Monday, February 27, 2017

Sermon Feb. 25-26, 2017 The Transfiguration of our Lord

Title: To follow Christ is to obey the call of the Spirit!
Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

When John Paul II was Pope back in 1984, he was to visit a hospital and everyone there was anxiously awaiting his visit. A doctor who had a handful of paperwork took a seat in a wheelchair and busied himself with his notes. The Pope swept in, and blessed the doctor, who immediately stood up and walked forward. Those in the Pope's entourage were astonished - crossed themselves and looked upward.

L.M. Boyd, Crown Syndicate, January, 1984.

Did the pope heal the man in the wheelchair … no. Can God continue to do miraculous things … yes.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

In his last letter to the church of God Peter writes of his witness to God’s work. He and the other apostles were not deceived, he says to follow stories and myths but we were eye witnesses – not of mistaken miracles like a well person rising from a wheelchair – but of his majesty.

Transfiguration weekend is here and it is the last weekend in the church year before Ash Wednesday and Lent begins. The revealing of the true nature of Jesus Christ as both God and man as he was transfigured before them.

Peter here, as he is writing is an old man. Reasonable dating for this epistle is 68 AD. It has been almost 40 years since the crucifixion. Peter may be in his early 70s and he is preparing to depart this earthly tent saying just previously to our epistle:

13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

It is Peter’s hope to leave a lasting impression for the church so that - after [his] departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

So recalling that time long ago – and for we who are a bit older – looking back 40 years is not much of a stretch. With my son Jon and Elizabeth Nold preparing to get married in a few weeks it certainly is easy to think back 35 years and longer.

1982 seems like yesterday to Monica and me, though much has changed but the image in our minds eyes remains vivid. Preparing for the church service and reception with friends, relatives and neighbors, some old and some new come to mind. Many still are in our lives and many have long departed like my grandmother Wilma Lanyi who was in attendance but left to be with the Lord in 1983. Much could be written and maybe much should be for our children and future grandchildren if it be the Lord’s will.

That is Peter’s focus here as he recounts his presence with the Lord. 17 For when [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

This presence with Christ remained clear for Peter just as much of my own wedding does for me and I’m sure for Monica as well. Well … for her better than me as she remembers details I’ve long forgotten. But Peter is clear here that he heard God’s Majestic voice and saw Jesus transfigured as his glory and honor were revealed because he along with the others were with him on the holy mountain.

We’re I to tell you that the car Monica and I road to the wedding reception in was a 1976 Lincoln Continental Town Car, silver 2 door hard top with a maroon velour interior - You’d have to take my word for it as one who was there and was an eyewitness. But, even better yet, I was the one who asked my friend John who was one of my groomsmen to ask his dad if he would let us use his car.

Monica and I had a picture taken sitting in the back seat before it departed for the reception but unless you had an eyewitness account … it would be near impossible to know the cars, make, model or year. Now, though it is written in a sermon if anyone cares to know.

In Peter’s account the value of his eyewitness reporting is of much greater importance. He says in verse 15 one verse before the epistle for today:

15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

He writes this so that when he is gone the value of his knowledge and witness might be made known then and now through his prophetic witness as he points us to the scriptures.

We have photo albums and wedding photographs to leave a record and trustworthy witness for our children – today it’s video, cell phones, facebook, twitter and instagram for those who come after us. We have eyewitnesses who were there and those who heard their witness, just as this church does in pictures and Voter’s meeting reports and stories for those who wish to know what we did in the life of the church. Can memories be mistaken and can pictures be deceiving … sure. So, why is Peter’s witness reliable?

Because it is not Peter the man but God by the Holy Spirit that his witness is true.

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

It is in the transfiguration account that Peter, James and John went up on the mountain with Jesus. Matthew who was a Tax Collector writes of this account in the gospel lesson for today.

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”

The vision is good, right and salutary for you and me as well for it is here in the written account that Matthew by that same Holy Spirit connects Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Prophets. All that God did and said is illuminated through him – through Jesus - and it is we who still have access to this witness … his word of promise and fulfillment … by his means of word and sacrament.

As Peter said: … you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

God’s gift to you and me points back to God being manifest and made known in the person and work of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today this same Holy Spirit points us back through the word of promise and hope in testament and prophets to all that Jesus came to do for you and me, and it looks forward to his glorious return where he will gather his bride to himself, but it also sustains us this day and every day with the sure and certain hope that past, present and future are united in him. 

Where his bride the church are, there is the Jesus … the bridegroom … the way the truth and the life … and the way to the father.

“Lord, it is good that we are here.”

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sermon Feb. 18-19, 2017

Title: Tested by fire, you endure through Christ!
Text: 1 Cor. 3:10-23

13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

A certain congregation was about to erect a new church building. The building committee, in subsequent meetings passed the following resolutions:

1. We shall build a new church
2. The new building is to be located on the site of the old one.
3. The material in the old building is to be used in the new one.
4. We shall continue to use the old building until the new one is completed.

We shall build a new church

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 

Next weekend is Transfiguration Sunday, and on Transfiguration Sunday, February 3, 1963, Peace Lutheran Mission of South Waterford Township was organized and began serving the people of this community. 

At the end of 1963, the membership of Peace was 50 communicant and 104 baptized souls. The Rev. Richard Feucht, Missionary at Large for our Michigan District, was the first pastor of Peace serving the congregation for 5 years from 1962-1967. 

In subsequent years 5 other pastors have been called to serve here:

Rev. William Wurm 1967 - 1970
Rev. Darowin Cordes 1970 - 1973
Rev. Bruce Hanson 1973-1980
Rev. William Merrell 1980 - 2013
Rev. Russell Tkac 2013 – Present

Much has changed since February 3, 1963

John F. Kennedy was President of the United States - at least he would be for another eight months before an assassin’s bullet would take his life. It would be another year before in February of 1964 that the Beatles would change the face of popular music. The Vietnam War would cloud the 1960’s and early 1970’s with death of young men and protests. In 1968 and 1984 the Tiger’s would win World Series. 1997-1998-2002-2008 would bring Stanley Cup wins for the Detroit Red Wings and Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump would be President of the United States.

Much has changed since February 3, 1963

The new building is to be located on the site of the old one.

But one thing hasn’t changed:

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Those who have been called to serve Peace through the changing times of the last 54 years have had a foundation as Paul writes the Corinthian church that like a Master Builder he laid and now it is being built by another. The foundation is Jesus Christ and that is the foundation that Peace Lutheran Church has been built on over these last 54 years from our beginnings and through two church building projects culminating in the building we now enjoy.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

As we serve and shepherd God’s people we build, using different materials some of which are like gold, silver and precious stones that through fire are refined and made pure … God’s word and sacraments come to mind … and caring for and ministering to those who are in need. But other things we build with wood, hay and straw may have seemed good at the time … will be burned up in the end. (Church softball teams?)

The testing by fire will show what type of work, we as shepherds have done in this place for time and for eternity. Big responsibility; big shoes to fill; and quite a bit at stake when you think of the souls of the people you serve and their eternal destinies.

The material in the old building is to be used in the new one.

14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We as shepherds are to use what God has given us - which is the word and the pure doctrine given us in the scriptures that simply is God’s teaching (doctrine). We don’t add to the word or burden the people with things that God has not said. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that the pure word goes forth to those who need to hear gathered in this place. At times the word is received as a burden pointing you to a need for repentance while at other times the shear the joy of forgiveness lifts the burden of guilt off you and comforts a heart broken by sin.

We work towards that end. It is repentance and forgiveness that needs to work in your heart - the heart of the believer. We at times fall short in how we do as pastors, but thanks be to God that God himself is the one who brings forth the growth just like Paul planted and Apollos watered but God brought forth the blessing and growth in his way and in his time. It is comforting to know that just as the wood, hay and straw is burned up we too through failings will emerge like one walking away from car wreck unhurt though the car may be totaled and destroyed … we will survive.

And finally:

We shall continue to use the old building until the new one is completed.

While Paul directs this portion of his letter to those who serve the church the greater picture of what he is saying is for all of us.

16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him, for God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Dear friends, you are the true church and true building where God dwells.

Pastor Merrell told me once that with the disposition of our former church building on M-59 and the groundbreaking here for this property and new building on Elizabeth Lake Rd. he was able in a very real and tangible way show that the church is not the building but the people … the followers of Christ that make up the church. It is here and in this place that God calls us together to receive his gifts but it is we as his people where his Spirit dwells.

1. We shall build a new church
You are that new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2. The new building is to be located on the site of the old one.
By faith in Jesus you are changed from God’s enemies to God’s beloved children marked and redeemed in him.

3. The material in the old building is to be used in the new one.
Though you still inhabit the sinful flesh and this sinful world you are a new creation made new by the blood of the Lamb.

4. We shall continue to use the old building until the new one is completed.
God will continue to work in you to conform you into the image of his son until you receive the fullness of his blessings in your heavenly home.

As such you have been given the gift and you must guard that good deposit – faith looking outward to Christ that give eternal life to all who believe!

21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or [Wurm or Cordes or Hansen or Merrell or Tkac] the world or life or death or the present or the future— [because dear friends] 

all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's, now and forever.

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sermon Feb 11-12, 2017

Title: Through God’s Spirit we choose life!
Text: Deut. 30:15-20

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. Deut 15
19 ...Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, Deut 19b

God’s word tells us that prosperity and life is found in following the Lord and his ways rather than our own ways.

God’s chosen people Israel had been fond of following ways other than the Lords. We see this from the beginning with Adam and Eve and the eating of the forbidden fruit, to “Why oh why did you bring us out into this wilderness?” Or, “let us make for ourselves a god in the likeness we prefer … maybe a golden calf!” To the ultimate grumbling: “Manna … again … really?” … and on and on and on.

In the verses that precede our reading for today God speaks of blessings and curses that are set before his scattered people who are dispersed among the nations saying:

2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.

No matter how bad their sin, no matter how far they have fallen, no matter how distant they find themselves from God and his people … God promises that:

6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts [referring to having a pure heart separated unto God] and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Repentance and forgiveness is always part of the Lord’s plan for his people Israel and it is for you and me as well.

Without repentance there is only a furthering distance and gulf fixed between God’s people … and his peace. God even has given us his promise that he is both the source and means of our repentance and forgiveness.

By the word of his commands we know what he expects and how we measure up. Unlike every other religion of the world that places God above and out of reach and gives us the work that is necessary for us to do to get to him and reach him, God himself tells us otherwise saying:

12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”

It is not of our will but of God’s will.

14 No, [the Lord says to the children of Israel], the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.


In our study of Martin Luther during this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, in both our Thursday Adult Bible Study group and now in our monthly Men’s Breakfast Bible Study group we see the emphasis on God’s word … the importance of it or problems when it is mistranslated or misunderstood. This led to the selling of indulgences and the paying of a price to reduce the time in Purgatory for loved ones or even for yourself.

God’s word was not readily available to the people. They didn’t have a means to read it for themselves or understand what God’s true intent was and how it was being applied by the church.

In Luther’s day the Mass was in Latin with responses parroted by the people having little understanding of what they were saying so that the - favor dei propter christum - or the favor of God on account of Christ might remain foreign to those who heard the word of God but didn’t fully understand it.

As far back or as near to our time as the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Latin was still the language of the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church I was raised in, and though the Priest gave his sermon in English the responses of the people were largely Latin … and for me not really understood.

The Priest would say:
Verbum Dómini. - The Word of the Lord.
And all would reply:
Deo grátias. - Thanks be to God.
Or the priest would say :
Dóminus vobíscum. - The Lord be with you
And the reply would be:
Et cum Spíritu tuo. – And with your spirit

Even when my cousin David and I, when we as 9 and 10 years of age and  were at Mass which had been changed and was now recited in English found great joy and value especially when the sermon was a bit long … in replying with our heads down … in  mock exaustion ... “Thanks … be … to … God!”

Luther gave the word of God to the people in their common language. This opened the scriptures to the people enabling them to understand God in a way not previously available. It made known to them true repentance or a turning back to God, instead of doing penance … which is something that we do to receive forgiveness and God’s favor.

But, you and I dear friend have God’s word. It is here in our Liturgy and it is available in our Bibles, and it is sung in our hymns, and it is available on our computers, and even on our smart phones … if you happen to have one.

But do we use it? Is God’s word important in our lives, and do we seek it and the peace and comfort it provides?

That brings us to our epistle reading for today.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.

Sin is real and the consequence of sin is real, but so is forgiveness and God’s rescue that brings life and good because the Gospel really is Good News.

16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

Obeying the commandments and loving the Lord your God is all that is required. That’s it! And as the apostle Paul says: That which I want to do I don’t do and that which I don’t want to do I continue to do … oh wretched man that I am. (Romans 7) So, if the apostle Paul can’t do it where is hope for you and me and those who God spoke to in the Old Testament? Our hope and theirs is in God and his rescue through Christ Jesus our Lord.

For he also says:

17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,

Whatever that is and whomever that is … that pulls you away from God and his forgiveness … work, hobbies, family, sports, “I’m too busy!” you fill in the blank

18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. That too is God’s promise for his children who fall away.

So the reality of following God has a blessed outcome and the turning away has a disastrous outcome. One leads to life the other death.

So here God gives the directive and it is not given to those outside that faith. It is not directed to those who do not know the Lord but to those who are his children and all who have been brought to faith by God through his word and sacrament s and are of his sheepfold.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

The choosing of life is simple repentance. It is a turning back to God by his word and working of the Holy Spirit in you.

It is for you and for all who have been marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. It is for your children who have forsaken the fellowship of believers gathered here it is for you who may find the gathering together less than loving as we all bring our own sin baggage with us when we come. Maybe it is just that life has given you suffering in one way or the other and at times you feel that God has abandoned you. Why me? Why now? Why this? Why Lord?

Because: 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, is his promise to you for he is your life and length of days, It was for his children then and it is for his children now. It is God’s redemption and that rescue is in his Son Jesus for you. Receive the Good News and encourage those loved ones who have forsaken the gathering together so that they by the working of the Holy Spirit choose life and live.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sermon Feb.4-5, 2017

Title: By the Spirit God’s wisdom shines forth!
Text: 1 Cor. 2:1-12

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

With the crowds gathered … the old man rises to speak:

“Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature.”

Two hours and nearly 22000 words later the second speaker begins in a voice somewhat higher pitched and reminiscent of his Kentucky and Indiana heritage:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The old man, Edward Everett - pastor, politician and orator - the day after their Gettysburg Addresses were delivered sent this short note to President Abraham Lincoln saying:

“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

2 And I, [Paul writes] when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The apostle Paul was called on the Damascus Road by Jesus himself to be his messenger to the Gentiles. Though a Pharisee and teacher of the Law, Paul was not gifted with a powerful presence or lofty speech. His second letter to the Corinthian church makes reference to this when Paul writes:

10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 2 Cor. 10:10

And later he says of himself:

6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

But it was to demonstrate God’s power and wisdom through the working of the Holy Spirit – so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Those who are wise in the faith always take the focus off of them and point outside themselves to where our focus must be.

John the Baptist – proclaimed the message of repentance and pointed to the one who was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the eyes of the world John was somebody! People were coming to see him, to receive what he offered and who knows … if he played his cars right he might build a great following and continue to draw more people and followers to himself.

In our world … self-importance is big and success is paramount. But God’s wisdom is different. John said:

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The focus of John was to herald Christ and to call attention to the work Christ came to do and in that call John was faithful, pointing to the redemption that is found in Jesus and his saving work.

In a sense God’s wisdom is hidden from the world in the folly of the cross and Paul is proclaiming that wisdom to the Corinthian church.

7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.


In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. 

Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams:

"Someone … a friend of his … came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'" 

Today in the Word, April 11, 1992.

Many in our midst know this all too well. The sinful condition is open to full inspection and we all, friends, loved ones and members of the body of Christ see it unfold before us. If it were in our power to heal we would remove the affliction that plagues our love ones … or even as it were offer to take their place.

8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

For if they had understood … Christ would not have been crucified and we would not be redeemed.

We would be dead in trespass and sin. So it is with the hidden council of God. He works in his way and in his time to bring low things that are exulted and raises up that which is despised. While the Messiah was expected the form in which he came was not expected except through the revealing of the Spirit. 

Our wisdom, by the working of the Holy Spirit, sees not what man sees but what God has revealed. The wisdom of the world and the rulers of this age could not see it or they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

God in Christ in humiliation became what we are. Through the union of flesh and blood into the divine essence the Lord of glory – Jesus Christ became man. This wisdom of God and the power of God cannot be understood apart from the work of the Spirit.

In demonstration of the Spirit Paul preaches Christ crucified 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Dear friends, God has given you peace and life through the revealing of his son by his Spirit so that God’s wisdom is made perfect in weakness and perfect in you, who were once dead in trespass and sin.

But you have received faith in God’s son for the work that he has done for you and by faith in him you are adopted and sealed by his Spirit. You are saved not by your knowledge and wisdom of Christ but by Jesus Christ and his work for you.

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