Category Archives: Sermon

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Sermon: Compassion in Desolation – Mark 6:30-44

Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.” In desolation Jesus provides rest out of compassion for us.

Three times in our gospel text today we hear about the condition of the surroundings. Desolate. Come away to a desolate place, Jesus says. The disciples had just returned from their missionary journey. You know, the one — not two — tunic trek they took. The staff and sandals for walking, no money for spending spree they were on. The stay in a house but not long and shake off the dust when needed. This trip had ended and the disciples were whooped. Jesus had just learned of the death of his cousin John the Baptizer and they all needed to recuperate. The crowds were not allowing it. The desolate place seemed like an unlikely destination for refreshing, but when the crowds keep you from needed food — the creature comforts aren’t on the top of the list — so off they go to rest a while.

image found at disciples took a boat to a desolate place but the crowds saw where they were going, the crowds were so starstruck and perhaps desperate for compassion, that they followed and even passed and made it to the desolate place before the boat. Their lives of desolation led them to a place of desolation. Another miracle, another sign, another healing, another truth, they thirsted after the righteous branch’s security and they ran to see what they could have from Jesus. Their lives were desolate and desperate for more. And so the stage is set, the desolate people make it to the desolate place and the disciples and Jesus arrive.

Going ashore, Jesus surveys the situation and sees it just as He knew it to be, it was desolate. The condition of the crowds was the same as the crowds they attempted to leave. They were desolate souls. They were lost and empty, they were desperate and in need like sheep without a shepherd. Seeing this Jesus is moved with compassion. Literally His gut is wrenched as He looks on at their conditions and He has compassion on them and He begins to teach them.

The prophet Jeremiah warned with woes against shepherds who would scatter and destroy the sheep of God. Here the Good Shepherd is cleaning up the mess of the woeful scattering, inattentive and pushing that had been done by the shepherds of sin. Here Jesus teaches these neglected ones, Luke tells us Jesus taught about the kingdom. Luke also tells us Jesus cured those in need of healing. The shepherd Jesus cared for the forlorn flock taking care of their concerns while keeping them close.

Jesus preserves this desolate-place-sheep-fold for just a bit longer than the tuckered out disciples desired. They come to Jesus saying, “ahem, it’s a desolate place and it’s getting late these people need to eat.” Jesus invites His disciples to be His under-shepherds. Hey I’m tending the flock teaching, and healing, you can help too by feeding. He compassionately offers them a role in the kingdom work. The disciples quickly run some calculations or perhaps just spout off the million bucks figure of the day, “are we supposed to have 200 denarii to buy bread with?! 200 day’s wages?!”

Take an inventory, Jesus says, they do. I wonder what this crowd must’ve looked like. 5000 men and a quick survey finds only five loaves and two fish. John tells us that it was one boy who was prepared for the travails the day’s travels would bring. Only five loaves and two fish, yet more than enough for Jesus. After all, this is the One Who from nothing brought everything into existence. Have the sheep lay down in the green pastures Jesus says (that’s in Mark 6:39, as well as Psalm 23:2 for those keeping track). So the green grass in the midst of the desolate place becomes a table prepared for the families and groups. Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives to the disciples for the people. And the Word causes the five and two source to flow, feeding and satisfying the 5000 men, their companions, and the 12 baskets that were stuffed with pieces of bread and fish.

Oprah-Car-Giveaway-4There’s no reaction of the crowd recorded. These day’s when when Oprah gives out cars, when Drew Carey get’s all Bob Barker with cars and trips and stacks of cash, and when Ellen distributes dance parties or whatever it is she gives, there is no lack of hoopla and applause. And slightly more devout sources from scripture in the context of healing and miracles show it’s not uncommon for those affected by the unnatural and unexpected to acknowledge it with astonishment and amazement , but here, nothing. The sheep are fed by the Good Shepherd and the day goes on into the next. Something incredible takes place and no one blinks an eye. Just like every other day.

We focus so much on the numbers that are given in this lesson we forget about the numbers that aren’t given. Jesus is on record as having fed the crowds here, but a bit wider reading of scripture will allow the record to show that it wasn’t just those in this desolate location that were recipients of the compassionate catering, but actually, the entire world at any given time, any mouth feeding is fed by the same Jesus. The Word made flesh who works it all according to the Father’s will along with the Holy Spirit provides all we need to support this body and life. This silent reaction in the face of a miracle is a picture of the yawn we get on the applause track of glory due God for all He does.

Jesus’ ministry of compassion flies in the face of a world that demands attraction. We must draw people — but no! — look what takes place a crowd chases the truth and the truth does what the truth does best: He tends and provides rest. It’s a real picture of what “love the one you’re with” is supposed to look like. Jesus compassionately cares for the ones who are close — no matter who they are or when their need arises. Jesus work is best seen against a backdrop of desolation. The despairing soul is the soul in need of what Jesus gives. The weary and broken are those who can be rested and mended. The proud and “ok for today, I guess” are limping along to their own demise. But a broken and contrite heart He will not despise. It’s when we come to the end of what we think we can do that Jesus steps in and does for us.

image found at disciples were tired. They were weary but they thought they were able to lead the people to food. They thought they could buy the food — or not — but Jesus looks at their inventory list and tells them, yup you don’t have enough, but that’s ok because I’m more than enough. I’m the God who reveals himself in the midst of helplessness. I’m not for the strong and victorious and the #winning. No, I’m for you — the reality of what you are if you’re willing to admit your need for it — I’m for you.

I think it was Luther who once said that an empty stomach preaches a sermon to us every time it grumbles. There’s a need for something outside of ourselves that we cannot on our own, within our own skin provide, but there’s the one who took on our skin to give it all for us. Here in the Gospel of Mark He fills stomachs and souls and today in this place He fills you with compassion overflowing.

Where’s your desolate place? Which area of your life is in need of some green grass refreshing? Is it failing family health? Is it the red ink of a perpetually empty checking account? Is it broken relationships? Is it loneliness? Is it betrayal? Is it feelings of uselessness? What leaves you parched, thirsting for more? Is it sins? Is it guilt? Is it the shame of things done to you? What leaves you left in despair? Because in the midst of whatever causes you to despair, you need to hear truth today. There is so much more than despair for you. We have a God who is moved with compassion at the sight of needs like yours. He comes to you, no check that He runs to you, chasing you even when you don’t want to hear. He lets you know that, yes you don’t have enough. You need more than you have and you know what? He gives it to you. He gives it all to you, all He is, is yours. The righteous branch takes root in your tilled soil soul and He grows in you causing you to flourish in Him.

Where’s you desolate place? Let’s turn it around. Where’s your flourishing place in life? What’s your best, your boast, your most? Where’s your pride? Is it your strong health, your flush accounts, your best friends, your many relationships, your track record of positivity, your powerful productivity? Are you satisfied with having? I said it earlier, our God is best seen in the midst of desolation. There’s a reason the rich young man had trouble entering the kingdom and the prostitutes and drunkards didn’t. They knew their standing and the young man thought he did. Like the worst, the best will not last and in the end apart from Christ, good or bad, nothing will last. Where are your earthly confidences laid? One day they will leave you empty handed. Where are your spiritual confidences laid? Are they in your righteousness, your goodness, your piety, yourself? Apart from Him comes nothing worth having. Apart from Jesus is nothing but desolation. Found in desolation there’s only one place to turn, it’s to the place of perfect compassion.

Come to the desolate place with Jesus and rest in Him. You don’t have to bring anything. In fact you can’t! He gives you everything and it’s only when you realize you have nothing but mess that He steps in to bless! The waters of baptism we witnessed for Daisy remind us of the reality He worked for you in that same washing of rebirth and renewal. The meal we gather for at this rail in His temple will give you everything needful to support this body and life. It is Him within and for you and in the words of life, that you know His compassion.

Photo by Errington Photography

Jesus was not unfamiliar with desolation. From the forty days of temptations He faced at the beginning of His ministry to the desolation of the cross and many places in between, Jesus was no stranger to desolation. These book-ended his ministry and in each desolate place the power of God is revealed. In the temptation in the wilderness the power of the Word won over the deceiver who would ignore and twist and redefine God’s Word. In that wilderness place, Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, and so Jesus lived, journeyed, ministered all the way to the cross.

And on the cross was where the Word of God which says “the wages of sin is death” and “the soul who sins shall die” was spoken against the one bearing your sins. He was left alone. He was abandoned by friends and denied by the Father. Jesus was left to die in a desolate place that everyone else avoided. Yet because He remained in desolation, you don’t have to. Out of mercy and compassion for the whole world, He remained in desolation so no one would have to. The fury in this desolate place means your desolation while real and stinky and sometimes long will not have the last word. Desolation cannot hold our God back. His compassion is stronger. His compassion overcomes the death that would otherwise defeat us. The compassion of God breaks the grave open. It crushes the head of the one who would have you despair or even dance away from God. Our compassionate God flourishes in desolation and gives us lives overflowing with His steadfast love.

And as He is risen, so we are fed. The bread of man may leave us wanting more but the food of God nourishes us for eternity. He is moved by compassion to work for you today and always. And so moves through you to be compassionate to all around you. May His compassionate rest be yours today.

In Jesus’ name.




Easter Sermon – New Life

Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is risen Indeed, Alleluia!

This is what it is all about. Resurrection of Jesus means new life for you. We forget this and need to be reminded over and over again about this new life reality we have.

Here’s a reminder for you. Call it a sermon if you want, it’s really just God flying through your ears to your soul to bring you this new life.

As a Christian we acknowledge an extra dimension to life. Not realizing and believing this gives a much smaller reality to those without faith. From the Christian’s point of view one tragically notable thing about the unbeliever’s world is how much smaller it is. Those without Jesus are imprisoned in a decaying universe. For those who do not realize the fullness of reality, the physical world is all there is. The real world for them is limited to things that we have made, things that are dying and decomposing. It’s a sad existence when you look at a family mourning the loss of a loved one without the hope of the resurrection. The tragically small size of their existence is on full display in that moment. Only not really. For those who deny God’s love through Christ death and resurrection a hopeless mourning is a symptom of eternity in hell. They need the message of salvation through faith in Christ life, death, and resurrection!

We have so much to be thankful for. So much beyond our things and our physical beings. We have a whole new reality, now. Our new life is now and it is forever. Reality in Christ is like this: Imagine you took a child to the theater to see some tragedy, say like Hamlet, at the end of Hamlet the stage is littered with corpses. Everyone dies in the end *sorry I meant to say spoiler alert* after the play your child for some reason misses the final bows of the cast. Suppose your child believed everyone to be dead. And suppose you had difficulty comforting the child afterward because he was so shook up by the deaths he just witnessed. You explain, “But the man who played Hamlet is not really dead, He is an actor. He lives a life outside the theater. He has a wife and family and, far from being dead, he is probably now at home with them enjoying a late supper.”

The child cannot see beyond the stage and often in our delusion of sinful living we cannot see beyond our vision, and knowledge of the present physical world to the reality of eternity that God has created, redeemed, and sanctified us for. Thanks be to God he sends the Holy Spirit to create in us faith, to nurture and sustain this faith. Our lazy sinful nature and our foe the devil wants us to forget about the rest and settle for the mess.

Friends in Christ Easter is all about our new life in Christ it is all about realizing there is more than the mess. We all have messes. Some look it more than others. Some wear their messes better than others. Fortunately my wife doesn’t let me leave the house looking like the mess I’d be left to myself. More than just our wardrobe, our lives are messy. The mess of sin, the mess of pain, the mess of sickness, the mess of abandonment.. The mess of cancers, death and destructions. The mess of saying goodbye in the death of a loved one. The messes of 148 Christians being martyred for their faith. The messes of offenses that leave walls so high we cannot love across them. Messes come in all shapes and sizes and the biggest most dangerously tragic messes are the ones no one perceives to be a mess. The happy carefree life that doesn’t realize the mess of hell is waiting them because they are cut off from Christ or (of import for us here today) are abusing or minimizing the grace of Christ.

Here’s a mess for you. At least something to think about. We would all agree the biggest mess in the world would be one where satan was delighting and full of joy. Right? Here’s what Toledo might look like if Satan took over: all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . churches where Jesus work is not proclaimed. (Adapted from Pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse)

The biggest mess you could live in is a life without Christ. Not just a hold my hand Jesus while I struggle through, but a Christ is the all you need Jesus. This is what Easter is all about. The empty tomb is a perfect picture of what we have to offer. Nothing. But in Jesus we see ourselves because as we are His. He gives us His new life. It’s yours today. That’s the message satan doesn’t want you to hear. The devil would love for you to get a little bit of Jesus today and then have you go on your way thinking you got it taken care of for now.

We need Easter everyday. We need new life everyday. More accurately, we need Good Friday and Easter every day. Because Our lives are more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday. As we journey through the trials and tribulations and tensions of this world, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. For the disciples and the women the mock trial that convicted our Lord had taken place, the tribulation of the cross shook them to their very core and the tension of the uncertainty of the tomb was their reality. But their reality was unreal.

The real deal was waiting for them in the empty tomb. The women journeying to the tomb knew they had a decaying body to anoint. They knew they had an insurmountable obstacle in the form of a stone blocking their way to this task. Their early morning trek was sullen and somber. The Eloi Eloi, Lema Sebectanni, (My God, My God, Why have you Forsaken ME!?) cry from Jesus echoed in their lives and their reality was stained with abandoned pain.

When they arrived at the tomb. Abandonment awaited them. They approach looking up and seeing that the large stone had been rolled away. As they enter the open tomb they see a man dressed in white sitting on the right and the women are alarmed. Their somber task has turned into a time of frightened confusion for them. Alarmed, they flee, trembling with astonishment that had seized them. they are afraid to the point of silence.

They flee the scene but not before the white robed messenger can pass on the good news that this day is all about. “Do not be alarmed.” He says. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth,” he knows their purpose. “Who was crucified” he knows the events of the past couple days. “He has risen. He is not here.” This messenger knows the news that means life for these ladies. New life for you is in this proclamation. The savior of the world is not found in the place of death. He is risen. The messenger knows the ladies came to see, and would serve as eyewitnesses of this Easter joy so he says, “see the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you into galilee. There you will see him just as he has told you.”

Our epistle lesson tells us that Jesus appeared to Peter (Cephas), the other disciples, to more than 500 at one point, to James and the test of the apostles, and then to Paul himself. Resurrected Jesus made his rounds. He was demonstrating the unreal reality that means everything for everyone. Easter is where new life breaks forth. Easter’s new life is an overwhelming reality that is given to you and means everything for you.

We live in a world with many distractions that seek to be our everything. We try to do it all. We try to have it all and in the midst of it we forget it all. The reality is that we are given it all in Christ’s work for us on the cross. We need to hear this message of completion over and over again because until we are with Christ in eternity, we are continually forgetting what is done and trying to do it all on our own. We forget all Christ has done is given and credited to us.

It’s as if you went to lunch with a friend. Had a great meal. Said, just a moment, I need to go to the bathroom. You come back only to find your friend has paid the check and tells you, it’s on me. It’s on Jesus. He has paid it all. You can’t chase down the server of eternal life and say, please let me give you more for the meal. You can’t chase down the manager of the restaurant of life and say, please don’t accept my friend’s payment, I want to pay.

We don’t have to live our life trying to be like Jesus, we need to live our life hearing the powerful effective word: “you are like Jesus!” It’s not be like Jesus. It’s you are like Jesus. Easter isn’t about changing life it’s about receiving the new life God gives. And this is where the new life is found. Not in you but from Him to you. It’s a gift. Not of yourself so get over yourself. Forget your sins because in Christ they are forgiven. Forget your doubts because the Holy Spirit strengthens you to lay hold of the promises of God. Forget your brokenness because in Christ you are repaired. Forget your inability to be perfect because Christ gives you his perfection. Forget your filth because in Christ you have righteousness. Forget how ugly your life is because in Christ you have beauty beyond compare. Forget the feeling of abandonment because you belong to Christ. You have been bought with the hugest of prices. You are a prized possession of the Heavenly Father.

This is something worth celebrating. And celebrate we will. But this life is not short and sweet but everlasting and awesome and when we pass from this veil of tears we have the feast on the mountain waiting us. It’s a feast with the best of foods, the best drinks, the defeat of death, the end of tears, the end of reproaches. That’s what we are waiting for and when we hear what Christ has done for us, guess what, we have this new life already.

It’s easy to forget when the change and decay all around us is all we can see, but we receive all we need when hearing Christ’s work for us we remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is so much we cannot see so we need to hear. Christ has whooped Satan’s butt in His death and resurrection. You better not forget it because that victory is all you need. It means new life for you.

Jesus died for you. Jesus rose and lives forever, just like you because you are His, He is yours.

In his name.IMG_1609.JPG


Baptized Into Temptation

Mark 1:13 καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

From the baptism of John to the temptation of Satan. God’s Spirit drove Christ. At the river Jordan, Jesus of Galilee was baptized by John. Here was one not needing baptism, descending into the murky waters. His perfection and primacy are demonstrated in the rending of the heavens. The heavens are torn open. Ripped at the descent of a dove and the voice of a Father’s approval. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

From this moment the Son of Man, the sinless spotless lamb begins His ministry. His ministry culminates in another rendering of a heavens. The Historian Josephus tells us that there was a beautiful tapestry “inscribed with all the heavenly spectacle.” This large curtain hung in the temple of jerusalem and in Mark 15:38 we see the work of God, the ministry of Christ in the rending of this fabric heavens. The curtain is torn open. Ripped is the barrier that separated man from God as on the cross, that which separates us from God was removed.

From the moment you passed through the waters of baptism, where God gives you the benefits of this rending of the heavens, you have the benefit of hearing the voice of God declare, “you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” It comes in the words that go like this, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The separation between you and God is removed as you are His.

Christ comes up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism, the Father and the Spirit appear with him and Christ is immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. There He is tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was with beasts and He was ministered to by angels.

Baptism and temptation don’t seem to go together very well. From the waters of washing to the pressure of temptation. The life of Christ doesn’t demonstrate much separation and neither do our lives. As baptized believers one might think that we are delivered from temptation, but I would suggest that evidence in my life is the opposite. The more I lean on my baptismal grace, the more I realize the temptations around me. Temptations and pressures come at us in a variety of ways. Our daily lives are filled with struggles that make our days difficult and threaten to cloud our view of Jesus.

Children face the difficulties of growing up, making decisions, finding friends, listening to parents. Teenagers face the temptations of living for God when the world loudly encourages a life lived for pleasure and self alone. Singles struggle to find their way in a culture that promotes and caters to families and those in relationships. Parents are tempted to take shortcuts in raising children and to forget that Christ is the center. The older generation among us may be tempted in the midst of loneliness and feeling that life is no longer important or worth living.

Temptations abound in this broken world where sin crouches at every door. Life as a child of God is not lived free from temptation. We are not baptized out of temptation. We are baptized in a world of temptation. We are baptized for temptation because in our baptism we find our source of strength to overcome temptation.

Christ faced temptation and perfectly overcame it for you. Jesus, the perfect one who pleases God was born in the likeness of you and me. He is one of us to save us. He endured what you and I endure. He was tempted as we are tempted. He faced the real pressures of a real person in this real world.


This small scene in Mark is a glimpse into a large scale onslaught that Christ faced. All of the harsh realities of the wilderness tested the human limits of mind, body and soul. This was a hostile environment where loneliness is oppressive, hunger and thirst are constant companions. The beasts and the angels are all he has for company.

The wilderness in these two verses was not the extent of the temptation of our Lord. Throughout his ministry,  he was burdened by the pressures of ministry as he left his family, was rejected by the town that raised him, he was allured by the praises of crowds who didn’t get it. The wilderness temptation was only a prelude to a deluge of temptation that assailed our lord on his road to the cross.

The first recipients of Mark’s Gospel knew about a life of temptation. Their lives were constant facing pressures to abandon their faith. For some their lives ended in martyrdom. Neros burning of Rome in 64 ad was blamed on the Christians leading to the arrest and condemnation to death of many believers. Talk about temptation they were persecuted for their faith by being clothed in the skins of wild animals only to be torn to pieces by wild dogs. Jesus dwelling with the wild beasts probably had a different ring to it for them than it did for us. Some of the Christians were covered with tar and set on fire to light Neros courtyards and gardens at night.

And what about today? Christians in the Middle East are being killed by Islamic militants. We don’t face death but Christians who are in the world of academics are often considered to be committing academic suicide when they confess a Christian worldview. Our careers and livelihoods are not on the line but we are tempted to quietly live out our faith hoping it will not offend those around us, lest we have to defend our faith. As baptized children of God we are tempted.

Jesus never promised this would be easy. Life with him is a treacherous existence. Parents who baptize their children without looking at the implications of a life with Christ are often playing into Satan’s hands. Same with confirmation. To take a vow and then take a break is only inviting a complacency that could lead to destruction. Our faith is more than a formula, it is a formation. It is a lifetime of walking with the one who walked perfectly for us.

Satan’s cunning invitations trick us all the time. The evidence of our following his deceptive voice is all around us. Husbands and wives cast their marital commitments aside believing the grasses are greener on the other side of the fence. Individuals wallow in self pity because they are convinced bad things only happen to them. Many are fooled into thinking that drugs, alcohol, and sexual satisfaction will solve or help forget serious problems.

What about you? Where is your temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome temptations lies outside of you? D you sometimes feel as if you have been baptized into temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome is found in the one who was baptized and driven into temptation? What you need in your temptations is the one who overcame temptation, living perfectly for you. Died undeservedly for you. And rose triumphant for you.

Our savior withstood the temptation. He did not crumple when faced with the pressures and temptations of this broken world. He endured perfectly so that he could fix it. And fix it he did. By tearing the curtain, the heavenly looking drapery that separated man from God was removed. By tearing the flesh with the piercing of the nails and the spear in the side. Your sins were punished as God tore his sight away from the filth on the cross. The temptations that you have succomed to have lost their power. The accusing luring of the devil cannot take you from that which was won there on the cross for you.

God has seen you in your need. He has seen you like a bent and broken reed. He has promised not to break you. He restores you by sending His son who proclaimed and claims the Gospel for you. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe. This is for you a reality. Your repentance and your faith mean gospel for you. Good news for you. Your temptations will come but Jesus has won. So when satan points his finger at you and calls you a failure you can point to the cross and show him where it’s been put. Failures are ended there.

When satan directs his temptations your way, remember your bapstim. Remember you are cleansed and renewed and strengthened by them. His work is washed out as you are in Christ.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was running across a field on a beautiful day. Suddenly he fell into an old abandoned mine shaft. Down at the bottom the shaft became very narrow and he was wedged in. He couldn’t free himself from the cold, damp, dark, and tight space. Desperate he shouted for help. People came to the top of the mine shaft and reassured him “everything will be all right. we will get you out. God will take care of you…”

None of those well meaning words could free the boy. It was only when they tied a strong rope to a strong man and lowered him into the shaft that the boy knew he was being helped. The mans strong hands grasped the boy’s shoulders and held tight as the two were pulled back to the top of the shaft.

This is what God has done for you. He doesn’t simply coach you from a distance speaking words of encouragement and direction. He doesn’t simply speak calming ineffective words. He has come and grabbed you by the shoulders wrenching you from the predicament of sin. You are rescued from certain demise. Your situation is made right by Him.

Yet still we are facing temptation and we are waiting that final deliverance from this valley. Christ’s return will be a great and glorious, you-won’t-miss-it reality. And on that day with Christ finally and fully satan’s voice will no longer reach us.

Take heart. You are not left alone in this struggle. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. God has put Him on you and He is your strength. His goodness is yours.

May you be strong in Him today.



What to Say Funeral Sermon

Today, Trinity and the church at large along with the family and friends gathered to remember Pastor Landskroener’s Savior. The texts for the day were Isaiah 61:1-4, Romans 8:17-31, and for Mark 9:2-8

God’s grace mercy and peace be with you from Him our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ this day. Amen.

I am told Pastor Landskroener’s favorite joke was this: “I sang through a screen door and strained my voice.” It’s no secret that John couldn’t carry a tune very well but today all is perfect and on this the anniversary of his birth into this world, he is singing in the heavenly choir with all the angels and saints who have gone before.

I did not have the honor of knowing John as long or as well as most of you here today. But I thank the Lord for the example of an undershepherd he was to me in my brief time of knowing him. One thing that sticks in my mind about John is his loud confession, even from his quiet demeanor. I don’t remember for sure but I would not be surprised if his first words to me ever were “God is good.” How are you Pastor Landskroener? “God is good.” How’s it going John? “God is good.” All the time, every interaction I had, except for one, “God is good.” And He is. God is good. All the time.

Our good God in His goodness has allowed that John be delivered from this valley of the shadow of death. Our good God in His mercy has granted faith to this sinner and gave him a washing of rebirth and renewal. Our good God in His wisdom has clothed John with robes of righteousness and granted him a place beyond what we can see today. But we know by faith, where all those in faith go. And we thank God for John’s life this day.

But it is not all rosy. Death is not good. The sins John committed were not good. The sinful condition he bore was not good. The sufferings of this world John endured were not good. The failing of his mind in his last months was not good. His body lying before us lifeless is not good. And so for us, we are not good. Our broken existence is but a heartbeat away from the wage that our sins have earned us. Death awaits us all because of the sin that infects the world. The pains we feel in our bodies and in our emotions oppress us at times. Our reason and all our senses are a mere illness or concussion away from being useless to us. Our deathbeds, coffins, and graves await us.

And from this reality we need deliverance. We need hope. Otherwise we would be hopeless! But we are not hopeless! God in His goodness has provided that John and his fellow believers could know good news in the midst of this impoverished existence. In Isaiah 61:1 the Lord’s Servant says through the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

God in His goodness knows our need for His good and He reaches out to us through His Son into this broken world and brings good news. God has anointed Christ to be and bring this good news to the world. And God had ordained his servant John to be an undershepherd of Christ. John’s lifes work was about this good news. It was John’s place to speak this good news in place of Jesus who has given His Spirit for the binding and loosing.

Our hearts are broken today but the good news which was John’s work is that we are comforted with a future hope and promised deliverance. Our captivity to sin is not lasting and able to hold us away from the love of God. Vengeance has been shown for our sins when God poured out his wrath against the one who brings this good news only. Jesus paid the price in His death on the cross to bring you into the year of the Lord’s favor. Our chains are released the prison of sin is flung wide open in the empty tomb. John’s life work was more than just a job its message was John’s deliverance. This is your deliverance: Jesus work, His death and resurrection. His message of peace is comfort for us as we mourn. His words and promises are what we cling to when we don’t know what to say.

Death is not good. It causes families to come together; It triggers an outflow of support; It can even be a relief when you know your love one is ready to be with Jesus, but death is not good. The peculiar feeling we have around death and funerals isn’t because we aren’t used to it. The strangeness of death is a demonstration of the fact that death is not good. Death is unnatural and unexpected and it has a powerful way to keep us from knowing what to say.

Peter at the mount of transfiguration gives us an example of speechless floundering. The three disciples were brought away with Jesus to pray only to see the Lord is transfigured before them. He is changed to an intense whiteness. This stunning site becomes more powerful as Moses and Elijah are seen to be talking with Jesus. This was unnatural. This was unexpected and it kept Peter from knowing what to say.

My last visit with John was a brief visit, maybe ten minutes or so. It was a hard visit as they were for many who saw him in his last months. Not hard in the sense of this person is near death, but hard in the sense of this is not the person I know. John didn’t recognize me and when I spoke with him he listened but didn’t seem to register. At the end of the unnatural visit, I asked him if he wanted to pray. In response John said something unexpected. Perhaps it was unfair because he didn’t quite know what to say. When I asked him if he wanted to pray, he said “no.” I said, “well I am going to pray the Lord’s Prayer” and so I did and so did he. Clear as I’d ever heard him speak, he prayed with me the words the Lord had taught him to pray.

John’s last months serve as a reminder of our helplessness. This man of the cloth, this man of God whose life’s work was proclamation good news had his reason robbed from him. It’s a good thing we are not saved by our reason. Were it not for Christ speaking for us we would have nothing to say. Faced with our condition in the presence of the glory of God, we are like Peter. Left to ourselves we would say the wrong thing, we would point to our lives we would make excuses. Facing our end we are like John our words may fail us, but the word will never fail us. The beloved Son of God bears listening to. Jesus not only speaks to us today, but in the presence of the Father He speaks for us.

And so does the spirit. In the midst of our weaknesses when we don’t know what to say, we are also unsure of what we should pray. But the Spirit is interceding for us. And with Christ speaking in place of us and the Spirit praying on behalf of us we are comforted to know that our hope is not in vain. God is working all the things of this world together for our good.

God is good. God is for us. With this we have all we need. John’s sins have been paid for. This pall that covers his body in the casket is a reminder that his sins have been washed away. He has been clothed with Christ’s righteousness in the waters of baptism. He has both stood and knelt at this altar to distribute and more importantly receive in his body — the body and blood of our savior for the forgiveness of sins. He has heard from this chancel even as he was blessed to deliver Christ’s absolution. John is no longer tempted. He is not longer grieved. He is no longer faint in spirit, he is wearing that garment of praise. He is no longer mourning, instead he is comforted with the soothing oil of gladness. And this coming Ash Wednesday when we gather to receive ashes John will not. His time of repentance and preparation is over. He has instead a beautiful headdress.

And for you this day. You are flawlessly clean through the waters of baptism, you are completely fed in the meal of Christ. You are in your hearing forgiven of your sins. You have eternal life. Yet you face temptations, may you be strengthened by God in them. And still you are grieved, may you be comforted by God who promises you a beautiful headdress, oil of gladness and garments of praise.

When we don’t know what to say may we be confident in Christ that we may be still and hear him speak for us. Today and always.

In Jesus’ name,


Not Running in Vain

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

God’s grace, mercy and peace are yours from him our Heavenly Father and from our lord and savior Jesus. Amen.

Saint Paul is writing to the Corinthian congregation that is dealing with divisions and struggles. They were a new congregation started by Paul and Paul is counseling them, answering questions and encouraging them to continue doing what God had called them to do. Their answer wasn’t found in themselves, but in the message of Christ. The preaching of the gospel of Jesus was all the strength they needed.
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It wasn’t only the preaching of the Gospel that was to be the focus though, it was also the living in the Gospel. Scripture often talks about “walking in the way of the Lord.” the terminology of walk within scripture is not foreign to us. It’s healthy for Christians to ask one another, “How’s your walk?” It’s a question that may very well cause you to go on the defensive, but I encourage you to be ready to answer it and take a leap of familial affection and ask someone this week, “How’s your walk?” Anyway, this walk talk is not exactly what Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9, he ramps it up a bit and talks about the “Run.” He encourages the Corinthian Christians to run that they may obtain the prize. “So, how’s your run?” Might be the question to ask.

Paul speaks extensively in this lesson of sacrificial living. We are delivered from sin and delivered to serve. This is our walk. This is how we run. Often though, we forget why we are running, we forget how we are running and we forget who we are, running. Our running cannot be a non-stop race on our own. In fact, running on our own is running in vain. We do not have the strength or endurance to do it on our own.

Our Old Testament lesson speaks clearly of our limitations in this Christian running we do. Isaiah 40:3 tells us, Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. On our own we falter. Isaiah is not talking about physical faint and weariness that we experience in this world. That is certainly something we are all readily willing to admit to. The size of the medical industry alone testifies to our human willingness to admit our physical failings, but our spiritual lives are more important for our eternal standing and are just as in need of healing and help. You don’t see an industry on par with the medical field surrounding our churches. There’s hardly ever a waiting list for the pastor’s office. No matter how strong you are spiritually. You may be a pillar of this congregation; you may be a every-Sunday-attender and an every-Bible-study-you-can-make-it-to person; you may be a scripture-every-moment-of-every-day-of-your-life person. The strength of your faith and your love for the lord may be indescribably massive. No matter where you are in the faith walk/faith run, if you’re the source of the strength of your faith, you’re not going to make it.

If you base your faith in the Lord on your understanding of scripture, doctrine, theology and Christian living, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you have confidence in your faith because it just seems reasonable to you and you have figured it’s makes the most sense, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you are on fire for the Lord because your life experience has shown it to be helpful for your living and relationships, you’re going to be faint and weary. If you are passionate about your faith because of the position God has placed you in — in life and you are giving him praise and thanks for the blessings in your life, you are going to be faint and weary. If you not Jesus, you are going to be faint and weary.

If you are running the race to heaven and you are not faint and weary, you are lying to yourself and you are misplacing your confidence. We fall into this thinking of “we got it made in the shade” and we forget we answer to the maker of the shade. Isaiah asks us some good questions, (well technically Isaiah is asking the Israelites around 2700 years ago, but there’s nothing new under the sun and our standing is in many ways the same as theirs) He asks, Why do you say, O Jacob, why do you speak, O Israel and say: “My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God.” Isaiah 40:27 Their faith was misplaced and so is ours. Like the Israelites, we fall into the trap of believing two things. Our run has two ditches waiting for us to fall into.

On the one side we have the confidence in ourselves. We got it figured out and our failings to live as God’s children are not significant enough to detract from our standing before God. Our sins aren’t that bad. We are really genuinely good enough and will make it to heaven to day. We run and run and run the risk of blissfully lying our way into hell as we serve ourselves before God. And the thing is we may be really nice people as we do it. We may have all the comforts in the world on the way to hell. The road to hell is paved with good intentions right? Well we are called to race with more than just intentions. We have a savior who saves us from our sintentions. This ditch of confidence in our living makes us into god and leads us away from God.

On the other side of the race we run there’s the ditch of believing that God is not there for us. He is too busy for us or just doesn’t care about us. We become convinced that our situation of suck in the world is because God hasn’t cared enough to deliver us from the pain we are in. If God was really good and loving, would x, y, and Z! take place? No. Of course not, if God cared about me and was really good and loving, a, b and C! would take place! Aha! We figure it out and we turn from what God is showing us to what we know and we live in the other ditch. This is the ditch of believing God is not caring or even able to care for us once again puts us in the place of God as we know exactly what God would do as if God were not capable of hanging the stars in the sky.

These ditches are the places of our weakness and fainting and these fainting and weaknesses are places where God comes to us. He dregs the depths of the ditches to find those in need of breaking and those broken in need of His saving love.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28 We may think God is not concerned about our sins or caring about our plight. But he knows us better than we know ourselves. This is frightening. He knows we put ourselves in his place. He knows how we sin against Him and against one another. He knows we lie, cheat and steal our way whenever it’s convenient. He knows our lusts and our lazinesses. He knows our sinful desires and sinful actions. He even knows our pious behaviors that make us feel comfortable in our salvation apart from Him. He knows what we do! He knows what we are capable of and He does something about it.

So where is your strength? Is it in your self, or is it in “God the Father almighty” whom you believe in? It is Him that we confess in this place and in Him dear brothers and sisters, we have strength. In Him the race is run and in the midst of our fainting weaknesses, our race is won.

He did it by sending His Son and it’s because of your fainting wearinesses that He sent His Son. Its because of your filth that He became filth. It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to be faint. When you are weak, He is strong. When you are faint, He is your wings. God has a love for you that will not quit. You are not running in vain when you are running with the Lord.

  • “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28)
  • Luther “The word of God is the word of strength, righteousness, power, etc. Therefore it can reign nowhere but over those who are lying under sin and weakness. Therefore let us learn to console ourselves when we are afflicted and say, “What I do not have and what I cannot do, that Christ has and can do.”
    (Suggested references from: Lessing, R. Reed, 2011, Isaiah 40-55.)

I read recently the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match.

Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

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Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength. (Story found online)

Our weaknesses will not win our salvation and secure our place in heaven, but Christ’s weakness has done that for us. He took our fainting weariness to the cross and wearily wore our shame in our place and those weaknesses were taken from us and can no longer be used against us. God has a love for us that will not quit and it is demonstrated in Christ’s work on the cross for us. As the spirit is in us, we continue to move and run in Him. Our run is happening, even as we wait on the Lord. God is there for those who wait (Is 40:31)

Waiting is not just marking time. Waiting on the Lord is living in expectant confidence of his action on our behalf. It is knowing what has been done for us. It is hearing this work of salvation. Waiting on the Lord is receiving the new life Christ gives you in the waters of baptism, the forgiveness of sins and in His flesh, His body, the bread for your life. Waiting on The Lord is living this new life that Christ has given us by His resurrection. Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of self help. Waiting is a disciplined reliance on God through faith. It is God or nothing. Waiting on the Lord is not running in vain. It is running through pain. It is running through shame. It is running through the taunts and lies and ditches that would seek to devour us. Waiting on the Lord is running with God given and God strengthened discipline.

So, brothers, sisters, “Hows your walk?” “How’s your run?” I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty good. Best it can be, Today as God’s redeemed and forgiven children, the recipients of heaven and the gift of eternal life, your walk looks mighty fine. It looks like one coming out of an empty tomb. It looks like a walk with fueled with the divine strength from on high. It looks like a walk that is flying high on wings of eagles. It looks like one where weariness and faintness are a forgiven and forgotten past. You are God’s new creation. You are His child. You have His strength. May God continue to strengthen you in your weaknesses as we wait, not running in vain.

Now may His peace which passes all understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Living Time in the Lord

God’s grace His mercy and peace from Him our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The texts for our sermon this morning is from Romans 14:7-9 where Paul tells us none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

You will not be the same after this sermon is done. Yes, the words of Christ spoken through me will bring new life in you through the Holy Spirit as you are killed alive, but I also mean you will physically change. In the time it takes me to deliver this sermon, you will be older, and therefore your body will be further along in its gradual, inevitable demise. Perhaps a hair or two will fall off (more for some than others); skin cells will die and be replaced by others; your eyesight dim; wrinkles deepen and lengthen; the enamel on your teeth thin, your joints will stiffen, your back will compress. Although these changes will be so profoundly minute that the loss defies measurement, it nevertheless remains true. You are changing as you hear these words. You are aging. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact. (Bird)

Today we are touching on the stewardship of time and this is a topic of stewardship that we can all relate to, whether we are 3 or 103 we are stewards of our time. When it comes to talents, some people just don’t have them (kidding), when it comes to treasures, some have more than others and some may not be in an earning arena of their life (too young). But if you are alive, you have time. This is why time is a good place to talk about stewardship.

Stewardship is taking care of the things God has given to us. Godly stewardship is loving him and loving others with everything he has given to us. In the stewardship of time we are called and redeemed by God to use our time in ways that helps us to love him and helps us to love our neighbors. These are the great commands. This is all we are to do, and thankfully God helps us to do it by giving us time. God is patient with us as we grow in love towards him even as he lives in us.  Because whether we live or die. We are his even as he is in us.

So time… What is time? Time is something we are continually watching. Our culture and society prize time and value time and mark time like none other. Time is always before us. In our speech and in our mind. It can become an obsession for us.

We measure time with centuries, decades, years, months, weeks days, hours, minutes seconds milliseconds becomes more and more precise as we “progress” in the world. Time is really just the passing of events one after another. Whether we track it or not, time is passing. From the beginning the passing of days has been noted and noticed. The first 7 days of the world included the creation of the lights (day 4) in the (Genesis 1:14-15) expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. These lights are to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years to shed light upon the earth.

Since the moment when death entered the world through sin, time has meant many things but for our broken minds more often than not, the passing of time reminds us of the approaching of death. Regardless of what we do with it, how we measure it or how we spend it, time is a gift from God and our days are entrusted to us. How we manage our time as God’s people is one of the questions we are blessed to answer with our lives in Christ.

We have a couple examples from our lessons today of time management. “Jesus,” Peter asks, “how many times do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Aren’t I just wasting my time if I do it more than seven times?” Jesus responds: “No, you need to do it more like seventy seven times (or 490 times) before you should worry about the cost it is to your time.” What a great picture of how we are to spend our time. Forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. Do it. How many of your 168 hours in the past week did you spend forgiving your fellow believers who have sinned against you. And, not just in your mind, but in your living. I admit before God and before you that I have not lived to this degree the forgiveness that God has called us to exhibit.

In the parable Jesus follows this exchange up with, we get an example of needing more time and being impatient. The man in the parable asks the master to be patient, I cannot repay you at this time, I need more time. Be patient with me and the merciful master allows the debt to be carried a bit longer. What a great gift of time given to the man. This man leaves the presence of the master only to find a man who owed him a debt. This second debtor to the original debtor too wants time to repay. But the original debtor would not extend the grace that was originally given to him.

And therein lies just a picture of our sinful failures to be good stewards. In this example it is a stewardship of forgiveness. A stewardship of patience. A stewardship of time. God has given us all of days, hours, minutes and seconds and he doesn’t just want some of them dedicated to him, but he asks for lives that are dedicated to him. And we fail. We fume. We forget. We fight and we forge a schedule based on the desires of our heart rather than that which God has called us to loving him, loving others. Forgiving as we have been forgiven.

In our Old Testament lesson we receive a picture of the life of stewardship we have been called to. So often we carry a chip on our shoulder and we let that chip dictate our motivation. I will do this so that someday I can show them. I will put up until I can get up. I will fake it until they break and then I will make it. Our sinful nature loves to make us focus on a fairness based on our standards rather than a faithfulness based on God’s commands.

Joseph’s father had passed away. Upon the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers were concerned that Joseph would pay them back for what they had done to him (throwing him in the pit, selling him into slavery, claiming he was dead). Their fears were put check when they sent a message to Joseph from their father before he died where he asks Joseph to forgive their sins. Joseph wept, and they said, we are your servants, he wasted no time telling them not to fear. Joseph says: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for your little ones.” Genesis 50:18-21

Joseph’s answer easily could have been quite different, but this man of God was living a life to the Lord. This is what a life lived to the Lord looks like. It realizes that God has given us all things. All of our time, all of our blessings, all of our challenges, and he uses them to bring about His good. Had Joseph harbored hatred and sought vengeance with his time do you think the story would read as good in scripture? Well they do make the pages. Because God’s word doesn’t gloss over the reality of our brokenness. God doesn’t ignore or hide the fact that we are not perfect stewards of the time he has given us on this earth No, those stories of bitterness and unforgiveness are written not only in scripture, but in our own personal lives. They have happened and happen continually they are the stories that put our Lord to death on the cross.

Romans 14:7-8 None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live we live to the Lord. and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

How does our living look when we realize we are the Lord’s? How do we use our time? This week and the week ahead I would like to challenge you to track your time for a day or two. If you had a chance to look at your news and notes this morning already, you will have seen or you will see that there is a chart with some average time usage statistics. These statistics and at least 25 pages of similar data are available from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Including breakdown by gender and ages.

  • So in the next week or so, proactively track you time. What do you spend your time doing?

  • Consider this a family homework assignment, the children, make sure your parents are doing their homework!

  • We aren’t asking you to report how you use your hours, although you are welcome to share observations on the back of this yellow card if you want…

  • This is a personal exercise that you can use as part of your devotional life. Take note of what takes your time, pray about how you feel you are spending your time, ask God to forgive you for too much time spent on things and not enough time on others. Watch God answer prayers and lead you to a life with different time emphasis…

  • We are asking you to complete this assignment no later than Oct 5 by returning the card with your name on it. We want to encourage one another with this and will share the names of those who complete the time challenge.

How many hairs did you lose? How many skin cells died? Your eyesight may indeed be dimer; your wrinkles don’t appear to be deeper and longer from where I am standing, but ever so slightly they are; the enamel on your teeth is thinner. You have changed. You have aged. You are on your way to death. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.

But even if I was to deliver this sermon over and over again, there is someone beside who will not change. He is to your left and right. Above you and below you. Before you and behind you. Inside and outside you. He thoroughly envelops you with his presence. He too has a body like yours, but his body is different, and it is finished with change. It changed from a fetus to a crying newborn; from a newborn to a toddling toddler; from a toddler to a pimpled teen; from a teen to a robust man; and from a man to a beaten, crucified victim robbed of life. And, then, after three days, he underwent the final change: from a buried victim to a resurrected victor. No hairs fall off. No skin cells die. His eyes penetrate heaven and earth. Even the scars from nail and spear are dazzling, trophies of love. He will not change, either in body or heart. He has said it once, and his announcement remains unalterable: “You are mine. I have bled for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. Though you are on your way to death, you are not, for in my death you already died. In my resurrection you already rose. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter that fact.” (Bird)

None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9

In the name of our Living Lord, Jesus. Amen.


Romans 8 Funeral Sermon

In the sermon below, the name of the deceased person has been replaced with “our friend.” I pray this funeral sermon on Romans 8 is a blessing to you.

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

Family and friends in Christ gathered today, God’s grace his mercy and his peace are yours from him our heavenly father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing separates us.

We live in a time when separation is quickly and simply overcome. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime what have you bring faces from places all over the world into a conversation with those who want it. Devices bring instant updates from friends firing off a quick lined updates in text messages. Voices can be heard in our ears transmitted over phone lines and cell towers in an instant. Social media networks keep us close to all sorts of people in all sorts of places some we are happy to hear from — some we endure. Separation is overcome by technology, but in many ways separation is increased as well by the same luxuries.

It is easy to diminish the closeness of a relationship when it is only shared across technological connections. The sting of the loss of a loved one is easier absorbed over the phone than it is face to face. The same is true of consoling and comforting one another. When we have barriers of miles connected by lines we are only able to say and do so much. Separation is hard.

The opposite of separation is connection. Being connected to God begins in our faith live when we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is how it began for our departed friend on her baptismal birthday. She was baptized into the family of God and in that baptism, like yours she received the gift of faith which we know by grace, through faith alone the gift of life is ours. That gift of faith was nurtured by her family and by this school and church which led her to her confirmation which took place before this very altar. Our departed friend’s faith was evident in her life as a mother, a wife, a church member, an active volunteer in our church and school. I had the opportunity to get to know our departed friend quite well. I saw what she wrestled with — and I saw her faith.

Satan loves separation. He loves separating us from all that is good. He loves seeing separation happen. Satan is even happy to see us convinced us we are separated from all that is good even when we are not. He loves tormenting us to believe we are disconnected. Once someone is disconnected he stops tormenting them.

Satan loves separation. He would love you to be separated from that gift and he uses all sorts of devices to keep you separated. Busy schedules are very logical separations from the gifts. Complacencies like — “I know my savior and that’s enough.” Not knowing enough people and the feelings of discomfort keep us separated from the gifts. But our friend knew better than to let these things keep her away from God’s gifts. As a faithful member of Trinity she received God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins regularly in worship services here and in meetings with me where I assured her of God’s love. As a mother she ensured her children would be in church and in our school here where they are being trained in the truth of God. God worked through this congregation and many in our friend’s life to assure her that she was not separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Satan loves separation. And now the biggest of his lies lays in front of us as our friend no longer lives. No more will we be able to talk with her. No more will she be enjoying laughter and hugs in these halls and in her home. She is gone —  taken by death. But Satan’s biggest lie is just that a lie. You see what Satan wants you to believe is that our friend no longer lives. Satan wants you to believe that she is undeserving. That she was not good enough — that she was too bad and her sins were too big for God to overlook. And he points the same accusations at you. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t deserving.

And Satan is right. Our friend was too bad for God. Our friend never deserved God’s love. You are too bad for God. You don’t deserve God’s love. No one deserves it. But God still gave it to our friend and he gives it to you.

And this is the gift from God that our friend had — she had the promise that nothing will separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Until last week it was a promise. But for her now, removed from the reach of Satan’s lies, the promise is reality. And the further reality is that since her baptism it has never been our friend living, but Christ living in her. She was baptized into his death so that just as he was raised from the dead, she too walked and lives in a newness of life in him.

Christ came into the world to remove the separation. To defeat the lies he came as a human baby and died as a grown man. He Himself experienced for you and for our friend the separation that heals all separations when He cried out on the cross My God why have You forsaken me! He took the punishment for the big sins (and the little ones) that God cannot overlook. He gave His life on the cross for our friend’s life and for your life. And in His resurrection, we know life is now lived with Him in God. We are comforted knowing that we are never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In that love of God we find a direct connection to those who have died in the faith.

For our friend this is real now. For us it is something we can only imagine. May God strengthen us in our faith as we mourn together.

In the name of Jesus.




This is How to Pray

Sermon on Luke 11:1-13 for Pentecost 10C at Trinity Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio

Colossians 2:6-15 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Luke 11:1-2, 13 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father … 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


This past week I had the honor of representing assistant and emeritus pastors of our Ohio district at the LCMS convention in Saint Louis. Although I enjoyed the company of some old friends and our own Elder Dan Gibson who was representing you and the rest of our circuit, I missed my wife and children terribly. It was pleasantly pointed out to me upon my return by my lovely wife that I had missed 25% of Caleb’s life. Ouch. I have been making it up by holding him as much as possible since my return.

At the convention I received a great view of a difficult way to get something accomplished. Questions were asked, resolutions were sought and, yes we even had a gavel knock from time to time. I heard it said a number of times that there is proof we are God’s Church – in that we are still “in business” after years and decades and centuries and millennia of us “sinners” making decisions to run the Lord’s Church. The will of man is evil continually and our best ideas are often paces away from being abused and perverted into the worse offenses. It is only by the grace of God and His guidance that we could continue and survive and work for him through all our weaknesses. Getting 1200 people representing over 2.2 million people to agree on a decision and direction at one time is a monstrosity of a way to accomplish something.

Thanks be to God we have been granted a means of accomplishing things via prayer to God. And asking, seeking and knocking are the means by which we can communicate our wants needs and desires to the Lord. It doesn’t take any floor committees, resolutions, ⅔ majority, points of order or anything of that sort to bring our prayers to God. All it takes is us approaching His throne of mercy as he graciously invites us through His Son.

“God is more willing to give than we are to receive.” Saint Augustine
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of prayer that seems to be too good to be true. Especially in comparison to our human machinations for making decisions and requests. Ask, seek, knock. That’s all it takes? If it were so easy, then why do we spend so much time desiring more than we have? Why do we groan through the pains of trials and tribulations if our heavenly Father is waiting to answer our asking, waiting to be discovered by our seeking and waiting to open doors at our knocking? This can’t be all there is to prayer? Not only does it seem too good to be true, but our experience doesn’t bear it to be true. Or does it?

God is our Heavenly father and in these verses we get a clear indication from Jesus that this is how we should talk to God, as dear children talk to their father. Through baptism we enter the family of God and in that family we have the privilege of being able to ask of our father as children ask their fathers, boldly and confidently. As His children we know that our perfect father will not give us a stinging scorpion when we ask for an egg. As his dear children we know that our perfect Father will not give us a venomous snake when we ask for a delicious fish. And this all begins when we enter God’s family through baptism.

Baptized for this moment was the theme for the convention and has been a theme of sorts for the year here at Trinity and in our Church body. Wet with the water and steadied by the Word that we remember daily in our Baptism, we are equipped with all the grace and mercy and God given strength we need to face the world. And along with this grace comes the privilege to ask, seek of God to knock on His door. In this washing of rebirth and renewal comes the ear of our Father waiting to give us all things that we need to support this body and life… and more.

So how and what are we to ask for.

  • Well we have to make sure we do it in the perfect manner or our prayers will be thrown into the invalid category? Right?
  • We have to be in the right frame of mind with the least amount of distractions possible before we come to the Lord in prayer. Right?
  • We have to seek out strength in numbers, the more people praying the same prayer the same way the better chance God will hear and answer. Right?
  • We need to use the proper words and to say them in the proper order. Right?

All these are wrong and more. Not that we shouldn’t seek to be away from distractions, surrounded by fellow Christians, and respectful of God in our prayers, these are good things, but these do not make or break our prayers. They may make or break our prayer habits but they will certainly not put our prayers on top of God’s answer pile. So then how should we pray?

Jesus answers this question for us today. Actually he answered that question for the disciples and the words ring true for us. When you pray, say: “Father…” And so the most important word of prayer. Not Amen, not just, not some other pious word but that simple name we are gifted to call our God, Father. And that simple word brings with it so much good.

You see we have a perfect father, not just a really nice father or a really fun father or a really good father, but a perfect father. And a perfect father knows what his children need before he is asked but a perfect father also enjoys hearing and answering his children’s requests.

There are two ways parents can respond to the news and questions that children often bring to them. Take parent one, perhaps his name is Ryan. Ryan’s children approach him and tell him something they have learned for the first time. Ryan responds as an adult who has been highly educated, far traveled and well read responds without flinching, “of course child, that is the way the world works…” before carrying on with a personal example or further information along the same topic. Parent two, perhaps her name is Kati. Kati’s child approaches and tells her something they have learned for the first time. Kati responds in a completely different way. Her mouth drops open and her eyes widen. It’s as if she has never heard this kind of thing before. The kid’s face brightens, and they feel as if they have truly connected with their mother.

It may seem to be a dishonest reaction to pretend to not know the information brought by a child, but in many ways it is not completely a rehashing of old information. The information through the child’s eyes is being interpreted and experienced in a new fresh way and being shared with one who cares deeply for the child.

So it is with God when we bring our prayers of praise and need to Him, we are talking to the one who knows all. We are talking to the one who suspends the stars in the sky and who keeps our atomic particles sticking perfectly together to keep us from dissolving into space. He knows not only the past and present perfectly, but he also knows what the future holds. And yet he loves to hear us. As perfect parents love to hear their children.

Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Another thing the name father brings to mind is that we are part of a family. And in this family is the Son of God and when we pray we pray like him. We even pray in the name of Jesus so that as God’s children, He doesn’t see our evil nature standing before him, (as Jesus knows us to be and calls his disciples in the lesson today) but rather than evil us, He sees the perfect died and risen for you – Son Christ, speaking the words we pray.

Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
In Colossians 2:6 we are told by Paul: “Since you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We are instructed to walk in him, and it would make sense that we can extend it to how we pray. We are to pray in him. Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as we are taught and with abundant thanksgiving. What a great checklist for our prayer life. Pray in thanksgiving, pray in what we learn of Him through the word, pray rooted in our faith. Pray in Him walk in Him and in doing so our lives become a prayer keeping His name holy. We know God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Our dear father in heaven certainly helps us to do this!

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
On the contrary though anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Our heavenly Father also protects us from this. Paul warns us against this and encourages us to be protected from these things when he goes on to warn against walking in the ways of the world, there are dangers for us to pray according to the world. We are continually facing the traps of “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” These things would have us pray to a God and in a way that make rational sense. Our evil minds can grasp many things as God has gifted us to do, but we cannot rationalize and understand God. What our minds can fully fall for though is the temptations of this world the desires for health and comfort and things of this world consume us and overwhelm us and overtake our prayer life. Yes God does give us health and comfort and he does give us things of this world, but these things are not what we need.

We could have perfect health and abundant, comfortable living and all the gizmos and gadgets and things our finest minds and fullest wallets could dream up and purchase but they will not last. And they will not give us that which we need the most. These things will never give us the forgiveness of sins life and salvation that our evil ways require. All we need is Jesus. And Jesus is what you have. As a redeemed child of God, even when we pray for things we don’t need, your sins are forgiven and your prayers are answered. Always.. It is in Him and through Him we pray. Always.

And in Him, through Him and because of Him, praying is as easy as asking, seeking, and knocking. Because you are washed in baptism, buried with Him in baptism, you are now cleansed, with the water and the blood — and you are able to stand and with new life, with Him, with His words to ask as a dear child asks a father, knowing he gives perfectly.

Saint Augustine wrote: “God is more willing to give than we are to receive.” How true it is, we will never know this side of glory. Go to him in prayer and continue to receive his abundant blessings.

In His name. Amen


What Can I Do?

Sermon on Luke 10:25-37 for Pentecost 8C at Trinity Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio

Luke 10:25-37 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We are always seeking to do something to save ourselves. Satan works overtime convincing you that you need to do more. That you haven’t done enough. More than – that even more baser than the “not reaching the goal with your actions,” Satan tempts you to believe that you can do anything, something, towards your salvation. It is an easy victory for him. We are quite capable after all, God has made us with the ability to think and do – beyond all the other creatures in the world. We can do many things, but we can do nothing for our souls. We can do many things, even things for our neighbor, but when it comes to your soul and its standing before God, there is nothing you can do. Satan doesn’t want you to realize that, he doesn’t want you to dwell on it. Right now, some of his attacks are entering your minds right now. Don’t give him any ground. You are Christ and as Christ’s chosen selected, perfected – He does and has done it all for you.

We get a glimpse today of a man who had lost this inner struggle and had given up the idea that he could do nothing. He thought he could do something. Perhaps he had never been told that he was justified by faith. Perhaps he did not realize the sacrifice of one, made the sacrifices of many effective, not the other way around. The lawyer stood to put Jesus to a test, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What can I do, Jesus, to make sure I have life everlasting? What can I do?

Jesus answers him the way wise people answer questions, he answers with a question: “What does the Law say? How do you read it?” By law, talking to the lawyer, he didn’t mean statutes and codes, he was talking about the law, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, the book of Moses. The law, as opposed to the prophets and the writings of the Old Testament scriptures that they were all familiar with.

The lawyer was a smart man, he quickly indexed through to the meaning and referencing all of the laws with one answer he says: “Love God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He nailed it. And Jesus let him know. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus says and continues, “do this and you will live.” The unspoken flipside of the coin goes like this, “don’t do this and you’re dead.”

And the flipside of the coin is what kerplunked in the recesses of the mans mind. Something nagged at him. The cripple he passed without a second glance earlier in the day. The former friend or family member he was at odds with that he couldn’t forgive. The person he worked with but couldn’t stand. That time he was distracted during prayers and wasn’t fully loving God with every ounce of his heart, soul, strength and mind. That flipside of the coin rattled to a stop in his brain and stared accusingly at him. Death for not loving god and not loving neighbor as self. The law spoke in the mans mind and so the man sought to defend himself against this law. The law spoke and so did the lawyer.

“Who is my neighbor?” the man asks the loaded question. The question loaded with the expectation that he could do anything, that he could do something for his soul. The loaded question he hope would get him a pass for his failed attempts.

Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Just like the lawyer, We are always seeking to justify ourselves. Seeking to find a way around loving the unlovable; seeking to find a way around the discomfort we feel when facing God’s desire, His laws. When God’s demands, requirements, his law, his design when these things make us uncomfortable, they are doing something good for us. Saint Paul tells us some truth in Romans 3:20  – “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

And so Jesus takes the loaded question and responds with a timeless parable. This story transcends belief systems and is known throughout the world. The good Samaritan – not just a parable these days, it now anyone who goes out of their way to help someone else.

The story goes something like this… You are walking through life, doing your thing, minding your business and suddenly things take a turn for the worse. Your friend betrays you, your financial situation takes a turn for the worse, you can’t find the person to spend your life with, your parents hurt you, you find yourself hurting others, you sin repeatedly doing the wrong things, hurting those around you making terrible decisions you can’t make right. Suddenly on your walk through life you find yourself stuck on the side of the road, in the ditch, broken, half way to dead.

And there you are as the thoughts enter your mind that, hey, I just need to try harder. I can pick myself up and dust myself off and make it back on this journey of life. And before you can even get started on this solution your mind has enlightened you to, you fall flat on your face and are back in the ditch, broken, half way to dead.

Once again another thought enters your mind, hey I wasn’t ready to try harder earlier. I wasn’t really ready to do what I needed to do to successfully pull myself up. I can make it this time with the right rituals and steps and so you start to rise from the side of the road, reaching out after this thought that enters your mind and before you can even get to your knees, you crash again to your pit of despair, broken again, failing, halfway to dead.

And then something despised and rejected, a painful thought associated with suffering enters your path. The only thing that’s moved enough to reach out to you and provide that which you need. Jesus comes along and binds up your wounds, your imperfections are made perfect, he pours oil on your head, your filth is cleansed. He pours wine on your wounds washing out the disses and lashes and dents life has thrown at you. He picks you up and puts you on his donkey and brings you to a place with many rooms and tells the one in charge, take care of him. Whatever it costs I have it covered.

Forgive my allegorizing Jesus parable, but I hope it helps you see what Jesus is doing here. He finishes the parable by asking the Lawyer, “which of these three men (the priest, the levite or the samaritan) was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

And the man answered again rightly, saying, “the one who showed him mercy” and so Jesus charges him, the same charge he gives to you, “Go and do likewise.” He tells the man something impossible but he doesn’t stop there. God’s law tells you to do something impossible for you to do, but he doesn’t stop there.

Every time Jesus tells you to do something that seems impossible, He proceeds to do it all for you.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.
Paul tells us some more truth in Romans 3:21 – “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” The Law will not save those who cannot keep the law. Those who cannot by their own reason or strength keep the law perfectly are saved only by the one who can.

We will do well to not forget this. We do well to hear this and hear it often, because Satan and the world around you magnifying Satan’s work will seek to tell you otherwise. You can do it. You can do it on your own and if you’re not doing it on your own, you’re not gonna make it and you’re not worth it. Don’t surround yourself with lies. Listen to the truth.

When we look to find the solution within ourselves we are turning from God’s solution on the cross. I really meant it during the worship service. I really believed God’s promises. I really prayed really hard. I sang really loud. I was extremely nice to that person I can’t stand. I, I, I, I, all these I’s threaten to get in our way of seeing Jesus.

Beat up on the side of the road we don’t look very beautiful or worth saving, but His saving love is beautiful.

As we are transformed by Christ from wretches slumped in a ditch next to the road into saints relaxing in a luxurious suite in our Father’s gracious home, our questions change. Our question changes from, “what can I do to inherit eternal life?” much the same question as the lawyer at the beginning of the gospel lesson, we are wrenched away from this selfish question to the selfless question that we are led to continually ask in our redeemed life, the question becomes, not “what can I do to inherit eternal life,” but “what can I do as an heir of eternal life?”

And so restored, as God’s redeemed, we do go and do likewise. We go out and seek to serve those in need. As the good Samaritan points us to the perfect neighbor, we are strengthened to live like that neighbor, to live like Jesus.

In His name.