Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sermon April 10-11, 2021- Easter 2

Title: The Peace of the Lord is yours!
Text: John 20:19-31

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19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

In our epistle for today in 1 John we read:

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

And John also concludes his epistle letter with this affirmation:

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God … so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus had been crucified and buried. There had been despair among the disciples. Word had come that his body had been stolen; some reports say he has been raised from the dead. Confusion and uncertainty were rampant.

You should remember that these disciples had not stood firm with Jesus during his hour of need.
Some had fallen asleep when he went to pray,
some had abandoned him for fear
and even Peter had denied knowing him.

Now on Sunday evening, the evening of the day of his resurrection, these same disciples came together in an upper room. The door is locked because they too fear the Jewish authorities, and who knows … maybe these same Jews are looking for them as well?

So, they abandoned Jesus …
they hid during his trial …
they left him to suffer alone and in this locked room …
Jesus now is standing before them.

Not off in the distance where you can’t quite make him out,
not appearing to be the gardener as Mary Magdalene had thought
but, in their midst, right there with them.
They might have thought, “What will he say to us who have deserted him?”

His zeal for his father’s house was known to them as they were there as he sent the money changers fleeing and scattered the wears of those selling in the courts of the Temple. What kind of fire would he call down from heaven upon them who had left him ... to die alone? Certainly, the sons of thunder were not now making any requests to sit on his left or right in his Kingdom.

And then Jesus speaks his first words to them. “Peace be with you.” Not just the traditional greeting of Shalom as Jews were known to great one another but the Peace that passes all human understanding, the words of absolution from Jesus himself – your sins are forgiven.

Peace between God and man, Christ and his disciples, God’s peace also for you and me who all now by faith have access to this same peace.

This peace is real. God has made what we could never make possible a reality. Now he brings this reality to you and me through his means.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the reality of his death was there, the holes in his hands and feet, the mark in his side from the spear, all those remaining marks of his finished work for you and me were there, and he says and again brings the words of comfort.

“Peace be with you.” But now gives the means of this gift for the world’s salvation. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Christ Jesus here gives the work of the ministry to these disciples, these 10 men in this upper room - Judas having fled and taken his life in despair and Thomas not yet here among them.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

The work of the ministry, given by Jesus, to those who stand in the stead and by the command of Christ brings true peace … because it is Christ’s peace spoken as if he spoke it himself to you.

It is a true absolution, not because the men who stand in the place and by the command of Christ, stand of their own accord, but because they stand as called and ordained servants of the word, they do what Christ does and commands.

It is his words of peace, it is his words of forgiveness,

and it is his words of comfort spoken by those called to stand as under shepherds of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ himself.

Peace is a gift but it also has a cost.

Jesus is both the gift and the price that was paid to procure your peace and your salvation. In Baptism, we too who are brought to the font at baptism receive that same gift.

It is Christ who baptizes through the hands of those same called and ordained servants. It is not my baptism but Christ’s done through the hands of those he has called.

We who have been baptized have all received that same gift.

In Baptism we are once again given that pristine state and standing with God that Adam and Eve had before the fall. But God’s creation, as we know is still covered by the wages of sin which bring death. At times the word of God’s Law must be spoken, to point us all to our sinful state, so that we might be brought to repentance. But God’s absolution and forgiveness is certain for those who repent, so that we might live redeemed, in the midst of a world broken by the fall.

Do not remain in doubt like Thomas, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

But even for Thomas only eight short days later Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

The same forgiveness that the others received, Thomas also received.
We all as baptized children of God have that same Peace with God through Christ’s merit.
We can remember our baptisms daily knowing for certain that it is Christ himself who baptizes and give the Holy Spirit so that we all can believe and trust in his finished work.
No matter the trials of this life whether work loss, addiction or doubt - Christ is here each week … at Peace … to greet you with the comforting absolution of his forgiveness.

And like Thomas we too can say in response, “My Lord and my God!” Knowing for certain just as Jesus said, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Peace of the Lord is yours!

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

Amen

Sermon Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Funeral for Rev. William D. Merrell

Title: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!
Text: Phil. 1:20-21

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20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Pastor, Chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and brother Bill Merrell.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

The joyful Easter proclamation, so recently proclaimed during Easter services in so many churches just a few short days ago, seems appropriate during this time of both joy and grief.

Christ had died on Good Friday and then on Easter Sunday rose from death to life in his glorious resurrection.

In the same way we joy in the certain hope that those who die in Christ and by faith - have the blessed promise - as those who have been predestined, called, justified and glorified – in Christ, also, grieve the loss of dear Bill in our lives; cherishing the memory of his presence among us and knowing the loss we all share, one with another, will be overcome by that glorious reunion in heaven one day for all who believe.

Make no mistake, Bill Merrell was far from a perfect man.

Born in sin, he began life in Massillon Ohio on August 27, 1945. The family moved to Michigan where they made their home becoming members of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Birmingham, where Bill was confirmed by Pastor Howard Allwardt. Through Pastor Allwardt’s guidance Bill was encouraged to prepare for the ministry and we are all thankful for the Lord’s call upon Bill’s life to serve his Lord and the Lord’s people.

Another call upon his life was his marriage to the love of his life Nancy, on December 28th 1968. That blessed union was further blessed by our Lord with the births of their dear children Melanie and Marcus, and as their families grew with, grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. What a joy the grandchildren were in Bill’s life!

Bill, graduated from Concordia Seminary St. Louis in 1971 and following ordination served 8 years at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Granville Ohio before receiving the call to Peace in December of 1980. His service to Peace would continue for the next 32 years until his retirement from fulltime ministry on January 6th 2013.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Many years, many families, baptisms, conformations, weddings, and funerals continued throughout the years. Joy and sorrow, life and death, ups and downs as the lifeblood of ministry and service to his Lord continued.

I came to know Pastor Bill Merrell when I visited with him in 2001 about transferring my family to Peace. God had brought me to Peace with a transfer from St. John in Rochester. I had been pondering going to seminary and the nearness of Peace to my home and the stability of Pastor Merrell was a blessing.

I served on the board of Elders and as President of the congregation for 8 years. But the door to ministry had not opened and I became comfortable and at Peace in Lay-leadership.

As Pastor Merrell and I sat at dinner one Wednesday evening here at church in October of 2009, he asked me, “Russ, could you see me after class?” He had been teaching confirmation and I was leading an adult bible study through 1st Corinthians.

Just after class ended the chairman of the Board of Elders said to me, “Did Pastor tell you he wants to see you after class?” Now I’m starting feel a bit uneasy and just then Officer P.J. Osika, one of the members of our church, walks in in uniform and says, “Pastor around, he wanted to see me?” Now I’m thinking, “He’s got the Elders and the Cops after me! I’m getting arrested!”

No thankfully … just circumstantial evidence. Pastor had heard about the SMP program and asked if I would prayerfully consider entering it and serving here at Peace. I remember telling him “No, I’ve been down that road before and the door keeps closing, I think I’ll pass.”

He said, “Let’s not close the door on the Holy Spirit just yet.” So, I applied, entered the program and now am blessed to have served here at Peace for the last 9 years.

Pastor William D. Merrell is the reason I am a pastor. I know that the Lord is truly the reason but God works through means and Pastor Merrell and this church were the means God used and continues to use.

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Christ works through his word and that word was delivered through Pastor William D. Merrell for 41 years in active ministry and over the last 8 years in retirement serving in visitation to the Saints at St. Matthews and as a chaplain for the Waterford Police department.

Some of the great joys I had with Bill were during our campus visits to Fort Wayne for my annual in person classes. Early on in 2010 Bill had gotten a flip phone and while we were in the dorm a text came in from his granddaughter Kylie. Bill lit up and proceeded to reply. [slow texting]

He sent his reply. Bing! Kylie sent a text back.

Bill’s temperament was like Jesus. When the storms of life rage you might find him sleeping in the boat. Calm, even tempered, bearing one another’s burdens Pastor Merrell was a peaceful shepherd in the midst of the storm.

Bill and I attended our Pastor’s circuit meeting last month in person for the first time in a year. He was so happy to be in person with his brother pastor’s He was not in love with zoom or social media and let us all know.

He never had a computer, just his notes and a phone. One day a big black monitor was on his desk with a keyboard and computer on the floor.

Me: I said, “I see you got a computer?”

Bill: “No! It was donated.”

Me: “You going to use it?”

Bill: “I don’t think so.”

A few weeks later it was gone. This was Bill’s computer. [Shut in list]

24 names of members, dates of visits, phone numbers and family contacts. I inherited this list from him and the joy of visitation and comfort God brings to those members who are home bound and shut-in. All but 2 have departed this life for their eternal rest and now Pastor Merrell as well.

St. Luke writes in his gospel in Chapter 2 about Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple of the Lord to make a sacrifice as the Law required. And while there an old man named Simeon, who as we are told was righteous and devout and waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God, and that the Holy Spirit was upon him.

28 he took [the child Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation

31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

Bill knew that same peace!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by our Lord Jesus Christ and we can have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News that in and through Jesus Christ, God and man have been reconciled.

As we grieve the loss of our dear Bill and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

The words of the apostle John ring true in Chapter 14 of his gospel:

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Pastor William D. Merrell knew the way of Christ prepared for him.

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!

You too have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust.

Jesus has forgiven your sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, has given you the faith to believe in His saving work.

That’s a place prepared for you, forgiven in Christ, and an eternity with our Lord and savior Jesus that you can trust.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Amen

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sermon April 3-4, 2021– Easter Sunday

Title: Jesus died, was buried and was raised for you!
Text: Mark 16:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:1-11

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5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.

8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Blessed Easter to you all as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord!

But that is not how the day began … that first Easter.

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus].

For the woman here the day begins early. It is past the Sabbath.

2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

The Apostle Luke writes: at early dawn, they went to the tomb,

St Matthew tells us: toward the dawn of the first day of the week,

And John writes in his Gospel: 20 Now, on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark,

Four gospels, four accounts … all four evangelists tell of an early visit to the tomb.

The number of women named varies. Mary Magdalene, James’ mother Mary, and Salome are named in Mark’s gospel while St. Luke adds Joanna and the other women, leaving the possibility of other women who are not named that may have also gone to help at the tomb.

There are two truths here.

One, they were going to deal with the body of a dead man. One who had been crucified on Friday and left in a hot desert tomb over the Sabbath, to finish preparing the body of Jesus for burial.

The other truth - no men were there.

Why? Well Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had already wrapped the body of Jesus in linen cloths and placed it in a hand cut tomb. John’s account adds that the body had been anointed with 75-100 pounds of spices.

For the men - maybe the job of anointing the body and burial was done.

For the women, because of the crucifixion and quick burial, much had happened.

From 3 pm on Good Friday when Jesus said “It is finished,” bowed his head and gave up his spirit to the beginning of the Sabbath rest at 6 pm, there are only three hours. That doesn’t leave much time to request the body of Jesus from Pilate, take it down from the cross, prepare it for burial, and then bury it and roll the stone in place.

There was much to do in the little time available. Maybe the women felt they needed more time for a proper burial?

But one truth does come to mind in the reading of all four accounts.

Jesus was dead.

3 [As the women approached the tomb,] they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

For you and me dear friends there is a stone, a very large stone, a spiritual stone – you see, you and I were dead too.

The physical stone that the women were concerned about could be moved – maybe not by them but with a few others it could be moved and they could anoint the dead. That is why they went.

But not the spiritual stone and not a heart of stone dead in trespass and sin they couldn’t help with that, because that is you and that is me and we need anointing too because we are dead. Not with spices and not with oils but with the anointing of one who changes hearts and lives from death to life.

To anoint a dead body you have to roll away the stone and enter the tomb.

The women were prepared to do that for Jesus to honor him with the best they could buy, even though a large quantity of spices had been used already and the stone rolled in place, they went - to where death lay - and with the best anointing oils they could buy.

Jesus had been anointed before. You might remember the story from Mark Chapter 14 where Jesus was reclining at the home of Simon the Leper, and a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and pure nard and broke it and poured it over his head. Those present were indignant at the waste because why anoint a living person when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor?

6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.

We too were in a sense anointed beforehand.

Before we were born, we were anointed with the sin of Adam and Eve, marked for death, conceived and brought forth in sin.

What God had created perfect was broken and we were born dead in trespass and sin. Eph 2:1

But thankfully God didn’t leave us for dead.

5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them,

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

The spices and oils to anoint the body of Jesus were no longer needed. He was not there. He had risen from death to life.

In the same way also you have left death behind.

The Holy Spirit, which you were anointed with at your baptism, has washed you clean and by his power, connected to the word, has rolled away the stone of spiritual death from your heart so that being dead in trespass and sin, and dead to God, you now have been made alive in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Because of the Holy Spirit in you, you see not through the eyes of death … but through the eyes of faith fixed on the one who has conquered sin, death and the devil in your place.

7 But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

By faith you also see. You see a resurrected Christ, you see life eternal, and you see Jesus … He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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

Amen







Sermon April 2, 2021– Good Friday

Title: Christ has been lifted up for you!
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

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13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.


I just don’t know why it happened to me?

When confronted with the whys of our own life, we in many cases turn to despair. So many in our church live with sickness and the knowledge of continued suffering.

Some lose loving parents and find it hard to go on without them daily in their lives;

Some deal with their own suffering and the daily pain that endures;

Some just wish to depart this life and have the suffering they endure … end.

It is with Good Friday and the suffering of Jesus that we too can call out with persistent cries, “why?”

Jesus’ life was service and healing not crime.

He turned no one away.

He gave sight to those who were blind, raised the dead and told the woman caught in adultery;

“Neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11

As Isaiah says:

… he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows
… was afflicted, pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
He was oppressed, he opened not his mouth, he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people and they made his grave with the wicked
Though he had done no violence and no deceit was in his mouth.

Through suffering God declares his love.

Isaiah called the Suffering Servant oppressed, and like a sheep being led to the slaughter he was silent.

Yet, there was a purpose for his suffering. It was for the transgressions the sins of the people. For sin, he would die, he would be cut off and make his grave with the wicked.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. [sins]
Through suffering God will bring peace to Israel through His servant. God promises good news, peace, happiness and salvation to His people Israel.

It is also made known that God chooses to be the God of all people and that the way he will accomplish this is through his servant. The Lord will be the one who brings salvation to all the earth.

Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2 when he says:

… though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 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.

Jesus was lifted up though many were appalled at his appearance.

He was disfigured almost to the point of not being recognized as human.

Sin needed an atoning sacrifice that was without blemish and acceptable to appease God’s wrath.

God provided the sacrifice himself in His Son – God in the flesh - who was the spotless Lamb of God. The price of the servant’s sinless life and death brought peace for you and for me.

Through suffering we have peace and healing.

he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

When you suffer you are connected to Christ Jesus the Suffering Servant. By being connected to him, when we too suffer, we can know God’s true love for us as he endured all for you and for me … even death.

Christ’s model is our victory.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Heb. 4:14

Because of Christ’s death we know that death has been conquered by him once and for all. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Heb. 4:15

Because of Christ’s sinless life and death in our place we have received what he earned for us by faith in him - namely our forgiveness and salvation.

Remember though, he didn’t do it for himself … he did it for you!

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4:16

Because Jesus suffered, we can understand suffering as it pertains to sin and the brokenness in this world. Not as something from God but as a result of the corrupted world broken by sin.

Christ’s victory is you victory!

Christ’s forgiveness is your forgiveness!

By his death you receive eternal life in his name!

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






Friday, April 2, 2021

Sermon April 1, 2021 – Maundy Thursday

Title: The Lord’s Supper is the fruit of forgiveness for you!
Text: Mark 14:12-26 Ex 24:3-11; 1 Cor. 10:16-17

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16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Cor. 10:16-17

There is something mysterious and wonderful about celebrating the Lord’s Supper on the night when it was first given. What a joy and privilege to re-live that first Maundy Thursday and to share the very same gift Jesus gave his disciples centuries ago.

Last week we finished our midweek services on Return to the Lord and our time of repentance in our lead up to Holy Week.

As we get closer to Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, the importance of his true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, becomes clear.

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Mark 14:22-24

Doing Real Love

The gift of Christ’s love for us is made known to us in his sinless life, death in our place, and glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, and as we’ve walked during Lent with Jesus on his journey to the cross the time of fulfillment is coming near, and Jesus now gives us all - one more blessing – the Lord’s Supper.

This gift from Christ himself connects you and me to his death and the forgiveness he won and also … the life that we share together as fellow redeemed.

The Tree of Life in the garden of Eden brought life to those who ate of it’s fruit and following the fall into sin God, in his mercy banished them from the garden and the Tree of Life so that they might not eat of it’s fruit and live forever in their fallen state.

God sustained his children in the wilderness for 40 years through the means of the bread from heaven, gathered and consumed by the people for their sustenance and life. This bread of life Christ calls himself.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

In St. Paul’s writings he looks to connect the blessings of Christ to you, and you and me to each other through this gift.

What had been celebrated then is celebrated today as we receive the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.

As Lutherans we take Jesus simply at his words for what they are - not reading more into them than what He said or believing less than what he meant.

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

In a real sense the Real Presence and our understanding of Jesus and the sacrament are truly profound but also very simple or maybe it is just as Lutherans we like to - let Scripture interpret Scripture.

As St Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:16-17

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

In this blessed gift we hear the words of institution as the elements are consecrated, and we receive the bread and the wine by our mouth, but in a mysterious way that we can’t fully comprehend in the sacramental union, we also receive the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in and with the bread and the wine, not because we fully understand it but because Jesus and his word says so.

In the Passover meal the spotless lamb was sacrificed and the blood placed upon the lintel and door posts but the lamb was also consumed by God children.

5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.

The bread of life that is Jesus is given to us in this memorial meal.

Not just a remembrance but a participation.

What a blessing for you and me!

For we are one body and partake of the one loaf - 1 Cor. 10:17

Participation in the sacrament puts us on the side of Christ uniting us with him, and he with you and me, and we with each other.

We gather together at the table of the Lord and are identified as members of the body of believers – this one loaf - and we are also connected to what is believed, taught, confessed and received here at this altar and in this church.

We believe Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper and that we receive this blessed gift for the forgiveness of our sins in a real and tangible way.

The unity we receive from our Lord in the supper connects us to him.

The curse of sin brings death and this past year we’ve all seen death through Covid 19. The curse of sin infects us all and we all one day will die in this life, infected by sin, but with Covid there is hope to continue to live and mitigate its effects.

A vaccine is available that offers protection.

Whether, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson there is hope that with a vaccine we live protected from this disease that has killed some and consumed with fear others.

Real protection is here we are told.

We’ve all heard about the vaccine, we waited for it to be developed and approved, we debated and considered whether it was good, bad or of uncertain benefit. But, one truth is for sure - until you’ve gathered together and stood in line with those who desired the vaccine - where it is offered - and received the shot, in your arm - the vaccine is of no benefit to you.

There are no Zoom meeting vaccinations here. It’s something to think about, ponder and consider.

God works through means.

I’ve been vaccinated from Covid 19. I pray it gives comfort to those I visit and protects us both from the worst effects of Covid.

But, sin and death in this life remains.

The Lord’s Supper - is that vaccine for sin, given to you individually as we gather together and it is 100% effective.

Into your mouth you receive the vaccine for sin, which is Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and strengthening of your faith.

This is as real now as when it was instituted on that first Maundy Thursday and is really present for you and me.

There was no bread and wine at the cross but there was the real body and blood of Jesus shed for you.

In the same way, Jesus’ very body and blood are united with the bread and wine so that the vaccine for sin and the forgiveness he won at the cross comes to you, united with the bread and wine in the sacramental union.

His love for you is real and so is his gift given and shed at the cross and given into your mouths for the forgiveness of all our sins. We can’t explain how this IS … but simply trust God’s work and the words of Christ.

“Take; this IS my body.” 23 And he took a cup …24 And he said to them, “This IS my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

This is a gift for we who have been brought to faith by God’s Holy Spirit to believe.

This is not for the world’s forgiveness; this does not comfort unbelievers; and unfortunately, the real presence of Christ in the sacrament can cause division.

This eating and drinking of Christ brings forgiveness, and by faith we are united with Jesus and with each other connected to this meal.

It is the word of God made flesh and his sinless life, suffering, death and glorious resurrection that makes peace with God. The Lord’s Supper brings to our lips this reality connecting us to the very death of Christ for our benefit. It is a meal of forgiveness - God’s favor on account of Christ for you and me … now and always.

Believe and receive this gift!

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

Amen




Monday, March 29, 2021

Sermon March 27-28, 2021- Palm Sunday

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

Facebook live: Are you the Christ?

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