Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sermon October 26-27, 2019 - Reformation

Title: Fear God and give him glory!
Text: Rev 14:6-7

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

The word of God is truth! It is the essence of Jesus - the word made flesh. It is the word revealed as we learned last week in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he writes:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

It is this eternal gospel that Luther hoped in and wrote for our benefit in his Large Catechism about the second article of the creed:

[27] I believe that Jesus Christ, true Son of God, has become my Lord. But what is it to become Lord? It is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and all evil. For before I had no Lord or King, but was captive under the power of the devil. I was condemned to death and, entangled in sin and blindness.

http://bookofconcord.org/lc-4-creed.php 27

It is this truth that Luther found joy and peace in.

It is this joy and peace that the Reformation blossomed and gave way to.

It is the bondage to sin that Luther felt and was crippled by.

It is the freedom in Christ that brought him peace.

It is a peace that we now share in Christ who made peace with God and has given that peace to you and me by faith in his saving work.

The eternal Gospel spoken of in Revelation is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in our gospel reading in John.

Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them – who takes rest in them - is one who accepts and acts in accordance with those words.

Martin Luther had this to say about discipleship in his lectures on the Psalms:

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1976), 245-46.

And as a disciple Jesus tells the Jews and you and I as well:

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls, devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.

He said:

"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."

But later he found the eternal gospel and blessed peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin? Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament? Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?

33 They Jews answered Jesus, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

The truth is you are all bound to sin and its cravings. You desire to do the will of your sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is deep down we all are worse and worse. The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.

But Jesus reminds His hearers and you as well that:

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Rev 14:7

Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by his own binding.

The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place;
The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin;
The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty;
And the burial in a tomb meant for another;

In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid. But, the tomb and death was meant for you!

Jesus took your place, He took your cross, He took your death and He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't … life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness because …

… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

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


Sermon October 19-20, 2019

Title: Christ is made known through the word!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two men had an argument. To settle the matter, they went to a judge for arbitration. The plaintiff made his case. He was very eloquent and persuasive in his reasoning. When he finished, the judge nodded in approval and said, "That's right, that's right."

On hearing this, the defendant jumped up and said, "Wait a second, judge, you haven't even heard my side of the case yet." So the judge told the defendant to state his case. And he, too, was very persuasive and eloquent. When he finished, the judge said, "That's right, that's right."

When the clerk of court heard this, he jumped up and said, "Judge, they both can't be right." The judge looked at the clerk of court and said, "That's right, that's right."

Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, p. 23.

Truth is Truth! "That's right, that's right."

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.


In a recent poll, light is shed on the paradox of religiosity vs. decreased morality, or God’s truth vs. our actions and how we live.

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81% of the American people say they agree that "an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." (That truth is determined apart from God’s word and teaching in our case.)

This interesting thought is key to the paradox that that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands … on behavior … or Christian values.

Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy and us:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Truth - when it is God’s word - is Truth!

At times life and society tell us what truth is to be believed – whether marriage is between a man and a woman or whether we can celebrate this gift from God in any way we choose. Whether even,

27… God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:27-28a

Today even gender is no longer a physical determination of male and female but a psychological determination as many see fit - and society in its many forms - in many ways has bought into that truth. How someone sees themselves, or feels about themselves, becomes the determining truth or reality.


An interesting video that I saw on line has a white man of about 30 years of age and around 5’-8” in height on a college campus asking students what they would say if he told them that he is 6’-4” tall.

Most smile a bit and say: “Well who am I to disagree with your truth. If you see yourself as 6’-4” than I guess you are 6’-4”."

When he pushed it further and asked how they might react to him being 6’-4” and Chinese they smiled and said: “If that is your reality then who am I to argue against you?”

Finally, when he claimed to be a 6”-4” Chine woman, one student said: “Oh come on!”

You see, if you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then truth is determined by the reality of the individual. If we believe that the child in the womb is just a bunch of cells then removing it is no different than removing a tumor that is benign or cancerous.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then there are many paths to the Father as some claim, and Jesus is not the savior and only way that he claimed to be.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then you might be a pretty good person from your perspective and not dead in trespass and sin as Paul writes the truth of our condition in Ephesians 2.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then everlasting life is given to all apart from faith in Christ and the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary and accomplished nothing.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then the rich man from our lesson a few weeks ago was not in torment in hell and he could have easily gone from death to life just by changing his reality.

If you don’t believe and trust God’s word: Then Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead and you are dead in trespass and sin.

But truth is truth … when it is God’s word …

That is what Paul keeps telling young Pastor Timothy: Preach the Word.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As Christians we have the truth and we know this by God’s gift of faith alone.

Jesus prays for his disciples in his high priestly prayer of John 17 when he prays to the Father:

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, [dear friends we’re here for the duration] but that you keep them from the evil one [from sin, death and the power of the devil]. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them [or keep them holy and separate from the world] in the truth; your word is truth.

We are kept in the truth, as we gather together to hear the truth of God’s word, as we receive the gift of forgiveness of sins in our Lord’s word and sacraments and then we go forth joyfully with that same word of comfort and peace to seek those who remain dead in trespass and sin.

For St. Timothy and for you and me all the road remains the same as Paul reminds him:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 

4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [or lies of the evil one as the time now shows]. 

5 As for you, as it was for Timothy, always be sober-minded, [clear headed and knowing that the truth is truth] endure suffering, [that is the reality for all who believe] do the work of an evangelist, [preach the word and comfort those in need the truth you have been comforted with] fulfill your ministry.

We have been blessed by faith with God truth may you all by that same faith be steadfast in receiving God word as truth for and always.

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


Monday, October 14, 2019

Sermon October 12-13, 2019

Title: Christ’s love leads us as his children!
Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

The soldier's first article of faith is summed up nowhere more eloquently than in an 1865 letter from William Tecumseh Sherman to U.S. Grant: "I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come--if alive." This is the unwritten, unspoken but unbreakable contract of the battlefield: You will leave no one, dead or alive, in the hands of the enemy.

U.S. News and World Report, July 29, 1991, p. 5.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy we learn what is expected of God’s servants who take on the responsibility of public ministry but also we too are reminded of what God expects of each one of us who has been given the gift of faith in Christ Jesus as his child and how we are to live in this life with the hope of eternity before us.

Timothy had been taught.
    Grandmother Lois, Mother Eunice,
    Apostle Paul, many of the brothers

Timothy must also teach others.
     He must impart the true word that was given to him. Law/Gospel

Timothy must be prepared for trial, persecution and suffering.
     If they rejected Jesus and Paul you must expect the same.

Suffering connects us to Christ.
3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

A soldier is trained.
     Boot camp to break a soldier down and to build up in a new image
     Baptized into Christ and taught the word of God sustained by the Holy Spirit

A soldier is trustworthy.
     Following orders, looking out for each other, knowing others look out for you.

A soldier is faithful.
     Going beyond everything training prepares you for.

5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
     Rules are the standard athletes must obey.
     God’s rules are the standers we must obey … but can’t

The winner finishes ahead of the rest.
     The last will be first and the first will be last. Christ is our blessed hope.

The winner receives the prize.
     The prize is a gift. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 

The farmer must till the soil.
     Growth comes through work

The farmer must plant the seed.
     Growth comes through means

The farmer receives a harvest.
     Growth produces a harvest [fruit]

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

God’s word is our hope and the means to eternity. It is Christ unbound from the death he suffered for the sins of the world and risen to newness of life.
10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect

Christ endured, Paul endured and we endure.

that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 

12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
     A life of faith in service to the gospel

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

Matthew 7:21-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Jesus is the faithful one and by his work you are declared righteous in him!

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


Sermon October 5-6, 2019

Title: Do not fear for the gospel is light and life!
Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

This was a busy week, and will be a busy weekend and beginning of the new week. Prep for a wedding and rehearsal on Friday with the wedding on Saturday, services on Saturday and Sunday and then I leave for the All Pastor’s Conference on Sunday returning on Tuesday.

You might think that this could be my most difficult week and give me pause with all that was needed to do and get done? Well, you would be wrong.

No … my most difficult day as a pastor was January 7th 2013.

That was the Monday after my ordination and installation as Pastor here at Peace when I came to the church to begin my service and realized that my friend and mentor Pastor Bill Merrell had retired, was not here, and it was me – alone - who now needed to move forward with the task and responsibility of shepherding the flock that is Peace Lutheran Church.

Pastor Merrell and I have worked together here in many ways are closer to being siblings, brothers if you will than the father and son image that Paul portrays in our reading but he was and is my spiritual father and mentor.

Paul writes:

3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

The apostle who was called directly by Jesus on the road to Damascus into his service was not called as we who serve the church as called today. He received this call from Christ himself and places this emphasis on the will of God in Christ whom he serves – with a clear conscience.

Timothy began his journey of service with the gift of God in a different way having his sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Many of us came to faith by the working of the Holy Spirit through the word connected in Holy Baptism and then imparted to us and built in us through the faith and teaching of our grandparents and parents. Timothy’s mother Eunice was a Jewess and believer in Christ while his father was a Greek and during Paul’s second missionary journey with Silas Timothy joined them for their missionary work and a new calling on him and his life. Acts 16:1-5

Paul writing from prison writes to encourage Timothy in the face of trials as many of us during difficult times receive text messages of support today from those important figures in our lives.

Another brother pastor, mentor and dear friend is Pastor Paul Monson who preached at my ordination while Pastor Merrell officiated. Shortly after being installed I was invited to go to a Red wings game and Pastor Monson was there as well with our mutual friend Paul … no not that Paul.

As we were walking up to the gate for entrance I mentioned how blessed I was that God was allowing me to play the part of pastor at Peace Lutheran church. Pastor Monson stopped dead in his tracks, turned, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Russ, you are the pastor of Peace!”

I knew it. I believed it. I simply meant that it was by God’s will and not mine but Pastor monsoon wanted to hit me between the eyes with this reality so that there was no confusion.

Paul tells Timothy:

fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,

Paul is reminding Timothy that he has been called to serve as a messenger of Christ in the same way as Paul - but through a different means and purpose. The laying on of hands confers the same blessing of God as it did then by Paul or fellow pastors today.

7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

At times you might feel doubt about your calling as God’s child. You might feel the need commit yourself anew to Christ. Some even think that they should be re-baptized as testimony of their commitment to Christ.

Was Christ work insufficient? Was the word of God not spoken clearly? Was the water missing? Did the pastor forget something?

I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit is God’s promise upon you and for you connected to the water so that you need not have any doubt. His work never fails and you can rest in God’s assurance that you are baptized and forgiven in Christ.

Our doubt does not negate God’s work. His promise and work and is secure.

Pastors are ordained once and though their call, place or type of service may change and they may be installed for different works they’re doubt in the midst of service does not require a re-ordination.

Luther had this to say about Paul as he battled false apostles in his lectures on Galatians of 1535 standing up to even St. Peter the pillar of the apostles, affirming that his call was not from men; that he had not received it from men but from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Luther concludes: But what does Paul intend by his bragging? I reply: This doctrine has at its purpose that every minister of the word of God should be sure of his calling. In the sight of God and man he should boldly glory that he preaches the Gospel as one who has been called and sent.

Luther’s Works American Ed. Vol. 26 Lectures on Galatians 1535 CPH 1963 pg. 15-16

For Timothy and for us all Paul encourages to stand firm.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, [in chains in Rome] but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,

You and I have a different call but it is the same Christ.

You and I have a different service but it is the same gospel.

Paul was called directly by Christ.

Timothy through the laying on of Paul’s hands

I was called by this congregation and my ordination here at Peace.

You and I through our baptism to be God’s people for service to our children and to be his messengers in a dark world where the light of Christ need to shine brightly.

9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been [made known] through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Dear friends: The gospel is never anything but Good News, whether from your lips to ears that need to hear, or from mine. We just have a different call and service to our Lord.

11 for which I was appointed Paul says: a preacher and apostle and teacher,
Paul in writing to his beloved child Timothy tells him:

8 … do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner,

He says,

12 … I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.

Friends, this is our hope too. Not just for Timothy, and not just for pastors but for you and for me as his beloved children as he wrote in another letter at another time for another people from a prison cell:

6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phi 1:6 NIV

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