus is the wisdom and power of God!

Those who heard him were amazed. It is something we all need to be reminded of. This child born of Mary on Christmas day is God in the flesh.

This coming Wednesday January 6th, we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord. It is the day that Jesus is made known and recognized as the savior of all people. It is why the wise men came to worship him and to bring him gifts.

This young boy who was recognized as the savior and who was brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as a young child, is now listening and teaching at the feet of the teachers, not as one who simply copied what he had heard and was parroting it back to his teachers like those student guitarists, but as one who was and is the source of that very wisdom and knowledge from God on high.

The house of God, the Temple where Jesus sat and taught, is also here at Peace Lutheran church where the true word of God is made known through word and sacrament, and also you are His Temple where God himself indwells all believers by His Spirit pointing you and me to the finished work of Christ Jesus and by his Spirit you see Jesus for who he is … the savior of the world … and that by faith you trust his word of promise, so elegantly proclaimed in John Chapter 14 to:

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.

Jesus is the wisdom and power of God!

Jesus is the one who makes the way for you and for me. He is the ones that the Magi came to bring gifts to. He is the one revealed as the savior, of the nations come. He is the one who at twelve years of age was, as the writer of the book of Hebrews put it:

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

And the next time we encounter Jesus on his trip to the cross, he will be pointed out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who will take your place being baptized by John the Baptist with the baptism of repentance, being marked as the chief of sinners for you and then will go to Jerusalem taking your sins to the cross and nailing them there, proclaiming … It is finished.
It is true. This is no ordinary boy sitting among the teachers, teaching with wisdom and power and gently reminding his mother that he needed to be in His Father’s house.

50 And [his parents] did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

But, in submission, this God who made the world and all things obeyed his parents …

51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother [the Blessed Virgin Mary] treasured up all these things in her heart.

She, knowing who he is and what he was appointed to do, to be the consolation of Israel and the savior of the world as Simeon last weekend held in his hands the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel - God with us.

52 And Jesus [as he continued to grow] increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Jesus is the wisdom and power of God!

God in Christ has been made know to you. May his peace and joy fill you each day of this New Year with hope and peace in the salvation that is your in him.

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