Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sermon September 24-25, 2016

Title: The true gift of the kingdom is not in this life!
Text: Luke 16:19-31

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

James Packer writes in his book Your Father Loves You:

The New Testament always conceives of eternal punishment as consisting of an agonizing knowledge of one's own ill desert, of God's displeasure, of the good that one has lost, and of the irrevocable fixed state in which one now finds oneself. The doctrine of eternal punishment was taught in the synagogue even before our Lord took it up and enforced it in the Gospels. All the language that strikes terror into our hearts -- weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, the worm, the fire, gehenna, the great gulf fixed -- is all directly taken from our Lord's teaching. It is from Jesus Christ that we learn the doctrine of eternal punishment.

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

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

The story that Jesus begins to tell picks up on the theme from last week that you can’t serve both God and money – where you will love the one and hate the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other - and also the week before where we learned that Jesus is the Good Shepherd that seeks the lost sheep leaving the 99 and that joy in heaven that is found when one sinner repents.

We see here a rich man, or one who has the blessings of this life and lives in an opulent manner and to the point that Jesus says that this he does every day.  Contrasted with this we find:

20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table.

Not a good life here.

Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The contrast of wealth and opulence and the poor and lowly of the world is not lost on the Pharisees, Scribes and teachers of the Law as Jesus said:

15 … “are those who justify yourselves before men, [the rich man] but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The true gift of the kingdom is not in this life!
It is not in this life – wealth, riches and temporal gifts but it is given in this life. Christ made known by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word of the Gospel and connected to the waters of Holy Baptism where God washes away our sin marking us his child.

Jesus continues the story abruptly,

22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment,

Both dead but two very different results; one carried to Abraham’s side the other in torment and a gulf (chasm) fixed between them.


A story is told of:

A pig who ate his fill of acorns under an oak tree and then started to root around the tree. A crow remarked, "You shouldn’t do this. If you lay bare the roots, the tree will wither and die." "Let it die," said the pig. "Who cares as long as [I have] acorns?"

Bits & Pieces, February, 1990, p. 24.

It is interesting that Lazarus is called by name and that God knows him personally but a certain man neither knows God, nor is known by him, as a loving father knows a child. We at times can’t see the tree and the blessings of God that the acorns are, given as a gift. Just as the wealth and riches of this life are given and received from God, the true giver of life who gives all in Christ, in service to our neighbor and the needs of the body.

The call goes forth.

‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

The result of trusting in Christ versus trusting in riches is made clear. The temporal blessings of this age are for … but a time … but God’s eternal blessings given as a gift are forever. But also, the result of falling away into trusting those “idols” that draw us away from Christ.

A few weeks ago Jesus said:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

That even family can and does draw us away from the savior.

Two weeks ago it was:

’7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Repentant and forgiveness are God’s work through the Holy Spirit working through the word.

Last week it was Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money:

14 … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Today it is the consequence of a life apart from God.

1. Eternal torment as opposed to eternal life: both are real and both are forever.

2. Good and bad: The good can at times draw us away from Christ trusting in the things of this world where keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can get us through the trials of this life with the focus of the blessings and riches in heaven.

3. A chasm [gulf] fixed: In some way the torment of hell is the knowledge of a life wasted not in service to God and neighbor but only to self. There is even the knowledge of those by name – Lazarus - who we could have helped but didn’t. Who is the Lazarus in your life?

4. The reality of those left behind: The desire of the rich man here is to awaken his brothers to the reality and importance of repentance and faith in Christ given for the forgiveness of sins and time still for a turning to God.

5. Moses and the Prophets: The means to faith is given and revealed in God’s means of word and sacraments. Moses and the Prophets, Law and Gospel, heard and received by the Holy Spirit or connected to the waters of Holy Baptism by the power of the holy Spirit. [Little Rose Pietrzak]

6. Sending Lazarus back from the dead:

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10

The good news is that Christ Jesus died for you! Moses and the prophets testify to this so you and I are without excuse. We heed the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to repentance or we continue to live as if it doesn’t matter. There will be no excuses or second chances in the life to come, but there will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth as the reality of a life rejecting faith in Christ tears at the very fabric of those in eternal torment ... for eternity.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

For you dear friends Christ calls, comforts and brings to faith by his Spirit. Just as in baptism you were made his. May this be your joy now and forever.

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

Monday, Sept 19, 2016 Funeral Sermon for Dorothy Mae Blackerby

Monday, Sept 19, 2016
Funeral Sermon for Dorothy Mae Blackerby
Text: Luke 2:22-32

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 Dorothy. 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 but there awaits a joyful reunion for all who believe.

I’m Pastor Russ Tkac and I’ve had the pleasure of being Dorothy’s pastor over these last few years. While it had been difficult for Dorothy to deal with her Illness she was comforted by her loving family, their help and her trust in Jesus. In this she had true peace.

Peace can take on the many different looks, both young and old, 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) But there is both joy and peace in Christ’s life and in his purifying death that it allows all who depart, trusting in Christ Jesus as both savior and Lord to receive that peace!

Our beloved Dorothy knew and received that Peace!

St. Luke writes in his gospel about Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple of the Lord to make a sacrifice as the Law required. And while there a man named Simeon, who as we are told was righteous and devout and waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God, and that the Holy Spirit was upon him.

27 … 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.

Dorothy knew that Christ’s death would allow her to depart in peace!

I had a joyful time visiting with Dorothy and Glenn at their home and in the hospital and bringing communion to them as it was difficult getting them to church on a regular basis. She would always tell me how much she enjoyed being in worship with us but thankful as well when she could attend and really enjoyed receiving the Lord’s Supper at her home with Glenn which helped to strengthened both of their faith.

I visited Dorothy in the afternoon of September 12th and we had a great visit. She was in bed but was able to talk fully of her salvation in Christ and receive the sacrament with Glenn as she loved to do … holding his hand. She so looked forward to going home and with Dorothy you knew that meant the Lord’s home and a heaven prepared for her.

We can all see the effects of time on our faces as we look into the mirror each morning. As much as we might all hope to have the blessings of a long life like Dorothy’s, the reality of death is real and sooner or later we will all answer the door when death knocks. But too, like Dorothy, we can have comfort and peace because:

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News. As we together grieve the loss of our beloved Dorothy and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

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

Charles Wesley.

Comfort and peace, is what Dorothy knew. That Christ had come to rescue her and you can know that as well. Comfort and peace, knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life by God grace and mercy.

Comfort and peace, is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter even by Jesus himself.

For Jesus Himself says that:

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

Dear friends, you too have access to the father as Dorothy did through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you and who will give to all true peace found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave up His life for you.

Because of Christ’s purifying death he allows you too, like Dorothy to depart in peace!

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 no matter the storms of life, but rests in the loving hands of Jesus the savior who reminds us in John’s gospel the wonderful comfort that Dorothy 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 Sept. 17-18, 2016

Title: The Lord gives true riches through faith in Him!
Text: Luke 16:1-15

13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.


There are two ways in which a Christian may view his money--"How much of my money shall I use for God?" or "How much of God's money shall I use for myself?"
W. Graham Scroggie.

"Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that if you take two small coins, and placed in the right position, you can shut out the view of a beautiful landscape.

The truth is, it doesn't take large quantities of money to come between you and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure the view.

Cedric Gowler.

But we must remember that money too has its limitations.

Money will buy a bed but not sleep; it will buy books but not brains; food but not an appetite; the finer things in life but not beauty, medicines but not health, luxury but not culture, amusement but not happiness … a crucifix … but not a Savior, and even a place of worship but not Heaven.
(Ps. 49. 6-8; Eccles. 5. 12)

In our lesson today, Jesus brings to the ears of the disciples, and all his followers, a parable or story which illustrates serving God and money.

The previous parables, from the weeks leading up to this, had been directed to the Pharisees, teachers of the law and the scribes, and now the disciples too.

How do you deal with a bad manager? Especially one, who has not been looking out for the owner’s best interest?

2 And [the owner] called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

It is not an uncommon situation for many who serve in positions of responsibility. As Pastor’s we call called stewards of the mysteries of God. We are called to faithfully divide the word of truth, and to administer God’s sacraments rightly.

As managers, in companies, you manage someone else’s money and possessions and you have a responsibility to deal in a favorable way with it … or as the parable says … be replaced.

Or, as my brother-n-law Mark has said in speaking of a co-worker:

“He would make a great manager, if under constant supervision.”

So in the Gospel lesson much conniving and cooking of the books ensue.

Managers at time try to figure out a solution.

4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may [still think well of me] receive me into their houses.’

For managers and for us all, self preservation is a strong motivator.

5 …, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 … ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ … sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 … ‘And how much do you owe?’ …, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

The object for the manager was to do damage control. With this scheme the shortage would disappear, or the income would look to be much smaller than the owner thought. And if he is found out, the customers would still think well of him.

It has even been suggested that the manager had falsified the amounts in the original billings and pocketed the surplus.

Certainly this is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Popular Commentary on the Bible P.E. Kretzmann Pg. 354


At a meeting many years ago it was made known that a co-worker had defrauded the company. He had sold instruments for the company but sold the trade-ins for his own profit. The company was unaware of the trades as the manager’s paperwork showed only a cash transaction with no trade in information.

The manager personally picked the trade in instruments and sold them out of his garage – to other customers - so the company lost the profit on the trades and future company business.

Interestingly, my boss’ son who mediated the affair and meeting had compassion on the worker and allowed him to remain with the company though under supervision of another as he had a wife and two small children.

Faced with a crisis many are clever though dishonest in solving problems.

Even the master in our lesson, when he received information concerning this latest trick of the manager, could not withhold a certain amount of praise. He praised him, not on account of his unfaithfulness and his fraud, but on account of the cleverness in handling the situation and getting himself out of a very unpleasant predicament.

Popular Commentary on the Bible P.E. Kretzmann Pg. 354

All of life has consequences, some that are good and some that are bad but again:

The Lord has given true riches through faith in Him!

There was a saying that my boss told me many years ago. It was said about those who had paper wealth by speculating in internet stocks.

“Money easily gotten is money easily lost.”


Some years ago there was a book on the market called Rich Dad, Poor Dad and it was written by a man, Robert Kiyosaki, who had learned the secrets of making money in real estate from his friend’s dad, verses the things he learned from his own dad who went to work and lived a very common and boring middle class existence.

Fast forward to August of 2012 and Rich Global LLC is bankrupt owing 24 million to one investor, though Kiyosaki remains quite wealthy through some shrewd and questionable practices.

10 “One who is faithful in little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in little is also dishonest in much.

Now, the world makes provision for the future, that is, they look to put themselves and their families beyond care, as soon as possible, it is the focus of their life and they make use of every possible advantage through: retirement investments, pensions, savings, homes and 401Ks to name a few.

God’s children, on the other hand, often are anything but energetic and diligent in the things that pertain to God and His kingdom.

They forget that death is real and the end is coming - Sometimes much sooner than we’ve planned and all will have to give an account to the Lord in regard to their business transactions for Him – in this life.

Jesus here admonishes them that they should so conduct their lives, and the money entrusted to them and as Christians should use their money in the interest of the kingdom of God, in establishing and extending the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

So that in this way the poor and those outside the Christian faith, receive the benefit of such investments, from God through his children.


12 [But] if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

For the Christian ethics is important.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It might explain why when Jim bought the company from his dad some years later why he asked me to be a signer on the checkbook and to pay the bills in his absence.

Money in this life is needed but a wise old pastor once said:

“The only money that truly matters to God is money that is used in service to Him and His Kingdom.”

And the true blessing and gift that God gives you and me is faith in His son.

He has given us life through the death of His son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to live suffer and die and rise again for you and for me. This bears fruit in service to our neighbor, not by works of righteousness that we do, but by true joy in Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can joy in the faith we are given as children of God knowing that all falls under His control and that he uses you and me as his hands and feet in the world to reach the lost with the comfort of the Gospel message.

You are rich and truly bless because God has given you riches in Him and they will surpass and far exceed those promised by the world.

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

Sermon September 10-11, 2016

Title: Rejoice! You have been found!
Text: Luke 15:1-10 (Readings for Praise Band and Kim below)

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

Jesus came for sinners. That is good news that He has found you!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The joy is that there was a purpose for Christ’s coming and that is that:

Jesus came for sinners. Rejoice! You have been found!
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?


In the operating room of a large hospital, a young nurse was completing her first full day of responsibilities.

"You've only removed 11 sponges, doctor," she said to the surgeon. "We used 12."

"I removed them all," the doctor declared. "We'll close the incision now."

"No," the nurse objected. "We used 12 sponges."

"I'll take full responsibility," the surgeon said grimly.


"You can't do that!" blazed the nurse. "Think of the patient."

The surgeon smiled, lifted his foot, and showed the nurse the 12th sponge. "You'll do," he said.

Today in the Word, April 7, 1992.

You were lost and have been found. Jesus came for you, the one lost sheep, just as each one of us are lost at birth, born dead in trespass and sin. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those that were lost.” (Luke 19:10) What the sinners need is Jesus Christ and His Word and Spirit in their lives; all else is hopeless.


In Acts we read:

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Acts 15:36-39

Here Martin Luther writes:

"Here it appears either Paul or Barnabas went too far. It must have been a violent disagreement to separate two associates who were so closely united. Indeed, the text indicates as much.

"Such examples are written for our consolation: for it is a great comfort to us to hear that great saints, who have the Spirit of God, also struggle. Those who say that saints do not sin would deprive us of this comfort.

"Samson, David, and many other celebrated men full of the Holy Spirit fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; Elijah and Jonah were weary of life and desired death.

"No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall. If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again."

Martin Luther.

Rejoice! You as lost sheep have been found!

5 And when [the shepherd] has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

The place of strength … the high Priest’s shoulders is where the sheep is carried. In the Old Testament there is example of the making of the Ephod, which was an article of clothing worn by the High Priest of Israel:

6 “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together …

9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth …

12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance. (Ex. 28:6-7, 9-10,12)

Jesus carries the lost sheep that have been found upon his shoulders we find as the parable continues.

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

The joy of the Good Shepherd is … you!

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

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, Greek - ten drachmas; a drachma was a Greek coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day's wage for a laborer if she loses one coin, the lost sheep or you does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? Jesus Christ by the working of His Holt Spirit will continue to seek you. 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

It is a joy to find what was important that was lost because as has been said:

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

Or … as might be said:

People are lost because we preach the gospel where they are not instead of where they are. 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Rejoice! You have been found!

So just as our lesson began today:

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

Joy in the good news that Jesus is willing and able to meet sinners – you and me - where we are. He comes to you through the word preached and through the sacraments rightly administered and that is exceedingly good and blessed news. But He also is with you when the gospel of promise is used by you to reach those friends or strangers as a comforting balm for the hurting and sinfulness of this life … that breaks us and others … saying that the only way out is death and despair. The comfort of the gospel is there too because Jesus is the Gospel. He is the Good News. He is the comfort, and He is the Peace.

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

Christ came for sinners, and you dear friends … are found!

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


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sermon September 3-4, 2016

Title: Discipleship is a bear!
Text: Luke 14:25-35

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

If you were to look at Rembrandt's 1653 etching of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his own sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.

Source Unknown.

We also recognize that by our own sins Christ was nailed to the cross.

Discipleship is a bear!

25 Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” 

To live for Jesus is to deny life itself. Boy, discipleship is a bear!

And now Jesus tells these followers in the crowd: 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Sounds like a good way to help those who were following Jesus to fall away, doesn’t it?

In our Old Testament lesson today we hear the very familiar call.

... choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

The idea of choosing sounds good to we who, living in a democratic society, get to choose quite a lot of things. We can choose where we live in the country, what career we might wish to go into, and whom we marry. The call of … choose life … is often confused in the life of a Christian and applied to the work of evangelism as though we can choose to believe just as we can choose to be born.

The gift of life is both given in our natural birth as well as the gift of faith is given in our spiritual birth from a God who came to redeem those who were unable to redeem themselves and that is why the text here today is a good one for us to understand and rejoice in.

The call of God in this text is not to the world but to God’s people Israel. Those chosen children of Abraham whom Moses had given God’s Law written on the tablets of stone by the finger of God, were called by Him to choose to stay in the relationship with Him apart from falling away into sin, false gods and idol worship. This keeping of God’s commandments, his statutes and rules would bring God’s blessing to them as they entered into the land that He was giving them to possess.

So too our own lives as we cannot be Christ’s disciple without bearing our own cross. The reality of Jesus’ call … to hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters … figuratively as opposed to literally, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. This, none the less, is a serious matter meaning that we cannot let anything draw us away from the gift of following Christ and being his disciple, the gift of being his child.


Some years ago when witnessing to a friend, he joyfully came to me at work one day to proclaim to me that the night before he had prayed to Jesus - receiving him as his savior. He was quite happy because this had been a long and tedious process with many and various talks about Jew and Gentile, the Old and New Testament, and Sabbath verses Sunday worship. I even met him on a Sunday and went with him to a church in his area so as to help him transition into being a disciple or follower of Jesus.

A few weeks later I asked him if he had been attending the church. ‘No”, he said. Sunday was the day that he and his wife slept in. She wasn’t much interested in religion and he didn’t want to offend her. As we talked, I shared this text with him and suggested that he might … without offending her … rise early and go to the 8:00 am service and be home at 9:00 am to spend the rest of his day with her. There also might be opportunities to share what he had heard and learned by attending worship. 

… “Who knows, I said, Maybe God will soften her heart as well and draw you both closer to him and to each other?”

Well … they never attended church … and their marital situation, which hadn’t been good, became even worse. Ultimately he cheated, and they divorced. The devil does not hope for you to live in wedded bliss, as a Christian, or as a pagan and unbeliever. He desires to destroy everything God has brought together, father and mother, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, even the very fabric of the family unit - the devil hops to destroy and tear apart. 

Isn’t it interesting that what my friend tried to hold together himself … excluding God from his life and marriage … fell apart.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

He came to be a follower of Christ and by faith received Jesus, but he didn’t welcome him into his home. There is a cost to becoming a Christian and with that we must place Christ first. Many put family first and it certainly is a great blessings to have a loving family but the devil uses all things to divide and pull us away from Jesus and the family can be used for that as well.

I did a baptism a few years ago for a little boy. The family doesn’t attend church here anymore though they desired baptism for their child. They had been an active member once but moved out of the area … to Clarkston. As I spoke with them about the importance of regular worship and being fed God’s word the mom said, “Well we’re a sports family and the weekends are tied up with the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings!” Its funny how from Clarkston to Peace is so far that being in worship even occasionally is impossible, but driving to Downtown Detroit for a sporting event is no big deal and becomes a family tradition. It puts a bit of perspective as to what Jesus is talking about. What is it that draws you away or me? Give it some thought. What is it that draws loved ones away or our kids? 

The devil divides and he delights in division.

33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The great work of Dietrich Bonheoffer the Cost of Discipleship comes to mind.

He writes:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 1937

This is the message of Jesus. Let nothing come between you and him and his saving Gospel. This past Thursday pastor Merrell and I officiated at the funeral of Betty Buchanan. Betty had the ups and downs of life that we all know. She had problems, she lost her husband in 1971; she lost her oldest son 19 years ago and her youngest 11 years ago, she lost her eyesight and largely the ability to care for herself, dementia stole her memory at times and brought sad time of her life into view as if it was happening all over again. But the Holy Spirit was with her pointing out that Jesus died for her, that Jesus carried her cares and burdens and that Jesus was always with her never leaving her nor forsaking her. To be Christ’s is to give away all that you are (sinful and unclean) so that you receive all that he is. (righteous and just)

May that be your joy now and always!

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


Funeral Sermon for Betty Jean Buchanan - Thursday September 1, 2016

Thursday September 1, 2016
Funeral Sermon for Betty Jean Buchanan
Title: At home with Jesus forever!
Text: 2 Cor. 4:16-18 English Standard Version

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Betty.

I’m not sure how I’ll deal with Betty’s passing as I move forward. Granted, I visit and have visited quite a few members who were shut in and required visits to their homes, care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. With Betty, I think I’ve been to them all to see her.

Most recently I would go and visit her at Pine Tree Place – her home away from home - asking how she was doing … and she would always say with the shrug of her shoulders and a laugh … “As well as to be expected!” Sitting in her recliner which also served as her bed for many years, Betty felt safer in the chair than in the bed which she had fallen out of many times over the years that I visited her.

Betty didn’t see well. She was for all intent and purposes legally blind but when I visited her I just let her know it was Pastor Tkac for a visit and she would light up a smile and we had a great visit.
I learned quite a bit about Betty over the years.

One, she loved Jesus and was always ready for communion.
Two, she loved her family and they were close to her heart daily.
Three, she didn’t like wine … but we got over that! (Betty had been receiving grape juice and I forgot and only had wine with me on one visit. I told her that I could come back another time and she said, “Never mind, I’m sure it won’t kill me!” But she would take the wine and then make such a face, shake her head and yell out … Wow! It was kind of funny.

We both tempered the amount and reaction to the wine as our visits continued.

The Apostle Paul writes:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

So though we grieve and are sad at Betty’s passing, we can have comfort as well. In all the time I knew Betty and have visited with her I wouldn’t say she was ever what I would call healthy. She was always sitting and in need of help … getting up, walking or walking around.


The first time I visited Betty, Pastor Merrell and I went together. She was on his regular schedule at her home on Alhi St. in Waterford. As we pulled up to the house and were walking up, I was pleasantly surprised to see Shirley Penny coming out after visiting Betty. Shirley and I have known each other from my former life in the piano and organ business at Evola Music and also worked together teaching music to seniors at the Dublin Center in White Lake. So it was great to see Shirley and it helped a new Vicar – who is a student pastor – get comfortable with visiting. Because I was the new guy, Betty didn’t want me in the kitchen … stuff in the sink … that Pastor Merrell later told me but she and I fast became friends. Maybe it was that no matter where she ended up, St. Joseph Mercy, Lourdes Nursing Home, Pine Tree Place or even the short lived assisted living home in Ortonville … Betty didn’t like it as I’m sure she made clear to everyone. She said to me, “They have me all the way out in the country and … I’m not a country girl!” Well I assured her that Ortonville was not way out in the country and was actually pretty close and easy for me to get to … so not to worry.

If you knew Betty … then you knew she trusted Christ, desired to receive the gifts Christ gives, prayer and the Lord’s Supper. She wanted to support the work of the church with her gifts and though she could no longer get to Peace for regular worship I assured her that it was the churches pleasure and blessing to send me in service to her.

Betty’s trust was in Christ. Though at times during these last few years I know she questioned Jesus. Why wasn’t Jesus leaving her in her home? The confusion of being unable to take care of her own needs and not being able to get to church – to financially help - or to be with family and friends were a few things that troubled her. Where was she going she wondered … and why?

The Apostle Paul continues:

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Betty knew Christ was her strength. I visited with her at Pine Tree Place quite a few times and during her hospice stay. She would say, “I want to go home.” And we all knew that home was with Jesus. We all will probably fight that same fight when we get close to our time of departure for heaven too. The next two visits I made in July and August she was sleeping to soundly it was not my intent to wake her up so I prayed for her and anointed her with the oil of gladness which has a Fragrance of Frankincense and Myrrh. The ladies enjoy that. But, the last time I saw her was on Tuesday, August 16th just before I began my vacation. This time she woke to my voice and was alert. We talked, we prayed, and she received the sacrament for the forgiveness of sins. She had comfort and peace because she was Christ’s.

Betty’s hope was in the blessed hope of her Lord and savior Jesus Christ and the home she knew was waiting her in heaven. She was looking to be with Christ and today heaven is her home and her recliner and hospital bed are left behind because in heaven Betty won’t need them. She has been redeemed and in baptism her sins were washed away … and Christ promises to make all things new. For Betty and for you and me.

She knew her sins were forgiven too on account of Jesus’ death on the cross. She knew that because Jesus rose from the dead, she would too. She knew Heaven was her home and that Jesus had prepared a place for her, so that even with the veil of death lurking at the door and waiting to cover her, She had the blessed hope of reunion forever with Jesus and with all the dearly departed who have gone to their eternal rest in the Lord before her.

I shared these Psalm passages with her and May they bring comfort and hope to you as well:

Psalm 4:8 (ESV)
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

As I prepared to leave Betty I said,

“Betty it is okay to go and be with Jesus. When he calls … go, and rest in his loving arms.”

The Apostle Paul concludes:

18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Heaven is now Betty’s home.

You too have this wonderful home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you too can believe and trust. Jesus has forgiven your sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, has given you the faith to believe in His saving work and receive a place prepared for you, forgiven in Christ and forever with our Lord and savior Jesus, and that’s a Heaven and an eternity you can inherit just like Betty.

Our own flesh, the corruption of this broken world and the work of the Devil are going to do everything possible to make sure that we who remain behind see that death is not peaceful, restful or kind. It is the consequence of sin and the fall of Adam and Eve … a fall and sin we all share.

But, you too can know that the path of rescue that our Lord and savior Jesus followed, to the cross, for you. It was not peaceful, restful or kind either. It was a death that shook the very foundation of this world as Satan fought in every way to keep Jesus from standing in Betty’s place and in your place too.

In First Corinthians St. Paul writes:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."

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

Betty received that victory in baptism marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and now has the fullness of that reality.

She was prepared, she was forgiven, and she will be … at home … with Jesus forever because Christ has promised:

3And 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. John 14:3

Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has prepared a place not only for Betty … but for you and me as well.

May the Lord comfort you with this blessed good news now and forever!