Rocklin, California

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Epiphany 4 – Sermon: “Amazed At This Word” – Luke 4:31-44

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Epiphany IV, (January 31, 2016)


Luke 4:31-44

TITLE: “Amazed at this Word”

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 four. We focus especially on the words of the people as follows: “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”” (Luke 4:36 ESV)

Who is this guy? You can almost hear the wonder in the people’s words. Nobody talks like this. He speaks to things we cannot understand. What’s more, these things listen to Him and do what He says! He speaks to demons and they obey. He even talks to things like a fever and it obeys Him. Who has that kind of power?

We pride ourselves today at our understanding of the world around us. We can see farther out into our galaxy than ever before. We can map DNA, splice genes, and examine things that make an atom look huge by comparison. We can track global financial markets, and research microorganisms. Yet for all our knowledge, for all of our intelligence and so-called control over the world around us, more often than not we are left with the great question of why. Why did the fever have to come, so that my loved one died? Why is there so much evil and depravity in the world, to the point where I can’t even understanding what’s going on all around me?

This is where sin and rebellion has left us: with knowledge but not wisdom; with sight but without hearing. It was true in Jesus’ day, and it is true in our day as well. No matter how hard you try, there is so much in this wide, crazy world of ours that is beyond our control, it can leave you in despair of the future.

But do not despair, for you know the author of our salvation, the creator of the world, and the One who can heal you with a touch and make all things right with a Word. Do you remember the words that God spoke to Jeremiah the prophet? ““Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”” (Jeremiah 1:9–10 ESV)

This is the Word that Jesus brings to our world. His work breaks down the powers of sin and death and hell. His Word is over nations and kings, dictators and tyrants, be they big or small.

When Jesus speaks to you, He does so with the full authority of the Father. The Father has declared Jesus to be His Beloved One. In the waters of the Jordan God publicly announced to the world that Jesus is the One to whom we are to look for all our needs of this body and life.

But the Word that He speaks comes not only with authority but also with power. St. Paul would later say of the Gospel, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 ESV) The Word of the Gospel of Jesus hushes demons and heals the sick. This power is dynamic, that is, it changes things so that you are alive, not dead. You are free from the clutches of sin and Satan and all the assaults that the world can throw at you.

The Word He speaks to you are words of forgiveness and life. The people in Jesus day were amazed that His words held such power and authority, and it is those same Words which now say, “This is my Body; This is my blood.” Come, then, and receive the Word made flesh who is made flesh for you. Come, for all things are now ready.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Epiphany 4)

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

Holy Cross Lutheran Church


Rocklin, California


Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

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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The Song of Simeon (Christmas 1, 2012)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
Christmas 1 (Dec. 30, 2012)
Luke 2:22-32

TITLE: “The Song of Simeon”

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. Luke chapter 2. Let us pray:

O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature. Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

I’ve always liked this reading after Christmas. It is the picture of a man who is waiting to die. Now don’t think of this as morbid. Simeon was given a promise by God that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s anointed one. So like so many others we heard about this past Advent, Simeon was waiting. He was waiting for the “consolation of Israel,” our text says. In fact, this whole Song of Simeon is packed with rich, Gospel words. So let’s take a look at them. In fact, open your hymnal up to page 165 so that you can follow along.

Depart
This translation has us starting with “let go in peace.” When I was growing up, it was “Depart in peace.” We still sing it that way in Divine Service 3. Really none of those quite get it. The word means release. It’s also the word we often translate as “forgive.” God’s forgiveness is tied up with our desire to let go of this fallen world and embrace the resurrection of the dead. Like Simeon, we need not fear anything, not even death itself. Why? Because God has released us from the bonds of sin and death in this little babe of Bethlehem.

Salvation
Next we see the word “salvation”. Now that is a good church word, isn’t it? But what does it mean? Salvation. Literally, it means healing. Can you see the word “salve” in “salvation”? Salvation, save, heal, they are all one and the same idea. God has prepared the healing of the nations in the sight of the whole world. The babe, our Lord Jesus Christ, He is presented here before the whole world as the medicine of immortality. He is salvation, for only in Him can we receive the healing that we need.

Revelation
The next word is “revelation”. Jesus is the light of the world that the darkness cannot understand. He is the one that enlightens us. He is the only one that can give true understanding. We by nature are, well, we’re in the dark. We don’t get it. We don’t understand how God can both love the world and be so intolerant of sin. We don’t understand death, and everything that flows from it. There is so much we don’t get. There is so much we don’t understand. But in Christ we have revelation. We hear in the book of Hebrews, “In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his son.” What this means is that everything we need to know about God we can find in Jesus. He is the light. I don’t look in the sunset or the tsunami. I look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For that is enough.

Glory
The last one is the word “glory”. If ever there was a misunderstood church word, this is it. When I think of glory, I usually think of the wonder and amazement and hero-worship that goes along with winning a football game. Or maybe a war. Glory and pride seem to go together in our world. Glory and might or power also seem to go together.

But here, glory doesn’t mean that. It really means the gracious presence of God with His people. God’s glory in the Old Testament was in the cloud on Mt. Sinai, in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. God’s glory meant that if you wanted to know where to find God, you don’t look in your heart, you looked right there, in the Temple. That’s where He promised to be.

And that’s where He is in our reading. Jesus is God in the flesh. Mary is, in a sense, the Temple preparing for the Temple not made with hands. In her womb the very glory of God dwelt.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this word in the Christmas story, is it? We also heard the angels sing it to the shepherds. Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth. God’s glory here is His holy and gracious presence with His people.

But notice who is on the receiving end of the glory in our text. Israel. Or the Church, if you will. We are the ones who receive the glory, the victory, the gracious presence of God. We sing “glory be to the Father” and then He turns around and gives the glory right back to us in His own body and blood.

This old man, Simeon, must have had quite the twinkle in his eye when he beheld our Lord in his lap. Heaven and earth could not contain His majesty and glory, yet here he is. The mystery of the word made flesh is right before his very eyes. Depart, salvation, revelation, glory. It’s all right there:

Depart in the peace of the forgiveness of sins.
Salvation or healing in the person of Jesus.
Revelation or understanding that can only come from God. And
Glory where God gives us the credit for all of his great work.

This, beloved, is why there is so much joy to be found in these words of Simeon. And we sing them every single week. These words, as our Epistle puts it, dwell in us richly. In these words we give thanks to God for all He has given to us in His Son.

It is an almost uniquely Lutheran tradition to sing the Song of Simeon at the end of our Holy Communion liturgy. But it is a really, really good one. For Simeon confesses for the whole church everything that we receive by eating his body and drinking his blood.

So come, receive the Christ-child this day, and sing with saints and angels, with Simeon and Anna and Mary and Joseph and all of heaven and earth. Christ our Lord has come to us even now. Rejoice and be glad!

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.

I AM (Judica 2012)

[I need to give credit to my friend and brother-in-office, Rev. David Petersen, for some of the ideas and language in this sermon.  Thanks, friend!  -Peperkorn]

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

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8. We look at the words of the Jews, who do you make yourself out to be?

Before Abraham. Before the waxing and waning of the tide. Before sound or even light. Before there were roads or trains or airplanes. Before Prozac and Prilosec. Before Lipitor and methamphetamines. Before malaria and AIDS. Before hatred and racism. Before pediphilia and rape. Before divorce and children without fathers. Before the heartbreak of this life. Before loneliness and depression. Before death. Before anything. Before everything. Jesus is. Not Jesus was. Jesus is.

He is the great I AM. He is always in the present tense, never before or after. He is without beginning or end. He is the divine three-in-one who spoke from the bush to set His people free from slavery. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Word of the Father’s Sprit. He is Love incarnate. All things were made through Him, and it is only through Him that all things will be remade anew. He is Mary’s Son and Mary’s Lord. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one who died for the sins He did not committ and rose victorious with the indestructible life that He now gives for you. All the earth is in His hands, and He rules from the Father’s right hand with love and mercy for you, always for you.

But somehow, this is hard for fallen sons and daughters of Adam. They think themselves greater than they are. They are blind and deaf to what they do not wish to see and hear. It is easier to hide in the sand with cotton in the ears than hear the simple reality that they are not gods. They want to live a life of significance and control. They want their deeds to be remembered. They want to wage wars great and small. They want to make the world a better place whether the world wants it or not. They want to build a tower to the heavens. They want the kingdoms of the earth to bow down to their ingenuity and wisdom. In a word, they want to become gods, knowing good and evil and reveling in their own power.

What they cannot bear is a God who would become Man. God, who cannot be contained by the heavens and the earth, surely He cannot become man. The mystery of the Almighty God, contained in a mere person? Never.

If God were to become Man, at the very least he should be the greatest man who ever lived. Beautiful and terrible. Smart and to be feared. Strong and cunning. He should be a leader of men, the product of many years of careful work and planning. If God were to become man, he should be that greatest man ever.

But that is not Jesus. Jesus is not that man. He is of lowly birth. A carpenter turned rabbi. He is greater than all and yet is nothing to look at. He is greater than Abraham and all Israel, and He stands before the leaders of that same Israel and says that HE IS GOD IN THE FLESH. Really? This backwater carpenter-rabbi? He may be even worse than a shepherd like David, if that’s even possible. That is the best God can do? What is God saying about us? Is He saying that we are that lowly, that broken and in need?

So they reject Him. They reject Him, and in doing so, reject the very Word that alone is their salvation. They reject the One who is, who was and who is to come. They kick against the pricks, like Saul on the road to Damascus. They take the Lord of Life and kill Him. They don’t want that kind of a God. They don’t want the kind of God who would become lowly like them, because it reminds them of their great need. They won’t turn the other cheek, for that is for weaklings. They won’t show mercy, because they want to make sure that everyone gets what’s coming to them. They will not stoop down and help the sinner on the road, the woman caught in adultery. They will not get dirty with the man trapped by a demon. They will not touch the suffering, the lepers and drug addicts, the murderers and backstabbers. They are above such people. And because they will not wash the feet of those in need, because they see themselves as better than the broken, they miss their own profound brokenness.

So they reject Jesus, and in rejecting Him, in killing Him on a tree, they reject their very humanity. The fling stones at the cornerstone and rock of their salvation.

They reject Jesus, and so do you. Every time you refuse to serve your neighbor in love. Every time you look in lust toward another, to possess them no matter what. Every time you take what is not yours. Every time to speak ill of your friends and fellow redeemed. Every time you set yourself up as the one who is oh so better or smarter or wiser or holier than those others. Every time you press another’s sins against them, force their sins upon them and will not let them go in forgiveness. Every time you do these things, and you do, every one of you as do I, every time you do these things, you reject Jesus anew like those people so long ago.

But there is another way. There is submission to the Mighty Stone and Rock, and that Rock is Christ. Fall upon this rejected stone and be broken. Be broken, but don’t be afraid. Confess your sins. Recognize them for their destructive evil. Come clean. Be who you are, a broken sinner desperate for Jesus. Be who you are, for Christ is who He is for you.

Christ comes to you now with healing in His wings. Christ comes to you not as a judge, but as your Savior. Christ comes as the great and everlasting door, as the one, great sacrifice for your sin and mine. He comes to redeem you from your empty way of life. He has come to interrupt your road to Damascus and hatred. He has come to pick up on on the road, to wash you and make you clean. He has come to feed you, to give you the drink of ever living waters. He has come to give you the Bread of Life, the bread that gives immortality and the life that never ends.

Your end was never in doubt. God is always a God of mercy and compassion. He comes to you humble and lowly. He comes to you in peace, as the prince of peace who reconciles us by His Blood.

Come and trust the Word made Flesh. He is your Isaac. He is the ram caught in the thicket of your life. He is the one, eternal sacrifice of all time. You cannot be harmed. You may be rejected by the righteous and holy of this life, but you will never, never be rejected by God. He is God for us. He is Immanuel. He is your God. Behold Your King.

In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

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