Monday, July 29, 2019

Sermon July 27-28, 2019

Title: Taught by our Lord … we pray!
Text: Luke 11:1-13

11 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Our Gospel lesson today begins with our Lord in prayer … a practice that we know from the scriptures, that He did very often. Most of us know that prayer is – conversation with God – we talk to God about our needs and wants but find it hard at times to know how or for what to pray. This leads to the disciples in our lesson asking Jesus to teach them to pray and His giving of the Lord’s Prayer.

Martin Luther the great reformer was also asked by his barber, Master Peter Beskensdorf, how he prays? Luther, not one for quick or short answers in spite of all that consumed his time gave his barber a reply … a letter of 40 printed pages! Titled “A Simple Way to Pray”, Luther delved into his deep understanding of prayer and all that the world, the flesh and the devil work at to keep you away from prayer and your conversation with God.

Jesus teaches his disciples:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Martin Luther begins his letter to Master Peter by focusing on what he needs to do to be skilled at his vocation as a barber.

Luther says:

“A good clever barber must have his thoughts, mind and eyes concentrated upon the razor and the beard and not forget where he is in his stroke and shave.

If he keeps talking or looking around or thinking of something else, he is likely to cut a man’s mouth or nose – or even his throat.

So anything that is to be done well … ought to occupy the whole man with all his faculties and members. As the saying goes, He who thinks of many things thinks of nothing and accomplishes no good; How much more must prayer possess the heart exclusively and completely if it is to be a good prayer!”

Jesus says:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Prayer is a beautiful thing but one that has many obstacles.
The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

C.S. Lewis

You know you miss the mark when you pray.


So do I … and so did our Synod President Matt Harrison. In one of his talks at a convention he told a story of when he first was elected president and of a visit with an old pastor, a bishop, of a partner church in Germany.

He said, “In his room was a kneeler that the old man obviously used very often. There were knee marks in the worn pad where he had spent many hours and the arm rest was indented as well. Also the pages of the Bible were thin with the oil of the hands making them almost transparent.” President Harrison said, “Seeing that I thought to myself – I need to learn how to pray!”

It is one of the things that I resolved to do and to be better at as well. Prayer is something that must be done by you and by me as Jesus tells us to:

… ask … than to seek … and finally to knock.

Luther continues his letter to his barber with this:

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening.

Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught. (Or becomes nothing)

You can’t know your heavenly father without communing with Him.

This is done by prayer as you ask, seek and knock and by hearing his word of reply as you partake of weekly worship, hearing the Lord’s word of Law and Gospel but truly being comforted by his holy absolution given by God through his means of word and sacrament.

I have been involved in ordinations and installations services over the years and many new pastors called from the seminary have been ordained into the office of the Holy Ministry with a beautiful service, wonderful music, the laying on of hand from the local pastor’s in attendance, and with much singing and prayer.

When God calls a pastor to His church He is calling a pastor to be His representative, called through the congregation to bring Christ and His gifts to His people. It was joyful to be involved and to celebrate what God has done and continues to do for his people.

As we think about our Lord’s words again in the Gospel for today regarding prayer:
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Holy Spirit is given in abundance at these ordinations and installations because God wishes to richly bless His people with His gifts and the most blessed gift you can have is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to you … who works in you, faith in Christ’s finished work and keeps you pointed to Him so that on the last day you may stand firm in that faith unto life everlasting.

And by the Holy Spirit’s work in you from our epistle reading today bring the joyful gift of prayer to the Lord’s logical conclusion when it says:

10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

When you were born in sin the devil would have placed a sign upon your forehead that read "Dead to God," which means that you are dead in sin and dead you will stay. But, God in Christ has ripped that sign from your forehead and replaced it with a new sign that reads “Alive in Christ!”

Your sin has been paid through the cross that Christ endured for you, so that in Him you might have an eternity 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Eph. 1:21

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


Monday, July 22, 2019

Sermon July 20-21, 2019

Title: Work, serve, listen and live!
Text: Luke 10:38-42

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Well VBS is over!

It was a great week with all the children. It was a lot of work for Monica and Elise to put everything together. Adult and teen helpers, children who are brought to our care, and a fun time for all and it is all over way too soon until next year!

Work is part of all our lives even when it is fun. We serve the needs of others is important and can be fun also. We listen to instruction for how things are to be done and the children listen to us as we teach and lead. And to live - according to the great cartoon strip Ziggy many years ago in speaking about the true meaning of life - is doing stuff!

Last week we worked, served, listened and lived as followers of Christ … doing stuff at VBS. We taught, sang songs, listened to God’s word, had snacks that were provided, made crafts and played games that were fun and beneficial for the children in our care.

Thanks to all for your help and support!

Now, in our lesson for today, the wonderful Martha and Mary story that we’ve all heard many times before, it seems that Martha gets a bad rap at times. Poor Martha, doing the work, and all that she could to take care and serve the Lord’s needs, having welcomed him - and those who were traveling with him - into her house while her sister Mary only sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to His teaching.

Jesus and his disciples had been traveling as the sending of the 72 prepared the way. The Lord’s peace obviously rested on this house as Jesus was welcomed in by Martha and Mary.

Now, you know how things can go when you have guests, expected or unexpected. The visit may have been expected but the time of Christ’s arrival may not have been, and even if it was, I have yet to see a hostess who didn’t still fret over the preparation, making sure that all things were in order.

Martha was determined to see that the needs of Jesus and those with Him were met, I’m sure, with exceeding abundance and that Jesus was distinguished as a beloved guest in her house.

Mary on the other hand knew who was now visiting in her home and she was not to be taken away from her Lord - no matter what earthly things needed to be done.

“We have here two forms of service, each done for the Lord, and each with the best of intentions, the one with the work of the hands, the other in listening to the words of eternal wisdom. They need not clash, but have their worth.”

P.E. Kretzmann Popular commentary on the Bible NT Vol. 1 Pg 326
At some point and as I’m sure you can relate - Martha gets frustrated with her sister. Martha is doing all the work by herself so that Jesus can be properly served in her home and she has lost all patience with her sister Mary – who, I’m sure, remains oblivious to Martha’s dilemma.

She finally has had enough of it and in a tone that speaks of her frustration says:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40b

We’ll in years past I know my wife has been there … and maybe you can relate. When the kids were at home and guests were coming over, Monica would have a list of things that needed to be done … and Amy’s would be reading a book, Jon in his room or outside and dare I say … me, sitting in my chair … reading … playing guitar … maybe banjo … whatever it was … it was important stuff here! Though there was a less than enthusiastic response by us all to cleaning up for family … friends … whatever.

“Would somebody please clean the upstairs bathroom!” might be a common command. “Russ, will you take out the garbage … and when you’re done with that, please set the table?” Monica, might be heard calling.

I might think to myself … “But, I’m reading or playing here … in a comfortable … reclined … position.”

Monica’s focus is on our guests, whom ever that may be, and that they get served in the best way possible. The kids and I were a bit less joyful in service … even though we too want our guests served in the best possible way … we just don’t want to DO the work. 

Now, I’m sure that if Jesus was coming to your house, you would all want to sit at His feet and listen to the wisdom that he has to say just like Mary … right?

It can be inconvenient to find time for God as there is always something else in life to do. But, the word of God that we have in our Scriptures today, is the same word of God that sat talking to Mary – the word made flesh - and the same comfort Mary received from Jesus, so that she forgot the cares Martha wrestled with, is the same comfort you too can receive by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Martha and Mary were both focused on Jesus but in different ways and the Good News that we’ve learned in our gospel lessons reminds us all that as followers of Christ, God uses us all as his messengers in the world.

But you can’t lose sight of Jesus. You need to know him - to be able to reflect him to a dying world. And while the cares of the world like those we’ve seen this past week can consume you and me.

During VBS last week we saw Martha and Mary in action. Some were Martha’s at VBS that make ready the space, food, games, set up the church and prepared the lessons. Mary’s only focus was on Jesus and the message of hope and peace to those precious little ones given into their care. Together the setting and message of hope will come together like the arms of a loving parent that these children can be wrapped in today, tomorrow and always because God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12)

As you think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remember He was the one who was willing to give His life for you and me. Not, that Martha’s preparations for Jesus’ visit were not good, but Mary couldn't see what needed to be done - because her eyes were only fixed on her Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Work, serve, listen and live!

Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, came down from heaven for you so that:

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor. 5:21)

Christ is the one thing necessary and He has come for you so that you might live in Him.

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


Monday, July 15, 2019

Sermon July 13-14, 2019

Title: By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!
Text: Luke 10:25-37

37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

In our text for today we read of a lawyer who stood up to put Jesus to the test. Now, this is not to be a sermon which lifts up or puts down the noble profession of attorneys. But it is the word of the Lord and we can all learn an important lesson.

The question that is asked - “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” - is a bit odd. How do you inherit anything? It might have been more direct if he had asked, “What must I do to earn eternal life?” because that is the question so many what to know.

In my business background we we’re always taught to answer a question with a question so that you could better get to the real objection. So Jesus, being the best at fleshing out the true meaning to the question that is asked of Him replies with a question.

26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Having the ball back in his court the lawyer recites the word giving a summary of the Moral Law correctly, according to Deut. 6: 5; Lev. 19: 18.

“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.”

And I might add that he probably said it with a bit of boastful pride too!

Well, finally getting to the real objection, Jesus turns the prideful attorney’s answer back on himself when He says:

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The truth is, as Jesus quite rightly points out, no one, not even one who rightly knows the scripture can keep the Law of God perfectly. To know the Law and to keep the Law is two very different things. And, this command to love your neighbor as yourself really pushes us well beyond what we can do. Shoot, for many of us we can’t even love ourselves so how are we going to love others?

But, despite falling short God uses you and me, His children, and:

By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!

You too, as we all do, tend to put Christ to the test. It’s the same word of God today as it was for the Lawyer and the same requirements that God demands and at times many believe they actually love God and their neighbor enough.

239 baptized and 205 confirmed members here at Peace but we worship less than 75 on a weekend. Now granted some have moved away and some attend elsewhere and have not yet asked to be removed from the roles. But, many just don’t come, maybe thinking that they’ve loved God enough and like the lawyer ask: “And who is my neighbor?”

God works through means and for better or worse that’s you and me. We are God’s hands in the world, bringing the love of Christ to a dying world and also to real people. As we learned last week with the sending of the 72 they went proclaiming peace and healing with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Sometimes your neighbor needs a helping hand, when the ways of the world brings grief.

At times it is a prayer of comfort to let them know that you understand and will stand with them.

At times it might require a word of rebuke when they are going the wrong way in this life.

And as the church it might require a word of warning from us that to be away from God’s word and sacrament and the gift of worship and fellowship that He calls to participate in may lead to no communion and fellowship with him at all.

Many of the members of Peace need a call from their neighbor.

If you care about a member that you know that doesn’t attend give them a loving call. If they have needs look for ways to help. Remind them that God will never leave them of forsake them even if they’ve forsaken the assembly here at Peace and have self-excluded themselves from the church and the gifts God so longs to give them.

By Christ’s Spirit we serve in mercy and love!


I went home Monday and was taking Tuesday off to make up for a few days I worked for funerals recently. I looked forward to a day off to finish up a few things I needed to do. At 6:44 in the morning a text came in. It was from my friend Jeff.

I'm sending this to several people this morning.
I unfortunately lost a set of keys up north this weekend.
My wife and son are both out of town and I'm looking for someone willing to drive me (in my vehicle) to Kalkaska to get my stranded car.
I have today off and wouldn't have to miss work.
(It's 3:15 minutes each way).
Please pardon the interruption.

J Bowdell

Now Jeff is an old friend. We met in 1965 and he lived across the street. We played in bands together. He has and would do anything for me if I asked. How could I pass by on the other side … though I really wanted a day off.

I sent this reply:

I have a committal at Crescent Hills Cemetery at 11 am. If you need me after that, I can take you up in my truck. Russ

Then I went about some of the things I needed to do, take bottles back to the store, put a few things away, got gas for my truck so I was ready for the trip and loaded up Monica’s VBS waterfall display and brought it over to the church. When I got here at 9:30 Jeff called …

“Hey thanks for the offer but I’m all set for the ride but I really appreciate your offer to drive me up!”

Sometimes you neighbor is your best friend and other times it may be someone you don’t even know. Would we react the same towards the one we don’t even know bringing care and help? I don’t know … we all would find it easier to help the friend but I’d home we might be willing to help the one in need whether friend or not.

As Jesus said in gospel reading of the Good Samaritan:

36 Which of these three, - the Priest, the Levite or the Samaritan - do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

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


Monday, July 8, 2019

Sermon July 6-7, 2019

Title: Through the word the harvest is gathered!
Text: Luke 10:1-20

2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

A French writer, after visiting America in 1831, said:

"I [looked] for the greatness of the United States in her [spacious] harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

Alexis de Tocqueville.

The truths of these words are self evident to we who have spent many years enjoying the fruits of a free country and a freedom of religion protected in the constitution. Let us pray that as we’ve celebrated our freedoms this Independence Day we pray that God opens the eyes of those who have fallen away and that they too will repent and turn in faith back to the Lord of life who has given what we could never earn - as a free gift - through those who are sent to proclaim this Gospel!

In the Gospel lesson today our Lord appoints a large number … 72 as our text reads to go in pairs, telling them:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

As we learned last week in the Gospel lesson, Jesus was resolute as He set His face towards Jerusalem. His time on earth was moving towards the cross and his atoning and vicarious death for you. This sending of workers into the mission field would be no easy task as Jesus Himself says when He says, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. This calling and sending, for those 72, would bring the same anger and rebuke that was leveled at Jesus. Many who serve the proclamation of the Gospel today see and feel this as well.

Jesus says:

16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

These messengers were sent to bring peace and healing to a dying world. They were sent with the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Kingdom of God was embodied in the incarnate God/man Jesus Christ and some would reject this good news … sending the dust of their town off the sandals of those sent in condemnation for their rejection.
Though at times the comfort and peace of Christ is rejected … service to the Lord remains joyful.

Peace and healing. Two wonderful and good things; but in our day to day not always appreciated or received. At times when we have peace we push others to the brink of anger, instead of taming our own tongue and keeping things peaceable. At times we break friendships and even sever families requiring God, through repentance, to bring forgiveness and healing to, those in need.

Christ’s rebuke though, to those who rejected His messengers in Chorizin and Bethsaida which were, almost side by side, on the shores of Lake, Gennesaret – the sea of Galilee - though great miracles had been done in their midst, the words of eternal life and love out of the mouth of Jesus had made no impression upon them.

Even Capernaum, the Lord’s headquarters during His Galilean ministry, would receive the full measure of His wrath on the last day and be forcefully thrust down to hell.

It’s pretty sobering - and a word of warning here for us all.

Though Christ has called us to faith by word and sacrament and has been in our midst for years, decades, and even generations, in both the written and spoken Word of the Gospel; how often, is He (Jesus) neglected and overlooked in the homes of his children? No Scripture, or family devotion; and no regular church attendance for some; -- how might Christ’s rebuke to these cities reach into your home and mine as the dust of His judgment is kicked off His feet and settles at the feet of those who have turned from His loving call?

Kretzmann Commentary NT Vol. 1 Pg322

If you reject His love you receive his wrath. But even in the Lord’s rebuke there is hope.

Tyre and Sidon, heathen cities whom the Jews despised for their idolatrous practices and beliefs, Jesus said, would long since have repented, covered with sack-cloth, and ashes.


Spending time in the hospital, with home visits, and with recent funerals, the truth of God’s abiding peace and comfort becomes evident. Families at these difficult times are brought back to the reality of life and death issues.

Even in dire situations the Lord works on the hearts of those He loves.

I was able to sing the good news at Peace member Steve Collom’s funeral last weekend singing I am but a stranger here heaven is my home to a family that is hurting at his death, so that the peace of our Lord and savior Jesus rests upon them and His healing touch is there to comfort and bind up the brokenhearted.

Steve’s son said to me – as we talked after the committal at the cemetery, that his mom’s funeral was just this past April and her service brought him no comfort at all but he added, “This service brought me great comfort.” He said, “It was nice to hear that dad had made amends.” I told him, “That is how Lutheran’s are, we let God be God. We cast our burdens on him and he comfort’s us with his forgiveness and peace!”

1 John 1:9 says it best:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Friends, the good news is really good news as the 72 returned rejoicing!

“Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

But Jesus though he reminds them of the great power that they have in His name also cautions them …

20 … do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Christ’s joy is to bring peace to your house in Him. In Christ you receive the comfort of eternal life because His promise is to never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)

Christ’s call is to:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, as you 7 cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. And we are told to 8 be watchful, because the devil, your adversary, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:6-8

Though the devil prowls … in Christ you have eternal security and Lord’s promise that your name is written in heaven.

Through the word the harvest is gathered!

While it is not important for us to know the names of the 72 or those whom the Lord uses to bring His Gospel message to the lost. It is important to know that Jesus knows you … and that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.

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