Sunday, October 24, 2021

Sermon October 23-24, 2021

Title: The Lord’s Mercy Is Given to You!
Text: Mark 10:46-52

Facebook live: The Lord’s Mercy Is Given to You!

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus in making his way to Jerusalem and his passion, passes through Jericho - and the walls came tumbling down. No, not this time, but something even bigger is about to happen!

The last few weeks we’ve talked about material wealth in this life, its importance and how it can turn you away from the gift of mercy and grace given by faith freely in the God/man Jesus Christ and his work for the salvation of all who believe.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell a similar story but in different ways and for different audiences but  St. Mark brings to our ears the name of a blind beggar.

46 … And as [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.

For the Jews, it was believed that those who had wealth in this life - had God’s blessing and favor. So, it was also believed that those who had calamity and trouble in this life were receiving God’s distain and punishment.

You might remember in the Gospel of John the disciples asking Jesus about the man born blind,

2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:2-3

Seeing those by the side of the road crying and begging for help was a common part of Jewish life and expected help came along the way and not what we might see and think of as pan handlers in our day – though in our life there is sill need for help, but there are many and various ways to bring that help to those in need.

47 And when [the blind man] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Saint Paul writes to the church at Corinth:

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

The proclaiming of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” is by God’s working through his Holy Spirit a recognition and proclamation of the truth that Jesus is Lord and Lord of this blind beggar Bartimaeus. This truth had been heard and revealed to him and now this Lord, son of David and promised Messiah is here.

Faith comes by hearing and he had heard and believed in this yet unseen Jesus.

Remember, Thomas after the resurrection who wouldn’t believe until he placed his fingers in the nail holes and hand into his side.

29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

We are told to keep our faith to our selves but when the truth and Spirit overtake you, you can not keep quiet.

48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Have you ever called out in desperation for the attention of someone?

I have. 1968, Tiger Stadium, third base side, upper deck. Right below me – sitting right below me - was Mickey Stanley. I was a huge fan. I’m screaming Mickey! Mickey! All I want is a turn and a wave from my hero. Mickey! Mickey! After my voice is horse and I’m almost overcome, Jim Price who was sitting next to him and had tried to get him to acknowledge my calls, turns, looks up, waves and give us a big smile.

To this day I love Jim Price.

Not so much, Mickey Stanley,

Mickey Who?

49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”

Jesus hears his cries and recognized his grief. He stops what he was doing and turns to answer his cries.

50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

Bartimaeus would not be denied. He knew who was passing by, not some mere mortal, not a sports figure, not a politician, promising things that he’ll forget and never deliver on. No, this was Jesus, Son of David, God’s Messiah, God incarnate.

51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

In the world we want riches, we want fame, we want that which we can’t have.

Don’t ask for sight, the world can’t deliver.

Look for temporal wealth.

A blind man can do alright if he has money.

He can hire those who will meet his needs. Even the Jews kept the Sabbath Day by hiring someone, a gentile, to do the work they required so they might remail undefiled and holy.

A Shabbas goy was a gentile who performed tasks for Jews in the home or synagogue on the Sabbath or on a holy day that Jews are forbidden on such occasions to do, as turning on the lights or heat.

Colin Powell who passed away this past week aa young man worked as a Shabbas Goy.

And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

He knows with whom he is talking and though not seeing Jesus trusts that he can give him the one thing he desires that the world can’t give him. He wants his eyesight restored.

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

The rich young man went his way sad because he had great possessions.

The disciples asked “then who can be saved?” If not the rich than who?

Martin Luther knew this too.

Nearing death and knowing the end was near, he wrote his last will and testament. It began with the words, "I am well known in heaven, on earth, and in hell," - a true statement of the result of his bold stance throughout his life.

In his last moments, Luther was asked by his friend Justus Jonas, "Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?" He answered emphatically, "Yes!" [Yaa!] Luther's, last words were: "We are beggars. This is true."

"We are beggars. This is true." —Martin Luther

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

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




Monday, October 18, 2021

Sermon October 16-17, 2021

Title: Life requires money but death requires Christ!
Text: Mark 10:23-31

Facebook live: Life requires money but death requires Christ!

31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Running a race? You don’t want to be last.
Playing a sport? You don’t want to be last.
Impressing your boss? You don’t want to be last.
Saving for retirement? You don’t want to be last, to think about saving for that time that awaits us all in the future.

But Jesus says:

31 … many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Last week we spoke of treasure in heaven and how so many people see their treasure here on earth in what they have or do. The rich young man in the gospel last week went away disappointed because he had great possessions instead of following Jesus and the eternal reward that is given. Many in this life also follow material gain while at the same time giving up the nourishment needed for spiritual feeding.

A friend of mine who makes his living teaching guitar always keeps Sunday as his day of rest where he doesn’t teach or play gigs … and the Lord knows that he could use the money. But instead, he goes to church and focuses on his spiritual feeding and family time. He’s told me once,

“God always meets my needs … rarely early … but always on time!”

Jesus, in speaking to his disciples about those who trust in riches or wealth says:
“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Remember the young man went away disappointed because he had great possessions. And Jesus then adds:

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We all know how hard it is to just thread a needle don’t we? Have you ever sewn or tried to sew a button on? I have … it wasn’t good. Thankfully my wife is good at it.

So, then the image that Jesus is giving the disciples of entering the Kingdom of God by any means other than,

8 by grace … through faith is what we have to focus on.

Camel … eye of a needle … you get it. It is quite literally impossible!

So the things of this world and all of the accomplishments you and I achieve won’t measure up in God’s plan of salvation.

So the disciples ask:

“Then who can be saved?”

Who can meet the requirements?
Who can get through the eye of the needle?

Jesus tells them:

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

We can’t do it.
We can’t achieve it.
We can’t buy it.
Heck … we can’t even steal it!

But … we can have it none the less.
In fact … we can have it all … because:

This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

But we want to boast, don’t we?

We always want to share the good news of our team winning, don’t we?

It seems that way with so many of us.

Working on Saturdays and Sundays for most of my adult life sucked all the interest out of football for me, both college and pro.

I don’t have a favorite team and really, I’m happy to see Michigan and Michigan State do well. I really don’t follow football much, and it is more likely that you’ll see Monica turning on the game than me. I must admit though that this Michigan / Michigan State football year looks to be an exciting one and is exciting for the fans!

Our lives revolve around what we do, how we prepare, what advantages we find, and how we perform. Some struggle and some excel. Both Michigan and Michigan State have had a great season.

We live and die with the teams we follow and we see it in our own lives.

Success and failure is all part of our own game of life too. We live with the ups and downs of family and friends.

We try not to let the successes or failures define us.
We try not to get too high or too low.

Work hard, do your best, provide for your family, but see the greater gift – not in the success or things of this world - but what you have received that you could never earn, the gift of grace and faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Last week Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then Christ compelled him to come follow me.

But he went away in sorrow because he had great possessions.

Martin Luther in speaking in his lectures in Genesis says:

“Do not fear those, says Christ (Matt 10:28), who kill the body, house, and other things, what of it?

These things have to be left behind in any case.”

He then continues:

“For neither Peter nor Paul even though they were saintly men, had better flesh than we have.” They too, were children of Adam, [broken in sin] just as we are. Paul sometimes glories and boasts as if he were already victorious over all evils. Sometimes he complains pitiable about fears within and fighting’s without (2Cor.7:5).

Where was that completely invincible hero, that victor over all hell, then?”

LW Am. Ed. Vol.5, Pg 27

29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,

[And in this life] persecutions, and in the age to come [but they will also receive] eternal life.

We will have tribulations and persecutions but also, heaven … and eternal life. That is fully on account of God, in Christ, through the Spirit’s work.

Life requires money but death requires Christ!

We have Christ’s assurance of eternal life and the word of Jesus is always trustworthy and true. Those who trust in him and follow him have what he has promised … eternal life.

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


Monday, October 11, 2021

Sermon October 9-10, 2021

Title: Everything we lack is found in Christ!
Text: Mark 10:17-22

Facebook live: Everything we lack is found in Christ!

20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

As I began my week last Monday, I said half-jokingly to myself, "I just did a sermon this weekend, I can't believe I have to get another ready!" But that is how it is for you and me.

We receive the Lord's forgiveness in worship and then stumble through the week- both dead in sin and forgiven in Christ - and we need to come back to church and receive the Lord’s forgiveness once again.

“Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.”

Yes, that is who we are dead in sin.

So we come back each week to hear the Good News and it is for that reason that I prepare a sermon each week that shows us our sin and also shows us our savior so that we can be forgiven, comforted, and renewed as we go back into this broken world for the week that lies ahead.

17 And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Isn’t that the question most ask? What must I do? What can I expect? What do you expect of me?

We ask it in all aspects of life. We ask it of parents, at school, with friends, or groups of friends. We ask it as we grow older, at work, and at times we rail against those expectations. They expect too much.

How can I measure up to that we think?

As a hockey fan I look forward to the Red Wings season. Some might say anything less than the Stanley Cup is a failure. But with a new team and so many young players how can that be our goal?

For some fans only achieving the ultimate prize … makes it a successful season.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The rich young man asks Jesus in our gospel lesson for today. As a rich man he has achieved much success in his life.
Many, measure success financially. Some by the things of this world that we have. Some are goal driven and look to acquire wealth as a protection for the future.

That is not in and of itself bad.

So Jesus asks first: “Why do you call me good? And tells him, No one is good except God alone.”

Jesus here sets the stage for what God requires. No one is good except God alone. But trying to go a bit deeper with this young man Jesus lays it out.

19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness [or] defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus gives him half of the commandments. He says for a start, how do you do with these? And remember Jesus hasn’t asked him about the table of the law that deals with God.

You are to have no other Gods, do not misuse the name of the Lord your God and keep holy the Sabbath day.

Jesus just asks … how do you do with these interactions with your neighbor in the world?

The rich young man answers:

“Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
And I’m sure there are people who think that they measure up well. “I’m a pretty good person they think.”

But perfection for God is so much more than what we expect.

Perfection in the Lord’s eyes requires no mistakes, no, not one!

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Even as good as Miguel Cabrera is and has been over his career - 500 home runs and almost 3000 hits - but he makes an out almost 7 out of every ten times he comes to the plate and we revere him as a great hitter - when our God would require 10 hits out of 10 at plate appearances.

That’s perfection. That’s impossible, you might say … and it is.

Jesus loved this young man so it may seem a bit funny what he says next.

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

You only lack one thing. It’s your stuff. Jesus say, “Sell it all and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven!”

22 Disheartened [by what Jesus had said to him], he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The other part of the law, the part about this man’s relationship between his stuff … and his God … has now come to light.
He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

It is not sinful to have stuff … as long as your stuff doesn’t have you I heard a pastor once say.

Guitars were my idol. I grew up wanting a better guitar. When I got that a nice acoustic guitar was next on the list on needs. After three my dad didn’t know how many I had. It was just a pile of cases in my room.

Joe Bonamassa is a guitarist. He is really good. I saw a meme on Facebook where he was standing on a stage with 20 or 30 guitars and it seemed as many amplifiers. The caption read: “Teach your children to love guitars and they won’t have money for drugs.”

It’s funny but true. My mom always knew where I was … down the basement with my band practicing. It kept me out of trouble but not focused on Jesus. My friend Rob, a great guitarist once said, “I use to worship the wood in my hands but now, by grace, I worship Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the wood of the cross, for me.”

By God’s Holy Spirit he takes our eyes off of self and points us to Jesus, his cross, and the salvation he won for us there and the glorious resurrection that followed.

Where is your treasure?

The possessions we have, the work we do, and the things we save and treasure … the guitars for instance … will not measure up in God’s eyes. It is after all already his and it has been given to you … and how you use it can certainly benefit those in need, physically and spiritually.

There is nothing to be earned, because it has all been given. There is nothing to do, because it has all been done. Because of Christ, the good teacher, you have received God’s favor. Not for what you have or what you have done but because of what Christ has done for you.

The treasures on earth pale in comparison to the treasure God has in heaven for you.

What we lack is found in Christ!

Jesus says: come, follow me!

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


Monday, October 4, 2021

Sermon October 2-3, 2021

Title: Dependent on Christ, always!
Text: Mark 10:2-16

Facebook live: Dependent on Christ, always!

9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

When I was preparing to get married my dad shared a bit of his wisdom with me. He said, “Russ, marriage is a big commitment. Success in marriage requires compromise.”

And then he added this:

“When it feels like you’re giving 80% and Monica 20. It’s probably 50-50.”

2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test [Jesus] asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Divorce has become all too common. It is all too common in the world and among Christians as well. The Pharisees were coming to test Jesus asking if it allowable for a man to divorce his wife? I spent many years in the sales business and one of the key teachings of sales is to: answer a question with a question.

So Jesus, being one of the best at it asks:

“What did Moses command you?”

And the Pharisees reply:

“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

What they are really asking Jesus in a roundabout way is this:

“Moses said that is lawful for a man to divorce his wife and send her away. What Jesus, do you say?”

In Creation God made all things good, even saying in our Old Testament lesson for today:

18 … “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen 2:18

So Jesus calls them out on their question because what God has made good sin has broken. Their hardness of heart is opposed to God and his design so that a law was given to allow divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness.

And Jesus answers them:

“Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two but one flesh.9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

So the word of God is in conflict. The man and the woman shall become one flesh and the Law of Moses allows for a divorce for reason of unfaithfulness.

Not really … but "because of your hardness of heart," Jesus says.

One of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today is also perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!”

We may think that.
We may know other Christians that are divorced.
It may even be you that has suffered a divorce.

During the 39 years of my marriage to Monica we have known someone, family, friend or acquaintance that

Is divorced,
Has been divorced,
Or is going through a divorce.

The brokenness of sin gets to the very core of who we are as sinners. Adam’s choice to sin has cast God’s perfect creation into the chaos of dead in sin – and dead to God.

God created marriage perfect.

Adam and Eve were created as a perfect couple – “a helper fit for him”, God says in Genesis. But where Creation gives way to corruption by the fall into sin all things – marriage too – have been broken.

If you think about it, unfaithfulness in a perfect creation is impossible, but in a corrupted and broken world it is all too common.

Jesus even says to his broken world disciples:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The six commandment:

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

It sounds good on paper but in a broken world it’s hard if not impossible to keep.

But Jesus came to restore all that was broken. The sin of separation from God has been restored and redeemed in Christ.

The idolatry of self in marriage just doesn’t work.

The two have now become one so that in all things - in marriage / in Christ - the focus is placed on this unity.

The article that I mentioned earlier about the statistical divorce rate among Christians being about the same as the world is wrong.

Here’s the truth…

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

What appears intuitive is true.

Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week, read their bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously …

Living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public, and unbelievers.
There is no guarantee of a divorce free married life but being in the word is a great help.

You see, in Christ you are a new creation. Set apart as God’s child and fully forgiven in Christ. When two in Christ become one there is something bigger than the individual to unite them. They become one in marriage and one in Christ.

This oneness - sees the woman as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
This oneness - becomes subject to her husband as unto Christ.
This oneness - loves his wife as Christ loves the church.
This oneness - is no longer two but one and in Christ.
This oneness - can endure the trials of sin, death and the power of the devil because …

Christ is the Lord of husband, of wife, and of family.

Many enter marriage with the hope of “A happily ever after!” – This is nothing more than a fairy tale apart from a unity in Christ.

The Marriage can even become an idol, made in the image of husband and wife where hopes and cares are placed in failed sinful beings rather than in Jesus Christ as Lord who came to restore all things in him.

Paul in speaking about idol worship in 1 Cor. 10:23 says,

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
This is also especially true with the neighbor we are united to, and in unity with, within our marriages.

While sin remains a part of our life and the world we live in, it is also true that in Christ all things have been made new; so, when Christ rules your life and your marriage together, all things work better with Christ as the head.

As a little child and with child-like faith we all have entered the Lord’s courts let us together with Christ love and live as one in Him being received as his beloved children.

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


Monday, September 27, 2021

Sermon September 25-26, 2021

Title: Live as salt in the world in service to Christ!
Text: Mark 6:45-56

Facebook live: Live as salt in the world in service to Christ!

50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

A Spanish philosopher, tells the story about the Roman aqueduct at Segovia, in his native Spain. It was built in 109 A.D. For eighteen hundred years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from its flow. Then came another generation, a recent one, who said: "This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children, as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor."

They did; they laid modern iron pipes. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beating on the dry mortar caused it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy idleness disintegrated.

Resource, Sept./ Oct., 1992, p. 4.

We struggle as God’s children in this world as the temptations of life move contrary to the will of God.

Temptation is a terrible thing. If we’re trying to lose weight and eat healthier, that extra portion, the cake cookies or chips and junk food are right there calling us to partake and be filled. And if you have time … we do have fellowship with coffee and donuts following the service … for your convenience!

But it’s not the cookies, the donuts or the chips that do it. It’s that little voice inside each one of us that calls us to … “Go ahead, it will be alright! You can start that diet tomorrow!”

Temptation can be brought on by ourselves and we can give in to the voice of temptation inside of us … forgetting that other voice in our head that says: “I’m going to get my life together and watch my weight and try to be healthier.”

One voice saying yes and the other no. Or, is it the helpful Ladies Guild that makes all those goodies for October Fest? We remain bound in sin as we struggle and wrestle through life both as sinner and redeemed; both dead in sin and forgiven in Christ … whether thin or needing to lose a few pounds as I’m sure a few of us do.

But Jesus tells us in our lesson today:

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

To be involved as an agent of sin is very bad in the eyes of the Lord … but especially as it pertains to children. Children remain the most vulnerable people in our society and can be easily led astray by those will ill intent.

When you see children, they are many times holding the hands of their parent, grandparent or guardian. We see them in the store, at the park or zoo or walking to school with one who has care of them.

I remember when my children were young, I had the joy on Wednesday’s, which was my day off, of picking them up from school. I would go and wait with the other parents who were waiting for the bell to ring at Our Lady of the Lakes elementary school – searching with my eyes to see them – and taking hold of them with my hands and walking to the car so we could go home and spend some time together. It was a wonderful time for me and a great memory.

Of course … when Amy was in 8th grade at Notre Dame Prep in Pontiac, she took a less joyful view of dad waiting for her outside the school to walk her back to the car, “Dad, I know where you are! You don’t have to come find me!”

But, that’s for another sermon.

Here our hands, feet and eyes are used in a kind and loving way with our children. But, our leading hand, our directing feet and our searching eyes might also be used to lead astray those loving gifts of God that are given into our care.
So, Jesus gives some very harsh directives to the disciples.

If it is your hand that causes you to sin, cut it off, your foot, cut it off, your eye … gouge it out.

Strong words to be sure, but Jesus is making the point that what waits in the fires of hell apart from Christ is far worse than a life as one … crippled, lame and blind.

Rest assured that it is not what we do that makes us right with God. But things we do can be used by God in the lives of others.

In our epistle reading for today James says:

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Reader’s Digest had a listing of 60 uses for salt but I’m not going to mention them all … but here are a few:

Keeps wicker looking new,

Make your own brass and copper polish,

Removes wine from carpet,

Cleans grease stains from rugs,

Removes watermarks from wood,

Restores a sponge,

Relieves stings, bites, and poison ivy,

Jesus tells us:

50 Salt is good, and then asks, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, or loses its usefulness, how will you make it salty again? ”

Salt has many, many wonderful uses but if it loses its saltiness, it has no longer any use, for flavoring and preserving food, and so much more.

Salt is good and being salt in the world, as Jesus directs, is a wonderful and useful thing for each one of us.

49 For everyone will be salted with fire. The trials of this life will be and are many. You know it and I know it. Do you always do what is good or at times do you cheat to get an advantage, fudge on your taxes for a better return or go against the teachings of Christ and the church as one politician (a practicing Roman Catholic) said when asked the question - when life begins. His answer, “That’s above my pay grade!” Christian integrity and ethics are part of who we are. Granted we all fall short daily, but we have been given the Spirit and God’s law, while not only showing us our sin, but also, by the Holy Sprit’s work in the redeemed of Christ … guides us … so that we love one another (1 John 4:7), love and respect our spouses (Eph. 5:33), and that our children, might honor and respect their parents. (Eph. 6:1-4)

Live as salt in the world in service to Christ!

During the Thirty Year's War in Europe (1618-1648), the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, was slain while his troops were winning the Battle of Lutzen, in what is now Germany. Sweden was thrown into mourning, and government officials met to determine how to replace the king. Some suggested a republic; others thought the crown should go to Adolphus' cousin, the king of Poland.

The chancellor of Sweden arose and said, "Let there be no talk of a republic or of Polish kings, for we have in our midst the heir of the great Gustavus, his little daughter, who is 6 years of age." Some protested that they had never seen her. The chancellor said, "Wait a minute, and I will show you." He brought in Christina, daughter of the king, and placed her on the throne. One of the representatives who was especially suspicious of the move pressed forward and gazed intently into her face. Then turning to the assembly, he exclaimed, "Look at her nose, her eyes, her chin! I see in the countenance of this child the features of the great Gustavus. She is the child of our king!" From all quarters of the room rang the proclamation, "Christina, Queen of Sweden!"


Look at those around you. Look in a mirror. Your nose, your eyes, your chin have the mark of the one in whose image you have been created.

You are the child of the King of Kings! You are God’s child and in him you reflect Christ who through the Spirit’s work called you to faith.
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Be who God has called you to be in Christ - His child … with childlike faith … loving God and others, as we also love ourselves.

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


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sermon September 18-19, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

“What were you discussing on the way?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially with the Lord work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Jesus gives the disciples and us an object lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sermon September 11-12, 2021

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

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

We read:

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

It is Rally Day!

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

It still is but it feels a bit different.

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

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

Yes, it was different then.

Yes, we had more people involved.

Yes, it will be different going forward.

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

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

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

In today’s reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you missed the mark like me?

I think we can all agree with St. Paul:

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

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

In years past Rally Day was greatly attended!

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

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

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

Psalm 51:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where light is, darkness flees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear friends,

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

1 Cor. 15:52,56

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

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