Monday, February 26, 2018

Sermon February 24-25, 2018

Title: Who do you say that I am?
Text: Mark 8:27-38

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Jesus asks the disciples:

“Who do people say that I am?” And then wants to know, “but who do you say that I am?”

And we know that the disciples say that the people think that Jesus is “John the Baptist; [some] say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

And this all climaxes with Peter speaking for the disciples when he says,

“You are the Christ.”

Following this confession by Peter of who Jesus is we see Jesus begin to teach them everything he is now prepared to do.

Jesus says that the Son of Man:

Must suffer
Must be rejected – by the elders, chief priests and scribes
Must be killed
And after three days must rise from the dead

As the one who made confession for the disciples, Peter, didn't really understand Jesus and his work for the salvation of the world at this time as his rebuke of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:22, makes clear:

“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is met by Jesus’ full rebuke, which is focused not on Peter the man – just as his confession of faith was not revealed by flesh and blood but revealed by the Father in Heaven so too Jesus’ rebuke is not focused on Peter the man - but on Satan - the deceiver and the father of lies.

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

To be opposed to Christ … is to be in harmony with the devil.

To lose your life in Christ … is to save it!

Jesus says …

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.


When Pastor William Sangster was told he was dying of progressive muscular atrophy, he made four resolutions and faithfully kept them:

1. I will never complain;
2. I will keep the home bright;
3. I will count my blessings;
4. I will try to turn it to gain.

W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 215.

If we compare what Christ faced to these four resolutions we see that:

1. The Christ must suffer – but he never complained.
2. He was rejected by the many, but remained the light of the world.
3. He gave his life in death and for that we are all blessed.
4. He was raised from the dead, so that his sacrifice is our gain.

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!


Many of you have probable been watching the Olympics. The Winter Games from South Korea- Skiing, Hockey, Snowboarding and figure skating. You might know of Scott Hamilton as he was the 1984 Gold Medalist is in the Olympics and World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and has been announcing the skating competition for the last 25 years. This year he was demoted as happens to TV personalities. He said he was disappointed and felt sorry for himself … for about 10 minutes.

What you might not know is that Scott is a cancer survivor and a Christian.
He has survived, testicular cancer and brain cancer. His mother died of brain cancer so he is and has been connected to the disease for many years. As a child he was sickly and had a problem that stunted his growth that couldn’t be diagnosed. He was in and out of hospitals and stumbled on skating as a fluke.


[In 1997, at a career high, Hamilton was forced to leave the ice to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer."What was about to happen really changed my life forever," he shares. He survived cancer. “What's my purpose now? What do I need to do?"

It was at that moment in his life that he met his wife, Tracie, who brought him to church. "She took me to a minister, a man named Ken Durham. And the first thing he said to me, which was extraordinary was, he goes, 'You have to understand that Christianity is a faith of history. These things actually happened.' And I go, 'OK, that's a good starting-off point.'"

Hamilton and Tracie married and had a son. But another hardship came his way when he discovered he had a brain tumor. [He struggled with telling his wife but when he did,] she took his hands and started to pray. "And it was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything... my trust, my faith, everything." Hamilton called it the most powerful moment in his life.

Hamilton learned that he was born with the brain tumor, which inhibited his growth as a young child. "That was the mysterious illness I had that they never diagnosed, that got me into skating. I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could've gotten because it made everything else possible."

Looking back, he adds, "I understand that through a strong relationship with Jesus you can endure anything. I just learned that the only true disability in life is a bad attitude."

"God is there to guide you through the tough spots. God was there every single time, every single time."]

For many, though, this is not a cross they wish to bear. We hope to avoid trial and conflict. Following Jesus as example is good but suffering or being hated and despised on account of Christ … we all would like to take a pass.

It is a common battle that pastors have to face too by remaining faithful to their call ... and this can be unpopular at times.

Jesus had given the disciples a summary of His work and he now gives a summary of the demands of true discipleship. He does not show here how one becomes a disciple - through the working of the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ and by the washing of regeneration in the word through baptism; but, here Jesus tells us how we show the evidence of this gift of faith in Christ by denying self; taking up the cross we must bear; and by following him.

It can be summarized as this.

“If anyone wants to save his life, have the full enjoyment of this life and all that it may offer in this world, he will lose the true life in Christ the Savior. But if anyone will regard this life, the world and all it has to offer, as nothing, give it all up for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel, he will find the true life, the true joy and [true] happiness in Him.”

Popular commentary of the Bible P.E. Kretzmann NT Vol. 1 pg. 209

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!


Most recently Scott Hamilton’s brain tumor returned.

[Hamilton said he would never forget what his wife, Tracie, said to him during a pep talk: “Joy is not the lack of suffering or fear, it’s how you choose to handle the suffering and fear.” It finally hit him that it was true.

So when the tumor returned for an encore in 2016, Hamilton decided to react differently. There was no “why me?” anymore.

“I figured I needed to go through this with joy,” he said. “It was just a muscle I needed to build, like the muscles I built skating.”

The tumor was still relatively small, so Hamilton didn’t need to rush into surgery. He tried to tackle the problem differently: He stopped eating sugar, red meat and other things he considered bad for his body. He started eating organic food and drinking only coffee or water with high pH. He hit the treadmill and the weight room.

When Hamilton went back to the doctor several months later, he learned that his tumor hadn’t grown. During his next checkup, he heard even better news.

The tumor had shrunk, by about half. Hamilton choked up when describing what happened next.
“Have you ever had one shrink without treatment before?” he said he asked the doctor. “And the doctor said, ‘Nope, never.’”

Hamilton asked, “So how can you explain this?”

The doctor said, “God.”]

As we faithfully serve as God has called us and shine the light of Christ in our vocations we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel and ultimately save our lives for eternity.

May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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


Sermon February 21, 2018 Lent 2

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 2. Apostles Creed
Text: Mark 1:9-15

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Missionary A.B. Simpson is reported to have said that the gospel or the good News

Tells rebellious men that God is reconciled,
that justice is satisfied,
that sin has been atoned for,
that the judgment of the guilty may be revoked,
the condemnation of the sinner cancelled,
the curse of the Law blotted out,
the gates of hell closed,
the portals of heaven opened wide,
the power of sin subdued,
the guilty conscience healed,
the broken heart comforted,
[and] the sorrow and misery of the Fall undone.

M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 29.

Last week we began our sermon series on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism with the Ten Commandments. Here we learned what God expects and how we all miss the mark … both in who we are, and what we do.

Today we will move on to the Creed.

In the Ten Commandments we heard the Law, and today in the Apostles Creed we will hear the Gospel. For Luther the arrangement of the Catechism’s six chief parts is important.

The Ten Commandments show our brokenness and need.

The Creed reveals who God is and his work.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and to commune with God.

Holy Baptism shows how God works through his gifts to mark us and make us his own.

In the Office of the Keys [confession and absolution] we learn of our life in Christ as we confess our sins and hear the good of that we are forgiven in Christ.

And finally in the Lord’s Supper we receive the true body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness he won at the cross for us while we receive comfort and have our faith strengthened in this blessed gift.

The Catechisms order is important. The distinction between Law and Gospel is important too.

In Luther’s day the Creed was divided into 12 articles and for the Roman Catholic Church it still is.

Luther writes:

In former times you heard preaching on twelve articles of the Creed. If anybody wants to divide it up, he could find even more. You, however, should divide the Creed into the main parts indicated by the fact that there are three persons: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

LW Vol.51 Pg. 162

For Luther, God is one and this was most important. It was important in his teaching on the Creed to show the oneness of God and the uniqueness and distinction of persons. So there is a trinity and a unity that he taught in the Creed revealing the Father, Son + and Holy Spirit and their work.

In the Creed we lean of this triune God and his connection to Creation, Redemption and Sanctification. So in the gospel the whole Godhead is active. In the Creed we learn who God is, what has he done, and more importantly, we learn what he has done for me.

The revelation to who God is begins in the first Article.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

We as Christians confess in the Creed I believe. Our belief is all gift revealed in the one God who has created all things - this Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth.

This faith and statement is only something we can confess - because of the full work of the triune God who has reconciled us and brought us to faith in him so that we can see who he is, what he has done, worship him in spirit and truth … and call him Father.

It is certainly true that all of these good created gifts came from God and that all people benefit from them but it is not possible to know this God, thank him, or to call him Father apart from his work in revealing himself to us.

It is the fullness of God’s love and grace that he has created us in his image and that he desires to have fellowship with us as creator and creation that in spite of sin and the fall God desired to save us from and eternity separated from him.

In the second article we learn of God’s Son his work to rescue you and me requiring his full engagement on our behalf.

We also believe not only in God the Father Almighty creator of Heaven and Earth, but also in Jesus Christ his only Son [who is] our Lord.

This Jesus Christ is God’s Son and our Lord because he is God not only of our creation but of our recreation also.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified died and was buried. Placed in history Jesus is human in a real sense and truly lived, died and rose from the dead. He is both God and man and did what he intended to do for the salvation of the world.

In this article we see Jesus’ work in redemption. We see the Christmas message – the incarnation of God becoming man and his life, death and suffering in our place.

In his humiliation God units himself with us in our humanity in the person and work of his son and restores the bridge between God and man that had been broken with the fall into sin.

The second article doesn’t end there though because Jesus descends into hell to proclaim victory, on the third day he rises from the dead ascends to heaven and is seated at God’s right hand – the seat of power – and will come again to judge the living and the dead. All will see him and all will be judged. Death is no escape, unbelief does not negate this reality of God in the flesh descending, dying, rising, and coming again for all.

The sheep and the goats – some to eternal glory and some to eternal damnation; so how is this reality made known and who is the active agent?

Well, in the third article we learn of the Holy Spirit called the comforter by Jesus is John chapter 14 in the King James Version.
The word used – παρακλέτοσ parakletos - is translated in some bibles as advocate, intercessor, consoler, comforter, and helper. Our ESV translates it as helper. I’m not sure that I like that as much as the KJV and that is why I believe that you need to read a few translations. The word helper could give the impression that God and we work together in our salvation - that God does his part and that we do our part rather than God being the active agent and we who are the ones that receive the gift.

In the third we see God at work by the Holy Spirit, through the Christian Church or as the Creed would say the – catholic Church (small c –catholic meaning universal church), the communion of saints the body of believers who will have forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body – real flesh and blood like our resurrected Lord and a life everlasting and eternal with him.

This is the good news the Gospel of our salvation made known to us by the Holy Spirit … God’s work, Father, Son+ and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins for you and for me and for all whom the Lord our God will call to belief, life and salvation in him.

God shows his requirements in the Ten Commandments

God reveals his restoration in the Creed

In Luther’s own explanation of the Third Article he writes:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

Our own reason and strength would lead us astray. Our own understanding would cause us to make idols of ourselves, our lives, and our loves. In God’s work and in him alone do we know the work of a loving God that has created us, redeemed us in Jesus Christ our Lord, and restores us by his Spirit of Truth working and pointing us outside of ourselves to this reality that in Christ Jesus salvation is ours - this is most certainly true!

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


Monday, February 19, 2018

Sermon February 17-18, 2018

Title: You are made new in Christ!
Text: James 1:12-18

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted,
"This fight ain't got any rear!" 

Daily Walk, July 10, 1993.

That is what it is like with trial and temptation. It feels like there is no end. Day in and day out we daily are confronted with trials. How is your health; or finances? Does your car or home need repair? Are your children having issues and you’re faced with how to help, can you help - or will they let you help?

Is life one trial after another?

We are so blessed.

James begins his epistle with these words.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, James 1:2 NIV 1984

Joy really? Trials are not fun. We all know the struggle that it can entail. Up, down, joy, sorrow, struggle, anger - sin most often is the result - but hopefully so is repentance.

But here, in our epistle for today, James speaks of being blessed.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ESV

Blessed and steadfast - the riches of God come by standing firm and through these trials God promises the crown of life.

James here is echoing the words of Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

We talked last week about the light of Christ in each one of us. The good deposit of faith that began at our baptism as God himself washed away our sins and marked us as his child. That child, you and me, needs to be fed. We need Spiritual food so that we can remain healthy, vibrant and grow in our lives so that we can stand firm and not sway during the tempting and testing that comes and will come.

God is not the source of temptation.

Though God temps no one he does allow temptation. Why? What possible good can come from temptation?


In October of 2015 trial and temptation came for Monica and me. I had just finished the LWML rally at Holy Cross in Oxford and was getting ready for service that evening at Peace when I got a call that Monica had to go into the emergence room for a procedure. Ultimately that turned out to be cancer and that turned into two surgeries, a long healings process, doubts, concerns, worries, and you name it. Thankfully, this week her CT scan and report came back good – no cancer - so we’re good for another 4 months!

And then in November of 2015 Thanksgiving evening to be sure I get a call from fellow member Sue Vogt that she is in the hospital having just been diagnosed with Leukemia. Chemo, blood draws and the like have gone on for her since. A broken foot and hip along the way and now she is home from rehab looking optimistically at the future and continued healing.

And there are so many others, health, finances, marriage issues, jobs and the tempting and trials never seem to end.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1: 13

It is easy to look and ask - why me? But that is not what I heard from Monica or Sue and so many others. They were resigned to fight these illnesses and setbacks and though I’m sure concern and uncertainty came into play, the temptation is mediated by faith in Christ and this faith produces a steadfast resolve pointing outward to the hope that doesn’t fade and will not leave you nor forsake you.

We take our eyes off of Christ.

In life we lose sight of Jesus. It happens when things get bad or when things get good or too good. At times we run from those that most love and want to help us to those who lead away from Jesus and destroy lives. The devil is the source and tempter who points to joys and blessings that are temporal, and because of sin we can all fall victim to this enticing.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14

As my friend Dan a musician in Nashville once told me when I asked him about the faith of another musician, “Well, he’s not interested in God right now things are going too well for him.”

If it is not trial and illness that point you to the brokenness of this world and a need for Christ, then it is in the sinful desires of a heart, content in the ways of the world who goes it alone or in a direction opposed to Christ.

How far off course can we go before we are truly lost we might ask?
How much sin is too much?
What does true repentance consist of?
Can we squander the gift of salvation?

Unrepentance dear friends brings death.

I was talking to a young man who was wrestling with the word of God as it is revealed as Law and Gospel in scripture. He said to me:

“Pastor, I don’t know if I buy this Law and Gospel stuff. I mean when we sin we can just go to God and say I’m sorry? I know that we’re forgiven but it sounds so cheap. Oh yeah – I’m sorry God forgive me - and then we go right back to doing the same sin!”

My response to his concern was do you think that God is fooled? I mean, do you really think God is fooled by false repentance? Maybe at times we think that? We’ve all probably said we were sorry for something we weren’t really sorry for but being sorry is only part of repentance.

Repentance requires being sorry for sin and then it requires a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. It doesn’t mean that we will be successful in walking in the right way before God - but only that we desire to walk with God and away from sin.


Louis Berkhoff writes: Moreover, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while on the other hand, wherever there is true faith, there is also real repentance. The two are but different aspects of the same turning - a turning away from sin in the direction of God. The two cannot be separated; they are simply complementary parts of the same process. 

L Berkhoff, Systematic Theology, p. 487.

So, repentance requires faith.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:16-17

When thoughts words and deeds lead to sin, God by his Spirit comforts us with forgiveness. Through his gift of faith he turns you and me in repentance and comforts us with his forgiveness.

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

All things work together for good.

By God’s work he keeps us connected to him by faith.

By his work he turns us to see our failings and also to see our savior. 

By his work we keep our eyes upon Jesus so that no matter the trial and temptation we can turn in faith to repent of our sins and receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord!

By his work we are forgiven and made new in Christ!

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


Sermon February 14, 2018 Corporate Confession and Absolution - Ash Wednesday

Title: Small Catechism’s Six Chief Parts 1. The Ten Commandments
Text: Mark 9:2-9

7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

According to a 3rd century rabbi, Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to 11 in Psalm 15. Isaiah made them 6 (Isaiah 33:14, 15). Micah 6:8 binds them into 3 commands. Habbakuk reduces them all to one great statement: The just shall live by faith.

Source Unknown.

Today for Ash Wednesday and throughout our Midweek Lenten Services we will look at the Six Chief Parts of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. We’ve spent a bit of time over the last few years with the Catechism. First as a bulletin insert with a devotional reading that we began on Rally Day 2016 and ended in May of 2017. Then we had A Simple Explanation of Christianity booklet from CPH which we were to read and pray about and give to someone that we thought might be blessed with this outreach. And finally as we came to the end of last year a new Small Catechism with Explanations came out. It is the first revision in the explanations since the 1991 edition.

So why the Catechism, why now and why so much?

Well … we need it. Just as in Luther’s day the basic teachings of Christianity are important. For me as one not brought up in the Lutheran faith and without the Catechism I see the real value of its use daily and hopefully throughout Lent we will all come to understand its real blessing.

Luther based his Small and Large Catechisms on a series of sermons that he preached in 1528. After visiting the churches Luther found that the basic truths of the Christian faith were not understood by the laity and pastor’s alike.

In announcing these sermons Luther writes:

Because these matters are highly necessary, I faithfully admonish you to assemble at the designated time with your families. Do not allow yourself to be kept away by your work or trade and do not complain that you will suffer loss if for once you interrupt your work for an hour.

And besides, how much time do you spend drinking and swilling! You don’t count that, but when you are asked to spend time on God’s word you are disgusted.

LW Vol. 51 Pg. 135

So that we all don’t continue to reap the fire of Luther’s admonition let us now begin diligently with the Ten Commandments.

You shall have no other gods.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Luther begins the Catechism with the law. What God demands and how we measure up. He divides the commandments into the two tables with the first three pertaining to how we should see God and the last seven with how we should deal with each other. The commandments tell us what perfection is and that God expects perfection – no spot, no blemish.

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

In the commandments God shows us who we are. That though his requirements are just we all fall short daily in measuring up. God requires that we both fear and trust him. We are to fear him as in a reverent fear that honors who he is and his right to demand what he demands and in trust that if we keep all these commands … we will live.

25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28

To love God and neighbor is what the Law requires and we can’t. It also gives us a way to measure what the world says about what is good, what is right, and what is beneficial. Being legal in the eyes of the law doesn’t make it right in the eyes of God.

The law never rests. It doesn’t take a day off. Close is not good enough. The law is to curb who we are as sinners. It says … this far and no more. It functions as a mirror so that we might see who we truly are – dead in trespass and sin - and get our eyes off ourselves and look outward to one who has made a way where there was no way.

The Law also works when we as Christians know our failings. As we have been brought to faith God, through the Law, guides our behavior. Through the Law we understand who we are as sinners but also as Christians we understand that God desires us to daily die and rise with him in Christ remembering our Baptisms and living and conforming ourselves to his will. As we fail … we are brought by the Spirit to repentance, confessing our sins and turning outside ourselves to our God who forgives, redeems and makes us holy – set apart and sanctified.

As we daily are conformed into who God wants us to be, we gain no forgiveness for our sins by keeping the Law – for forgiveness is truly freely given us only by faith in Christ.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Eph. 2:8-9

While God tells us in the first table of the Law who he is, how we are to use his name, and that by keeping holy his day of rest we will remain connected to him and his word and through that word God, preached and proclaimed and he will bless and keep us connected to him in Christ.
We also find that in the second table of the Law that as we live our lives and keep his commands … we benefit our neighbor which is good and well pleasing to God.

The Law makes itself clear in what it demands and that we can find no peace and salvation in it.

For Luther it was important for the people to know that the keeping of God’s requirements will never save us. It is not what we do or must do … but always what Christ has done for us and is doing in us.

All of the commandments but two begin with Thou shall not! The Law primarily tells us what we shouldn’t do. When it tells us what we should do it falls to only two commandments: Keep Holy the Sabbath day - which Luther says refers to hearing God’s word and not despising the preaching of God’s word and the hearing of it because 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. and to Honor your father and mother which points to our headship and the true authority of those placed with responsibility over us that leads to and is only found in Christ.


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

Dr. Phil Williams, DTS, 1976.

In the Seventh Commandment Luther writes:

You shall not steal.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

For Luther the distinction of law and Gospel was vitally important. He even noted with regards to the seventh commandment about - Ill-gotten gains -Saying: 

“You farmers and townsmen are, almost all of you, thieves and skinflints! The same applies to tailors, brewers, and others. Don’t think that God established the market to be a den of thieves.” 

LW Vol. 51 Pg. 156

For Luther it was not just about the petty thief but every form of stealing that defrauds our neighbor. We are always to do what is best to help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

No matter how good we keep the law we fall short. In the law and its keeping is death because in it we see no savior. It is this distinction of Law and Gospel that Luther wanted the people and you and me to know. In teaching the Ten Commandments first Luther shows what God requires and our inability to keep it. As we begin Lent with this Ash Wednesday service may we all see in the Law God’s perfect requirements and the good that they teach, but as Christians may we also know that by the Law we come to the knowledge of sin which brings us to repentance by the work of the Holy Spirit so that we might look outside ourselves to the one who is the fulfillment of the Law - Jesus Christ our Lord.

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


Monday, February 12, 2018

Sermon February 10-11, 2018 - Transfiguration

Title: Jesus transfigures you!
Text: 2 Cor. 3:12-13; 4:1-6

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you remember the old joke:

How many Lutheran’s does it take to change a light bulb?

CHANGE! We don’t like change!

The truth is Lutheran’s love change but it has to be the right change. Change for change sake is not good. Change for the wrong reasons is not. Change in compromising the truth is not good. Change just to be different or new is not good. Change because of the world, opposed to the word, is not good.

Last weekend we saw change in a good way. Gregory Michael Goddard went from being God’s enemy to God’s child. He went from darkness to light. He went from death to life … from separation from God to an eternity with God.

Gregory was changed, he was transfigured.

Paul too as he writes to the Corinthian church:


12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 2 Cor. 3:12-13

Paul comes to the Corinthians in this letter with the Good News that change has come. Grace has fulfilled the Law in Christ. Moses veiling of the glory of God reflected in his face, is now shining forth in the faces and lives of the children of God, and that was made known in the Jesus, the word made flesh for you.

3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Cor. 3:3

What an image of God working through word and Spirit! You are a testimony of God’s work through his bringing you to life by the Gospel. You are his work just as by the finger of God he wrote on the tablets of stone he has written the word of life upon you.

Paul contrasts the ministry of death to the ministry of life. The Law kills but the Spirit gives life.
In his previous letter Paul had to deal with the false Apostles that had infiltrated the church at Corinth, causing division and puffing up some within the church, calling those at Corinth Rich, and Kings while contrasting himself and the other Apostles as poor and fools for Christ sake. But Paul here points to the change that has come as a result of the gospel of God in Christ Jesus. This ministry is through the mercy of God and because of that – he and the other apostles don’t lose heart.


Last weekend was a joyful time for me but sad also. The weather didn’t cooperate much and many that I contacted didn’t come to worship because of the weather or other circumstances. But the sadness for me was the ones who didn’t even respond. Now certainly an anniversary isn’t the end all and be all of the work of the church but it is a symptom of what the word of the lord gets at here through Paul and his letter.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The god of this world that Paul is speaking of is not Jesus but Satan. The devil is also called the prince of the air. In our Men’s Breakfast Bible study last weekend and the Martin Luther DVD series that we just finished, John Nunes who is President of Concordia University New York, spoke of the difference between Lutheranism and a Calvinistic understanding of the scriptures. A key point in the understanding of salvation would include – the perseverance of the saints. Can you squander the gift of grace and lose your salvation? Lutheran’s would say yes.

The devil will do everything in his power to point you away from Christ and our loved ones, and fellow members who self exclude themselves are in danger as the text from Pastor Merrell’s message last week makes clear:

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The word of God and work of the Holy Spirit are the only means to come to faith and to remain in the faith. It is all of God and for some reason we in our sinfulness can and do reject the work of the Holy Spirit. It is you and it is me that need to be that encouragement to stir up one another.

5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

For 55 years Peace has had six pastors. Under shepherds and servants of the word but we all who serve in so many ways are servants. Some serve the body of Christ here at Peace in clear view in defined roles. Some serve in the corners and out of view. 

Some serve as the body of Christ in the world like the clip of David Sams from the message last weekend pointing out an obvious bias in the Google Home devise to not understand the question - who is Jesus - but knowing the answer to who is Buddha, or who is Mohammad or even who is David Sams. 

Darkness will cover or make every attempt to cover the light of the gospel. So it is up to you and it is up to me as Christians to make every attempt to shine that light of Christ in a very dark world.

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


The Super Bowl is probably not a place that you might expect the light of Christ to shine but it did and in a big way. The Eagles coach Doug Pederson did when asked by NBC’s Dan Patrick:

“How do you explain this, that nine years ago you’re coaching in high school and here you are with this trophy?”

To which Pederson responded:

“I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity,”

And MVP quarterback Nick Foles told

"I want to be a pastor in a high school. It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It's a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people's hearts."

New England Patriots [player] Matthew Slater, himself a devout Christian, didn't just talk about his respect for the other team's playing ability. He spoke about how he admired their faith.

"I really appreciate Carson's boldness for the Gospel, how he represents Christ day in and day out," the 10-year NFL veteran responded. "And it's not only him. You know, Nick does that as well. Chris Maragos. Brother Burton. I mean, there are a lot of brothers over there that stand firm for what they believe in, they represent the Gospel in a tremendous fashion."

"Ultimately, I know, to them and myself, that's what's going to matter for eternity beyond the game of football," Slater said. "They'll be my brothers in the Lord for a long time to come," he continued. "But on Sunday, obviously we'll be competing."

Dear friends, I don’t give a rip about football but this could just get me a bit excited!

In the Transfiguration the light of Christ Jesus shines out of darkness.

And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

The Law and the Prophets all point to Jesus and are fulfilled in him.

Jesus Christ, has to remove the cover of His humanity to reveal the true glory that is His and his alone … and has now been veiled for a time from the eyes of the world. Though Jesus is fully God and fully man he reveals this truth through means to you and me his disciples.

We all fail to recognize the true glory of Jesus, at times seeing only a good man who can be an example for us to follow. But many play the fool, trusting in themselves, or listening to the ways of the world that lead away from the glory of Jesus and his gift of faith and life in him which is promised for all by faith.

7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

“It is good that we are here.” It is truly good, that through Jesus only and his suffering and death at the Cross and glorious resurrection on the third day that we can be made sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by faith in him.

The light of Christ shines in you and me as we shine that light of Christ in a dark world. Share and shine that light of forgiveness and peace and the eternal hope in the Son who takes away the sin of the world.

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


Monday, February 5, 2018

Sermon January 27-28, 2018

Title: The word of God has authority unto salvation!
Text: Mark 1:21-28

22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Many of you might remember when President Ronald Reagan was shot. It was a time of uncertainty and trial. The question of who was in charge while the president was in the hospital came up at one of the press briefings. You also might remember Alexander Haig who was Reagan's Secretary of State getting up and saying, "I'm in charge!" The problem was - he wasn't. He didn't have the authority.

When I worked in the music business my boss had said he would make arrangements for a delivery for me. The day of the delivery the customer called me asking when the piano would be delivered. I called my boss. He told me he had forgotten to schedule it and apologized. I must have sounded hot and a bit unforgiving when he said, "Russ, don't say anything you're going to regret." I cooled down and thanked him. My boss was speaking from the seat of authority!

Jesus called his disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately followed him and now in Capernaum Jesus immediately begins to teach in the synagogue.

22 And they were astonished [which literally means blown away] at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 

Authority means in the basic sense: The power to enforce laws, to exact obedience, to command, determine and to judge. 

Jesus and his teaching did that, and in such a way as to make him recognizable to his hearers over the scribes and those teachers of the law that the people were familiar with. Jesus, for them, was really different.

Those scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had the place of authority in Jewish religious life but Jesus brings with him a teaching, and he teaches so that he is seen - as the true authority - and with his teaching the people are amazed or astonished.

Writer, William A. Ward in speaking about teachers and teaching has said, "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Progress Magazine, December 23, 1992.

Jesus is the good teacher, the superior teacher and the great teacher who by his word, his parables and his sacrificial life, death and resurrection brings those in darkness into his marvelous light and by this light - convicts and releases … condemns and forgives.

The gospel of Christ makes disciples throughout the world because Jesus’ words have authority!

23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

The words of the unclean spirit also recognize the authority of Jesus and speak through the man possessed. The demon’s words also speak the truth that the light of life – the Holy One of God - will destroy all darkness.

“It was the evil spirit that cried out at the sight of Jesus, affirming that he and Jesus of Nazareth had nothing in common, that he and all the demons belonged to a company which are and always will [be in opposition] with the Son of God. His cry is a cry of fear, lest Christ should see [fit] to condemn them, to destroy them by chaining them forever in hell.” 

Popular commentary of the Bible Paul Kretzmann NT Vol.1 p.168

The demon knows who Jesus is. But do we? Do we, through our own sinfulness and uncleanness, see this Holy One of God – this God in the flesh, as God, holy and set apart? Do we listen to his word? Or, do we listen to the world?

We all fall victim to our own sinful desires and the temptation that the world, the devil and our flesh lead us. We hear the word of God on Sunday, but just as easily hear the devils call and tempting. At times we give in, whether it’s a little white lie, sinful lust, or blatant disobedience. 

To be Holy is in opposition to sin and though you and I try we always fall short.

It is true with you and with me. It is true in church or out of church. 

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said:

. . . when Satan cannot catch us with a big sin, he will try a little one. It does not matter to him as long as he catches his fish, what bait he uses. Beware of the beginning of evil, for many, who [looked] to go right, have turned aside and perished amongst the dark mountains in the wide field of sin.

C.H. Spurgeon.

So how can you be protected? Be in the word. Hear the word proclaimed in service. Read the word in devotions, and study the word as taught rightly in Bible Study. 

Our Thursday mid-week study, is studying Elijah in 1 Kings, our Sunday study is using one of the readings for the weekly Lectionary and our men’s breakfast Bible study is finishing the Luther DVD study series. 

When I visited Dick Rutz in rehab a few weeks ago he made a point of telling me how much he enjoyed the videos and what he learned. I guess at 95 you’re still not too old to learn something new!
Don’t ignore it. Open the Bible, study the word, and talk to those who are in the word. There are different ways that Christian churches understand God’s word and teach it and you need to know what you believe, why you believe it and what the difference means.

Is Baptism God’s work or mans? Our Lutheran understanding teaches that it is God’s work.
In baptism we die to the sinful uncleanness that we are born into and are raised with Christ to newness of life - washed and marked by Christ as his redeemed. And just as Jesus, the word of God made flesh, cast out that demon saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.

So too the word of God, connected with the water, in the Name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit also conquers sin, death and the power of the devil and marks you and me as God’s child.

It is this Jesus – the word of God made flesh – who is teaching in the synagogue and who has and teaches with authority.

It is this Jesus - who by his word - cast out the unclean spirit and freed the possessed man from the power of the devil.

It is this Jesus – who is the holy one of God – who came in the flesh to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin - in your place.

It is this Jesus who they, saw and heard, and were blown away with his teaching in amazement … and then went and spread his fame and his name everywhere.

It is this Jesus that during the season of Epiphany we recognize as the savior of the world who came down from heaven to set you and me and all captives of sin free. 

It is this Jesus, who is the living word of God, that by the Holy Spirit and his work brings to faith all born dead to sin and are unclean and by his word, connected with the water in Holy Baptism raises those – you and me – from death to life in him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

For Galileo, who summoned the learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the power of belief was so strong, that they denied their eyesight and did not believe the truth.
God, by his Spirit, will bring you and all to the light of his truth and will keep you in this truth by his word and sacraments unto life eternal.

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