Monday, March 29, 2021

Sermon March 27-28, 2021- Palm Sunday

Title: Are you the Christ?
Text: Mark 14:1-15:47

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61 … Again, the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

A bishop [in the United Brethren Church] a century ago pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical, he edited, that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Well, Bishop Milton Wright also had two sons, Orville and Wilbur!

Bishop Wright was wrong. Orville and Wilbur were right!

Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Winning the New Civil War, Page 38.

Are you the Christ?

That is the question the High Priest asked Jesus? And on Palm Sunday or the Sunday of the Passion, we might ask ourselves this question. Is this - Palm or Passion Sunday - a day to remember the triumphant ride of Jesus into Jerusalem, or is this a day to reflect on what lies ahead in Holy Week for this same humble servant Jesus?

I assume the answer is as Lutheran’s say, both and.

Both the Kingly entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, humble and riding on the foal of a donkey, and the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world are needed. To the mind of sinful man both seem impossible and contrary to the will of God.

To reign as a King requires power and might not the humility of a servant, and we might think of the death of Jesus as the end of all hope - not the glory of God and the power of God in the man who is the Christ of God.

Power hates humility

This humble Jesus who rode into Jerusalem was hated by those in power.

The Chief priests and Scribes saw the joy of the people as they welcomed Jesus’ riding on the colt the foal of a donkey with palm branches and their cloaks placed before him. They saw and heard him preach, teach, and heal those afflicted with demons and disease. The anger of the Chief priests and Scribes conspired against Jesus accusing him of blaspheme, bringing him to the attention of the Roman leaders as a radical bent on disrupting the peace, and turning the people’s joy from,

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matt. 21:9

To,

“Crucify him!” “Crucify him!” Mark 15:14

The power of sin corrupted the will of love.

The perfection of creation was destroyed by the will of disobedience.

The gift of life became a life of death.

We too enter into this world in humility as a babe marked for death. Helpless and hopeless we ride into this life with the promise. “You can’t take it with you!”

Death is the one destination for we who are born sinful and unclean from the time of our conception. Psalm 51:5

The world gives us hope,

Think positive!
 
Have faith in yourself!
 
Trust your heart!

But the object of your thinking, your faith, and your trust is you - and in you - there is no hope eternal. No everlasting peace.

Strength hates weakness.

The Jewish leaders hated Jesus. As a loving servant he challenged their power and their might. Paul makes this clear in our epistle reading for today as Jesus:
7 made himself nothing by taking the form of a servant, and being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phi. 2:7-8

The cross, to the sinful man looks like weakness, and death looks like the end, but with God we see the great reversal.

God takes the weakness of the cross and confounds the strong, wise and powerful; he takes loss and turns it to gain, and he makes Jesus’ death a life giving, death for you and me and for all who look to him by faith.

The tables have been turned!

Even for those mired in the unbelief of this world there is hope in the impossible. Not only hope but assurance …

March Madness always begins with the hope of an upset ... a Cinderella story … and the unexpected victory.

Joy and euphoria for some, anger and a bracket demolished for others.

Life is full of truth and consequences.

The truth of life and death;

the truth of winners and losers;

the truth of sin and grace;

and the truth of faith and unbelief all come to play in Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. The consequence for we who are born sinful and unclean is clear.

Apart from faith … all that remains is death.

But faith is not dependent on self and hope does not disappoint when the object of your faith is Jesus.

You see Palm Sunday needs Holy Week and the Passion of Christ.

Without Jesus’ death on Good Friday his ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday means nothing for you and me.

Without his death at the hands of sinful men we too remain in our sinful condition dead to God and without hope.

Without his death there is no resurrection joy and God’s peace is lost to history on a day of palm waving, by a people who thought this Jesus was the promised Messiah – the redeemer of Israel – the Christ of God.

Without his passion there is no hope for you and me.

61 … Again, the high priest asked [Jesus], “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you [and I] will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

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

Amen.





Thursday, March 25, 2021

Sermon March 24, 2021 - Lent 6

Title: Salvation is yours in Christ’s perfection!
Text: Hebrews 5:1-10

Facebook live: Salvation is yours in Christ's perfection 

8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

“Go to your room and think about what you did!”

That was how my dad would respond to me when my mom would let him know about something, I did wrong.

It was followed up with, “And wait for me.”

Obedience and suffering

Obviously, my obedience had not been what it should have been and so the wait began my suffering. How would it end?

Waite for me.

Jesus’ obedience was different than mine. He didn’t miss the mark. Me on the other hand, pretty much every day. My dad would come home from work and say to my mom if she had that look on her face,

“Line them up and tell me who I need to hit!”

Now my dad wasn’t a mean man but he did expect his children to obey and listen to my mom, so when we didn’t there was a time of waiting and suffering.

The children of Israel saw God as unapproachable. The priest was seen as the means to approach God, to come to him for forgiveness and to have their sins atoned. He was the mediator. The one between the sinner and the righteous judge. They could come to him as they did in the wilderness to Moses - God’s prophet – who spoke to the people all that God directed him to say and who pleaded to God for them.

Also, Aaron, Moses’ brother, was called by God to be his priest and to make sacrifices for the sins of the people standing between God and man. The people brought their sacrifices to Aaron who presented their good and acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.

Sins continued and so did the sacrifices. Each day, week, month and year.

Being truly reconciled

Jesus was also sent by God to bring forgiveness in a real and tangible way. Our sins needed to be reconciled and Jesus – the word of God made flesh - came for that purpose.

He came as the perfect prophet. Not as an imperfect man called to deliver God’s word but as the eternal word of God made flesh speaking directly to the people.

He came as the perfect priest. The one to mediate and to intercede for the people to the father with whom he is well acquainted and, in his person, he reflects the image of God as one who has seen the Father and is intimately connected as we see the Father in him.

He came as the perfect sacrifice. Not as a continual sacrifice, daily brought to appease the wrath of God, but as the once and for all sacrifice for sin that is Holy and acceptable to the Father.

The Jews in Jesus day shunned the cure and returned to Moses and the Law for the comfort of their reconciliation. They live in that reality still today.

Today, the people in our day want a new mediator. They want a Jesus who sees sin, not defined by God’s word, but defined by the world.

They want to kill, what God has conceived and brought to life.

They want to unite and expand, where God has placed limits.

They want to change and redefine, what God has defined already.

They want to eliminate the mediator, and mediate for themselves.

If you’ve ever been in a court of law you might want to think twice before choosing to represent yourself. Even good Lawyers, it seems to me, hire a competent Lawyer to represent them!

When the Law is placed before us in our world, we have three choices.

Follow the Law

Break the Law or

Change the Law

There are consequences for each.

As we look to God’s word and his Law the choices remain the same. In court a good Lawyer might get us off for breaking the Law or a Government Legislature might change or amend a Law which then nullifies the offence, but not with God.

His Law requires one answer which is perfect obedience. Not that we follow the Law, but that we break the Law continually and the Law, written in stone and on our hearts, can’t be changed.

We need one to plead our case. We need a mediator.

Jesus is the Perfect -Mediator!

He is appointed by God as his way to reconcile his wayward children in his broken creation.

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

6 as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

Not only the Prophet and Priest but also the perfect once for all sacrifice for sin that he might atone for the sins of the whole world once and for all.

Jesus is perfect for our salvation

This prophet Jesus speaks God’s truth perfectly!

This Priest Jesus is perfectly acceptable and able to stand before God for man because,

This Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin to appease God’s wrath

because his perfect obedience to God’s perfect Law fulfills the Law perfectly!

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

In a sense the Father saying in response to Jesus’ prayers:

Wait for me.

Salvation to all who obey

This perfect Prophet, Priest and Sacrifice is also the Perfect King of King and Lord or Lords who by his just decree can give forgiveness and proclaim as the eternal judge the sentence of not Guilty on account of Christ’s merit to whom he wills.

Jesus is everything we need!

9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is a priest superior to Aaron likened to that of Melchizedek whose name means king of righteousness, King of Salem [Shalom] of Salem [prince of peace] a type of Christ and high priest of God that predates the priesthood of Aaron and to whom Abraham pays a tithe.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Do not look to earthly or false prophets to be your hope and salvation.

Do not stand before God in unrighteous arrogance as a priest with sinful demands.

Do not think your Gold, Silver or pleading an acceptable sacrifice.

Do not demand a King’s ransom from a King that gives himself to you for free.

Receive the word of God in humble reverence.

Receive Jesus who stands in the God’s presence for you.

Receive his perfect sacrifice of Christ for your sin.

Receive the Kingdom of God given and shed for you.

“Now, go to your room and wait for me!”

As a child in my room, I learned obedience and suffering.

My dad though showed me mercy, forgiveness and love as a loving Christian father.

Jesus showed perfect obedience, suffering and love for you who are – broken in sin – but now has raised you to newness of life in his perfection.

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

Amen


 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Sermon March 20-21, 2021

Title: The servanthood of Jesus serves you!
Text: Mark 10:35-45

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43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Power in serving

My friend Jim is a man of means. He came up through a family dedicated to hard work. He was skilled, he had a plan, and he worked very hard every day to make his plan a reality. It has paid off in many ways for him. Many successes in his business and personal life followed. I can’t remember anyone so completely skilled and focused on the task needed to succeed, and succeeding at what he put his mind on.

I also remember someone so completely generous with his time, talents and treasures. He was always willing to share and help. At times he worked more for the benefit of others then they did or would do for themselves. He served their needs but it also served the greater good of the company and his family a well … a real win-win situation … strength, power and service all in one package.

Our reading for today deals with power and service but with different people and with different intentions.

James and John, the so called “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus in Mark 3:17 show here why Jesus had given them that name designation.

Seemingly as a spoiled child might ask for that which they know they don’t deserve or shouldn't expect to get we hear 35 …“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

This same James and John in another memorable gospel moment in Luke Chapter 9 had inquired of Jesus:

“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Luke 9:54

This they did after the Samaritan village had not received Jesus and seeing that he was steadfast set to go to Jerusalem.

The Lord’s, all knowing mind, seems to have given James and John a proper title – for they were these young followers and disciples of Jesus who had left their fathers boat and work to go and follow him.

But here too we see where they are focused.

37 … “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Or, in Matthew’s gospel in your Glory is translated as in your Kingdom, spoken by their mother, Salome the wife of Zebedee who intercedes for her two boys who quickly seconded her request.

The disciples here didn't understand Christ’s mission, work or glory but were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom and an earthy ruler and a place of honor for themselves.

But our good news is that Christ came to serve … you!

Humility and servant hood is hard for you and me as well. We too look for the choice seats, to be recognized and to be rewarded. But to be a true servant is to model Christ.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 2:1-2

But can we run the race, can we remain faithful until the end, can we endure the trials in this life? For we too like James and John don’t know what we are asking.

38 … “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus said.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians brings peace when he writes:

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phil 2:1-3

As children who have been brought to the Lord by loving parents and as parents who love our children we bring those who are unable to bring themselves to the Lord.

In humility we consider them more significant than ourselves, and with life given into our care, we look to their wellbeing more than our own - giving them to the Lord - and promising to be the ones who raise them in the faith and instruction of the Lord.

We all fall short to be sure, but just as we wouldn't feed a child once and leave them to fend for themselves; faith also requires an active parental role to keep these precious gifts of God in their baptismal grace, so that they too might grow to know him, Jesus Christ both as Lord and Savior who

“came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

James and John were looking for the earthly glory that a Kingdom of this world provides. They received much more then they or their mother had asked for.

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus asks.

39 And they said to him, “We are able.”

Herod had James put to death by the sword as the early church was persecuted. Acts 2:2

His brother John would remain and live to an old age leaving his thunderous youth behind to become the apostle of love, writing his Gospel and letters in exile on the island of Patmos, and giving a glimpse of the end of the age from visions given in the book of Revelation.

Heeding Christ's command:

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

Ill.

My friend Jim had another side as well. When we were younger and working together, he took on another task. Through a contact with an acquaintance, he began visiting a disabled man who was Wheel Chair bound and in declining health he would go once a month and take him out to lunch.

It wasn’t easy but each month Jim would say “I’ll be back in a while,” and go.

I only found out the particulars down the road. He never talked much about it at the time. After a few years of this, the man couldn’t go out anymore and eventually passed away. Jim never talked about it but years later I asked him about it. I remember him saying,

“I’ve been blessed so much it was just a way to give back … though it was hard.”

Thank the Lord that God has not left us alone but has done everything needed for us and has given us – his word and sacraments - for us so that we might be brought to faith and given life in his name and in humility serve the needs of others.

It is not always easy to give up ones seat at the table, or to allow another a place in line ahead of you.

It is not always easy to see to it that the light of Christ shines forth into a dark world that gets darker every day.

It is not always easy to stand firm when even the fabric of our own faith seems weak and unable to endure.

But Christ, who is the one who will never leave you nor forsake you, has stood in your place and he has completed the course for you. In him you have everything that you could not earn because he humbled himself for you.

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

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

Amen.






Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sermon March 17, 2021 – Lent 5

Title: For by grace, you have been saved!
Text: Eph. 2:1-10

Facebook live: For by grace, you have been saved!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Charles S., age 95, of Waterford, passed away on February 20, 2021.

John L., age 63, passed away with his daughter by his side on February 15, 2021 in, GA. John was born in Detroit, MI, and grew up in Lake Orion and graduated Lake Orion High School in 1976.

Jessie C, died February 19, 2021, at home in, Lewiston, Michigan. In their 73 years of marriage, she and her husband Tom had 5 children. Her remains will be buried alongside her husband, and son. At this time there is a limit of 25 people in the funeral home.

Jan 23, 2021 - Hal Holbrook, the actor who channeled Mark Twain for decades has died at 95. A five-time Emmy winner, Holbrook was 82 when he became the oldest man (at the time) to receive an Oscar acting nomination when he was honored for his performance as a leatherwork expert in Into the Wild in 2007.

Holbrook played Twain longer than Samuel L. Clemens, who made Twain his pen name in 1863.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hal-holbrook-dead-actor-who-played-twain-lincoln-and-deep-throat-728371

Death can cause us all to reflect for a moment … Florence, Karen, Heinz, Dick, Duane, Kathy, Elaine, Joan, Lucille and so many more.

The loss of a loved one brings life into focus. What they did, and how they did it, or maybe it’s what they didn’t do, or should have done that is remembered. Certainly, for these people who lived anywhere from their 60’s to their 90’s there is a time and a history to be remembered and looked at.

For Hal Holbrook – the famous one in this group - his life has impacted more people because of his public life and work.

But the reality of all of these lives has also a common thread.

2 And you … were dead in the trespasses and sins

Sin brings death and all who die are born in sin – not just covered in sin but being sinful throughout - though we would find it hard through our own sinful eyes to see the sin in a beautiful newborn child. But rest assured sinful they are and we also know that babies die, both in the womb and outside the womb, so life from conception to physical death is contaminated by sin.
God is the author of life, the creator of life, and it is through him that life comes forth. You and I have been created but also we have been recreated in baptism to restore the original righteousness that God created us to be but that image was broken by sin.

To this the Apostle Paul gives a clear picture:

2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Death in birth leads to death in life. We are born spiritually dead and all succumb to the sinful nature and are dead in trespass and sin, but

5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— because of God’s rich mercy.

Ill.

Many hymns are conceived in the midst of tragedy. In 1932, one such hymn came to be following the death of Thomas Dorsey's wife and infant son during childbirth.

Dorsey writes:

"Back in 1932 I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s Southside. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis …

" … In the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED …

"When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died [also]. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice.

I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs and was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, who seemed to know what I needed. On the following Saturday evening he took me up to Malone’s College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys."

Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-precious-lord-take-my-hand

Do you wander daily sinful and unclean through the trials of life?

Do you follow the inclination of the heart? Which is described by Jeremiah in chapter 17 …

9 as deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked? Jer. 17:9

Does temptation reel you in at times where sin results?

It does for me and I’m sure for you as well.

But God’s mercy never wanders from you … or me. He has made us his own and will continue to - take our hand - and keep us in his loving care.

Because we have been:

6 raised and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

That is life and forgiveness in his name for you and me and for all whom the Lord our God will call.

May God give peace to all who have been victims in the fight for life and may he comfort all who morn directing them to the author of life himself our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

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

 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Sermon March 13-14, 2021

Title: The lifting of Christ has raised you!
Text: Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14;

Facebook live: The lifting of Christ has raised you!

8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

A number of years ago I interviewed a man for a job with the store I worked at and managed. He had been in the appliance business for about fifteen years in the Brighton area, working for a family run business, much like the family run business I worked at.

Well, as he considered his situation, he looked at what he had and the prospect for advancement and being enticed he decided to leave his company for greener pastures at another company across town. As we talked, I told him of all the opportunities and benefits my company provided and I saw a look of real sadness come over his face.

“Boy, he said, I really didn't know how good I had it. All the benefits you mentioned, I already had with my previous job and I was skilled and good at it. Now, I’m out of work and hoping I can find a job as good as the one I left.”

The blessings we have often seem ordinary and mundane and we take them for granted or complain about them. God’s people, in our Old Testament lesson for today, saw their blessings as a curse and murmured against the one who was their provider, protector and sustainer.

God had been the protector of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. He had guarded them throughout all their trials and provided for them in the as they made their way to the Promised Land. He brought them through the waters of the Red sea on to dry ground and also provided manna from heaven to sustain them … and still they grumbled.

5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

It was noted that this manna was rich in nutrients by one scholar as they were able to march through this wilderness and not have their feet swell so that they were not lacking anything. God’s provisions were complete, full and rich.

Yet, they murmured eight times against God over these forty years. This, the final murmuring against the Lord had happened just after God had provided water from a rock and now he brought fiery serpents that up to this time had been plentiful in the area, but for some reason had left them alone.
6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

These serpents, which it is believed received their name because of their color and the fact that their bite produced venom that caused great swelling and burning, bit the Israelites causing death to many. In their distress they once again turn to Moses in repentance to intercede for them and pray to the Lord to take the serpents away.

So Moses prayed for the people.

8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

We too find our blessings at time mundane and boring and grumble about what we don’t have instead of looking to all we do have. Something as simple to you and me as water … running water … hot and cold … in our house …

We all can imagine how different our lives would be without this blessing but still we grumble … so too with our faith and our God.

At times when we need to trust in Him for whatever our condition in life is, we fall back to our sinful ways. God gets blamed. “Why Lord, why?” We all might cry not knowing the mind of God and his plan for our life. Instead, he just might be taking us on our way around one battle toward a greater battle with better reward. Or, it might be his protection against certain doom.
One gentleman I know, who had been a loyal member of a particular company for over 20 years and had a job offer from a competitive company. He really didn’t want to take it. He would have preferred to stay in his comfort zone where he was. As it happened to turn out, the company he was at closed a little over a year after he left. In our day-to-day existence we have no guarantee of continued blessings in fact one of God’s promises tell us:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John16:33)

God's healing cure for the bite of the fiery serpents was faith in His word of promise. He directed Moses to make a serpent in the likeness of the ones that caused death. To make it out of bronze and to place it on a pole and when anyone looks at it they will be healed. Our text concludes with:

9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

A simple act of faith in God’s word brings the cure.

Luther had this to say about the cure:

It might have been expected that the Jews who had been bitten by the serpents would shun this cure, for it is only natural for us to shy away from anything that has harmed us. Even to see a picture of it fills us with sadness and abhorrence.

But Moses calmly proceeded, molded a serpent with the form and figure of the live fiery ones, and suspended it before their eyes.

Thus those who are bitten by fiery serpents – that is to say, those who are cast into sin, death and eternal damnation by the devil – must look at this bronze serpent, that is belief in Christ; and they will be guaranteed righteousness, life, and salvation. Faith in Christ, the Son of God and true man, will do this.

LW 22, pg. 341

Jesus pointed to His being lifted up just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness. Just as the serpent Moses lifted up in the desert was not the one biting and causing death, so too our Lord Jesus Christ was not the sinner or cause of sin but became the sin-bearer that took the sins of the whole world upon Himself that He crucified sin in His body on the cross for you.

This lifting of the serpent and trusting in God’s word of promise did bring about their healing. Just so all who trust in Christ also trust in God’s word and His promise that by faith in Christ’s sacrifice we too are freed from sin, death and the power of the Devil.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God’s word of promise is for you and for all who will be brought to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is said that the brazen image of the serpent was taken by the Israelites to Canaan, and preserved till the time of Hezekiah, who had it broken in pieces, because the idolatrous people had presented incense-offerings to this holy relic. (2Kings 18:4).

God has given us His word of promise and the means of grace that in Baptism He creates faith by the power of the Holy Spirit connected to the water so that we believe. He has promised that in the bread and wine He is present and that by our eating and drinking we receive Him and our faith is strengthened. He has promised that when two or more are gathered in His name that He is there too.

He has promised:

38 … that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans (8:38-39)

Whatever your place in life is, whatever you are or hope to become, whatever your successes or failures are, know that God is with you. He will be there through the good and the bad with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has suffered the scorn of the cross - for you - and has taken your sin upon Himself and has exchanged it with the royal robes of His righteousness – for you.

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

Amen.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sermon March 10, 2021 - Lent 4

Title: God shames the wise through the foolish cross!
Text: 1 Cor.1:18-31

Facebook live: God shames the wise through the foolish cross!

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean [of the university] that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, he will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.

"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleague’s whispers, "Say something."

The dean [now with all wisdom] looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money."

Betsy Devine and Joel E. Cohen, Absolute Zero Gravity, Simon & Schuster.

That is the wisdom of the world!

And … here is what the business community says:

Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly.

Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School.

Paul asks: 20 Where is the one who is wise?

We understand the wisdom of the world.

“I should have taken the money”, sounds all too good for we who live in a materialistic society.

What can’t be fixed, of the needs and wants we have, with just a little more cash? The rising costs of the bills sure wouldn’t be much of a problem. Declining attendance here at church wouldn’t matter much. Even those things at home of concern might not seem like such a big deal; and the budget here at Peace - just wouldn’t matter all that much.

But that is not wisdom for God.

Remember, Christ’s birth was not what was expected. What was expected was a King and Messiah of power … power as the world knows.

Paul says:

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul is saying in a sense that by the world’s standards - wisdom, wealth, power and a noble birth - that is where they believe salvation is.

The Corinthian church was having its share of problems. They had divisions in the church with some following Paul, some Peter and others following Apollos, and even going so far as to be concerned with who baptized who.

For us in the Lutheran faith, it is God who baptizes through the one officiating and it is the water connected to the word according to Christ’s command and promise by the power of the Holy Spirit that brings faith to life.

Paul asks: 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

And concludes the epistle reading from last week saying: 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

God’s power is found not in wealth, worldly power or noble birth, but in the word of the cross and the preaching of Christ Crucified – which is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles.

It is interesting that with this letter and many of Paul’s letters he uses,

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus (Charis) grace to you in a sense means: May the Lord give you an abundance of his undeserved gifts and (shalom) or peace saying God is our friend and may that bring you rest, satisfaction and joy.

1 and II Corinthians Commentary R.C.H. Lenski pg 27-38

The world and its gifts can bring us at times comfort and blessing but only our true grace and peace come from God.

It comes to us by God in his wisdom and through things that appear foolish in the eyes of the world.

What looks wise – power, wisdom, riches, and eloquent speech are not required for God’s power. It is in a sense joyful to preach and proclaim Christ crucified because it is not the wisdom of the speaker but the power of God through his word - the word made flesh – that brings the results of faith, life, and peace.

We are in a new year but the old call continues: Manmade problems and manmade solutions will fix everything we are told. Granted, God works and sustains us by his guiding hand through what appears to be chaos at times and we are given what we deserve and what we don’t deserve as this life unfolds.

What is the cross? It is death. It is ugly. It is a penalty. It is vile. It is weakness. It is failure. It is the end. There is no more. At least that is how the world sees it.

As a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ we might ask also:

What is the cross? The answers are strikingly different. It is life. It is beautiful. It is forgiveness. It is redemption. It is eternal. It is finished!

It is for you.

Same cross, different perspective. How different the view is through the eyes of faith?

The cross is foolishness through the eyes of the world and forgiveness through the eyes of faith.

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Death is a reality in this life. Through the grieving tears of we who are left behind, our loved ones depart. Life is changed for eternity. Eternal bliss or eternal damnation awaits all who depart this life.

Status, work, wealth, prestige, knowledge, age or accomplishments matter not.

What does matter is the folly of God’s wisdom to call.

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:4-5;13-14

God has accomplished your security in the foolishness of the cross and through his means of word and sacrament he will fulfill his purpose in electing you to eternal life in him and keeping you in the one true faith now … and forever more!

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

Amen

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Sermon March 6-7, 2021

Title: Christ’s zeal for the Father is given in death for you!
Text: John 2:13-22

Facebook live: Christ’s zeal for the Father is given in death for you!

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Jerusalem is a hot bed for so much of the world’s religious as well as political turmoil but so is the Temple Mount.

The second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. For Jews today their activity is restricted on the Temple mount. The Dome on the Rock is there and is holy to Muslims and Jews are not allowed to pray there, though some do pray under their breath. For Jews in Jerusalem there is a growing need to rebuild the Temple, to resume the temple sacrifices and to wait for the coming of the messiah.

In our gospel reading for today we move to the book of John. As we looked at our gospel lesson in Mark last week, Jesus explained that he must suffer, be rejected by the Elders, Chief priests and the scribes, be killed and after three day, rise from the dead. Mark 8:31

Jesus was zealous both for his Father’s House in driving out those who had made it a house of trade selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, [along with] the money-changers [who were] sitting there, just as he was with Peter last week, rebuking him for “not setting his mind on the things of God.”

The Jewish leaders now ask Jesus – what is the evidence that you can give us as to your authority for doing such things, by casting those out of the temple?

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, Paul tells the Corinthians in our epistle lesson for today. 1 Cor. 1:22

So Jesus tells them,

19 … “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

As you can imagine, the Jews that Jesus is talking to believe he is talking about “The Temple” the building of the second Temple that had taken 46 years to build, where all the daily sacrifices had taken place.

This is the place where God dwells … where sin is atoned for.

You can see that not much has changed in the nearly 2000 years since the cross of our Lord. The Jews today are still rebuilding the Temple … and the cross as Paul says in our epistle is:

23 … a stumbling block to Jews and folly [or foolishness] to Gentiles,

But we who have been blessed to be brought to the foot of the cross see Jesus as our savior and trust in his work; where true temple worship is in his once and for all sacrifice for sin.

Jews look to rebuild the Temple and resume the sacrifices while Gentiles see foolishness in belief of a saving God, especially one who has takes on flesh.

Their wisdom tells them to trust in self.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 cor. 1:25

But many fall short. For some, the stumbling … or the foolishness is just plain stubbornness.

It remains a problem for many still today. For the Jews the Temple remains something to be rebuilt and stumble while others believe that the Cross of Christ remains [foolishness], or something to be seen as weakness and not the power of God.

The cross is an offence, so much so that at times we shy away from it, especially in the midst of the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book: Life together writes,

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.

So the Christian too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

In the turmoil of the world the cross of Christ will be a stumbling block or foolishness.

When I went back to college to get the required courses so that I might get qualified for going to the seminary I took a class on the Bible. It was a secular class that looked at the text and asked us to analyzed in our papers what we thought it said and what we believed it meant.

Most people took the class to fulfill an elective requirement and thought it might be easy or as a class for non-credit but of interest and enrichment.

I sat next to a nice Jewish man who turned to me during one of our classes and said, “When we get to the New Testament, you’re going to have to help me!”

Not an unexpected response. It was not part of his understanding.

My friend Mark had a different obstacle. I bought him a Bible during one of our many years of discussions and he had a problem – a stumbling block with one page. It was the one page between Malachi and Matthew. It read The New Testament. Mark said to me, “I couldn’t get past it so I tore it out. Now, it’s one book.”

The stumbling and foolishness of that one page was just too much for him. But, God by his Spirit gave him wisdom to see and overcome it. God has opened the eyes of his understanding and has brought him into his family of faith.

For many though Jesus life death and resurrection remain a stumbling block and foolishness.

21 But [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

In spite of our weakness and in spite of our failings God in Christ was focused on the cross for you. The Temple of his body that was destroyed for you is victory! It is victory because the full wrath of God was poured out on Jesus and as a result you have no fear of standing before our holy God.

God in Christ has taken your sin and my sin upon himself and has given you and all who believe his righteousness in exchange for it – what wonderful good news – and as a result we are free of the bonds of sin, death, and the devil and are covered by Christ’s righteousness and made his child through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Christ is consumed with his zeal for you and just as he has been raised … you too will rise!

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

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

Amen.

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Sermon March 3, 2021 midweek - Lent 3

Title: God’s love is shown to sinners in Christ!
Text: Romans 5:1-11

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6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If we think about love it becomes known to us from our experiences and perceptions. For children who have loving parents it is easy to return love and kindness. If abuse occurs, love can turn to fear or anger whether it is child abuse or elder abuse. It is hard to love an abuser or an enemy.

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

From birth we are God’s enemies. The fall into sin from our first parents Adam and Eve has left us as castaways in a sea of sin with no land in sight and no hope on the horizon.

Whether Jonah running away from God and the storm and great tempest on the sea that God sent to pursue him, or the Apostle Paul as he was being sent to Rome and the storm on the Sea and shipwreck that he and those with him endured.

We too, are cast off and adrift and cut loose at birth from our anchor and hope as we wait to drown in the sea of sin and death.

In the case of Jonah, God sent a great fish and with Paul the shipwreck and land with out loss of life to Paul and those with him.

2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

The image of sea and sin, death and rescue are also part of the narrative of God’s rescue.

God uses the waters of Holy Baptism to drown our sin, to cover and bury it, and to raise us to newness of life. The rescue for us comes while we are God’s enemies with no hope. In that time of hopelessness, God pours his forgiveness over us in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit and by that same Spirit he gives us faith and we by faith believe and have life in his name.

Paul reminds his hearers that this hope is not a vain hope, and not a hope that puts us to shame but:

because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

God’s rescue comes while we have no love for him.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Notice, again how it reads.

6 For while we were still weak,

at the right time

Christ died for the ungodly.

It doesn’t say, for the godly.

We are truly not worthy of God’s forgiveness.

In fact, we are completely unworthy, which makes this gift and work of Christ all the more remarkable.

He didn’t die for the righteous,

the mostly righteous,

the soon to be righteous,

or the pretty good.

But he died for the ungodly.

He died for you!

The reality of this news for we who are never going to measure up is that you, dear friends are forgiven. Not because you are righteous, mostly righteous, or the pretty good.

It is because you are in Christ. You have been made new being washed in the blood of the lamb and now live a life worthy of god’s love because you have been bought with a price. You are no longer your own.

You are Christ’s!

2 Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

So, our access to God’s peace is through, Jesus’ sinless life, death and resurrection and by faith we have access and receive God’s grace.

Over the last year access has been difficult for us all in many ways. If you wanted to eat out at a restaurant, access was denied at times or greatly diminished. Funerals were limited or became simply committals at the graveside to limit numbers and for many visiting a relative or friend in the nursing home or hospital became impossible.

For a pastor it was like having the heart of ministry removed. So much of what I was able to do at times of trial for those in my care was taken away. I couldn’t visit because access was denied.

As the vaccine continues to be delivered and as positive numbers decline, I see some restrictions being lifted. I was able to see Florence Adkins in the hospital last weekend. I received a call from the Neighborhood of White Lake and access there may be opening.

Access is being restored for those confined and for those denied and the hope of unity is once again a possibility in this life of sin.

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That is what justification is. The declaring of one being righteous and we are declared righteous not on account of what we have done but on account of what Christ Jesus has done for us and we have access to that grace … by faith in Jesus’ finished work.

That is why we joy in the midst of our sufferings, and we endure … because it produces character and hope, and hope in Christ never disappoints.

His suffering has given us access to the Father by faith, and has been poured into our hearts but the Spirits work.

Access in this life is at times limited and still a challenge for us all but through faith your access to the Father is never denied in Christ.

Our Father who art in heaven …

The Lord’s Prayer begins with those simple words. By faith we know God and acknowledge him by calling him Our Father. As our father we have a relationship with him and as a result we can call on him and dialogue with him and access him. It is first interesting to note who initiates prayer.

As Luther writes:

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask a dear father.

Dear children, Christ has given you access!

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

Amen

Monday, March 1, 2021

Sermon February 27-28, 2021

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

Facebook live: Who do you say that I am?

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

Jesus asks the disciples:

“Who do people say that I am?”

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

And then Jesus asks, “but who do you say that I am?”

And Peter, speaking for the disciples says,

“You are the Christ.”

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

Jesus says that the Son of Man:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who do you say Jesus is?

To lose your life in Christ is to save it.

Jesus says …

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

For some there is a denying of self in the trials of life.

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

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

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

If we compare what Christ faced in his walk to the cross to these four resolutions, we see that:

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

To lose your life in Christ is to save it!

[Harry Gallagher story]

Many years ago, there was a newsman in Detroit. His name was Harry Gallagher. He was for a time the anchor man with Joe Glover on TV2. This was around 1979. A former Marine, he seemed to me to be a basic - just the facts - kind of guy.

At some point Robbie Timmons returned to the anchor desk with Joe Glover and Harry went back to reporting and special features. And I didn’t think much about him.

As Monica and I prepared for our wedding and we talked to our Priest Father Cronk, I learned that Harry was a member of Our Lady of the Lakes as we were and was fighting cancer. Father Cronk spoke to me of Harry’s faith and strength in the midst of trial. He passed in June of 1982 three months before our wedding and to this day I remember his stoic focus as his co-workers commented – “… he was a strong individual, never let on that there was anything wrong and would never complain.”

https://freep.newspapers.com/clip/30152050/detroit-free-press/

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

For most of us, this is not a cross we wish to bear. We hope to avoid trial and conflict. Following Jesus as example is good,

but suffering or being hated and despised on account of Christ … I think we all would like to take a pass on that one.

Jesus had given the disciples a summary of His work and he now gives a summary of the demands of true discipleship.

He does not show here how one becomes a disciple - through the working of the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ and by the washing of regeneration in the word through baptism;

But here, Jesus tells us how we show the evidence of this gift of faith in Christ by denying self; taking up the cross we must bear; and by following him.

It can be summarized as this.

“If anyone wants to save his life, have the full enjoyment of this life and all that it may offer in this world, he will lose the true life in Christ the Savior.

But if anyone will regard this life, the world and all it has to offer, as nothing, give it all up for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel, he will find the true life, the true joy, and [true] happiness in Him.”

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

As our epistle in Romans today comforts us all with the good news:

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God

As we faithfully serve as God has called us and shine the light of Christ in our vocations we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel and ultimately save our lives for eternity.
May our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you, and called you through the power of the Holy Spirit to faith, complete this blessed good work in you now and forever!

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

Amen.