Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sermon September 18-19, 2021

Title: By childlike faith the Lord is yours!
Text: Mark 9:30-37

Facebook live: By childlike faith the Lord is yours!

34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

At times we all can see the value of our work and service that we do in life at home, work and church as greater than that of others. We even can pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, even though everything that we have and do is received as a gift from God.

Jesus begins to teach his disciples about his ultimate goal, and the mission and reason for his coming … saying to them:

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

This is a hard saying for the disciples to hear and our text says …

32 … they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Maybe they were thinking, “Who is the Son of Man as this is a reference to God and what about killing him and after three days rising from the dead?”

Certainly, it was a confusing statement from Jesus and not understood by the disciples to the point that they were afraid to ask as we Lutheran’s ask:

What does this mean?

As Christians the questions of life and faith are connected to our very being.

We at times see God’s word through the lens of our own desires and needs.

We value our own opinion and use it to interpret scripture rather than letting scripture interpret scripture.

We try to make scripture say what we want it to say instead of understanding it in the context and way that God has revealed it for our benefit.

The disciples want to know and have discussed among themselves on the way, even arguing who is the greatest. Jesus knows, but asks:

“What were you discussing on the way?”

It reminds me of a parent asking a child what had happened … and you get the silent treatment … they know this was wrong … but wanted to do it anyway.

Remember from last week’s reading the father’s voice from the crowd calling out and pleading to Jesus?

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So, I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” … they were not able …

And now they argue among themselves … about who was the greatest.

When I was ordained, I was convinced that I would stop the decline and right the ship that is the church here at Peace. My first year I confirmed eight, this past year none. But joyfully we brought some adults into membership through confirmation and affirmation of faith through the Lord’s work … not mine.

Pride can cause one to think higher of oneself than you should.

There is a difference in taking pride in the work you do and thanking God for giving you the gifts and ability to serve … verses the pride of thinking oneself better than those who came before or didn’t have positive results.

Especially with the Lord work.

The disciples were seeing themselves with the latter focus rather than the former. How do we each measure up in regards to that same question? I’m sure we all fall short at times.

So it was time for a family meeting. Jesus called them all to gather together.

35 And [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Wow … there’s a turn of phrase for you. To be first requires being last to lead … you must serve all.

Parents know that. They lead by serving – first they serve their spouse and as a married couple they become one flesh and think and act with the others needs in mind. And certainly, if they have children, they do all for their child.

They live their life in service to the needs of their children.

Don’t believe me, just ask a parent what they are doing and you will hear, “Well, Monday’s we have dance, or soccer, or confirmation or … you name it. Children are dependent on their parents for everything and parents serve their needs at least until they teach them the valuable lesson about taking care of themselves.

So Jesus gives the disciples and us an object lesson.

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

A wonderful picture of this reality is seen when parents bring their children to baptism and serve the needs of those who are unable to serve themselves.

The greatest in the Kingdom are those who receive Jesus, and you and I can have great joy as well in the gift given us as we joy in serving the needs of those who we have responsibility over.

Let us not, groan and make noise daily whether what we do or what others don’t do in the work or the way we serve when it is God who has done all for our benefit.

Rather, let us like little children, cared for by loving parents and our heavenly Father, joy in all that has been done on our behalf so that we too can, as servants, serve the needs of those who have been placed in our care; and care for those that we come across with the love of Christ and the message of forgiveness found only in the gospel of peace.

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


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sermon September 11-12, 2021

Divine Service with Holy Communion – CD
Title: The word of God brings death to life!
Text: Mark 9:14-29

Facebook live: The word of God brings death to life!

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”.

We read:

The father cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

It is Rally Day!

One of many in our church’s past 58 years. They’ve looked different and have certainly felt different in the past as I remember them. Sunday school and Bible Study began with all classes while others set up for the pot Luck and picnic. It was a time for beginning again and renewing our faith by hearing and gathering and participating as God’s people, in his gifts of word and sacrament, as we hear and are fed by the word of God for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith.

It still is but it feels a bit different.

I’m 20 years older and so are many of you!

Many of our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ have departed this life for the life eternal and are resting in the arms of Jesus. It’s what we all wait for too.

Yes, it was different then.

Yes, we had more people involved.

Yes, it will be different going forward.

No, we can’t live in the past … though the past can inform our future.

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

Last week our text showed us the Compassionate Christ as he opened the ears and mouth of a deaf mute who then “spoke plainly.” Not only having his ears and mouth healed but being giving him the gift of speech, immediately, as Mark so often says in his gospel account.

In today’s reading:

14 And when they [those that had been following Jesus] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Jesus is known to the people as the one who brings peace, comfort, and healing - the things that you and I also find of great value when things in our life need help. And here a voice from the crown answers Jesus’ question.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So, I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

A father’s pleading for his son. “I brought him to you … but your disciples were not able.”

The disciples fell short! They missed the mark! What was needed … wasn’t given … to a man in distress.

I can relate, how about you? At times I feel like I’ve missed the mark especially over the last 10 years as I’ve served the needs of the church.

Have you missed the mark like me?

I think we can all agree with St. Paul:

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:18-24

At times we miss the mark by things we do and at times by things we don’t do.

In years past Rally Day was greatly attended!

I must admit to feeling a bit sad as I think about what we had and how it has changed. We just dedicated the artwork and stoles / vestments from Pastor Merrell and honored his service here at Peace for 40 years as Pastor and Pastor Emeritus. I feel the weight of burden at times as I think about the change over the life of our church from mission congregation, to growing congregation to aging congregation. From what we’ve done, to what we should have done, to what we continue to do and to where we hope to go.

The truth is that the Lord knows all of this and continues to lead, guide and direct.

Our faith is weak when we look inward and to ourselves. Our focus needs to be Christ centered and outward to Jesus and his cross, for there is where true salvation and hope is found.

Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring [the boy] to me.”

What I didn’t want to hear as a disciple, a Peace member or a pastor, the disciples now hear from Jesus … pain and disappointment from the Lord of Glory at their falling short.

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

The solutions for the problems we face are always best helped when the focus is on Christ both in prayer and petition. The evil foe is Satan and the forces of demonic activity that perplex and attack us will remain until Christ returns or until we too like our blessed Pastor Merrell and so many faithful past members and friends are called to our eternal rest in Jesus.

This father is grieving for his son as he has been plagued with a demon “From childhood.” We might reasonably look at our own sinful condition and malady as those brought forth in iniquity … conceived and brought forth in sin.

Psalm 51:5

But though we have been freed by Christ Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, we still remain in our sinful flesh … both Saint and Sinner… bound in sin and alive in the Spirit.

On the one hand we are freed by the grace of God in Christ and have received all things being made new, but at the same time, we are bound to our sinful flesh and wrestle with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief!

The call … “I believe; help my unbelief!” is the call of a believing soul tormented by a demonic foe. We too call daily to God to lift the burden of sin we carry and to comfort us, and bring us peace … the peace that passes all human understanding.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

We too are born into this world dead to God, and it is by God’s command:

“19 Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” that we receive life eternal promised from the lips of our Lord.

Having done a number of baptisms of little children over the years, it always reminds me of this passage when they are baptized because when baptized there is crying out and convulsing. The devil cannot remain but must flee.

Where light is, darkness flees.

“He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Death, raised to life and caring, through the sacrificial love of the God man Jesus Christ are what God has given you.

Peace Lutheran Church will never be the same. It will never again be what it was.

It will always be though, what God wants and desires it to be.

His house and his children, gathered together around his gifts for the wellbeing of we who have been called to believe in his Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Dear friends,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 15:52,56

God brings peace, comfort, victory and faith through his means!

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



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sermon September 4-5, 2021

Title: Be opened!
Text: Mark 6:1-13

Facebook live: Be opened!

34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus was traveling through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from a few weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking on the water.

The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed them, healed them from illness, and he cast out demons and they are now in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.

Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.

In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear, and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.

… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. Those who brought this deaf mute to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again. Certainly, Jesus could have healed him in this way.

But Jesus sees the problem with man who is deaf and mute.


If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Those who use sign language know that communication with the deaf is highly visual. Our own Michigan District has an active ministry to the deaf and many churches work to accommodate the hearing impaired.

At some funerals I’ve attended, while the service went on there was the traditional speaking of the liturgy to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t.

My friend Pastor Tom Dunseth, who has been in deaf ministry for years now serves in that capacity with St. Paul in Flint. They also have a deaconess that provides the signing for those members and friends who are deaf so that they could more fully participate in the service.

Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.

Jesus understood that.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking to the deaf man in a way that he could understand.

Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of

the crowd doesn’t distract us?

Jesus gets his attention.

The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”

And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue.

Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.

Your maladies and mine are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak.

You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give.

It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear … so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.

and said to him, “Ephphatha,” The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”

Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.” And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?

You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!

There is even better news than the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.
He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!

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


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sermon Aug. 27-28, 2021

Title: God clothes you with his armor!
Text: Eph. 6:10-20

Facebook live: God clothes you with his armor!

11 Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

As we conclude our time in the book of Ephesians this weekend, I thought we’d take a moment to review.

We began with Humility, gentleness, patience, Love and peace.

Followed by renewal in the Spirit as we put on the new self, in Christ Jesus.

Paul calls us all as he did the Ephesian Church to flee sexual immorality as that the light of Christ exposes all darkness causing it to flee in his marvelous light.

In the light of Christ, the new-self becomes a servant one to another in the unity of marriage but also reflected in the life we live together in a world broken by sin.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

The whole Armor of God protects the Christian in this life as we struggle against the devil and his work to point us away from Christ and his saving good news. That is Paul’s message to the Ephesian church and for you and me today.

Be strong in the Lord!

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against:

the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The last 18 months have given us all pause and we continue to all walk carefully. Gradually trusting the Lord to guide, lead and direct.

Joyfully the service at Christ with our sister congregations was a great blessing to many. It was a time to remember in the midst of trial the Lord continues to lead, guide and protect.

As Dr. Ryan Peterson proclaimed in his sermon from last weekend’s service of Praise and Thanksgiving:

The moment we’re in doesn’t pause the mission of God.

God’s work continues.

It did after Paul’s letter was read to the church at Ephesus.

It did after we suspended services for a time from March to June in 2020.

It did as we continued to gather together again.

And, it will continue as we continue to gather, hear God’s word, receive his gifts and trust in his protection and work in our lives and through our witness.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The armor of God has been given each one of us in Christ. We take it up daily as we remember our baptism’s having been clothed in Christ righteousness as our sins were washed away.

This work of God is yours:

Not that the trials of life won’t come but that God will be there with each one of us to protect guide and lead us through the storms to his promised inheritance in Christ.

The Lord clothes us for battle:

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,

The truth of God word given so that the lies of the evil one will not lead you astray from the comfort and protection of the Lord. [Jesus’ own temptation of the devil in the wilderness.]

and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Having received Christ, you stand covered by this breastplate having had the stone heart of unbelief changed to a heart of flesh in god’s work by his Spirit.

15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

The peace that passes all human understanding is that Christ’s peace is your peace and my peace no matter the trail and suffering we face.

16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

The shield to block the darts, arrows, lies, and deception of the devil because the Lord strengthens the gift of faith by his word and Spirit in you.

17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

And the helmet of protection for that which is not seen but the sword of the Spirit – the word of God – is our weapon to fight back against the devil.

Martin Luther used the word of God throughout his life and trials to combat the temptation of the devil and his own sinful flesh as he faced excommunication and the prospect of certain death standing on God’s word of truth and promises.

But had to admit that he truly deserved nothing in this life but death and hell as he wrote in his Letters of Spiritual Counsel, saying:

So, when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this:

“I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there, I shall be also!

Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, trans. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College, 2003), 86–87

The trials of life do not destroy the Lord’s promises as the Old Testament reminds us today:

9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.

Make them known to your children and your children's children”

Bring them to church, hear the word, be strengthened in God’s promise.

Or as the Gospel lesson reminds us that the evil one and the sinful self can lead us astray:

20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The Armor of God has been put on but the good news is that we never have to take it off!

It is always on and it is strengthened and reinforced as we read, hear and sing the word and as we continue in the Lord’s teaching having our faith strengthened through the Lord’s gifts in us and through us.

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



Monday, August 23, 2021

Sermon Aug. 21-22, 2021

Title: Love as Christ loves!

Text: Eph. 5:22-33

Facebook live: Love as Christ loves!

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Stephen Beck writes:

Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD." Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction.

To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, "I'm sure there was one posted on the other side." When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way.

It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision.

When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions.

Stephen P. Beck.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands
… as to the Lord.

25 Husbands, love your wives
… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Which one is harder? To submit to one’s husband as you would to the Lord … or to love one’s wife as Christ loved the church?

I would submit that they both are pretty difficult or darn near impossible for we who wrestle with sin in our daily lives to do. Sin taints all of who we are, and everything we do so that even the good we do is covered and infected with sin.

Paul continues:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

That sounds reasonable to me as a husband. It’s nice to know that my wife needs to hear, and listen, and submit to me as the church does to Christ.

But … there is more:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

Now … that, is a bit harder

Husbands are to love their wives as he loves himself, and cherish he, just as Christ does the church.

Well … what if the husband doesn’t know Christ?

Or, what if he is not a follower of Jesus? How does this impact married life?

Quite a bit I would maintain.

… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her [make her holy or set apart], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [just as you were washed and marked as Christ’s child] 27 so that [Christ] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Husbands are to present themselves to Christ in submission … and their wives should be sanctified or set apart unto Christ as the husband is the head of the wife … and … the head of the family in all things.

This dear friends is not power … but servant hood.

I remember the first time I came to realize that it was my duty to be the spiritual head of the family. I didn’t want to do it.

What! I thought. Wait a minute. Monica would be way better at being the spiritual head of the family. She could do the table prayers, and she could teach the children the bible stories … and she could ... and she could …

But, everywhere I went in the Bible [by this time the Lord had, by his Spirit, drawn me into the word] - as I kept reading and trying to find a way where I could pass off this responsibility - the word kept telling me:

“Russ! It’s your job! You are to be the head! You need to do it!”

So what does this say to the Christian who has fallen in love with an unbeliever?

Be careful! Marriage is hard enough when you have the uniting focus of faith in Christ as your guide.

But without Christ … it can be a devastating proposition.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

A friend on Facebook, Aaron Neilson has a little boy they named Boaz Michael Neilson.

Boaz is an Old Testament name from the Book of Ruth. In the story, Naomi’s daughter-n-law Ruth will not leave her mother-n-law but follows her back to Bethlehem, Judah. While there she gleans in the field of a near relative named Boaz. The story concludes with Boaz redeeming his relative Elimelech, Naomi deceased husband’s field and property and also Ruth as his wife. Ultimately, Ruth has a child Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David, a King after God’s own heart.

Ruth from the country of Moab is redeemed by Boaz and we see her again mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.

Boaz is a Kinsmen Redeemer a type of Christ we see as the two become one flesh and the linage lead to King David and ultimately to Jesus Christ himself.

In marriage the husband is a type of Kinsmen redeemer, the two have become one. It is no longer we who live separate but we live as one in Christ. Can you see the dilemma of those who are unequally yoked to an unbeliever and the difficulty that may result?

United as one and united in Christ brings not always peace as we all struggle with sin in life and marriage but it also brings a greater union outside oneself in Christ. In submission and in love towards him we live as one husband and wife, united as one flesh, one couple, one purpose and one hope.

As Paul concludes:

33 … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Love, Submission and Jesus!

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


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Sermon Aug. 14-15, 2021

Title: Awake and shine the light of Christ!
Text: Eph. 5:6-21

Facebook live: Awake and shine the light of Christ!

8b Walk as children of light
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Paul begins with these words:

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Empty words, we’ve all heard them … are words meant to deceive, to put off, or to fill one’s own agenda. The sons of disobedience hear and follow. Those opposed to Christ and his gospel continue to go the way of destruction, but we too who have been brought to faith by God’s gifts give way to the call of darkness and fall in sin.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

Don’t get sucked in, Paul tells the Ephesians. But what were the Ephesians getting sucked into … and does it apply to you and me?

Paul says in verse three and four that preceded our text:

3 [That] sexual immorality and all impurity or [coveting] must not even be named among you, and he concludes: 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking … but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who [covets], [which is to desire that which is not yours] … has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Harsh words indeed and the Ephesians were falling short then, and Christians today fall short too.

When desires, feelings and societal norms go against God’s word and truth … the result is that darkness [the realm of Satan] reigns.

You and I feel it too. Sin is a powerful force that in thought, word, and deed we can all give in to … and its desires can lead us away from the truth that God intends.

When Paul speaks of sexual immorality and all impurity he is not just speaking of same sex attraction, (though homosexuality would be included in his rebuke) but of all sexual sins outside of God’s design of marriage or in the context of marriage that defiles that union.

Whether perpetrator or victim there are no winners when sexual sin rears its ugly head.
There has been so much in the news over the last year or so. Powerful men who took advantage or their positions in the Hollywood entertainment machine to prey on young women; TV celebrities; people of prominence, politicians and those in positions of power.

Take Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

“[An] independent investigation has concluded Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so violated federal and state law,” … “Specifically, the investigation found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”

Paul cautions the Ephesians:

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

And here’s the key …

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

The light that exposes darkness is Jesus Christ and his word of truth.

And it is not to use God as a means – claiming “I believe” - while denying him and living in sin using Christ as a cover. But through repentance it God’s desire that you be restored freely by faith in Christ through his saving Gospel and working of the Holy Spirit. And also by the light of the gospel that your light shines in the midst of those in darkness so that they too might come to faith and believe.

Paul speaks of coveting as well, or desiring that which you don’t have … and this can also be things we desire or people.

As Luther says in his explanation for the 9th and 10th commandments:

We should fear and love God that we may not [find] seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it … (9th commandment)

… [nor] force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, [diligently] but urge them to stay and do their duty. (10th commandment)

Darkness and light … lies and truth … you can’t ride the fence.

Everything you do untimely says something about who you are. So:

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, Paul says, don’t let the world, your sinful flesh or the devil be your guide. And all too often we can fall silent in the face of evil.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Joel Fritsche a career missionary suggests that this might be a stanza from an early Christian hymn. It certainly could be with this image of dying and rising and awaking from death that you and I who have been brought to faith understand.

Death is the great equalizer for us all. Whether you are in the public eye or just one of us regulars in the world, we all need to have Christ and be brought to faith to have a eternity with him.

That changes who we are and how we live.

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here in the Divine Service God calls us to come.

To be fed on word and sacrament. To receive God’s favor on account of Christ, and to go fourth, in a world of darkness, with the light of the gospel of peace – the very word of God – and it is this word that brings those who are dead in sin and darkness to God’s marvelous light of forgiveness.

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



Sunday, August 8, 2021

Sermon Aug. 7-8, 2021

Title: The old self is dead and you are renewed!
Text: Eph. 4:17-5:2

23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Facebook: The old self is dead and you are renewed!

Last week I talked about some of our Hall of Fame players on Detroit sports teams that remained humble in the midst of their success and how our Lord molds us to reflect his love in our world. But if we look at those same teams today there is much to be done to bring former glory and success of those teams back to life.

Rebuilding is a word that has been used quite a bit in the last few years in Detroit and with our sports teams. The Red Wings, Pistons, Tigers and Lions all seem to all be rebuilding. New players, faces, coaches, stadiums and the like seem to abound.

The Pistons just drafted Cade Cunningham #1 and my son and many others are very happy and think this young man might be the one piece to put the Pistons in contention on the basketball map.

Rebuilding brings a new sense of purpose and joy, whether in sports, your home or your life.

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus:

22 … put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life … 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Asking the question, 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, - this Jesus?

Last week the emphasis of the message was on humility, gentleness and patience. Peace, Love and Understanding.

One Body,
One Spirit,
One Lord,
One Faith,
One Baptism,
One God and Father of all

And now Paul askes, 21 assuming that you have heard about [Jesus]?

For we who have been here for years it would be like Pastor Merrell or another long-time pastor in your life asking – do you know Jesus? Have you heard about him?

Because, you certainly don’t live like you know him.

At least that is what it sounds like he is saying to me.

And then adding a rebuke for the Gentiles living as they do.

And I paraphrase the text:

17 … don’t live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless 18 … whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. GNT

This rebuke from Paul, their beloved pastor, says they’ve missed the mark. They’ve fallen short.

Goodness, how heartbreaking. How stubborn! How close it hits to home.

To hear this from Pastor Merrell or Moritz in my case or Pastor Evenson the longtime pastor from St. Stephens would be hard to hear.

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

Saying in a sense that sin is having its way with you. It is corrupting you and you need to look not to who you were, but to who you have become in Christ!

23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

To not live the sinful way on the sinful road but to live in the light of the forgiveness you have received in righteousness and holiness.

To be righteous – to be covered with Christ

To be Holy – to be set apart, reflecting Jesus and acting in a manner worthy of your calling.

Many years ago, I had a friend and coworker who was experiencing money problems. It can happen to us all and it can come without warning.

He had a newer truck and a high lease payment. It was burying him in debt.

Just as he got close to the end of his two-year lease, I told him what my dad had taught me - that you need to live within your means, save your money, buy what you can afford, which may not the new car or truck you want but probably a used one.

He said, “My dad never taught me that.”

So, I said, “Well, call me daddy! Because I’m telling you now.”

To put on the new self means there needs to be a change.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Unfortunately, in this case his lease expired, he had no savings to draw from and the sinful sale slogan rang loudly in his ears as he said to me – Sign and Drive, baby!

You don’t need and money, no down payment, just pick out your car, sign the paperwork and drive it home. He did.

A few months later it was again the same familiar thing, a monthly payment and a car – though nice – that had lost its new car appeal as the monthly payments came due.

27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Don’t do it. Whatever it is. Don’t let the devil entice you so that you give in to his desires or yours.

My friend needed money and he needed a car. He was angry at his situation and he gave in the sin of the here and now – sign and drive, baby!

We all do at times.

In Paul’s day and in the Ephesian church some weren’t even working for what they needed thinking stealing was okay for them.

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

The reality is that they had lost focus on Christ.

They had taken their eyes off Jesus.

Do we? Sure, we do.

Daily, weekly, and at times it becomes the norm.

Don’t say bad things,

Build other’s up,

Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit - his work is heard enough.

Look at what he is working with. Me and you.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

The early church under Paul had its problems, didn’t they? And we do too.

But here is the meat and potatoes or the cookies on the bottom shelf so the kiddies can get them take away for today.

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We can forgive because we have been forgiven!

The old self is dead and you are renewed!

5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

You are a new creation and so it is not you but Christ in you that brings this fruit to life.

Work as if everything depends on you and live as if everything depends on Christ! Because it does!

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