Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Sermon June 27-28, 2020

Title: In Christ your reward is secure!
Text: Matt. 10:34-42

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38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus makes some hard statements to his disciples. Jesus has been called and is the very “Prince of Peace” and yet He says, in the beginning of our text today, that …

He did not come to bring peace. He came to bring a sword.
He came to divide the disciple’s families and those that they will be bringing Good News to.
If they find their life they will lose it and lose their life they’ll find it.

What on Earth is Jesus getting at?

Earlier in the Tenth chapter of Matthew Jesus commissioned the twelve to go out. He gave them power and authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal disease. He sent them not to the Gentiles or Samaritans but only to the lost sheep of Israel. He warns them in Vs 16 and 17:

16 "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

There is the great truth that Jesus came to fulfill the requirements of the Law, appease the wrath of God and to reconcile the relationship between God and man and He has done that, but also this work that Christ accomplished will have two different and distinct effects in the world.

The word of Christ will also divide the world as it will bring many by the gospel, to faith, while others who hear this message will reject it remaining in their sin.

It gets very personal for the disciples too as they go forth, pitting father against son, mother against daughter and mother-n-law against daughter-n-law. I can imagine one of the twelve speaking to a family the Good News about Jesus and seeing joy on the face of a father as he receives the Gospel by faith while his grown son walks away dismayed.

Or, a family that has the son and daughter joy in the blessings of Christ as father and mother complain that the old religion and customs were good enough for them. But then Jesus will bring his message extremely close to home for these twelve as well:

36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

To be a follower of Christ will require much sacrifice on the part of the disciples. These first pastors must take up their cross to follow him as Jesus will also, as Jesus prepares them for the ultimate sacrifice that he would make, when he picks up his cross and goes to the Mount of Calvary to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

These disciples and ultimately all who come to faith will be asked to bear our cross.

We too can feel for the disciples as they go forth. Many of you today see the same divisions in your families.

Father and son can see eye to eye when rooting for the home team or discussing where to take the family on vacation but when it comes to Jesus and discipleship … well we might see things differently.

Moms and daughters can talk like sisters about, life, love and fashion but as one gets ready to go to service on Sunday, the other might think it foolish to get up for church, when it would be better to sleep in after a late night out.

The truth of what it means to follow Christ will require each one of us to take up our cross, placing all our trust in Him who calls us to be His followers over the call of the world, the flesh and the Devil.

But what cross and what cost is Jesus speaking about? Christ is talking to you and me when He says:

34 I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

But the peace that the world wants and the peace that many of us give in to is to compromise God’s truth for the sake of peace, our peace. To water down God’s word or to turn our backs to sin, for the sake of the world, so as to be looked upon as loving in the eyes of those opposed to Christ, is the compromise the world desires.

To stand firm on the side of Christ demands the utmost fearlessness.

But who among us is fearless and what is this fearlessness? The disciples were given the answer from Jesus in verse 39.

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Christ is the peace that truly passes all understanding. He is the strength and fearlessness that goes out into the world proclaiming the Good News. In the face of rejection and fear He will keep these twelve strong so that while they stand against adversity it will be in him that they stand. Jesus has guaranteed that they will have life forever with Him because He will keep them in Him even in the face of persecution and death.

Jesus comforts them:

40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Jesus Christ will go to the ends of the Earth bringing Good News to those dead in sin and in need of forgiveness through these twelve ambassadors. Because Christ came to live, suffer, die and rise again for the sins of the world many, who hear this Good News proclaimed, will come to faith in Him. They will receive Christ by receiving those who stand in the place and by the command of Jesus and in so doing receive the Father who sent him. 

Jesus Christ will continue to stand for these little ones who bring His saving message to the lost and all who receive them receive him who sent them and the blessing of life in him for all who by faith receive this Good News.

We too are promised the same reward as those who first heard the Good News proclaimed from the mouths of the twelve that went out. The Holy Spirit confirms your place in the household of God when you, through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith, reject the compromises that the world demands but cling instead to Christ and His precious word for your eternal well being and true peace.

Martin Luther put it this way in speaking of true spiritual peace:

Therefore if sin presses you, if death or hell or danger of any sort or a temptation of the devil distresses you, you must turn your eyes away from the evil that is afflicting you and direct yourself with all your might to the promise of God. For in them you find rest and peace and joy of soul which all hell is unable to take away from you.

Dear friends, true peace comes from God and it has been given you who believe and cling to Jesus and His cross by faith.

Rejoice that in Him you to will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, endure the trials of this world confident in the promise of Christ.
Proclaim this Good News to friends and family alike, knowing that it is the will of God that all would come to a knowledge of the truth by the working of the Spirit.

Let the word of God comfort you in the difficulties you face in this life, because they are only temporary because the blessing and promise of being with Christ in Heaven is eternal.

Rejoice in the truth that your home awaits you in Heaven where Jesus has prepared a place for you and for all who by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit believe.

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


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sermon June 20-21, 2020

Title: Fear not! God loves you!
Text: Matt. 10: 5a, 21-33

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32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Today we acknowledge fathers.

Father’s Day 2020 is a bit different than ones I remember but 2020 is going to be that way for a number of things I suspect. Thinking of my dad and dads in general brings a smile to my face. I loved my dad and all he brought to my life. Dads are given a responsibility to serve and lead their families and in society as well but not all measure up to the calling they are given so you may or may not have the same joyful memories I do. It is for us to remember fathers this day, and maybe this is my own disclaimer:

Fathers are human and fathers are sinners and fathers fall short, but in Christ fathers are forgiven and on this Father’s Day may we all have the blessings of forgiveness given and received!

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These are the twelve that Jesus sent out, instructing them. But the bulk of our text today points to what await those who profess faith in Christ.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Sounds like 2020 doesn’t it? Unrest, trials, and difficult times, not the peaceful days we expect or want.

The work of those who were sent would not be fun or easy. Persecution would be part of the lot of those sent. Not only would the world hate them but so too their family, brother, father, children and so on. Christ says,

Have no fear of them … proclaim the truth!

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Dot not … if you will, reject the working of the Holy Spirit, God’s work.

It is the only unpardonable sin. To deny the gift of faith and to whom that faith points … to Jesus Christ our Lord, is the sin to which there is no repentance; for to repent one must recognize our sin and the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

As fathers the responsibility is ours. Mother’s too have that responsibility but the family has been under attack for many years. Since the sexual revolution the focus of husband and wife, moms and dads, children brought up and nurtured in a loving family has been under attack.

Of course we as God’s people let temptation and sin draw us away from our spouse.

Unfaithfulness can lead to divorce, a broken family, a unrepentant heart and a falling away from God and faith in Christ. In years past the brokenness was covered by suits, forced smiles and church for many broken by sin.

Today, the brokenness is laid bare for all to see and at times embraced, at least by the world and the worldview of many. No more is Christ the way the truth and the life for those whose peace is found only in:

My way! My truth! And my life!

The persecution of those who proclaim the name of Christ is growing. It is and has been dangerous to those around the world. Most recently this month Pastor Emmanuel Bileya and his wife Juliana were shot and killed on their farm in Nigeria, she was pregnant and their eight other children are now orphans and without the care of their loving parents. The other children were staying with friends as it had been increasingly dangerous for the family.

Proclaiming Christ in our country too is being met with anger and only time will tell the extent of the persecution we all might feel.

So what do we who are Christians do in light of this hatred in the world? Well certainly we pray but we also need to be in the world though not of the world.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a very poignant way as he was confronted with all that Hitler and the Third Reich were doing leading up to and including World War II.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He continues in his book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

It is costly because it condemns sin, and [it is] grace because it justifies the sinner – [which is to make one righteous]. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

[God taking of our humanity so that by his work we might be reconciled to God]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

It is the mission of the church as we learned to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” It is a mission of the Church at large, our own LC-MS, and we here at Peace Lutheran Church as well.

To make disciples, to proclaim Christ, to baptize and to teach;

It is a rough road, and a dangerous road. Many die along the way in doing the work of proclaiming the gospel. But Christ says,

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Christ has promised that where he is you too will be also. He has a room prepared and the assurance of eternity for those who believe. He gives you and me the work to do with this promise:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, John 14:12a

This should be comforting for brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and all the children of God who have been called to faith.

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


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sermon June 13-14, 2020

Title: The Lord sends and we reap the rewards!
Text: Matt. 9:35-10:8

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35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Today we gather in a way that seems a bit different and foreign to how we gathered just a few short months ago. Taped off pews, seats in the narthex, socially distanced seating and masks; No longer, am I singing hymns alone or preaching to a virtual congregation who sit in the comfort of their own homes while I bring church to them. I thank the Lord for the hymns and the services that were able to keep us connected through the time of our separation.

Today, we begin again our services in person, and though this looks different for you and me, from my perspective – this looks so good!

In our gospel today:

35 … Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

In the proceeding part of chapter 9:

Jesus healed a paralytic brought to him lying on a mat.
He called the apostle Matthew, the tax collector, to follow him.
He raised a daughter from death to life.
He healed a woman from bleeding who touched the hem of his garment.
He restored the sight of two blind men who asked him for mercy.
And cast out a demon from a man unable to speak who then spoke.

Our compassionate Lord went to those in need or they came to him.
He brought life where only death reigned.
He healed those who had been unable to be healed.
He restored sight and cast the demons away.

[Jesus] had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

March 10 of this year changed our lives in a profound way as a state of emergency was declared here in Michigan. What to do? We held services the weekend of the March 15th but our upcoming midweek was canceled. I scrambled to see how to keep our church connected.

Cell phone,
Concordia organist
Facebook webpage

As pastor, I wonder how I could I bring this church into your homes?
Will this shutdown last a week – a month – or longer?
Who’s essential, and what’s essential?
I decided on a Hymn sing on Saturday and service on Sunday at our regular service times.
I began two devotions, Five minutes daily with Luther and Reading the Psalms with Luther during the week.

We missed Easter together. We had 331 views on line.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

Each church in our circuit approached it differently. Some used Zoom and others used Facebook.
Some recorded services on You Tube while others broadcast live.
Some did devotions and others continued Bible studies.
Some had professional equipment and others did not.

We all, in compassion for the Lord’s sheep, tried as best we could to serve God’s people as his under shepherds. I am thankful for all my brother pastors and their efforts.

No one size fits all here.

Over the last month a lot has changed.

Some of our churches have opened.
Others are opening.
Some are still trying to get opened.

Virus, pandemic, protest, riot, whatever the world deals with the root cause, result and solution are the same.

Sin, death and Jesus

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

Whether like Peace member Elaine Mitchell, who died from complication of Covid 19 in her nursing home or George Floyd in Minneapolis who died at the hands of police in a cruel and heartless way, death is the result.

Whether like Kathy Zolbe who died of a heart attack - a side effect of the medication she was taking for her cancer or David Dorn, the retired police Captain and grandfather who was murdered trying to protect his friends business from looters.

Death’s sting is great. It’s personal, it’s troubling, and it’s no respecter of age, race, gender, status or political affiliation. So the mandate from Jesus to his disciples should ring in our ears as well.

38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Our prayers are for both the Lord to send laborers knowing that we might be called upon to be one of those to bring Christ to those in need.
While death is the result of sin, Jesus is the solution for sin.

Christ needs to be proclaimed in the pandemic and the protest not to diminish the concerns in this life but to illuminate the greater reality. All roads lead to death in this life but only one way leads to peace and life eternal and that’s Jesus.

Our pre-service music for today was Christ Be My Leader from our hymnal LSB #861

It brings all of our concerns and in a wonderful way points to the Blessed Hope that Jesus is. Your hope, trust and security in this life is only for a while.

Let us rest in Jesus as the lyrics make clear.

Christ be my leader by night as by day;
Safe through the darkness, for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future His care,
Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.

Christ be my teacher in age and in youth
Drifting or doubting for he is the truth
Grant me to trust him; though shifting as sand
Doubt cannot daunt me, in Jesus I stand

Christ be my savior in calm as in strife
Death cannot hold me for he is the life
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
Can touch my salvation; with Jesus I reign
God’s peace be yours now and always!

Copyright Timothy Dudley Smith 1964 Renewed 1992 Hope Publishing Co. LSB

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


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sermon June 7, 2020

Title: Go and make disciples!
Text: Matt. 28:16-20

Facebook live: Go and make disciples!

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Today we celebrate the work of our loving God - Father, Son + and Holy Spirit, the diversity of the Godhead and the unity of the Godhead.

One God made known in three persons for the redemption of the world through the working of the Spirit until Christ Jesus returns.

Jesus had named a certain mountain in Galilee to His disciples, where He would meet them after His resurrection, but neither the time of this meeting nor the location of the mountain is known.

It had been the Lord’s express command that they assemble there, and after they had received the confirmation of this word by the message of the women on Easter morning, they went to keep the appointment.

When He appeared before them, some of them fell down before Him in glad adoration, but others still were in doubt. They could neither believe the fact of His resurrection nor that it was actually their Lord who here appeared before them. Jesus therefore drew nearer that they might recognize Him. But He depended for the effect of His presence upon His words. The speech of Jesus was friendly and intended to take away all apprehension of whatever kind among them all.

His final commission is a wonderful bit of solemn oratory – marching orders if you will. As He stands before them, in His spiritual body, true man as ever during His earthly life, but no longer in humility and weakness:

All power in heaven above and on earth beneath is given to Him. He is the almighty God, with unlimited authority. And since this is true, therefore they, in going forth, in doing the work of their apostolic mission, should make disciples of all nations. The whole earth should be their sphere of activity. And this discipling should be done by two means of grace.

First there is the means of making disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; into God’s name, as confessing the name which summarizes the entire Christian creed.

The second means of making disciples is that of teaching them to observe closely all things which Jesus has committed to His disciples, to expound or to preach forth to them the counsel of God to their salvation.

Not human notions - but the Word of the Gospel - the inspired Word of God shall be the content of all preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ, no more, no less.

And if His commission is carried out in this manner, then His promise also will stand secure, that He will be with us all the days until the end of time. When this age comes to its close, when He Himself will usher in the new age by the dawn of His Judgment Day, then only will the work of the Church have come to an end.

Kretzmann Popular Commentary of the Bible NT vol. 1 Pg 162

Just a bit of observation that I would like to relate to our congregation here at Peace and its 57 years of mission and ministry in Waterford;

We baptize very few and Bible Study is lightly attended. As our church has aged many of our congregations children stopped attending some are not having children or if they are they are not having them baptized. If they are baptized, they are not in active worship and many are not hearing God’s word or being taught the faith – unless a grandparent brings them.

It is not just our church but is a problem throughout our LCMS and Christian churches everywhere. Apathy or unbelief we see presented in vivid color online and in person. Love of neighbor has turned to hate and the results are deadly. We all bear responsibility - but it is the word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit that brings results.

Jesus’ Great Commission to 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is through the sending of the Holy Spirit that the Christian church was founded and begun on the day of Pentecost, that we celebrated last Sunday, and it is through His working that it will continue to grow and fulfill our calling as Christ’ disciples.

Martin Luther had this to say about the working of the Holy Spirit:

Such great things have the Apostles declared to us, through the Holy Spirit, who descended upon them from heaven, as even the angels would gladly look into. When this Spirit opens our eyes and makes us see what the Gospel is, we shall have an appetite for it and a joy in it, although we cannot behold it with bodily eyes, but must believe that we are partakers and fellow-heirs of the righteousness, truth, salvation, and all the blessings which God has to bestow. For since He has given us His only Son, that highest good, He will also, through Him, give us all good things, riches and treasures, whereof the angels in heaven have all their joy, and of which they are most desirous. All of this is offered to us through the Gospel, and if we believe we shall also have a similar desire for them.

Luther’s exposition of 1 Peter 1:12

God has called us as His body of believers here at Peace and through His work to make disciples, to proclaim Christ and his gospel, to baptize and to teach.

We can’t force children or adults to come to church or watch online but we can encourage and share the word and our faith with them. And I know many of you do. But we can continue to tell them about Jesus so in his time and in his way God, by the working oif the Holy Spirit will draw them back to his fold so that they too once again can know the voice of their shepherd.

In one of my teaching opportunities some years ago at Lakeland place in Waterford a man came up to me after the service and said, “Brother Russ, you’re not a typical Lutheran, are you?”

To which I replied, “Well, I believe I am, what do you mean?”

“Well, he said, Lutheran’s that I know seem more interested in keeping their faith to themselves but you seem pretty bold in proclaiming Christ.”

After a minute of thought I said, “The Lutherans I know proclaim Christ and Him crucified and risen from the daed! That is what I preach and teach at my church and that is the joy that those whom I serve cling to as well.”

It did give me pause though …

Have we kept the good news to ourselves?
Do we have a zeal for the lost?
Do we take the gospel to those outside our walls or do we spend our lives content to just resume our day to day existence until the next Sunday comes … whether on facebook live or in person - next week, next month or next year?

Jesus Christ is our righteousness. It is He to whom the Spirit points and gathers those who will believe. Even when we think we fall short in our words and actions the Spirit uses the gospel to achieve His goals.

Our God, Father, Son + and Holy Spirit has seen to your redemption.
God has called you by the gospel, and given you faith to believe.
By the Holy Spirit he will keep you in the faith to your heavenly reward that awaits all who trust in Christ.

As we have been blessed may we share our blessing with others I word and action so that all may know our loving God- three in one and one in three the Holy Trinity and undivided unity!

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