Monday, May 20, 2024

Sermon May 18-19, 2024

Title: The witness of the Spirit is yours!
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

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13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Second Stanza of our opening hymn for today really speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

#913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In

Give to Your Word impressive power
That in our hearts from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing,
That in true Christian unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Your glory ever showing.
Hear us, cheer us
By Your teaching;
Let our preaching
And our labor
Praise You, Lord, and serve our neighbor.

Today we celebrate the sending of the Spirit which in the Book of Acts speaks of the Spirit coming as a mighty rushing wind and as tongues of fire, resting on the disciples and giving them utterance. This powerful speaking in other tongues gives the disciples the ability to be heard as Luke writes in the book of Acts:

“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7b-8)

And the diversity of those that hear is large.

9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:9-11)

The Spirit can certainly do marvelous things to reach all people! And that is what Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel reading for today.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Spirit of truth will point you to Jesus.

This light shining is to show the way to who is the way the truth and the life.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

Saying:

Know this, I have seen the ones who masquerade as gods in this life. They are not he. Look to Jesus! Follow Jesus! Trust Jesus! Believe in Jesus!

Christ met unbelievers where they were. He realized what many Christians today still don't seem to understand. Cultivators have to get out in the field. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life.

J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.

God can use us all. God will use us all.

My friend Rob makes his living teaching guitar and banjo. He is very talented and those he teaches learn well. But his mission is to tell the world about Christ and through his gift of music he gets an opportunity to tell the world about Jesus and Christ himself says that it is to your advantage that he goes away:

But if I go, I will send him [the Spirit] to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
John 16:7b-11

Ugly truth or beautiful truth?

The ugly truth is that we are born sinful and unclean and are God's enemies and rightly deserve to be cast into Hell and separated from God for ever. But the beautiful truth is that God came to stand in your place and to suffer death for you so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you might know this and by faith trust all that Jesus did for you and receive the promise of an eternity in heaven with him.

Satan has been judged at the cross. He has been defeated and it is now through the working of the Spirit that Christ’s work is made known to the world so that sin might be repented of and people come to faith in Christ.

We know that we ourselves need repentance and forgiveness, so also those who will come to faith by the Spirit’s work through the word. God’s means of word and sacrament are found here in God’s house but the word is active and goes with each one of us as we in our vocations take Christ with us in our daily lives as father’s mothers, brothers, sisters, and workers and too.

The Spirit of truth bears witness to you!

As Jesus says:
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
God’s Spirit leads you into all truth! John16:13-15

Christ and his work are who the Helper, the Holy Spirit points to and it defines what is His work and what He works to accomplish.

Jesus sends the Helper and by His work you are His!

We have peace to with God too because of the Holy Spirit. He brings us to life from our spiritual death and give us the faith that points and holds to Christ.

And as was confessed today in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spoke through the prophets …

The Holy Spirit is God the sanctifier or the one who makes us Holy…

Jesus sends the Helper the Holy Spirit and by His work you are His!
To be comforted at times is good,

To be helped at times is also good,

But to be forgiven and to receive the gift of faith in Christ and His work - for you - is the work of the Holy Spirit who was sent to draw people not to himself but to Christ. This is truly Good News!

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

Amen.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Sermon May 11-12, 2024

Title: The King of Love My shepherd Is!
Text: John 17:11b-19

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Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11b

Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

"To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray that they may be one, even as we are one"? (John 17:11b).

A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, "Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless... Unite, unite!"

Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity. Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord's prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17.

17 "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth."

Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.

Charles H. Spurgeon, The Essence of Separation, quoted in The Berean Call, July, 1992, p. 4.

Jesus too desired unity around the truth and his will was in accord with the will of his Father.

Jesus says:

“… I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost …

The Lord’s desire is to keep and protect those whom he leaves behind as he Ascends back to the Father, this we celebrated this past Thursday at St, Stephens at the Ascension service.

His desire is that they (his disciples) may be one in unity with each other just as Jesus and the Father are one in unity … though distinct in person. Christ says that he has guarded them and that not one has been lost …

except for Judas - the one who went the way of destruction – so that the scriptures may be filled.

And as Christ prepares to leave his beloved disciples, he prays for them that the Father would keep them, in your name, in the name of the one true God, so that they would be guarded and not lost.

As Christ leaves the world, he knows that his own will remain in the world just as you and I also remain, and though in the world are not of the world.

We remain but also, we represent the work of God in us,

to abide in Jesus,

to remain in him,

to be his and to show forth his will against the power of the evil one, who looks only to steal, kill and destroy.

By his word of truth God is yours!

When I was in Germany some years ago, I couldn’t help thinking as we were driving to the airport in Berlin how much Germany has changed in the years since the Nazis and Hitler were defeated.

Initially, many Germans supported Hitler. Some saw that it was better for them to get along rather than to fight what was happening and some turned a blind eye to the truth of the atrocities around them.

We see that happening today as the evil of the October 7th attack against Jewish families in Israel by HAMAS is denied by many protestors that refuse to believe that it actually happened.

Even when churches were told to unite by Hitler many did, finding that things went easier for them than those who stayed true to the word and came under harsher persecution.

We all have families in the world and this too can pull us apart as we wrestle with the changes in society and civic life.

With marriage redefinition and gender identity questions abounding, the truth we’re told is tolerance, but in reality the breakdown of the family as it has been defined on Biblical principles and God’s word is the real goal.

Jesus says:

17 Sanctify them [or make them holy which also is to be set apart] in the truth; [he then tells us that] your word is truth.

Apart from God’s word we live in a world where God is re-made in man’s image and that is how the devil wants it.

He wants to turn what God has said upside down into that first deceptive question of his:

“Did God really say?” It gives us all, like Adam and Eve, a high view of self and a low view of sin which is simply, missing the mark and coming up short, on what God expects.

So, what do we do?

We lower the bar of truth or change it altogether.

Jesus’ desire for you and me … in the world … is that we stay true to the word and that by it – by the word - may also be sanctified or made holy [set apart] by it.

God’s Spirit does that by pointing you and me to Jesus!

As Jesus returns to the Father he leaves his disciples with a promise.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Acts 1:8-9

Our first reading follows this as the disciples return to Jerusalem and the upper room where they were staying … where Jesus had appeared to them.

14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Unity around truth, that Jesus Christ is the son of God.

How do we know this? How can we know this?

… your word is truth.

God’s word … Jesus … is truth.

Like we discussed last week:

At Baptism we are marked as God’s own child, as one redeemed by Christ, as one who was crucified for you and me.

This Jesus upon his ascension gave the promise that we would not be left alone and that the comforter, [the Holy Spirit] who would come at Pentecost, would be with us to point us to the unity found only in Jesus the

word of God made flesh.

Dr. Scott Murray in his wonderful Memorial moment devotion reminds us of what happens when truth is compromised:

When the Word is lost everything is lost. Over the past twenty years, churches have begun to jettison the confession of faith in the Creeds of the church.

They are no longer recited as part of church services. When this trend began the clergy, who were so eager to get rid of the public confession of the faith by the faithful, were quick to reassure the skeptical that even though they no longer said the words that they certainly still affirmed the content of the Creeds. More recently the clergy who jettisoned the recitation of the Creed are now quite aggressively rejecting the content of the Creed, including its Christological [focus on Christ] content. Once we stop saying the words, it isn't very long until we stop believing the content of them.

Dr. Scott Murray: Unloving Love Wednesday of Easter 6 13 May 2015

The truth comes to us in the word of God and is made know through the work of the Spirit who points us to the truth of Christ’s word and work.

Luther reminds us in his Commentary on Galatians:

"In the issue of salvation, on the other hand, when fanatics teach lies and errors under the guise of truth and make an impression on many, there love must not be exercised and error must not be approved. For what is lost here is not merely a good deed done for someone who is ungrateful, but the Word, faith, Christ, and eternal life, etc. are lost. Therefore, if you deny God in one article of faith, you have denied Him in all; for God is not divided into many articles, but He is everything in each article and He is one in all the articles of the faith."

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9


17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Christ has made you his own and will keep you by his Spirit connected to him and his truth. This is his promise.

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

Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Sermon May 4-5, 2024

Title: Baptized into Your Name Most Holy!
Text: 1 John 5:1-8

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4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Stanza 1

Baptized into your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among your saints, your chosen host,
Buried with Christ and dead to sin.
Your Spirit now shall live within.

Our epistle in 1 John begins:

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,

For you and I and all who have been born a new, this work of God began when we were baptized. We were marked by Christ as his own, having been born again and adopted into his family - and having our sins washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism - we joy in God’s work and our new life as God’s child.

The work of God began for many of us as infants. God’s work was certainly greater than our ability to speak this truth as babies for ears to hear at our baptism - and so as we’ve grown up and have been taught what this work of God is – we continue to proclaim this truth and live as God’s adopted children to his glory.

Stanza 2

My loving Father, here you take me
To be henceforth your child and heir.
My faithful Savior, here you make me
The fruit of all your sorrows share.
O Holy Spirit, comfort me
When threat'ning clouds around I see.

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Our first reading in Act relates this truth:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
This gift also comes by means of another gift – the Lord’s working in Baptism.

Through the means of grace we have received the Holy Spirit, and have overcome the world, conquering sin, death and the power of the devil through this baptismal washing uniting water with the word and Spirit and creating faith in we who were once dead to God.

God has united us to himself in a special way and we confess with our mouths this truth that Jesus is Lord, and that believing that God has raised him from the dead - we are saved - have been saved - and will continue to be saved!

Salvation is God’s promise and is delivered through his means.

The word of terror that the devil brings – that you aren’t good enough - has been defeated at the cross and Jesus has declared his victory for you, even to the gates of hell that sin, death and the devil have been defeated and overcome by our Lord and we who confess this faith receive all that Jesus won for us in this most blessed gift.

This is most certainly true.

Stanza 3

My faithful God, you fail me never;
Your promise surely will endure.
Oh, cast me not away forever
If words and deeds become impure.
Have mercy when I come defiled;
Forgive, lift up, restore your child.

3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

For you and I who have been brought to faith the keeping of the Law has been completed in Christ, and so as we stay connected to the true vine that is Jesus, and feed on his word, we are seen by the Father in perfect righteousness because Jesus has kept the Law perfectly on our behalf and we, in Christ, reflect that perfection.

In the world we reflect the brokenness of sin and continue to do so.

As a little boy I was too young to even remember this incident. But my mother told it to me relating her shock and embarrassment.

I was probably 2 years old and with my mother at a store. While she was shopping a lady, she knew came over to talk with my mom and while they were visiting, she looked at me and asked, “What is your name little boy?” To which I quickly replied, “Damn it, Russell!”

My mom was mortified. I had obviously heard that a lot from her because I didn’t know my name apart from that phrase.

What we reflect in the world has consequences.

Now, not to have my mom take all the blame for bad judgment while teaching her child.

When my daughter Amy was 2 years old, Monica and I were taking her and our dog for a walk. As we walked near the Nature Center in our sub, I saw a squirrel. Knowing that our dog Tawney, would get excited and want to chase the squirrel, I pulled the dog to a stop and had Monica and Amy stop to distract the dog until the squirrel was out of sight. While we waited, Amy looked up and said, “Damn squirrel.”

I lived my mom’s grief.

I too had let the word of sin taint my life.

But, the word of sin and the world has been overcome in Christ!

Stanza 4

All that I am and love most dearly -
Receive it all, O Lord, from me.
Let me confess my faith sincerely
And help me your own child to be!
Let nothing that I am or own
Serve any will but yours alone.

5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Belief, is God’s work!

The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

That is how the Apostle Paul comforts his first readers of this epistle. And for we who many years later hear his same voice proclaimed through the Gospel promise by the Holy Spirit believe and have the same gift of comfort and peace now and always through the assurance of simple water and word connected, received, and revealed.

What a blessed comfort!

Martin Luther writes in his Lecturing on the First Epistle of St. John:

Thus the water cannot be proclaimed without the blood. Nor is the blood of Christ given without the water of Baptism. Besides, the blood and the water do not come to us except at the insistence of the Holy Spirit, who is in the Word. Therefore, those three cannot be separated, but the three do one thing …

For these three constantly accompany one another, and through the word a daily immersion and a perpetual baptism takes place, a perpetual shedding of the blood of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, a continual cleansing of sins.

AE 30 pg 316 Lutheran Study Bible pg. 2180

We as God’s children and all God’s children who have been baptized have and receive God’s forgiveness and have salvation in his name.

We all fall short, sure – but the blood of Christ paid the price that overcame sin death and the devil and has opened the gates of heaven for we who believe. The waters of Holy Baptism, united with the word of God, washes away our sin and by the Holy Spirit we believe and have the assurance of God’s forgiveness now and into eternity.

The devil will continue to damn us. But God in Christ has rescued us from damnation to eternity.

Baptized into Your Name Most Holy! Remember that daily!

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

Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Sermon April 27-28, 2024

Title: Abide in the love of Christ!
Text: John 15:1-8

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4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

Erika was at the church a week or two ago cleaning up some of the day lilies, raking leaves and doing a bit of pruning to the bushes. She has a skill from many years and hours of this type of work around her home and at the church. Some of our trees need attention on the property as well.

Pruning and branches are very familiar to we who live in Michigan. We clean them up in the spring and prune trees, bushes and vines in the fall and spring or throughout the year. You see the trucks driving around with the bucket and chippers from DTE to prune the trees near the power lines. It is of great benefit in keeping our power on during storms.

My own privacy hedge along my street I planted many years ago as a protection for my children and it still requires work and regular pruning to keep its shape and its height in check … all 200 feet of it … even though my kids have moved long ago and have their own homes.

Our gospel text today consists of only 8 verses that follow the discourse in John chapter 14 where Jesus promises that many rooms are prepared in his father’s house for his disciples and that he will come again to take them to where he is.

The comfort of the Holy Spirit will be the one to remain after Jesus has ascended to the Father to continue to work and point all in Christ to that true comfort and finished hope that is Jesus.

Christ’s love for us and his death on our behalf was on our minds last weekend with the Good Shepherd gospel.

The image of the Good Shepherd and the caring of the flock was the focus of Jesus’ care for those that are his, and how he brings that about through his word and gifts through his church, and through those who serve as under shepherds in our midst.

In our reading today Jesus speaks in image as a vine.

But not just any vine but as the true vine.

1“I am” the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.”

The divine name that begins our reading is no mistake but is made to ring clear in the disciples’ ears as the name of God and Jesus as the rightful possessor of that name. He then connects his name to the Father as the vine dresser.

In chapter 14 and in a more direct way when Phillip asks:
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Jesus replies:

Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

So Jesus is making clear in the previous chapter and in this first verse - this connectivity:

Father, Son, Vine, Vine dresser, the great “I am”, and Jesus - united in unity and unity in truth.

2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

To be a disciple means two things; to be connected to Christ and to bear fruit.

This work God does through the Holy Spirit. The branches removed here are not the unbelieving world but those who once connected to Christ have lost faith or do not bear fruit and have become useless to the vine. Because of unbelief … they are removed and cast away.

The fear in the text of being cut off and cast way for you and me is not the point of the text but for we who remain connected to Christ - it is the pruning and the bearing of fruit – which too can have its own pain and discomfort.

Those of you who have dealt with surgery know the pain of surgery and the blessing of looking at it in the rear-view mirror. It is the desire of Jesus that we are fruit bearers that the fruit of being connected to him shines forth in our lives … at church, at home, and in the world where we live and work.

A former pastor once said when faced with the “Judge not, that you be not judged.” scripture of Matthew Chapter 7 from a well-intended person, replied:

“I’m not judging … but I am a fruit inspector!”

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

The work of God’s justifying grace has already brought us into his family as his adopted children. Through baptism we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and have partaken of the divine blessing that is Jesus … being marked in him as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

So this fruit inspection is not to see whether we are truly Christian … but whether the gift of God in Christ as his children is bearing fruit in our lives … or dying on the vine.

Death will come. But do we die removed from the vine or in Christ?

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

A good death, a death in Christ, a death that leads to eternal life is what God desires- it is our hope as well - and it only happen in Christ, the true and living vine with branches grafted in.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

To do the work of Christ and to bear fruit we have to be in Christ.

We have to grow spiritually bearing the fruit that Christ desires.

You might wonder what God requires. Are we being judged on our works and the things we do?

Certainly as Christians and especially as Lutheran Christians we know that Ephesians 2:8-9 makes clear how we are saved:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph 2:8-9

But fruit is the evidence of a life in Christ for the Christian. It’s not a pious life or an outward righteousness but an inward change. It is God’s work and God’s continued working through his means of word and sacrament.

If I see my apple tree with a dead branch, I cut it off and then prune those branches around it that bear fruit … so that they might receive more nourishment and bear even greater fruit.

Sometimes our feelings and the world can steer us into wrong thinking.

A wrong thinking that can lead us astray …

1. Trust in your heart and what it’s saying.
2. Prosperity is a sign that shows God’s approval and favor in our lives.
3. Trust that God only expects you to do your best.

Jesus makes it clear in the gospel:

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

The fruit bearing is in Christ.

Our good deeds apart from Christ are quite literally nothing. They show no fruit and in fact if done with the intention of being a good deed, bring no fruit and can take us farther away from God, trusting in a false god of our own making. Our works apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us … can do nothing, Jesus says.

1. Trusting you heart as opposed to trusting Jesus - leads to death.
2. Trusting your wealth as opposed to trusting Jesus – leads to death.
3. Doing your best as opposed to belief in Christ’s work – leads to death.

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

The abiding hope, is a hope and work in God and of God.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

1.To have Jesus Christ abide in you is to be in the word.
2.To be in the word is to be in Christ the very word of God made flesh.
3.To do what God requires is to believe on him whom he has sent.

This work, by the working of the Holy Spirit, comes to you and me through the means of grace which points us to Christ so that we abide in him and he abides in us.

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

The gift of God makes us his …

and through this gift … the Father is glorified in his son …

and we …

as his adopted children, are glorified in him and bear much fruit!

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

Amen.

 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Sermon April 20-21, 2024

Title: The Good Shepherd loves his sheep!
Text: John 10:11-18

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11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Minister, Andrew Bonar, told a story about the Highlands of Scotland, where sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of.

The grass on these mountains is very sweet he says and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death.
So you might ask.:

"Why don't they just go down there when the sheep first gets there?" "Well," He said, "they are so very foolish that they would dash right over the precipice [ledge] and be killed if they did!"

And that is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have lost everything. The Good Shepherd will continue to pursue you and all who need to hear and call you by the working of the Holy Spirit to himself. He will be with you and will comfort you even in that place of danger, despair and death and will gather and bring you to his place of rescue and life.

Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 70-71.

In our readings for today we see the love God and the death on his son.

Jesus says in an analogy of a shepherd to his sheep that he is the good shepherd and that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In John’s epistle also we hear in contrast that,

16 By this [the death of Jesus] we know love, that he laid down his life for us.

So, the good shepherd is Jesus and we, and all who believe are his sheep and because of his love for us … he dies for us. And so again, this love of God in Christ is made known.

Now we also know about death.

Having just had a funeral for dear Marilyn we know that from the time of Adam and Eve and the fall into sin, death has been in the world.

We see death all around us.

[Ukraine, Israel, Gaza in the United States, the border and the effects of that in and around our country.]

So our death, apart from Christ’s atoning death, is a death without hope.

We know that in Jesus, and by faith in his sinless life, vicarious death, and glorious resurrection, his death … is a death that gives life. Life eternal!

Jesus also says that apart from him - those that might shepherd the sheep in ways opposed to Christ and his teaching - are liars, leading the sheep away from him and who in the time of need flee, leaving the sheep to care for themselves so that the wolves scatter them.

But Jesus – the Good Shepherd- says:

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd.

So who are the other sheep and how does Christ bring them into this one flock?

Well, outside of the children of Israel – those believing Jews - it is you and me … and it is also those who will believe as the gospel goes forth throughout the world from now on until Christ returns.

[Today / yesterday] I thought about the Good Shepherd and our little sheepfold here at Peace.

With the profound loss of so many longtime members it is easy to see the sheepfold dwindling and wonder what we should do, if anything?

Mission statements, vision statements, tasks, lay leadership programs and the like are all good things for we as a church to consider.

Even Pastor Merrell once said to me, “If they made a movie of my ministry, it would be called Honey, I shrunk the church!”

But as I thought about it, it is the Lord who tends the flock, who builds the church and who at times grows and shrinks the church for his good pleasure as he brings people in and moves people away or calls them to their rest in him.

I thought about the new faces at church Tina Weeks and her baptism a few Sunday’s ago, and Carolyn Jackson, who came to us during Covid and who will be welcomed as our newest member next weekend and many others who continue to come to worship and visit, some old and some new.

I think about the online views through Facebook and who the Lord might reach in that way and I concluded that I had nothing to do with any of these people coming to Peace. But I also understand that God uses us all as we remain steadfast in our callings where God has placed us.

So, what did we do?

Well, we are here.

We open the church doors and have services on Saturday and Sunday.

We turn on the Ipad to welcome those on Facebook live.

We play the organ of CD and sing hymns.

We greet our members and visitors with the joy of Christ in Christian love.

The word is read, the word is sung and the word is preached.

Lord’s Supper is distributed and received as the Lord has commanded.

Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to our ears so that by the Holy Spirit our faith is strengthened!

And we do it this weekend, and next weekend and every weekend for our benefit until the Lord call us to himself or returns in glory!

As an under shepherd of Christ flock here at Peace I am given to the care of souls as a representative of the Good Shepherd. The good Shepherd is Jesus and he is our model and our hope. In him we find comfort and peace and through his work he brings that same hope and peace to others in need.

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:1-6

The hope that is Christ is our hope and privilege to bring to those in need in this place - God’s house - and to all who are given to the Lord’s care here members, visitors, shut in or at hospital, gathered here … in person and online … to hear this blessed comfort and good news that is Christ Jesus and his forgiveness!

Like Jesus upon hearing of the death of Lazarus - we also weep at the death of dear loved ones and members as well.

16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

The Lord connects us to Peace.

He connects us to this physical congregation and at times through my visits brings the church to the people or through technology into your homes.

But more importantly he connects us to his eternal peace and an eternal life with Christ forever where one day will be reunited with glorified bodies in a heaven where sin, death, and the devil has been overcome.

This is the Lord’s promise!

The work of the Good Shepherd is clear and proclaimed to us by Jesus in his great commission:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20

This living Jesus is with us now and always.

For we who remain in the flesh and for all who have died in Christ - like our dear loved ones - he is the blessed hope on whom we wait. This hope though, is not a vein hope but a joyful hope of anticipation - one where the tears of loss are replaced by the tears of joy and a life eternal that we are all promised by Christ himself.

God uses each one of us in our vocations as husbands, sons, mothers, daughters, friends, and workers to be salt and light in a dark world. He gives each to his place and calls to life, that which is dead in us by his love for us and his death on our behalf.

As Martin Luther said regarding God’s work throughout the world:

He is the Lord over all places. Wherever that word is heard, where Baptism, the sacrament of the Altar, and absolution are administered, there you must determine and conclude with certainty; “This is surly God’s house; here heaven has been opened.” But just as the word is not bound to any place, so the church is not bound to any place.

… But where God speaks, where Jacob’s ladder is, where the angels ascend and descend, there the church is, there the kingdom of heaven is opened.

LW American Edition Vol. 5 pg. 244

In our sanctuary and in hospital and home visits, or in the conversations of family and friends where Christ’s Love and Death is proclaimed the Good Shepherd speaks comfort and peace to those lost is trespass and sin!

His forgiveness makes everlasting life with him a reality for us and by power of the Holy Spirit we know his love for us and his death on our behalf to accomplish just that.

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

Amen.

 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Sermon April 13-14, 2024

Title: The promise of the Father is upon you!
Text: Luke 24:36-49

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45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

In his book Facing Loneliness, J. Oswald Sanders writes, "The round of pleasure or the amassing of wealth are but vain attempts to escape from the persistent ache ... “

He goes on to emphasize that being successful often fails to produce satisfaction. He then refers to Henry Martyn, a distinguished scholar, as an example. Martyn, a Cambridge University student, was honored at only 20 years of age for his achievements in mathematics. In fact, he was given the highest recognition possible in that field. And yet he felt an emptiness inside.

He said that instead of finding fulfillment in his achievements, he had "only grasped a shadow."

After evaluating his life's goals, Martyn sailed to India as a missionary at the age of 24. When he arrived, he prayed, "Lord, let me burn out for you." In the next 7 years that preceded his death, he translated the New Testament into three difficult Eastern languages. These notable achievements were certainly not passing "shadows."

Our Daily Bread, January 21, 1994.

During this Easter season I pray that we all will be reminded that our Lord Jesus has made peace with the Father for you and has sent the promise of the Father upon you!

We can’t all, in a sense, burn out for the Lord. Special callings and service are given by the Lord, but we all are called to be faithful. That comes in our vocations as friends, brothers and sisters, parents, children, workers and the like. In each station of life God leads and directs us by his word and Spirit to affect the lives of others. I pray that we all take advantage of those opportunities.

In our gospel today we see a scene unfold as the one from last weekend, where Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples. In Luke’s gospel it follows Jesus as he walked with the two men on the Emmaus Road.

As these two men walk towards Emmaus about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem, Jesus joins them and remains unrecognized by them. He asks them what they are discussing and they can’t believe that he is unaware of what just happened in Jerusalem to Jesus of Nazareth.

They recount that the Chief Priests had turned him over to be sentenced to death and that he had been crucified and now it is the third day and the women who went to the tomb to anoint his body say his body is not there.

There are some who even say they saw a vision of angels that say that Jesus is alive and has been raised from the dead.

As they continue on, Jesus opens the scriptures to them – showing that the Christ would have to suffer, die and rise again and finally, Jesus:

30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

This is where we pick up today - as these two Emmaus Road disciples go back to Jerusalem to confirm to the 11 that they had seen the Lord.

Jesus says to those gathered, “Peace to you!”

He confirms to them that it is “I myself. [saying] Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And we are told that they, disbelieved for joy what they were seeing and hearing that …

this Christ … present here … was in a sense, too good to be true!

That can seem too good to be true for you and me as well. Consumed at times by life’s activities, we are overwhelmed by so much that is given to us daily that we can forget the one gift that is truly needed … peace with God.
Disbelieved for joy can be just unbelief for some.

I’ve had stories that I’ve shared before of dealing with friends and relations. Of speaking the gospel of truth and telling them about Jesus. At times it is met with anger and other times apathy. It is hard to, at times, know what to say.

I remember a call a number of years ago from my friend and a cousin that was dying.

Not only was the cousin dying but she was an unbeliever and not receptive to hearing about Christ … even as she neared death.

My friend, would be visiting with the cousin who had been sent home die as there was nothing left to do. But for we who name the name of Christ there was plenty left to do.

Sometimes we wrestle with what to do or what to say to one who has said, “I don’t share your beliefs or faith.” - After a call and a, “Happy Easter” on Easter Sunday.

What would you say … what could you say … what could I say to help?

At the time of a death of a loved one we all feel loss and lost. We want to comfort and we need to be comforted ourselves. Dear Marilyn Rappuhn come to mind.

So sad, so quick, so much to reconcile. Marilyn was a dear sister in Christ. She is handled. But what about those left behind that she cared for?

Jesus says to the disciples and to us,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The word of God written for us is Christ’s word and it is he who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim 2:4

I spoke to my friend about reading scripture when they talked and I shared some verses that might be helpful.

I shared a few illustrations of people that I had witnessed to … but cautioned that you might not hear the words you hoped to hear … “I believe.”

But I also reminded him, “do not be discouraged, because it is God himself who works in the lives of all who are brought to faith.”

It is his God’s work, it is his grace and his salvation that we share with others. I’m reminded of a pastoral instillation that I attended where a pastor proclaimed to the pastor being installed, “You are not the Christ!”

What a fitting reminder.

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, as he did with his own disciples.

We are though given the word of God and the ability to learn and share it!

Even if we don’t hear the words of faith we long to hear from those we love, God can still do and accomplish all that he intends to do to draw and bring those he desires to a believing faith.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

That repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations … even to one in unbelief. Bring the good News!

WITNESS AND TESTIFY to the things you have not seen - yet believe.

You have God’s word … and as a believer you are covered by the whole armor of God.

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts [arrows] of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

48 You are [my] witnesses [Jesus said] of these things [in the world].

49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The power of the Father is upon you as the Holy Spirit dwells in you and points you to Christ. Jesus is the promise of the Father and by the Spirit’s work we know Jesus, his love for us and his working in us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Today we too receive from Jesus his gift in the Lord’s Supper to receive his forgiveness in his body and blood, shed at the cross and also have our faith strengthened as we continue to trust in him.

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

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

Amen.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Sermon April 6-7, 2024

Title: Peace be with you!
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.