Rocklin, California

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Follow (Epiphany IIIb, January 25, 2015)

Epiphany 3b, (January 25, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

(Mark 1:14–20)

TITLE: “Follow”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter one.

This weeks readings are all about time. God is the author and creator of time, when He set the day and the night at creation. And with great patience and care, the days were fulfilled for Jesus to come forth and save the world from itself. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” (Mark 1:15 ESV)

Throughout the Bible, we see that time is passing, that things change, and that the time of repentance is always now, never tomorrow. Remember when Jonah entered the city and cried out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”” (Jonah 3:4 ESV) Or do you remember when Saint Paul said, “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short.” (1 Corinthians 7:29 ESV) Or again Paul says, “…the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31 ESV)

So when Jesus enters into the world, He comes into our world knowing full well that the time of repentance and mercy is now. Always now.

It is hard in the hustle and bustle of life to set priorities, to remember what truly matters in life. It is hard to step back and to recognize that the most important things may not be what is right in front of you. God knows that you forget who you are. He knows that you do not listen as you ought, that you are distracted and full of care. And so He enters into your life and calls you.

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, our Lord cries to you. Do not let the moments of your life turn you away from the one thing needful. Repent and believe the Gospel.

In this text, when Jesus is calling the disciples, we get that little word, “follow me”. It may remind you of a game from your childhood, like follow the leader. That’s actually not to bad of an analogy. But the word used here in Mark is even stronger than that. It could be translated something like “Come after me right now!” Our Lord knows the urgency of the time, and He knows that the time is now.

And yet at the same time, our Lord is patient, oh so very patient with us. His call goes out again and again. We have our forty days before Nineveh is destroyed. And while forty days sounds like a long time, the end of the time will sneak up on us so that we do not even know it is coming.

And what will happen at the end of our forty days, when time is fulfilled at last. St. Paul reminds us again that “…the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31 ESV) There will come a time, not too far away, when time itself will end, and the now of eternity will be upon us. Things will change, and make no mistake, beloved, they will change for the better. They will change because you will be remade in His image, resurrected, whole and complete in a way that you have never experienced before. We follow the leader to the cross and death because resurrection and new life is on the other side.

Some of ous have gone there already. No, I don’t mean some weird “heaven is for real” sort of out of body experience. I mean that some in our midst have already passed from this life and await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. It is almost as if we can hear echoes of their voices in our liturgy, remembering where they sat, their voices added to the voices of the angels. And one day we will join this.

Follow me, our Lord said. Follow me to death and life. Repent and believe the Gospel.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon 1-25-15.mp3

Looking to Jesus (Funeral Sermon for Bob Browner, August 19, 2014)

Tuesday of Pentecost 10, (August 19, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 11:20–27

TITLE: “Looking to Jesus”

Friends and family of Bob, especially Gloria: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter eleven. We focus on the words from St. Paul, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52 ESV)

Robert Gene (a.k.a. “Bob”) Browner was born the son of Cecil and Nannie Mae Browner in San Jacinto, California, on February 20, 1933. He was baptized the same year. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith at First Lutheran Church in Concord, California, in 1965. Bob died in Christ, surrounded by his daughters and especially his wife, Gloria, on August 12 in the year of our Lord, two-thousand fourteen. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)

IMG 7163In a twinkle of an eye. There was something about Bob that always made you feel like there was more going on than meets the eye. In these latter years of his life, as I came to know him, he moved slowly. He didn’t always speak, and when he did, they were usually short bursts or quips about something or another. But you could tell, you could see it in his eyes. There was more going on. And frankly, you kind of wanted to know what was going on in there.

That is a pretty good picture of the Christian life under the cross, if you think about it. Bob spent his life working, taking care of his wife and family, especially his grandchildren. We could talk about trains, or building, or golf, or one of the manner of things that made Bob tick. I’m sure I don’t know the half of them. And He was not one for big speeches, at least not in these latter years. But there was and is one thing that makes Bob who he is. Bob is baptized.

Notice what I said there. I didn’t say that Bob was baptized, like this was something that happened long ago and doesn’t matter anymore. No, Bob is baptized. For there is the key, beloved. Bob’s identity was shaped as a child of God when he was baptized. That identity means he is a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, and that a time is coming, a twinkling of an eye, a time is coming when he will be raised again from the dead.

This is what we call the Gospel, dear friends. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for Bob’s sins, and yours. Bob was not perfect. Far from it. Neither are you, or me. Bob was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness. Bob was a sinner, but he is baptized, a child of God and an heir of eternal life. For when Jesus died on the cross, He died for you, and me, and Bob, and indeed, for the whole world. But three days later He rose again from the dead.

Job, even in the midst of all his suffering, Job recognized what God promises in the Messiah. Here again those great words from the prophet:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)

On the Last Day, Bob will rise again from the dead. And there will be no more stoop in his back. No more Parkinson’s disease. No more sin or sorrow. No more fear. There will only be joy in the presence of God Himself.

Today, though, we grieve. We miss Bob, and so there is sorrow and pain at our loss. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, and so it is okay for you to weep as well. But remember again those words Jesus spoke to His friend, Martha, who also grieved the death of her brother. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25).

That is God’s promise to Bob and to all of you. Death is but a sleep, and at the sound of the trumpet on the Last Day, you, and me, and Bob, and all the saints of God will rise again, whole and undefiled. And that, beloved, is really, really good news indeed.

So until then, Bob, rest well in Jesus. Rest well, until we are reunited with saints and angels and all the company of heaven. I look forward to seeing the twinkle in your eye on that day, for it will be a sight to behold. God is faithful. He will do it.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
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2014-04-06 – Lent 5 – Sermon: “Life Over Death” – John 11:1-45

Lent 5a, (April 5, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(John 11:1–45)

SERMON AUDIO

TITLE: “Life over Death”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter eleven, as well as our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven.

This text from Ezekiel has to be one of the weirdest ones in the Bible, don’t you think? God commands the prophet to speak to the bones. And this Word from God brings life to these people long dead. Bone to bone, sinew to sinew, skin to skin, slowly but surely, God’s people come together once again by the power of His Word.

But it’s weird. It sounds more like a scene from the Sci-Fi channel, or a horror flick, than a nice story from the Bible. But these aren’t zombies that God has created. They are Israel, His chosen ones who were once dead but are now alive again in Him.

Yet because of the strangeness of the promise, because it is so, well, so unbelievable, we are constantly tempted to make the Christian Church and therefore the Christian Faith about something other than the resurrection of the dead. Do not be taken in by the temptation to make the Church about anything other than the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body. And make no mistake about it: there is a temptation here. Mary and Martha wondered whether Jesus could really do what He said when He said it. And we, too, question and wonder whether Jesus promises matter here and now. It would be so much easier if we would forget all of this resurrection talk, get on with the times, and make Christianity into a divine to-do list that would lay a big heavy guilt trip upon us all.

For you see, beloved in Christ, God knows that there are times when you feel dead inside. God knows that there are times when His whole church here on earth and in even in heaven itself groan and cry like Mary and Martha, wondering if God’s presence would really make things better, wishing that God would come down and bring their dead one back to life.

But this is God’s great purpose and intention. Do you remember Jesus’ words to the disciples about why Lazarus had to die? ““This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”” (John 11:4 ESV)

This was, I’m going to guess, not much comfort to Mary and Martha. Knowing in your head that God will raise your loved one from the dead, well, it’s pretty hard to cling to that, isn’t it? The grief is real. The pain is real. The loss is real. The sorrow is real. But the resurrection of the body? That somehow is less real. It is hidden in the promises of God, left to some future time that we cannot see, cannot taste or touch or smell.

But what we can smell is death. Do you remember Martha when Jesus asked them to roll away the tomb? I can’t help but remember it from the King James Version from my childhood, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39 KJV)

Reality stinketh, to paraphrase. The reality of death and sorrow, of sickness and injury and brokeness and sin, these things seem or so much more real that God’s promise of resurrection. But they are not. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and therefore your resurrection, are as really as I am standing before you today. But perhaps our hymn for today expresses it best:

“I am the Lord of life and death!”
You answered Martha’s cry,
“And all who hear and trust My Word
Shall live, although they die!”
You walked the path to Laz’rus’ tomb,
You called him forth by name,
And living, loving once again,
From death to life he came!
(LSB 552:xxx)

What a comfort! What a reality! Jesus raises Him from the dead. The voice of the One who created heaven and earth commands even death itself. When God calls, everyone answers. And so He calls forth Lazarus from the tomb.

For you, He called you from the tomb when you were baptized. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4 ESV)

Now in John’s Gospel, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is the turning point. From this time forward, the Pharisees and the other religious leaders would not be satisfied with silencing Jesus, or marginalizing Him, or labeling Him a kook or a nut job. No, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He sealed His own death. They could not handle resurrection. It was too much, too crazy, too hard to explain away.

This rejection continues to this day. Christian Churches and Christians the world over are rejected for their belief in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, as we confess in the Creed. We are dismissed as out of step with the times or living in a fantasyland. But the words of St. Paul echo true even still:

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11 ESV)

Today God’s promises are for you. Today God beathes new life into your dry bones by the Word of His Spirit. Today He gives you His own Son’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. Today you come to the Table with Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, and all the host of heaven. Today you receive the Medicine of Immortality on your lips. Today, even though the world rejects your as they rejected Jesus, today eternal life is yours in His Name. Jesus death and resurrection has sealed your future. Your future is secure, because you are in Him.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

2014-02-16 – Epiphany 6 – Sermon: “Life and How to Live It” – Matthew 5:21-37

Sermon 2-16-14.mp3

Epiphany 6a, (February 16, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Matthew 5:21–37)

TITLE: “Life and How to Live It”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter five. Our theme for the morning is “life and how to live it.”

In Deuteronomy chapter 30, we hear some of Moses’ last words before dying just shy of the promised land. HE was giving them, if you will, his last will and testament. Moses had been with them for many years by this time. He was 120 years old, and so had been around the block a few times. HE was God’s promiser, His judge and deliverer. HE knew life and death, Life in His name and death when they sought to trust in themselves.

So Moses sets up his words simply. Choose life, that you and your offspring may live. You see, following God’s Word and commands leads to life. Disobeying, refusing to hear and receive God’s Word and promise, that only leads to death.

But why? Why does hearing God’s Word lead to life and refusing to hear lead to death? Is this random or arbitrary? Is God capricious or fickle, simply making up a bunch of rules so that He can watch us mess up time and time again?

Every time you sin, whether you know it or now, this is the question you ask yourself. Why do I have to follow these dumb rules anyway? Sure I know what is better. Surely this Word and command of God doesn’t really apply to me this time. And so you rationalize, you justify yourself and your own actions. At least enough to assuage your conscience for a time.

Really, though, it always comes down to trust. Do you trust that when God says something, that it is with your best interests at heart? Do you trust God when He says that anger leads to murder, that lust leads to adultery, that false promises lead to betrayal, and that trusting in anyone or anything other than Him will cast you into hell? Do you trust God so that you long to keep His Word, that you hate evil and always do good, every time?

Law and Gospel, you see, is all about trust, or faith if you prefer to call it that. Because of sin, your trust in God is broken apart from Him. Because of sin, when Christ says, “follow me,” you by nature say “NO”! And so it is that your broken faith leads to broken and empty promises, unfaithfulness of thought, word and deed. This is why your works are never enough. This is why you cannot think or feel your way to God. You are broken. Repent!

It is because of this powerlessness that Christ has come. God through Moses called upon the people to choose life in His name. When they failed, God sent His Son. He chose your life over His own life. HE trusted that God would raise Him from the dead, and so committed His Spirit into the hand of God, even in death itself. So Christ our Lord takes all of this unfaithfulness into Himself. HE takes your sin and mine. He draws in all this poison, all this filth that we wallow in so very much.

And what does He put in its place? In its place He puts none other than Himself.

This changes everything for poor, broken sinners like you and me. God feeds you the pure milk of His Word, so that you may be filled up with His Spirit.

You see, beloved, you are God’s field, God’s building, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 3:9). God knows the strife and heartache that infects your soul and spirit. He knows that the temptation to follow your own heart is alluring. He knows how broken your understanding is of His desires for you. And so He feeds you.

But God does not feed you with steak when you are an infant in the faith. He feeds you with the pure milk of His Word, so that you might grow up into Him who is our head.

This is why, when we gather here Sunday after Sunday, we are always about the milk, the first principles, the essence and core of the Christian faith. Law and Gospel. Sin and faith. Word and Sacrament. These things are the bread and butter of what it means to be a Christian. They are your food, your very life.

This day Christ says to you choose life, but you cannot choose it on your own. Because you cannot choose life, He chose death so that you might live in His name. Trust that when God speaks to you, it is for your eternal good. Have faith in the mighty promises of God, because He who died and rose again for your salvation always wants what is best for you. And so He gives you Himself.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Purification of Mary & Presentation of Our Lord – Sermon: “Up Into God” – Luke 2:22-32

Sermon 2-2-14.mp3

Presentation of Our Lord, (February 2, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Luke 2:22–32)

TITLE: “Up into God”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter two.

“Now I’ve seen everything!” You know the phrase. When some thing outrageous happens, when something so absurd and unbelievable happens, that’s the saying. “Now I’ve seen everything!”

Simeon had a “Now I’ve seen everything” moment that day. It was forty days after Christmas, after Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the Temple to fulfill the Law. Every firstborn son was holy to the Lord, dedicated to Him. And so the people made a sacrifice, they literally redeemed their first born sons forty days after they are born. This is also the time when the women were ritually purified from the flow of blood that came with the birth of a child.

So here is Simeon, an old man, waiting for the consolation of Israel, as our text says. What does that mean? It means this. Israel had waited for centuries for the coming Messiah, promised all the way back in Genesis, and Isaiah, and throughout the Old Testament. They waited and waited and waited. But Simeon had had a dream that he would not die until He had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Lord’s Messiah.

But he was getting old. Would God keep His promise? Or must he continue to wait and wait and wait and wait?

We all suffer through those times of waiting. We all have moments and times when it doesn’t seem clear whether God is going to keep His promises or not. Why is this happening to me, Lord, becomes the cry of the one who suffers.

And we suffer because of our sin. Now I don’t mean that this specific sin led to this specific punishment. What I mean is that every time things are messed up and broken, that is the result of sin in the world. Death itself is the ultimate result of sin. “The wages of sin is death,” says St. Paul in Romans 6:23. That is the Law speaking to you, right now.

What’s more, because we know this, because we recognize instinctively that death just isn’t right, well, if we are honest with ourselves, we fear death. Why do we fear death? We fear death because the wages of sin is death, and so if I die, what’s going to happen to me? Will I go to heaven or hell? Will God keep his promises or not?

It is that fear which drives the love of God to send His Son into our own flesh and blood. Our Epistle in Hebrews puts it this way:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV)

In other words, Jesus entered into the world as a son, as a human baby, so that His path to death and resurrection would be your path to death and resurrection. When you are baptized into Christ, you are baptized into His death, as we heard last week at the Baptism. Because you are baptized, you do not need to fear death. Because you are baptized, you are now free from the slavery of sin, death and the power of the devil. Because you are baptized, you are now free, free to be human, to love and to sacrifice and to give, because death has no more hold over you.

So all this is going on when Simeon takes the infant Jesus into His arms, blesses God and sings,

““Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”” (Luke 2:29–32 ESV)

Simeon is ready to depart in peace because He has seen the salvation of the whole world in that little babe so few days old. In other words, Simeon says, “Now I’ve seen everything!”

But what about you, beloved? You aren’t Simeon, sitting at the steps of the Temple so many thousands of years ago. You aren’t Anna, or one of the twelve disciples, or John the Baptist, or Mary or Joseph. You don’t see Jesus in the flesh, like all those who lived with Him in His earthly life. What comfort do you have? What is your consolation?

Your consolation is this. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. You have died with Christ in the waters of the font. And what that means is that You have been presented to God already, holy and pure, clean and perfect in every way. Oh I know. It sure doesn’t feel that way! But just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it is false. You can’t feel the atmosphere, but it is there. You can’t feel the sun when you’re in a building, but it is still there. You may not feel holy, but you are. Why? Because God says so in His Son.

So today you come to the Altar of God to partake of Jesus’ own body and blood. You don’t holy Jesus in your arms; you take His very body and blood in you. He is in you and you in Him. And God now looks at this Altar and sees nothing but holiness and perfection. He sees you clean and whole, without spot or blemish. As Isaiah said,

““Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

This is God’s promise to you. So now, you have seen everything, too. Like Simeon, you are ready to depart and be with Christ, whether it is today or tomorrow, ten years or a hundred years from now, it doesn’t matter. You are in Him and He in you. You can say and sing with Simeon and all the saints before and after:

“Now I’ve seen everything!”

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

2013-09-29 – St.Michael& All Angels – Sermon: “On Guard For You” Matthew 18:1-11

St. Michael and All Angels, 2013 (September 29)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

(Matthew 18:1–11)

Sermon 9-29-13

TITLE: “On Guard For You”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter Eighteen.

New Consecration Sunday is a day when we as a congregation commit to our ongoing work, evaluate our giving of time, talents and treasure, and ask what we are able to do in the year to come. Holy Cross has done New Consecration Sunday for about 7 years now, and it has become a sort of tradition at Holy Cross, leading into our budget planning for the upcoming year.

What I would like to talk with you about this morning is how we as a congregation live and work together. Congregations change over time. People come and go. Budgets change. Faces that were once regulars are no longer here, and faces that no one knows become more and more famliar. It is easy in the midst of such change to become discouraged, to wonder about the future and to even despair over what may come.

So in order to get a glimpse at our future in Christ, what I want to talk to you about this morning is children. Children at our pre-school and kindergarten. Children in our Sunday School. Your own children and grandchildren.

Children, it seems, have a special place in God’s heart. In our Gospel for today from St. Matthew chapter eighteen, we hear that unless we repent and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3). Jesus then goes on to say:

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:4)

What is it about children that are so special to God? Children are helpless. Children are naive. They will believe almost anything. They don’t contribute much. They are the exact opposite, in Jesus’ day, of someone who would contribute to the good of the group. They are work. And yet, they are the ones that are the most valued in the kingdom of God.

In our minds, this is pretty poor stewardship. I mean, really. The church is never going to grow if we focus our attention on people who can’t contribute, who can’t do the jobs we need done, and who are more needy than they are helpful.

That is the world talking. That is measurement committees and human resource departments. That is the disciples asking who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They have a place, but that is not how things work in the kingdom of God. Remember the last words from Jesus in our text:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save the Lost.” (Mt. 18:10–11)

What this means is that the little ones’ angels always stand before God, they are always interceding, always bringing their needs and fears before the throne of grace. They are the ones whom God is most concerned with. In the kingdom of God, the Last shall be First and the first shall be last. In the kingdom of God, if you want to find the treasures of the church, you look to the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the lost and the lonely. As congregation is not measured by its success. A congregation is measured by its mercy in receiving God’s Word and delivering that mercy to those in need in their midst.

Now what does this mean for us here, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church? It means this. Today is New Consecration Sunday. That means this is a day when the congregation ask you what you are able to give in terms of time and talents and treasures. How do we spend our time and energies as God’s people? How do we put our skills to work in God’s vineyard. And where do we spend our money? So think of it like this. What we are doing as a congregation is asking, “who are those in need in our midst?” Who are those who are in need of God’s mercy and care, and how can God use us to bring that about?

We are, of course, not alone in this work. The angels of God are looking out for the little ones in our midst. I rather like that picture. It is the picture of the guardian angel who keeps us safe. But these guardians who watch over us do not use the weapons of this world. They do not use sword and shields, guns and missles. No, they use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. An angel is, above all, a messenger. They bring the message of God’s love to the lost ones. That means children. That means our shut-ins. That means our preschool and kindergarten. That means the broken and bent among us. That means you. For you are lost without Him and His love.

We at Holy Cross are turning our eyes to the future of our congregation. Yes, this means budgets and buildings and all that. But more importantly, it means faith. It means opening our eyes to the needs of those around us, and it means opening our ears to hear His promises.

Today God calls you to see with your ears, to listen to His Word and promises. He calls you to trust in Him for life and salvation, and for all of your needs of body and soul. Rejoice and be glad, for here, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, you are surrounded by the whole church in heaven and on earth. You are not alone, but you are guarded and kept by Jesus Christ Himself, who forgives your sins, shows you mercy in your time of need, and who delivers Himself to you today and every day.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and mind sin true faith, to life everylasting. Amen.

 

The Timing of God (Easter 5c, 2013)

Easter 5c, 2013

Easter5c-2013.mp3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read, from St. John chapter sixteen.

Ask any craftsman and they will tell you how much work it is to ply their trade. Hours of labor, callouses on the body and the mind. It doesn’t matter if the trade is woodworking or cars or computer programming, the bottom line is time and work.

Ask any creative type, and they will tell you very much the same. Music, art, dance, writing, the answer is still there. There is no replacing real, hard work. Ask our musicians who prepare our services week after week and they’ll tell you.

The same could be said for sports, or war, for good things or evil, for small acts of great care and large, sweeping works of history. But perhaps we should even use Jesus’ example of the ultimate creative endeavor: motherhood. In the midst of it, motherhood is, well, it’s a lot of painful work. Especially the actual process of birththing a child. There is, as Jesus put it, “much sorrow” behind giving birth. It hurts. But there is joy that a life has been brought into the world. Paul would later use the same analogy to say that all of creation is in the pains of childbirth, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.

So if this is the picture, childbirth, of our journey to heaven, then why is it that we are surprised when the Christian life is painful and fraught with peril? That is the question our risen Lord puts before us this day.

We are strange, fickle creatures when it comes to matters of faith and life. It is easy to look down upon others as lacking wisdom or understanding because they have not “paid their dues”, yet not one of us would exclaim with St. Paul that we truly “rejoice in our sufferings.”

Why is it that we are so inconsistent when it comes to the Christian life? We are Christians, and yet act shocked when we suffer. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal life, and yet live our lives as if God did not matter and we mattered most.

The answer, of course, is sin. Our sinful nature always wants things NOW. We always want things when we want it, the way we want it, and exactly how we want it. So Jesus’ talk this morning about “a little while” comes as a bit of a shock to our system. When you are in the midst of sorrow and heartache, your world becomes small. Everything, everything, centers around your hurts. You can hardly believe that there is anything beyond what you are feeling right at that moment. It is very hard to imagine that others suffer as you do. That is the nature of suffering and hardship, and that is why it is such a trial for Christians.

So what Jesus does for us this morning is give us a little lesson in time management. Oh, I’m not talking about time management like the world thinks of it. In the world, managing time really comes down to making every instant count for the most it possibly can. To the world, because time is short, everything has to happen right away, and every instant must be squeezed of every last bit of energy.

But it is not so in the kingdom of God. What Jesus does is point us to this simple, beautiful reality that all things are in God’s hands, even time itself. What may feel like an eternity here is in the scale of things, a little while. Your hardship is as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to the sons and daughters of the King.

That is the miracle of what our Lord gives to you this day. He gives you the gift of time. That doesn’t mean you have an extra hour in the day to dedicate to the hamster wheel of life as we know it. No, what Jesus is saying is that you don’t have to be on the wheel at all. He is saying that there is a new heaven and a new earth that is coming (Rev. 21:1). Jesus hear holds up this great and glorious picture of what will happen to time itself. “Behold, I am making all things new,” He says.

So what does this mean for you here and now, dearly baptized? It means this. Jesus Christ has forgiven you all your sins and drawn you into His loving embrace. Your old way of life, the way of sorrow that means trying to eek out a meager existence, where you can barely cling to what you have, far less get ahead, that way is coming to an end. For now God dwells with His people. God Himself will wipe every tear from your eye, and even that greatest time-enemy of all, death itself, death has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“It is done!” He says. “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:4–7 ESV)

This is what is going on at the altar of God here time after time, week after week. It is as if heaven itself were opened and we get a glimpse into the eternal portal of life with God. Here, in this Sacrament, time is consumed and everything is one great eternal now. Now God dwells with His people. Now you are at peace with God, for God is at peace with you. Now Jesus delivers you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Now the new song of salvation rings forth in all the world.

So come, you who are wearied by the changes and chances of life, come to the Table. Come, you who time seems to have crushed beneath its great weight, and God will make all things new. Come, for in a little while all of this will be over and the new heavens and new earth will be revealed once and for all. Come, it is all for you. Come, for all things are new.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Jesus and Fishing (Easter 3c, 2013)

Easter IIIc (April 14, 2013)

easter3c-2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter twenty one.

Jesus has risen from the dead. The apostles have seen Him not once, but twice. Maybe even more. Even Thomas has acknowledged Him with the words, “My Lord and my God.” So now what are the disciples supposed to do? Wait. They are to wait until Pentecost, when they will receive power from on High. So like any good Jew from the shores of the Sea of Tiberias, Peter and his friends go fishing.

A lot of life is about waiting for something to happen, isn’t it? Any time there is a big event in your life, there is some kind of a waiting period afterwards, where you have to digest what this really means. A graduation, getting married, having a child, job change, and of course, the ultimate change would probably be death itself. Experts will tell you not to make any big decisions after one of these life changing events, because your judgment may be impaired. You may not be completely making sense at the time.

So they go out and go fishing. All night they fish. All night they ply at their trade, which for many of them had been their very livelihood for most of their lives. Jesus called out to them three years before and said, “Follow me.” Well, Jesus has risen from the dead, but He isn’t there in the flesh to follow. So they go back to what they know, and wait.

Our text then says the following, “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3 ESV) It seems that even though Jesus had risen from the dead, they still couldn’t provide for themselves on their own. Do you remember that episode near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when He tells them to go fishing and they don’t get anything? This has happened before to them.

But this isn’t just about them. It is about you. You are baptized, or Lord willing you will be. You have eternal life as your inheritance. You have the very kingdom of God as your possession. You have the ear of the King and the Son of God Himself calls you brother or sister. It is all yours in Christ. But you still can’t catch any fish without Him.

Now I’m not talking about fishing here, not really. I’m talking about the day to day way that you live your life. It is tempting, oh so tempting, for the Christian to put Jesus in a box and want Him to come out for an hour on Sunday, but then to put Him back in the box and keep Him on the shelf until some kind of emergency happens. Maybe it should be a glass box and have a label on it, “If things get really bad, break this glass!”

What we do by nature, time and time again, is try to go it alone. We continue to try and make it so that we don’t need Jesus. Prayer remains a last resort tactic. Hearing God’s Word and receiving His forgiveness and counsel, well, let’s just say that it is not a priority in our lives. It was true for Peter and the disciples. It is true for you and me.

But notice what happens next. Jesus appears to them, but they don’t know it is Him. Hear again this little interchange:

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:4–6 ESV)

There wasn’t anything special about the right side of the boat. That wasn’t the point. The point was that Jesus instructed them to do it. His Word and promise are sure and certain. Even when they don’t make sense. And if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes Jesus’ Word and promise don’t make sense.

But His call still goes out, “Follow me.” Jesus calls you to follow Him in a life of service to your neighbor. Why? Because He has served you even to death itself. Because of everything our Lord has done for you, you are free to live not for yourself, but for those around you who need you.

You see, beloved, God’s mercy extends to all. What may look like a waste of time or failure to you may be exactly what your neighbor needs to hear and see and know and experience. I’m confident that Peter wasn’t happy about working all night and getting nothing. But without Peter’s failure, they would not seen the mercy of God in providing for them, body and soul.

In your weakeness and need, God provides for those around you. This frees you to be human, to suffer and be in want and not be ashamed. Why? Because Jesus’ death and resurrection points the way.

Eventually Peter and the other disciples knew the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread and the fish. Eventually they would cast out the net of God’s Word into the deep, and it would bring forth a harvest, a Church full of weak sinners redeemed by Christ the Crucified. You are a part of that harvest. It doesn’t happen because Peter was such a great fisherman. The Word doesn’t go out because of the power of the preacher, but because of the promise of the Lord.

That promise is yours today. Come, be in the boat which is His Church. Receive our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation. God in His mercy has caught you in His net, and it is a good place to be.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

 

 

The Mind of God (Palm/Passion Sunday 2013)

Palm Sunday 2013 (March 24, 2013)
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California

palmarum2013.mp3

TITLE: “The Mind of God”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Epistle just read from Philippians chapter two, as well as the Gospel from St Luke chapter 23.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” So Paul begins this beautiful section of this Epistle. God is His mercy through St. Paul calls us to have the mind of Christ. But what does that really mean?

What St. Paul is talking about is really asking the question first of why God created us, and secondly, of what we are to make of our lives here on earth as His children. As we enter into Holy Week and suffer our Lord’s death with Him, that is a question really worth asking. What is the point of all these readings and celebrations of our Lord’s death and resurrection? Here is what Martin Luther had to say about it in the Large Catechism:

Why did God create us? “For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Spirit, by whom to bring us to Himself.” – Large Catechism (Martin Luther)

Let’s put it this way. God didn’t create us in order to DO something. He created us first in order to BE something. Now don’t get me wrong. We have all kinds of things to do here on earth. But our lives are far more significant than a do-to list for you to check off at the end of each day. We are so easily caught up in this mindset. Productivity and efficiency are very popular words, even in churches.

But that is not why God created you. Hear again those words from St. Paul, “Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Did you catch that? The mind of Christ is yours already. It is what God gave to you in Holy Baptism, when He gave you His Son and the Holy Spirit. What this means is that you ARE God’s child, first and foremost. It is that which shapes what you do in service to your neighbor.

Think of it like this. You don’t start a family and have children so that they will do things for you. If the reason we have children is in order to have cheap servants, well, then it isn’t a very good investment. No, we don’t get married and start families because want want to get something from it. Not finally, at least. The reason we are families is because that is who we are. We have children because, well, because we love them and we want to care for them and give to them as God has given to us.

So our text here from Philippians gives us an important insight into the nature of God. Jesus did not think equality with God is a thing to be grasped. Striving and working toward becoming a better person, even reaching up to god’s divine nature, that’s not the point. The Christian faith isn’t a self-improvement program or a better community service plan. No, God has way, way bigger plans than a little self-help. Rather, our text says, Jesus made himself nothing. Literally it is that he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant or slave. And He was born in the likeness of men.

So when Jesus took on our human form, He because a servant. Even more, He became your servant. And He became obedient, to the point of death itself. The very essence of the Gospel, the very throbbing heart of the Christian faith, is that God serves you, loves you and cares for you above all else.

So because of God’s great love and care for you, He sent His Son, Jesus, who took on this form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross. When we hear the story of our Lord’s suffering and death, this simple, beautiful reality must always be the motif, the theme that runs through every verse and every hearing of our Lord’s Passion. For you. For you. Always and evermore for you.

Hear Luther’s words again on this:

In the heart of God you will find a divine, good, fatherly heart. As Christ says, you will be drawn to the Father through Christ. Then you will understand what Christ meant when He said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This is how we know God as He wants us to know Him. We donʼt know Him by His power and wisdom, which terrify us, but by His goodness and love. There our faith and confidence stand unmovable. This is how a person is truly born again in God. (From Luther’s “How to Meditate on the Passion of Christ”)

This Holy Week we will hear anew God’s great love toward wayward sinners like you and me. We will hear how’s God’s love and service to you goes even unto death. So come now and receive the Testament of His love in His Son’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Come and find refuge in Him, for He has given His Name and His very life for you, so that you might dwell with Him forever.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

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