Monday, June 18, 2018

Sermon June 16-17, 2018

Title: The Lord produces fruit in you!
Text: Mark 4:26-34

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Dear friends,

There is a scene in the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where nearing the end of his quest, Indiana, reaches an opening in a cliff but for him to continue on he must take a leap of faith to reach the other side.

As he looks out at what is before him he sees a chasm below that is seriously deep and way too far for him to reach or jump to on the other side. He has followed the directions in a book his father has given him. He faces a dilemma. What to do?

Finally as the scene climaxes and sweat pours off his face, he raises his leg, and stepping out in faith, walks off the face of the cliff. His foot lands on a solid bridge that was invisible to his sight. From his viewpoint there was no way to the other side. What we are shown as he continues across is that the perspective of the cliff face, on the other side, concealed the bridge that was right in front of him. In his leap of faith … perspective is everything.

So too in our lesson for today … Jesus had been sharing with His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God and using parables to explain their meaning. Jesus talked about seed and the sewing of the seed and how it took root and grew or didn’t depending on the soil where it landed.

And we read in Mark Chapter 4 starting at the 4th verse:

4 Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

The good soil produces an increase … growing … 30 … 60 and even 100 times the amount of seed that was planted!

The Gospel message, the good seed of the word, proclaimed and by the working of the Holy Spirit … produces fruit in you!

Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in our text today, as if a man should scatter seed. The image is vivid in our minds … at this time of year as we plant gardens or take vacations seeing the many farms and farmers planting seed in the ground. They all hope and expect a yield come harvest time.

At the time of our Lord’s lesson in the Gospel reading for today, the blessing that we know of running water, at the turn of the tap, and hoses that get the water to the plant was far off in the distant future.

And so the man who had sown seed, sleeps and rises … night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; the earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

29 … But, when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus continues to speak in our Gospel lesson today about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the mustard seed … a seed so small that when it is sown, into the ground, is tiny … 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The leap of faith that was taken in the fictitious character in the movie Indiana Jones was staged and it was achieved by sleight of hand and movie magic … but the reality of the powerful tool of the Gospel given in word and sacrament to you by faith is still for some … no big deal.

Even here in church the seed of the word is scattered and falls upon different soil. Some falls on the path … being left where it fell for the birds to find, some on the rocky soil and it sprouts quickly in the service but upon leaving church is scorched by the sun and the cares of the day. Other seed falls among the thorns, which can be those of you who really don’t want to be here and grudgingly come, but the word gets choked and yields no grain. But, some seed falls on good soil and with you the seed of the word takes root; it sprouts and grows – very slowly at times. But, with joy you leave here, sharing the word and the love of Christ producing a yield of 30, 60 or even 100 times!

For others … You might come to church reluctantly. You might have opportunities to tell someone outside church about Jesus … and forget to. You might even at times feel like you are … well … small and insignificant.

You might feel that what you say won’t matter, or that what you say won’t have the eloquence of speech of others, or that what you say concerning Christ … won’t work to expand God’s kingdom.

The doubts you feel … many feel. But Jesus tells you in this parable that God will take your imperfect speech, He will take even the slightest and smallest witness … through your failed stuttering and muttering about Christ and His saving work and grow His kingdom 30, 60 and even 100 times. The word which has been sown will not return void!

We read in Isaiah Chapter 55

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Just like the tiny mustard seed … which seems at the beginning …so insignificant … God grows to unbelievable dimensions over time so that the riches of Christ reach so far out that even those that don’t want to come to church and those that don’t want to hear the message of salvation will be transformed through the word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word of God is power. We’re told in Romans 1, by the apostle Paul:

…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16)

I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate my point:


You see … the story about Christ and His saving work can’t be heard … if no one tells the story. If you think that someone else, better than you, will come along to tell the story later … all that may be heard by your friend, neighbor or relative is silence. The word of God is the power and the seed that is sewn unto salvation for those that need to hear the Gospel, and by this power – God - will transform hearts and grow his kingdom now and for eternity. Sometimes it is a very slow growth but understand God is working and His church is growing.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but we have plenty of room here at church in this service and have been on a downward trend these last 15 years. It’s time to sew the seed of the word and trust that God will use the smallest, slightest and weakest witness about Himself to grow His kingdom.

He will bring the truth about Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit and plant, in the lives of others, the seed of the word and grow the church to unbelievable yields.
He gives you the power to change lives … by His word, through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There is a poem that poses a question we all need to ask ourselves. It’s called Builders and Wreckers.

As you listen to this poem consider the work of God and the tiny mustard seed and what can be done by the power of the God’s Spirit in the lives of those who build the kingdom through our failed abilities and efforts … by God’s word and Spirit.

Builders and Wreckers (A poem to ponder)

As I watched them tear a building down

A gang of men in a busy town

With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell

They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled,

And the men you'd hire if you’d want to build?"

He gave a laugh and said, "No, indeed,

Just common labor’s all I need."

"I can easily wreck in a day or two,

What builders take many years to do."

And I thought to myself, as I went my way

What about me, which role do I play?

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my work as best I can

And patiently sharing the Master’s plan?

Or, am I a wrecker who walks to town

… Content with only tearing down?

"O Lord let my life and my labors be

God’s work, built up for eternity!"

Author Unknown

Friend’s, the power of the gospel will build the kingdom of God. Through the weakest of speech and the slightest of skill, the power of God will use even your smallest of efforts, in proclaiming Christ to a dying world, to do His will and bring His people to faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Those that are bound in this life to sin, death and the devil are set free by the power of the Gospel message and believe. The kingdom of God is found only in Christ and His saving Gospel which is the Good News and the message of salvation for everyone who believes.

Christ takes seed in you and grows His kingdom comforting you with this truth

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


Monday, June 11, 2018

Sermon June 9-10, 2018 Anniversary

Title: Your sins are forgiven in Christ!
Text: 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

What a joyful time for our congregation! We celebrate today the many blessings of God given here at Peace over the last 55 years as we honor this place of worship now well into our 30th year!

Our first worship service was held here in this building on September 13, 1987 and our Festival of Dedication service was held on October 25, 1987 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with Pastor Merrell officiating as the liturgist and the Festival Sermon being delivered by the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Schlecht – now called to glory and at home with the Lord.

Pastor Merrell, who has served Peace as pastor for over 32 years and additionally 5 years as pastor emeritus, is once again fulfilling that great blessing of conducting the church’s liturgy for us here at Peace today, and I get to stand in for Dr. Schlecht - a man I knew and heard preach many times during my time at St. John in Rochester in the late 90s.

What a wonderful blessing and humbling experience to say the least.

Surely the Lord is in this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Alleluia! Gen. 28:16-17

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he has girded himself. Psalm 93:1

So began the introit for the dedication of this wonderful building some 30 years ago quoting Gen 28 and Psalm 93.

In the same joy Paul addresses the Corinthians:

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The glorious word of God who spoke in time past – was written for our learning - and also we have spoken and continue to speak God’s word, here and in this place, as a confident hope of a savior who saves – Jesus Christ our Lord.

The confidence of those Peace members, of time past, who undertook this big project of building a new church and a new home by a step of faith did so, not in their own confidence or power, but in hope and in the power of God.

“No phase two!” Judy Harroun once told me about the planning of this place. “You never get to phase two or three so we decided to build what we needed from the start.” And so it was here at Peace. A big church was built, for a growing congregation, with a fellowship hall, on a large piece of land (17 some acres), with room for expansion.

Dr. Schlecht’s sermon was titled “Time for Praise and Commitment” a fitting title for then and a fitting thought for today as we rededicate and recommit ourselves to the Lord’s work here at Peace in this beautiful sanctuary now 30 years old.

So what do the next 30 years hold?

When this building was dedicated this congregation had been around for almost 25 years. Much had changed and Pastor Merrell was the fifth pastor to serve Peace. An average of 5 years of service for each pastor - though some had only served three years here. Pastor Merrell was already changing the culture here at Peace and pushing the average up. By the time he retired those same 5 pastors had served the church for 50 years of its existence thanks to 32 years of Pastor Merrell’s service.

God blessed Peace much during his service. As he once told me when they closed the old building and dedicated the land here for it future use it gave the congregation a real picture of whom and what the church is – the people. Not any people but the people here that God has called and gathered to hear his word and receive his gifts now 55 years into existence.

As Paul reminds the Corinthians:

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

We are here today to give thanks for the grace of God that has been extended to the people of Peace in our previous building and in this place today. We celebrate with joy and thanksgiving all that God has done and this time of praise and recommitment for God’s people here.

How do we go forward? What does the future hold? Who is going to do the work tomorrow and in the years to come?

I don’t know – but the Lord does. It is in fact his house, his people, and his kingdom.

On Transfiguration Sunday in February of 1963 when this church began I was a 7 year old Slovak, Roman Catholic boy living in Allen Park Michigan with no connection to Waterford, Peace, Lutheranism or what the future held – but the Lord did.

In 1987 at the Feast of Dedication service here at Peace I was a 32 year old married father of two still with no connection to Peace or Lutheranism – but the Lord had moved me to Waterford!

In February of 2013 as we prepared to celebrate our 50th anniversary of this congregation I was preparing to officiate as the newly ordained and installed 6th Pastor here at Peace. Much had changed in my life and change had come upon Peace as well. But it was all in accord with the Lord’s will, plan and desire.

What was once a new congregation and what was once a new building have now been in mission and ministry for 55 years together. 

Much has changed and many who have served here are resting in Jesus. We think of them, we miss them, and we thank them for all that the Lord has given us through them.

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

It is the Lord’s work though he uses sinful people in service to him and in service to one another.

Though we age and change through the years his plan and work continues.

Though we as a congregation are not a new mission start as we were in 1963 we can still be renewed as we focus on our mission and ministry together.

Our Mission Statement makes clear what we as Christ’s followers and children here at peace are to do – "To witness and live as followers of Christ; serving one another in Christian love, so that God’s Holy Spirit may save the lost and strengthen the saved”

We live our lives together as followers of Jesus so that the love of Christ might dwell in us through the forgiveness of sins found in the gospel of Jesus and that by God’s continued work through the Holy Spirit those who are lost might be saved and we who are saved might be strengthened.

The work of the church hasn’t changed but the times that we live and the people have. Our work as the church requires new people, new thoughts, and a new vision as to how we might best fulfill God’s mission here at Peace.

It might require new people and a new thinking as how best to do the work God has given us to do here. Obviously the internet, email, and social media were not part of the fabric of society in 1963 and social norms, same sex marriage and gender identity were not embraced by our society - as they are today - when this building was completed and dedicated in 1987. So how we share the love of Christ and the gospel message going forward will require new ideas, new methods and new opportunities.

7 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The things that are seen are transient – lasting only for a short time; impermanent – even this building and its use as a place of worship may someday come to an end.

As we ourselves will leave this tent that is our earthly home for the life eternal one day - knowing that we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

This is the hope that all followers of Christ have and will continue to share - that all our sins will be forgiven and that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

I pray that this joy and this hope will be our focus and mission as we together make know the love of Christ to a broken world here at Peace and here in Waterford.

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


Monday, June 4, 2018

Sermon June 2-3, 2018

Title: Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest!
Text: Mark 2:23-28

27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Well, I’d say that summer has arrived. Not that we had a spring mind you but last weekend was beautiful and hot! On my day off which was Friday I was planning to take a long motorcycle ride and enjoying the weather. But, as happens … I noticed some things that needed to be done in the yard so I dug out the area around my bird feeder and cleaned out the landscape rocks, replaced the area with some new sod and did a few other landscape projects in my yard. By the time the day came to a close I was tired and needed rest.

I’m sure you’ve felt those times as well? Tired, burdened and wearied … and you just need to rest.

In our gospel reading for today Jesus and his disciples are walking on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. Now God’s work of creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day God rested from all his work.

2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:1-3

God made the Sabbath – holy - or set apart as a day of rest.

The religious leaders made rules to expand and explain what God intended. The Ten Commandments became more than 613 Jewish rabbinical laws and rules to explain and define them.

Take the Sabbath for instance:

Instead of a day of rest it became a day of Mitvah and Gezeirah – laws and rules. Each with varying degrees of punishment.

From Religion facts about Rabbinic law:

“A gezeirah is a rule instituted by the rabbis to prevent inadvertent violation of a mitzvah. For instance, it is a mitvah to refrain from work on the Sabbath, but a gezeirah to avoid even the handling of any work instruments on the Sabbath.”

So it’s bad and against religious law to clean the ground around the bird feeder and move the rocks on the Sabbath, but to even take up the shovel which might lead to work breaks the law as well.

General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colon Powell besides being generals both worked as Shabbes goys. A Shabbes goy was a non Jew who was hired to do work on the Sabbath that was not permitted for the Jew himself to do. So even though the Rabbinic laws were being broken, and even though the intent of the Jewish homeowner was to break the law, because it was a Gentile worker that did the work and broke the law the Jewish homeowner might believe – no harm, no flow – I’m good!

The intent of the law was broken and the spirit of the law was broken. So I guess that there is no rest for the weary on the Sabbath.

24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they [your disciples Jesus] doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Even though it is not you Jesus that’s plucking the grain – they are your followers – what are you going to do about it!

What do you do with those that break the law?

You charge them! You find them guilty! You sentence them! And you punish them!

3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:3

As one commentator put it: “Jesus lays his finger on the real trouble with these Pharisees: too much reading of rabbinical law and not enough of divine law.”

The interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel R.C.H. Lenski Pg 126

Or: too much trying to become righteous and not enough of being made righteous.

Too much Work and not enough rest. Or, as Lutherans we might say a confusion of Law and Gospel.

Keeping the law is good.

1. You shall have no other gods
2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
3. You shall remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy

The first table of the Law – the first three commandments - pertains to our relationship to God.

Have no other gods, do not misuse god’s name and keep his day holy – or set apart.

Luther in his explanation to the Small Catechism and keeping the Sabbath day holy tells us that we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

To hold it sacred - is to keep it holy or set apart. To gather together as the community of faith, to hear the word of the Lord, to learn all that god would have us know and to rest … in the mercy and work of God.


As a child growing up during in a Roman Catholic household during Lent eating no meat on Friday was a given. It was a Law it was a rule in my house. Friday … no meat! The purpose of this was to give up meat and to fast and focus on Christ and his walk to the cross to sacrifice his life for me. But, all it did was to get me to focus on meat! I wanted it and would do whatever I could to figure out what I needed to do to get it - without my mom knowing. Maybe there was a good intent to meatless Friday’s but it brought a wrong outcome for me.

25 And [Jesus] said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

I don’t believe that it was Jesus’ intent here to point out a loophole. He is not saying “See, what David did! My disciples are not doing nearly as bad as they did.” If his intent was to make a point, Jesus, could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25 which reads:

25 If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Jesus would have surly known this miscellaneous law from Deuteronomy 23 as I’m sure the Pharisees did as well. But the greater point that Jesus I contend is making - is with his conclusion:

7 ...“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The day of rest is for us (you and me) - not we for the day. Our feeble attempt to keep the Law of God shows that we trust ourselves and our work as opposed to Christ and his finished work on our behalf. 

We keep the Law when we rest in Christ and his word. As we hear God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit we are either turned in repentance or comforted by God’s forgiveness.

In fact thinking that we are keeping the Law by our effort is a pretty sure sign that we have another god and another gospel made in our own image.

Not that the Law is bad mind you, but apart from Christ it is another idol made in our own self-serving image. The Pharisees did not love God, with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and they did not love their neighbor as their self. They were in fact loving themselves and justifying their own works of Law keeping while the very Lord of life who rested and instituted the day of rest for you and me walked with his disciples through the grain field.

The Sabbath rest is in Christ. Our Sabbath rest is Christ!

It is no longer a specific day or time though Sunday – the first day of the week – is marked as the day Christians gather together to hear the word of the Lord. The Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest in him. The day, the time, and the Law are all fulfilled in Jesus and we rest in him whether we work on the weekends and worship during the week - or come together:

On the first day of the week.

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!” Mark 16:1-1-2;4b-6

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