Monday, January 30, 2017

Sermon Jan 28-29, 2017

Title: The foolish are made wise in Christ!
Text: 1 Cor. 1:18-31

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean [of the university] that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.

"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."

The dean [now with all wisdom] looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money." 

Betsy Devine and Joel E. Cohen, Absolute Zero Gravity, Simon & Schuster.

That is the wisdom of the world!

And … here is what the business community says:

Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly.
Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School.

Paul asks: 20 Where is the one who is wise? 

We understand the wisdom of the word. “I should have taken the money”, sounds all too good for we who live in a materialistic society. What can’t be fixed, of the needs and wants we have, with just a little more cash? The rising costs of the bills sure wouldn’t be much of a problem. Declining attendance here at church wouldn’t matter much. Even those things at home of concern might not seem like such a big deal; and the budget here at Peace - just wouldn’t matter all that much.

But that is not wisdom for God.

Remember, Christ’s birth was not what was expected. What was expected was a King and Messiah of power … power as the world knows.

Paul says:

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Paul is saying in a sense that by the world’s standards - wisdom, wealth, power and noble birth - that is where they believe salvation is.
The Corinthian church was having its share of problems. They had divisions in the church with some following Paul, some Peter and others following Apollos, and even going so far as to be concerned with who baptized who. For us in the Lutheran faith, it is God who baptizes through the one officiating and it is the water connected to the word according to Christ command and promise by the power of the Holy Spirit that brings faith to life. 

Paul asks: 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? And concludes the epistle reading from last week saying: 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

God’s power is found not in wealth, worldly power or noble birth, but in the word of the cross and the preaching of Christ Crucified – which is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles.

It is interesting that with this letter and many of Paul’s letters he uses,

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus (Charis) grace to you in a sense means: May the Lord give you an abundance of his undeserved gifts and (shalom) or peace saying God is our friend and may that bring you rest, satisfaction and joy.
1 and II Corinthians Commentary R.C.H. Lenski pg 27-38

The world and its gifts can bring us at times comfort and blessing but only our true grace and peace come from God. It comes to us by God in his wisdom and through things that appear foolish in the eyes of the world.


A familiar story is told about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck.‭ ‬One day she was approached by a man who said to her,‭ “‬Little girl,‭ ‬don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing‭? ‬It was an ugly,‭ ‬wooden thing.‭” ‬To which the girl replied,‭ “‬Yes,‭ ‬I know.‭ ‬But they told me in Sunday school,‭ ‬that whatever Jesus touches,‭ ‬He changes.‭”

The foolish are made wise in Christ!

What looks wise – power, wisdom, riches, and eloquent speech are not required for God’s power. It is in a sense joyful to preach and proclaim Christ crucified because it is not the wisdom of the speaker but the power of God through his word - the word made flesh – that brings the results of faith, life and peace.

You only have to look to the events of last weekend - the inauguration and subsequent protest marches – along with the postings on social media to see the world in all its foolishness on both sides of the debate. If there is video … you can hear the foolishness too - Manmade problems and manmade solutions will fix everything we are told. Granted, God works and sustains us by his guiding hand through what appears to be chaos at times and we are given what we deserve and what we don’t deserve as this life unfolds.

What is the cross? It is death. It is ugly. It is a penalty. It is vile. It is weakness. It is failure. It is the end. There is no more. At least that is how the world sees it.

As a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ we might ask also: What is the cross? The answers are strikingly different. It is life. It is beautiful. It is forgiveness. It is redemption. It is eternal. It is finished! It is for you.

Same cross, different perspective. How different the view is through the eyes of faith. The cross is foolishness through the eyes of the world and forgiveness through the eyes of faith.

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Death is a reality in this life. Through the grieving tears of we who are left behind, our loved ones depart. Life is changed for eternity. Eternal bliss or eternal damnation awaits all who depart this life. Status, work, wealth, prestige, knowledge, age or accomplishments matter not. What does matter is the folly of God’s wisdom to call.

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 to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:4-5;13-14

God has accomplished your security in the foolishness of the cross and through his means of word and sacrament he will fulfill his purpose in electing you to eternal life in him and keeping you in the one true faith now … and forever more!

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


Monday, January 23, 2017

Sermon Jan 21-22, 2017

Title: To follow Christ is to obey the call of the Spirit!
Text: Matt. 4:12-25

19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

We are in the Epiphany season. What does Epiphany mean? For those in the world it means Jesus Christ being made manifest or being made known. The Messiah had been long expected by Israel. For the Jews in our day he is still looked for and expected. When will he come they wonder?

For many in the world this season means playoff football and clearance sales. For you and me it also means tax season and paying what you owe or possibly getting a refund - time to think … time to gather … time to prepare your tax statements and W-2 forms.

For some it is time for a vacation. It’s cold out, let’s pack up and go someplace warm!
For those in the church it may be some of these things or all of the above.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes into Galilee, to Capernaum by the sea so that the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

What does it mean to follow Christ?

In a sense it means: 16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light, - it is God, working in the world and through his means of making himself known.

In Jesus’ day … he walked by the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers who were fisherman, Andrew and Simon, saying:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their response was to follow him … immediately!
So to with James and John his brother a short time later, 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Not all who saw the light of Christ followed. Why some and not others is the age old divine question? Why are some brought to faith and believe while others resist and reject? Only God knows but John does shed light on the will of those in darkness in Chapter 3:

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

And so too our epistle lesson confirms:

18 For the word of the cross is folly [or foolishness] to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

So it is God’s power to save and man’s will to flee light and love darkness.

The inherent will to sin is strong in all of us. We all fall short of God’s expectations and for some, our sin calls us back to the darkness of inequity that we love. Why some and not others?

It’s been said:

Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.

Source Unknown.

The Gospel is really good news but let us not forget Christ’s call:

17 … “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The turning from our sinfulness is first – necessary - before the gift of forgiveness is received.
When we are brought to faith God gives us his Spirit and calls us to follow him. For many of us God’s call came in the waters of Holy Baptism when we were washed and called to a life of holiness. For some it came later in life as God’s word took seed in their heart bringing them to faith and belief in Christ’s finished work for their redemption.

Each begins with God’s work that is received, but it is our faith and it is our belief none the less.


I was outside last Sunday. The sun was out and shinning down. It was still cold but when the sun broke forth from the clouds it warmed me. I did nothing … I simply received the warmth. I had nothing to do with the sun shining but it was really me who was warmed, it was my joy, it was my smile on my face and it was my folly or foolishness to go for a bike ride! Man! 33 degrees is cold when riding in the middle of January Sunny of not! As I turned a corner a man walking his dog and bundled up call out,

“Nothing quite like a bike ride in the January to know how really cold it is.”
So, if the faith we have is a gift, and the belief we share brings us the joy of forgiveness, why do so many love the cold darkness of sin and keep heading in that direction?

Last weekend was tough. Holiday weekends are hard in general. Members who attend regularly are gone with family up north. Some are on vacation. Some … who knows … only come occasionally? 

The questions come …

“Pastor, where is so and so? I haven’t seen them in a while?”

Last week in our elder’s Meeting it rained. We even had water come in the office through the air conditioner. Bob Poe when outside and found a nest the birds has above the air conditioner and the eve. It was soaking in the water and holding it and allowing it to seep into the room. Bob cleared it out and Matt Rich repaired the drip edge so that the water would go to the downspout.

Birds are creatures of habit. They will build another nest and it will need to be cleared out. Eventually they’ll get it and move their nest to a higher place. 

Christians are not always so wise. We have our dwelling places of happiness and hope in this temporal world. What we see at times as success is really defeat. The idols that we build for ourselves continue to fail. I’m reminded of the fellow on Crescent Lake Road that has a small bus all painted up with a Detroit Lions logo and stripes, a real Party Bus! Though it never really has anything to party or be excited about – same old Lions right. But I did see hope – He has a newer bus and I think he is going to paint this one too with the lions logo. Can you imagine … the lions have let him down for so long he needs another bus! Where is your Party Bus of hope? What in this life will bring you comfort? For those not here it obviously is in something else. What, where, whom … maybe in defeat the Lord through his Spirit is directing them to put their security in Him?

So how are you to receive your security and where must your trust be placed? 

Well, for many trust is placed in the investments they have and the security of financial peace. Others look to time away from work and time spent with family and friends. Many find their peace at home, with sports and with other pastimes away from church and having no interest in Christ or his gifts I know it’s not you … at least some of the time because you’re here and that is where Christ has promised to be!

He is here by his word to bring about repentance. He is here in absolution, to comfort and forgive you. He is here body, blood, bread and wine to unite you to himself in the sacrament of the Altar. He is here as a washing away of sins in baptism and a bestowing of his Spirit that calls you to believe. He is here … so why do so many stay away?

All members on our rolls received a letter from President Jay Squanda recently encouraging them to not merely be a “Sunday Christian” but to follow Christ in all aspects of our lives to which one who received the letter said, “I guess I should be coming more than twice a year.”

It is the devils desire to have you not attend at all! So he will make being away as comfortable and joyful as possible and he will make attending as difficult and troublesome as possible. Of course we at times in our own sinfulness do and say things that drive people away but the Lord will prevail. He will pursue the lost so that when they fall so low as to reach bottom only his turning by the Spirit will give hope. Those who are afflicted will be healed and those comfortable in sin will be brought low.

Just as Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people so too he is here when his word is preached and his gifts are given for the forgiveness of sin.

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men is Christ call in Baptism and throughout the Christian life. His means are here. Come and receive his gifts!

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sermon Jan. 14-15, 2017 Life Sunday

Title: The Lamb of God given for you!
Text: John 1:29-42a

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

A professor in a world-acclaimed medical school once posed this medical situation -- and ethical problem -- to his students: "Here's the family history: The father has syphilis. The mother has TB. They already have had four children. The first is blind. The second had died. The third is deaf. The fourth has TB. Now the mother is pregnant again, The parents come to you for advice. They are willing to have an abortion, if you decide they should. What do you say?"

The students gave various individual opinions, and then the professor asked them to break into small groups for "consultation." All of the groups came back to report that they would recommend abortion.

"Congratulations," the professor said, "You just took the life of Beethoven!"

We believe this was first reported in an Ann Landers column.

Today and this weekend we once again celebrate the sanctity of human life. It is hard to imagine that we continue to do this each and every January but with legalized abortion since 1973 the womb continues to be one of the most dangerous places for a child.

The reality of a pregnancy brings the reality of life. This isn’t a cancer or some fatal illness; this isn’t a tumor or disease … this is life in its beginning form as we understand from conception. Life is not ours to make or ours to take. Divisions continue within families, friends and political debates.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image,
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

The debate is certainly not with God.

As Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him:

9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.

Or, as the Law of God given through Moses in Deuteronomy 5 commandment 5 states:
17 “‘You shall not murder.

The taking of a life is against God’s commandment and desire.

Euthanasia is the other end of the spectrum of terminating life. But this death is for those outside the womb. 


This downward slide was explained dramatically by Dr. Leo Alexander in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, written in 1949 - some 68 years ago.
Dr. Alexander was a consultant to the Secretary of War [during] the Nuremberg Trials. He had extraordinary access to accused Nazi war criminals in the medical community. Writing from that unique perspective, Dr. Alexander argued that so-called "compassionate killing" of the terminally ill inevitably set the stage for the Holocaust. 

He wrote:

Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude ... that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.

Before his death, Dr. Alexander told a friend that trends in our country were "much like Germany in the '20s and '30s. The barriers against killing are coming down." 

J. Dobson and G. Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990, p. 145.

As Dr. Alexander stated then and as has become evident now the barriers against killing the unborn and those deemed socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and so on … has come down. So much so as to deem those who oppose abortion and euthanasia as somehow opposed to women’s health … the so called “war on women.”

Can you see the brokenness, can you see the corruption? Can you see a dying world … lost and in need of a savior?


I shift now to a story of life … from my friend Paul Ruehl:

The other life changing encounter that built my faith regards my first two daughters, Diana and Michelle. 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 laid 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, 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, 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. [She is now a major and teaches at the Air Force Academy.] 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 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.
Story by Paul Ruehl

God, in giving the commandments to the children of Israel says:

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deut 6:6-8 NIV

The one who fulfilled the commandment for you John saw proclaiming:

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

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


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sermon Jan 7-8, 2017 Baptism of Jesus

Title: Christ, in baptism, frees you from sin and makes you His child!
Text: Matt. 3:13-17

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This weekend begins the season of Epiphany. Christmas is no more. Christ has been circumcised and named Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, and from the visit of the wise men bearing gifts celebrated January 6th this Epiphany season begins.

Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. At Christmas a babe is born in a manger, last week he is named and circumcised, the wise men visit and make Christ known to the world, and now the man Jesus comes to the river to be baptized by John. 

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.

Jesus came down to John … and we might ask why? Why would Jesus come to John? He certainly didn't need to repent, because He was not born in the natural way and conceived in sin. He also didn't come down to John like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who came in unbelief, in an arrogant and mocking manner … rejecting God’s council against them. But he came as those who were sinners and who needed repentance … though He had no sin.

John was certainly surprised to see Jesus coming:

14 … saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

John recognizes Jesus for who He is … “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)

So the question is why does Jesus come and seek Baptism - as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove?

For He here takes your place and my place and stands - in place of all - who are sinners, and since all, especially even the arrogant people who do not acknowledge that they are sinners, Jesus must become a sinner for all – even for those who reject him. He has come and has taken on our sinful flesh and will take to the cross … in His passion, the full weight of the sins of the world which He bears.

P.E. Kretzmann

Baptism is either the work of God or the work of man. It is either something God does and gives to us or it is something we do for God.

So Jesus answers John:

15 … “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus here confirms John’s previous statement in a sense saying “You are right John. It is not I who needs baptism … but I have come for this purpose.” It is God’s purpose in Christ to be marked in your place so that you and all born sinful might be saved.

Here is not Jesus as example. Here we do not see Christ baptized and say, “Oh, I should be baptized like Jesus too.” His is a bloody baptism. His is a baptism of death so that you might have a baptism of life. In Christ’s baptism Jesus is marked as God’s beloved son in whom the Father is well pleased. God is pleased because Jesus is the once for all acceptable sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

In baptism we too are acceptable to the Father, not because we model Christ in our actions but because we receive the gift he has one on our behalf. This changes us from dead in sin to alive in Christ being buried with him in Baptism and raised to newness of life.

The Reverend Phillips Brooks who lived in the 1800s in Massachusetts said:

“No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude. There is no such thing as an entirely free man.”

Phillips Brooks (1835- 1893)

That is true in one sense. We are always in this life bound to our sin. All that we say and do is filtered through our sinful flesh. We are a slave to sin or as Martin Luther has taught in his book the “Bondage of the Will” … “we are all in Bondage to our sin.”

But Paul brings joy to light in our epistle for today when he says:

6 … 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Christ, in baptism, frees you from sin and makes you His child!


One of the church Fathers – Tertullian wrote of baptism in this way:

The primary principle of Baptism is that the Spirit of God, who hovered over (the waters) from the beginning, would continue to linger over the waters of the baptized.”

Tertullian – De Baptismo IV (ANF 3:670)

This is made possible for you and me because:

16 … when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
In Christ is where the favor and pleasure of God rests!

For just as, after the waters of the flood, by which the old sinful world was killed and taken away — a Baptism, of the world so to speak—a dove was sent forth from the Ark and was the herald which announced to the earth the removal of God’s wrath. After returning with the olive branch, this too became a sign which to this day is a sign of peace.

So too by God’s heavenly gift —we emerge from the waters of Holy Baptism our sins removed and washed away by the dove of the Holy Spirit, and in Christ Jesus God is well pleased with you and me having God’s peace sent out from the heavens, through Christ’s Church, which is a type of ark.

Tertullian – De Baptismo VIII (ANF 3:672)

Christ, in baptism, frees you from sin and makes you His child!

Epiphany is Christ being made known to the world. We understand the visit of the Wise men and the gifts that they bring to worship our Lord. But the real gift is not brought to Christ but is given by Christ.

His gift is his very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. By His taking on humanity he was marked with His creation and with you and me. When He was baptized by John he received the weight of sin poured out on him as the chief of sinners, though he remained sinless.

He went to the cross with your sin and the sins of the whole world on him and received the wrath of God’s punishment that we deserve. And because of his atoning work you and I receive what we don’t deserve … God’s favor on account of Christ.

As we heard from last weekend there is no distinction:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Those baptized at the font received that same forgiveness. Marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, we are washed clean in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit and are given New Life and New Birth of water and the Spirit! We are made God’s Child and have been adopted into His family – children of Abraham - and given the inheritance of heaven and life eternal in Him.

Christ, in baptism, frees you from sin and makes you His child!

Christ has made a way for all to be found in Him through the holy flood that is baptism. The means he gives is faith in His finished work given to you and me as a gift by God’s Holy Spirit working in and through Baptism. Daily rejoice in God’s simple way of bringing you to him through water and the word.

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


Sermon Dec.31- Jan.1, 2016/17 New Years Eve/Day

Title: Once captive … Christ has set you free!
Text: Galatians 3:23-29

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

I can’t really imagine captivity from the perspective of one who is held against their will. But Ed Leonard can.

Held for 105 days by the FARC in the Andes Mountains of Columbia, Ed Leonard, a 60-year-old Canadian gold and silver driller, suddenly learned he was a free man. 

His boss, Norbert Reinhart, owner of the Ontario-based Terramundo Drilling Company, had traded places with him! Ed Leonard was now free but Norbert Reinhart was captive in his place.

Reinhart’s intent though was not to change places with his employee but to deliver a ransom he hoped would result in his release and that they would both walk out of the jungle together. He knew though that it was possible that he too might be captured, but risked it anyway saying to Leonard when the exchange occurred: "Your shift is over, it's time to go home." Some 95 days later he too was released when another ransom was paid.

Once captive … now set free!

Paul speaks to the Galatians of about captivity in his letter:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Paul in making his appeal to the Galatians points to the Law as a jailer or warden if you will, holding as prisoners those born in the natural way, born in sin, and born captive, which can be seen as forcibly confined, subjugated, or enslaved … kept in bondage, under restraint, being controlled and confined.

The law brings no peace … “You Shall Not” only condemns. The Law however is not bad. Paul calls it a guardian.

24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The work of a guardian is good. At times we see it as loving parents caring for the needs of their children; teacher’s at school guiding and directing the learning of their students or coaches mentoring and building up those on the team that are under their care and supervision. 

But, also at times it is a parent disciplining a child, a teacher correcting a student, or a coach benching a player pointing out what is acceptable and expected and the consequences for breaking the rules or missing expectations.


Businesses have goals and expectations too. The Red Wings organization expects to make the playoffs each year … right now it’s not looking very good! 

Measured against their expectations they’re as good as dead. 

What happens if they fail? Changes and consequences are expected.

For the world and those born under the law, the result for not meeting expectation is not discipline, correction, or benching … the verdict is death.

Measured by God’s law you and I deserve nothing but to be cast off. That is the reality of the law. Miss the mark and you’re out of here, cast into utter darkness.

“The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is, not the broom that sweeps it clean.” 

Dr. Phil Williams, DTS, 1976.

Faith is the means and Christ the object that restores the relationship, corrects the wrong, and gets you off the bench and back in the game so to speak. 

For as Paul says:

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Again baptized into Christ is the means God gives to replace the guardian which for the Jew was the Law and falling back into its care. 

Silly Galatians! Foolish Galatians as Paul calls them. Who has bewitched you? Gal. 3:1

The reality of Christ death and crucifixion was before their eyes. So Paul asks, “How did you believe? Did the Spirit come to you by keeping the law … or was it by faith?”

Paul writes:

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

Luther says about faith:

“God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.”

Martin Luther.

Our comfort is not in the law but in the life, death and resurrection of the one who fulfilled its requirements for us. By faith in Christ we are his and he is ours.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And that doesn’t mean that there are no distinctions of male and female.

29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

God’s own child I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! 

He, because I could not pay it; Gave me full redemption price.

Hymn 594

By faith, God’s gift and instrument we believe, receive the Spirit and trust all that Christ has done on our behalf.

As we see another year come to a close and a new one emerge there is always hope. Hope, that the problems of the past will be left in the past and hope that the New Year brings blessings that erase the trials of the year just concluded or it may be that a joy filled year continue.


“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how?

I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are an excerpted from the book Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox.

Robert Scott Editor
While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 173 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing.

His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live. 

May the Lord by his Spirit bring peace and blessing to you in this New Year; May your new beginning be a refreshing of faith in the one who freed you from your captivity; for 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

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


And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever. Amen